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Report: Trump Blasts "Conflicted" Mueller; Syrian Forces on Alert After Trump Warns of Missiles; Trump Considering Firing Rosenstein To Control Mueller; Paul Ryan To Not Run for Reelection. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired April 11, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: -- any valid legal reason to request data for someone outside of their country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is it stored?
ZUCKERBERG: We don't store any data in Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Much more on this story coming up throughout the day here on CNN. That's it for me. In the meantime, the news continues right now.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. Listen. It's wildly known the president loves chaos and loves causing a stir. Well he got it, legally, politically and now globally. Just for some perspective, well before the business day started on the east coast today, the president taunted Russia and Syria, telling them to get ready for missiles.
The president called Robert Mueller conflicted, his investigation corrupt and fake and the Republican Speaker of the House announced he's done, not running again. Let me repeat, all of this before 8:15 this morning. Or in this new world order, what you would call Wednesday. And since Russia has responded and there may be even more to come when the White House holds its briefing in the next hour. Let me first turn to our CNN senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown. We're learning the president surprised his own aides when he announced the U.S. would be launching strikes in Syria.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And it is not unusual for the president to catch aides off guard on Twitter in the morning but on something like this it's pretty significant, Brooke, that his aides were certainly caught off guard when the president telegraphed on Twitter that the U.S. would be sending missiles, nice and new and smart missiles fired toward Syria soon. Now, of course he didn't say exactly when, what time of day, but for the president to telegraph something like this and catch his own aides, his own national security advisers off guard according to officials, sort of goes against what we've heard from this president in the past where he has said repeatedly that he does not like to telegraph what military action the administration will take, unlike past administrations, in his words.
So again, the fact that he caught his aides off guard on Twitter isn't unusual but the fact that had it to do with significant military action saying he will take retaliatory action against Syria is pretty significant, especially at a time when the U.S. is still talking to U.S. allies to U.S. counterparts in France and as well as in Great Britain. No agreement has been reached in terms of what action, the scale of the action and when that will happen. It seems as though the president got a little bit ahead of his counterparts and his own aides on this matter, Brooke.
BALDWIN: What about his new attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the CNN reporting that is saying he is considering firing his Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
BROWN: That's right. We've been told his anger toward the special counsel, toward his own deputy attorney general and his A.G., Jeff Sessions has really reached a boiling point following the raid on his personal attorney Michael Cohen. We've learned from sources that he's now considering more than ever -- because as you know we reported he considered firing his deputy attorney general before, but it has taken on a more serious tone in the wake of the FBI raid. The president has been weighing options to fire him and-or his attorney general.
We're told by sources though, Brooke, that he views firing Robert Mueller as the least realistic option compared to firing his deputy attorney general and the attorney general because he's received so many warnings from Capitol Hill, from Republicans on Capitol Hill, that this could create a crisis if he fires Robert Mueller. They're now crafting legislation to protect him. I'm told by a source he thinks firing Mueller would also be something the Democrats want, it would be playing into their hands. As one source said, this is the week to watch in terms of any potential action that could be taken. We'll have to wait and see. You never really know.
BALDWIN: We'll dive into all of that. Pam Brown, thank you so much. Back on the original point of taunting war. Russia's Foreign Ministry has responded to the president's Twitter taunt. A spokeswoman says missiles would destroy evidence on the ground, showing who is responsible for the chemical attack. The Syrian regime insist that it is not to blame. The president's tweet also has his critics pointing out his hypocrisy during his campaign. Let's all remember he insisted the U.S. should not ever telegraph its military plans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must be a nation, be more unpredictable. We are totally predictable.
Why do they have to talk about it? Don't talk about it? Element of surprise. Why can't they win first and talk later?
Militarily I don't like to say where I'm going and what I'm doing.
America's enemies must never know our plans.
I will not say when we are going to attack.
We no longer tell our enemies our plans.
[14:05:00] (END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: OK. Let's go to the experts. I have with me David Priess, former CIA intelligence officer, who wrote "President's Book of Secrets" and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel, your general reaction to the president of the United States taunting war on Twitter.
COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON, RETIRED, AIR FORCE: Brooke, that is one of the worst things that a president can do. This is a vehicle, a communications vehicle that is designed to obviously spread information quickly and in very succinct form. Doing something like declaring war is very serious business. Taunting people and goading them into action or inaction as the case may be, is something you don't do in public and it is also something you don't do via Twitter. So, this is very dangerous, and it really puts us in a precarious situation, unless it's part of the president's operational security campaign, I think it's a very bad idea.
BALDWIN: Part of his morning declaration, David, over to you, was a, quote, nice and new and smart missiles would soon be fired toward Syria. Caught most of his aides off guard. This is what I was just talking to Pam Brown about over at the White House. But this also came before an agreement had been reached between key U.S. allies as in he had surprised U.S. allies. I mean, just moving forward, how can they trust him?
DAVID PRIESS, FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE OFFICER, AUTHOR OF "PRESIDENT'S BOOK OF SECRETS": As a general rule you don't put out there to allies or to enemies what you're going to do in advance unless it is part of a coordinated effort, unless it is part of a strategy turning into tactics. Maybe we're misunderstanding the president. Maybe when he says he not going to say what he's going to do, telling enemies what he is going to do, he means talking to them in person. He doesn't understand a tweet goes out to everybody and you seen as representative of the president's thinking. I can't help but think about from "Lord of the Rings" Boromir saying one does not simply walk into Mordor. In this case maybe it is reminding the president, one does not simply telegraph U.S. foreign policy and military moves via Twitter. That reminder needs to come across to him.
BALDWIN: You know the rule of the Pentagon. They don't comment on any sort of future action. We've got no comment not surprisingly from the D.O.D. but colonel what must U.S. military brass be thinking about all of this right now?
LEIGHTON: I know, Brooke, from my time in the Pentagon and watching other people who are in the planning world work issues like this, you want to maintain as much secrecy as possible. As David said, you want to have that kind of a strategy where you can advance it step by step using appropriate tactics. This is really nerve racking for planners, because it because it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to not only craft a plan but and also to put the assets in place that you will need to carry out the plan so for White House planners this really their worst nightmare.
BALDWIN: Is it possible, David, that this talk of missiles, is this scaring Assad or scaring Putin at all?
PRIESS: That may be his intended affect but honestly, you mentioned the hypocrisy earlier. There's no reason to believe that because the president said missiles are coming and they're nice and new and shiny and smart and all the other things he described them as, there's no reason to believe that will actually happen because of the tweet. You pointed out tweets from years, months, even weeks past that did not come to fruition. This is simply an unreliable communicator. We don't know what he's intending to do until he does it. Whether that's what he tweets or whether that's what he actually does.
BALDWIN: So, when he refers to these nice and new and smart missiles, colonel, back over to you, what is he referring to?
LEIGHTON: He's generally referring to some of the smart weapons that we have. As far as nice and new, I'm not sure any weapon is really nice, but the basic idea is the kind of weapons that we had last year, that we used last year, the tomahawk missiles that struck the Syrian air base almost exactly a year ago. I think that's the kind of thing he's thinking about. It clearly implied a kinetic response. His tweet did not talk about cyber or special operations usage. Those should also be on the table. But of course, we don't know based on just this tweet or these tweets exactly what he intends.
[14:10:00] PRIESS: Brooke, let's not forget about the timing here. This is coming as the headlines are being dominated by Cohen and by what's happening with Mueller and Rosenstein. This looks like a wag the dog situation where he's trying to take advantage of an opportunity overseas to distract from the headlines. Thankfully it not North Korea right now with nuclear weapons, but with Syria the colonel already pointed out, this is not a game. This isn't a video game where you push buttons and things happen. This affects lives.
BALDWIN: Sure. And on the one hand, we were talking about this the other day, it was a year ago this month when he sent in those missiles to destroy that Syrian air base and he got massive, massive praise for doing that. But on the other hand, we have seen the picture, the devastation, the babies, the children. So, one can understand why something is needed.
PRIESS: And for someone who does not necessarily see the consequences of his actions as clearly as most of us do, I'm not sure the consequences of an action of sending nice, new shiny missiles into Syria have really hit him. I don't know what his advisers have told him about what happens when there is military action anywhere in the world. It is not all glory, it is not all gain. Sometimes there is severe loss involved and I don't know if he understands that.
BALDWIN: And it's certainly not like a parade. It's pot like a parade, right?
PRIESS: Not at all.
BALDWIN: David Priess, and Cedric Leighton, thank you very much.
Coming up next CNN cameras catching up with President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, on the streets of New York City just days after being raided by the FBI. And sources say Trump's frustration with this whole Russia probe is
reaching a breaking point and that he is considering whether he wants to fire a major player in the investigation. What members of Congress are doing now behind the scenes to protect the special counsel? And will Trump ultimately sit down for an interview with Mueller and his team?
All of this as former FBI Director James Comey reportedly compares President Trump in an interview to a mob boss. Lots to talk about as we wait for the White House press briefing to begin. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be back in a flash.
[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. President Trump's frustration with the Russia probe may have just reached a tipping point. Today this group of bipartisan lawmakers is taking steps to protect Robert Mueller 's job. Sources familiar with the White House say the president is more likely to fire the attorney general Rod Rosenstein. He's been supervising Mueller's investigation since his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself. Part of what is key here is that Rosenstein is the guy who decides the scope of Mueller's investigation. And he is a guy who decides whether to release Mueller's findings to Congress.
Keeping that in mind I have two very smart people coming to talk through all of this, two former federal prosecutors, Daniel Goldman and Lis Wiehl, she's also an anchor lawandcrime.com. Good to see both of you. Daniel, first to you, everyone is like Mueller, Mueller, Mueller. And would he fire Mueller and there have been all of these discussions over whether he even can. To me it's about Rosenstein. If he gives him the boot and brings in a new deputy attorney general, that person then could limit the scope of the whole investigation, correct?
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They could trim it, cut the legs out from under him would be what the rationale would be but for Trump to fire Rod Rosenstein, it's a pretty shocking development if that were to happen. This is a person who would be fired because his investigation he's overseeing is getting a little too close to the president. But if that were to happen, then the rationale for Trump to do that would be to try to put someone in that position. But remember it's a confirmed position so there would have to be a confirmation process.
BALDWIN: For the deputy attorney general.
GOLDMAN: For the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein's position. Which would not be so easy if you're so clearly doing this for the purpose of subverting an investigation.
LIS WIEHL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Not necessarily. Not to give President Trump any legal advice, not necessarily, there's a 1989 vacancy act that says can you bring somebody in to fill a position as long as they've already been confirmed by the Senate. So theoretically Trump could --
GOLDMAN: Only if that person resigns. If the person is fired --
WIEHL: That's the key. It hasn't been tested yet. Potentially that could happen, he could bring somebody in, test the waters on murky grounds that he already knows, wink, wink, that is going to rein in the investigation.
[14:20:00] BALDWIN: If he does, and again we're playing this hypothetical land right now, but if he were to fire the deputy attorney general, how would that not further a case for obstruction because you're cutting out the guy looking into you and your people?
WIEHL: Think about 1973 and the Saturday night massacres when President Nixon tried to do exactly this, where he tried to fire Archibald Cox, the special counsel looking into Watergate. What happened there is he said to his first guy, hey, fire Archibald Cox, he's getting too close to me in Watergate. First guy says no, attorney general, second guy says no and resigns. Two guys resigned. Third guy says I better just do it. That then became Judge Bork -- he wasn't a judge at the time but worked for Nixon. What happened? Eventually the court said that was illegal and found another special counsel and started impeachment proceedings. So, President Trump needs to look carefully at what he might be doing to set that up for himself.
BALDWIN: Would he need a cause to terminate Rosenstein?
GOLDMAN: Well, no, not Rosenstein. Rosenstein would need cause to fire Mueller.
BALDWIN: Right, no, but again.
GOLDMAN: But not to fire Rosenstein.
BALDWIN: He doesn't need a cause?
WIEHL: Because he serves at the pleasure of President Trump.
GOLDMAN: But that being said. And this goes to your question about obstruction. I don't think it will be obstruction, but you can not do something that would otherwise be lawful if you have a corrupt intent. That's the lingo that you must hinge on the obstruction charge. But that's what all of this is about. That's what Jim Comey's book will be about in the firing of Jim Comey will be about that. That's what we're focused on in terms of an obstruction case.
BALDWIN: Let me tee up some sound. This is Congressman Mark Meadows presented even another reason why Trump may even have more ammunition in firing Rod Rosenstein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R-NC) CHAIRMAN FREEDOM CAUCUS: It's members this of Congress who have a bigger problem with Rod Rosenstein, myself included, that he's not giving us the documents and he's not doing his job. And if he's not going to do the job, he needs to go and find one that he will do. And so, the frustration with the A.G. and the Deputy A.G. is probably more a focus of Congress and it probably makes the president's dissatisfaction pale in comparison.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Should you guys hold them in contempt?
MEADOWS: Absolutely. I think at this particular point, this have not complied with a subpoena, they should be held in contempt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Politically speaking, Daniel, might the president see an opening here?
GOLDMAN: Well, in theory Senator Meadows is trying to lay an opening for him but that's not at all what Trump has been talking about when he's been discussing and mulling over the possibility of firing Rosenstein. It's all Russia, Russia, Russia, this Mueller investigation and which is now just sprawling. So, in theory, yes. But is it reasonable to fire the deputy attorney general because he's not overseeing the production of documents in response to a subpoena? Absolutely not.
WIEHL: It's been between December and now when the tweets have been a response to anger over certain events that the investigation has taken.
BALDWIN: OK, the tweets. Do you remember when Trey Gowdy said once upon a time not too long ago, if you're innocent, just act like it? What do you make of Trump's behavior, the tweet, et cetera, if you're innocent --
GOLDMAN: It's truly shocking that as this gets closer and closer to him, he's getting angrier and angrier and making more threats. It's as if he's saying, wait a minute, you're starting to get a little too close to me, and I run "The Apprentice" and I'm just going to fire you. This is the president of the United States. This is a lawful criminal investigation. And if it gets too close to you. If you've done something wrong, then you've got a face the consequences, you can't get rid of it. And that's what he's trying to do.
WIEHL: He can't get rid it because it will just go to the state. It will just go to the New York State attorney general and that attorney general is not going to get rid of it. The other thing is he keeps on there's no obstruction, there's nothing there, there's no obstruction. Then just act like it!
BALDWIN: That's why I was asking the question. Thank you both so much. Paul Ryan saying no thanks to another run for congress. The reason
he's giving and how President Trump may have played a role. Be right back.
[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: House Speaker Paul Ryan heading for the, it door, announcing he will not seek reelection, he will retire at the end of his current term in January. The 48-year-old Wisconsin Republican pointing to his family saying he wants to spend more quality time with his children, who are now teen-agers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONGRESSMAN PAUL RYAN, (R), House Speaker: Look, you all know me. I didn't take this job to get the gavel in the first place. I'm not a guy who thinks about it like that. I have accomplished much of what I came here to do, and my kids aren't taking any younger, and if I stay, they're only going to know me as a weekend dad and that's something I can't do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[14:30:00] BALDWIN: Let's talk it all over with CNN political analyst, Rachel Dade, congressional reporter for "Politico." Rachel, people knew he wasn't going to seek reelection but to announce today, help us understand. Sources are saying one of the reasons is he's just had enough of Trump. How big a factor was that?
RACHEL DADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER FOR "POLITICO": Trump has definitely changed the party as Paul Ryan has known it for years and decades. He came here as a staffer, came up the ranks, became a member of Congress, a vice presidential candidate, came back and became speaker.
He's been the number one supply-side Republican, your typical fiscal hawk who believes in capitalism and free markets and Trump has definitely changed the party, right? We're talking about tariffs, the president is, there's a lot of infighting going on, Paul Ryan has had a lot of issues with drama, he doesn't like it, he wants to stay with it.
So, sure, that is a factor in this. However, I wouldn't discount the family issues. We heard that he had to be convinced to stay, before we even knew that President Trump was going to be running for president. That's because he wanted to spend more time with his family. He said he's been basically living out of a suitcase the entire time they been growing up and he wants to go home now.