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Trump Meets with Justice Officials after Demanding an Inquiry into Alleged Spy in His 2016 Campaign; Giuliani: Mueller May End Probe of Trump Soon; Don Jr. Met with Arab, Israeli Representatives in Trump Tower. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 21, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Showdown with justice. The president meets with the FBI chief and the deputy attorney, general who oversees the Russia probe, after demanding an investigation into claims that the Justice Department spied on his 2016 presidential campaign. Did they give into his demands?
[17:00:26] Political petition. The president's 2020 campaign -- yes, he never stopped campaigning -- sends out an e-mail in his name asking for signatures to back his call for an investigation. Is the president turning his legal battle into a political fight?
Another secret meeting. A new report reveals Donald Trump Jr. had a secret meeting where an emissary for two Arab princes and an Israeli social media expert offered to help his father's election bid.
And cramming for the summit. North Koreans study up on President Trump, reading his "Art of the Deal," as well as a book about him before his meeting with Kim Jong-un. But the president may be getting cold feet about the summit. Is he worried it could turn into an embarrassing failure?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news. President Trump meets with the FBI director and top justice and intelligence officials after demanding in a tweet that the Justice Department look into his claims that the FBI planted a spy in his 2016 campaign. That demand threatens to spiral, potentially, into a constitutional crisis, even as the president appeals to supporters to back him in a petition.
Our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage, but let's get right to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, the president is taking on his own Justice Department.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is, Wolf, and the president just wrapped up a meeting with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein; the FBI director, Chris Wray. Rosenstein, as we know, over the weekend called for an internal Justice Department investigation into the president's suspicion that he was spied on during the 2016 campaign.
Now, coming out of that meeting, we should point out just in the last several minutes, the White House has issued a statement on what transpired in that meeting. Very important, Wolf.
The White House says the Justice Department has agreed to expand its probe in that the administration will be setting up -- and this is critical -- a classified briefing for congressional leaders to review highly-classified information that they've been requesting for several weeks now.
Wolf, it depends on what kind of documents and materials they're going to see, but this is a concession from the Justice Department to critics of the Russia probe, who seem to want the investigators under investigation.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrived at the White House for what officials insist was a prescheduled meeting, but it's clear what's on the president's mind. While he's not answering reporters' questions about it, the president is complaining that he was spied on before the 2016 election, ranting about the presence of a confidential source working inside the Trump campaign.
Tweeting, "I hereby demand that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI or DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump campaign for political purposes and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama administration."
While the confidential source did speak with Trump cm advisers, U.S. Officials told CNN the confidential source was not spaying on the campaign.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think that's actually a very disturbing assault on the independence of the Department of Justice. And I think when the president -- this president or any president tries to use the Department of Justice as kind of a private investigatory body, that's not good for the country.
ACOSTA: Before his meeting at the White House, Rosenstein relented, announcing the Justice Department's inspector general will investigate the president's accusations, saying in a statement, "If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action."
That came as a disappointment to Democrats.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I am concerned with some of the comments of the deputy attorney general suggesting, "Well, we'll look in to find out whether there's any legitimate concern about a politically embedded spy." They know that's nonsense, and I hate to see them say anything to give it credence. ACOSTA: The president's conservative allies have been hammering the
Justice Department's oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation for months. Even Attorney General Jeff Sessions was labelled a danger to Americans over the weekend on FOX News.
JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: The single most dangerous person to the agenda of President Trump, the Republican Party and ultimately to all Americans is the attorney general of the United States himself, Jeff Sessions.
ACOSTA: And the president is continuing his attacks on the Obama administration, taking jabs at former CIA Director John Brennan, tweeting comments from a conservative commentator: "John Brennan is panicking. He has disgraced himself. He has disgraced the country. He has disgraced the entire intelligence community."
[17:05:07] That was before the president traveled to the CIA to welcome the agency's new director, Gina Haspel.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most especially, I want to thank you, the dedicated men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is a true honor to stand here today before the most elite intelligence professionals on the planet earth. Nobody even close.
ACOSTA: But the president took time to give a shout-out to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who was led the GOP charge in Congress to investigate the Russia investigation.
TRUMP: A very courageous man -- it's courageous. Congressman Devin Nunes. Thank you very much, Devin, for being here. Appreciate it.
ACOSTA: And it sounds like Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, as well as other critics of the Russia investigation, people like Mark Meadows of the House Freedom Caucus, that they're going to get what they want out of this announcement coming from the White House.
In just the last several minutes, Wolf, as a matter of fact, according to this White House statement, the chief of staff, John Kelly, will be facilitating this meeting, along with the Justice Department and the deputy -- excuse me -- the director of national intelligence Dan Coats, who was also in that meeting with the president earlier today.
And we should also point out, Wolf, a source familiar with discussions on the Russia investigation here at the White House says that the president's tweets about his confidential source we saw this morning, that they may be hyperbolic, yes. But this source added that there are real concerns inside the White House as to what this confidential source was up to during the campaign. And according to the source, hearing these discussions inside the White House and until those concerns are addressed -- and it sounds like they are trying to address them over the Justice Department -- it is likely that the president's rants will continue. So we may see, as a result of all this, Wolf, if they don't get what
they want inside the White House and among these critics of the Russia investigation, that the president may go once again back onto social media and go back to attacking the Justice Department over its handling of this probe -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.
All this is happening -- as all this was happening, the president's advisers may believe that the best defense is a good offense, at least when it comes to the special counsel's Russia probe.
Let's go to our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica, Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, suggests Robert Mueller could be finished with the president fairly soon.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. Rudy Giuliani says the special counsel has given him indications that the part of the probe directly involving the president, well, it could be finished in about the next three months. But in this back and forth between Mueller's team and the president's lawyers, that possible end to that part of the investigation involving the president, well it comes with a caveat.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The president's lawyer says a key part of the special counsel's investigation of Mr. Trump could be wrapped up within the next three months.
Rudy Giuliani confirms to CNN Robert Mueller told him about a month ago that if the president agreed to an interview, the obstruction of justice part of the probe could be finished by September 1, before the mid-term elections. "You don't want another repeat of the 2016 election, where you get contrary reports at the end and you don't know how it affected the election."
But days earlier, Giuliani resisted any suggestion the president will sit down with the special counsel's team.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Explain to me why they even need an interview of the president if it isn't try to trap him into perjury. A perjury thap is when you get somebody to lie about what you're telling the truth, which is the president would testify tomorrow if it was about the truth. The truth is, he had nothing to do with Russia. I was on that campaign. He didn't talk to Russians; he had nothing to do with Russians.
SCHNEIDER: But the special counsel isn't only focused on Russia. According to "The New York Times, the Mueller team has also learned about a meeting the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., had with an emissary for two Arab princes and an Israeli social media specialist three months before the election. Both offered assistance to the Trump campaign.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: If the "Times" sorry is true, we now have a second or a third nation that was trying to lean in to this campaign.
And I don't understand what the president doesn't get about the law that says if you have a foreign nation interfere in an American election, that's illegal.
SCHNEIDER: "The Times" reports investigators have questioned several witnesses all over the world about foreign help that may have been pledged or accepted and whether that assistance may have been coordinated with Russia.
The August 2016 meeting at Trump Tower was set up by Erik Prince, the private security contractor and former head of Blackwater, the emissary George Nader, who is cooperating with Mueller, allegedly told Donald Trump Jr. that the Saudi and emirati princes were eager to help his father.
Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel said his firm had a multi- million-dollar proposal to manipulate social media to help the Trump campaign. Zamel's lawyer denies Zamel had any involvement in the campaign. "The Times" says Trump Jr. responded approvingly, but the president's son previously told the Senate Judiciary Committee, "I did not collude with any foreign government and did not know anyone who did."
[17:10:10] And his lawyer issued a statement acknowledging the meeting happened but said Trump Jr. did not take them up on the marketing strategy. "He was not interested, and that was the end of it." But Democratic lawmakers aren't satisfied with those explanations.
SCHIFF: You also have to be concerned as why are so many foreign powers of the opinion during the campaign and perhaps thereafter that the Trump family is willing to play ball.
SCHNEIDER: And when it comes to that emissary George Nader, he traveled to Moscow at least twice during the presidential campaign as an emissary to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. That's according to "The Times."
And after the election, George Nader worked to arrange a meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince and a financier close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Of course, that's a meeting that has also been scrutinized by the special counsel and congressional investigators -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our legal and law enforcement experts. And Laura Jarrett, you're our justice reporter. Did the White House back down with a statement following this meeting today with the deputy attorney general and the others, or did they get exactly what they wanted?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we have to know way more about what this agreement entails. I think the devil will be in the details. We already knew the inspector general had expanded its investigation
to cover the situation. But the new part is where Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, says that they're going to be able to review highly classified and other information they have requested, Wolf.
And for the past two weeks, the fight has come down to the documents. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, wants those materials. Everyone knows the name of the source. He wants those materials. And it's going to be that which is the sticking point here.
BLITZER: Why do presidents, Phil Mudd, traditionally want to maintain a distance from the Department of Justice?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I mean, if you look at the traditions of how you investigate, in this case, political corruption, if you go down to a city council, a city council in California or New York or Pennsylvania, the Department of Justice does political corruption investigations all the time. Those investigations involve things like wiretaps. They also involve informants. That is a dime a dozen. You're going into political corruption on a city council where somebody's giving a friend a contract, you're going to put an informant in the investigation.
And the mayor can't say there and say, "Here is what you can do and can't do, and here is how you should be investigating whether you did something inappropriately."
In this case, you have a high-end investigation, but in essence, the same thing, an investigation of political corruption. You involve wiretaps, FISA -- we've talked about that. You also involved an informant.
But the difference is, in this case, the subject is the president. And he's saying, "You can't investigate me and when you do, I'm going to tell you you have to investigate yourself." That's really different.
BLITZER: Take us a little bit inside this meeting at the Oval Office. Josh Campbell used to be at the FBI. The president has Christopher Wray, the current FBI director, whom he nominated to lead the FBI; Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who's overseeing the Russia probe whom he nominated once again for that position. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, is there. He nominated him, as well.
Take us inside -- the president's clearly angry about all these allegations about spying and stuff like that. What's going on?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wow, to be a fly on the wall in that room had to be incredible. I mean, look at the faces there, and we see the tape of the officials leaving the White House. Smiles on their faces, slapping each other's back.
I don't know if we know what that means. I've been talking with some former officials who are still on the job there in the FBI, and there are two camps with respect to the actions of the deputy attorney general over the last 24 hours.
There are those who look at his actions in, you know, coming and putting forth a statement saying that "We're going to look into this. I'mm going to refer to the I.G." There are those who look at that as capitulation, and that is someone who's simply trying to keep his job.
There's a second camp that appears to looks at that action as strategic defiance. And that is someone who's trying to box the president in and say, "OK, we're going to look into this. We'll pass this on to the I.G." There are few options there left for the president when Rod Rosenstein has essentially preempted what might come next.
But I think, regardless of the motive, the outcome is the same; and that is giving Bob Mueller a little more time to do his job.
BLITZER: You know, Laura, after the meeting, the White House put out the statement, as you reported, saying the inspector general over at the Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, will expand his investigation to look into these allegations of improper involvement in the presidential campaign.
There was some of the president's supporters who didn't want the inspector general to do this. They wanted another special counsel to be named.
JARRETT: Right. And we remember this last time around. We've heard this song before on issues like Uranium One and the Clinton e-mail investigation. We have heard members of the House Republican -- particularly the Freedom Caucus, I think, has really been pushing this, been in the president's ear trying to say, "Look, the I.G., that's not -- that's not where the action is. We need someone with subpoena power."
But if you look at it, this is exactly what the inspector general is tasked with doing. This is what he does all the time. He's already looking into so-called FISA abuse. He's looking at exactly how those surveillance warrants were obtained. He's looking at the FBI's relationship with Christopher Steele. He was already looking into whether there was any political interference anyway, so it makes sense that, as an incremental step, even if people might have said that Rosenstein should have gone a step further, it makes sense as an incremental step for him to kick it to the I.G.
MUDD: Let me pick up on something. Josh's rare moment. He was brilliant this evening --
CAMPBELL: Thanks, Phil. I appreciate that.
MUDD: The issue of timing. Let's play this game. Because this is such an inside Washington game. Let's assume the inspector general takes 60, 90, 120 days, which will be relatively quick for an inspector general investigation. Let's assume that Robert Mueller is reaching the end of his
investigation. He doesn't want to go into the mid-term elections. He comes out with results, let's say in June, July and August. He's going to be out before the inspector general's determination of what happened with this informant.
If Mueller comes out with findings that include extra indictments related to the White House, all this stuff becomes, I think, irrelevant. This move by Rosenstein, I think, might be tactically suspicious but strategically brilliant.
CAMPBELL: Can I add one extra thing, Wolf?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
CAMPBELL: On that note, too, as well. And I agree with everything Phil just said about me, about the nice comments about me, so thank you, Phil. But let me just say that, you know, for those of us who have covered this White House, who have looked at this administration, let's not kid ourselves.
Whatever this investigation unearthed, if it's anything other than a complete vindication of this White House, they're not going to accept the results. So we can have a new special counsel and we can have a new -- a new inspector general investigation. Unless that entity or that body comes out and says there was no wrongdoing, we're prepared to see, you know, additional smearing on the part of those who are in charge.
BLITZER: Let's talk, Phil, about the use of the confidential source to try to find out some more information for the FBI. The confidential source -- according to "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" established some sort of contact with three Trump campaign advisers, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and Sam Clove. Sam Clove as being a former deputy campaign manager, presumably to try to find out more about any contacts they may have had with Russia, what they do about Russian meddling in the U.S.
How -- how unusual is this? And what needs to be done for a confidential source on a sensitive issue like this, a presidential campaign to be tapped to go find more information for the FBI?
MUDD: Well, let's take -- let's look at what we've seen in the investigation from the outside. We have information that suggests a campaign official, George Papadopoulos, was talking to -- if I remember correctly, an Australian diplomat about WikiLeaks acquiring information about Democrats before WikiLeaks published it.
FBI gets this, interviews the Australian diplomat and says there's something really curious going on here. Forget about whether it's the president or the city council. If you're in the bureau in the Department of Justice, you ought to be sitting there saying, "We've got to be darn careful here and follow the rules." The rules in that case are going to be you look at two aspects of the investigation, president or city council, as I said. You get wiretaps, that FISA, which we talked about, or you get informants.
When I looked at this, if it weren't the president, this is a dime a dozen issue. How do you find out what happened in the allegations about impropriety in the campaign? You get an informant.
So again, if the president weren't involved, you'd say that's what we do --
BLITZER: Who has to approve that operation for this confidential source, an academic, an American academic who has worked, apparently, with the CIA and the FBI for a long time? Who has to authorize that individual to go after these three campaign advisers and seek information?
MUDD: I mean, informants are a dime a dozen. But if you're talking about informants in a presidential campaign, I don't know. Josh might know that.
BLITZER: Let's ask Josh. How high does that have to --
MUDD: I would say the FBI director.
BLITZER: How high does that have to go.
CAMPBELL: It would be very high.
BLITZER: How high?
CAMPBELL: And I think you keyed on the main point there. It would go to the top, to the FBI director --
BLITZER: So James Comey at the time would have to approve it?
CAMPBELL: And the reason that that's the case is because a political campaign falls under the category of investigation that's called a sensitive investigative matter. So if you're looking at a politician, a member of the press, a member of the clergy, that's a whole different category in and of itself, which requires very, very high- level scrutiny.
But I think we're missing the point here. This is what I want people to really focus on as we look at the debate. Whether or not this informant was passively collecting on the campaign or whether he was quote, unquote, "implanted."
To me it does not matter. Because of the oversight that goes into the operation of human informants, if that person was assisting a lawfully predicated investigation, it doesn't matter whether they were passive or active. Those types of operations are reviewed at the highest levels, and they would have signed off on. And the last point being that those who began the operation under the Obama administration were able to convince those who are now appointed by Donald Trump to defend those actions so that tells me there's a level of independence there and a level of righteousness in this investigative activity.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Stick around. There is more -- with that said, that's developing right now. More on the breaking news as the Justice Department now giving into the president's demands to investigate its own conduct during the election campaign. And will GOP critics now have access to classified information about a confidential FBI source?
[17:20:06] Plus, the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says the special counsel's probe of the president could be wrapped up in a few months on one condition. Is Giuliani just floating a trial balloon?
BLITZER: Our breaking news. After President Trump's meeting with top justice and intelligence officials earlier this afternoon, the White House put out a statement saying some members of Congress will be allowed to see highly-classified information relating to the president's claim that the government spied on his presidential campaign in 2016.
[17:25:08] Let's bring in our political and legal experts. And Chris Cillizza, what do you make of the president's efforts to turn this Mueller investigation now over into a political petition. His 2020 re-election campaign has already sent out a mass e-mail saying, "Sign this petition."
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: So the political and legal avenues have always moved relatively in tandem, you know, impeachment versus what Mueller finds. And I don't think it's terribly surprising Donald Trump has been headed down this road, the pollicization of this whole investigation for quite some time over the weekend, "13 angry Democrats," referring to the Mueller team. He has gone after Bob Mueller. He's gone after Jim Comey. He's gone after the FBI.
So I don't think we should be surprised by it. I think it is worth remembering, however, that that exists in the political sphere. Could it have a role in -- if Congress ever does anything related to Donald Trump? Maybe. It doesn't affect Mueller in any way, shape or form.
Donald Trump can and has said lots and lots of things. Bob Mueller continues to sort of move down the road on his own timeline. What Donald Trump says doesn't really affect that legal avenue.
BLITZER: And what Rudy Giuliani says, I don't think affects that legal avenue.
CILLIZZA: To the extent it affects it, I will just add to this. And Laura could speak to this better, but it makes it worse for them.
I don't know that Donald Trump can make his legal -- this isn't going to change the Mueller outcome. Sometimes he says and does things that may complicate his legal prospects, but he's not going to mitigate his legal prospects by making it more political.
BLITZER: Can he be influenced, Laura, by the politics of all this, Robert Mueller and his team, to accelerate, slow down, whatever, his investigation? JARRETT: Not through a petition saying, "can you please agree with me
and validate my paranoia and my annoyance with the Mueller investigation?"
Remember, there's only so many times you could shoot yourself in the foot before you could walk. And that is not an instance where, actually, that bullet can connect with the Donald Trump and the Mueller probe. Mueller's role is supposed to be completely indifferent to what's happening in the political realm, what you're talking about, when is larger one of the issues of why the people are so annoyed and bewildered that the president of the United States continuously trying to interject himself in the Department of Justice, because you want to have a separation. Because you do not want people to have a political aspiration or a political motivation, which is odd that he would, himself, ask for a petition and at the same time accuse the DOJ of having a politically-motivated, you know, investigation and then now insert politics into the investigation.
BLITZER: Rebecca Berg, have we seen this before from the Trump campaign?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, of course, Wolf. On the one-year anniversary of the Mueller investigation, his campaign used that as a tool to raise money. They sent out e-mails, asking for donations, citing the anniversary.
And, of course, the president has turned this into a political issue. He's a political animal. He sees a political upside in motivating his supporters into thinking this is a witch hunt against him, staged by his political enemies.
But it's also something that we've seen from Democrats. And I think it's important to remember that. There has been a Democratic congressional campaign committee e-mail fundraising blast in the name of Nancy Pelosi, citing concerns that the president could fire Robert Mueller but using that to raise money for their re-election campaign. So both sides are playing this game, Wolf.
BLITZER: And Bianna, some of the president's supporters are going out and they're saying, "You know what? Unless there's a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, the Democrats will try to impeach this president of the United States. That's how they're motivating voters looking ahead to November. What do you think?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's an interesting strategy. And I know we live in a 24/7 news cycle, so a lot can happen between now and November. But it still amazes me that Republicans and, to a smaller extent, Democrats are not focusing more on what intelligence chiefs had warned, and that is that Russia is planning to impact and interfere in our elections once again.
So instead of Republicans honing in on that -- mind you, the president has yet to issue an order to his intelligence chiefs to do something about it, to investigate it. It is interesting that they are focusing on potential impeachment. Having said that, there are some Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi,
who at least publicly have said that is not the line that -- that this party -- the Democratic Party should be running on going into the midterms.
BLITZER: Stick around. Everybody stick around. There's more we need to discuss. We've got to take a quick break. But I'm going to ask our panel about the newly-revealed meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and emissaries of Middle Eastern countries that allegedly offered to help the Trump campaign.
Also ahead, new and incredible pictures coming into CNN. These are live pictures you're seeing right now as Hawaii's erupting volcano spews lava fountains. It's also creating major new dangers.
BLITZER: Through our sources, we're getting new information on that meeting that just wrapped up over at the White House. The president meeting with the director of national intelligence, the deputy attorney general, the FBI director. They're discussing ways to deal with these allegations of improper -- allegations -- improper spying on the Trump campaign. Much more on that coming up.
[17:34:54] But speaking of meetings, there's another meeting we're learning more information on. And Laura, let me talk to you about this meeting. It was three months or so before the election in 2016, a meeting that Donald Trump Jr. and others from the Trump campaign had with an emissary representing the United Arab Emirates, the Saudis, an Israel social media expert, Erik Prince, who is also somehow related to the campaign.
How does this fit into Robert Mueller's investigation of the Russia probe?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, remember, thematically, the scope of the probe has to do with whether or not a foreign nation has tried to unduly interfere with the 2016 presidential election. That's the overarching theme.
Now, there are components of that specific mandate that say the Russia nation is the one to focus on, but there's also a third part that says about jurisdictional issues and cites a particular statute and talks about if there's anything that is uncovered in the course of an investigation, and you should find something you need to expand the scope of that, you can go to the attorney general, in this case Rod Rosenstein, who is now serving in that capacity, and ask if it can be expanded in that fashion.
I suspect this is the kind of thing they came across during the course of their investigation about the Russia perhaps interference and expanded that through a conversation with Rod Rosenstein, and said this is following with the overall arching purpose, which is to say, "Was there any coordination between a foreign nation, which is illegal, and a U.S. citizen about this very issue"? BLITZER: The president obviously very angry about this -- this
investigation into nothing to do with Russia but the UAE, the Saudis, this Israeli social media expert. The president tweeted, "Things are really getting ridiculous. The failing and crooked, but not as cooked as Hillary Clinton, 'New York Times' has done a long and boring story indicating that the world's most expensive witch hunt has found nothing on Russia and me, so now they're looking at the rest of the world."
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Fascinating parenthetical there by Donald Trump. But here's the problem. He's drawing conclusions about collusion based on an ongoing investigation. You have to continue -- "The New York Times" piece on the UAE, as well as "The New York Times" piece, the broader look at the genesis of the investigation into Russian meddling, both say there is no public evidence yet of collusion.
Donald Trump sees -- no evidence of collusion. In his mind, he brackets that off and the investigation is ongoing. Even Rudy Giuliani -- we're not sure whether this is, you know, 100 percent accurate or not -- is saying September 1 for the obstruction piece of the investigation. That's when that's going to -- the point is Bob Mueller has not said, "We're ten days away. We've done all the fact finding. We've done all the interviews we want to do."
You can say there is no public evidence yet of these things. You cannot draw conclusions. You don't decide who wins a basketball game in the middle of the second quarter or the middle of the third quarter, even the middle of the fourth quarter. We're not sure where we are there. But we're certainly not at the end of the game yet.
He continues to try to do that, whether it's to feed his base, whether it's to try to put pressure on Bob Mueller, but these are the things, as Laura said, that come out in the course of an investigation, an ongoing investigation.
BLITZER: But this -- this latest revelation involving his son, Donald Trump Jr., does present an additional headache for the president.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. So the president is trying to suggest in that tweet, Wolf, for example that this is -- that the investigation is moving on, because Mueller found nothing there. And so he's moving on to the next thing.
When in fact, this is evidence that the investigation is getting much bigger potentially and much messier. And that should be a problem for the president. That should be, as you said, a headache for the president, potentially, because it's not necessarily just about Russia any more. It's much bigger than that.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Bianna.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it also shows a pattern. You know, initially, when you kept hearing only about Russia, you even had members of the administration and those in the Trump Organization say, why do you think we would just be focused on Russia? What is this Russia obsession?
Now you actually see a pattern that it may not have just been Russia. Now it's only Russians that have been indicted, and there have been, obviously, indictments in the Trump camp in relation to any -- any meetings or relations with the Russians.
But if you look at what's happened now, the -- over the few months, the course of those few months, you see that no one, apparently, had told Don Jr. that that first Russian meeting in June was a no-no. That he shouldn't take meetings like that again. This happened two months later, and clearly, they seemed to be open to meeting with anybody that could help them along the -- the campaign.
So while the president may have found this article to be boring and long, this is a creative way to interpret it, because nowhere did it say all the Russian allegations are not true.
CILLIZZA: And just very briefly, it's important to remember this idea that nothing has been found. Even though we aren't at the end of the investigation. That's not true. Bianna mentioned this. We're talking about five people in the Trump orbit who have pled guilty, including his two -- lying to the FBI, other things -- including his former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, and the deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates.
[18:40:05] I mean, the idea that this is a nothing burger and this is a wild goose chase, we have people -- this is not a media creation, not a Democratic creation. We have people who work for Donald Trump who have pled guilty -- in senior roles who have pled guilty to lying to the FBI, and the investigation is not done. Maybe that's it. But even if that's it, you can't dismiss this as nothing.
JARRETT: Well, they are trying as a strategy here, I think Donald Jr. and company, to say, "Well, all is well that ends well. Nothing came of it. Therefore, let's all be dismissive of it."
When in reality, the fact that the Arab prince at the time did not actually meet with Don Jr. or actually have a completion of everything, or if nothing came out of it in terms of salacious information or dirt on Hillary Clinton, with Natalia Veselnitskaya, they're under the impression that somehow, if it didn't go as planned, then there's no criminal liability.
And every single time they have exposed themselves to have this theme that Bianna is talking about or exposed themselves to endeavor to solicit a foreign government or otherwise to try to influence the campaign, they opened themselves up to additional legal scrutiny. And that's why the investigation, in part, Wolf, continues to be prolonged and elongated because of every single action, every single contradiction and every single meeting we feel -- we find out about. It's more and more vital to say, well, perhaps the scope should include other countries and it does.
GOLODRYGA: And why lie about it?
BLITZER: Go ahead. GOLODRYGA: That seems to be another pattern you see here. No one really has been forthcoming about meeting with Russians. If nothing happened, why lie about it? It appears that Erik Prince has now put himself in an uncomfortable situation, where he may have said one thing in his testimony before Congress and, according to this "New York Times" article, that may not have been true.
You don't have to be a lawyer to realize that when somebody is not forthcoming on multiple occasions, there's a reason to keep digging at the story.
BLITZER: You would think -- you know, Rebecca and I have covered a lot of these presidential campaigns -- that before a senior person in a campaign meets with a foreign official or somebody representing a foreign government, that person would go to the campaign counsel, the lawyer, and say, "You know what? Is this appropriate? Is it legal? Any problems?"
It's -- I suspect they didn't do it, meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower in June or meeting with this emissary for the UAE and the Saudis in August.
BERG: Right. And so we know, Wolf, that this was an unconventional campaign, to put it gently. Sort of an amateur-ish and disorganized campaign, to put it a little more harshly. And so it's absolutely believable that something like this wouldn't have gone through the normal processes.
At the same time, you would imagine that Mueller is asking the question, "Why didn't this go through the normal processes? Was there an agenda here, perhaps, on behalf of some people working for the campaign or was this just sloppy?
BLITZER: Normally, you've got to go check with the lawyers and make sure there's nothing illegal. And as we all know, any presidential campaign can't accept any contribution, in kind or cash, from foreign governments. That is illegal.
Guys, stick around. There's more news that we're following, including some breaking news right now. We're getting some really incredible pictures from Hawaii, where an erupting volcano is spewing fountains of red hot lava. While the pictures are maybe beautiful, the volcano also is spewing very dangerous gases and the swath of destruction is spreading.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is not too far away from that volcano.
So set the scene for us, Stephanie. What's the latest?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you, we were out here yesterday, and we're looking at this lava fountain, and it is much larger today. Take a closer look at this here. You can see it over the cane grasses in this part of Pahoa, Hawaii, and note how that deep orange -- it almost looks like it's been tinted, it's so deeply orange -- how it gets thrust into the sky and it then turns darker before falling back down. It almost looks like it's in slow motion. And behind that, you see that massive cloud of volcanic gases that is also emitting from the earth. That is what is really concerning to officials here, because while the lava is deadly and it is flowing, down to the ocean, having crossed over an evacuation route, 137, that runs along the Pacific here, those gases can really hang over the area if, in fact, the trade winds slow down. They can be deadly. They can cause irritation. They can burn your eyes, make you cough.
And at the same time, where this volcanic movement, this lava is flowing down into the ocean, you've got this mix of hydrochloric acid that is now coming up out of the water from where the lava is hitting the ocean. And also small particles of glass, which are very -- detrimental to your health, to your arms, to your breathing, your eyes.
So that's why the U.S. Coast Guard has set up a perimeter around that water just to make sure that people -- looky-loos don't get too close to it. And then in the distance, Wolf -- I'm not sure if you're able to hear it -- but in the distance, there's also another fissure that's off to my right here, and it, every now and then, lets off almost a cannon-like explosion of volcanic gas that is coming up out of the earth.
You feel it in your chest. It is strong. I watched it. It is throwing rock up into the sky several hundred feet. So that is why they're asking people to be careful there.
There was one man who was hit by a lava bomb over the weekend. We understand it shattered his leg. That is why they want people to be very vigilant here because it is stunning.
Those are beautiful images on some extent, but for the people who live in this smaller contained area of Hawaii, of the big island, it is not just a lava. It is the air quality and it is also the threat of being thrust out of the Earth with these lava bombs, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. We're going to stay on top of all these amazing pictures.
Stephanie, be careful over there. We'll get back to you. Thank you very much.
Coming up, new details about preparations for the high stakes meeting between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un. As North Koreans read "Fire and Fury," is the Trump team having second thoughts about the summit?
[17:50:36] BLITZER: Over at the White House today, the Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told reporters President Trump is not getting cold feet about his upcoming summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
Still, we're seeing signs the President is concerned about the very high stakes and the political risks of next month's scheduled meeting. Let's bring in Brian Todd. Brian, what are you hearing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're seeing reports that in recent days, President Trump has grown increasingly anxious over the summit, pressing his aides on whether he should even go to Singapore at all.
That the President who's always so good at throwing his adversaries off balance has, himself, been thrown off his game by recent statements from Kim Jong-un's regime.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
TODD (voice-over): President Trump, tonight, seems increasingly jittery over a possible summit with Kim Jong-un.
The President tweeting today -- China must continue to be strong and tight on the border of North Korea until a deal is made.
Analysts say that's a reference to recent reports that China may be letting up on sanctions against Kim's regime and allowing more North Korean goods to be smuggled into China.
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Why was that significant? Because President Trump knows that if Kim Jong-un believes the Chinese are going to bail him out economically, Kim is under much less pressure to strike a deal quickly.
TODD (voice-over): Another sign of pre-summit jitters? The "New York Times" reports President Trump has become more and more concerned in recent days that a meeting in Singapore with Kim, quote, could turn into a political embarrassment.
The "Times" reports the President has been pressing his aides on whether he should even go ahead with the statement and was thrown off by a statement the Kim regime made last week.
SANGER: He was quite surprised and, we're told, quite angry to read this statement from North Korea, saying we will never just trade away all of our nuclear capability for some security guarantee and the promise, vague, of some trade with the West.
TODD (voice-over): If the President does go to Singapore, he'll be meeting a young dictator well briefed on him. New information from a former British diplomat, who has recently traveled to Pyongyang, that the North Koreans are studying Trump, analysts say, similar to the way the CIA has researched Kim Jong-un.
JONATHAN POWELL, FORMER CHIEF NEGOTIATOR, UNITED KINGDOM: When I was there in December, they were reading "Art of the Deal" and wanted to discuss the book and what it showed about the President.
When I went back at the beginning of this year, they were reading "Fire and Fury." All on PDFs, not buying the book itself. And trying to discuss what that told them about Trump too.
DEAN CHENG, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think that that is going to give Kim Jong-un insights into Trump's approach, how he negotiates, what his tactics are. So I think this is going to make for almost grandmaster chess style negotiations. But, also, a lot of posturing is probably going to result.
TODD (voice-over): A chess match with enormous stakes, experts say, between two survivors, neither of whom feels he can afford to lose face.
CHENG: Donald Trump is a financially wealthy, successful person who survived in the shark pit of New York financial real estate dealings. Kim Jong-un has survived the acid test of North Korean politics where you win or you die, literally.
TODD: Kim Jong-un has also likely gotten briefed on the summit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Kim made two surprise visits to China in recent weeks, and President Trump has said he thinks Kim Jong-un's change in tone on the summit, his more negative tone, might have been influenced by Xi.
The Chinese have responded by saying their position hasn't changed, that they're pleased with the momentum for dialogue between President Trump and Kim Jong-un -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Apparently, Brian, the President has grown so agitated over this upcoming summit that he even called the South Korean President over the weekend, right?
TODD: That's right, Wolf. And unscheduled call, apparently.
We know that President Trump did speak with Moon Jae-in on Saturday night. The "New York Times" reports the President asked President Moon why that North Korean statement from last week contradicted all the assurances that Moon had received from Kim Jong-un about making a possible deal.
It seemed to be a real sign of discomfort for President Trump because he's meeting with Moon Jae-in tomorrow at the White House. And with that call on Saturday, the President seemingly didn't feel like he could wait for those meetings to address all of his concerns.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you.
Coming up, after the President meets with the top justice and intelligence community officials, the White House announces new actions to look into its claims that a confidential FBI source spied on the Trump campaign.
[17:55:03] Will the President's supporters in Congress now get their hands on highly classified government documents?
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Brazen demand. The Deputy Attorney General and other top officials called to the White House as the President demands to know if an FBI source spied on his 2016 campaign. Is President Trump getting what he wants tonight?
Getting Don to business. Donald Trump, Jr.'s secret Trump Tower meetings apparently weren't limited to talks with Russians. We're getting new reaction this hour to a report that two other foreign nations offered to help his father's campaign.
[18:00:05] Obstruction deadline. Rudy Giuliani claims he knows when the Special Counsel will likely wrap up a key piece of his investigation.