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"Manhattan Madam" Faces Grand Jury In Mueller Probe; Kristin Davis Has Ties To Trump Confidant Roger Stone; New U.S. Sanction Could Be A "Declaration Of Economic War"; Melania Trump Used Chain Migration Visa Opposed By President To Get Her Parents Citizenship; "Manhattan Madam" Faces Grand Jury In Mueller Probe; Kristin Davis Has Ties To Trump Confidant Roger Stone; White House Claims Omarosa Tell-All Is "Riddled With Lies;" Trump Slams Nfl Players For Anthem Protests Stays Quiet On Planned White Supremacist March Near White House; Manafort Trial Delayed by Secretive Meetings With Judge. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 10, 2018 - 17:30   ET


[17:00:03] JIM ACOSTA, CNN ACHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Stone associates, woman known as the Manhattan Madam facing a grand jury. The Long time associate of Roger Stone chooses to appear while other Stone associates defy court orders and other Stone associated, I should say, defies a court order today.

And now radio host identified as the back channel to WikiLeaks has been called to testify. Is the special counsel closing in?

Hush money a former apprentice star turned White House aide claims in her new book she was offered hush money after she was fired. Omarosa Manigault Newman who once defended the President against charges of racism is now making her own claims in a tell-all book. Should she be believe?

Marching again the white supremacists who organized last years violent and deadly rally in Charlottesville are planning to march again this time near the White House. Last year the President calls them very fine people, how they respond this time.

And citizen in-laws, President Trump says he wants to change immigration laws to stop what he calls chain migration but now his own in-laws, the parents of the first lady are sworn in as citizens using the same process. Is the height of hypocrisy? Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta and you're in the Situation Room.

Breaking news, a series of fast-moving developments today in the Russia investigation all centered around long-time front confidant, Roger Stone. While Stone tells CNN he hasn't been contacted by Robert Mueller's team, a friend of Stone's known as the Manhattan Madam decides to face a grand jury, a former aide of Stone's is refusing to go before a grand jury and the special counsel has now subpoenaed the man who Stone says was his back channel to WikiLeaks.

All this as President Trump seeks to divert attention fanning tensions with another blast at NFL players while a former apprentice star drops new bombshells in a tell-all. I'll speak with Congressman Gregory Meeks at the Foreign Affairs Committee and our correspondents and specialists, they're are also standing by with full coverage.

But let's begin first, Kristin Davis, the woman known as the Manhattan Madam is facing a grand jury as part of the Mueller probe one several new twists in the investigation. Our CNN crime and Justice Reporter Shimon Prokupecz is here. Shimon, why would Mueller be interested in her?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, so Jim she was set to appear here in Washington, D.C. under subpoena before the special counsel investigating Russian interference. Her interest, Mueller's interest in her could be because of her close association to Roger Stone. She has known him for more than 10 years. She's done some work for him while he was working on the campaign in 2016.

Their relationship spanned, you know, more than a decade. He is also the godfather to her son and certainly, just appears, just continues to appear that Mueller has questions for her and now, he wanted her to appear before the grand jury about what he knows.

And also, another person as you said who Mueller wanted to question was Andrew Miller, he was subpoenaed, he is defying that subpoena. He's now being held in contempt, Judge had ordered him to be held in contempt, his lawyer is appealing that. He too is a long time associate of Roger Stone. He did some work for him on his website and e-mails so certainly another person that Mueller wants to question about, perhaps this could be all about work that they were doing for Roger Stone during the 2016 campaign.

ACOSTA: And Shimon why is Mueller so interested in Roger Stone it seems there are all of these people connected to Stone who are now in the cross hairs of this investigation?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, it certainly does. And it also seems that they're moving quickly to -- for grand jury action for something to happen, all these people, we know of at least three that have -- that Mueller wants to appear before the grand jury, that are connected to Roger Stone.

So it could be, for many reasons, for one, Roger Stone had communications with what we now know was a Russian intelligence officials according to the FBI and Department of Justice. The Guccifer 2.0, he was communicating with them, so there's that. Also, Roger Stone himself had made statements to people that he was communicating with Julian Assange, then he jokes that he was just joking about it.

And then another individual that you mentioned, this radio host Randy Credico who also was under subpoena now by the special counsel. He has claimed that he may have set up some communications between Julian Assange and Roger Stone so Mueller would want to talk to him about that.

Now, Randy Credico as we know was also long time friend of Roger Stone. Stone issued a statement regarding Randy Credico. And here's what he said, he said that, "Randy Credico was the source who confirmed Asange's June 2016 CNN interview in which the WikiLeaks publisher said he had substantial information on Hillary Clinton and as I testified Credico told me that this material would be released in October. I now realize that Credico's source was a WikiLeaks lawyer and not Assange himself. At no time did Credico tell me what the source, content or scope of the WikiLeaks disclosure would be."

[17:05:11] Now, obviously, Roger Stone has continued to deny any involvement in any kind of what with the Russians or interference and he spoke to our Anderson Cooper on Wednesday and here's what he had to say.


ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP POLITICAL ADVISER: I know that there exists nowhere evidence of Russian collusion or WikiLeaks collaboration or any nonsense pertaining to John Podesta's e-mail. But I'm also mindful of any prosecutor's ability to squeeze underlings to get them to compose testimony against a bigger fish. I have not been contacted by the special counsel's office. I've made it abundantly clear there's no circumstances under which I would testify against the President.


PROKUPECZ: And you know, Jim, just because he hasn't been contacted by the special counsel doesn't mean that he's not in any kind of trouble. It's usually the opposite in this case with the special counsel doesn't reach out to you that could indicate that there may be some trouble for you.

The other thing is that we have also been led to believe that special counsel could be looking at some of Roger Stone's personal finances. Of course he's had close ties to Paul Manafort. They were in business at one point together and could be another avenue that the special counsel could be pursuing regarding Roger Stone.

ACOSTA: It certainly sounds like they're laying the ground work for talking to Roger stone about all this. Shimon the date that Mueller's team to subpoenaed the WikiLeaks intermediary to appear is on September 7th. What's that tell us about the timeline of this probe and whether he's close to finishing, September 17th, what does that mean?

PROKUPECZ: Right. And that's Randy Credico. It's this radio host guy who is also, who has known Roger Stone for quite sometime. So that really tells us that this is going to way past this date that Giuliani has sort of said that he hopes to have everything wrapped up.

There are two things going on, you have the one investigation into obstruction which involves obviously the President, and then you have the other thing, really just general Russian interference and whether anyone that's associated with the Trump campaign was working with the Russians. It seems that that investigation, that part of the investigation certainly indications that they have issued a subpoena, returnable on September 7 before Randy Credico tells you this is going to go on at least for another month, let's say, if not longer.

ACOSTA: Very interesting, OK Shimon Prokupecz, thank you very much.

As President Trump uses his vacation time to launch a new attack on NFL players, there's a new tell-all from a former Trump insider and a new claim of hush money. CNN White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez is covering the President in New Jersey. Boris what's the latest?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Jim. Explosive claims from Omarosa Manigault Newman who is suggesting that the White House offered to pay her off in order for her keep silent about her dealings with President Trump. As the White House pushes back on her allegations that the President is a racist, thousands of white nationals are preparing to demonstrate just outside the White house this weekend.


SANCHEZ: Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former apprentice star who became a top White House aide, bringing more reality show drama with her new tell-all book, claiming she was offering $15,000 a month to stay silent after being fired according to the Washington Post which obtained excerpts from unhinged.

According to the Post she says that President Trump's daughter-in-law Lara Trump who called her offering a job doing diversity outreach for the campaign and a monthly contract in exchange for her silence regarding Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their families. But she says in the book that she turned down the offer, which came via e- mail. It's not known though if that e-mail or the alleged agreement is contained in the book.

Lara Trump, who's married to son, Eric, refused to comment to CNN. Known simply by the first name, Omarosa was one of the few prominent African Americans in the Trump administration. She repeatedly praised the President.

OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.

SANCHEZ: And even defended him on issues of race.

NEWMAN: Donald Trump is racial. But he's not a racist. Yes, I will acknowledge many of the exchanges, particularly in the last six months, have been racially charged. Do we then just stop and label him as a racist, no.

SANCHEZ: But now after working at the White House, she says Trump is a, quote, racist, misogynist and bigot. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tonight pushing back saying, "instead of telling the truth about the good President Trump and his administration are doing to make America safe and prosperous, this book is riddled with lies and false accusations. It's sad that he disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks."

Many of the accusations Omarosa makes her book are impossible to verify but she claims to have recordings that the Post says, they have listened to and match quotations in the book. The attacks from Omarosa come as the President started his day attacking NFL players who kneeled in protests at preseason games.

[17:10:12] The President tweeting, "Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your national anthem or be suspended without pay." And one of the President's top supporters on Fox News is under scrutiny for echoing the message of white nationalists.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX BUSINESS HOST: In some parts of the country it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people.

SANCHEZ: Laura Ingraham's comments immediately getting praise from white supremacists like David Duke.

CROWD: Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!

Sanchez: All setting the stage for a weekend where white supremacists are planning a March outside the White House the to mark the one-year anniversary of the Unite The Rights Charlottesville riots when one woman was killed by neo-Nazi demonstrator. Another reminder of how President Trump responded in the aftermath.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have some very dangerous people in that group but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.


SANCHEZ: Jim, CNN has reached out to officials on both the President's re-election campaign and the Vice President's office. We have yet to hear back.

ACOSTA: Boris Sanchez, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York, a Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, we start first with the latest developments in the Russian investigation. It looks like the special counsel is honing in on Trump confidant Roger Stone. He's been talking to or trying to talk to several people who are connected to Roger Stone. Do you believe Stone is a key witness in all of this? How important do you think Roger Stone is to this investigation?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, I think that there's clearly some linkage. And I think that's why the special prosecutor is looking at Stone and others because you're connecting dots and Roger Stone is one of those dots that can lead to another dot. And you see it starting to happen and going to keep moving on up. So you see the number of individuals that have been indicted earlier, and is continuing one dot after another dot after another dot in a methodical way. ACOSTA: I want to turn to Charlottesville, because we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of that. And as you know, there are supposed to be some more Unite the Right protests this weekend, these White Supremacist rallies that we saw last year that ended in so much violence, we may say -- we are expected to see one here in Washington over the weekend. Do you worried that we can again see more violence? And what should be in advance of all this?

MEEKS: Well, I would hope that there's not any more violence but I wish that the President of the United States, would be the kind of person clearly that he's not that would bring us together, he's dividing us. I think most of America wants us to be together.

And just these few deplorable individuals who are neo-Nazis, and I think that by if the President but others need to speak up. You know, I think often of the conversations and the statements of Dr. King saying that good people who are silent is probably worse than those individuals who are making the noise.

So we need more good people to speak out loudly and clearly I would hope that more of my Republican colleagues would speak out loudly and clearly against these neo-Nazis and other who is are supportive of the President and the President himself when uses language that he has that some of these are good people, they need to stand up and be heard loudly and clearly. But otherwise they're almost just as guilty as those that are making this noise.

ACOSTA: And the President found time this morning, as you know Congressman, to tweet about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. There were few of them at some of this preseason games yesterday, he is saying that they should be suspended without pay. Obviously he is not the NFL commissioner but does it appear to you that he is tougher on these protesting athletes than he is on white supremacist?

MEEKS: Well, that is obviously clear when you look at, you know, he called some of these athletes, you know, who are sons of B.S. He always -- this is gone with LeBron James and done with LeBron James and my colleague Maxine Waters and seems like other African-Americans. He had tried to say they have low IQs, when you listen to any of his language. It's always language that is trying to stereotypical racist type language of which many of the neo-Nazis say themselves. And they've been saying it behind closed doors, but this President is giving them to freedom to say some of those things in open now.

And so, it is clear that this President and the way that he has acted, the words and statements that he has made and you can start, you know, I'm from New York. I have seen him and some of the lawsuits back when with his real estate firm red lining against African-Americans. And you can go step by step by step every, which of way that shows that his actions have been the actions of what neo-Nazis would support strongly.

[17:15:20] ACOSTA: And some of the President's top supporters and conservative media have echoed the language of white nationalists. Let's listen to Laura Ingraham who created a lot of controversy on Fox News earlier this week.


INGRAHAM: Then some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people. And there change is that none of us ever voted for and most of us don't like.

From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country has changed.

Now, much of this is related to both illegal and in some cases legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.


ACOSTA: Do you worry that some of these views are becoming mainstream when she talks about how demographic changes really changed the country in a negative way? What do you think about that?

MEEKS: Well, I don't think it becoming mainstream. I have faith and belief in the United States of America. We are still the greatest country, the greatest experiment of all kinds of people coming together and the more diversity that we have in this country, the better we will be in the future.

I think we are going, you know, on a blimp on the wrong side right now. I hope that we correct ourselves in the 2018 election and the 2020 election. I fully expect that's one of the reasons why the Democrats will take control of the House again and we will win the presidency. Because there were some people who voted for Mr. Trump who just thought they would take a chance.

They see it now that the chance they took was the wrong chance and they're going to want to correct it. So, I still put my faith in America, and the American people. We have the same people that elected Barack Obama twice to be President to be United States and I think we're going to go there.

I do think, though, this is very, you know, the language that was just used is worrisome because it's this very similar to the language utilized back in the 1930s. If you listen to some of the speeches and some of the words that some of the Nazis were saying at that time and the Nazis are saying now. So there's a similarity.

Those Nazis in 1930s that Hitler put in place and the Nazis -- the neo-Nazis of today, listen to the language and the language of the President of the United States and you will see that it is some very, very, very similar language.

ACOSTA: OK, Congressman Gregory Meeks with some strong words there at the end of our interview, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it. Thanks for your time, sir.

MEEKS: Yes, sir. ACOSTA: Coming up next. Super huddles between the judge and lawyers delay the Paul Manafort trial for hours. What were they discussing?

And also ahead, Melania Trump's parents become U.S. citizens and the source says, the first lady used to process her husband regularly condemns as chain migration.


TRUMP: A guy comes in and then you have to bring his aunt, his uncle, his father, his grandfather, his grandparents.



[17:22:30] ACOSTA: The trial of former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort was delayed for five hours today after secret huddles between the judge and lawyers for both sides.

CNN's Kara Scannell is at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Kara, what was the secret conference about? What can you tell us?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Jim, we still don't know what was discussed during those hours that the judge had call the recess in the case and the prosecutors first entered. They went to a sidebar then Manafort was cuddling with his attorneys for quite awhile then the judge excused the jury and said that they had an issue that he wanted to -- he needed to work on. Everyone came back then said he wanted a longer recess. We reconvened at about 2:30 with the testimony beginning with the prosecution's case. But no explanation has been given of why there was a five-hour break.

All the lawyers involved in the case have been mum. We don't have any further word when the judge resumed the case. He just asked the prosecutors to bring in their next witness without discussing it at all in the open court, Jim.

ACOSTA: Fascinating. And Kara, who testified for the prosecution today? Where does that leave them at this point?

SCANNELL: So, the prosecutors called one of the lenders who worked for the federal savings bank that lent Manafort $16 million. This one officer testified today that he was uncomfortable about the personal interest of the bank's chairman, Stephen Calk, had taken and approving Manafort's loan.

Calk had also asked, the loan manager, to follow-up with Manafort to see if he would be considered for a position in the administration, including a treasury secretary. Then Manafort did eventually recommend, we saw evidence earlier in the case that Calk received a position with the secretary of the army.

He -- Calk never received the position but the testimony today was showing how the personal interest of the chairman of the bank approved these loans for Manafort, one loan was approved in 24 hours. We had have heard testimony earlier in the case that will take up to 35 to 45 days. So, the loan officer is testifying under the immunity agreement with prosecutors. And he said specifically that he was uncomfortable because the chairman took a personal interest. He met with Manafort without anyone else present and he said that wasn't the norm, Jim.

ACOSTA: OK. The plot thickens. CNN's Kara Scannell, down in Alexandria, Virginia Court, thank you very much.

Coming up, multiple developments in the Russian investigation today centered around long time Trump confidant, Roger Stone. Three figures close to Stone are called to testify. One refuses as Robert Mueller closing the net?

And former Apprentice star and ex-White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman reportedly claims she was offered hush money but instead is releasing a tell-all-book. The White House is firing back.

[17:25:00] You are in "The Situation Room."


ACOSTA: The White House is firing back.

You are in "The Situation Room."


ACOSTA: Breaking news, associates of Roger Stone and long time confidant of President Trump becomes a focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

Stone's friend, Kristin Davis, who was once known as the Manhattan Madam was scheduled to appear before a grand jury today. Another one time Stone Associate Andrew Miller defied a subpoena and did not appear.


Let's get the insights of our political and legal analysts.

And Joey Jackson, let me go to you first. Why -- I mean it just seems sort of logical here. You don't have to be a lawyer. I'm not a lawyer so, you know, I can't figure this out but, you know, why is Mueller focusing on all of these seemingly minor players surrounding Roger Stone? It seems like he's honing in on Roger Stone.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He absolutely is. So, this is very significant and it's called due diligence, right? Prosecutors are doing due diligence to determine what went on here. You know, interestingly, as lawyers, you know, a jury goes back and deliberating, we have no idea what they're talking about until they send out a note, then we would sense the direction they're going.

So, looks at the direction here. What's the missing link so far in this investigation? What are we all waiting for? The shoe to drop on the "c" word -- call it collusion, conspiracy. Whether there was conspiracy, whether there was an intent, right, to commit a crime and there was mutual agreement. So, he's the guy that we're looking out there that can provide that link, as to whether or not there was this collusion.

How do we know? Remember last month, Jim, that 12 Russian officials indicted, intelligence officers, and then there's the Gucifer? Well, who was Gucifer? Was that Twitter handle that was tied back to the Russians. And who communicated with that person? Roger Stone. Who is an operative to the campaign? Roger Stone. Who could establish any nexus, if any, between the campaign and any illegality to get to that "c" word -- collusion, conspiracy, Roger Stone.

So, prosecutors are doing that due diligence as they move forward to determine whether or not there was collusion. He holds the link. Anyone around him will tell you what his modus operandi was, where he is, what he is, who he's about, and that's why they're calling all these people associated with them to get to the core of what he knows and when he knew it,

ACOSTA: Drawing a lot of lines around Roger Stone it seems, Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It seems like, you know, you go with these concentric circles and, you know, you start from the outside, and then you work your way in and we know that Roger Stone has not been interviewed by the special counsel, which may mean this that he's a target. Normally, if you're a target, they will tell you, they don't have to -- they don't have to tell you, but it certainly seems to me. And he has said publicly that he expects at some point to be indicted, I guess. So, maybe we ought to take him at his word. But we also know one other thing which is that the president -- and you know this, Jim -- continued to talk to Roger Stone even after he was no longer officially or even unofficially with the campaign. They remained friends. Trump doesn't let anybody go.

ACOSTA: He does that with a lot of people.

BORGER: Yes, exactly. So, Roger Stone is one of those people whose known him for decades. And I think they spoke all the time. So, it's not surprising that they're talking to everybody Roger Stone was dealing with in order before they either talk to Roger Stone or charged Roger Stone with something.

ACOSTA: And Mark, some of the biggest players in this investigation still have not interviewed by the special counsel. Gloria just mentioning this. Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr., of course, the president himself. What does that tell you?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things, right? And Joey alluded to this and Gloria just said it as well. You know, if you are out there and you're watching right now, just think of a knot and then the two sides of the string -- and what's happening is the prosecutors, appears to be happening, is pulling it tighter and tighter. That knot in Gloria's speak is concentric circles. Those concentric circles are getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller, and smaller until that knot gets tight and that's when we find out what Robert Mueller has.

I mean, that's a very simple way of doing it. Another thing about Roger Stone, too, is Stone had a business relationship with Paul Manafort, a long-standing business relationship from many, many years ago. So, you have to wonder was there some kind of connection there? And let us not discount and we know this from our intelligence communities that the Russians could have been trying to get into the campaign multiple different ways. So, if the Roger Stone -- if there was an entry to Roger Stone, that doesn't necessarily mean it was the Don Jr. entry, as well.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: And I get to the crux of what this -- what it means of this investigation. There's so much so much pressure on it to wrap up quickly, for example, and that's something we're hearing as recently as today. From the national security perspective, we should want this investigation to wrap up quickly because then we'll know all the different ways that Russia attacked our country, all these different ways that they launched an attack through various American citizens, various financial institutions, laundering information and that sort of thing. But right now, we're in a position where the president and his legal team is saying we need to get this done by "x" date and span on long enough and this focus, this focus on wrapping it up quickly rather than wrapping it up well.

ACOSTA: Correctly. Right.

VINOGRAD: Exactly, which is basically saying to the FBI, don't do your job as well as you could for any number of reasons. We just want to get this over with.

BORGER: Or maybe they don't. And maybe they think it's going to be as we've been reporting this week, you know, that Rudy Giuliani's been saying, you know, this isn't such a bad issue for us during the election. We can use impeachment with our base which will say they're trying to delegitimize this presidency. One more thing about Roger Stone. Don't forget that he sent an e-mail to Sam Nunberg at one point, saying I had dinner with Assange and then they both said, oh, that was a joke.

ACOSTA: A joke.

BORGER: That's a joke. I didn't have dinner with them.

[17:35:13] ACOSTA: Well, they want to wrap things up quickly, but yet they won't give the president up to Robert Mueller's team to testify. And Joey Jackson, I mean, getting to that point, let me ask you this, Trey Gowdy says that the president should testify. Can they really -- can the White House and the president's legal team really get through this crisis without the president in some way, shape or form talking to Mueller's team?

JACKSON: I do think so. Many disagree.

ACOSTA: Really? JACKSON: There's no way the president goes anywhere near Robert

Mueller. No way. If I'm an adviser on that team, we're keeping him away. The president cannot tell the truth. He has no idea what the truth means. He will completely embroil himself in this even further. And I, quite frankly, there's so many other pieces to this puzzle and players, what do you need the president for? The only basis to interview the president is to get to the president's state of mind as it relates to his firing of Comey, the actions he took here and that to engage him, embroil him in criminality.

So, the president, I believe, it's political cover for him to say I want to testify, I want to talk to everybody, you know? But his lawyers are saying, no. I think this could move forward without him. There're too many other people talking who have same information and, quite frankly, Jim, we know what the president thinks because we can get it from his Twitter feed every day and twice on Sunday.

ACOSTA: But Gloria, can the president escape this without being damaged goods if he doesn't testify? Or he doesn't talk to them. He will look like he has something to hide.

BORGER: Well, right. I mean, he thinks, as Joey is saying, that he's discredited Mueller so tremendously but he doesn't have to. I'm sure Mueller has already written his report, by the way. It's done. He's probably just waiting to fill in the blanks. I think the big question here and it's a big debate is, is he going to be subpoenaed? You know, Mueller is not -- is not telling anybody what he really wants yet, and including the president's lawyers, I believe. So, would, would Mueller -- and we don't know the answer to this -- risk extending this for months and subpoena the president to testify on the issue of collusion which occurred if it did occur before the inauguration, so he can't claim executive privilege?

ACOSTA: All right. Well, that's a very interesting point but I think I'm not sure that they're going to be able to use that one. It just seems, at some point, we're going to get to a critical mass here, we may be getting close to that point. Guys, thank you very much.

Coming up, angry reaction of a top Russian official at the prospect of new U.S. economic sanctions. Also, an exclusive new look at the man- made islands China created in the South China Sea; they don't want any visitors.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave immediately. And keep off.


[17:42:25] ACOSTA: Tonight, just more pushback from Russia against the U.S. sanctions announced this week. The Trump administration is imposing the economic sanctions in retaliation for the nerve agent attack in Britain last March that poisoned a former Russian spy and his daughter. Let's go to CNN's Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen in Moscow. A top official there says that these sanctions could be a declaration of economic war, is that right, Fred? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes,

you're absolutely right, Jim. The Russians really accelerating the rhetoric on this over the course of the day. You had Vladimir Putin today chairing a meeting of the Russian National Security Council where apparently, a lot of the members of that security council heavily criticized the United States and called the declaration of those sanctions unacceptable. And then, you have Russia's Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who is the far east of the country today making that declaration that you were just talking about.

I want to read a little bit of it. He said, and I quote: "All I can say is if they ban banking operations or the use of any currency, we will call it a declaration of economic war." And he actually went on to say that the Russians would then retaliate politically and economically. These are left open, what else that means, he said in other ways, as well. So, certainly, you can see the Russians really upping the rhetoric to a certain extent there, Jim. Also, because they're not sure at this point in time whether President Trump's course of trying to get better relations with Russia whether or not that course is really still on, Jim.

ACOSTA: It's fascinating, Fred, because we just saw the president and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, just a few weeks ago getting along famously. And now, we're at this point with this very volatile rhetoric going back and forth. Do you think Russia could retaliate?

PLEITGEN: Well, that's really the big question right now. In the past, we've seen the Russians retaliate. For instance, when the U.S. expelled Russian diplomats from America, we see the Russians do the same thing, as well. Right now, they're struggling a little bit, it seems, as what exactly they're able to do to retaliate, sort of measures they could take to harm the U.S. without exactly harming themselves even more. It's very interesting to see the debate here in Russia about whether or not Russia should retaliate, how I should retaliate. I want to listen to what one panelist said on state-run Russian T.V.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Putin said once, and it was repeated recently, stop fretting and stop making Trump's headache ours. Let's turn this into a headache for Trump. If you want us to support you in the elections, which we are allegedly arranging to do, then do this and do that.


PLEITGEN: So, we have pretty strong words there from that Russian panelist. Obviously, taken a bit of irony, a grain of salt. But you do have some other Russian officials, Russian lawmakers who are talking very tough who are also talking about getting tough on President Trump and really not allowing all of this to slide as one who says our response must not be just symmetrical but preventative. So, the Russians certainly talking tough, at the same time, you have Vladimir Putin spokesman who yesterday said, look, Vladimir Putin still wants those better relations between the U.S. and Russia. He still does remain committed to that. The big question now is how long is that going to continue, Jim?

ACOSTA: All right. Frederik Pleitgen in Moscow for us. Thank you very much. Appreciate that. Stay with us. We'll get an update, live update, just a few moments on the deadly California wildfires. More than a dozen major fires are burning, forcing thousands to evacuate. And first lady Melania Trump's parents become U.S. citizens thanks to a process the president seems determined to end.


[17:45:54] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to get rid of chain migration. Ending chain migration. Ending chain migration.



[17:20:38] ACOSTA: Tonight, we have more details about how Melania Trump's parents just became U.S. citizens. A source says, the first lady's family used a process her husband regularly rails against. CNN's Brian Todd is here. Brian, tell us more about it.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, this is a process where legal residents, people with green cards can sponsor a relative in the U.S. President Trump routinely slams this process at his political rallies. And his supporters love to hear that. But tonight, there are serious criticisms that President Trump is a hypocrite given what his wife and her parents just did.


TRUMP: We have to end chain migration.

TODD: It's been a huge part of the president's political branding.

TRUMP: We want to get rid of chain migration. Ending chain migration. The chain migration.

TODD: Railing against the process where green card holders or legal residents can sponsor a family member to immigrate to America, paving the way for citizenship. Trump's tweet that it "must end now" and his acid-tongued rally cries, rile up his base.

TRUMP: Chain migration. It's wrong. It's wrong.

TODD: But CNN is told this very process is how Melania Trump's parents just became U.S. citizens. That's according to a source with direct knowledge of Mrs. Trump's parents and their immigration status. The source says, Viktor and Amalija Knavs were sponsored by their daughter which allowed them to live in the U.S. indefinitely, just what the president says must end.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR: We really have a hypocrite in chief. He's enjoying the benefits of the law that allows for his in-laws to emigrate and become citizens while putting up a big barrier to people who are brown, black, of different religions.

TODD: Part of a pattern of hypocrisy, Trump biographers say, the manipulations of a man who they say has never had much of a conscience when it comes to talking one way and behaving another.

D'ANTONIO: He's always railed against the other who may not pay their bills while he's going bankrupt and stiffing thousands of contractors. They may, as in the case of President Obama, play a lot of golf and it's a terrible thing. But when it comes to Donald Trump, he can play as much golf as he wants.

TODD: Trump has also pressured American companies to manufacture their goods on U.S. soil, while companies run by Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, have made many of their products overseas. A key question tonight, will Trump's hypocrisy over Melania's parents douse that immigration flame that his fan sow effectively and hurt him politically.

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: He's base has been pretty solid with him. So, I don't think this one aspect of the issues surrounding President Trump would necessarily mean anything in terms of eroding his political support among his base.

TODD: But what about the woman at the center of this?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very excited to announce the best.

TODD: A Trump biographer says, critics should hold their fire on the first lady.

D'ANTONIO: She's not someone who's tried to divide the people, she's not someone who's tried to diminish the humanity of others, she's been expansive in her view and it's consistent in her parents' citizenship.


TODD: Political analyst and Trump biographer say, despite the criticism of hypocrisy here, don't expect the president to stop demonizing immigrants using terms like chain migration at his political events. It is simply too helpful for him with his base. The White House has not responded to the criticism over this development. And first lady's office isn't commenting on her parents' case.

ACOSTA: That's right, Brian, they are not commenting. But there are questions over whether Trump's own mother, Mary Anne Trump, may have benefitted from a process like this, is that right?

TODD: Questions but no definitive answers, Jim. Mary Anne Trump appears to have come to the U.S. from Scotland in the late 20s or early 30s. Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio, says at that time, they didn't really have a formal process of sponsorship. But he says, Mary Anne Trump was greeted in the U.S. by family members under a system which required, you'd approved, that here was someone here who could greet you and vouch for your care. So, it may not have been formal sponsorship, but it was something pretty similar. And Trump's mother may have benefitted from that, something similar to what he calls chain migration.

ACOSTA: Brian Todd, it makes you wonder why the president thinks he can do it with his family, but not everybody else. All right. Brian Todd, thank you very much. Coming up, breaking news, multiple developments in the Russia investigation today centered around long- time Trump confidante, Roger Stone. Is Robert Mueller closing the net?

[17:55:05] And former "Apprentice" star, and ex-White House Aide, Omarosa Manigault, reportedly claims she was offered hush money when (INAUDIBLE) releasing a tell-all as the White House fires back.


ACOSTA: Happening now, breaking news, Mueller's move. The special counsel focuses on the associates of long-time confidant, Roger Stone. The Manhattan Madam preparing to testify before the grand jury while a former aide of Stone refuses. And now, the man who may have been the back channel to WikiLeaks has also been subpoenaed.

Firing back after being fired the by Trump administration. Former "Apprentice" star, Omarosa, is firing back tonight with some explosive claims in her new book, calling the president "racist" and detailing an alleged attempt to silence her.

[18:00:13] Avenatti 2020. Stormy Daniels' attorney --