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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Rails Against $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill; Trump Ignores Questions About Playmate And Porn Star; National Security Council Expel Russian Diplomats; Trump's Ex-Bodyguard Mentioned By Playmate And Porn Star. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 23, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. "No choice." President Trump claims he had to sign the $1.3 trillion government spending Bill, but he slammed the Republican-controlled Congress and railed against many of the measures, the provisions. Why didn't he follow through on his threat to veto it?
[17:00:28] Indecision. President Trump picking up his third national security adviser in some 15 months, the latest in a series of shake- ups rocking his administration. And now sources are telling CNN the president is vacillating on a new addition to his legal team. Why is he having second thoughts about a well-known attorney?
And in love. A former Playboy model says she and Donald Trump were in love over the course of a ten-month affair. But Mr. Trump has been unusually silent about Karen McDougal's exclusive tell-all interview with CNN. And now Stormy Daniels is getting ready to speak out. Stormy's lawyer will join us live.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. President Trump signing a $1.3 trillion spending Bill, averting another government shutdown by just hours. But the president blasted the measure, which he had threatened to veto, and he slammed lawmakers who sent it to him, calling the situation ridiculous.
We'll talk about it with Senator Ben Cardin of the Foreign Relations Committee. He's standing by, along with our experts and our analysts.
But up first, let's find out why the president signed a Bill he clearly did not like. Our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, has the very latest for us. Jeff, the president said he had no choice.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president did say had to sign this Bill largely because of the military spending that was inside that $1.3 trillion spending Bill.
Now, the president left the White House just moments ago. He had a smile on his face and a bounce in his step. But he was notably walking alone. He's flying, of course, to Mar-a-Lago this weekend. But the first lady was not with him, and he did not answer the questions that were thrown at him about Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Of course, that is hanging over him as he heads to Mar-a- Lago after signing that spending Bill.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump vented but backed away from his last-minute threat to veto a $1.3 trillion spending Bill to keep the government running through September.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say to Congress, I will never sign another Bill like this again. I'm not going to do it again.
ZELENY: But the president did sign this Bill, despite loud objections from fiscal conservatives about the soaring price tag.
TRUMP: There are a lot of things that I'm unhappy about in this Bill. There are a lot of things that we shouldn't have had in this Bill, but we were, in a sense forced, if we want to build our military, we were forced to have.
ZELENY: Never mind that Republicans control the House, Senate, and the White House. The president taking no responsibility for this 2,232-page Bill he described like the.
TRUMP: This ridiculous situation that took place over the last week.
ZELENY: For hours, the president had Washington wondering what he would do, after firing off a morning tweet: "I am considering a veto of the omnibus spending Bill."
Several Republicans cheered a potential veto. Senator Rand Paul called it "a sad excuse for legislation, because it's $1.3 in spending that almost no one read."
But the military spending in the Bill provided enough incentive for the president to sign the measure and avoid a government shutdown.
TRUMP: I looked very seriously at the veto. I was thinking about doing the veto. But because of the incredible gains that we've been able to make for the military, that overrode any of our -- any of our thinking.
ZELENY: The $1.3 trillion deal directs $700 billion for the military, a $66 billion increase over 2017 spending. It includes 1.6 billion for construction of a border wall, far short of the $25 billion the president wanted.
TRUMP: Not happy with $1.6 billion, but it does start the wall. And we will make that $1.6 billion go very, very far.
ZELENY: The Bill also did nothing to address the fate of undocumented immigrants, known as DREAMers. For that, the president blamed Democrats. TRUMP: And I say this to DACA recipients. That the Republicans are with you. They want to get your situation taken care of. The Democrats, for this, they just fought every single inch of the way.
ZELENY: But that's not exactly true. Democrats offered to fully fund the wall, all $25 billion of the president's request. in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for up to a million undocumented young immigrants.
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Remember, he terminated the DACA program. He rejected and undermined the bipartisan legislation on Capitol Hill to protect the DREAMers.
[17:05:08] ZELENY: Meanwhile, the latest staff shake-up at the White House still reverberating tonight as John Bolton is set to become the third national security adviser of the Trump administration. The former ambassador to the U.N., a conservative firebrand and foreign policy hardliner has dismissed negotiations with North Korea as a waste of time. Bolton caught the president's eye in his role as a FOX News analyst. CNN has learned Bolton has told the president he wouldn't seek to start any wars.
JOHN BOLTON, INCOMING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Frankly, what I've said in private now is behind me.
ZELENY: With Bolton replacing General H.R. McMaster following last week's firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the president is dramatically reshaping his foreign policy team. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who met with the president today, remains one of the lone voices of moderation in the president's cabinet.
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Now it's our responsibility in the military to spend every dollar wisely in order to keep the trust and the confidence of the American people and the Congress.
ZELENY: So Wolf, as the week winds down here at the White House, filled with staff shake-ups and revolving doors, the president flying to Florida. His Department of Justice announcing just a few moments ago that they are taking steps to ban bump stocks. Of course, those are the devices that essentially make weapons into semi-automatic weapons.
All this is happening as thousands, tens of thousands are preparing to descend on Washington here to march this weekend. But the president will be in Mar-a-Lago at his weekend retreat -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. The president tweeted about that, as well, the bump stocks that make these semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons, like --
BLITZER: -- machine guns. And he says immediately they're going to take steps to outlaw those bump stocks.
Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.
Manu, the president says -- he's fuming about this Bill that he signed into law, as if the White House weren't even involved in the negotiations that led to it. The White House was involved.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And that's what's actually making -- giving a lot of pause to Republicans and Democrats on the Hill.
For weeks and weeks, in fact months, White House officials were involved. They were discussing drafting this measure. They knew it was going to be a massive spending omnibus Bill, thousands of pages that would fund the government until October.
And the president, if he had some significant concerns, could have voiced them much earlier in the process before this morning. He could have even said days ago he wanted to issue, pass a temporary spending measure for maybe a few more weeks that could address those concerns, maybe pass something on a more piecemeal basis in order to alleviate those concerns that he raised this morning.
Now, the White House, what ends up happening here is that people on the Hill, Republican leaders and stuff, they can't trust, necessarily, what these White House officials are saying.
And then the politics side of this, Wolf. What was so interesting is you heard the president attack Congress as a whole. When President Obama did this, Democratic leaders were furious. Harry Reid got in his ear, said, "You should attack Republicans in Congress, not Congress as a whole." And the reason why is to show that contrast between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Trump did not make that distinction in his criticism today.
And remember, the next time they have to do a funding Bill will be September 30, just weeks before the mid-term elections. We'll see what he does then. It could be another big mess, another time he blames Congress.
BLITZER: Yes. This Bill keeps the government going until the end of September, the end of the fiscal year.
Remember during the campaign, the president promised that he alone could fix Washington. But today, he basically shrugged his shoulders and said, "There's not much, really, I can do." And he signed this legislation into law.
RAJU: It's amazing. Because this was -- it really just showed how Congress has rolled this president. This president came in saying that he was smarter than all the politicians. He was the deal maker. He was going to essentially force Congress to bend to his will.
It just shows he came in as someone not fully understanding the challenges of legislating. And he also made two demands at this -- this event today that are not going to happen. He called for a line item veto, which is unconstitutional. He also called for the reform of the filibuster, to gut filibuster rules, to change it from 60 votes to a simple majority of just 51 to overcome a filibuster. That is something that Republicans in the Senate have ruled out.
So the president really showing that he is calling for a lot of things to happen in Congress. But Congress is pushing back, and this is a Congress controlled by his own party, Wolf.
BLITZER: Back in 1998, the United States Supreme Court struck out a line item veto as unconstitutional. A lot of people are wondering if the president fully understands it. That's the Supreme Court's decision. It's been like that since 1998.
Manu, thanks very much. I want to point out the president also said, "I will never sign another Bill like this again."
RAJU: We'll see about that.
BLITZER: We'll see. That's correct. And face a government shutdown.
Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland is joining us. He's a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, what did you make of President Trump's coming out today? Really criticizing the Senate and the House, both -- both bodies for sending him this 2,200-page omnibus spending Bill which he clearly hates.
[17:10:13] SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Wolf, let's first understand, this is for fiscal year '18, which started October 1st of last year. So for the last six months, we've been talking about what's in this Bill. The White House has been fully engaged as we've been developing the Bill. It is a bipartisan Bill. It represents the input by Democrats, Republicans from all over this country.
So for the president, once again, to try to disrupt this process at the end, it's just very difficult for us to understand. He did that with immigration, where we could have had an agreement, but the president blew that up. So once again, the president is showing that he understands where we're going. He doesn't want any part of it. And then he blames us for not working together.
BLITZER: He called on Congress, as you just heard, go give him a line item veto on all government spending bills.
BLITZER: That's something which I just pointed out, the United States Supreme Court deemed as unconstitutional back in 1998. What's your reaction to the president reviving that notion today?
CARDIN: Well, it's a Constitutional issue. And it -- you're absolutely correct. The Congress did pass a line item veto. It's basically an enhanced rescission process, because you can't call it a line item veto. And the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.
So there are certain divisions of power between the president and the White House -- and the Congress, and the president has to understand that he has to comply with the Constitution.
BLITZER: He also said in his remarks today that nobody -- his words, nobody has been able to read all 2,200 pages of this omnibus spending Bill. Did you read it?
CARDIN: Well, I can't -- I can't tell you that I read every page of it. But my staff did. I read a good part of it.
But once again, a large part of this Bill we know about months ago. Most of the appropriation issues have been through the committees. We had input. We've had conversations with the committees' members and staff.
So there weren't any surprises in there in regards to a lot of what's in this Bill. A lot of the other provisions we've been working on for a long time. Various issues, from dealing with the tax issue that had to be corrected, the low-income housing tax credit. Senator Cantwell's been working on that for a long time. Many of us on the Finance Committee have been engaged on it.
So there's a large part of this Bill that represents a good deal of work that we've been doing ever since this Congress started.
BLITZER: But with all due respect, Senator, there's something awfully wrong, and I'm sure you admit this, when they come up with 2,200 pages on a Wednesday night. They make the House of representatives vote Thursday morning. They make the Senate vote Thursday night. The president signs it into law on Friday. No one has a chance to review it thoroughly. They just go ahead and sort of blindly go along what what the leadership puts forward. There's something -- something awfully wrong with this process where they wait so long to get something done.
CARDIN: Well, I agree with you completely. There's something wrong with a process that passes a budget six months into the year rather than before the fiscal year begins.
There's something wrong with a process where you load up a spending Bill with a lot of non-spending items. That's what's in this omnibus. That's why it's called an omnibus Bill.
So the process is badly broken. Understand the Republicans control both the House, the Senate and the White House; and yet, they have led us down this path.
I agree with you completely. It's wrong to bring a Bill up to vote and not have time for the public to be able to understand it and to have input with the members before we vote. So you're absolutely right about that.
The bottom line is that we're working on deadlines and that a lot of what's in this Bill is very important for the American people. BLITZER: Senator, thanks as usual for joining us.
CARDIN: My pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, the riveting details of the alleged affair between Donald Trump and a former "Playboy" model. Karen McDougal tells her story exclusively to CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Were you in love with him?
KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER "PLAYBOY" MODEL: I was, yes.
COOPER: And do you think he was in love with you?
MCDOUGAL: He was, yes.
COOPER: Did Donald Trump ever say to you that he loved you?
MCDOUGAL: All the time. He always told me he loved me. Yes, of course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:19:08] BLITZER: Uncharacteristic silence from President Trump in the wake of CNN's exclusive tell-all interview with former "Playboy" model Karen McDougal. She gave a riveting account to Anderson Cooper of the ten-month affair she claims she had with Mr. Trump more than a decade ago.
Our national correspondent, Athena Jones, is working the story for us. Athena, McDougal says she and Donald Trump were in love.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. That's right.
She said they were in love. It was quite a moment among many remarkable moments from that interview.
And you talk about President Trump's silence on all of this. It's truly remarkable. When it comes to the women who have accused him of sexual harassment or assault, he's been aggressive in his denials, at one point during the campaign repeating those denials almost daily, whether on Twitter or speeches or both.
But Trump has been far less verbal about those who said they had consensual relationships with him. The question is whether and when that could change.
JONES (voice-over): First lady Melania Trump tweeting this photo of a smiling first couple on the White House balcony the same day as an explosive interview with a former "Playboy" model about an alleged affair with Donald Trump, a relationship the White House has denied.
[17:20:07] MCDOUGAL: We were together ten months before I chose to end it. So we saw each quite frequently.
COOPER: So dozens of times you were together?
COOPER: And you were intimate dozen -- many dozens of times.
MCDOUGAL: Yes. Uh-huh.
JONES: Karen McDougal speaking to Anderson Cooper while the president remains so far uncharacteristically silent. No tweets and no comments about McDougal, even as she shared intimate details of a relationship she says began soon after Trump's wife gave birth to their son, Barron.
COOPER: Did he ever use protection?
MCDOUGAL: No. No, he didn't.
JONES: McDougal talking about the pain she felt when Trump offered her money after their first alleged sexual encounter.
COOPER: Did he actually try to hand you money?
MCDOUGAL: He did. He did, and I said -- I mean, I just had this look of, I don't know. Just, I don't even know how to describe it. The look on my face must have been so sad, because I had never been offered money like that, No. 1.
But No. 2, I thought, "Does he think that I'm in this for money, or why I'm here tonight, or is this a normal thing?" I didn't know. But I looked at him, and I said, "That's not me. I'm not that kind of girl."
JONES: The former Playmate said she saw Trump numerous times, including at his Bedminster, New Jersey, resort and his penthouse in Trump Tower.
COOPER: He showed you around the apartment?
MCDOUGAL: He did.
COOPER: Did he reference Melania at that point?
MCDOUGAL: He did. We passed a room, and he said, "This is Melania's room. She likes to have her alone time or to get away to read" or something like that. And I'm like, "Oh, OK." That's when I kind of thought maybe -- maybe they're having issues. I didn't ask. It's not my business.
JONES: As for proof of their relationship, she shared journal entries where the initials "D.T." indicate dates with Trump. MCDOUGAL: The only thing that I have, really, is my journal that I
keep. And like I said, I still do it to this day. It wasn't out to get anybody. Or gosh, getting him into trouble. But those are my notes.
JONES: Over time, McDougal developed deep feelings for Trump, feelings she says he reciprocated.
COOPER: Were you in love with him?
MCDOUGAL: I was, yes.
COOPER: And do you think he was in love with you?
MCDOUGAL: He was. Yes.
COOPER: Did Donald Trump ever say to you that he loved you?
MCDOUGAL: All the time. He always told me he loved me. Yes, of course.
COOPER: Did he ever compare you to any of his kids?
MCDOUGAL: You know, he's very proud of Ivanka, as he should be. I mean, she's a brilliant woman. She's beautiful. She's -- you know, that's his daughter, and he should be proud of her. He said I was beautiful like her. And, you know, "You're a smart girl."
COOPER: A self-described diehard Republican, McDougal says her goal is not to hurt the president.
MCDOUGAL: I voted for Donald. Why would I want to damage him? That's my party, the Republican Party. That's my president.
COOPER: She says she eventually ended the affair, because she was plagued with guilt. And she has this message for Melania.
MCDOUGAL: What can you say except I'm sorry? I'm sorry. I wouldn't want it done to me. I'm sorry.
JONES: Now, the first lady today tweeted a photo of her in the White House kitchen baking cookies with two little girls. But she has not responded to the McDougal interview or to any of the other accounts women have shared about her husband, whether they were talking about alleged consensual relationships or alleged sexual misconduct -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena Jones reporting for us. Thank you. I'll have much more on this story coming up. I'll speak to McDougal's lawyer, as well as the lawyer for Stormy Daniels. Will President Trump address their clients' allegations?
[17:28:31] BLITZER: President Trump now heading to Florida. Earlier, as he left the White House, he ignored questions from reporters about his alleged affairs with "Playboy" Playmate Karen McDougal, who told her story to CNN's Anderson Cooper, and porn star Stormy Daniels.
Let's bring in our analysts to assess. Gloria, how damaging is all of this to the president?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, we don't know right now. I mean, the people who elected Donald Trump know that -- know his history and know who he is, and that's kind of discounted, baked in, et cetera.
I think what was amazing about that interview last night, in many ways, was that she humanized Donald Trump. I mean, she talked about him in ways saying he was kind, gentle, discreet. She -- he wasn't the person she recognized on the "Access Hollywood" tape, for example.
She was very clearly sorry for what she had done to Melania. And yet now, there's going to be a legal battle.
So it's very hard to know. This has been sort of on a low boil. And now, it's going to wind up in federal court. Stormy Daniels, we have the interview coming Sunday on on "60 Minutes." That's going to wind up in federal court. So it's going to be on a higher boil.
At some point the president is going to have to talk about it. And it gets into the question of, where did the money come for the pay-offs? It's not so much that Donald Trump did what did he when he was a private citizen. We lived through Bill Clinton, who did what he did when he was in office.
[17:30:00] I think the questions that will be raised is: where was the hush money coming from? Who provided it? What did Donald Trump know about it, and was it legal?
BLITZER: Under $30,000 for Stormy, under $50,000 that Karen McDougal got. So, what's McDougal's legal strategy now? What is she hoping to achieve?
SABRINA SADDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, I think that she was very cautious in the interview in terms of the information she was willing to share. She certainly answered a fair amount of questions about her relationship with the president. But there was a lot that she's danced around in part because she may not be able to tell that side of her story. I think it's notable that she'd signed away the rights to a company that own National Enquirer. The chairman of that company is a close friend of Trump. So, what you are seeing, if you try and connect any dots between Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal is this apparent campaign. If not by the president, then at least by some of his allies to silence some of these women and bar them from speaking out publicly, whether or not that's going to change, that depends on if these lawsuits are allowed to move forward. And they'll be interesting to see if the president is required at any plain time to provide a deposition.
BLITZER: How did Karen McDougal come across to you? SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I'm listening
to all this, and I'm just wondering how anybody is getting any work done at the White House right now. It's a time management issue. I didn't sleep for four years and we didn't have these scandals because there was so much work to get done.
BLITZER: When you worked for the Obama administration.
VINOGRAD: Indeed. And so, right now, you have the personal firing squad, you have the Mueller investigation, you have Stormy Daniels, you have this story now. Any time that the president is spending, worrying about all of these different issues, he's not working. Not to mention the fact that his staff is seeing all these information, seeing all these scandals, paying attention to it. How much time is anybody actually spending working on this supposed meeting with Kim Jong-un, the Iran deal, and the international security issue.
BLITZER: Let me get Phil into this as well. What do you think? Phil, it's a serious matter hovering over the White House at a time of the major economic and national security issues up there?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It is. And I think the president can't win either way. Look, if he decides not to respond to these accusations, it's a tacit acknowledgement that all this happened despite his denials in the past. If he decides to do what we're seeing now, which is to take the bait and to go into legal action, you're talking about a game of numbers -- not a single woman; but you're talking about multiple women going down a legal path.
We have several who are going into the court system. In each of those cases, you're talking about months or years of litigation. And each of those litigation cases has risk -- e-mails, phone, you have potential photographs, you have as we saw earlier tonight, just a few minutes ago, journal entries. When the White House -- when the president chooses to take on these accusations, he's virtually guaranteeing with these game of numbers, multiple women, that he's going to face years or at least months of detailed accusations about things he's denied in the past. I don't see how he wins this, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, let me get to another issue -- that's obviously, John Bolton, Sam, the new national security adviser within a few days said the president replacing General McMaster, he has been a hawk on many issues. Listen to what he recently about potentially a preemptive strike against North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I think it is pretty remote -- the diplomatic solution with North Korea. The two choices, both bad. Or you accept North Korea with nuclear weapons or use military force to make sure they never get them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know, the president is getting ready, supposedly by the end of May to meet with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.
VINOGRAD: Well, John Bolton has never really been quiet; his views are very well-known. And the question here, and there's a misconception: national security advisors should have opinions. And right now, we know what John Bolton is, he's used diplomacy as really a mean to communicate a military strategy. He's been on the record saying that Donald Trump and Kim should meet, so that Donald Trump can just deliver a credible military option. The question, though is: is John Bolton going to let there be a situation room meeting, national security council meetings on diplomacy as an option or is he going to censor out any other views on diplomacy or sanctions as tools?
BLITZER: Gloria, how much pay will he have in the White House with all these most sensitive national security issues.
BORGER: It seems to me that the president is making all the decisions. And that before you go into this White House, you have to pay homage and say you're the decider and I'm with you, which is apparently what John Bolton did. And so, will he have sway to the extent that anybody has sway with Donald Trump. I think that Gary Cohn didn't have any sway with Donald Trump when it came tariffs, neither did Rex Tillerson. And so, the question is: what will Bolton argue to the president or will he argue at all? We really don't know. Right, we really don't know.
BLITZER: We know what happened to Gary Cohn, we know what happened to Rex Tillerson.
BORGER: We do.
[17:34:51] BLITZER: Neither one in place over there in the administration any longer. We're getting some new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM about the National Security Council, some recommendation they're making into the president about Russia. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We have more breaking news. We're just learning that the National Security Council is expected to recommend expelling an undetermined number of Russian diplomats from the United States in response to the poisonings of the former Russian spy and his daughter in England. Our Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is working the story for us over the at the State Department. Michelle, what are you picking up?
[17:40:00] MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: All right. Wolf, well, multiple sources have told us that there was this high-level meeting at the White House on Wednesday involving the president's National Security Council. With the idea of deciding what to do about the poisonings of the spy and his daughter, among others affected in the U.K., which the U.S. believes was done by Russia.
We know that multiple options were presented at that meeting, but now a source familiar with the discussions told us that the recommendation of the National Security Council is for the U.S. to expel Russian diplomats, and we expect that that recommendation went to the president today and that he will make a decision on this soon.
The U.K., of course, has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats which was met with a furious response by Russia and the expulsion of British diplomats in return. And also, senior foreign diplomats tell us that at least 10 European countries including France, Germany and the Netherlands, are likely to expel Russian diplomats on Monday. So, we're now waiting to hear from the White House what this response will be, or if there will be one.
If the president does decide to expel more Russian diplomats, you know, similar to what we saw in the tit for tat expulsion that happen between the U.S. and Russia only months ago, we expect a similar response from Russia. And of course, if the president does not act on this recommendation by his own national security team, the question would be why? Since his administration has described itself as being in lock step, not only with the U.K.'s belief that Russia did this but also with the response that the U.K. has taken so far, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Michelle, thanks very much. Good reporting. Let's get back to our experts. Phil Mudd, what do you think? What's the U.S. going to do -- the Trump administration?
MUDD: This is a Trump change response. Let's be clear and cut to the chase, when you've got not only interference in the U.S. election but an attempted murder in the key ally, the conversation with the ally starts with the expulsion of diplomats. That's a paper exercise. By that, I mean, you expel diplomats in two years, three years, five years, they're back.
Coming on the heels of the president's failure to address this and a conversation with Vladimir Putin, and his failure to talk about not only the issue of poisoning in the U.K., but about election interference, the conversation with the Europeans and others should have some question with money: how do we make Vladimir Putin and his inner circle hurt?
Don't talk to me about the treasury sanctions that were recently announced, those were nonsense. If this is announced by the White House, it's going to be a paper exercise. I don't think it's that significant. And I think the real message would have been, when the president called Vladimir Putin and didn't even raise this in the conversation. Among experts, I don't think the expulsion of diplomats is that serious, Wolf.
BLITZER: He did congratulate Putin on his election win. What do you think, Sam?
VINOGRAD: To quote John Bolton, which I never thought I'd do, I don't think this is real deterrence. Bolton said this a few weeks ago, Vladimir Putin doesn't care about diplomats. I don't think he had a furious response to the U.K. I think he kicked out some U.K. diplomats because he wanted to show that he could. He doesn't need diplomats in the United States to spy on America; he's doing that by hacking into our critical infrastructure. So, yes, this is checking a box, but I don't think it's going to do anything.
SADDIQUI: It's also worth noting that the president has not explicitly condemned Russia for the poisoning in the U.K. The White House was calling into question the initial days, at least, whether Russia was even behind the attack. And it took more than a month and a half delay for the president to implement the sanction against Russia and retaliation for the meddle in the election that were overwhelmingly passed by Congress last year. So, certainly, time and again, the president has shown that he has not been willing to really take tough action against Russia. That's why it's a question as to whether he would even follow the recommendation of the NSC.
BORGER: But if France, Germany, and Netherlands are going to it, as Michelle reports, can the United States be an outlier here? Can the United States just say, OK, you guys do it? And we're not going to -- we -- it seems to me, there's no choice for Trump, particularly since there's a lot of pressure now if our allies are going to do it in addition to the U.K.
BLITZER: The president may rip up the Iran nuclear deal and the allies were part of that agreement, may not be very happy about that either.
BORGER: OK. That's a whole other story.
BLITZER: So, with this president, you'll never know what he's going to if he doesn't want to go along with the other allies. Everybody, still around. There's more news we're watching including a closer look at the man mentioned by both Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. What else does President Trump's former bodyguard know and what does he told the investigators?
[17:44:37] Also, I'll speak with the attorneys representing both women. What will Stormy Daniels say when she breaks here silence, Sunday night.
BLITZER: Tonight, we have more on a man who's a common figure in the stories told by both former playmate -- Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels -- long-time Trump bodyguard, Keith Schiller. CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into what Schiller has done during and after the time he worked for Donald Trump. Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight we've learned that although Keith Schiller left the Trump administration several months ago, he still got ties to the White House. Due to Republican Nation Committee. One former Trump aide once called Keith Schiller, the most underestimated person on Trump's team. We have new details tonight on the man who facilitated those meetings between Trump and both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
[17:50:06] TODD: Karen McDougal says there was one person who frequently helped when she would meet up with Donald Trump -- the man whose phone she dialed first or who would call her: Keith Schiller, Trump's bodyguard, trusted confidante, and friend.
KAREN MCDOUGAL, MODEL AND ACTRESS: I did have a lot of correspondences with Keith, yes, and I got to know Keith pretty well. Keith would always pick-me-up, drop me off, take me to him from whether it's an event, whether it's the Beverly Hills hotel or wherever we're going. Keith was always involved. Keith is a nice man. Yes, I got to know him. He's funny.
TODD: And porn star, Stormy Daniels, who alleges sexual encounters with Trump in 2006 told In Touch Weekly in 2011: "I went up to the room and I was met outside by his bodyguard, Keith, who I met every time I saw him." Always close by boss' side, Trump's security chief handled the rough and tumble during the campaign, sometimes muscling people out.
TRUMP: Sit down, please.
TODD: Reporter, Jorge Ramos, were speaking out of turn -- hecklers are rallies.
TRUMP: Come on, Keith. Go, get them out.
TODD: Or a protester at Trump Tower who Schiller clocked in the head when he tried to get his sign back. The 6'4", 210-pound, former NYPD detective, who used to bust in on drug dealers with a battery ram talked about the nature of his work in a Facebook interview with a high school classmate.
KEITH SCHILLER, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm no stranger to putting my hands on people.
TODD: Trump has also trusted Schiller with some of his most sensitive official matters. He hand-delivered a letter to the FBI, notifying them, Director James Comey was fired. And in 2013, Schiller traveled with Trump for the Miss Universe pageant, which maybe one reason why the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian election meddling brought him in for questioning. Multiple sources tell CNN, Schiller testified that a Russian offered to send five women to Trump's hotel room. Schiller said he rejected that offer and that Trump later laughed it off.
MICHAEL KRANICH, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP REVEALED": He saw so many things. If anyone, you know, by no certain activities that went on perhaps with Keith Schiller, this is a man who as one person put it would take a bullet for Trump, that Trump trusts completely. But if he was asked under oath about something that happened that might questionable that he would probably compelled to answer the question truthfully.
TODD: After less than a year in the inner most circle of the Trump White House, Trump's right-hand man left to work as a contractor. But he didn't go far, the Republican National Committee hired Schiller as a security consultant paying him $15,000 a month.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: What specifically does Schiller do now? An RNC official tells CNN, Schiller has overhauled their security system and is advising them on site's election for the 2020 Republican Convention. We reached out to Schiller through his lawyers and others entities to see if he could talk to us at all about our story about him; they never got back to us. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian, has Schiller been interviewed by Robert Mueller's team?
TODD: Wolf, as far as we know, he has not yet. But he could well be speaking to them before long. Schiller has been so close to Trump and know so many of the secrets that Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager once said that when he needed to understand a cork or eccentricity about Trump, he would turn to Keith Schiller. Keith Schiller may know more about Trump possibly than even Trump's own children.
BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. All right. Brian, thanks very much for that report. Breaking news, President Trump rails against the giant government spending bill but signs it anyway despite a veto threat.
[17:53:30] Plus, Stormy Daniels set to speak out about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. Her lawyer will join us live.
BLITZER: Happening now, Stormy's turn as the porn star is revealing new interview is about to air. Her lawyer tweets a photo hinting at possible evidence of her alleged affair with Donald Trump. A former playmate and now also sharing her story about the president talking exclusively to CNN. This hour, the lawyers for both women standing by will join us live.
No veto. The president makes a last-minute threat to kill a costly spending bill and unleash a government shutdown, but he flips and signs in the end. What drove the disrupter in chief to cause some chaos this time?
And West Wing drama. We're told the president is having doubts about a controversial new hire for his own legal defense team even as his lead lawyer in the Russia probe calls it quits. Who might be pushed out of Trump world next?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.