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CNN: Trump Lawyers Surprised By Late Requests For Records Relating To Trump Confidant Roger Stone; New York Demonstration In Favor Of Protecting Mueller Probe; Sheriff: "Hero" Sergeant Who Confronted Gunman Among 12 Dead In Massacre At California Bar. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 8, 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: Thanks for watching.

[17:00:08] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Massacre in California. New details from investigators on the horrific shooting at a Southern California bar, where a gunman killed a dozen people, including a heroic sheriff's sergeant before taking his own life.

Troubled killer. Authorities are now learning more about the Marine combat vet who they've identified as the California killer. What caused him to snap, and why did his own mother live in fear?

Recusal unlikely. The sudden firing of the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, raises new questions about the future of Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Sources now say the acting attorney general does not plan to recuse himself from the investigation. Will he let the special counsel do his job?

And saving Mueller's work. As the special counsel writes his final report, critics fear he could be fired. Democrats are demanding his documents be saved. Does Mueller have a plan to save the results of his investigation?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news: another American community is ripped apart by sudden violence, thrown into shock and grief after a gunman opens fire inside a crowded bar, killing 12 people before taking his own life.

The night spot in Thousand Oaks, California, was full of college students enjoying some country music when the shooter burst in, firing a handgun with what authorities now say was an illegal extended magazine. A sheriff's sergeant is among the dead, cut down as he rushed into the bar. The gunman has been identified as a former U.S. Marine who had previous run-ins with the law. The FBI says there's no indication he acted with others in this shooting.

I'll speak with former defense secretary and former CIA director Leon Panetta. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by with full coverage.

First, let's go straight to the scene of the shooting. CNN's Scott McLean is on the scene for us. Scott, what is the very latest?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.

Law enforcement is still on the scene tonight, combing through it, looking for clues. They're also searching the suspect's home and his car, trying to figure out what a possible motivation would have been here.

The FBI says that they have not yet found any evidence of any associates or any additional threats to the area. But they still have no idea what was going through this guy's mind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCLEAN (voice-over): Tonight, authorities are learning more about the shooter at the Borderline bar, identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long. Long, a United States Marine Corps vet, served as a machine gunner and was honorably discharged in 2013.

A neighbor says Long was intensely private and not sociable, and his mother worried about what he might do.

RICHARD BERGE, SHOOTER'S NEIGHBOR: You know, she lived in near.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She told you that?

BERGE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did she tell you exactly?

BERGE: Oh, I don't want to go into it. She just worried. She was worried about her son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got multiple people down. We need a lot of ambulances and fire.

MCLEAN: Police say Long walked into the bar just after 11 p.m., dressed in all black, armed with a .45-caliber Glock 21 and an illegal extended magazine. Students ran for the exits; others ducks for cover as he started shooting.

Ventura County sheriff's deputies arrived within minutes. Sergeant Ron Helus was the first to go inside, exchanging gunfire with the suspect. He was shot multiple times.

SHERIFF GEOFF DEAN, VENTURA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Fifty-four-year old, 29-year veteran on the sheriff's office. He's married with a -- with a grown son. And as I've said several times, he went in there to save people and made the ultimate sacrifice.

MCLEAN: Helus and 11 others were killed and many more wounded. Police say Long, who also died at the scene, shot himself

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does it look like in there?

DEAN: Like hell.

JASON COFFMAN, SON WAS IN BAR: I am very emotional right now.

MCLEAN: Jason Coffman's 22-year-old son Cody was at the bar at the time of the shooting. Jason says he tracked Cody's phone afterward and waited agonizingly for word on his son's whereabouts.

COFFMAN: I talked to him last night, before he headed out the door. The first thing I said was, "Please don't drink and drive." The last thing I said was, "Son, I love you." That was the last thing I said.

MCLEAN: Cody Coffman was one of the 12 victims in the shooting.

COFFMAN: My first-born son. Only him and I know how much I love -- how much I miss -- oh, God. This is so hard. Oh, son, I love you so much.

MCLEAN: Some of those inside the bar when the shots rang out have survived a mass shooting before.

[17:05:07] NICHOLAS CHAMPION, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I was at the Las Vegas Route 91 mass shooting, as well as probably 50 or 60 others who were in the building at the same time as me tonight. It's a big thing for us. You know, we all are a big family and, unfortunately, this family got hit twice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCLEAN: And, Wolf, we are also learning the names of two more victims. Alaina Housley was a young Pepperdine University student, and Justin Meek was just 23 years old. He had just recently graduated from college.

We're also learning more about the suspect's past. We know that in April, police were called out to his home for a disturbance. The sheriff said that on this day, he was irate. Ultimately, the police ended up leaving, because they didn't deem him to be a risk to himself or to the public.

We know that the suspect had been divorced in 2011, but his friends say that his personality really seemed to change in 2016 after a trip to Europe. He lost touch. He stopped returning calls. Still, his friends say they cannot imagine him doing anything like this.

And Wolf, this location here, it was not random to the suspect. He frequented this bar and would have known the layout inside reasonably well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Scott. Thank you. What an awful story. Scott McLean on the scene for us.

Let's bring in our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell, who's also there on the scene.

Josh, agents, they're searching the shooter's home, his car. What are they looking for now?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, Wolf. Two potential gold mines for the collection of evidence. They still don't yet know what that motive is. They're going to want to go through both of those -- the house, go through the vehicle. Again, looking for any type of evidence: perhaps a lighter that was left behind, a manifesto. Is there a cell phone?

We were told initially that, when the subject went into the building behind us and conducted this mass shooting, he didn't have a phone with him; so that's something that officers are going to want to look for.

We learned just a short time ago from authorities, from the FBI and from the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and ATF, that it is now the FBI that's processing the scene. They brought in resources from their evidence response team that will be going through and identifying the victims, counting for all of the rounds that are taking place, Wolf.

And then we're also learning that resources from Washington are actually en route now as we speak from the FBI Academy, the laboratory at Quantico, Virginia, to come help them investigate and look through all the potential crime scenes here that may be providing evidence. Obviously, the one behind me being of major importance but also the subject's residence, his vehicle, talking to associates and the like, Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Josh, investigators are learning the shooter did have run-ins with law enforcement. His mother even feared what he was capable of doing. So what are you learning about his past?

CAMPBELL: Yes, Wolf. As Scott mentioned, that's been the area of most interest here to law enforcement officers as they try to look back into the shooter's history to determine were there warning signs? We did learn of that development that he was actually -- he had contact with the law enforcement.

Now, there's this law here in California, Wolf. It's called the 5150, where if law enforcement officers deem someone to be, essentially, a threat to themselves or someone else, that there's some type of mental or psychiatric issue that's taking place, they can actually commit the person against their will, have them held and put under review to determine their mental state.

That did not happen in this case. The law enforcement officers and mental health professionals that had that run-in with the subject, as law enforcement officials have told us, they didn't deem him to actually reach that threshold where they had to have been committed. So that will be, obvious, of interest, Wolf, looking back on those past contacts.

And then the last thing is we know that he was a former United States Marine, so the Department of Defense is now involved, as well. They will be providing information about the shooter's past, his background to law enforcement officers here, again, in order to paint that picture of who this person was, Wolf. BLITZER: We're learning more about the dramatic details of what law

enforcement encountered when they first got to the scene. What are you hearing?

CAMPBELL: Wolf, just a story of -- of sheer heroism behind us from law enforcement officers.

Now, we've been talking a lot about the fact that since Columbine, law enforcement officers have reoriented themselves to actually going into the sound of gunfire immediately, in order to stop a threat, in order to save lives. That is what happened here behind us.

It was very textbook, Wolf, according to what we're hearing from law enforcement officers. The call came in. They were here within a Matter of minutes, and the officers went in. One of them, sadly, was engaged by the subject and succumbed to his wounds after.

We're also hearing, Wolf, that there was another officer from the California Highway Patrol who was with him that actually dragged him out to a position of safety, again, in order so he could be treated. Unfortunately, as we've been reporting throughout today, he sadly lost his life.

But again, just a story of heroism, people inside going in, rushing in to save lives, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Josh, thanks very much. Josh Campbell reporting for us from the scene.

Joining us now, Captain Garo Kuredjian of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office.

Thanks so much for joining us, Captain. Our hearts go out, our deepest condolences to you and all your colleagues, to the whole community.

First of all, can you give us the latest on the investigation?

CAPTAIN GARO KUREDJIAN, VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Well, this is still an active investigation going on behind me now. We have -- we have deputies and detectives both at the location behind me at the bar, processing the scene with our partners in the FBI. At the scene, we're looking for any type of evidence, any information that will help us identify what that time line was before, during and after that -- the tragic events inside the bar last night.

We also have investigators at the suspect's residence. At the residence, we're hoping to find information that will help us identify what the motive was for this sick, sick, depraved individual and the harm he caused to our residents here in -- in Thousand Oaks yesterday.

BLITZER: We do know, and as you well know, Captain, that the sheriff -- that the shooter, I should say, had prior run-ins with law enforcement. Do you think some red flags were perhaps missed?

KUREDJIAN: At this point there's no indication that any such flags were missed. As a Matter of fact, there was an incident that occurred in April this year, where we had specialized personnel that responded and evaluated the suspect to determine whether he was a danger to himself and others. These are specially trained individuals that -- that evaluated him and made a determination that he, in fact, was not. That was several months ago, and we haven't had any run-ins since then.

BLITZER: One of his neighbors has told us that his mother was actually afraid of what he might do. Given that background, could more, you think -- certainly with hindsight, we're all smarter. Could more have been done to stop him?

KUREDJIAN: Well, that's certainly something that we're going to be looking at.

One of the things we look at in this -- in this type of investigation are pre-incident indicators, things that we could have done better or, in some cases, the motivation for these things. Both of those are very, very important for us.

At this point, there -- it's way too early to tell if there were any pre-incident indicators that may have affected this outcome, but the context that we have documented were -- were -- were extremely thorough and -- and they were followed up on -- just by the book.

BLITZER: yes. Tell us a little bit more while I have you, Captain, about Sergeant Ron Helus, who was killed during the response to this massacre.

KUREDJIAN: Sergeant Ron Helus was a cops' cop. He was a 29-year veteran with the Ventura County Sheriff's Office. He was a patrol sergeant here in Thousand Oaks. And he's worked at the station for several years. He's a trainer. He's a mentor. He's a leader. He's a teacher. And tactically extremely sound.

It doesn't surprise me at all that he responded so heroically, so quickly, to this situation. Hearing the sounds of gunfire, people's natural reaction would be to hesitate, he did not. He actually went in to face and neutralize that threat.

And, you know, we've been out here all day, and I've met a survivor of this -- this tragic event who told me, he came up and told me, he said, "You know what? Sergeant Helus saved people's lives." He went in, he diverted the suspect's attention. He engaged, and that saved others.

And I have no doubt that his -- his actions contributed to the -- the lower number of people injured or killed.

BLITZER: A real hero and our deepest ,deepest condolences to his family, and his friends, and to the entire community. Captain Kuredjian, thank you so much for joining us.

KUREDJIAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, there's more breaking news we're following. The latest on the massacre in that California night spot as investigators now are trying to learn what caused a U.S. Marine Corps veteran to gun down a dozen people before taking his own life.

And other news, new questions remerging right now about the fate of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as sources say a new acting attorney general does not intend to step away from the probe. Will he let Mueller continue his job?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:18:31] BLITZER: There's more breaking news. The sudden firing of the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, has left a cloud hanging over the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, Russia probe.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown. Pamela, will the acting attorney general let Mueller do his job?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the fate of the Mueller investigation remains unclear tonight with the appointment of acting attorney general Matt Whitaker. Now, even though he's been publicly critical of the probe in the past, sources say he has no plans to recuse himself like his predecessor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): A day after Jeff Sessions was ousted as attorney general, questions surround the future of the Russia investigation. CNN has learned that his replacement, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, has no intention of recusing himself from the Russia probe, according to a source familiar with his thinking, despite being openly critical of the investigation as a CNN commentator.

MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: You can see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment, and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces the budget so low that his investigation grinds to an absolute -- almost a halt.

BROWN: And during a radio interview last August before his appointment to the Department of Justice.

WHITAKER (via phone): I think it smells a little fishy, but I just hope it doesn't turn into a fishing expedition, because I will be one of the ones jumping up and down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good for you. Yes.

WHITAKER: Making sure that there's limitations on this investigation continue, because that's the way it's supposed to be.

BROWN: "The Washington Post" reports Whitaker likely would reject a Mueller subpoena request to interview the president.

[17:20:05] Today, President Trump spent the morning with Whitaker, where he gave off-camera remarks at a ceremony for new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, later returning to the White House.

Meanwhile, Trump himself openly threatening the fate of the probe, claiming he could get rid of everyone involved in the Mueller investigation.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I could fire everybody right now, but I don't want to stop it, because politically, I don't like stopping it. It's a disgrace. It should have never been started, because there was no crime.

BROWN: But critics say it's not just Whitaker's comments on Mueller. They point to his qualifications, too.

WHITAKER: It's a unique design.

BROWN: Whitaker's resume includes a stint on the advisory board of World Patent Marketing, a company that had to pay a $26 million settlement earlier this year for scamming its customers.

The president is now looking for a permanent replacement for attorney general. A possible candidate: Senator Lindsey Graham, who accompanied Trump today. Graham was once critical of Trump's desire to fire Sessions.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.

BROWN: But he's since changed his tune.

Also on the list, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was spotted at the White House today for a prison reform roundtable; and Florida attorney general Pam Bondi. If nominated, Christie, who was a prominent campaign surrogate for Trump, could face similar calls to recuse himself from the Mueller investigations as Sessions did, but unlike Sessions, there is no indication he had contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign or transition.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And not long after regaining control of the House, key Democrats sent letters to top Trump administration officials, asking them to preserve any evidence, any documents related to the Mueller investigation as well as the firing of Jeff Sessions. Democrats say this is all in an effort to protect Robert Mueller's evidence in the event there's any interference -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown over at the White House for us. Thank you.

Joining us now, someone who has worn just about every hat here in Washington. Leon Panetta served as defense secretary, CIA director, White House chief of staff, congressman, I could go on and on.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.

LEON PANETTA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do you believe the acting attorney general can do his job fairly, given his previous comments about the Mueller investigation?

PANETTA: Frankly, I think the bigger question is whether or not this individual can be appointed acting attorney general. I think our Constitution requires that, when someone takes over a department and it responsible for that department, that that has to be done subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.

To have a chief of staff who has not been confirmed by the Senate take that position, in my view, violates the Constitution. So I think there's a more serious legal question as to whether or not Mr. Whitaker can assume the responsibility of chief law enforcement officer for this country, not having been confirmed by the Senate.

BLITZER: Yes. There's apparently, according to his supporters, one clause in that vacancies act that would open up the door. And I know that's going to be disputed.

But let's say he can do it. He was once confirmed by the Senate many years ago as a U.S. attorney in Iowa. But let's say he can do it. Is he qualified to, for all practical purposes, to be in charge of the Mueller Russia investigation, given the previous comments he's made going against that entire investigation?

PANETTA: Well, I don't think there's any question that the comments he's made about the investigation would clearly affect his ability to be objective in judging what the special prosecutor does or does not do.

And it's for that reason that I think it's very important for the Congress, and I would think for the administration, to ask the question whether or not this is the right person to put into that position, because it will raise legal questions. It will raise concerns. And frankly, if you listen to the majority leader in the Senate yesterday, Mr. McConnell, he made very clear that this investigation ought to be completed, and it ought to be done so without any interference.

BLITZER: Let's say, as you suggest, this appointment to run the Department of Justice, the attorney general, the acting attorney general, that it's unconstitutional. He's running it right now. He's taken charge. Sessions is gone. He's in charge. You saw him deal with all the activities today. How do you stop him?

[17:25:06] PANETTA: I -- I think what -- what that means is everything that that individual does in that capacity, I think is subject to legal question.

It just raises serious legal concerns that somebody like this would suddenly take over the Department of Justice without having been confirmed by the Senate.

I mean, this is a huge responsibility to have somebody act as attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer for this country, responsible for endorsing the laws across this country. That individual has not been subject to review by the Senate as to his qualifications. The deputy, Mr. Rosenstein, has been, and normally, what happens is

when a secretary steps down, it is the deputy that assumes those responsibilities, pending a new appointment to the top position. Obviously, that hasn't happened here, and I think they're making a serious legal mistake by doing that.

BLITZER: Yes. As you correctly point out, he certainly wasn't confirmed by the Senate during the Trump administration. And this looks like a real slap at Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who is -- who has not taken -- who has not moved up to the top job as a result of this.

Presumably, they don't like over at the White House the way Rod Rosenstein is taking and reviewing everything that Mueller is doing; and they would prefer this guy Matt Whitaker to be responsible for reviewing what Mueller is doing.

Here's the question. Is Robert Mueller's job in jeopardy right now?

PANETTA: Well, I -- I think the -- the real question is, is what Robert Mueller does as special prosecutor, with his recommendations for possible future indictments and future steps that have to be taken, is that going to be jeopardized by having this individual now have oversight over that prosecution?

I think it raises some very serious legal questions here.

Look, I understand how the president and the administration feel about that investigation. But if they start playing games with how that investigation proceeds, they're just going to create more problems for themselves. If they want to raise additional issues with regards to obstruction of justice, let them play this game, because it's a dangerous game to be played.

BLITZER: The -- I guess the bottom line is you know the White House chief of staff, General John Kelly, retired. His relationship with the president has often been rocky. Do you worry that the president is preparing to fire more people right now, especially since the midterm elections are over?

PANETTA: Well, you know -- you know, presidents certainly have the right to fire who they want. That's not the issue.

But normally, what would happen here is that, when you fire somebody, you have somebody else to recommend taking that individual's place. So you've kind of thought through the consequences of taking that kind of action.

If the president is just going to simply fire people at will and then appoint whoever to take their place, I think it's just going to result in more trouble for the administration.

So I would think that, if there are going to be future firings, it might behoove them for the president and John Kelly and others to sit down and think it through as to who they're going to recommend to take their place. Because the one thing that this country is a little tired of is instability when it comes to the administration and how they perform their duties in Washington.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, I remember an interview we did in May of last year when you told me that the president can try to interfere, try to cover-up, delay, intimidate, but that the institutions of American democracy are strong enough to survive. Now, a year and a half later, do you still feel that way?

PANETTA: I believe that very much, Wolf, because I believe in our democracy, the strength of our democracy and, more importantly, the strength of our Constitution.

Our forefathers envisioned problems with an executive who would try to gather all power to the executive. They didn't want to put power in an executive or in the legislature or in the courts. They had a system of checks and balances in order to limit power.

We've just gone through an election in which the American people elected a Democratic House of Representatives. Why? Because the American people want to make sure that our system of checks and balances works. I think ultimately, the institutions that our forefathers put in place are strong enough to be able to survive any administration.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And I agree with you on that point. Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.

PANETTA: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Coming up, even as he is prepares to sum up his investigation, why is the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, requesting records of calls and visits by Trump ally Roger Stone over at Trump Tower? We have new information. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:35:31] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories including new developments in the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Sources now telling CNN, the acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is unlikely to recuse himself from overseeing the probe. Let's get some more from our correspondents and our analysts. And Laura Jarrett, you're over there at the Justice Department. We're learning new information about requests from the Special Counsel for records of calls and visits by Roger Stone, the longtime Trump ally to Trump Tower during the campaign. What are you hearing about that?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, one of the major unanswered questions has always been what is going to happen to Roger Stone, and whether he will be indicted, and it came as something of a surprise to Trump's lawyers, the President's lawyers, about the fact that they have gotten this new request for Trump Tower call logs, visitor logs given how far along Mueller is in in his probe. One would think those would have come in earlier, but he's clearly still working away, and he's actually just gotten a new statement from Roger Stone himself, this to my colleague, M.J. Lee. And I just want to tell you a little bit. He says, "I never visited

Trump Tower after August 2015 until the president-elect asked me to visit him after the election." And then, he also says, in terms of those call logs with Trump, he says they were occasional and in all case initiated by the President. And finally, we never discussed WikiLeaks, which is of course the whole crux of this issue, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Laura, you also have some new reporting on the President's responses to written questions from Roberts Mueller and his team. Tell us what you're learning.

JARRETT: That's right, the President has been working away, reviewing his answers to those questions on collusion. That's been the main issue here, and while there's no agreement yet for whether the President will actually sit down with Mueller, he is working on preparing to produce those answers to Mueller, aiming to do it by later this month. And it's interesting, Jay Sekulow, the President's lawyer, actually said on his radio show today, he doesn't see any real change in the fact that the acting Attorney General is now Matthew Whitaker instead of Rod Rosenstein who had been overseeing the probe. He says he doesn't think that it will actually change anything day to day. But we'll have to wait and see on that, of course.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Let's see what happens. Chris Cillizza, the White House clearly now anticipating a whole slew of requests from the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, but do you think the President of the United States fully appreciates the enormous change that is about to happen with the Democrats controlling all of these committees, having subpoena power, and all sorts of other authority?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: No. And actually, I don't know that he's unique in that probably in terms of Presidents, because I think it's hard. You come in, you have unified power, House, Senate, and White House, so I think I'm sure people have come to him after Tuesday night and said, look, this is -- your life is going to get more complicated, and he said, sure, yes, I know. I mean, I always compare it to when people said, hey, when you have kids, things are going to be different now. He's like, yes, I got it, it's under control, but then when you actually have kids, you're like, wow, you are serious. So, I think that's what Donald Trump's life is going to be like.

I would disagree with Jay Sekulow's explanation of the switch from Rosenstein to Whitaker as Laura noted. You're going from someone who has publically been very supportive of Bob Mueller and the probe and the Justice Department and the independence of the probe to someone who is on the record, both written and publically to CNN and others, as saying, I don't know about this probe. It's already been too -- you know, it's already gone too far afield and that was last year. So, there's a huge difference here. Now, what Whitaker does, we don't know. But just in terms of their overall approach to the probe, it seems to me you're dealing with almost direct opposites.

BLITZER: You know, Jackie Kucinich is with us. Democrats are preparing for the possibility that the President, one way or another, might fire Robert Mueller, and the Democrats clearly want Mueller to preserve all of his records, all of these documents for their investigation, some sort of Congressional oversight, which the Democratic majority would be involved in, if there is this dismissal. Did the victory on Tuesday by the Democrats in the House of Representatives give them new found power to force Mueller to preserve everything?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. In fact, they've already sent letters, the Judiciary Committee, the Intel Committee, the Oversight Committee -- incoming chairman, have already sent letters to the Trump administration asking them to preserve exactly what you're talking about, documents relating to the Mueller probe. In addition, Chris mentioned subpoena power, they do have -- now they have subpoena power.

[17:40:00] So, should the President decide to get rid of Mueller, squash the probe, Mueller will go probably from his office, straight to Capitol Hill, and exaggerating a little bit, but he will have a public televised hearing, and have to answer questions from members of Congress no matter what happens now because they have made very clear on the front end, House Democrats will be exercising oversight over this administration in every way they can.

BLITZER: And if he is fired and he does have that public hearing, you know we'll televise it live right here on CNN.

KUCINICH: We'll watch it.

BLITZER: And that's not a question. Sabrina, after the Sessions firing, and we all saw it unfold yesterday, the new Senator, the incoming Senator from the State of Utah, a man by the name of Mitt Romney, you've probably heard of him before, he tweeted on his desire for the Mueller investigation to proceed, he said unimpeded. Do you think Romney is going to potentially be a headache for the Trump White House?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, first and foremost, the Senate is about to be without some of its most prominent Trump critics because you have Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker nearing their retirements, of course, the late Senator John McCain is no longer in the chamber. So, there is a position that Mitt Romney could fulfill as a conscience, so to speak, on the Republican side of the aisle. But it's worth noting that despite his contentious relationship with Trump in 2016, when he was one of the leaders of the Never Trump Movement, he then, as a candidate in Utah, took a more cordial tone. He said he was going to criticize the President sparingly.

Now, I think it will really come down to the difference between words and action. And so, he has criticized, for example, the President's rhetoric toward the media, toward minorities, immigrants, Muslims, but is he going to vote in line with the President's agenda? Is he going to exercise his power as a senator to withhold the votes on the President's priorities, on his nominees, that's what would ultimately make a difference and really send a message, not just a floor speech here and there when he disagrees. CILLIZZA: Can I just -- just one quick point about the politics here, because Corker and Flake were both hurt in their states by their opposition to Trump, no question. I mean, Donald Trump took credit for getting rid of Jeff Flake at that press conference. But they were both hurt by (INAUDIBLE) what's interesting about Utah is, yes, it's very Republican obviously, but Romney might pay less of a price, to Sabrina's point, for standing out as a Trump critic because Utah despite how conservative it is was deeply skeptical of Donald Trump.

SIDDIQUI: Yes, not a big fan.

CILLIZZA: So, you look at Utah, and you might think, wow, it's you know, overwhelmingly Republican, true, but Romney is sort of a better fit, not sort of a better fit for Utah's version of what Republicanism and conservatism looks like than Donald Trump by a wide margin. So, maybe there's less political pain for him.

SIDDIQUI: He's also coming in with a national profile.

CILLIZZA: Right.

SIDDIQUI: He's not going to face another Republican primary for President. So, far as we know, he's someone who already has established himself not just, you know, in the State of Utah but nationwide.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: Yes. There's some huge protect Robert Mueller protests, Laura, going on right now. We'll show our viewers some pictures. This is Times Square in New York City. People are really concerned that the President might do to him what he did to Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General. While we're watching this, tell us a little bit more about the acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker right now. Apparently, he has absolutely no intention of recusing himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation, even though he's spoken so critically of it over the -- before he became the Chief of Staff to the Attorney General.

JARRETT: Yes. I think the issue here, Wolf, is one of pre-judgment. He is on the record saying I see no collusion. He's on the record saying, I don't think the President obstructed justice in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, and of course, he made those comments as a private citizen before he was ever Sessions' Chief of Staff, but it really leaves nothing to the imagination about what he thinks about all of this and how he may seek to curtail the Mueller probe.

Now, we'll have to wait and see how career ethics officials over here at the Justice Department weigh in about whether they actually think that he needs to recuse himself like his former boss, Jeff Sessions. We may all remember Jeff Sessions was a surrogate on the campaign, he felt like there was no way he could possibly serve as the overseer of Mueller, given that role. It was such a clear conflict for him, but it's not at all clear Whitaker will look at this in the same way. He wasn't a surrogate and this is completely in his hands, it's solely within his judgment. He doesn't have to follow the advice from DOJ, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jackie, look at these pictures of these demonstrators in New York City Time Square. They're going to march to Union Square we're told. These are pretty big numbers. What does that say to you?

[17:44:48] KUCINICH: I mean, it tells me that you're in New York City. I wonder, you know, other places of the country where everyone looked like that. These are people who are clearly very plugged in and are watching on this probe closely. That said, when you -- when you -- the last polling we saw, which, of course, probably was before the election, people are largely in favor of Mueller being able to do his job. And I think you will see that -- and before the election, you saw that reflected in the United States Senate. Whether they actually take action, there is talk about -- Jeff Flake brought up the fact that he was going to try to protect Robert Mueller, have that legislation passed. We'll see if that happens.

BLITZER: Let's listen for a second. I want to hear what they're chanting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PROTESTERS: Justice now! Justice now!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CILLIZZA: I will say this, I'm with Jackie, generally speaking, which is New York City is New York City. It's a giantly liberal place so it shouldn't be terribly surprising. That said, any time people organize and get out about the special counsel is sort of an -- I mean, you know, you rally for a president --

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: But this is bigger than a special counsel, obviously.

CILLIZZA: It is -- it is. It's more about Trump. I want to point out one thing from the exit poll which we know about Mueller. The view of Mueller's handling of the Russian investigation, 41 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove. I was a little surprised about that.

KUCINICH: It's surprising.

CILLIZZA: Donald Trump tweeted it out using, you know -- but he tweeted it out. The one thing I would say, it's basically a total cover for party. Among the people who approved of the special counsel, 79 percent voted Democratic; disapproved, 79 percent voted Republican. So, it may just be if you're a Republican, you don't like it. If you're a Democrat, you --

BLITZER: We'll continue to monitor this very large demonstration at Times Square in New York City. New York City, the hometown of the President of the United States. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:51:10] BLITZER: Our breaking news, investigators are looking for

clues into the motive behind the country's latest mass shooting. A gunman opened fire inside a crowded bar in California killing 12 people before taking his own life. The death toll might have been even higher if not for the actions of a sheriff sergeant, lost his life and is being praised as a hero tonight. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. Brian, tell us more about this.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that sheriff sergeant who went in there, Ron Helus is credited tonight with saving lives, because he went into the bar almost immediately after getting to the scene. That's part of the recent tactical training which emphasizes that any officer who gets there first has to confront the shooter right away.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Within two to three minutes after the initial 911 calls, officers arrived on the scene of the shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks. Sheriff Sergeant Ron Helus charged in along with a California highway patrol officer. Sergeant Helus was struck by a several bullets and later died of his wounds. He's praised tonight as a hero.

GEOFF DEAN, SHERIFF, VENTURA COUNTRY, CALIFORNIA: We know that one Sergeant Helus and a highway patrol officer engaged him, the shooting inside stopped.

TODD: The sheriff says there were up to 200 people inside the bar. And the sergeant's quick intervention saved lives.

TOM MANGER, POLICE CHIEF, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND: The clock is ticking the entire time that you're responding to an active shooter.

TODD: Tom Manger, police chief in Montgomery County, Maryland outside Washington oversees a force of about 1300 officers. Manger and other law enforcement veterans say the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado changed everything as far as how police respond to active shooters.

MANGER: First responding officers could hear the shooting continuing, and their training, their tactic was we got to secure the perimeter and call out the SWAT team. And unfortunately, what happened is in hindsight was that the shooting did continue.

TODD: At Columbine SWAT teams didn't enter the school until 47 minutes after the gun fire erupted. 12 students and a teacher were killed. Now, in active shooter training scenarios like this one, many police departments instruct the first arriving officer or officers to rush in. That means don't wait for backup, for SWAT teams, for more firepower.

MANGER: You've got to stop the threat. And whether -- if that can be done by distracting the shooter, if it can be done by engaging the shooter, the intent and the purpose and the goal is to stop the shooter. TODD: But even now, those tactics aren't always followed. February

of this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, officials said one Broward County sheriff's deputy was on campus when the gunman started firing, the deputy took up opposition outside while the shooter was firing, but authorities say he never went in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what should he have done?

SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Went in, address the killer, kill the killer.

TODD: 17 people were killed inside Stoneman Douglas High School. The deputy in question denied the accusations of a poor response. Chief Manger acknowledges, charging in early carries enormous risks.

MANGER: The drawback is that you're putting officer's lives at risk. But this is -- this is something that we don't do lightly, we don't do recklessly. I mean, we do train these officers, give them tactical training.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And Chief Manger says his department gives most officers special tactical equipment, like ballistic shields and helmets and long rifles, so that even regular beat cops who are not normally members of SWAT teams can, in an instant, become their own one-person SWAT team and confront an active shooter. Wolf, that is the world we live in.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly is. All right, Brian, thank you very much.

Coming up, we're going to have more on the breaking news. Protests across the country to protect the special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

[17:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, murder on college night. A dozen people are gunned down at a California bar, a night of line dancing turns into a massacre. We're getting new information about why that bar may have been targeted.

Warnings ignored, the shooting -- the shooter has been identified as a Marine veteran whose behavior raised lots of red flags and left his mother living in fear. Could the slaughter have been prevented?