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Trump Prepares for Possible Mueller Interview; Trump Adviser Played Key Role Pursuing Possible Clinton E-Mails; National Guard Troops Deployed to Secure the Border. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired April 7, 2018 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:59:52] DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN ANCHOR: His organization, Mary's Meals started pretty small back in 2002 but its work has grown tremendously and late last year it celebrated a major milestone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGNUS MCFARLAND-BARROW, CNN HERO: We started serving 200 children and it's beyond our wildest dreams that it would grow like -- like this.

Incredibly recently we served the one billionth meal since we began. It's a very humbling experience, and for us it's very much the next child that's waiting. Really more than ever, we feel this work of ours has just begun.

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GALLAGHER: All right. If you want to see what some of the children have gone on to achieve; and also if you want to nominate somebody that you think should be a CNN hero, just go to CNNHeroes.com.

GALLAGHER: We want to thank you for watching us on this Saturday.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: There's much more ahead in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.

We turn it over now to Fredricka Whitfield. Fred -- good morning to you.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.

BLACKWELL: I feel like it's been a while since we've done this.

WHITFIELD: I do too.

But we've been in the same room together.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes. Vacations --

WHITFIELD: Well, here we are --

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: -- D.C., New York. WHITFIELD: Hi, Dianne.

GALLAGHER: Hello, hello.

WHITFIELD: Glad you're part of the hug, too.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

WHITFIELD: All right. Good to see you guys, have a great day.

BLACKWELL: You, too.

WHITFIELD: See you again tomorrow morning.

All right. It's the 11:00 -- and the phone is ringing. Victor -- they're after you already.

All right. It's the 11:00 Eastern hour.

Hello, everyone, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

NEWSROOM starts right now. >

All right. First, a CNN exclusive -- President Trump's legal team preparing him for potential topics for an interview with Robert Mueller. The President going over questions his attorneys believe the special counsel might ask related to the Russia investigation. Trump has said he'd love to do it but some of his closest allies have a warning about the potential meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I thought it was a perjury trap. I think it is a very dangerous for the President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Meanwhile, Russia is promising a harsh response and vowing to retaliate after the White House unleashed strict new sanctions against Vladimir Putin's inner circle.

And a border blockade -- up to 4,000 National Guards troops deploying. Their mission -- adding a new layer of sophisticated support to secure the U.S. border with Mexico.

Plus, high stakes preparation -- the U.S. and North Korea working out details ahead of a historic meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. Location -- still to be determined. >

But first, we start with our CNN exclusive.

The President's legal team is preparing Donald Trump for potential questioning by special counsel Robert Mueller. A White House official and a person familiar with the situation said this is a sign the President's legal team is intensifying its deliberations over whether to allow Trump to be questioned by the special counsel. CNN's Dan Merica joins us now, live from the White House. So what are you learning about the President's preparations.

DAN MERICA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're told that they're in their infancy. One of the sources on this story said that they're just beginning. And it's worth noting that President Trump hasn't even agreed to sit down formally with Robert Mueller.

But as we have reported exclusively here at CNN, they are -- he and his advisers are meeting to talk about initially a possible sit-down -- and prepare for a possible sit-down with the special counsel. Now the fact that those preparations are even happening show that there's a deliberation inside the President's orbit about whether it's prudent for him to sit down at all.

As you noted in your intro, there are plenty of outside Trump advisers who are very skeptical about the idea of Trump sitting down to speak with Mueller. And that's primarily because President Trump is a man known to use hyperbole.

And hyperbole works in the business. It's worked to get him elected as President.

It's a little different when you're sitting down across from Mueller and his team. Take a listen though -- President Trump has been saying he wants to speak with Mueller. Take a listen to how he's responded to reporters' questions on this topic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President -- would you still like to testify to special counsel Robert Mueller, sir?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Sure, I would like to. I would like to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of these events?

TRUMP: 100 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it actually.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath.

TRUMP: Oh, I would do it under oath.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MERICA: We're told that might be a little bit of bluster with journalists. While he's saying that to reporters when he's been asked about it, privately he's being -- he' equivocating a little bit more depending on who he's speaking to and really what's going on that day. So while he's saying publicly I want to speak to Mueller. He's, you know, taking this tough tone that he's ready and prepared. Privately, Fred -- he's saying he's not as sure.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dan Merica -- thank you so much.

We're following other new developments in the Russia investigation involving a Trump foreign policy adviser who made efforts to find dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. Joseph Schmitz played a key role in the search for Clinton's the deleted e- mails from her private server.

CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has details -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Fred -- my colleague Jenna McLoughlin and I are told by multiple sources that a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign pushed government agencies including the FBI and State Department to review material from the dark web in the summer of 2016 that he thought were Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails.

[11:05:06] His push -- just the latest example of Trump advisers who were mixed up in efforts to find dirt on Clinton including potentially stolen e-mails during the Presidential campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: CNN has learned that a Trump campaign adviser played a key role in an effort to find Hillary Clinton's 30,000 deleted e-mails on the dark web.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Wow.

SCIUTTO: -- and reveal any damaging information contained within them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not easy being a whistle-blower.

SCIUTTO: Joseph Schmitz a former Department of Defense inspector general was a foreign policy adviser to the campaign -- seen here seated at a table with then candidate Trump in March, 2016. Meeting with officials at the FBI, State Department and the intelligence community's inspector general, he told them a source he called "Patriot" had discovered what he believed were the deleted e-mails on the dark web.

Schmitz then pushed for the government to review and declassify the material, so he and others could review it without jeopardizing Schmitz's security clearance -- all this according to multiple sources with direct knowledge.

Officials at the State Department and inspector general briefly interviewed Schmitz, but they declined to review or accept the information. The FBI also interviewed him as part of its ongoing criminal investigation into Clinton's e-mails. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did investigate.

SCIUTTO: Schmitz then took his information to the House Intelligence Committee. This is the latest example of Trump advisers mixed up in efforts to find dirt on Clinton. Fired chief strategist Steve Bannon told the House Intelligence Committee in February that Trump campaign staff were repeatedly contacted by outsiders suggesting ways to get the Clinton e-mails, this according to a source familiar with Bannon's testimony.

A Trump campaign official tells CNN, quote, "The campaign does not comment on matters of interest to the special counsel or the congressional committees." The material was never verified. A cyber security expert who also saw the material on the dark web told CNN it appeared to be fake based on what he read and where it was posted. "I'm pretty sure they were posted on the dark web equivalent of Reddit," he said.

Schmitz reached by CNN in person and via e-mail declined to comment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Sources told CNN there was no indication that Schmitz was communicating with or influenced by agents of a foreign power when he brought the material to U.S. government agencies.

Now Schmitz became one of Trump's first five campaign foreign policy advisers in the spring of 2016. Schmitz counseled Trump through the November election, this according to his professional bio. After Trump's election victory, he considered Schmitz as a possible Secretary of the Navy -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jim Sciutto -- thank you so much. Let's bring in our panel now.

CNN political commentator David Swerdlick; Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times" Lynn Sweet; and CNN legal analyst and former special assistant to Robert Mueller at the Department of Justice Michael Zeldin -- good to see you all.

All right. So David -- you first. Going to get your reaction to Jim Sciutto's reporting about this former Trump campaign adviser. How damaging potentially could this be?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Fred, I think it just opens up another lane of inquiry that we're now all looking at in the Mueller investigation. As Jim just reported there, there's no indication from his reporting that Joseph Schmitz was in touch with a foreign power.

But if you go back to that photo that he showed in his report, sitting there at the meeting with President -- then-candidate Donald Trump with future attorney general Jeff Sessions, with George Papadopoulos who had subsequently pled guilty in the Mueller investigation to a charge of lying to investigators. You look at the big picture and you see a situation where some of the denials that came later from the Trump inner circle about their interest in dirt on Secretary Clinton up to and including trying to find these so-called 30,000 e-mails was a lot more intense than they let on.

You had the statement that the President made in the summer of 2016, around the time of some of this other activity was happening, where he sort of half-jokingly, at least in tone, said I hope Russia tracks down and divulges these 33,000 Clinton e-mails. A year later in 2017, the then White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump was just joking.

But if you look at this -- and again, nothing in Jim's report suggests anything other than a circumstantial connection. It's not reporting that anything illegal was done but it's clear that this idea that this was a joke is a little far-fetched. They were seriously looking for dirt on Clinton.

WHITFIELD: So, Lynn, you know, at issue too here is how much did the presidential candidate know out about all of this? So if you're Robert Mueller and that team, how is this either redirecting or perhaps solidifying some of the directions that team is already taking?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, it's consistent -- Fred. And here's what I mean by that. To show that there is collusion, which is not the formal legal term of whatever it would be if there was a crime committed, it doesn't necessarily have to include up to and including now President Trump.

[11:10:04] The campaign has many parts to it, many players. And this is something I think that gets lost in this discussion that President Trump when he has said repeatedly there is no collusion, he's not necessarily in a position to know. The significance of this story is that it shows another campaign-related figure freelancing in the world and looking for hackers.

I want to point out one other thing -- excuse me -- hackers who had found Hillary Clinton e-mails. Now again the significance is this is somebody who was part of the campaign.

There were others, Republicans on the hunt. There is an operative who -- there was a Republican activist, Peter Smith, he committed suicide last year. But he was putting -- he had people on the trail to see if he could turn up the Clinton e-mails. And he thought he had something that Russian hackers had.

So, you know, so this is not a trail that is necessarily new. The significance is it's a player right in the Trump orbit.

WHITFIELD: And Michael -- all of this taking place was, while simultaneously our reporting is, that Trump lawyers are preparing him for a potential interview with Robert Mueller, but at least one of the President's closest allies is calling on Trump to forget about testifying, forget about his 100 percent total cooperation by talking to Robert Mueller. And this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STONE: I thought it was a perjury trap, that there's every possibility the special counsel is looking at some process-related crime that doesn't relate to Russia. I obviously believe the special counsel has a political bias, as demonstrated by the FBI text messages and e-mails that have surfaced, and the political nature of this investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. So Michael -- is that exactly what his attorneys are weighing, whether this is indeed a trap that perhaps the President would be caught in not telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So let's be clear about something -- Fred, which is a perjury trap is a form of entrapment, which is inappropriate for a prosecutor to undertake. It implies that the prosecutor is bringing this witness in there for the sole purpose of getting him to perjure himself. This is not what this is about at all.

So anyone who claims that this is a perjury trap is, I guess, either mistaken or trying to say that they're worried that their client, in this case Stone's friend, President Trump, will not tell the truth. Not that he's going to be trapped into perjuring himself, but rather that he's just not going to tell the truth. So I think --

WHITFIELD: So what is it that Trump's attorneys are most worried about in terms of the reporting is that they're encouraging him not to be cooperative about being questioned?

ZELDIN: Right. So I think there's a possibility of three things that are going on here. One is they're testing the President to see how well he'll do in an interview so they can advise them whether to do it or not to do it.

Second possibly, is that they have concluded, the lawyers that is, have concluded that the President should not do this, and they're using these prep sessions to prove to him that this is too perilous for him to undertake.

Or third, which is what I think is the reality of it is that, it is inevitable that he's going to have to testify. The law does not give him an opportunity not to testify unless he takes the Fifth Amendment or is going to take a challenge to the Supreme Court and decide that Nixon versus the United States and Clinton versus Jones gives him some a sliver of room to not testify.

So I think they are preparing him for one of those three eventualities, the latter of which I think is what is the most likely that he's going to testify and that he's got to be prepared for this, and they're trying to impress upon him how important it is to not freelance this like it was in West Virginia.

WHITFIELD: All right. So David, before it is to happen, the message from the White House is the President has not agreed formally, but then listen to what he's said over time. And what's more 100 percent than this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it, actually.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a date set?

TRUMP: Here's the story, just so you understand.

There's been no collusion whatsoever. There's no obstruction whatsoever, and I'm looking forward to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So he says he's looking forward it, but the White House is saying he hasn't formally agreed and then of course, his attorneys are, you know, cautioning him because of a number of concerns.

So does this also mean that the message is different publicly than it is privately when it concerns the President?

SWERDLICK: So Fred -- the President has this political and perception problem here when it comes to whether or not he's going to sit down and talk to the special counsel's investigation.

On the one hand in those statements you played, he wants to look nonchalant, relaxed, casual, innocent, saying look, of course I'll talk to them. I want to talk to them. I want to clear the air. I want to get my side of the story out.

[11:14:57] But at the same time, as Michael was just discussing, you've got a problem where now, you know, it's not so much that he'll be brought in with the attempt to get him to perjure himself, but simply the case that the special counsel's investigation has talked to Hope Hicks, Sam Nunberg, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, General Flynn.

They have talked to all these people. They have them all on record. And now they're going to compare statements that they made to statements the President makes if he talks to them about different time frames and similar incidents along the way in this investigation to see if there are any inconsistencies. And that I think is what has the President's team a little worried.

WHITFIELD: All right. David Swerdlick, Lynn Sweet -- thanks so much. See you soon.

SWERDLICK: Thanks -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Michael Zeldin -- appreciate it. See you soon as well.

All right. We're following multiple breaking stories right now, in fact. We're getting early reports now of a van that was driven into a crowd of people in Muenster, Germany. Police there have just tweet that there are some dead, others injured. Muenster is in northwest Germany near the border with the Netherlands. It's not clear yet whether this incident is related to terror.

Military officials have confirmed two soldiers, U.S. soldiers, were killed when their Apache helicopter crashed overnight. That crash happening in the training area of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Their names have not been released. >

All right. Coming up, thousands of National -- excuse me --National Guard troops, U.S. National Guard troops deployed to the U.S./Mexico border as part of the President's vow to stem illegal crossings into the U.S. But what will they do when they arrive?

We'll take you live to Arizona.

[11:16:37] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

As many as 4,000 National Guard troops are preparing to deploy to the U.S.-Mexico border, this was the scene in Austin, Texas, where state officials say 250 Guardsmen will be heading to the border by Monday. President Trump ordered the extra troops to help secure the border until his proposed wall is built. Arizona is planning to send approximately 150 troops next week.

CNN's Nick Watt is on the border within Nogales, Arizona. First off -- welcome to the weekend, Nick. And secondly, you know, what role will the U.S. National Guard troops be playing on the Arizona border?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you mentioned, 150 will be here next week, 250 in Texas. Now, part of their initial mission in Texas, we're told, will be to actually figure out where they should be and what they should be doing.

Letters are being sent out this morning to more Texas National Guardsmen telling them tell your families, tell your employers you will be deploying very soon.

Now, they will be here in a support capacity. They will not be interacting, apprehending, Migrants. They will not be dealing with detainees and they will also only be armed, if that's required for self-defense.

Here in Arizona we are told that they will be involved in aerial surveillance. We're also told that they will be involved in constructing border infrastructure, but this is very, very early in this deployment. As I mentioned, part of their mission will be to figure out what holes need plugged, what they need to be doing.

This is not unprecedented. I mean the National Guard has been deployed down on this border twice before at least by both of President Trump's predecessors. We will see in the next couple of weeks how this mission plays out.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right -- Nick. And what about people who live there or nearby; what are their feelings on this?

WATT: Well, I mean, the governor of Arizona is very, very keen. The governor of Texas is very, very keen. The governor of California, not so much -- he is Democrat Jerry Brown. We haven't actually heard. They say that they are still assessing whether they will play a part in this. I mean some other governor -- Oregon which has actually not been asked to send troops. The governor of Oregon said that she would not send troops, this is ridiculous, it's not a good idea.

But here on the border, I mean we spoke to some people last night -- it's business as usual.

WHITFIELD: All right. Nick watt in Nogales, Arizona. Thanks so much.

So this is not the first time a president has deployed troops, National Guard troops to the border. From June 2006 to July 2008 President Bush sent some 6,000 National Guardsmen. And a few years later President Obama stationed more than a thousand troops.

CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan joins me now with more on this. So is the security situation at the border so extreme that these troops are needed? Is that what it's addressing?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORT: Well, that's a really interesting question, Fred. And you know, the graphic that we just showed on the screen in 2006 and 2010. In 2006 when President Bush did this, there were nearly three times as many people crossing the border and roughly half of the number of border patrol agents we have today. So that year, there were more than a million people who were apprehended trying to cross the border and there were only about 11,000 border patrol agents.

Fast forward to today, last year was one of the most historically low years on record for the number of border crossings. There are only 300,000, that's a third of what it was in 2006.

You know, in 2010 when President Obama did this, it was closer to where we are today, but even then you know, there's about 50 percent more border crossings than today and a few thousand fewer agents.

So there is a major question here of what exactly the crisis situation is that merits deploying the troops. Now, certainly there are folks who say, you know, until the border is fully secure, there's always more that can be done, but there are big questions about whether the investment in cost and, you know, the lives that are going to be scrambled by this deployment, what exactly the nature of the crisis is that they're trying to solve.

WHITFIELD: Then Tal -- do we know how much these deployments will cost, how long it might last? KOPAN: Right now, we don't actually know the cots. And you know,

that is probably one of the hiccups that took a few days to work out. So you know, yesterday the Department of Defense did announce that they had authorized some funds to go for this through the end of the fiscal year, which will be through the end of September.

[11:25:06] But there are always -- anytime there are these deployments, there's always a little bit of a jurisdictional fight because keep in mind, you know, the governors are the ones who are actually deploying the troops and saying where they go, but they're not going to want to pick up the tab, you know,. They want the federal government to pick up the tab so who pays for it and how much it's going to cost and how long it's going to go still is a bit of an unresolved issue, and likely the subject of some of the negotiations that are happening between the states and the federal government.

WHITFIELD: All right. Tal Kopan -- thanks so much. Appreciate it.

KOPAN: Thank you.

All right. Coming up next, steep losses on Wall Street and conflicting messages from the White House on China are fueling the global fear of a trade war between the world's two biggest economies. We're live in Beijing, next.

[11:25:48]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:21]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back. Growing fears of a trade war between the U.S. and the China pushed the Dow to close down nearly 600 points Friday. Earlier this week, the U.S. and China each slapped $50 billion in tariffs against the other, followed on Friday by President Trump indicating that he might seek more sanctions against China.

In a statement, he said, quoting now, "In light of China's unfair retaliation, I have instructed the United States trade representative to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate," end quote.

The message from other part of his administration have been more mixed, however.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: We're not running a trade war. If you read this thing, this is just a proposed idea, which will be vetted by USTR and open for public comments. Nothing has happened. Nothing has been executed. I read about how -- there's no there, there yet, but there will be.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: While we're in the period before the tariffs go on, we'll continue to have discussions, but there is the potential of a trade war. Let me be clear. It's not a trade war form the president wants reciprocal trade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Global markets resume trading overnight on Sunday.

Meantime, CNN has learned that high-stakes preparations are under way right now between the U.S. and North Korea for that summit between President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un.

CNN's global affairs analyst, Elise Labott joining me now. So, Elise, there are no official diplomatic ties between the two countries, so exactly how are preparations being made?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred there's already been this kind of existing intelligence back channel between the CIA and North Korean officials at the intelligence bureau, which is the General Reconnaissance Bureau. We understand officials from those two agencies have been talking.

We haven't heard from the North Koreans themselves publicly, confirming their invite to President Trump and their willingness to talk, but we understand at these talks, they have kind of confirmed President Trump's acceptance of the invite.

And even said that they would be willing to talk about denuclearization, something very important to the U.S. and President Trump. So, we understand they've been talking on the phone. They have even met in a third country and now preparations are being made in advance of this summit for CIA Director Mike Pompeo to meet with his North Korean counterpart to further prepare for this summit.

And clearly, if confirmed, CIA Director Mike Pompeo would be secretary of state and then he would assume the diplomatic preparations along with National Security Adviser John Bolton, who started work today -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: So, what are they entertaining in terms of where and exactly when these talks would be held?

LABOTT: Well, you remember when the South Korean envoy came and kind of delivered this invitation, they were talking about May. That could float until June. The North Koreans, we understand, have proposed having the talks in Pyongyang. I'm not sure that the White House would really go for that.

We've also heard that the capital of Mongolia could be a possibly venue. I think that's what they are trying on working out the location. Then they'll get to the date, then they'll get to the agenda.

But since we haven't heard anything publicly from the North Koreans, officials say the fact that the North Koreans are taking part in these preparatory talks, do indicate that the North Koreans are serious about talking.

And as the agenda kind of flushes out and contacts between, you know, there are always contacts between the State Department and the official at the U.N. mission, as those kinds of preparations between the two countries get under way, I think they'll have more of an idea of what the North Koreans are willing to do.

And certainly, after the talks, I think they'll know exactly where the North Koreans are in terms of moving forward.

WHITFIELD: All right. Elise Labott, keep us posted. Thanks so much.

All right. Straight ahead, despite mounting controversies swirling around Scott Pruit, the White House is standing by the embattled EPA chief.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:39:42]

WHITFIELD: As ethic scandals mount and calls to fire Scott Pruitt grow, the White House is standing by its EPA chief. President Trump met with him yesterday at the White House and while we know Chief of Staff John Kelly wants Pruitt out, the president's former chief of staff says not so fast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:40:00] REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think what he's got to do is somehow show the American public he's got the EPA buckled down, you know, come to the table, show how things will be different, which I think he's starting to do. I think if you look at the preponderance of the evidence, I think Scott Pruitt is doing a great job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And this Friday from the White House spokesperson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything that has been reported about Mr. Pruitt ends up being true in the president's estimation, security details, $50 a day --

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to walk through hypotheticals until we have time to go through a full review. That's what we are doing right, but again the president thinks that he's done a good job on the purpose of carrying out the goals of the EPA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. The EPA chief is facing a barrage of negative headlines. This is just a sample, he rented an apartment from energy lobbyist for $50 a day. The salaries of two aides were raised after the White House declined Pruitt's request. He asked his security to use sirens to cut through traffic, requested around the clock security on personal trips and accused of using lavish spending on first-class flights and military jets.

I'm joined right now once again by David Swerdlick and Lynn Sweet. Because the list is very long and that's just kind of like a truncated version of it. So, David, what about the life expectancy on the job of Scott Pruitt. Is he in or out?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, like a lot of other administration officials, the White House has made statements saying they're standing by him right up until potentially they're not standing by him. I think Pruitt has two problems here.

On the one hand, he has got these ethical issues, right. The list you just run down if you take that all together, you suggest at least someone who has not been a good steward of public funds and resources, whether or not he's actually crossed a legal line.

On the other hand, he's got this broader problem with his boss, President Trump, which is this -- we know when we look at President Trump, that he sees his under links up to and including cabinet officials as extensions of himself. They're there to make him look good.

If you're Scott Pruitt on the one hand, he is popular in the energy sector. He has acted on President Trump's agenda vis-a-vis the EPA, but right now he's bringing down the sort of overall vibe of the Trump administration.

He's getting negative headlines. He's facing these questions, not doing a good job of himself, of answering these questioned that Ed Henry interview on another network, so it's really a challenge right now for Pruitt to demonstrate that he's worth more than some of the negativity he's bringing to the administration.

WHITFIELD: And Lynn, Sarah Sanders reminded everyone that Trump makes the call on whether Pruitt stays or goes, and that applies to everyone, you know, on the job. Pruitt has been carrying out the president's agenda. Take a listen to what former vice president and environmental activist, Al Gore, had to say about all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you that I would be very surprised if 90 percent of the American people looking at the facts of that situation did not think that there was the appearance of outright corruption there, and Donald Trump ought to fire him. It won't do any good for me to say that.

If I told him to keep him on, maybe that would make him fire him. But honestly, regardless of party, regardless of ideology or policies, the American people have a right to believe there's some modicum of integrity in the way our government is operating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. More of that on tonight's Van Jones' show. Meantime, you know, Lynn, is Pruitt the one who really has the potential staying power because the president like him and his regulation work.

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, it depends if there's more information coming out. It has been a stream of stories with accusations after accusations as you summarized a short time ago. I will say there will be a tipping point where even President Trump might have a no tolerance policy.

You know, clearly, for the moment, you know, Pruitt probably isn't signing -- and this is kind of a joke -- a long-term lease to stay anywhere here because it isn't -- people sometimes say, listen you should smile, so I'm trying to -- I'm not making light of it, though, what's serious here.

When President Trump says Pruitt is under siege, here's what I want to point out. This is what news reporters do, no matter the party. I've been around this town a long time. It is a routine story to investigate taking favors from lobbyists, living high on taxpayer tab.

These -- you know, giving raises to your pals, having these kinds of entanglements are readily bread and butter investigative stories that exist no matter who is the president, no matter what the policies are.

[11:45:09] WHITFIELD: Yes, optics are very important, paramount in fact.

SWEET: Ethics.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and ethics, of course. That's the bottom line. David Swerdlick, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

Meantime, we're following breaking news out of the Germany. Multiple people dead after a delivery truck is driven into a crowd of people in Munster, Germany. More on that, after this.

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[11:50:02]

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We're following this breaking news out of Germany. Multiple people are dead after a delivery truck was driven into a crowd of people in Munster. A police spokeswoman telling CNN police are treating this incident as a deliberate attack and the driver of the truck committed suicide by shooting himself. Police say there are six victims with life threatening injuries and six more in critical condition.

I'm joined now by CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, and Samantha Vinograd, both with me. Juliette, to you first, already police are saying -- they're believing to be intentional, that the driver would commit suicide. Based on the few details, what does this tell you about the intent and what has resulted?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I mean, think we're basically at the stage now where this is starting to look unfortunately typical. A van is easily rented or owned. The culprit, the terrorist, commits suicide so there's not going to be any capability to figure out, you know, to be able to talk to him.

And this is a Saturday night in Germany. This is an open space and they essentially used the vehicle as an intentional weapon. So, unfortunately, as we've seen essentially over the last three years, the most easiest of weaponry tends to be the thing all of us are using every day.

So, we have to wait a little bit to see what the German officials are going to say specifically about the dead terrorist, but the fact they're leading with terrorism is no surprise. When I heard this happened an hour ago, it just has all the feel of what we would -- what we've seen before unfortunately.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and unfortunately, because we have seen this a lot in recent years, too many times, someone using a large vehicle to drive into a crowd. How do you expect authorities will try to determine a little bit more about this individual? The obvious identification on site would be, you know, a starting point, but if there is nothing like that, how will investigators piece it together?

KAYYEM: OK, so almost in all of these cases, unfortunately, the assailant is known to local law enforcement at the very least. So, they know who he is by now. They have the body. They will be able to trace whether he had contacts with the police, either petty crimes or something related to radicalization or terrorism.

Then they'll do two pieces here. The one is going to be the physical which is of course his home, the car, how did he rent, were there any co-conspirators. And then, you know, the digital footprint, which is, you know -- I don't want to assume anything here, I'm always careful, but obviously, you know, what the digital footprint looks like, who he's in contact with, is there a radicalization process that they can uncover online.

In Germany right now the most important thing is obviously helping -- supporting the first responders to help those who might be able to survive this and then, of course, making sure there's not a second or a third vehicle attack.

In these instances, the vehicle attack tends to be solo, unlike what we saw years ago with al Qaeda. So, in Germany, they just want to ensure that others who are out tonight continuing to be safe.

WHITFIELD: Sam Vinograd is also with us on the phone. So, Sam, what do you see is the challenges or perhaps the routine approaches of this kind of investigation?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks, Fred. To Juliette's point, this is not the first time that we've seen a vehicle used as a terrorist weapon in Germany. We had a horrific attack in December 2016 when terrorists used a Lorie and drove it into a crowd of people at a crowded market place.

And Juliette mentioned, (inaudible) to invoke fear. People see cars every day. If this what in fact, a terrorist attack, Germans, as well as everyone around the world, are now concerned when they see a vehicle this could be a weapon of attack.

I think I would think about these new stages. The immediate step is to ensure that there's no further violence that's going to ensue around the scene or in surrounding areas. If anybody else who has been involved in this attack that's happening at the same time that any victims are being treated.

I would imagine that local law enforcement is immediately going to start looking at this individual's digital footprints in addition to any kind of physical evidence, again, as Julia mentioned, to see if he was exposed to any kind of radical content.

Now, we know that there have been several is-inspired attacks over last several years in places like France, Germany and the United States, and it is ironic that this attack -- again, we don't know who perpetrated it, we don't know if he was radicalized by anybody online including ISIS.

But this is coming on the heels of President Trump's announcement that we're pulling out of Syria, indicating that perhaps we've made more progress against ISIS and extremist groups than is in fact the case.

So, I think, again, we are going to seeing the German authorities make sure that there's no other attack, treat anybody who's been hurt, and at the same time, look at any kind of online activity that could have led up to this.

[11:55:01] WHITFIELD: All right, Sam Vinograd, Juliette Kayyem, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it. We'll check back with both of you as we continue to learn more details about this tragedy taking place in Munster, Germany.

A person in a delivery truck ramming into a crowd of people. There are people who have been killed and there are people who have been injured. The driver, by way of a self-inflicted wound, we understand, is dead. We'll have much more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone, well couple. Our international viewers as well. I'm Fredricka Whitfield on this Saturday. We're following breaking news out of Germany this hour. Multiple people are dead after a delivery truck was driven into a crowd of people in Munster, Germany.

A police spokeswoman telling CNN the police are treating the incident as a deliberate attack and the driver of the truck committed suicide by shooting himself. Police say 30 people are injured. There are six victims with life threatening injuries and six more in critical condition.