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Mueller Team Suggests Manafort Had Back Channel to Russia; Justice Department Giving Congress Access to Comey Memos; Giuliani Could Join Trump Legal Team; Deputy A.G. Tells Trump He's Not a Target in Criminal Probe of Michael Cohen. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 19, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you all. I really, really appreciate it. That's all for "THE LEAD" today. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He's in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:11] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Putin's back channel? A lawyer from Robert Mueller's team defends the special counsel's investigation in court, suggesting indicted former Trump indictment chairman Paul Manafort could have been a potential back channel to Russia. Has Mueller overstepped the mandate?

Handing over the memo. In a rare move the Justice Department agrees to give Congress memos written by fired FBI Director James Comey about his most controversial conversations with President Trump. What will they reveal?

Not the target. Sources are telling CNN the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, told President Trump he's not a target of the criminal investigation into Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Why is the president consumed by this case?

And willing to walk. President Trump hints his historic meeting with Kim Jong-un could end up with President Trump walking out if talks go south or, possibly, not happen at all. How would the North Korean dictator react to the ultimate American snub?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following two major breaking stories, including dramatic courtroom developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

A Mueller lawyer questioning whether the indicted former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, may have acted as a back channel to Russia. Manafort is trying to convince a judge that Mueller has overstepped his authority.

Also breaking now, the Justice Department has agreed to hand over memos written by James Comey about his conversations with President Trump in the months before the president fired the former FBI director. The House Judiciary Committee chairman was threatening to issue a subpoena for those memos. We'll talk about all the breaking news and more with Congressman Denny

Hecht. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

And our correspondents and specialists, they are all standing by.

First, let's get straight to the breaking news with our justice correspondent Evan Perez and our senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown.

Evan, the Mueller team was in court today, defending its investigation of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Tell us what happened.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This is a hearing that was focused on whether the Justice Department had the authority, whether the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has the jurisdiction to make these charges against Paul Manafort.

His lawyer was arguing that at least some of these charges should be set aside, simply because Robert Mueller did not have the jurisdiction to do this.

In court today for the first time, we heard one of the lawyers who works under Robert Mueller say that Paul Manafort was essentially working for many years with people who are connected to the Russian government in the Ukraine, Ukrainian politicians. And they also said that maybe those -- those communications that they had with the Ukrainian politicians could have been a method to serve as a back channel to the Russians.

And so one of the reasons why this entire thing came up, Wolf, is that, you know, the Paul Manafort's lawyers say that, look, the charges that he's been accused of have nothing to do with Russia. So far it has to do with money laundering. It has to do with conspiracy against the United States, financial charges which have nothing to do with Russia.

And so the Mueller team was pushing back today in court saying, "Look, when we first began this investigation, that's where it began. But very much we are still looking into the question of collusion," which is something that they had brought up in a recent court filing, as well.

BLITZER: Still outstanding. And Pamela, we've now learned that the Justice Department has handed over to Congress those memos written by the fired FBI director, James Comey, about his conversations, sensitive conversations with President Trump.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is a significant development, Wolf. These are the memos from the former FBI director James Comey, memorializing his conversations with the president, that Robert Mueller has been looking at as part of the probe.

In the memos, one of the conversations includes the president allegedly asking Director Comey, Wolf, to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, asking him to let it go. That is really sort of what jump-started the obstruction of justice probe, we're told. And also part of the firing of James Comey, all of this is part of what Robert Mueller has been looking at.

And back in February, a judge ruled that these memos couldn't be made public, because it hurt the investigation. Robert Mueller's investigation. Now fast forward to this threat of a subpoena from a member of Congress just yesterday, and now in the face of that threat of a subpoena, the Justice Department is making the unusual move of handing over these memos to members of Congress to look at.

Now, four of these memos are classified. This is according to Senator Grassley. So, of course, a big question is, will we be able to see what was actually in those that aren't classified? That remains to be seen.

[17:05:20] James Comey was just asked about this, Wolf, by our Jake Tapper in a sit-down interview, and he said, "it's fine by me that these interviews are being -- that these memos are being handed over. He said he's all about transparency.

BLITZER: It's pretty extraordinary. The middle of an investigation for all this to be unfolding.

PEREZ: That the -- in the middle of an investigation, and these memos are very much at the center of the --

BROWN: The Mueller investigation.

PEREZ: -- of the Mueller investigation. So look, I mean, Comey has described this in the book and maybe at this point there is no more harm to be done.

Pamela, also learning that there may be a high profile new member of the president's legal team?

That's right. We are learning that Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, a long-time ally of President Trump, will now be joining the legal team, the president's legal team, along with two other lawyers who are yet to be named publicly.

A source telling my colleague Gloria Borger that Rudy Giuliani will be coming on in a consulting role.

So this comes, Wolf, after weeks of, basically, the president's legal team trying the find other members to join. They've had a tough time. I think Evan would agree with that. Many lawyers in D.C., New York, elsewhere, have turned down the opportunity, citing conflicts among other reasons for not joining the team. But now as the president's legal team tries to figure out to allow the president to do an interview with Mueller, Rudy Giuliani will be joining, among others.

PEREZ: The question I have, though, if Rudy Giuliani is going to join, I mean, there are lawyers, there are other lawyers in that law firm that are representing witnesses in this investigation.

BLITZER: In Rudy Giuliani's law firm?

PEREZ: In his law firm. So I'm not sure whether or not that's a conflict issue, if that's already been resolved. I think we should probably pay attention to that in the days ahead.

BLITZER: The former U.S. attorney in New York, as well. So he's got an enormous amount of experience in this area. Guys, thanks very, very much, Evan Perez and Pamela Brown.

James Comey just finished a live interview, a lengthy interview with our own Jake Tapper, who asked him about those Comey memos. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Justice Department is also expected today to begin the process of letting Congress see your memos detailing your interactions with President Trump. Is that the right decision, to let Congress see them?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don't know. Because I don't know what considerations the department has taken into account. It's fine by me.

TAPPER: You don't care?

COMEY: I don't care. I don't have any -- I don't have any views on it. I'm totally fine with transparency. I've tried to be transparent throughout this, and I think what folks will see, if they get to see the memos, is I'm consistent since the very beginning, right after my encounters with President Trump, and I'm consistent in the book and tried to be transparent in the book, as well.

TAPPER: Senator Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, says that there are seven memos. He says four of them are classified. Is that right?

COMEY: I don't know, because I don't have the memos. I don't know exactly how many there are. Some may be memos. Some may be e-mails. There's somewhere between five and ten, and maybe seven and maybe eight. I don't remember. And I think some of them -- I know when I created some of them, they were classified, but I don't know how many of that group.

TAPPER: One of them is -- the classified one is obviously from when you told President Trump in Trump Tower about what was in that two- page annex about the Steele dossier, the summary of what was in the Steele dossier. What would the other classified ones be about?

COMEY: Well, I can't answer that if they're classified.

TAPPER: You can't even say the subject of them, terrorism?

COMEY: Well, there were a number of conversations I had that related to our investigative responsibilities and that I considered classified at the time. And if I go beyond that, I'll be breaking the seal on them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Our chief Washington correspondent, the anchor of "THE LEAD," Jake is joining us right now.

So Jake, very, very strong interview. Thanks so much for doing it. What else did Comey tell you?

TAPPER: Well, there was a lot. I mean, one of the things that has come out in recent hours has to do with Andrew McCabe, his former director, and being criminally referred to the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., for, according to the inspector general, lying to Comey and lying to investigators about a leak he authorized in 2016.

Comey said that he was conflicted about this news, that he would be willing to testify against Comey [SIC] if the prosecution calls him, if there is actually a criminal case. But he likes Andrew McCabe a lot, but even good people do bad things.

BLITZER: You also pressed Comey, Jake, on why he continues to say it's, quote, "possible," his word "possible," that the Russians may have compromising material about President Trump. I want you to listen to this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Isn't that construct unfair to President Trump in a way, because the question was if President Trump was compromised by the Russians? You say, "It's possible. I don't think it's likely, but it's possible."

I mean, it's possible there's life on other planets. We don't know. For you, somebody like you with your reputation, saying it's possible, isn't -- I mean, it's also possible that it's not true. Isn't that another way you could look at the same question?

COMEY: Sure. But I'm not looking to the stars saying there might be green men out there. There's a reason I say it's possible.

Two things struck me. One, the president's constantly bringing it up with me to deny it, and in my experience as an investigator -- it's not an ironclad rule, but it's a striking thing when someone constantly brings up something to deny that you didn't ask about.

And second, I've always been struck in my encounters with him that he wouldn't criticize Vladimir Putin even in private, which struck me as odd. Now, those aren't definitive. Those aren't conclusive facts. But I'm not-- the reason I'm saying it's possible is there are things that lead my common sense to believe it's possible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:10:44] BLITZER: So, Jake, you think his answer clears up the criticism he's received? TAPPER: Well, that answer would seem to suggest that he's basing the

-- his answer that it's possible that President Trump is compromised by the Russians entirely on Trump's behavior in terms of trying to end the investigation and also President Trump refusing to criticize Vladimir Putin.

That's not an answer that suggests that there is evidence of collusion, conspiracy, aiding and abetting the Russian government. And in fact, he said at a different point that he hasn't seen any evidence.

Now, that is not the same thing as the fact that Robert Mueller who now heads the investigation might have other information. And it's not same thing as saying that there aren't people who are in the Trump orbit about whom that could be said.

But really, when you think about an FBI director, somebody like James Comey, who has had a reputation for integrity and for sticking by answers that deal with evidence or lack of evidence, I still think it's an odd construct to say it's possible, especially -- I don't think that answer clears it up anymore, unless there's more going on that we don't know about.

BLITZER: Good point. Jake, thanks so much once again, very, very strong interview. Jake Tapper helping us.

Thank you, Wolf.

Some more on all this. Democratic Congressman Denny Hecht of Washington state joining us, member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, so when the Justice Department hands over -- hands over these Comey memos, will that be the first time you, as a key member of the Intelligence Committee, will be able to actually read them?

REP. DENNY HECHT (D), WASHINGTON: Yes, and I'm looking forward to entering the reading room and the skiff at the third floor underneath the U.S. Capitol and doing just that.

BLITZER: The skiff is a very confidential room that can't be monitored.

Are you frustrated, Congressman, that your -- your committee's investigation ended without every member of your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, reading those Comey memos?

HECHT: Well, I'm way beyond frustrated with where we are vis-a-vis the U.S. House of Representatives' effort to get at the truth behind Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possibly of collusion, coordination and conspiracy with either Mr. Trump or agents on his behalf.

But the fact of the matter is it's not over with. Both the Mueller investigation will continue and will some of our efforts as I think I indicated you to earlier. The gentleman that used to work for Cambridge Analytica has agreed in principle to come and talk with us about what it is he knew when he knew it, with respect to the use of that data. So there will efforts that continue.

BLITZER: Members of Congress get these Comey memos, how do you think they'll be used politically?

HECHT: Well, good question. Very good question, Wolf. I don't know that I -- I don't know that I would say that the U.S. House has the best track record with respect to keeping these things kinds of things confidential, but it's my hope that they will do so.

I have no idea what the impact will be on my colleagues, not having seen the content. But one thing's for sure -- and we know this as a fundamental legal principle -- notes that are taken contemporaneously have a higher degree of probity in a legal consideration or in a legal action than other kinds of evidence, so we'll take them very seriously and read them very carefully.

BLITZER: Yes. The president, as you know, was very angry that Comey -- he was very angry with Comey for not saying publicly he wasn't a target in this investigation. Now our own Jim Acosta is reporting that the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, told President Trump the other day he's not a target of the Michael Cohen investigation that's going on in New York City. What's your reaction to that?

HECHT: I think the Michael Cohen document and computer seizure is probably the most significant thing that has happened in the entire affair over the last 14 months, even though it's not directly related.

But I think actually, Wolf, what we ought to do is we ought to construct the Michael Cohen flip index. And on a scale from one to 100 determine not the likelihood that he'll flip but the number of years of sentencing he is facing and the point at which he will flip.

[17:15:04] My own personal bet, were I a betting man, is if -- and it's an "if" yet to be determined, if he confronts between ten and 15 years in jail, then he's going to sing like a canary.

BLITZER: But he hasn't yet been charged with anything.

HECHT: No.

BLITZER: We know he's the target of a criminal investigation, but he still hasn't charged.

HECHT: Yes.

BLITZER: We don't know what crimes he might be charged with. Do you?

HECHT: No, I don't. And that's why I said "if." That's important to extend that to Michael Cohen. He has not yet been indicted. But I have to believe that, given that the court approved the search warrant, that the southern district of the Department of Justice and FBI had a pretty good reason for going in there. So we'll see.

And he may not yet be indicted, but you have to believe that there was substantial foundation for them to seek the warrant and for them to follow up with this.

BLITZER: Just last night, Congressman, this is what President Trump said about Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: As far as the two gentlemen you told me about, they've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months. Four months. Five months. And they're still here. So we want to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You think that Rod Rosenstein telling the president he's not a target in the Michael Cohen investigation bought both of these men, Rosenstein and Mueller, some time?

HECHT: Well, it's hard to take the president at his word, Wolf, that he wants this investigation to be completed. When you consider how erratic he has been on this subject of whether or not he would sit for an interview or a deposition with the Mueller investigation, per se. He at one point said, "Sure, I'd be glad to do that," and then the lawyers started suggested that maybe that would not be in his best interests, because he might say something that would self-incriminate. And he now seems to be in a position of either extremely restrictively qualifying his willingness to participate or just denying it, prohibiting it altogether. So it's a little hard to take him at his word that he wants this over with when he's not cooperating.

BLITZER; Congressman, I want you to stand by for a moment. I'm going to get your reaction. Our own Pamela Brown is now back with us. She has more breaking news on some new additions to the president's legal team.

Pamela, what else are you learning?

BROWN: Well, Rudy Giuliani just spoke with "The Washington Post," and we're getting some excerpts of the conversation he had with "The Washington Post" reporter, explaining his decision to join President Trump's legal team.

And this is what he said in terms of the reason why he's joining the team. He says, "I'm doing it, because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller."

He goes on to say, "My advice on Mueller has been this. He should be allowed to do his job. He's entitled to do his job."

Rudy Giuliani coming in at a crucial time in the investigation, because the president's legal team, Wolf, has been trying to decide, make the decision on whether it will allow the president to sit down and do an interview with Robert Mueller's team.

As we reported last week, the raid on the president's personal attorney's office and home sort of threw all of that up into -- up in the air. And so now Rudy Giuliani is joining the team along with two other attorneys, Wolf. This is according to Jay Sekulow, one of the president's attorneys, saying that Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, a husband and wife, will also be joining the legal team.

So that is three lawyers we're learning about that will be joining the team: Rudy Giuliani, as well as Jane Raskin and Marty Raskin, who are attorneys in Florida -- Wolf.

BLITZER; Very interesting stuff and very interesting what the president [SIC] told "The Washington Post."

Stand by for a moment. Want to get Congressman Denny Hecht's reaction.

What's your reaction when he says that Mueller should be allowed -- this is Rudy Giuliani. Mueller should be allowed to do his job, he's entitled to do his job? Does that suggest to you he's going to be able to sit down and interview the president?

HECHT: Well, first of all, I agree with Mr. Giuliani. I think that Mr. Mueller ought to be allowed to conclude his work.

Secondly, however, I receive that information with great skepticism. I feel a little bit like it's Lucy with the football to Charlie Brown; it's going to be pulled away at the very last minute. That's been the history of this investigation thus far.

There's no reason why the president couldn't have sat down, except for the revolving door of attorneys. I mean, Wolf, the number of attorneys that the president asked to be on the team and turned him down or the number of attorneys he's had on his team that then walked or were fired constitutes about the size of the entire state bar in a couple of small states.

BLITZER: Congressman Denny Hecht, thanks so much for joining us.

HECHT: You're welcome, sir.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. President Trump said to be consumed by the criminal probe of his long-time personal lawyer and friend Michael Cohen in New York City. We're learning new details of the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, told President Trump about the investigation in recent days.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:24:32] BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're learning. Details of a conversation between the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and President Trump about the criminal investigation of Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer and long-time friend. Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is in Florida with the president.

Jim, you're getting new information from your sources. What are you learning? JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

President Trump avoided questions today about the Russia investigation and the fate of his personal attorney and Michael Cohen. But as you said, we have learned that the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation, recently told the president that he's not a target in the Cohen matter. The president insists that no president has ever been as tough on Russia as he has, but history begs to differ.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[17:25:18] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, could Michael Cohen flip? Are you worried?

ACOSTA (voice-over): Down in Key West and dodging questions about his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and whether he will turn against him in the Russia investigation, President Trump was instead focused on the loyalty of his supporters.

TRUMP: I hope you saw the crowds in Key West. You've never seen anything like that. It was really very inspirational.

ACOSTA: But privately, sources tell CNN the president is consumed with concerns about Cohen. The White House official said flatly that Trump's legal team is not yet worried his personal attorney will start singing for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

CNN has learned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe, told the president he's not a target in the Cohen investigation. In front of the cameras, the president stayed on script, making a renewed pitch for a border wall.

TRUMP: Drugs are flowing into our country. We need border protection. We need the wall. We have to have the wall.

ACOSTA: The president remains in a tight spot on Russia,, both denying collusion with Moscow during the campaign while deciding to hold off on new sanctions on the Russians for their suspected support of Syria's chemical weapons program.

TRUMP: We'll do sanctions as soon as they very much deserve it.

ACOSTA: While the president insists he's the toughest U.S. president in history when it comes to Russia --

TRUMP: There has been nobody tougher than me. Russia will tell you there has been nobody tougher than Donald Trump.

ACOSTA: -- many in Washington just aren't buying it.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: To not target them with sanctions seems to me is just letting them off easy. It's a kind of free pass. Why -- why would they worry about doing it again?

ACOSTA: Then there's the fact that millions of Americans remember other presidents who were much tougher on Russia like Ronald Reagan, who dubbed the Soviet Union "The Evil Empire."

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are the focus of evil in the modern world.

ACOSTA: As for the Russia investigation, even the president's fellow Republicans publicly warning Mr. Trump not to fire Mueller.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: I think the accountability here is that it would be -- it would backfire on the president if he were to terminate Mr. Mueller's role. Constitutionally, I think he has that power, but I think it would be a mistake to do that.

ACOSTA: That was after the president didn't really close the door on firing Mueller or Rosenstein.

TRUMP: As far as the two gentlemen you told me about, they've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months. Four months. Five months. And they're still here.

ACOSTA: Part of the criticism of the president's posture towards Russia is that he doesn't seem to have a policy for containing Moscow. Now the president may need a new strategy for an even closer adversary, Cuba, which now has a president not named Castro for the first time in nearly 60 years as Raul Castro stepped down. Asked about that, the president said, not to worry.

TRUMP: We love Cuba. We're taking care of Cuba. We're taking care of Cuba.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, as for the president's problems with his own party, take Mr. Trump's pick to run NASA, a city congressman, Jim Brandenstein (ph), squeaked by today by one vote.

The GOP senator, Jeff Flake, who was a frequent critic of the president, Wolf, had to be convinced to vote "yes." That just goes to shows you how the problems the president has convincing his own party to vote for his own nominees for various important jobs inside the federal government. And we should also point out, Wolf.

As for Rod Rosenstein's assurance to the president that he is not a target in the Cohen investigation, I'm told by my source earlier today that the president was not given an assurance about the Mueller investigation overall by Rod Rosenstein, saying that the president has already received that assurance, of course. Any legal expert will tell you that's not a blanket assurance, guaranteeing the president will never be snared -- ensnared in that investigation, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. Jim Acosta down in Florida with the president. Thank you very much.

Coming up, the growing silence from congressional Republicans about whether they'll back President Trump's re-election bid. Should the White House be worried?

Plus, the key details that could make or break a possible summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

[17:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The breaking news, the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is joining President Trump's personal legal team. Giuliani says he hopes to negotiate an end to the special counsel's Russia probe. Let's bring in our experts and our correspondents. And Dana, you just got off the phone with Rudy Giuliani. Tell our viewers what he told you.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he wanted to emphasize that his role and his words is going to be limited. He says he believes that the President's legal team has done a very good job but that he can bring a few things in that others maybe couldn't. First of all, he said just fresh eyes and ears. He's just somebody who's new to this. But more importantly, he talked about his relationship with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That the two of them worked together in the Justice Department. That when Robert Mueller was FBI director, Giuliani was mayor of New York, and obviously, they've worked closely together there.

[19:34:51] He said that -- he said that part of the goal, his main goal in coming in and helping is to help bring the investigation to an end. And he said that perhaps what has to happen is that it, quote, needs a little push. He said maybe we can get this wrapped up soon. I said, what do you consider soon? And he said maybe a couple of weeks. But he had this caveat, he said, what I mean is that what we need to do is get together with Mueller. He said he feels that he can do this. Get exactly what he believes that Mueller needs from the President so that they can comply. If they can comply quickly, it can get done soon.

The other thing that he said is, you know, I asked about the notion of this idea that the President could, in the back of his mind, want to fire Mueller, and he pushed back. He said, I talked to the President about this so many times. He insists -- he insists that the President never considered that, never wavered on that. And from the perspective of Giuliani, he said, if that happens we'd have to start all over again, and he said from his perspective, you can't get anybody better, more fair than Mueller.

BLITZER: He did tell The Washington Post he's going to take a leave of absence from his law firm Greenberg Traurig, and that's suggest to me, he's going to be working more than just part time on this case.

BASH: Yes, I mean, he didn't say that he wasn't going to be working hard. He just -- he just said that with regard to the entire structure of the legal team, his role in the legal team will be limited, specifically focused on Mueller, interfacing with Mueller, trying to sort of get things to a conclusion with Mueller. And I said, first, when he said that he was talking about something in a short period of time, I said, are you talking about a potential interview or the whole thing? He said, well, if our -- as part of our discussions, I'm sure it will come up that Mueller wants to talk to the President, but he -- I think he was -- I know he was talking more broadly about trying to wrap this up, and I was surprised and I said, how can it happen so soon? He said, this has been going on for over a year. It's time to bring this to the finish.

BLITZER: Very interesting stuff. Good work, Dana. You know, Jeffrey Toobin, let's get your reaction. Rudy Giuliani, among other things, a former U.S. attorney in New York, he knows this business.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: He does, but, you know, he has been a politician now for decades. And much more than a lawyer, he hasn't been inside courtrooms for a very long time. He's clearly been hired, as Dana said, to try to negotiate with Mueller. I think Robert Mueller, the idea that, hey, you know, we are old friends from the Justice Department in the 80s, let's work out a deal. That's not the kind of thing that's going to work with Robert Mueller. I mean, he will certainly treat Giuliani with respect but the idea that their prior relationship will buy him anything strikes me as extremely unlikely, as does the idea that this could somehow wrap up in a couple of weeks. Given the magnitude of the cases that are outstanding, that just seems like completely dreamland.

BLITZER: Yes, Chris Cillizza, so when he tells The Washington Post -- Rudy Giuliani -- I'm doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the President and for Bob Mueller. What say you?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, I mean, first of all, I think Dana's point that Giuliani made to her is he does have -- he is one of a relatively small number of people who have a pre- existing at least relationship with Rudy Giuliani -- with -- excuse me, with Bob Mueller and someone who the President trusts and his personal friends with the President. So, he meets this sort of nexus that aren't -- that -- there's not that many people in that concentric circle. I think it's broadly consistent with what we've seen this President do whether it's in his cabinet, whether it's in his staff, and whether it's with his legal team, which is bring in people who he is friends with.

Obviously, the Joseph diGenova thing did not come to pass but that was some of the motivation or he wants to be around people who are comfortable around him and who he is comfortable around. I mean, I don't think you can begrudge him that. I think Giuliani -- I don't know how much Giuliani's past relationship with Mueller matters. Trump thinks it does. Clearly, brings him in. Giuliani hopes it matters. I don't know to, Jeff's point, I don't know that it -- Bob Mueller going to say, whoa, you've got Giuliani, I know him. Everything's going to be fine. But maybe it's a step in the right direction for Trump?

BLITZER: And Giuliani was on the short list to become Attorney General in the Trump administration.

CILLIZZA: Right. There's quite clearly close. I mean --

BLITZER: The President issued a statement, Sabrina. Rudy is great, he has been my friend for a long time, wants to get this better quickly resolved for the good of the country. What do you think?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, we know that the President's legal team has struggled to recruit new members and it's not because of a lack of legal talent. It is because the problem at the end of the day is the client, which in this case is the President. So, it may be somewhat advantageous to the President's legal team that Rudy Giuliani is a long-time ally of this President. He's someone that he trusts. But at the end of the day, this is the President who is going to continue to act on his own impulses, and just yesterday, when the President was directly asked if he's willing to take off the table, firing either Rod Rosenstein or Robert Mueller, he notably deflected the question. He said they're both still there but he wasn't able to rule that out.

[19:40:05] BLITZER: We've got a lot more breaking news that we're monitoring. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

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BLITZER: The President Trump's re-election campaign has been underway ever since his inauguration. But many lawmakers in his own party aren't ready to offer their endorsements just yet. Our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is joining us with details. Manu, you've been doing some polling among Republicans up on Capitol Hill. What are they telling you?

[19:45:01] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republican after Republican that I've talked to are not yet ready to endorse President Trump. This, despite him being declared candidate, raising money, holding campaign rallies. A lot of Republicans are not sure that he's going to run for re-election. Others are not sure what these mounting problems that he has legally and with the Mueller investigation, what they ultimately may amount to when he does stand for re-election and whether or not he'll be strong enough to win, and whether that he'll face a primary challenge, as well. But Republicans had made a surprise declaration to me that they are not sure that they're going to endorse Trump despite it being almost automatic that members of Congress endorse Presidents of their own parties but not this time. At least not right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Are you prepared at this point to endorse the President for re- election in 2020?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I haven't even thought about that election. I'm worried about the midterm elections.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I did not endorse the President for the Republican nomination in 2016. I supported first Jeb Bush and then John Kasich. So, again, I think that it is far too early to make a judgment of that type.

RAJU: Will you support the President in -- for re-election?

REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R), FLORIDA: Again, I'm focused on working and doing what I do. And so, talking about what might happen in, you know, in -- at that time is I think premature. SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I have no idea whether the President

runs for re-election nor what the field will be on the Republican side. So, I think it's way too early to weigh in on who won my support.

RAJU: Are you prepared to endorse him in -- for 2020?

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), FLORIDA: Well, I'm not -- that's a long ways off. I want to get through 2018 first, but I expect if -- you know, he continues to get things done for the American people, that he'll have a lot of support and that, you know, most of us will be behind him, as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Now, one other thing that lawmakers are pointing to are the November midterms. They're saying that, look, if the Republicans suffer a bad day at the polls, lose the house, possibly even the Senate, watch for a new wave of Republicans to start calling for another candidate to be the top of the ticket. We'll see what that ultimately amounts to. The President, of course, Wolf, ran against Republicans in Washington in 2016 and won. Maybe that'll happen again in 2020, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Manu. Thanks very much.

Coming up, key details remain unresolved for a potentially historic summit between President Trump and the North Korean Dictator Kim Jong- un. Will they even make it to the negotiating table?

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[17:52:13] BLITZER: New tonight, officials are hammering out details that could make or break the potential summit between President Trump and the North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un. Brian Todd is here. Brian, this is a very tricky one.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're told tonight that anything at any moment virtually could derail a possible summit. Something the President himself seems to be cautioning us about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: President Trump, playing the role of the ultimate deal maker seems to be hedging his bets on a potential summit with Kim Jong-un. On one hand, the President says he hopes the meeting will be a great success. But on two occasions this week, he's implied the summit may not happen at all.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Maybe we won't even have a meeting at all depending on what's going in.

If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go.

TODD: Is he leaving himself an out to not have the summit at all? FRANK JANNUZI, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MAUREEN AND MIKE MANSFIELD FOUNDATION: He is, but more importantly, he's trying to boost his own negotiating position in the run up to the summit. He wants the North Koreans to know they have to deliver on the key promises of denuclearization and they also have to deliver in terms of the return of the Americans who are currently imprisoned in North Korea.

TODD: But the President is also hedging in another way.

TRUMP: If the meeting when I'm there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.

TODD: How would the impulsive young dictator respond if the President walked out on him?

MICHAEL GREEN, SENIOR ADVISER, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL: The North Koreans may go back to more testing, but if they had no intention of giving up the nuclear weapons, this is the path we're going to be on any way.

TODD: Another key sticking point tonight, where to hold this historic meeting. U.S. and other officials familiar with the matter tell CNN possible locations have been narrowed down to a few cities in Asia or Europe. The most likely according to observers, Singapore, cities in Vietnam or Thailand, the Mongolian Capital Ulaanbaatar, possibly Stockholm, Sweden or Geneva, Switzerland. If the summit is held in Europe, it's not clear whether Kim has a plane that could get him there without stopping. Some analysts say Kim's got a fleet of cold war era soviet made planes that can't fly long distance and are poorly maintained.

JANNUZI: They are extremely old. They've been refurbished but I wouldn't trust -- I mean, I flew on them because I had no choice. If he's got a choice, he should stay off of North Korean airlines.

TODD: But Kim has been photographed on a Presidential jet nicknamed Air Force Un, which one aviation expert says is a capable Russian-made Ilyushin 62.

CHARLES KENNEDY, AUTHOR, "JETLINERS OF THE RED STAR": The aircraft has a published range of 6,200 miles. That's worth full passengers bags and cargo. So, with the VIP configuration and a much smaller passenger load, that puts pretty much everyone in the world with a non-stop range including all of Europe and most of North America.

[17:55:00] TODD: But Kim may want to travel to a location he can get to with his armored train, which he recently took to a secret meeting with China's President in Beijing.

GREEN: The train allows the North Korean leaders to bring a larger security detail to bring their own autonomous communications, food, supplies, and the train is safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The analysts say another reason Kim Jong-un might not want to fly long distance to a summit could be the signal it might send to potential plotters at home. The man who's executed so many members of his inner circle could be paranoid of internal enemies moving against him while he's far away. Wolf?

BLITZER: Very interesting. Brian Todd reporting. Thank you.

There's breaking news next. President Trump adds a new lawyer to his team. Rudy Giuliani.

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