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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Senator Richard Blumenthal; Interview With Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti; First Prison Sentence Handed Down in Mueller Probe; First Person Sentenced to Prison in Mueller Investigation; Trump: Nobody's Tougher on Russia But He Wants to Get Along. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 3, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The broad scope of Robert Mueller's authority is revealed. Did Mueller leave us clues about where his collusion probe is heading?
And Stormy's next move. The porn star's lawyer tells CNN he's turning to an unlikely source to try to bolster his case against the president. Will he get what he wants from Mr. Trump's treasury secretary? I will ask him live.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking tonight, gunfire and terror at YouTube headquarters in California.
New information still is coming in, but we now know the shooter was a woman. Police say she's dead. And multiple people are wounded. The suspect's motive still unclear.
I will talk about that story, much more with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, and our correspondents and analysts are all standing by.
Let's get first to our national correspondent, Miguel Marquez, who is tracking the late-breaking developments for us on this YouTube shooting.
What are you learning, Miguel?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was in the lunch hour when the shots started and the 911 calls started to go into the San Bruno police. It was the cafeteria area, an outdoor patio area where the shooting began, and within minutes, there was a massive police presence on scene as well as emergency services.
Then it was a bit of chaos with very heavily armed police moving into the YouTube headquarters. Over 1,000 employees there. That thousand employees were trying to get out of the YouTube headquarters at the same time. Within an hour or so, they had set up triage areas.
The law enforcement pace seemed to have lessened just a bit. Here is what the San Bruno police chief, how he described the timeline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED BARBERINI, SAN BRUNO POLICE CHIEF: At 12:46 p.m. this afternoon, the San Bruno Police Department received numerous 911 calls regarding gunshots at the YouTube campus located on Cherry Avenue in our city.
San Bruno police arrived on scene at 12:48 and immediately began a search for a possible shooter or suspect. Upon arrival, officers encountered numerous employees fleeing from the building. It was very chaotic, as you can imagine.
We did encounter one victim with an apparent gunshot wound towards the front of the business as we arrived. Several minutes later while conducting a search of the premises, officers located a second individual with a gunshot wound, appears to -- may have been self- inflicted. We are still working on confirming that.
Two additional victims were located several minutes later at an adjacent business. This is -- the extent of all the injuries of our victims are unknown right now. They were transported for emergency medical care. But they are all unknown.
So, if I missed that, we have four victims who all have been transported for gunshot-related injuries and we have one subject who's deceased inside the building with a self-inflicted wound that, at this time, we believe to be the shooter, but we're still following up on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: And we do have a little bit more information on those victims. One was a 32-year-old female. She's in serious condition. A 27-year-old female who is in fair condition and a 36-year-old male who is in critical condition.
All of them have been transported to San Francisco General Hospital. We also know that Stanford Hospital received several individuals from this scene as well. But it is not clear if they were victims of gunshot wounds or if they were just injured in the mass evacuation from YouTube headquarters -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pretty terrifying incident when you hear gunshots like that at the campus. Thanks very much, Miguel.
I want to quickly turn to our law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell. He's former FBI supervisory special agent.
Josh, how rare is it that this was a female workplace shooter?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, it's very rare.
If you look back over the last two decades, the FBI actually did a study from 2000 to 2013 at number of shootings, the mass shootings they call it in the United States. And of 160 they identified, only six of them were perpetrated by a female attacker. So it's something that is extremely rare.
Obviously, there are so many questions we have right now as far as any possible relationship between the shooter and her victims. Did they know each other? Two questions I have -- and we will learn this as we hear from witnesses and as the CCTV within the building is analyzed and possibly released -- is what was the ticktock here?
Did the person go in? Was there conversation between the shooter and the victims or did she just go and start shooting? Secondly, a big question for me, did she take her life immediately after the shooting or did she take her life when confronted by law enforcement? And that's something that's going to be key.
I don't think, as we have talked about over the last hour as we have been watching this, that it appears at least to be some type of terrorism. It doesn't look that way because you don't see the mass loss of life in a compound this big. Obviously, that's something that we look to.
So many questions unanswered. We will continue to ping our law enforcement sources in order to gather information and report back to you.
BLITZER: Yes, it doesn't look like terrorism. The FBI issued a statement saying San Bruno police is the lead agency at this time, although they're helping. If it was terrorism, the FBI would be in charge.
How long, Josh, will it take for police to clear the scene?
CAMPBELL: It's going to be a massive effort. If you look at the size of the compound and obviously in hearing from the police chief there, he indicated that, you know, different victims were found in different places.
As they go through to methodically clear just as a textbook response, they're going to be looking for additional threats, but also in this case they're going to be looking for additional victims. Are there other people out there that maybe they just don't know about yet? Again, probably highly unlikely, but it's got to be something that they really focus on.
Going from each side of the building throughout the building, floor to floor, in order to ensure they are fully confident that there are no more threats and there are no more victims before they give the all- clear.
BLITZER: Does it sound like a workplace violence incident that just happened to be taking place over at YouTube headquarters?
CAMPBELL: It certainly suggests that. If you look at these facilities, these tech companies, which I was in
the FBI. I would liaise with a lot of them. These are buildings with large security presence. There is controlled access as far as coming and going. You can't just walk in off the street and walk into a YouTube cafeteria.
So that suggests to me that this person at least had some purpose for being there, which obviously would suggest that maybe she worked there. We don't know that yet, whether she was a guest or how long she had been there, but still a lot of questions that are unanswered. It at least appears to be a workplace shooting because it does take place in a place of business and it doesn't look like she was just going and shooting just to kill victims indiscriminately.
But, again, a lot of these questions will get solidified once we actually hear from the witnesses and we see some of that security footage.
BLITZER: All right, Josh, I'm going to have you have stand.
We're getting a statement in from Google, the parent company of YouTube. Let me read it to our viewers.
"We continue to actively coordinate with local authorities and hospitals. Our security team has been working closely with authorities to evacuate the buildings and ensure the safety of employees in the area."
That statement just coming in from Google.
President Trump, we're now told, has been briefed on the YouTube shooting and he tweeted about it just a little while ago.
Want to go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, what's the reaction from the White House?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
The president did issue a tweet just in the last several minutes saying he has been briefed on the situation out in California. We can put that up on screen. The president, in addition to that, offering his thoughts and prayers to everybody involved and thanking law enforcement and first-responders that are on the scene.
But, Wolf, in terms of this administration's participation in all of this, it sounds like at this point, they're leaving it to local authorities out there in California. And President Trump, we should also make it clear, he did make plenty of news today.
He also raised a lot of questions. You saw he had this press conference earlier today where he announced he wants to pull U.S. troops out of Syria while deploying them to the border with Mexico. The president also tried to sound tough on certain points on Russia in a way that would make Kennedy and Reagan raise an eyebrow. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ACOSTA (voice-over): Meeting with the leaders of the Baltic nations, countries that depend on U.S. leadership to stand firm against Russia, President Trump made a questionable claim, that he set the standard for toughness when it comes the Moscow.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have. And you can -- and I know you're nodding yes because everyone agrees when they think about it.
ACOSTA: The president pointed to his administration's decision to expel Russian diplomats, but it's still a difficult comparison for the president to make, not only because of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan's historic Cold War confrontations with the Soviet Union.
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tear down this wall.
ACOSTA: There's also the president's well-known reluctance to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Trump said he may still enjoy healthy relations with the Russians.
TRUMP: It's a real possibility that I could have a good relationship, and remember this, getting along with Russia is a good thing. Getting along with China is a good thing. Getting along with other countries, including your three countries, is a good thing, not a bad thing. So I think I could have a very good relationship with Russia and with President Putin.
And if I did, that would be a great thing and there's also a great possibility that that won't happen. Who knows. OK?
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump then urged the president of Latvia to avoid the U.S. press.
TRUMP: You can pick a reporter. A Baltic reporter, ideally. Real news. Not fake news. Go ahead.
ACOSTA: Another comment that might please the Russians came when the president said he's ready to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, a decision that could bolster Moscow's position in Damascus.
TRUMP: It's time. It's time. We were very successful against ISIS. We will be successful against anybody militarily. But, sometimes, it's time to come back home. And we're thinking about that very seriously.
ACOSTA: The president's remarks seemed to contradict what his own advisers are stressing, that the U.S. is staying in Syria to battle ISIS.
BRETT MCGURK, U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: In terms of our campaign in Syria, we're in Syria to fight ISIS. That's our mission. And our mission isn't over. And we're going to complete that mission.
ACOSTA: Then the president went back to an old campaign comment, that he wishes the U.S. had seized oil assets during the Iraq War.
TRUMP: I was always saying, keep the oil. We didn't keep the oil. Who got the oil? It was ISIS got the oil, a lot of it. That's what funded their campaign.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump seems to have a new mission for the U.S. military, namely, securing the border with Mexico, something that the president insists must be done until he gets the wall he promised voters.
TRUMP: So what we are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States. We have a meeting on it in a little while with General Mattis and everybody, and I think that it's something we have to do.
ACOSTA: Earlier in the day, the president went back to threatening economic pain on Amazon, the online retailer whose founder also owns "The Washington Post."
TRUMP: Amazon is going to have to pay much more money to the post office. There's no doubt about that.
ACOSTA: And the president didn't exactly give a ringing endorsement to his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, who's facing a slew of ethical questions.
TRUMP: I hope going to be great.
ACOSTA: The president didn't exactly offer lot of details when it comes to these upcoming moves on Syria and on the border with Mexico in terms of the military.
While the president says he want to withdraw troops from Syria and send them to the border, his top aides have yet to explain what any of that really means or exactly when that's going to happen.
And as a reminder, Wolf, we should recall that the president has often sounded open to policy shifts like on immigration and gun control only to reverse himself hours or days later -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta over at the White House.
Also tonight, the first person has been sentenced to prison in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The milestone playing out just hours after the special counsel gave us an extraordinary window inside the scope and authority of his probe and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Our political correspondent, Sara Murray, has been covering all this for us.
Sara, Mueller showed some of his cards in a new court filing in the Paul Manafort case.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And in this new filing, you get a better sense of how broad, but also how explicit Mueller's purview is in terms of looking into Russian collusion. It includes looking into some activities that occurred before the campaign even began, as well as the finances of a former Trump campaign aide.
MURRAY (voice-over): Special counsel Robert Mueller making clear he has the full blessing of the Justice Department to delve deep into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in 2016, even if that means digging into potential crimes well before the campaign started.
In a classified August 2, 2017 memo, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tells Mueller he should investigate allegations that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort committed a crime by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.
The memo part of an extensive court filing from Mueller's team defending their investigative powers and indictments so far. The filing indicates that Mueller is carrying out a robust investigation into Russian collusion, despite the president's protests.
TRUMP: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics.
MURRAY: But it also sheds light on how prosecutors have linked Manafort's lobbying work before the presidential campaign to possible crimes during the 2016 election.
In Rosenstein's memo, he gives Mueller the authority to dig into Manafort's payments from Ukrainian politicians. That probe into Manafort's decades-long lobbying career has already resulted in several criminal charges.
Manafort is aiming to have his case dismissed, insisting the charges he faces are outside of Mueller's purview, but Mueller's prosecutors argued that interactions before the campaign with Russian-connected operatives are directly tied to probing Russian meddling and prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort's Ukrainian consulting activity.
In public, Rosenstein has defended the special counsel's probe, insisting it's not a freewheeling enterprise.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Bob Mueller and I understand the specific scope of the investigation, and so, no, it's not a fishing expedition.
MURRAY: The newly released memo offers hints at the scope of the probe, including details Rosenstein didn't want to make public when the special counsel was appointed in May, so as not to confirm specific investigations involving specific individuals.
Most of the investigations and individuals Rosenstein names in the memo are redacted, leaving almost an entire page blank.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's almost a shot across the bough to tell people that there is no certainty with respect to this investigation.
MURRAY: Meantime, Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan became the first person sentenced in Mueller's investigation. On Tuesday, a judge sentenced him to 30 days in prison and a $20,000 fine. That's after he admitted to lying to investigators about discussions with former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and a person with Russian intelligence ties in the midst of the presidential campaign.
MURRAY: Now, in that sentencing today, Mueller's team made the case about how important it is in these investigations for prosecutors to be able to rely on witnesses to provide accurate testimony and hand over all of these documents.
They encouraged the judge to consider sending a signal about what happens if you lie to investigators -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara, lots of major developments unfolding. Thanks for that report. Sara Murray reporting.
Joining us now, Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a Democrat who serves on the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees.
Senator, lots to discuss, but, first of all, your thoughts on this YouTube shooting.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: My heart and prayers go out to the loved ones of victims, and my thanks to the first-responders.
There are a lot of unanswered questions, but thoughts and prayers, as the Parkland students reminded us so vividly and eloquently, are not enough. The woman who took her own life, the apparent shooter, obviously suffered from some kind of mental illness.
This nation has no higher rate of mental illness than other modern industrialized countries, but we have an off-the-charts number and rate of shootings. And it reminds us that we need to do something about gun violence in America.
BLITZER: Let's turn, Senator, to the developments in the special counsel's investigation.
You have heard our reports. What insight does this Rosenstein memo give you suggesting that Mueller is open to go ahead and investigate a whole bunch of areas involving alleged collusion?
BLUMENTHAL: This memorandum is profoundly significant. It's a clear message that Robert Mueller is at the doors of the Oval Office and he's knocking and he's knocking hard on the issues of collusion, which can no longer even be considered a witch-hunt or a hoax, if there was any basis for the president characterizing it that way.
And there's a footnote in that memo that also alludes to possible obstruction of justice. And, in fact, what we're seeing is the special prosecutor following the money very clearly, whether it relates to the activities of Paul Manafort with respect to Ukraine and Russia, or the activity of the president and his family concerning Deutsche Bank and money laundering there, and the robust and far- reaching investigation that has been authorized by the deputy attorney general, it's going to continue.
And this will bear even more results.
BLITZER: This memo, and we all have copies of it now, huge chunks of it redacted all in black. But the special counsel in this memo said special counsel -- this is Rosenstein -- said the special counsel should investigate whether Paul Manafort -- and I'm quoting now -- "committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials" -- close quote.
Does that imply, Senator, that the Justice Department views collusion as a crime?
BLUMENTHAL: It clearly indicates, Wolf, that collusion is regarded by the Department of Justice as a crime and a serious one and should be under investigation by the special counsel.
There's no question that the special counsel's mandate includes collusion, as well as obstruction of justice. And what we're seeing in fact is obstruction of justice unfolding right before our eyes in real time in many of the president's statements, in his actions such as firing Comey, seeking to fire Mueller, and other kinds of deceptive activities, such as the statement he did after his son participated in that Trump Tower meeting with Russian agents.
That statement was also a lie and deceptive. So, we're seeing that Robert Mueller has the endorsement and support of the professional law enforcers of the Department of Justice in this collusion investigation.
BLITZER: Yes, and let's not forget this memo was written by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, recused himself.
Does this now, Senator, put the deputy attorney general at risk of being fired?
BLUMENTHAL: It certainly does.
That is a key question, Wolf, because the pressure is mounting. As the special counsel comes closer and closer by the day to the president of the United States, the threat to not only Rod Rosenstein, but the special counsel, will mount.
That's the reason that I asked the potential successors to Rod Rosenstein to pledge that they would permit Robert Mueller to proceed with his investigation without political interference, would not fire him, would not restrict his budget or the scope of his investigation, because Rod Rosenstein's mandate to the special counsel is profoundly important.
This memorandum really is so significant because it indicates that the deputy attorney general has given that mandate to Robert Mueller and should be supported.
And that's why we have sponsored legislation that would protect the special counsel and why now, more urgently than ever before, that protection is more vitally necessary.
And I'm going to be reaching out to my Republican colleagues, because they have an obligation to stand up and speak out, especially now.
BLITZER: What's your reaction to Alex van der Zwaan's sentence of 30 days in jail and a $20,000 fine? He was sentenced today, the first sentence in this Mueller investigation.
BLUMENTHAL: Compared to the maximum potential penalty, which is years in prison and a much higher fine, it may seem small.
My guess is Robert Mueller would have hoped for a higher penalty, but here's the honest truth. It sends a message that prison and substantial fines are going to be a consequence in this prosecution. And even for a marginal defender like this one, prison time sends a message.
BLITZER: More than a year into his presidency, President Trump still won't say if Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe of the United States. Why can't he give an answer? He was asked that question even when he was sitting today with the leaders of the three Baltic states.
BLUMENTHAL: First, the idea that he has been tougher than other presidents on Vladimir Putin is so laughable -- well, it would be laughable, if it weren't so serious, because the last communication he had with Vladimir Putin was to congratulate him on his victory in a completely sham election.
So the expectation of the American people should be for their president to be cracking down on Russia's continuing attack on us through cyber and disinformation. They are continuing to meddle in our democratic process. They're continuing to threaten the treaty that we have by continuing to develop missiles that violate that treaty.
They are -- ongoing support for aggression in Ukraine. In a variety of fronts, they are continuing to threaten and actually attack the United States, and the need is for the United States and our leader to be much tougher on the Russians than he has been. He applied sanctions only under pressure from Congress. In fact, he resisted actually implementing those sanctions. And I'm going to be pushing, as are many of my colleagues, for a much tougher response to the continuing attack of the Russians through cyber and other means on our democracy, because they're going to repeat what they did in 2016, unless they are forced to pay a real price through sanctions on the oligarchs, cutting down on the money laundering and the flow of their resources into hidden accounts in the Western world.
BLITZER: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks so much for joining us.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the breaking news in the case of the porn star vs. the president. Stormy Daniels' lawyer asking the U.S. Treasury Department for help. I will talk live to Michael Avenatti. He's standing by. You see him there.
And we will talk more about Robert Mueller's mandate now that we have new insight into the scope of his Russia investigation and the green light he just got from the Justice Department.
BLITZER: Tonight, we have breaking news on the Stormy Daniels legal fight with the president over their alleged affair and a deal to buy her silence.
The porn star's lawyer revealing his newest move, an attempt to get Mr. Trump's own treasury secretary to bolster Daniels' case.
I will talk to her attorney, Michael Avenatti, in just a moment.
But, first, let's go to our national correspondent, Athena Jones.
Athena, explain this new move in the Stormy Daniels case.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
This is a new front in the battle between Daniels, the president and the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is now asking the treasury secretary to release the suspicious activity report filed the bank Cohen used to pay Daniels that $130,000 that he paid her just before the election.
Now, banks are required by law to file reports about transactions they deem suspicious. And Avenatti wants to see that report and any other documents related to that transaction, which he argues amounted to an illegal campaign contribution to the Trump campaign.
JONES (voice-over): Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is sending this letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, requesting that he publicly release a bank's suspicious activity report related to the $130,000 payment from Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
Banks must file such reports about unusual transactions they suspect have no business or apparent lawful purpose or that involve funds that may be derived from illegal activities, designed to hide illegal activities, or to evade regulations.
[18:30:08] Cohen says he paid Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair she says she had with Trump in 2006. Avenatti also wants Secretary Mnuchin to release other documentation related to the payment, which he argues is an illegal campaign contribution.
This as lawyers for Cohen filed a motion Monday to compel arbitration in the case. Trump formally joining that motion, which argues that under Section 5.2 of the agreement, all disputes arising between P.P. and D.D. -- pseudonyms for Daniels and for Trump -- must be settled through private arbitration, not in court.
Avenatti vowing on Twitter to vigorously oppose the motion to have the case decided privately, behind closed doors, arguing, "This is a democracy, and this matter should be decided in an open court of law owned by the people."
And after a judge denied his motion to question Trump and Cohen under oath, calling it untimely, because it was filed too early in the process, Avenatti plans to refile that motion.
Meanwhile, tabloid publisher American Media Inc. is asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit brought by former "Playboy" model Karen McDougal, who says she, too, had an affair with Trump in 2006.
KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER "PLAYBOY" MODEL: We were together 10 months before I chose to end it.
JONES: McDougal, who was suing to be released from the deal she reached with AMI, says the company worked secretly to keep her from talking about the affair before the 2016 election, paying her $150,000 in exchange for the rights to her story, which it never published, and the opportunity to write a series of health and fitness columns, work McDougal says didn't all pan out.
AMI, which publishes "The National Enquirer," says the First Amendment protects its right to decide what to publish, an argument McDougal's lawyer, Peter Stris, slammed on Twitter, writing, "As we have learned through brave truth tellers like Ms. McDougal, the tabloid went to great lengths to silence her and others, and they are now attempting to silence her again with the absurd claim that their own free speech was violated. Needless to say, we look forward to opposing their motion."
JONES: So there's a lot of legal back and forth going on here, but back to the Daniels case for a moment. We haven't heard directly from Michael Cohen very much in the last
several weeks, but in a sworn statement filed in support of the motion to compel arbitration, Cohen says that at no time over the roughly 16 months between when Daniels signed the agreement and when she filed her lawsuit, did she or her lawyer ever communicate to him that they felt the deal was not valid because Trump didn't sign it -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Athena Jones reporting for us. Athena, thanks very much.
Joining us now, Stormy Daniels's attorney, Michael Avenatti. Michael, thanks so much for joining us.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to get to a lot of the questions just raised, but what do you hope to learn, first of all, from this so-called suspicious activity report, this SAR, filed with the Treasury Department when Michael Cohen transferred that $130,000 to your client
AVENATTI: Well, Wolf, these suspicious activity reports or SARs, they are big deals when they are filed. They are not filed routinely by banks. Banks have to conduct investigations into transactions and deem them suspicious or illegal before they file such a SAR.
So the fact that First Republic Bank, the bank at which Mr. Cohen and at the time, the Trump Organization was banking at. The fact that this bank undertook this investigation, conducted the investigation, and then determined that a SAR had to be filed is very, very significant.
We want to get our hands on that SAR. We want the American people to see what's contained within the SAR, because we believe that it is going to undercut the claims of Mr. Cohen relating to the transfer of the money, the flow of the money and what exactly happened here.
But the fact that a SAR was filed in this case is a big deal, and it's an indication that the bank sees a problem here.
BLITZER: A SAR, a suspicious activity report. How is it going to help your client's case if you got your hands on it?
AVENATTI: Well, if in fact, the narrative portion of the SAR indicates that the money did not come from a home equity loan, as Mr. Cohen claims, or that it initially came from a home equity loan, but ultimately was reimbursed by the Trump Organization, I mean, that could very easily be a bombshell in this case and could have far- reaching impact and could provide us with an argument for invalidating the agreement, pursuant to the amended complaint that we recently filed, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, does the Treasury Department have any obligation to release this kind of information?
AVENATTI: Well, they don't have an obligation, Wolf. But I think in this instance, because of how public this is, I mean, "The Wall Street Journal" already reported on the filing of this SAR. Normally, SARs are kept confidential. And the reason why they're kept confidential is because you don't want the target to be tipped off.
[18:35:00] In this instance, the target would be Mr. Cohen. Well, obviously, Mr. Cohen is already aware that a SAR was filed because of the report by "The Wall Street Journal." There's no reason to keep this SAR confidential. The Treasury Department should release it to the American public, so that everyone can see what it contains.
Now Wolf, if in fact, this transaction was as innocent as Mr. Cohen and the administration wants us to believe, there should be no issues with releasing this SAR. Forget about by next Wednesday. They should release it tomorrow.
BLITZER: As you know, Michael Cohen has filed to compel arbitration. He obviously wants to keep this out of court. He argues that the agreement which your client signed requires both parties to work out disagreements through private arbitration, through that process. You want to break that agreement. Tell us why.
AVENATTI: Well, Wolf, our position has been clear for weeks now. I mean, we want this matter decided in the open, in public. We want the public to have all the facts on both sides so they can determine what happened here and that we can -- we can proceed with a search for the truth.
Now the administration and Mr. Cohen, they want just the opposite. At every turn, they've sought to intimidate my client, threaten here. They want to now decide this in a secret, private arbitration where the public doesn't know what's going on, where the public doesn't have access to the evidence and the facts.
And Wolf, I'm perplexed, because if, in fact, the story is, as Mr. Cohen and the administration wants us to believe, that there was never an affair, there was never a cover up, et cetera, they should want that aired in the public. They should want the public to see all of that so the public could conclude that they're telling the truth. We think it's pretty clear as to why they don't want this decided in the public.
BLITZER: Why did your client agree to the arbitration clause? I know you weren't the lawyer then. There was another lawyer. But why did she agree to this clause if she believes that it should be settled in open court, as opposed to private arbitration?
AVENATTI: Well, Wolf, she agreed to the arbitration clause, because she understood that all the parties were going to sign the agreement and all the parties were going to agree to that clause. And that's not what happened.
We are highly confident this agreement is going to be tossed out for a variety of reasons, including the fact, as we've indicated, that Mr. Trump never signed the agreement.
And in fact, the statements that were recently made by Mr. Schwartz on national television are very, very damaging to the president and Mr. Cohen's position. I mean, these guys can't get their stories straight, and they're spinning downward.
BLITZER: You just heard -- you just heard Michael Cohen and his attorneys argue why didn't you raise this issue for 16 months? Why only now in the last few weeks have you raised this issue, the fact that he never signed the document?
AVENATTI: Well, my client was under the -- my client had the understanding that Mr. Trump had signed the document. It was only recently that she learned that he never signed the document, and therefore, the agreement was never consummated.
BLITZER: So she never -- didn't she get a copy of the document from her then attorney?
BLITZER: So shouldn't the attorney have noticed that, her attorney at the time and said, "Why isn't 'D.D.,' the alias, signing this document?"
AVENATTI: Well, again, Wolf, I think that's an excellent question for a prior attorney. I mean, I can assure you that if I was involved, it would have been handled differently.
BLITZER: You may know this. Seth Rogen, the actor, the comedian, he told Ellen DeGeneres yesterday that Stormy Daniels told him years ago that she slept with Donald Trump, that she had this sexual relationship -- I should be more specific -- with Donald Trump. Rogen worked with Stormy Daniels in a 2006 movie, "Knocked Up." Listen to how he described her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH ROGEN, COMEDIAN: It didn't really occur to me even that it would come out or that anyone would care. But then when I saw u it, I was like, oh, yes, Stormy told us all about that.
ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: A long time ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You have more witnesses like Seth Rogen willing to share what they know about this alleged affair?
AVENATTI: We do, Wolf, and they can testify that they're aware of contemporaneous communications to them where my client described the relationship with Mr. Trump. And I mean, we think this is critically important.
My client didn't fabricate this. The American people saw her on "60 Minutes." They can tell she's credible. They know she's telling the truth, and Mr. Rogen's comments yesterday only reinforced that. I mean, this is a conversation she had with Mr. Rogen some ten years ago. This is long before Mr. Trump became a candidate for the president of the United States. There's no question she's telling the truth about what happened here.
BLITZER: And one final question. Have you made any progress in identifying the man who allegedly threatened your client in that parking lot back in 2011?
AVENATTI: We are continuing to make incremental progress, and we expect an announcement relating to those efforts here in the coming days, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks so much for joining us.
AVENATTI: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, new information in the suspect in the shooting over at YouTube headquarters in California. We're going to tell you what we're learning.
[18:40:05] And we'll also dig deeper into the bombshell court filing by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and what it tells us about his Russia investigation. Does it amount to a warning from Mueller?
BLITZER: We're following a breaking story: A shooting at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, just south of San Francisco.
Law enforcement officials now tell CNN that the woman who opened fire is believed to have known at least one of the victims.
[18:45:06] That female suspect is dead. Police think she may have died from a self-inflicted wound. There's still no word on possible motive.
At least three people were hurt. One of them is listed as being in critical condition right now to a local hospital. We're going to bring you more information as we get it.
We're also following new developments in the Russia investigation, the first sentencing in Robert Mueller's probe and important new insights into his mandate to look into allegations of collusion.
Let's bring in our analysts.
You know, Gloria, despite many redactions in this memorandum, there's a footnote that reads like this, the special counsel also has the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of and with intent to interfere with the special counsel's investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice and intimidation of witnesses.
That sounds like a clear warning from Robert Mueller.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, I think it is. I think it's also a declaration from Rod Rosenstein. And, you know, I can't help but wonder how the president is going to receive this since he's not thrilled with either one of these gentlemen. But it makes it very clear that their authority extends where the investigation extends.
And you know that the president has drawn red lines and he may not, he may not like this, but I think there was a clear intent to put this in writing before anything else happens, and so that everyone is aware that these are the rules they're playing by and that Mueller and Rosenstein actually agree to them.
BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey Toobin, one of the clues in this memo to Mueller are there that talk about, that give us greater insight into the special counsel's investigation.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the one that really jumped out at me was the authorization given by Rod Rosenstein to Mueller, to investigate collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which the statement says is a violation of United States laws. This has been an extremely useful talking point for the president himself and for others that collusion is no crime.
Here, you have the United States Department of Justice, Donald Trump's Department of Justice, saying collusion is a crime. And I just think that's -- there you go. It's the first bullet point there. And you know, in violation of United States law.
You know, Trump and his supporters have been saying from day one that collusion is not a crime. Here you have the Department of Justice saying the president -- the Mueller is authorized to investigation collusion using that very word as a violation of United States law.
BLITZER: And we know he's not only looking into collusion as a possible crime, but obstruction of justice, money laundering, perjury. Those are crimes as well.
David Swerdlick, let's get to this first sentencing today of this 33- year-old Dutch attorney, Alexander van der Zwaan. He worked for a prominent American law firm. He got 30 days, $20,000 fine.
But he apparently knew a lot about what was going on.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, it's a pretty light sentence, right? I mean, there are ordinary people who go 30 days in the county lock up for failing to appear on a series of traffic violations. So, given the stakes of what he's implicated in in this investigation, it's not a severe penalty.
But as you say, if the plea deal is a road that leads to the special counsel investigation, getting more information about some of the other figures who are more centrally figured in the investigation and that probably means that's what the special counsel team is aiming for -- getting information, getting the plea and moving on.
BORGER: And you just don't lie to the special counsel. That is what it means. You know, look at what happened to Gates. He lied in his proffer. That was a big problem.
Look at van der Zwaan. He lied to them. That's a big problem.
I also think it's kind of saying, hey, folk, we know a lot about this case. You cannot lie to us because we will catch you.
BLITZER: And he's a convicted felon right now, too. They have gotten a relatively light sentence. He's a convicted felon.
SWERDLICK: Probably get disbarred as well.
BLITZER: Oh, yes. I assume that's one of his problems.
Samantha Vinograd is with us as well. All of this is unfolding as the president was at a news conference today with the leaders of three Baltic States. I want you to listen to this exchange, what he had to say about Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody has been tougher on Russia, but getting along with Russia would be a good thing, not a bad thing, and just about everybody b agrees to that, except very stupid people. OK?
REPORTER: How do you see Vladimir Putin? Is he a friend or a foe?
TRUMP: We'll find out. I'll let you know. I mean, there will be a time when I'll let you know. You're going to find out very quickly. Let's see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: If you couldn't hear the question, how do you see Vladimir Putin? Is he a friend or a foe? And the president didn't really say.
[18:50:00] SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, this was another example of Trump purposely playing dodgeball. He's been doing this for months now. He waffled again on defining the status of his relationship with Vladimir Putin. That's his go-to strategy and he missed a key opportunity.
I staff a lot of these meetings with the Baltic States, for example. This is when you sit down and you talk about a shared agenda and shared defenses. He was sitting next to Estonia, for example, Estonia suffered a massive cyber attack by Russia in 2007.
Instead of focusing on that, he was Monday morning quarterbacking, again, pointing the finger at President Obama, and not talking about the specific things that we're doing to stop Russia's attack today.
BLITZER: He did say that he's been tougher on Russia than any of his predecessors, any of -- including the former President Obama.
BORGER: Of course. He mentioned Obama. He can't help himself.
You know, of course, they did expel the spies, you know, and he has done some things in Ukraine. But, you know, the point is, Donald Trump speaks one way about Putin, he believes that he can be the person for some reason to transform Vladimir Putin from a foe into an ally. Even though he's now got people on his -- on his national security team, John Bolton being among them, who are very tough on Russia.
So the confusion that you saw from some of the people in the Baltic States today is echoed in the American public. And I don't know what it is about Donald Trump that thinks at some point he can do what no one else has been able to do.
BLITZER: Lots of confusion out there. Stick around.
Just ahead, President Trump says he can get along with Vladimir Putin amid talk of a possible White House meeting. The president claims no one is tougher on Russia, but is he really tough enough to handle Putin?
[18:56:26] BLITZER: President Trump is insisting he'd like to get along with Russia even though he says nobody has been tougher on Russia than he has.
CNN's Brian Todd has more on the possibility of a Trump/Putin meeting over at the White House.
Brian, would such a meeting by the United States president and the Russian president be an opportunity for Putin to try to manipulate President Trump?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, most of those who cover Vladimir Putin who study him are certain that the KGB colonel, a former KGB colonel, will use that training to try to manipulate President Trump.
Tonight, there's intrigue in Washington surrounding a possible Trump/Putin meeting at the White House, at the same time the Russian president is meeting with his ally in Turkey.
TODD (voice-over): An arrival suitable for strongmen, in Ankara, Vladimir Putin is greeted by Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
Tonight, there are questions about whether Putin will soon be welcomed at the White House by President Trump. A White House official telling CNN the president casually invited Putin to the White House during a recent phone conversation. Both sides say no formal preparations are under way, but analysts believe Putin would want a meeting.
MATTHEW ROJANSKY, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: I think for Putin, himself, the idea of meeting with the top dog is always important, it's a status thing.
TODD: It could be a tense meeting, fraught with potential pitfalls for President Trump. The U.S. and Britain have been in a diplomatic battle with Putin with dozens of diplomats expelled from all three countries after Moscow was blamed for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
Today, Trump often accused of being soft on Putin was on the defensive.
TRUMP: Probably nobody's been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump.
TODD: The last time a top Russian official was in the Oval Office, May 2017, when Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak visited Trump the day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Kislyak is still a central character in the Russia investigation.
Tonight, analysts warn that the former KGB colonel in the Kremlin who hasn't been to the White House since 2005 could try to manipulate Trump the next time they meet.
HEATHER CONLEY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: He focuses on the weaknesses of the leader and exploits those weaknesses. President Putin will clearly want to appear very sympathetic to President Trump and support his view of dialogue and engagement, of making deals on Syria and Ukraine, but while also making sure that he is strengthening divisions between Congress and the White House.
TODD: Putin is a master at playing mind games during these meetings, from his own imposing body language, to making his counterpart cringe. In 2007, knowing German Chancellor Angela Merkel was terrified of dogs, Putin brought his huge black Labrador, Connie, into the room. Putin smirked, Merkel put on a brave face.
ANNETTE HEUSER, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: She did not blink because she understands the Russian mindset. She knows that the Russians and in this case Vladimir Putin wanted to play Russian chess with her, which means the person who blinks the first has lost.
TODD: But despite the risks and the tension, some analysts say it's always important for the American and Russian presidents to meet.
ROJANSKY: Russia is the only country on earth that in under an hour has the ability to end life as we know it in the United States. That is a national security concern of the highest order and what that means is you have to be willing to constantly engage with the Russians.
TODD: Now, a key question tonight is whether some incoming members of President Trump's national security team, like John Bolton, can get him to take a tougher line on the Kremlin. That's what we're watching tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly are. Brian Todd reporting, thanks very much.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.