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Attorney General: No Special Counsel to Investigate FBI; Trump Holds Campaign-Style Rally in Ohio; Judge Denies Stormy Daniels's Motion to Depose Trump and Cohen. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 29, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer now in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Rejection letter. In a letter to Congress, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, reject rejects calls to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the Justice Department. A growing chorus of Republicans and conservative media claim possible Obama administration abuses of surveillance law and demanded an investigation. How will President Trump react?
Exit strategy. With a growing number of high-profile staff exits from the Trump administration, CNN is learning that President Trump is even considering running the White House without a chief of staff. Is the president looking to take greater control over his policies?
And Stormy's setback. A federal judge denies a move by Stormy Daniels's attorney to question President Trump and his lawyer under oath about a deal to keep the porn star from talking about an alleged affair.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, decides not to name a second special counsel but reveals a federal investigation into what Republicans claim is bias at the nation's top law enforcement agencies. And Reuters is now reporting that Robert Mueller's team has been asking witnesses about a meeting attended by Sessions and Russia's ambassador to the United States during the 2016 Republican convention.
I'll speak with Congressman Eric Swalwell of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. And our correspondents and specialists, they're all standing by with full coverage.
Let's begin with the breaking news: the attorney general's decision not to appoint a second special counsel, despite demands by a number of Republican lawmakers. Our justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, is standing by over at the Justice Department.
Update our viewers, Laura. What are you learning? LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, after a drum
beat of demands from Republicans on Capitol Hill for a special counsel to investigate the FBI and the Justice Department Jeff Sessions says tonight "Not so fast."
But there is a prosecutor who is going to look at this. His name is John Huber. He's a veteran prosecutor in Utah. He served under both President Trump and President Obama, someone who's received wide bipartisan support on the Hill before. But he's now being thrust into the midst of a very ugly partisan battle, with Republicans demanding a special counsel as a counterpart of sorts to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe; and Democrats saying it's not founded, all of that is just a distraction.
And in Sessions's explanation for why he's doing this tonight, Wolf, he points to Huber's experience as a veteran federal prosecutor, as I mentioned, but he also explains that the bar has just not been met here. He explains that under the regulations, it's a pretty high threshold for extraordinary circumstances, and he just doesn't see it just yet, even despite all the Republican demands.
But he does say that he's not closing the door on it forever, and that Huber can make a recommendation that a special counsel is warranted. And he's going to be covering a cluster of issues, Wolf, everything from so-called surveillance abuses by the FBI, having to do with the surveillance warrant on former campaign aide to President Trump Carter Page; but also the Clinton e-mail investigation.
And so the question right now is what do Republicans on Capitol Hill do with this move? Do they escalate the pressure on Sessions? Do they ratchet it up? And more importantly, perhaps, what does President Trump do in response to this news, Wolf?
BLITZER: It will severely disappoint many conservative pundits out there, certainly, severely disappoint some Republican lawmakers who were pushing for a formal special counsel like Robert Mueller to take a look at what was going on during the Obama administration. Surveillance laws and all those other related issues, even though there's a federal prosecutor from Utah who will take a look at it.
Presumably, he can't go in depth the way a special counsel could. Is that right?
JARRETT: No. Actually, he has the ability to do just the same thing. The only difference is that it's an appointment under those special counsel regulations that have only been used twice before in history, one being the case of special counsel Robert Mueller. But Huber now has the ability to bring charges. He can convene a grand jury. He can do almost everything. It's just that the appointment is not being made as a counterpart to Mueller.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Laura. Good explanation.
After keeping a low profile for days, President Trump today made a public appearance and broke his lengthy silence with a lengthy speech. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is in West Palm Beach in Florida, getting read for the president down there. The president's escaping the turbulence of the White House for the long weekend.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump will be here in about an hour here in Florida. He'll be spending the Easter weekend at his ritzy resort in Mar-a-Lago.
[17:05:06] But earlier today, he finally appeared in front of the cameras to deliver a campaign-style speech where he described himself as a friend of the American worker.
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump was finally spotted saying good- bye to his outgoing communications director, Hope Hicks, after days of staying away from the cameras and avoiding the questions dogging his presidency --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever discuss pardons?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the payment to Stormy Daniels?
ACOSTA: The president broke his silence in Ohio, using what was billed as an official speech on infrastructure as something of a campaign rally to do some repair work of his own.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now I've proven you've got a friend in the White House.
ACOSTA: The president defended his record in office, touting the unemployment rate for African-Americans.
TRUMP: Remember, I said, "What do you have to lose? What do you have to lose?"
ACOSTA: Vowing to build the wall on the border with Mexico.
TRUMP: And we're getting that sucker built, and you think that's easy?
ACOSTA: And holding up his looming talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as a foreign policy success.
TRUMP: Maybe it'll be good, and maybe it won't. And if it's no good, we're walking.
ACOSTA: Though at one point, the president seemed to acknowledge that he may be better suited for the real-estate business.
TRUMP: I think better than being president, I was maybe good at building. Like you people, you're good at building. I think maybe we'll be better at president.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump also talked up his efforts to clean up the nation's systems for caring for U.S. veterans. TRUMP: That's why I made some changes, because I wasn't happy with
the speed with which our veterans were taken care of.
ACOSTA: One day after he fired David Shulkin as the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin who believes he was ousted because he opposed privatizing the V.A., responded in a scathing op- ed, writing, "The environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve."
The president's replacement, White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson, is perhaps best well-known for his glowing assessment of Mr. Trump's health this year. Jackson's performance, one White House official said, played a part in the president's decision to tap the doctor.
ADMIRAL RONNY L. JACKSON, NOMINEE FOR V.A. SECRETARY: I told the president if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old. I don't know. I mean, he has incredible -- he has incredible genes. I just assume.
ACOSTA: The president did not mention Russia in his speech, despite the administration's move to expel 60 Russian diplomats this week. Russia responded in kind today, kicking out the same number of U.S. officials, as well as ordering the closing of a consulate in St. Petersburg.
ROSEANNE BARR, COMEDIAN: The important thing is that you voted.
ACOSTA: But President did find time to talk about his phone call with Roseanne Barr, whose sit-com is geared toward Trump voters.
TRUMP: Look at Roseanne. I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings. Look at the ratings. They were unbelievable: over 18 million people, and it was about us.
ACOSTA: Now, there were other moments in the president's speech when he veered from the subject of infrastructure from when he vowed to pull the U.S. completely out of Syria and the war on ISIS, to when he compared the border with Mexico to the DMZ separating North and South Korea.
All in all, Wolf, it sounded like a president who had a lot to get off his chest just before going back into seclusion for this holiday weekend -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a member of the intelligence and Judiciary Committees.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks, watch, for having me back. BLITZER: So you believe the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, made the
SWALWELL: No. I actually don't think there needs to be an investigation. There has not been a showing of wrong doing, and so I think this, you know, minimal investigation he's doing is just an effort to sing for his supper, to appease Donald Trump, but I think giving any light to this is just an effort to distract away from a lawful investigation into what Russia did, who they worked with, and make sure that anyone who worked with Russia is held accountable. And so I think he is just throwing meat out there to appease the president.
BLITZER: Republicans, many of them, many of your Republican colleagues, a lot of members of the conservative news media, they have a long list of concerns. They wanted to address, not by some sort of career Justice Department, a prosecutor, but by a second special counsel. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The chairman and I have looked real close at the investigation of the Clinton e-mail scandal, and I've come away believing that it was shoddily done, that there were conflicts of interest, that there was political bias that may have resulted in giving Clinton a pass.
The Steele dossier was paid for by the Democratic Party through Fusion GPS. Mr. Steele had associates in Russia that could have easily compromised him, and we believe the FISA warrant process was abused. And the reason we want a special counsel is I think crimes may have been committed.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I call on us appointing a special counsel, a second one, to investigate the investigators.
[17:10:05] REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: You're supposed to give the court the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I don't think they gave them the whole truth. So this needs investigating. The only remedy is a second special counsel.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: The FBI and the Department of Justice aren't going to be putting the handcuffs on themselves, so we need a second special counsel.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Sources telling us tonight that there is a very high probability that Sessions, in fact, will act and that he will appoint a second special counsel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, Sessions clearly rejected that recommendation. Do you believe, Congressman, the president, President Trump, will punish Sessions for this decision not to name a second special counsel?
SWALWELL: Wolf, knowing this president, there's no limit to what he can do to try and humiliate his own attorney general, and you see there in your clips that my colleagues are working overtime to lay bricks to build a wall between Bob Mueller and the president. They see that as their role.
Sadly, our role in Congress is to make sure that we protect the ballot box this upcoming election, and nothing gives Russia more comfort to see Republicans taking their position to side with them rather than the American people and their right to make their own decisions at the ballot box.
BLITZER: The president hasn't directly called for a second special counsel, but late last month, he tweeted this, and let me put it up on the screen. "Why is Attorney General Sessions asking the inspector general to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse? Will take forever. Has no prosecutorial power, and already late with the reports on Comey, et cetera. Isn't the attorney general" -- inspector general, excuse me -- "an Obama guy? Why not us Justice Department lawyers?" -- question mark -- "Disgraceful."
Do you trust this prosecutor, Utah prosecutor John Huber, the man named today by the attorney general to investigate all of this to do a fair and thorough job?
SWALWELL: Wolf, sure. I do. He's a career prosecutor now. He served with President Obama now under President Trump, and -- but what I am suspicious of and skeptical of is that he will receive pressure from Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions to use this as a way to distract from the Russian investigation.
The best thing we can do is allow Bob Mueller to follow the evidence. and for this president to just come clean with the American people once and for all as to what he did with the Russians.
And as to the diplomats who are expelled, that is just a one-off at this point. He needs to tell the country, what is the Russia strategy? How will he achieve it? Will he confront Vladimir Putin directly? Will he actually impose the sanctions? Will he use the resources that are already devoted to countering Russia? Because this is about the ballot box this November more than it's about anything else, and we are vulnerable, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask you about the Russian retaliation against the Trump administration's move to expel 60 Russian diplomats from the United States, shut down the Russian consulate in Seattle. You know what the Russians did today? They're expelling 60 American diplomats, shutting down the U.S. consulate in St Petersburg.
Do you worry, though, this could lead to a further escalation and a deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations even worse?
SWALWELL: Well, Wolf, right now there already is deterioration. They attacked us. They've invaded Ukraine. They are creating chaos in Syria. They're buzzing our jets by flying near them and trying to provoke them. So what did we get out of being so close to Russia? We brought them in the Oval Office. The president gave them national security secrets. He speaks in such flattering ways about Vladimir Putin.
But what do people at home, how does this relationship benefit them at all? It doesn't. It affects our national security. And it's time that we just get tough with them to actually try and change their believer, because nothing about the relationship the president has with them right now changing their behavior.
BLITZER: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thanks so much for joining us.
SWALWELL: Yes. My pleasure.
BLITZER: Up next, Stormy Daniels suffers a setback as a judge, for the time being, denies her lawyer's move to question President Trump and his lawyer about that $130,000 hush money deal.
[17:18:47] BLITZER: President Trump wins a round in the fight with Stormy Daniels as the judge's ruling marks at least a temporary setback for the porn star. Let's go live to CNN national correspondent Athena Jones.
Athena, update our viewers on the latest.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. That's right.
The president and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, won a legal victory in federal court today. A judge ruling they will not have to sit and answer questions under oath from Stormy Daniels's attorney, Michael Avenatti. At least not yet.
JONES (voice-over): A federal judge in California is denying a move by Stormy Daniels's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, to question President Trump and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, under oath about a $130,000 deal reached with Daniels before the 2016 election to keep her quiet. The judge calling the request premature.
Avenatti playing down the ruling.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: This is just a procedural ruling. It really means nothing. Basically, what the court said that we have to wait until the president and Mr. Cohen file their motion to compel arbitration. And as soon as they do that, or as soon as they do that, we can refile this motion. And that's exactly what we're going to do.
JONES: Avenatti also denied a suggestion by the Cohen's spokesman that Cohen's first lawyer, Keith Davidson, sought out Cohen to make a deal 12 days before the election. That spokesman claiming Daniels was shopping her story to different media outlets.
[17:20:05] DAVID SCHWARTZ, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: The other Stormy Daniels attorney approached Cohen. JONES: Schwartz adding that Davidson said it would take $130,000 for
Daniels to stay quiet. Davidson wouldn't confirm the claim to CNN, citing attorney-client privilege, which Daniels hasn't let him out of.
Avenatti talked to Wolf about that earlier.
BLITZER: Will your client, Stormy Daniels, release Keith Davidson, her first lawyer, from what he describes as attorney-client privilege that prevents him from discussing all this publicly?
AVENATTI: I don't know, Wolf. We haven't discussed it.
BLITZER: Why not release him and let him tell everything he knows publicly?
AVENATTI: I'll tell you what, Wolf. We'll make this challenge. If Michael Cohen and the president will waive the attorney-client privilege relating to this NDA and all of the others, my client will, as well. How about that?
BLITZER: And in a case playing out in the court of public opinion --
AVENATTI: Where is he?
SCHWARTZ: I --
AVENATTI: No, no, where is this guy? Why won't he come to say --
SCHWARTZ: Oh, he'll come.
AVENATTI: Why won't he come --
JONES: Cohen has been largely silent, with his friend and lawyer in another matter, David Schwartz, doing the talking for him. But Schwartz may be making matters worse for Cohen and for Trump, arguing points that support Avenatti, who says the hush agreement is invalid, because Trump did not sign on the line reserved for him under a pseudonym.
SCHWARTZ: The president was not aware of the agreement. At least Michael Cohen never told him about the agreement. I can tell you that. And you asked a whole bunch of questions. So let me -- let me cover that. So you asked about 12 days before --
ERIC BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: No, I'm aware about the agreement. What about the money?
SCHWARTZ: He was not aware about any of it.
JONES: Schwartz also suggested Cohen did these sorts of deals without Trump's knowledge frequently.
SCHWARTZ: Because he's that close to him, he had great latitude to handle these matters. Michael was the fixer. We all know Mike.
JONES: Yes. SCHWARTZ: So it could be anything. It's not that this -- there were
a ton of matters that took place that Michael fixed, and Donald Trump wasn't involved in every single matter.
JONES: Former federal prosecutor Renato Maniotti, who watched and tweeted about the interview with CNN's Erin Burnett, says Schwartz's admission supports the idea that the deal is void.
RENATO MANIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You cannot bind another person to a contract without their informed concept, and it is unethical for a lawyer to enter into a contract on their client's behalf without their informed concept.
JONES: And he says Schwartz's statements are hurting Cohen.
MANIOTTI: I question what that attorney was doing, essentially, because he's essentially admitted that his client committed major ethical violations and hurt his client's position in the litigation.
JONES: Now for his part, Schwartz says he's not surprised the California judge ruled against the motion to question the president and Cohen under oath. Schwartz called the motion frivolous and untimely and says the judge made the right decision.
As for whether he's helping the other side by saying Cohen never told Trump about the nondisclosure agreement, Schwartz repeated his argument that Trump was a third-party beneficiary of the deal, and he called the agreement rock solid -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena Jones reporting for us. Thanks.
Coming up, we're going to have more fallout from the Stormy Daniels legal battle underway right now. Our experts are all standing by.
Plus, more on the breaking news. Will the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, will his decision not to name a second special counsel wind up costing him his job?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[17:27:55] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news including the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, rejecting, at least for now, calls from congressional Republicans to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the Justice Department and the FBI.
Let's bring in our political legal and national security experts. Jeff Toobin, what do you think? Ever a strong case for appointing a second special counsel?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL: No, as far as I could tell, most of the accusations against the FBI are lunatic conspiracy theories, just not grounded in anything, and -- and I think the attorney general did an appropriate thing here, giving -- you know, giving this to the inspector general. That's why we have inspector generals. But I expect there will be nothing found here and I think Sessions did the right thing.
BLITZER: He is asking Utah's top federal prosecutor, John Huber, to begin an investigation, an internal investigation, as well. What do you think about that?
TOOBIN: I think that's -- that's appropriate. I mean, that's the level of inquiry it deserves. It doesn't deserve the whole super structure of an independent counsel, I mean, or a special counsel, as it's called now.
There is -- you know, inspectors general do investigate the department in which they work, so there's nothing extraordinary about this, and given the flimsiness of the accusations, I think, you know, giving it to a U.S. attorney is about the appropriate level of inquiry that the whole subject deserves.
BLITZER: Samantha, the Republicans have made very, very serious allegations against top officials at the Justice Department, top officials at the FBI during the investigation, the Hillary Clinton e- mail, and all of that. Is there any evidence from your perspective that you served during the Obama administration that any of these allegations warrant a special counsel?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNSELOR: I think that we have our answer based upon the fact that the attorney general didn't name one. And there are attacks in the Department of Justice from all sides, from the Democrats, from the Republicans, and Jeff Session can't make anyone happy these days. So I think both sides need to stop opining on whether something bad did or didn't happen and let the investigations continue.
BLITZER: How do you think the president is going to react to this decision by his attorney general, Jeff Session?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST I wonder if he was actually informed even before the decision was announced because in this case, he probably could have been, and he very well might not have been. You know, to Samantha's point, Sessions can't get a break right now. He goes out and gets somebody who's not only appointed by Barack Obama, but was reappointed by Donald Trump, so he's a Donald Trump guy.
BLITZER: But the Utah special --
PRESTON: I'm sorry. Yes. Yes, looking into Uranium One and whether there was a FISA issue. This gentleman also comes from a very conservative state, so -- and he's outside the beltway by thousands of miles, so Jeff Sessions can't get a break, but you know what, he is not only going to get criticism from Donald Trump, he's going to get criticism from his former colleagues on Capitol Hill because we know all those Congressional Republicans or a fair amount of them wanted to see a special counsel. And for this reason, partially, they love the White noise and they love the redirection because the more we're talking about Hillary Clinton, the less we're talking about Donald Trump and the investigation to Russia.
BLITZER: As you know, the Attorney General, he's been on thin ice, you know, for a long time, Nia, with the President of the United States. So, you think his job is now in further jeopardy?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, it always seems to be in further and further jeopardy, but he never really goes anywhere. He's been pretty insistent that he isn't going anywhere. Of course, it's left up to the President if he wants to remove of the attorney general, who he could put in place in terms of who could get through the Senate is an open question. It will be interesting to see what Republicans do now. We have heard some Republicans criticizing Jeff Sessions, particularly folks in the House Freedom Caucus, saying that he should step down. Well, those calls grow? And we'll have to watch the President's Twitter account, right? I mean, we already know that privately, he apparently calls Jeff Sessions, Mr. Magoo, and he's talked about him being weak and, obviously, being frustrated with him that he's rescued himself from the Russian investigation. So, we'll see where this goes in terms of President's reactions, but so far, he hasn't want to take that final step to remove Jeff Sessions from his job.
BLITZER: As you know, Jeffrey, the -- a lot of the reason Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate, the conservative media out there, they said you need a special counsel to investigate, but the Obama administration officials did because if you go to career federal prosecutors presumably like this Utah Federal U.S. Attorney, you can't trust them because they are part of what they see as this deep state that's bias against the President of the United States. Your reaction to that?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well,you know, most of these -- most of these Republicans who were making these accusations, as far as I can tell, are getting the information from tinfoil that they -- you know, tinfoil hats that they're wearing. I mean, this is -- you know, this is the thing about the Department of Justice, is that they actually deal with facts. I mean, the lawyers there, the people who work there, the investigators who work there, they actually look at facts. And they looked at these accusations and they said the appropriate level of inquiry is for a U.S. attorney who's not from the area to look into it. That seems to me more than sufficient, and you know, this is a political act designed -- I mean, the criticism of Sessions is a political act designed to distract attention from the investigation of Trump and get -- and you know, attack Hillary Clinton, which is what Fox News consists of about 20 hours a day. That is not the appropriate role of the Justice Department. Jeff Sessions is doing the right thing.
BLITZER: So, the political fallout, how do you see it falling out?
PRESTON: Well, I mean, the political fallout, Jeff Sessions could lose his job, and if that's the case, I think you know, would be the worst day and probably the best day in his life, but as far as political fallout goes is -- will Donald Trump lose any support amongst the American people? Absolutely not. We see him now in the low 40s, that's where he is, people still support him. And acts like this almost seem trivial and minor compared to some of the other things we've seen him do.
BLITZER: Let me ask you this Reuters report that investigators are now probing whether Donald Trump's presidential campaign -- I'm reading from the Reuters story -- colluded with Russia. They have questions about -- they've been questioning witnesses about events at the 2016 Republican National Convention and meetings that were taking place between Jeff Sessions and (INAUDIBLE) was a U.S. Senator, major supporter of the then-candidate Donald Trump, the first U.S. senator to endorse Donald Trump. The meetings they were having with the then- Russian Ambassador to the United States, Kislyak.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's almost incomprehensible to me. To think about the fact that Jeff Sessions and others members of the campaign met directly to the foreign government without coordinating with the Obama administration sends a clear message to the Russians about which government these guys were most loyal to. These Russians and Ambassador Kislyak knew about these meetings before Obama did. That's a major, major manipulation point for the Russians.
BLITZER: Nia, how do you see it?
HENDERSON: No, I think -- I think she's right. This is obviously what the Mueller team is investigating. This is what Trump is so nervous about, right? That's why he keeps saying there's no collusion, he's nervous about what Mueller's team will find. He's got to get his act in order in terms of the folks who are around him, who his lawyers are going to be, still an open question about whether he can get top like representation in this case.
[17:35:12] BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stick around. There's more we're following. We're getting reaction now to the breaking news, the Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions, rejecting calls from Congressional Republicans to appoint a second special counsel. Also ahead, the story behind the pictures, what body language experts see in this week's meeting between China's President and the North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-un.
[17:40:09] BLITZER: We're following breaking news, President Trump and his only public appearance this week, touting his $1-1/2 trillion plan to try to improve the country's crumbling roads, bridges, and much more. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us in many parts of the country, there's a desperate need for rebuilding and repair.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The Hills of Appalachia are part of America's legacy. The people here in Martin County, Kentucky proudly self-sufficient, but it's hard to take care of yourself when you don't have the most basic of necessities.
HOPE WORKMAN, RESIDENT, MARTIN COUNTY: So we have blue water here. That is crazy.
GUPTA: It's left Hope Workman with no other choice. Twice a week, Hope and her daughter drive up this dirt path on the side of a mountain.
WORKMAN: This is what we go through to get water.
GUPTA: 20 years ago, she placed this 3.5 foot long pipe into the hillside to tap a spring just to collect clean drinking water because, obviously, no one drinks the water here.
Do you drink it?
GARY BALL, EDITOR IN CHIEF, MOUNTAIN CITIZEN: Oh, no, no, no, there's no way that I drink it.
GUPTA: Gary Ball is the editor in chief of the local weekly paper, The Mountain Citizen. Water has been a front page story for most of his career. What's going on here? I mean, for the citizens, the people who live here and deal with this every day, where do they put this on their list of concerns?
BALL: In 2018, in the very place where LBJ declared war on poverty, 54 years ago, water is our number one issue. That's hard to imagine.
GUPTA: You declare a war on poverty, 54 years later, you come back and you can't even reliably get clean water, what progress have we really made?
BALL: It's like a third-world country here as far as water. We let our water system just dilapidate to the point of collapse.
GUPTA: You went how long without water?
WORKMAN: At that time, it was 10 days.
GUPTA: To manage that, Hope has turned her pool into a makeshift reservoir, collecting rain water for even the most basic needs.
In order to wash your clothes, in order to get water to bathe in, this is what you have to do?
WORKMAN: Yes, I did this in 17 degree weather and we had to take a chainsaw to drill through the ice, to get to the water.
GUPTA: So, you used the chainsaw to get through and the ice and then siphoned the water with your mouth out of this hose?
WORKMAN: Yes. Yes.
GUPTA: That's what it's come to?
WORKMAN: That's what it's come to.
GUPTA: In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the United States drinking water infrastructure a grade of a D. WORKMAN: This is the water that's coming out of my bath.
GUPTA: So, how does the water get so contaminated here in Martin County? It's worth looking at how we get our water. Here, it comes from the Tug Fork River, where it is then pumped into the Crum Reservoir, and from there, it makes its way to this water treatment center.
After getting treated, about 2 million gallons per day of fairly clean water then leaves this treatment facility through a cascade of pipes traveling all over the county. Problem is, those pipes are all so old and cracked, more than 50 percent of the water leaks out before it gets to the people who need it. Even worse, it's what's getting into those pipes and into the water.
We reviewed the most recent EPA data, and the Martin County Water District has violated federal drinking water standards every quarter between October 2014 and September 2017. In fact, until just a few months ago, the district's nearly 10,000 customers received notices that their water had exceeded federal limits for potentially cancer- causing chemicals.
Doc, I got this thing, what am I supposed to do about them? Am I going to get cancer?
DR. LON LAFFERTY, FAMILY MEDICINE: It's a very difficult question. I can't tell them that it's safe or that it isn't safe.
GUPTA: Dr. Lon Lafferty is the quintessential small town doc. He's pretty sure that almost every person in this county has come to see him at some point in his clinic.
LAFFERTY: We shouldn't have to be asking in 2018 whether or not the water is causing cancer in our region. We should be to the point in 2018 in the richest country in the history of the earth that we have clean water. It shouldn't be a question.
GUPTA: Eastern Kentucky has some of the highest cancer rates in the country, and there's plenty to blame, smoking, obesity, but one thing stands out to many who live there, the water.
Is it the rainwater that you're getting is better than what's coming out of your faucet?
GUPTA: On this day, Hope is filling up three additional pots of water from her pool.
WORKMAN: It's not easy, but it beats not being able to flush the toilet or take a bath. I hope you see this, Mr. Trump, because I don't know who else to talk to about it, they're not doing a damn thing.
GUPTA: President Trump released a $1.5 trillion plan to address all of the infrastructure for the whole country, but experts estimate $1 trillion alone is needed just to meet our drinking water demands for the next 25 years.
[17:45:08] LAFFERTY: Central Appalachia at this point is being left behind. Central Appalachia certainly voted for President Trump, but we always kind of take a wait and see kind of attitude, time will tell.
GUPTA: Is water a basic human right?
BALL: I believe so, I believe so.
GUPTA: That's not happening here.
BALL: That's not happening here.
GUPTA: And I'll tell you, Wolf, what happening in Martin County is not unique. There's about 150,000 small water systems like Martin County, and they represent 72 percent of the EPA violations for the whole country. These are small systems, Wolf, they are rural systems. And they are ignored, Wolf.
BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much for that really, really important report, appreciate it greatly.
Coming up, does a judge's new ruling mean Stormy Daniels' legal case against President Trump may drag on even longer? Plus, more than meets the eye, experts dissect the unspoken messages and the body language between China's powerful president and the North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un during this week's surprise summit.
[17:50:56] BLITZER: There's more breaking news from President Trump's speech in Ohio today, the President told the crowd he may hold up a new trade deal with South Korea, calling it a very strong card for his upcoming negotiations with North Korea. While no date is set for the President's meeting with Kim Jong-un, in the wake of Kim's visit to China this week. South Korea just announced that its President will meet the North Korean Leader for the first time on April 27. CNN's Brian Todd has more now on Kim Jong-un's extraordinary visit to China. Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we're getting more clues about this critical meeting in Beijing from reams of new footage that have been released. We've been combing through the video with analysts, consulting with intelligence officials and with a body language expert to get new information on the dynamic between Kim Jong-un and the ally that he's had so much tension with in recent years.
TODD: Trumpeting and fanfare announced the arrival of Kim Jong-un and his wife, Ri Sol-ju in Beijing. They greet Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, a quick but courteous exchange with seemingly little chat. Tonight, intelligence agencies and outside analysts are combing through the new video capturing this crucial meeting. The two leaders have at least one wooden looking handshake which a body language expert says is telling.
JANINE DRIVER, THE BODY LANGUAGE INSTITUTE: If we look closely though, it's President Xi, and the right side of his face is pulled up and in. This is contempt. Contempt is this little smirk, it's moral superiority.
TODD: At some moments, the video shows Kim and Xi walking and chatting casually, leaning in as they sit and talk, making easy eye contact. But at other times, they stand or walk stiffly next to each other, not talking or making eye contact, a stark contrast to when Kim met with top South Korean officials in Pyongyang a few weeks ago, looking more confident, holding handshakes longer, chatting, even walking with more of a strut. At one moment, Xi does not take notes while Kim speaks. Kim takes notes when Xi speaks.
DRIVER: Does he look like a little school kid that got in trouble, so he's taking notes like, you know, because he got in trouble from the principal? Or is he being disrespectful and shutting him down. President Xi, we don't know what the catalyst is. All we know is the change in his baseline.
TODD: And in one handshake, Kim clasps Xi's right arm while Xi pats Kim's hand.
DRIVER: The handshake starts off fine, right? Both thumbs are on the top until we see this wrist grab. At this point, it's I'm controlling you, I'm the upper hand. I'm the person of control here. And then we get this softer pat from President Xi to balance out the power.
TODD: CNN is told by a source with knowledge of the situation that Kim had not told Chinese officials in advance about his offer of a face-to-face meeting with President Trump. Analyst say this likely would have angered the Chinese leader and that Kim may well have traveled to Beijing to nullify him.
JI-YOUNG LEE, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: President Xi does not particularly like Kim Jong-un. I don't think it's a surprise, but he probably saw some opportunity here that he's improved relations with Kim Jong-un will open some new leverage for China to have over the situation in the Korean Peninsula.
TODD: And despite the apparent tension between Kim and President Xi, analysts believe china has given Kim a real boost this week, giving him leverage against President Trump if and when they meet, that if Kim tries to persuade President Trump to scale back sanctions or make other concessions into possibly recognize North Korea as an equal power, Kim can show Trump he's now got a powerful ally in Beijing backing him, that he's not alone in taking on the United States. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting. Coming up, the breaking news, the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, decides not to name a second special counsel but reveals a federal investigation into what Republicans and conservative media claims are bias that the nation's top law enforcement agencies. And a federal judge denies a move by Stormy Daniels' attorney to question President Trump and his lawyer under oath about a deal to keep the porn star from talking about an alleged affair.
[19:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, Mueller's collusion case. We have new information this hour on the special counsel's Russia probe and what he's hoping to learn from former Trump campaign deputy, Rick Yates. Stand by for details.
Sessions pushes back, the Attorney General decides not to appoint a new special counsel to investigate the Justice Department and the FBI despite calls by conservative Republicans. Will this anger Sessions' most vocal critic, President Trump.
And Stormy denied. The porn star suffers a setback in her legal war with the president as a judge rejects a bid to force Mr. Trump to answer questions under oath. This, as a lawyer allied with the Trump team is making new claims that could potentially hurt the President's own case. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.