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Sources: Trump Considering Firing Rod Rosenstein; House Speaker Paul Ryan Won't Seek Reelection; GOP Rep. Dennis Ross Won't Seek Reelection; Zuckerberg Faces House Lawmakers on 2nd Day of Testimony. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired April 11, 2018 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Several sources tell CNN that President Trump is so furious about the FBI raids on his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, that he is considering firing the man who green lit them, deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. The president tweeting earlier today, "Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by fake and corrupt Russia investigation headed up by all the Democrat loyalists or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all, except Rosenstein, who signed FISA and Comey letter. No collusion so they go crazy."
CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House for us.
Jeremy, all of this reporting that he is madder than he has ever been, what does that mean, though?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We know that the president has been angry at times at each development that comes out of this Mueller investigation. But our sources close to the president could not agree more that this is the episode that has angered the president the most, the raid on his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, his longtime personal attorney's hotel room, his office, something that the president seemed to say crossed the line in comments the other day.
And now what we have learned is that the president is considering firing his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who is in charge of this Mueller investigation, and Rod Rosenstein who actually signed off personally on this raid going forward. So we know that when the president is angry, he typically tries to find a target, and that may be what is happening now. And it's not just Rod Rosenstein. The president's ire also directed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose recusal helped spark the appointment of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. A lot still in the air.
And the president continuing to tweet about the investigation. And he tweeted this morning that this has been another hindrance saying, "Despite the never-ending corrupt Russia investigation, which takes tremendous time and focus, no collusion or obstruction, other than I fight back. So now they do the unthinkable and raid a lawyer's office for information. Bad."
It is clear this is taking a toll on the president. He's had to spend time recently with his lawyers prepping for a potential Mueller interview, which is now once again in question. And we also know he's staying in the United States instead of going to the Summit of the Americas, in part, because of the latest developments at the Justice Department -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: That is absolutely right. There have been so many tweet, I forgot about that one you just read.
Thank you, Jeremy. I appreciate it.
DIAMOND: You're welcome.
BOLDUAN: To discuss all of this, former federal prosecutor, Steven Levin, Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, and Caroline Polisi, an attorney specializing in federal and white-collar crimes.
Thank you very much for being here.
In this moment, I think we can start here, Steven.
I want to play for you and our viewers Sarah Sanders on the possibility of firing Robert Mueller and who has the power to do it. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the president believe he has the power to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Do you believe that's in his power?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He certainly believe he has the power to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Steven, does that go against the understanding that I feel like most everyone has had to this point?
STEVEN LEVIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So as things stand right now, Kate, the president does not have the power to fire Mueller. You know, the rules governing the employment of the special counsel that date back to 1999 provides that only the attorney general can fire the special counsel through his personal action. In this case, of course, the attorney general is recused and so that would fall to Rod Rosenstein. So as things stand right now, President Trump cannot fire Mueller. Now, President Trump could invoke Article II of the Constitution, he could sign an executive order and then he could repeal those rules governing the special counsel from 1999 and then he could fire Mr. Mueller if he chose to do that.
BOLDUAN: That was an amazing road to walk down, but we've walked down several amazing roads.
Chris Cillizza, you picked on with that back and forth with Sarah Sanders, we think he does have the power, and not only does she say he has the power to fire, but she also says they sought guidance on how to do this. Why do you think she tipped her hand to say that?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I don't really know. As always, with everything involving the Trump administration, I never know if it's intentional, accidental or somewhere in between. What I do think, though, is it speaks to the fact that we've gone pretty far down the road, Kate, that Donald Trump avoided going down for a really long time. Remember how we used to talk about while he attacked everyone, he attacks the special counsel probe, but he doesn't attack Bob Mueller. And then it was a few weekend tweets in March where he mentioned Bob Mueller and he talked about the Democrats --
BOLDUAN: Again, that was March, we were saying --
CILLIZZA: Less than a month ago. Three weeks ago. Now, all of a sudden, in a White House press briefing, the White House press secretary saying not only do we believe we have the power to do so, which is dicey, but also we've looked into this. And of course, we're also getting simultaneous reporting from CNN and other sources saying he's thought about firing Mueller for months. He's ordered it done at least once and maybe more than one time. So it just feels like, all of a sudden, something we were walking and we're now sprinting full speed at.
[11:35:18] BOLDUAN: I'm not in sprinting shape, so we all need to slow down.
BOLDUAN: Let's try to slow this one down.
Caroline, Steven brought up Rod Rosenstein and another potential firing that we have to talk about. There's nothing preventing the president from firing him. And they do serve at the pleasure of the president. But what impact would that have as the deputy A.G. who is overseeing Robert Mueller, who is obviously special counsel, what impact would that have on the investigation?
CAROLINE POLISI, ATTORNEY: That could actually have a greater impact on the investigation than we may think, because if the president puts in a lacky or yes-man to do his bidding in that position, that would mean -- look, we saw recently Rosenstein had to sign off on this recent raid FBI execution of this warrant of Michael Cohen's office. So he is tasked with overseeing the entire Russia investigation, Rosenstein is. So if, all of a sudden, someone gets in there that is not going to give full reign to Mueller and his team, that could be dangerous because you would have a situation where it would look like, to the outsider's perspective, this investigation was proceeding, but really you would have someone pumping the brakes at the highest level.
BOLDUAN: Steven, the reporting now is that after the raid of Trump's attorney, the president is now reconsidering sitting down with Mueller to be interviewed. Should he? If he doesn't, what does that do to the investigation, do you think?
LEVIN: So if I were advising President Trump, I would tell him not to sit down for an interview with Mr. Mueller. We've seen all the --
BOLDUAN: I think every attorney has said that. Every single attorney has said that to me.
LEVIN: You have very good attorneys on your show.
So the fact is that President Trump would be foolish to sit down and participate in an interview with Mr. Mueller. So what are Mr. Mueller's options if that, if your next question? He could subpoena the president. And there's some basis to believe that a subpoena would be upheld by the courts should the president challenge the subpoena, and I'm sure he would. So President Trump shouldn't sit down for an interview. And if you're asking if Mr. Mueller should subpoena Mr. Trump, I would say no. I think Mueller should invite President Trump to sit down for an interview, and if President Trump declines, I think Mueller should continue with his investigation and not subpoena the president because that will only slow down Mueller's investigation.
BOLDUAN: Let me check Twitter in a second and we'll see if this has changed yet again.
Steven, Chris, Caroline, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
LEVIN: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Coming up, more on the breaking news of House Speaker Paul Ryan saying he will not be seeking re-election.
And now we are learning another Republican congressman, another member of the Republican conference that has work with Paul Ryan is saying the very same. He is joining me next. One of the reasons for his retirement. We'll find out.
[11:42:40] BOLDUAN: We're following breaking news. House Speaker Paul Ryan announcing he is not running for re-election. He will be leaving the House of Representatives.
And at almost the same time, another Republican was announcing the very same. That's Florida Republican Congressman Dennis Ross. And he is joining us right now, his first television interview since announcing.
Congressman, thank you for coming in. REP. DENNIS ROSS, (R), FLORIDA: Thank you. Thank you for allowing
BOLDUAN: Of course.
It is a wild thing even for yourself, announcing retirement. Why are you retiring, Congressman?
ROSS: It was always my strategy to serve a brief period of time, meaning no more than 10 years. That's the way I set myself up financially and my wife and I discussed it. It's time. It's been a great run. I'm very blessed. I'm not angry and I'm not upset with anybody. And my seat will continue to be Republican. And it's a good demographics. And quite frankly, I thought it was going to be a slow news day until I got upstaged by the speaker who announced right after I did. And I'm OK with that, too. That keeps humility in me.
BOLDUAN: Always good to stay humble. Your seat is more than on anyone's seat as being vulnerable. How much did President Trump and the culture in Washington right now, how much does that factor into your choice?
ROSS: It does play a factor. I taught a class to an honors group of students who did not understand the specifics and the fundamentals of our political process. And as we see the polarization of politics we fail to understand the fundamentals of the process and this next generation has to be taught. And one of the things I'm going to be dedicated to and have been is to teach this next generation about getting involved in a citizen democracy. It's great to protest. That's fundamental and part of the process, but it's not the process. They need to find out what it takes to get elected. They need to get to know the issues. And they need to get to know that the news media is not your enemy. That the Democrats are not your enemy. That the Republicans are not your enemy. This is all part of the process. We've got to focus on bringing civility and respect back. And as much as I would like to do it from the pulpit of the Congress, I would be tainted with having an agenda that would suit a particular group. This way, I can do it in a fashion that I think reinstates the fundamentals of our democracy that require some respect and some decorum. The polarization is a factor in it, but I also know that I wasn't going to do it for a career, and we decided on that before we got elected.
[11:45:15] BOLDUAN: You look at just the landscape and you have Republican majorities in the House and the Senate.
BOLDUAN: And a Republican in the White House. If you walked into Washington without looking at the culture and how things are right now, why would anyone if you're a Republican would be retiring? How much does the president affect that?
ROSS: I've done eight years, and eight years is long enough for me. Again, you shouldn't make a career out of it. But also, we're better off today than we were two years ago. The economy's doing well. We're seeing unemployment at an all-time low. We're seeing immigration and illegal border crossings down tremendously and we're seeing this country come back. And, yes, I think there is a polarization and it feeds off of each other. And the Republicans and the Democrats have all played a part in it. But that's also part of the process, and it just can't be what dictates and guides us through this process.
BOLDUAN: I found this fascinating, and I read "The Tampa Bay Times" that you were telling your staff of your decision, and you saw that Paul Ryan was not also going to be seeking reelection. What do you make of his announcement?
ROSS: I understand. He's younger than I. He's got a better future than I. And he's got more years and a lot more experience and more name recognition than I do. I think he's very honorable, and I know he's a very honorable man. And I understand. Unfortunately, our kids are grown and they're both getting married in the next year, and it's part of our decision, as well.
ROSS: Thank you. But I understand. I understand. Again, this is a citizen democracy and it's a citizen legislature. This wears on you. And when you become a stranger in your own hometown, you need to sit back and say, wait a second, do I need to keep doing this or is it time for somebody else of like mindedness to take over the banner from here.
BOLDUAN: Let's say this is Dennis Ross unleashed, because now you're not seeking reelection. How much trouble is the Republican majority bill for the midterm?
ROSS: Traditionally, in the midterm, the majority is always in trouble. I would go back and tell the members to go back and protect their districts as strong as they can. They've got to run on the economy. They've got to run on being able to better opportunities. You know, things are better in this country. Granted, there is a polarization out there, and there is a battle between the media and the White House that we've never seen before. But do not let that blind the message that we're on the right track. The conservative principles will still make the day for a better America.
BOLDUAN: Do you put it 50/50 that the Democrats will take back the House or more like 70/30?
ROSS: It depends on how the economy goes in the next three months. And with regulatory relief, we'll get more of a tailwind from the tax reform to let community banks loan more money and people will start getting higher wages just by the market increasing.
ROSS: That will help us. I would say it's a 50/50 now. That may give us, 51, 52 points ahead. But it's always close. And it will be a race to the finish, I think, for the House. BOLDUAN: If you do get another Republican speaker after this
election, who do you want it to be?
ROSS: I do not know. I've not thought that through.
BOLDUAN: I'll give you two options, Congressman McCarthy or Congressman Scalise, which one would you want?
ROSS: I think the world of both of them. I think the world of both of them. The one who wants it more will get it.
BOLDUAN: Ahh! All right. We'll see. Or the one who comes to talk to you right after, we'll see.
Great to see you. Thank you so much, Congressman.
ROSS: Thanks, Kate. You bet. Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Appreciate it.
Happening for us right now, day two of testimony on Capitol Hill for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. This, as the expected grilling yesterday turned into -- if you watched it -- something of a highlight reel of how some Senators don't really understand how Facebook works. And Mark Zuckerberg essentially saying, I'll have my team follow up with you, even though he is the founder and CEO of the company. Anyway, more on that ahead.
[11:53:25] BOLDUAN: Happening right now, round two for Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. He's back in the hot seat on Capitol Hill again. Zuckerberg is testifying a second day, this time, before House lawmakers in the wake of the massive data privacy scandal and, of course, the continued controversy and scandal over fake news and the 2016 election. So how is today different than yesterday? Let's find out.
CNN's senior technology correspondent, Laurie Segall, has been following this.
Laurie, what is Zuckerberg saying today and how is he fairing so far?
LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: A little more fiery today. I think the lawmakers took note of yesterday. There was complaints some of the lawmakers were asking questions that weren't that tech savvy, that could easily be googled. Very different feel today. The questions are much more specific, and there's less patience. One congresswoman said, stop filibustering.
Listen to one exchange about data privacy. You'll get a sense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRANK PALLONE, (D), NEW JERSEY: Will you make the commitment to change all the -- to changing all the user default settings to minimize the greatest extent possible the collection and use of user data? I don't think that's hard for you to say yes to, unless I'm missing something.
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Congressman, this is a complex issue that I think is -- deserves more than a one-word answer.
PALLONE: Well, again, that's just disappointing to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEGALL: You know, Mark Zuckerberg also defending claims that the company is a surveillance company. That it's racially biased. There's questions over free speech versus censorship.
And a bit of news that came out, Mark Zuckerberg said that his information had been compromised in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. I know all of us --
SEGALL: -- has been. Yes. So a lot of us are sitting here waiting to find out if the CEO of Facebook was impacted by this 87 million number as well -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Are you getting a sense from Zuckerberg's team how they think things are going?
[11:55:14] SEGALL: I know yesterday they felt pretty good about it. He was really able to stick to the company line. Today is a little different. When he's giving that company line, you hear a lot of follow ups. This format is very difficult for some of these real technical questions, because you only got five minutes. But a lot of these lawmakers are breaking in and they're asking some tough follow ups, so we're getting a very different feel. I'm going to reach out and see how the team is feeling today. I think it's going to be a little bit different.
BOLDUAN: Maybe a couple of fewer times, we'll get back to you, and we'll have the answer.
Great to see you, Laurie. Appreciate it.
We're going to get back to the breaking news. President Trump taunting Russia, threatening Russia on Twitter, as well, saying, "Get ready for U.S. missile strikes in Syria."
John King picks up after a quick break.