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Sources: Rosenstein Discussed Secretly Taping Trump, Invoking 25th Amendment; Deadline Just Passed For Kavanaugh Accuser To Respond To GOP Counteroffer And Terms For Her To Testify; Cyberattacks By Foreign Government Hackers Target Senators. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 21, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: -- Hawaii. It starts at 9 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I'll see you Sunday morning.

[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Down to a wire. Stunning new details of chaos following President Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey. CNN has learned that the move prompted the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, to discuss wearing a wire to secretly record the president.

Invoking the 25th Amendment. Sources tell CNN that Rosenstein also wanted to recruit cabinet members to use the constitutional provision for removing an unfit president from office.

Deal deadline. CNN has learned that Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans are demanding a response by this hour to the counteroffer they made to the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault, laying out terms for her to testify.

And no longer restrained. President Trump's tempered response to the Kavanaugh allegations gives way to an attack on his accuser that left key GOP senator, Susan Collins, quote, "appalled."

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Extraordinary new information about the man overseeing the Russia investigation, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

Sources are telling CNN that after President Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, last year, Rosenstein discussed secretly recording the president and recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. "The New York Times" first reported the information.

Rosenstein has responded with a statement calling the "Times" story -- and I'm quoting now -- "inaccurate and factually incorrect." We'll talk about that and much more with Congressman Jim Himes of the Intelligence Committee.

And our correspondents, specialists and analysts are also standing by. First let's get some more details on the breaking news. Our justice

correspondent Evan Perez and our crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz are both working the story for us.

Evan, break down all the information involving this explosive report.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This is an explosive story. And this all came down in -- last year in weeks and days after the president fired James Comey, the FBI director.

Rod Rosenstein was in meetings, and in those meetings, he described possibly wearing a wire in meetings with the president. He also talked about recruiting other members of the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.

There's a couple of ways to get rid of a president. One of them is through impeachment proceedings. The other is to -- for the members of the cabinet to declare that a president is incapacitated, not capable of doing his job. And according to "The New York Times," which first reported this story, this is one of the things that Rod Rosenstein talked about, which is recruiting people like Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, to try to get members of the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Now, why is this coming forward? Some of the people who were in these meetings, including Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI, actually memorialized some of this. They wrote down memos about what Rosenstein was saying in these meetings.

Now, the issue is that Rosenstein, as far as we know, never went through with any of these recordings. Never went through with any of these meetings with people in the cabinet to try to invoke the 25th Amendment. It appears that this is a plan, Wolf, that he discussed in these meetings, and that it never actually came to fruition.

But you can see how just the fact that these discussions were made, that these comments were made in these meetings, and that they are memos that are now in the hands of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that this is a huge, huge deal.

BLITZER: Yes, contemporaneous notes are explosive, indeed.

PEREZ: Right.

BLITZER: What do we know, Shimon, about Rosenstein's motivations?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So according, at least, to "The New York Times," certainly, there was a lot of chaos, right, surrounding this moment after the president fired James Comey. Certainly, a lot of questions were raised about the motivations behind that. And people had concern that this was an obstruction issue, that perhaps he fired the former FBI director to try and end the Russia probe.

So that was certainly on the mind -- on the mind of Rod Rosenstein, according to this report. Also, you know, what "The New York Times" says and certainly what

we've heard is that Rod Rosenstein was surprised that his memo was used as sort of the motivation, as sort of the excuse. He had written this memo about the former FBI director regarding the Hillary Clinton investigation. And that seemed to have surprised, that memo, that this memo was used as motivation, perhaps, to fire James Comey.

BLITZER: You know, Evan, the recording of the president that there's a wire, how did he plan on doing that, if, in fact, he did plan on doing that?

[17:05:02] PEREZ: Right, exactly. Well, the way he described doing it was simply wearing a wire when he went to the White House. He also talked about perhaps other FBI officials who were having meetings with the presidents, would wear a wire.

And, again, the extraordinary idea of Rod Rosenstein, the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, actually thinking about this or talking about this, it's just a remarkable, remarkable set of events.

BLITZER: And we're also told that one person who apparently heard Rod Rosenstein making the suggestion about wearing a wire, recording the president, thought that Rosenstein was being sarcastic.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, sarcastic. One person described it as he was maybe joking, that this wasn't something that they were really serious about.

But "The New York Times" and the people that they have spoken to have certainly said no, that their impression was that Rod Rosenstein was serious about this. That Andrew McCabe took it seriously enough that he had to put this in these memos.

In terms of Rod Rosenstein, he released a statement, essentially denying it, saying that the story is inaccurate. And here's what he said in a statement. That "The 'New York Times' story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this. Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment."

And, you know, Evan and I have talked about this all day. This is sort of like a denial/nondenial type of statement, where he doesn't really address the wiretap issue --

BLITZER: Right.

PROKUPECZ: -- whether or not he wanted to eavesdrop on the president. He does address the fact that he wants the public, sort of this country to know --

PEREZ: And the president.

PROKUPECZ: -- and the president, right, to know that no way does he see him as being unfit and that this story is completely inaccurate. Look, there is obviously big concern that this will lead the president

to ultimately now make this final move, which would be to fire Rod Rosenstein, which would just sort of erupt and would just bring a whole new batch of chaos to this entire investigation.

BLITZER: And a whole bunch of his supporters out there are telling him to fire Rosenstein.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

BLITZER: We're getting all those tweets as we speak right now.

Andrew McCabe, the fired deputy FBI director, the president has called him a liar, as you know. But he contemporaneously memorialized this conversation in that memo.

PEREZ: Right. Exactly. And that's one way that these conversations have now come to light. Obviously, these memos are now in the hands of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and obviously, there were other people in the room.

And we have a statement from McCabe's lawyer -- we can put it up -- that says "When he was interviewed by the special counsel more than a year ago, he gave all of his memos, classified and unclassified, to the special counsel's office. A set of those memos remained at the FBI at the time of his departure in late January of 2018. He has no knowledge of how any member of the media obtained those memos." He's obviously the lawyer for -- Michael Bromwich, McCabe's lawyer, is obviously trying to distance himself from the source of the story from "The New York Times."

But look, the issue here is this. That McCabe and other people inside the Justice Department and inside the FBI clearly thought this was a serious conversation, a serious consideration that the -- the deputy attorney general was making. And so that's where we are.

BLITZER: And there's no denial of any of the substance in that McCabe statement that was obviously very carefully drafted.

PEREZ: Right. And look, I've known Rod Rosenstein over ten years. And I will tell you that he does have a gallows humor sense. That's kind of the way he talks. And so perhaps some people would essentially come away from those meetings and think that he was extremely serious. And other people who perhaps have dealt with him over a longer period of time might come away from it and say, "Well, maybe he wasn't." Right? And so that's, I think, what the issue is.

BLITZER: I want both of you to stand by, because I know we're getting more information all the time. But I quickly want to bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's also working this explosive story for us.

So Jim, what's been the reaction so far over at the White House?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE: A whole lot of silence, Wolf. The president has not weighed in yet. He's not tweeted about this yet. The White House press shop has not offered any kind of response to this at this point.

I did talk to a White House official earlier today, Wolf, who said that the White House was aware of the story as of at least yesterday. So this story did not come as a complete surprise to them. They've had a little time to work on their response, formulate a response. We just don't have one as of yet.

But as you were mentioning just a few moments ago, a lot of the president's allies, from the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and some notable figures over on FOX, have been advocating that the president, you know, start thinking about taking some pretty drastic action here.

There are some FOX News hosts, as we speak, who are saying that the president should go ahead and fire the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

And Wolf, I just received a text from a source close to the White House who keeps in touch with the White House about these sorts of things who said, wouldn't this be a pretext for firing the deputy attorney general in any administration?

And so there is a concern, Wolf, among the president's allies and supporters that, if these allegations are true, that the deputy attorney general has gone too far.

And the question, of course, Wolf, is whether or not the president takes that lead. Does he go ahead and make this decision to fire Rod Rosenstein? And if he does that, what does that trigger up on Capitol Hill? Talking to some sources up on Capitol Hill, Wolf, there is a lot of concern up there.

Obviously, Democrats have said for a long time that firing Rod Rosenstein or shutting down the Mueller investigation would trip sort of a red line that would obviously bring about talk of impeachment up on Capitol Hill. You even hear that from some Republicans.

But Wolf, I think it's also interesting to note, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, who as we know, has become very close to this president in recent months, was putting out a tweet earlier this afternoon, sort of pushing back on this notion that the president should swallow what's reported in the "New York Times," hook, line and syringe sinker.

Although we should note, Wolf, CNN and other news outlets, they've confirmed a large chunk of what's been reported in "The New York Times" story.

So Wolf, a very big decision, critical decision for the White House to make at this point, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, could be explosive, as we say. All right. Jim Acosta, at the White House, thank you.

Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Jim Himes, of Connecticut is joining us. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. So what do you think? Is it -- is it grounds for President Trump to fire Rod Rosenstein?

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, you know, it's sort of hard to see, based on what we know about Donald Trump, that Rosenstein survives this in the long run. Look, I -- I'm really quite concerned about that, though.

At some level, none of this is a real surprise. I mean, it's coming as a surprise to nobody that there is chaos that the president is random in his approach to things, angry. Rosenstein is a guy who spent decades in a legal environment. I don't know him, but he's lawyerly. You know, he spent decades sort of following process. That he would be shocked as he started work, that his memo would be used as a reason to fire Comey. That he would be shocked by what I'm sure was a circus-like atmosphere around that and around recruiting a new FBI director. Look, none of that is a surprise. I'm not even sure the president's supporters would be surprised by that.

What really concerns me here is that this is going to feed the narrative. So you have Rod Rosenstein have a shocked reaction to something we all know to be true, which is that the White House is a circus and the president is random in the way he approaches things. That Rod Rosenstein would be shocked is not a surprise.

But the problem is, the president and his supporters -- and it's the usual rogue's gallery of supporters -- is going to use this to perpetuate the notion that there is a deep state out to get to -- out to get the president. And there is not. That's part of why you're not seeing these promised documents declassified and put out there.

But this is going to feed the narrative that there is this cabal of deep-state people who have it out for the president. And we just don't need a White House that is any more paranoid and any more spearing -- spinning of conspiracy theories than this one is.

BLITZER: How would it impact the Russia investigation if the president does fire Rod Rosenstein?

HIMES: Well, I guess I have two things to say about that. One, you can't touch the Mueller investigation. The Mueller investigation has shown over a lengthy period of time that, by producing convictions and guilty pleas and indictments, that -- that this is not a witch hunt founded on air. And there's no doubt in my mind that Mueller has a lot yet to tell the American people.

And as I've been saying forever, the president, who maintains his innocence, should want Mueller to certify his innocence. But you cannot fire Bob Mueller.

The other thing I would point out, thing No. 2, Wolf, is that depending on who you listen to, there's a fairly good probability that the Democrats will be running the House of Representatives in January. And that will imply a subpoena power for the opposition party for Democrats. And, you know, any attempt to hide, to stop an investigation, will be subject to the scrutiny and oversight of the Congress, something this president has never experienced before.

BLITZER: You know, if Rosenstein were fired, Congressman, the solicitor general over at the Justice Department, Noel Francisco, he would serve as the acting deputy attorney general, and he would also serve as the acting overseer of the entire Russia investigation. Mueller would have to report to him. Do you have confidence in Francisco?

HIMES: Well, again, the key question is, is there interference with the Mueller investigation? And the question behind that is, if the White House moved against the Mueller investigation, which, of course, would be politically a very perilous thing to do, would at great long last, the Republicans in the Congress stand up and say, "You cannot do that"?

[17:15:00] They have bided by and supported this president as this president has done things that they would have impeached a Democratic president for. People like Senator Lindsey Graham, you know, now getting on board with attacking Dr. Ford in the Kavanaugh case.

The question is, under those circumstances, would Republicans finally stand up and say, "No, you cannot fire Robert Mueller. You can't mess with his investigation"? Wolf, I wish I could tell you that I had a shred of evidence to believe that my Republican colleagues might find it in their souls to support the country and the concept of a -- of divided government, checking one branch to the other. But I wouldn't be hugely optimistic about that.

BLITZER: Congressman Himes, thanks so much for joining us.

HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the breaking news. Will the president fire the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, after learning he discussed recording the president and working to have him removed from office?

And we're awaiting a response from the woman accusing the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault, and the latest offer for her to testify. The deadline, by the way, for her to respond has just passed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:43] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Sources now confirming to CNN what was first reported by "The New York Times."

The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, last year discussed wearing a wire to record conversations with President Trump and recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to try to remove the president from office.

Let's bring in our political and legal experts.

What a bombshell story, Gloria Borger. So do you think the president will see this as grounds to go ahead and fire Rod Rosenstein? GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: What do you think? Yes.

Yes, I do.

He doesn't -- he doesn't love Rod Rosenstein. He hasn't tweeted about him a lot lately. He's really focused more on Jeff Sessions.

But I talked to one source today who is familiar with how the president feels about Rod Rosenstein and says, look, first of all, in any other administration, if somebody in the Justice Department -- forget the wearing the wire thing, because that could have been a joke or not a joke. But if there's someone seriously discussing the 25th Amendment about the president of the United States, maybe he ought not to be working for him. And that in any other administration, you might resign, or maybe the attorney general would fire Rod Rosenstein. Maybe he would be the one to do that.

The complication, of course, is the Russia investigation right now is -- is out there. It's not done. And Bob Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein. So Rod Rosenstein is a very important person to the president right now. And by all outward appearances, at least, they seem to be doing better together.

So, yes, I think the president would see this as grounds to fire him. Will he do it? I don't know. I think the odds are probably with it, that he would fire him. But it's just hard to say.

BLITZER: Let's check in with Laura Jarrett. She's over at the Justice Department for us right now. What are they saying over there, Laura?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think there's no question, this explosive reporting truly rocked the Justice Department today. And really, folks are just trying to go into overdrive to contain the blast radius.

If we tally it up, we've got an on-the-record denial statement from Rosenstein, focusing in on the 25th Amendment part, you recognized, in that statement saying, essentially, "I don't think that he's not fit for office."

But sources are now telling us that the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is not happy about this. Upset and concerned over this reporting.

And I'm hearing from former officials who are trying to fiercely push back and say, "Look, this is not consistent with the Rod I know." Specifically, on the wiretap remark, they're saying this was sarcastic. Someone in the room telling me, "I heard it. I was there. He was simply just joking," trying to dismiss it.

Another one on the 25th Amendment part saying, "Look, this is a meticulous guy. This is a smart guy. He wouldn't come up with some half-baked plot with someone he barely knew," meaning Andrew McCabe, because they had only been working together for a short time at that point, Wolf.

But bottom line, they know this is bad, and they're just waiting to see what the president has to say.

BLITZER: Mark Preston, what do you -- what do you make of the statements that were released by Rod Rosenstein and the fired former deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So two very different statements. But both, if you read them a certain way, kind of take you to the same point in the road.

If you look first at Rosenstein's statement, he doesn't come out and say that the report is absolutely false. He doesn't come out and say it is absolutely wrong. What he does is says it's factually inaccurate or it's factually incorrect and that it's inaccurate. Well, that doesn't mean that something didn't happen, at least along the lines that "The New York Times" is reporting and we have since reported. So that in itself is interesting.

And then you get to Andy McCabe. Andy McCabe just kind of acknowledges that they had handed over documents; doesn't make any kind of assertion about what the documents are. But by not saying anything, says a lot.

So, again, that kind of takes you to the same point in the road.

And we really are at a point in history right now, and I know we really amp this up all of the time. But, good lord, could you imagine if this had happened during the Obama presidency or the George W. Bush presidency? That -- that a deputy attorney general at least even joked about wearing a wire in the Oval Office with the president? That's unbelievable.

BLITZER: And you know, and Phil Mudd, if you carefully read the Andrew McCabe statement, the fired former FBI director, there's no denial there. And basically, if you read between the lines, it clearly suggests that, in the contemporaneous notes he was taking, following that meeting, yes, all of this came up on the part of Rosenstein.

[17:25:02] PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure. But context is everything. For example, if Rosenstein is saying 25th Amendment, that's interesting. There's a lot of talk on Capitol Hill. We're the lawyers. We'd better figure out everything there is to know about the 25th Amendment. That's a lot different than saying, "I want to participate in a conspiracy to take down the president."

I mean, I experienced this once in my own life years ago as a junior officer. I was assigned to work with a police department on a major terror case. I didn't understand, as a junior officer, the sensitivities of CIA working with the police department. A lot of us sitting around one night, as a junior, guy was probably around 26 years old, having a cup of coffee. I said, "Boy, it would be great if you guys issued me a gun and a badge, because I'm over here all of the time."

That was the last time I saw the inside of that police department, because somebody took it seriously and called the Central Intelligence Agency from the police department and said, "He wanted to be issued a weapon."

Wolf, context is everything. And we don't have a lot of that here.

BLITZER: And what happens, Gloria, if Rosenstein is fired? We'll put up on the screen. We've got a little succession chart that shows what would happen. Noel Francisco, the solicitor general, he would become the acting deputy attorney general and the acting overseer of the whole Russia probe.

BORGER: Yes. I had one source say to me today that it wouldn't make that much of a difference. That Francisco would, you know -- is a fine person and would behave in much the same way as, you know -- is a fine attorney and would -- you know, would not disgrace the Justice Department in any way.

But obviously, Rosenstein also, you know, there's a question here. And a lot of people on team Trump have been making the case that, you know, Rosenstein is a witness in this case. And that some say that he should have recused himself from day one, because, of course, he is the one who wrote the memo about the Comey firing that Trump then took and used as the rationale for firing Comey. And we know from our own reporting and, of course, from the piece in "The Times" today that Rosenstein was none too pleased about it. So he's actually a witness in this case.

So what could also happen, say, if there's no firing, is that there could be a recusal, say. He could say, "OK, I'm out of it. I'm out of the whole Mueller thing." And maybe then that goes to Francisco. I just don't -- I just don't know.

BLITZER: In the meantime, everybody is waiting to see what the president of the United States does in the second half. That could happen, for all we know, fairly soon.

Everybody, stand by. There's an important deadline this hour in the negotiations over a possible hearing where senators will hear directly from the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and Christine Blasey ford, the woman accusing him of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers. Stand by for the very latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:32:21] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: More breaking news. We're following the deadline just past at the top of hour and we're standing by to hear whether the woman accusing the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault, has responded to the counteroffer from the Senate Judiciary Republicans, laying out terms for her to testify. Let's go back to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the president, his tone on all of this dramatically changed sharply today.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. All week long, aides to the president were celebrating his restraint, noting proudly that he wasn't attacking Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. But that pause and the president's good behavior, ended today, big-time. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(CROWD CHEERING)

ACOSTA: It was only a matter of time, after days of holding back on Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court Nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of assault, President Trump returned to attack dog form on Twitter, saying: "I have no doubt that if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time and place." The president's language questioning if the alleged attack was as bad as she says, came just moments after his own White House Counselor, Kellyanne Conway, was preaching restraint on CNN.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: There's no reason to attack her. There's no reason. Let her tell her story. There's no reason to attack her. The president is defending his nominee to the United States Supreme Court as a man of character and integrity --

ACOSTA: The president's tweet should come as no surprise. Mr. Trump was already sending signals on Fox News that he was finished biting his tongue.

TRUMP: Why didn't somebody call the FBI 36 years ago? I mean, you could also say, when did this all happen? What's going on? To take a man like this and besmirch -- but with that being said, let her have her say, and let's see how it all works out.

ACOSTA: Republican Senator Susan Collins, a critical vote to watch on Kavanaugh, who's urged Ford to testify, blasted the president's tweet.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I thought that the president's tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong.

ACOSTA: The president's verbal attack on Ford threatens to inject more poison into what's become a toxic nomination process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grab them by the (BLEEP).

ACOSTA: All from a man who's fended off allegations of sexual assault for years.

TRUMP: Hello, how are you?

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump's comments make it all too clear, he's not backing away from his Supreme Court pick.

TRUMP: Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest human beings you will ever have the privilege of knowing or meeting.

ACOSTA: Top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, declared to an audience of conservative activists that Kavanaugh will be confirmed, even though Ford has yet to testify.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: You've watched the fight. You've watched the tactics, but here's what I want to tell you. In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, Ford's attorneys and senate staffers are still working out the details of having some kind of hearing next week on all of this, Wolf. A hearing where, of course, Brett Kavanaugh would testify and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. At this point, Wolf, we're told that the way it shapes up right now, Ford would testify first, then Kavanaugh, and that there would be no other witnesses allowed to participate in this hearing -- at least that's what the GOP proposal appears to be at this point. And, of course, Wolf, there are concerns about what the president has been tweeting about today up on Capitol Hill. I talked to one GOP Senate staffer who said that the president's tweet about Christine Blasey Ford, was "not helpful." Wolf?

BLITZER: We're going to be hearing more presumably fairly soon from the president, right?

ACOSTA: That's right. He has a rally coming up this evening in Missouri. It's another political rally like he had in Las Vegas last night. And as you heard during that rally, and even in the pregame interview that he had with Fox News, he was moving in this direction of going after to some extent the accuser in all of this, Christine Blasey Ford, questioning her story and so on, and wondering why she didn't go to the authorities 36 years ago and standing up for a Supreme Court nominee. Wolf, we expect that to happen tonight. As to whether or not he weighs in on this other big story today and these allegations about the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, of course, Wolf, that is something we're all waiting to see if he, in fact, does decide to weigh in on all of that, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll know soon enough. Jim Acosta, thank you very much. Gloria, what do you think? Where does all of this stand as far as the Supreme Court?

[17:36:58] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think the negotiations are ongoing. There is a deadline around now for Team Ford to get back to the Republicans on the committee. And to work out the details of this. Look, you're going to have a hearing. She doesn't want an outside counsel questioning her. She wants the committee questioning her. And it could end up that way -- the Republicans on the committee had raised the possibility of having an outside counsel do it for them.

And the Democrats will do the questioning on their own, who goes first, who doesn't, they're not going to be in the same room, how many cameras are in the room. I mean, all of that is going to be negotiated. I think the bottom line here is that both sides are very aware that they could each look terrible in all of this. And nobody wants it to turn into an Anita Hill circus, where seems to be the direction it's already heading. And both sides want to be respectful to her. And the president's tweets did not help at all. And his comments did not help. So, I think it's going to be -- they're trying to get to yes. It may

take them a while to get there. But I'm presuming that something will happen next week, if they can -- if they can do it.

BLITZER: Yes. Not a done deal yet.

BORGER: No.

BLITZER: The president all of a sudden -- he was fairly restrained over the past few days. And all of a sudden, he lets loose today.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: All of a sudden, he lets loose today. And when you take a step back and look at the situation, I mean, I can't imagine there's going to be any kind of winner that comes out of this, and there's going to be moments where you're going to say, wow, there was a really big loser there. And I think the idea that the president of the United States would weigh in a way that would be discouraging to other women to come forward who have had these types of situations, or even folks in my own church who have had, you know, issues with pedophilia and not saying anything, but coming out 20, 25 years later.

Look, what's going to happen, as Gloria says is she's going to talk, he's going to talk, both sides are going to draw the line, come to their own conclusions, and then we're going to move on. I mean, I think that's what's going to happen. And I just don't -- it's unfortunate that I don't think from this learning moment that we're actually going to learn how to deal with these issues.

BORGER: Or what are we going to learn without witnesses? Without a subpoena for witnesses.

PRESTON: Right.

BLITZER: Not a done deal yet. Let's see what happens. Everybody standby, we're about to go to Capitol Hill for an update, as we continue awaiting word on whether Christine Blasey Ford will accept the latest Republican terms about a possible hearing on her allegations against the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:42:00] BLITZER: We're following breaking news, we're standing by to see whether Christine Blasey Ford met a 5:00 p.m. Eastern deadline to accept Republican terms for a hearing on her accusations against the U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Let's quickly go to our Congressional Correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty. So, Sunlen, the deadline was about 42 minutes ago. There was an earlier deadline, Monday, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. There was supposed to be a deadline today earlier, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, to see if there would be a hearing on Monday, that clearly is not going to take place. The Republicans blinked on that. What's the latest that you're hearing?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Wolf, we are certainly standing by. So much hinges on what happens at this hour. At 5:00 p.m. Eastern time, that was the deadline the committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, set to hear from Dr. Ford's legal team, hearing back from the proposal that they made earlier today -- terms of the conditions when she potentially would come here on Capitol Hill, how that would happen, all of the logistics on how that would play out.

So, at this hour, we are standing by, potentially awaiting word at any moment from Dr. Ford's legal team, whether they accept the terms, or whether they come back with a counteroffer. So, so much hinges on the response that we are waiting for. So far, we have heard radio silence from our sources up here on Capitol Hill. Could tell you a lot, or could tell you nothing at all. But at this moment, it's certainly worth revisiting what the potential sticking points, what the potential problem areas are for Dr. Ford's legal team, including most importantly, the date of this potential hearing.

As you said, it was rescheduled from Monday. Now, the proposal on the table is Wednesday. Dr. Ford's legal team has been very clear. They want this hearing. If she is to come up here on Capitol Hill to testify, to happen on Thursday. Of course, also, the order. Who gets to speak first? The offer on the table at this hour from the committee is that Dr. Ford would testify first, and Kavanaugh second. That is not something that Ford's legal team is interested in. They want her to get the last word, but that could be perhaps one of the biggest sticking points. That certainly seems from many aides here on Capitol Hill as a nonstarter.

And lastly, of course, some debate over who indeed will potentially be asking the questions. A lot of debate about this among Republicans up here on Capitol Hill. The offer proposes to have outside counsel, some independent lawyer, come up here and question the witnesses. That makes Ford's legal team very uncomfortable, Wolf. They feel that this would turn into a legal proceeding, something they don't want to subject Dr. Ford to. So, a lot potentially coming together next few minutes, or not at all. Of course, so much hinges, Wolf, on these sticking points. It has a potential to potentially derail this deal.

BLITZER: All right. Sunlen, as soon as you get word, let us know. We'll get right back to you. You know, Phil Mudd, this is a woman, the accuser, Professor Ford, has led a private life, a university professor. All of a sudden, she appears before the U.S. Congress next week in this session, either she goes first or Kavanaugh goes first -- doesn't make any difference. Millions and millions of people are watching. She's already received death threats to her and her family. I can only imagine the torment she's going through right now.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. And there's two other strikes against her: Number one, we haven't talked about this, how much time has Judge Kavanaugh spent in a situation like this, and how much time is she? He's going to walk in having been in situations like this, somewhat equivalent, I guess, to a hostile courtroom and he's going to know how to handle it.

I think that the way they postured themselves, the American people are going to be looking at body language. He's going to know how to handle this better than she will. The only thin, and I think she's right on the questions about investigation. This is not an investigation. You want to talk to everybody, you can find who might have been there that night. What they said about that and surrounding circumstances. What happened at other parties? Was there a pattern of activity? I want to go back to this decade and say, what friends and family did she tell? Are the stories consistent? If there are discrepancies, can we figure them out? None of this will be considered.

BLITZER: Mark, this is an awful predicament she's in right now. She's going to decide -- she went public with the Washington Post, but going public at a hearing like this, it's a lot different.

PRESTON: It is a lot different. But really, I mean, the genie is out of the bottle. There's no way she can jam it back in and her life is now going to forever, forever, forever be changed. And in many ways, it can be changed for the negative. She's going to be somebody known now specifically to your point, if she goes and testifies before Congress, I mean, we can still remember the images of Anita Hill. We've been showing them the last few days, as a corollary to what happened back then. Wow, I mean, it's still seared into my brain. I mean, look, you've got to hope that the politicians will -- this is not going to happen -- but they will put aside politics for the sake of just trying to do the right thing for both sides.

BLITZER: Yes. As you say, this is not going to happen.

MUDD: I know. I'm trying to be optimistic.

[17:46:37] BLITZER: Yes. All right, guys, everybody stick around. There's more news we're following, including some very alarming new details about cyberattacks targeting members of the United States Senate.

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[17:51:26] BLITZER: We are following breaking news. Sources now confirming to CNN -- well, this is first reported by The New York Times, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last year discussed wearing a wire to record conversations with President Trump and recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th amendment to the constitution to remove the president from office. Also, tonight, we're learning more about attempted cyberattacks targeting some U.S. Senators and their staff members. Let's bring in our own Brian Todd. You have been working your sources. What have you found out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we are told that this is a serious threat. Several U.S. senators have been targeted by hackers who are working for foreign governments. Google is working with senators to combat the hacking, but tonight cybersecurity specialists are on the lookout for potentially embarrassing information to be leaked out and for possible blackmail attempts.

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TODD: Tonight, members of the U.S. Senate are on alert that their personal e-mail accounts have been targeted by foreign government hackers. Google has confirmed to CNN; the company warns specific senators and their staffers that their personal Gmail accounts were target. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, whose aides tell CNN his account was not targeted, is sounding the alarm with Senate leadership.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: For dangerous foreign hackers, this is just a no-brainer. These personal accounts are low-hanging fruit. The fact is, if you look at 2016, what you saw is the personal accounts -- particularly of people like John Podesta and Colin Powell -- were the ones that they went after first because this is how you find out where people go, who they talk to.

TODD: CNN learned the targeting of senators' e-mails occurred in recent months. Neither Senate aides nor Google would tell CNN which senators were targeted. But sources say, attempts were made at Democratic and Republican staffs. Google and Senate sources are also not saying whether any of the attempted hacks have been successful.

Could they have been successful? How vulnerable our senators' personal Gmail accounts?

MICAH SHERR, CYBERSECURITY EXPERT, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: They could be successful. Certainly, it depends on the individual member of congress and their staff, and whether they've done things like used two-factor authentication and done their best security practices.

TODD: Which foreign government is trying to hack senators? A Senate source tells CNN, multiple nations are targeting people associated with political leaders and their staffs. A group of Russian hackers nicknamed "Fancy Bear," commanded by the Russia's military intelligence agency targeted the Democrat Party in 2016 and then leaked embarrassing e-mails. This fake e-mail from Russian intelligence officers, prosecutors say, tricked Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta into clicking on their fake link and entering his G-mail password. Analysts say, there could be a treasure trove of valuable information for foreign spies on a given senator's personal Gmail account.

SHERR: One thing that you could do easily is come up with a social network, someone's social network -- who their friends, who their contacts are, certainly documents that you shouldn't have in your personal e-mail account. We know that some people have done this in the past.

TODD: How would some of America's enemies use that information?

SHERR: One thing that they could certainly do is find information that could be used for blackmail.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The Russian, Chinese and North Korean governments have all vehemently denied trying to hack America's political leaders. But just last month, there was a separate episode. Microsoft announced it had thwarted part of a Russian military intelligence operation targeting the Senate and some Washington think tanks. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting.

[17:54:57] There's breaking news coming up. A discussion of secretly recording President Trump and working to have him removed from office by the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. We're learning new information tonight.

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BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Wearing a wire. Stunning new reporting tonight that the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested he might secretly record the president as he discussed the possibility of removing Mr. Trump from office.

Rosenstein's revelations. The man who receives the Russia investigation under red hot scrutiny right now as we learn more about his concerns that the president is unfit to serve. Also, tonight, Trump allies say it is time for Rosenstein to go.

[18:00:08] Trump unleashes. The president goes after the woman accusing the Supreme Court nominee -- questioning why she didn't fire charges against --