Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed; John McCain Ending Cancer Treatment; Trump Organization CFO Granted Immunity in Cohen Investigation; Trump's Longtime Money Chief Granted Immunity by Feds; Flooding and Landlines in Hawaii as Hurricane Bears Down; Trump's Longtime Money Chief Granted Immunity by Feds; Senator McCain Ending Treatment of Cancer. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 24, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Who might turn on Mr. Trump next?
Canceling on Kim. The president orders his secretary of state to call off a new trip to North Korea, as evidence mounts that the regime isn't keeping its nuclear promises. Is Mr. Trump's deal with the dictator crumbling?
And McCain's decision. The Republican senator known for doing things his way chooses to end his medical treatment for brain cancer. New details tonight on a former prisoner of war's painful personal battle.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: Another keeper of President Trump's secrets has cut a deal with the feds, and this one has the ability to expose where all the financial bodies are buried.
CNN confirming that the top moneyman in the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, has been granted immunity. And this caps a week of game- changing developments that likely put the president in greater legal jeopardy than ever before.
Also breaking, a Republican senator, political maverick and war hero makes a gut-wrenching decision. John McCain now discontinuing treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer.
I will talk to Senator Jack Reed. He's the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee that's chaired by Senator McCain.
And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, the criminal investigations hanging over the president right now or hitting him, and they're hitting in closer to home.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
It appears prosecutors are following the money. This is undoubtedly another legal blow for President Trump in what has been a critical week in the Russia investigation, and the president is continuing to take out his frustrations on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
My colleagues and I are told that the president has been fuming about firing the attorney general as recently as the last few weeks. But so far, the president has been talked off the ledge.
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump remained silent as he left with the first lady for a speech in Ohio with a growing list of legal worries hot on his tail.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's my chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.
ACOSTA: The latest concern, federal prosecutors have granted immunity to Allen Weisselberg, who once appeared on Mr. Trump's TV show, "The Apprentice."
But, more critically, he's the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, the president's private company whose finances are cloaked in secrecy. A source on the president's legal team downplayed Weisselberg's cooperation, which could be crucial as prosecutors unravel the plot held by Mr. Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to funnel hush money to women alleging affairs with the president.
The attorney for one of those women, porn star Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, believes more may be at stake.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: The only reason then that they would give up immunity to Mr. Weisselberg is if they were looking beyond Michael Cohen. They would need essentially his testimony and cooperation to look at someone else higher up the food chain, if you will.
There's only one person that that is likely to be. And that is Donald Trump.
QUESTION: Are you a hero? Do you think you're a hero now?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I will leave that up to you.
ACOSTA: Cohen can be heard on an audiotape obtained by CNN talking to Mr. Trump about Weisselberg. The apparent subject? Making payments to cover up the president's past behavior.
And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with...
TRUMP: So, what do we got to pay for this? One-fifty? COHEN: ... funding. Yes. And it's all the stuff.
ACOSTA: A big question is how the president decides to respond. He once told "The New York Times" an investigation that crept into his family's finances would cross a red line.
QUESTION: Mueller is looking at your finances, your family's finances unrelated to Russia. Is that a red line?
TRUMP: I would say yes. I would say yes.
ACOSTA: Sources tell CNN the president has fumed for months and even in the last several weeks that he would like to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions
One day after Sessions insisted the Justice Department would remain independent, Mr. Trump appeared to mock that notion, tweeting: "Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. Jeff, this is great. What everyone wants. So look into all the corruption on the other side," adding, "Come on, Jeff, you can do it. The country is waiting."
ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president is head of the executive branch. And he decides who serves in his Cabinet. And to continue to criticize the attorney general, I think, makes the president appear weak.
ACOSTA: One person keeping a safe distance from all the drama, Vice President Pence, who steered clear of Mr. Trump's legal turmoil at a speech in Washington. instead, Pence advised the crowd to get their news from word of mouth, not the media.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hold the view that the most powerful media in America is not television news, it's not the Internet or social media. I have always believed and still believe the most powerful media in America has always been and will always be word of mouth.
ACOSTA: Now, the president declined to speak to reporters before leaving for Ohio.
But the image of his departure did speak volumes, Wolf. Even amidst all of the questions about porn star payments and so on this week, the president was joined by the first lady. She was really by his side as they left for Ohio, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Let's dig deeper now on Allen Weisselberg's immunity deal and his role in the Trump world.
Our national correspondent, Athena Jones, is joining us right now. Athena, what did prosecutors wants to know from Weisselberg that would have required an immunity deal?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, a source familiar tells us that Weisselberg's interview with prosecutors happened weeks ago, and that it focused on Michael Cohen and these hush money payments to two women who have -- who said that they had affairs with Trump, which Trump denies.
We know that Weisselberg is a major player in the Trump Organization. In that secret recording that Cohen released a few weeks ago, you can hear Cohen say that he consulted with Weisselberg on establishing a shell company to make a payment.
And in Cohen's plea deal, Weisselberg is referred to as Executive One, the person who arranged $420,000 in payments to Cohen to pay him back for the payment he made to Stormy Daniels
Weisselberg wrote: "Please pay from the trust, post to legal expenses" when he forwarded Cohen's invoices to another executive. So it's very clear here, Wolf, that he has played a key role in all of this.
BLITZER: Athena, how big a threat to President Trump is it that prosecutors are talking to Weisselberg?
JONES: Well, this is certainly a big deal. We're talking about a person who has been working for Trump for decades.
He is the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization. He's been running the company with the president's two eldest sons since Trump took office. He prepared Trump's tax returns. He's also the Trump Foundation treasure. And, as you know, the New York attorney general is suing the Trump Foundation for coordinating charitable expenses to benefit Trump's presidential campaign in places like Iowa.
And just to give you a sense of just how much Weisselberg knows, when he was subpoenaed last month as part of this Cohen deal, a former Trump Organization employee said that this was the ultimate nightmare scenario for Trump.
And that's because Weisselberg knows about every deal, every sale, anything and everything that's been done. And he personally kept Trump updated on all these matters, so it can't make the president happy to see that this very important person in his organization has been cooperating with the feds.
One thing we should note, though, is that our source tells us that Weisselberg has not been brought back in for questioning since that interview weeks ago. So we don't know when or if he will be questioned again -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point. Athena, thanks very much for that solid reporting.
We're going to have much more on this breaking news coming up. But I quickly want to turn to Senator John McCain and his decision to end his cancer treatment. Tonight, there's an outpouring of support for this honored veteran of war and politics.
I want to bring our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, who has covered Senator McCain for a long time.
What more can you tell us, first of all, about this decision, very personal decision, by the senator?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure, that there's no way, knowing Senator McCain the way I do, the way you do, and even what people around the world know about him, that this decision was easy, because he is a fighter, he doesn't stop moving.
One of the things that always sticks with me when I think about the essence of McCain is somebody -- something that one of his former aides once said to me is that he's like a shark, he can't stop moving, because he's always on the go, he is always looking forward, he's always wanting to deal with whatever is in front of him, and then the next six steps ahead.
So the fact that obviously he has been a different -- in a different way for the past year, certainly in the past six months, trying to deal with this disease, but he's still tried to engage as much as he could through his staff, with his family, and he's also somebody, Wolf, who has been very clear about what he thinks America's place in the world is, what his place in the world is.
And he has written so extensively about this, along with his longtime collaborator, Mark Salter. One of the things he's has said is about the world, an allusion to Ernest Hemingway, "For Whom the Bell Tolls": "I hate to leave it, but I don't have a complaint, not one. It's been quite a ride."
So I think it's important that we all keep that in mind, his own words as he's clearly in his final days.
BLITZER: Yes. It's quite a ride indeed.
So what does this mean right now, practically speaking, for the U.S. Senate?
BASH: Well, for the U.S. Senate and for sort of politics in general, it is no secret that John McCain is no friend of President Trump, and not just friend. He is somebody who thinks that he is destroying the institution of the presidency, never mind America's leadership role around the world.
And so I want to play for you part of an allusion to that that Senator McCain talked about in his most recent book, which was just out in May.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Before I leave, I would like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations.
I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: That's not happening.
The man in the White House hasn't heeded that. The people who he serves with in Congress have not heeded that. And so I think that as we sort of are on the precipice of something that we knew was coming, it makes it even tougher, because we understand that what John McCain has striven for, has wanted, has spent his life's work doing from his perspective is being undermined right now by the body politic, whether it's his Senate, which -- the Senate, which he loves, or his fellow Republican in the White House.
BLITZER: Yes, our deepest, deepest thoughts and prayers are with the senator, his loving family, his close friends right now.
BLITZER: These are very, very difficult times.
Dana, thank you very much.
Joining us now, someone who worked very closely with Senator McCain, Senator Jack Reed. He's the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. Senator McCain is the chairman, as our viewers know.
And I want to get your thoughts, Senator Reed, on Senator McCain in just a couple moments.
But, first, let's begin with the breaking news, the important developments in the case of Michael Cohen. Do you believe the immunity deal granted to the Trump Organization chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, means that President Trump himself right now potentially is in serious legal jeopardy?
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, I think this is indicative of the net widening in terms of personalities that are going to be caught up with them.
Based on what Mr. Cohen pled under oath to, the suggestion that the president was involved is quite clear. And this gentleman is the chief financial adviser and confidant to the president.
In fact, what I think the president should do, and should have done a long time ago, in order to try to resolve this, if he could, would be to release his taxes, because there's indications -- there always has been -- that something might be in this. He could put that to rest.
And also he should sit down with the special prosecutor, Mr. Mueller and answer those questions. If he has nothing to hide, if he can refute what Mr. Cohen suggested, what other people have suggested, he should do it immediately, and put this drama behind us, so that the American people and the American system can get on with our important work.
BLITZER: This is being carried out, Senator, by prosecutors with the Southern District of New York, the U.S. attorney's office, Southern District of New York.
But the Michael Cohen case was originally handed -- also by the Southern District of New York, it was referred to them by Robert Mueller, the special counsel here in Washington. Do you think this ultimately will tie back to the special counsel's Russia probe?
REED: It could. It depends where the evidence leads all of these investigators.
But I think it's significant to note that these are career federal prosecutors. These are not individuals that are directly related to the Mueller investigation. These are professionals. Their job is to uphold the Constitution, to ensure that the laws are enforced, to ensure that no individual is above the law.
And they're doing this job professionally, competently, and with great diligence, as indicated by their guilty plea obtained from Mr. Cohen.
BLITZER: The president said going after his business and personal finances would cross what he called a red line. Do you worry that this news could trigger an attempt by the president to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller, even though this is coming from prosecutors in New York?
REED: The only line that should be relevant here is legal vs. illegal. And that is the province of professional prosecutors to make a determination, based on the facts and the evidence, not assumptions, facts and evidence, to look for those facts and evidence.
And, ultimately, the judgment will be rendered by individual Americans, as they did in Manafort trial. Those are 12 Americans who listened to evidence. Both sides had the opportunity to make the case, and they decided convincingly against Mr. Manafort in multiple counts.
So the issue is not red lines vs. the president's sensitivities. It's the law and following the law. And no one should be above the law.
BLITZER: The president is once again going after, very publicly, very brutally, the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions.
Are you surprised at the same time that Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham, for example, who once said there would be -- quote -- "holy hell to pay" if the president got rid of the attorney general, that some of them at least now are open to the possibility of replacing immediately after the midterm elections in November?
[18:15:03] REED: Well, I think the attorney general has stood up and, as he should, indicated that he is going to ensure that the Justice Department is not run based on a political agenda, but it's run based upon the impartial enforcement of the laws of the United States.
That's a position every attorney general should have. I would hate to see his position jeopardized by standing up for the laws of the United States and the Constitution of the United States.
BLITZER: Let's turn to the very sad news that we're all getting today from the family of Senator John McCain. The family says he has decided to discontinue treatment for his very aggressive brain cancer.
You served alongside Senator McCain for many, many years on the Armed Services Committee. What has Senator McCain meant to you? What has he meant also to the U.S. Senate?
REED: He is a remarkable American hero. He will go down in history as one of the greatest senators because of his service in the Senate, because of his willingness to reach across the aisle, because of his courage to take tough decisions, because of his unwavering commitment to this country in many different ways, as a Navy pilot, with the courage to go through enemy aircraft and to be shot down.
I was with him in Hanoi in 2015. We were in the Hanoi Hilton. It was a moment to me that I will never forget, being in that place with that courageous hero.
And his whole life has been about service. He learned that from his father and his grandfather, both Navy admirals, but I think he also learned from the young men and women, the enlisted personnel, the petty officers who all were with him. He never forgot that what we did in the Senate, regardless of whether it was a military issue or anything else, ultimately, it was affecting or helping in some way these young men and women and other young men and women.
It was about America. He's a remarkable man. And this day we know was going to come, but it's a day that we reflect even more about how lucky we are to have him.
BLITZER: Well said, indeed, a truly great American, as we all know.
Senator Reed, thanks so much for joining us.
REED: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we're going to have more on why the president's top moneyman was granted immunity by the feds and what he may have told the prosecutors.
And we will also talk about the growing concerns that Mr. Trump is dangling a pardon in front of Paul Manafort. Could that be considered obstruction of justice?
BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news on the immunity deal that's probably sending shudders down the president's spine tonight.
We have learned that the man who knows more about Mr. Trump's finances than anyone else testified in the Michael Cohen investigation, knowing he was safe from prosecution himself.
Let's bring in our analyst.
And, Jeffrey Toobin, we're talking about Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. He's worked there for 40 years, not 20, not 30, 40 years. He knows a lot about Donald Trump and his business, his personal life as well.
What's the significance of the federal prosecutors granting him immunity in exchange for his testimony?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, he was brought in as a witness to build the case against Michael Cohen. And that was very successful. They had -- they had a guilty plea, so Weisselberg will not have to testify at a trial.
The question is, what else are the prosecutors interested in getting from Weisselberg and from David Pecker, the -- who was also immunized, the chief executive of the "National Enquirer" company?
We don't know that. I mean, we really just don't know what else they are trying to get from Weisselberg. But, certainly, after they speak to Michael Cohen and debrief him, there will be more questions for Weisselberg, and we will see if they want to bring or can bring any other cases.
BLITZER: It is interesting, Susan Hennessey.
Federal prosecutors, as you know, they don't grant immunity easily. They have got to get something major in return. How much do you suspect Weisselberg is giving them right now?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, federal prosecutors don't grant immunity unless they need the testimony in question.
So whenever you subpoena someone to the grand jury and they threaten to assert the Fifth Amendment, the prosecutors have a choice to make. Either they can decline to have the testimony or they can offer immunity.
So I think it is significant that they're saying that both Weisselberg and David Pecker are people who they want the information that they have more than they want the possibility of prosecuting these people.
Now, we don't know if it's use immunity or transaction immunity, which would matter whether or not they're going to prosecute. But ordinarily they don't offer any forms of immunity, just because it become so incredibly complex. To Jeffrey's point, I do think the big question here is, who is the ultimate target of all of this? If the hint here is that Weisselberg and Pecker are not people that prosecutors ultimately are going after, and they don't think they can indict a sitting president, then who is the target?
It's really hard to imagine Michael Cohen kind of is the ultimate big fish here.
BLITZER: Yes, because they had a lot of evidence on Michael Cohen without necessarily Weisselberg's testimony.
Laura Jarrett, Weisselberg is cooperating with the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. But is he also cooperating with Robert Mueller and others at the Justice Department?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Not necessarily.
As Susan mentioned, there are different types of immunity. And we don't know exactly what deal his attorneys struck with those prosecutors. It may be the case that it's very limited.
Our reporting is that this interview actually happened two weeks ago, unbeknownst to all of us, and he hasn't been called back. So it may be that they're all done and it's wrapped up.
To me, the more interesting idea here is that the number of people in Trump's inner circle that have now turned to be on the state's side. We have Michael Cohen this week. We have David Pecker, as we have mentioned, and we now have Weisselberg.
And it's much harder, I think, to say that this is some Democratic conspiracy when these are all people in Trump's inner circle.
BLITZER: Yes, it's interesting.
TOOBIN: By the way, if I could just add one thing.
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
TOOBIN: We now know there are state investigations as well of the Trump Organization, perhaps just the charities.
Cohen, Pecker, Weisselberg will all be -- were interviewed under -- in state, in the state investigation as well, which is not under the control of the federal government, the Justice Department. The New York City district attorney is an elected -- the Manhattan district attorney is an elected official here.
So this investigation is going broader now than anything related to the Justice Department.
BLITZER: Yes, it's not just the feds. It's the New York state attorney general, the district attorney in Manhattan, and others potentially in the taxation division in New York as well.
There's a lot of legal -- potential legal problems that the president is facing right now.
So, Ryan Lizza, how do you think he's coping? How do you think he's dealing with it? We have seen him lash out over a lot less than this.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, the number of people who are close to him, around him, people who are important advisers who know all of his secrets, the number of people who are cooperating with prosecutors is sort of breathtaking at this point.
And that's not to mention that the other aides on the periphery, like Omarosa and other people, who are just sort of spilling all of his secrets. So, I mean, he must feel under siege right now. And he's dealing with just a series of metastasizing criminal investigations, civil suits.
We haven't even talked about some of the civil suits that will be coming to a head soon. This thing is snowballing right now. He must be feeling an enormous amount of pressure.
BLITZER: Yes, and knowing the president as I do, I'm sure he's not very happy.
Omarosa's book, new book, debuted number one on "The New York Times" bestsellers list. That must be...
LIZZA: Guess who helped her get it there? Donald Trump.
BLITZER: That must be deeply irritating to the president as well, knowing how he feels about rankings and stuff like that.
LIZZA: Well, he did it by tweeting incessantly about it.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure he must have helped her a little bit.
Jeffrey, I want you to listen to what the president said during the campaign in 2016 about granting immunity to individuals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If you're not guilty of a crime, why do you need immunity for?
The reason they get immunity is because they did something wrong. If they didn't do anything wrong, they don't think in terms of immunity.
Did anybody ever see so many people get immunity? Everybody. You're guilty, you're guilty, we will give everybody immunity, everyone. Why do you need to investigate if everyone's going to get immunity, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The context, he was complaining about individuals who were
being questioned involving a Hillary Clinton matter and other related Democratic Party issues. He was screaming at them for the immunity they were getting.
TOOBIN: You know, 200 years of civil liberties in the United States out the window with listening to those comments.
We have a Fifth Amendment in this country because the right against self-incrimination is something the founders thought was -- was important, that we don't think that we should force people to talk.
And giving people immunity when they -- when they take their Fifth Amendment rights does not mean that they're guilty. It does not mean that David Pecker, that Mr. Weisselberg are guilty of anything. And that was true of the Clinton people -- the Obama people who got immunity as well.
Immunity simply is a way of prosecutors getting the testimony of individuals who take the Fifth Amendment. But taking the Fifth Amendment in the United States is not a confession of guilt. I know Donald Trump thinks it is. At least he thought it was when Obama people were taking the Fifth.
But the basis of our constitutional system is that taking the Fifth is not an admission of guilt.
BLITZER: Susan Hennessey, your what's your take on that?
HENNESSEY: Right. I don't think it necessarily has had a change of heart, because I don't think he believes anything in the first instance, right?
Donald Trump just kind of says whatever is convenient at that moment, whoever he can attack. I do think that this is a question of sort of the president being not just unable to respect, but unable to comprehend really, really basic principles about our constitutional structure, like the presumption of innocence.
Now, those are statements that he made while he -- during the campaign. People have long hoped that the oath of office was this transformative event for the president, now, suddenly, he's going to start respecting this stuff.
But I think it goes to show us sort of how deeply entrenched is his lack of understanding about how the office and the country that he's supposed to be leading operate.
BLITZER: Over the years, he's definitely besmirched those who plead the Fifth. He's definitely besmirched those who seek immunity in exchange for their testimony.
[18:30:09] Yesterday we heard him say that those who flip, the flippers, those who are willing to cooperate with federal investigators, the FBI, in exchange for potentially reduced sentence, that, potentially, should be made illegal. He's going after a lot of basic principles.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: He is, but it doesn't -- as Susan said, it doesn't seem to stem from any ideological real holding about where we were founded as a country. It seems to serve political ends, Wolf.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's much more we need to discuss.
The president isn't letting up on his attacks against the attorney general of the United States, even after Jeff Sessions punched back publicly. How will this fight end?
And the defiant one. A would-be witness is challenging Robert Mueller's authority. Will he wind up behind bars?
BLITZER: We're back with our analysts. As we close a week of major legal drama for the president and the criminal investigations moving closer and closer to his doorstep.
Susan Hennessey, the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, as you know, he's now very publicly discussing the possibility of a pardon for Paul Manafort, the president's now-convicted former campaign chairman but after the Mueller probe winds up. Some are saying already this is potentially obstruction of justice.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it is potentially a legal issue, and I think the relevant statute is probably the federal witness tampering statutes. It is a crime to corruptly attempt to get someone to withhold testimony or in order to delay or hinder an investigation.
You know, this goes back to sort of similar conduct that we had in the Comey firing. The president has the constitutional authority to issue pardons. He has the constitutional authority to fire members of the executive branch, but when he does it for a corrupt purpose, you know, that actually can become obstruction of justice on its own. And this might even end up being a clear-cut case.
You know, the other thing that I think is relevant here is Rudy Giuliani is the person that is counseling the president on a pardon. He is the president's personal attorney, now counseling the president on taking this very significant official act.
And so it's just another example of this bizarre commingling of the president's personal interests and the actual nature of his office.
BLITZER: Do you think, Jeffrey Toobin, that Mueller is looking at this, potentially, as obstruction?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I don't know at this point about -- about the pardon, but I think we need to look at all these issues regarding obstruction of justice not as individual acts. Is Rudy Giuliani saying one thing to the press on obstruction of
justice? I think the answer to that clearly is no.
But if you look at a pattern of activity, particularly regarding interference with the Mueller investigation and -- and, you know, starting with the firing of Comey, each individual act doesn't have to be illegal, but if it is all part of a pattern, there could be, you know, a claim that -- that the entire scope of activity is an obstruction.
BLITZER: Because as you remember, the impeachment of then-president Bill Clinton that originated with articles of impeachment involving obstruction of justice.
TOOBIN: As did the articles of impeachment that were before the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 with Richard Nixon.
BLITZER: That's right.
TOOBIN: This is one of the core functions of the government, of the executive branch, but it can be used corruptly. That's what the House Judiciary Committee thought about Richard Nixon. That's what the House of Representatives thought about Bill Clinton. We'll see where this goes with Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Very public exchange of views between the president of the United States and the attorney general of the United States, but this time it was different.
JARRETT: Yes. An exchange is one way to put it. I think it was certainly incredible to watch it happen in real time.
Because Jeff Sessions does not typically respond, for all of the daily beatings and bullying that he gets on Twitter. Yesterday was the first time he really hit back, and even his hit back was measured. Right? It was not, you know, anything kind of outlandish.
But it seems to me, and what I'm hearing from sources, is the reason it got under his skin is this idea that he had no control, that he has no authority. And --
BLITZER: That Sessions has no control.
JARRETT: Exactly. And that's really what bothered him about it. And that's why, you know, his daily machinations on Twitter about even this morning about Reality Winner, a leaker, and all those types of things, saying, "Come on, Jeff," that type of stuff is not going to rile him up. And I don't think we should see daily responses from the attorney general. I don't expect to see that. But we will see it when he questions his integrity or when he, you know, tests his control, like he did yesterday.
BLITZER: I don't remember a time when the president of the United States was so publicly humiliating and embarrassing and ridiculing the attorney general of the United States. Let me get your thoughts, Ryan, on the very sad news we got from
Senator McCain's family today, that he was ending his treatment for aggressive brain cancer. You've covered Senator McCain for a long time. I have, as well.
I want to play a clip. This -- we put together a little mash-up of the president of the United States since -- this is all since -- since Senator McCain was diagnosed with this aggressive brain cancer, what the president has said about Senator McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[18:40:00] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Early in the morning, a man walked in, and he said, "Thumbs down, thumbs down." That was not good.
John McCain came in, and he went thumbs down at 3 a.m. in the morning. And we had Obamacare beaten, and one senator decided to go thumbs down.
We had a gentleman, late into the morning hours, go, "Thumbs down." That was not a good thing he did. That was not a good thing for our people, for our country.
(via phone): I mean, you look at what McCain, what McCain has done is a tremendous slap in the face of the Republican Party. Tremendous.
(on camera): Senator McCain, who voted again us getting good healthcare.
You all remember that evening. Somebody came in with a thumbs down.
I had Obamacare done, except for one guy at 2 a.m. in the morning went in and says, he went, "Thumbs down."
(via phone): We had Obamacare repealed and replaced, and a man -- I won't mention his name -- but a man at 2 a.m. in the morning went, "Thumbs down."
(on camera): So then one man very early in the morning went, "Thumbs down." So that was that day. That was a very sad day for the Republican Party. That was a very sad day for the country when that vote was cast, that final vote was cast, "Thumbs down."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know, I'm anxious to get, Ryan, your thoughts on that, on this day when there's been an outpouring of support for Senator McCain. So far, at least as of now, silence from the president and from the White House.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. He hasn't said anything. He's had nice things to say about Chairman Kim of North Korea, but nothing to say about McCain yet.
I mean, we're going to be hearing him talking a lot about McCain in the coming days. And I think it will be impossible not to reflect on his career without thinking about our current politics and what's going on with our current president.
And just thinking back to some of the moments that McCain, that really stand out to me in covering him for, gosh, almost 20 years now, the one moment that I think back to is when he was running against Barack Obama in 2008. And there was enormous pressure in the Republican Party to go after Obama in a more aggressive way and, frankly, a really ugly way. And there was a lot of ugly talk in the Republican base.
And Wolf, you'll remember a woman stood up at a town hall with John McCain and said something very derogatory about Obama, accused him of being a secret Muslim or something like that, and McCain came right back at her and said, "No," you know, defended his opponent, Obama, explained why it was wrong -- you know, one, there's nothing wrong with being a Muslim, but two -- just that kind of leadership in not playing to the worst instincts of your own party's supporters, but leading them and trying to explain what's wrong with those sentiments, that's been lost in the last decade, especially, frankly, on the Republican side.
LIZZA: And I think, you know, he deserves a lot of credit for that kind of leadership.
BLITZER: He certainly does. You know, a real mensch, as we say, Senator John --
LIZZA: And one of the funniest, most interesting people to cover.
BLITZER: Yes, I covered for a long time myself, and we all send our deepest thoughts and prayers to him and his loving family.
Coming up, as prominent figures turn on the president, who is the one potential witness defying Robert Mueller and risking time in jail? We're going to tell you.
And it's rare for a hurricane to threaten Hawaii, but it's happening right now, and it's a life-threatening situation. We'll take you there, just ahead.
[18:48:06] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Tonight, the president's longtime gatekeeper is on a growing list of Trump allies now cooperating with the prosecutors. But there's one potential witness who remains steadfast at his refusal to testify in his defiance of the special counsel Robert Mueller.
Our political correspondent Sara Murray working the story for us.
Sara, his name is Andrew Miller, he worked for Republican operative Roger Stone. SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And he
initially cooperated with Robert Mueller's investigation. He answered questions from FBI agents for about two hours without an attorney present, but after he was served with a subpoena, and asked to testify about a number of topics, including Roger Stone, Andrew Miller decided he wanted to fight back.
MURRAY (voice-over): One by one, Roger Stone's associates have trekked in to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller's team or testify before his grand jury. It hasn't always been pleasant.
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I was there for three hours, I would compare it to a proctology appointment with a very large-handed doctor.
MURRAY: Now, one of Stone's longtime aide is putting up a fight.
ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL OPERATIVE: The office of special counsel is seeking to subpoena my longtime associate, Andrew Miller, a libertarian activist and pro-marijuana activist who worked for me some three years ago.
MURRAY: Andrew Miller, libertarian, former California pot farmer, and current house painter in Missouri, is refusing to testify before the grand jury and racing a constitutional challenge to whether Mr. Mueller has the authority to oversee the Russia probe.
A number of federal judges have already upheld Miller's appointment and constitutional authority. But Miller's crusade is the first time higher federal courts could weigh in on Mueller's actions as special counsel.
Miller's attorney says they're prepared to take this fight to the Supreme Court and Miller is an ideal client.
PAUL KAMENAR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR ANDREW MILLER: He worked on Gary Johnson's campaign in 2016. He doesn't, didn't vote for Trump, doesn't like Trump's policy. So he is committed for a restricted government power, and what we have here with Robert Mueller is basically a super U.S. attorney.
[18:50:04] MURRAY: With the special counsel circling Stone, Miller is just one of a half dozen of Stone's friends and former associates summoned by Mueller's team. Miller worked for Stone on and off for about a decade as Stone's driver, traveling aide and tech guru, even fielding emails to the Stone Zone, the official website for Stone's clips, quips and columns.
ANDREW MILLER: You hear all of these stories about roger being in this dark, you know, mystical creature. For me, he's just Uncle Stone. He bought me my first three suits.
MURRAY: Stone calls Miller a pugnacious bantam rooster, telling CNN, Miller is a good father, a devoted husband and a loyal friend. The efforts to squeeze him to bear false witness against me are despicable.
Miller's attorneys insist he's a regular working-class guy, who knows nothing about Russian collusion and has nothing to hide.
But in court hearings, one of his attorneys said Miller would have to exert his Fifth Amendment against self incrimination if forced to testify about Stone.
MURRAY: Now, we will see what happens as this court challenge plays out and whether there is a judge who will try to put a limit on Mueller's authority, or whether Andrew Miller will, in fact, be compelled to testify. Wolf, his lawyers say he's not willing to go to jail over this. If he loses the court challenge, he will comply and he will testify.
BLITZER: Very interesting stuff. Sara, thank you very much for that report.
Just ahead, life-threatening rain, flooding and landslides in a tropical paradise. We're going to have the latest on the hurricane emergency in Hawaii.
And even as the storm approaches, fires are raging. CNN is in the danger zone. We're going to have a live report.
[18:56:19] BLITZER: We're following a very dangerous situation in Hawaii this hour as a hurricane closes in, unleashing life threatening amounts of rain.
CNN's Nick Watt is on the island of Oahu in Honolulu.
Nick, what's the latest where you are?
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'm on Waikiki Beach, and, frankly, it's a surreal scene. It's -- tourists trying to get the last bit of beach time in before the storm hits Oahu sometimes within the next few hours. Now, it's been moving north.
The first place that it hit was the big island and it hit the big island hard, 40 inches of rain in places. That is described as catastrophic. The flooding is really immense down there, and also the land, the ground is now so waterlogged, any new rainfall can immediately be a flash flood.
We've had landslides down there. There are roads closed. We've had tourists about to be rescued from rental homes down there and if you move further north, Maui is also being hit. Some wildfires there, also heavy rain there and it is expected to move north towards Oahu.
Now, the good news is, at some point, this storm, the eye of the storm is going to veer out to the Pacific Ocean and away from Oahu. That is what they hope. They just don't know when the turn is going to be made.
Now, as I mentioned, 40 inches of rain down there on the big island. Oahu could be a different story here. Nearly a million people live here. There are a lot of tourists here, there are hotels right on the beachfront and the mayor here said just a couple of hours ago, he said, listen, if we get half the rainfall here they got on the big island, that's going to cause major, major problems -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Be careful out there. Nick Watt, thank very much.
I want to bring in our meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's in the severe weather center.
Jennifer, how bad could this get for Hawaii?
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Nick is right. It all depends on that turn.
Now, the storm is still headed to the north, straight for the islands. But by tomorrow morning, we do expect that turn to the west. And that's going to make all the difference, depending how soon or how late that happens. That will depend on a lot of the impacts for some of the islands. Not as far as the rain so much, because we're getting rain anyway, but it will make a difference as far as the wind goes.
So, right now winds, 105 miles per hour, gusts 125. Moving to the north at 5, of course, this storm on its track is expected to take that turn to the west by tomorrow morning. At a 75 mile-per-hour storm and then continue to weaken. The trade winds are supposed to carry this off to the west very rapidly.
But we are going to get tropical storm force winds in the islands. Big island still getting that, Maui, Oahu as well. Looks like the hurricane force winds are going to stay offshore. As long as this makes that turn on time. If it takes quite a bit longer, we could see stronger winds.
The rain is definitely the biggest threat with this as Nick was talking about. We have seen impressive totals. Thirty-five inches of rain nearly on the big island. We've had those landslides, the road closures, just incredibly dangerous situation. More rain to come for the islands of Maui, Oahu, Kauai, as we go through the next couple of days.
So, we could see additional 10 to possible 20 inches of rain for some of those western-most islands, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Let's wish all of our friends in Hawaii only the best. Jennifer, thank very much.
Finally tonight, we want to say so long and good luck to a key member of our SITUATION ROOM family. Steven Page, our editorial producer, who's booked many of our most prominent and compelling guests is leaving after six years at CNN, four with our show, heading off to graduate school in London. We're confident he will be successful in everything he does down the road. He's a great guy.
Stephen, thank you. You will be missed.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.