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INSIDE POLITICS

Pompeo Briefs Senators on Saudi Arabia; Mueller Draft Document Named Trump; Mike Lee Speaks from Senate Floor. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 28, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:28] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The Trump White House, at this moment, trying to quiet an uproar in Congress over the president's see no evil approach to Saudi Arabia. Fellow Republicans are among those most angry. We will hear from the secretary of state any moment.

Also in moments, a trio of senators will try to force a vote on legislation that would protect the Russia special council. This after new documents sparking Twitter fireworks highlighting the president's rage at Robert Mueller.

And as House Democrats meet right now to pick their leaders for the new Congress, Republicans get an early taste of the big midterm shift. Most of the reporters now off covering the party about to take power.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Head's up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a packed crowd today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. Maybe we're in the minority.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this. This is what it's going to be like (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not in the minority yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We'll spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill this hour, including, we're waiting to hear from the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. He's about to address reporters after a critical and tense foreign policy meeting on Saudi Arabia. Pompeo and the defense secretary, James Mattis, briefing senators, including some Republicans who say, if the president won't punish the Saudi Kingdom for killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, they will through sanctions.

In fact, the Senate could vote as early as today on a resolution that would cut off military support for Saudi Arabia's war efforts in Yemen. Here is some of what Secretary Pompeo said to senators in that closed door briefing. Quote, degrading ties with Saudi Arabia would be seen as a grave mistake for U.S. national security and that of our allies. The kingdom is a powerful force for stability in an otherwise fraught Middle East. Saudi Arabia is working to stabilize Iraq's fragile democracy and keep Baghdad tethered to western interests, not Tehran. We want to keep Saudi Arabia in America's column, because the alternative is co-optation by China and by Russia.

Pompeo also telling senators, if the United States abandoned the Saudi efforts in Yemen, quote, guess what, the war wouldn't end.

As we wait for Secretary Pompeo and senators to react to that briefing, with me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN's John Kirby, Karl Hulse with "The New York Times," and CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

Admiral, I want to start with you.

If you look at what Secretary Pompeo said in his briefing, if you read the op-ed piece he wrote today in "The Wall Street Journal," which is even more startling, a former member of Congress, Secretary Pompeo, talking about the caterwauling by members of Congress. What does it tell you about how they understand this confrontation, how they try to navigate this confrontation with the Congress?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think they're looking at this in a very binary way, John. And I get that the language of the resolution is also pretty stark in terms of what it wants to do in terms of cutting back American military cooperation with the Saudis in Yemen. But they look at this as win, lose binary, up down, and -- rather than trying to find a middle ground and rather than trying to understand that Congress has legitimate concerns about the Khashoggi murder and where things are going with Saudi Arabia.

Look, John, this was in Yemen's been going on since 2004. We ought to be re-evaluating what we're doing anyway. Even if you take Jamal Khashoggi off the table, which, of course, we can't. So I think it just means -- it just shows me that they are looking at

this in a very win, loss, binary way. And that's unfortunate.

KING: And one of the things -- I just want to note -- I talked -- Secretary Pompeo's there. The defense secretary, James Mattis, is there. Two key players there. The CIA director is not there. Senators wanted her there. The administration did not let her go there. They wanted to question about, not so much about what's happening in Yemen, about what the CIA concluded about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi.

To that point, this is the op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" I was talking about from Secretary Pompeo. The October murder of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey was -- has heightened the Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on. But degrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the United States and its allies. Is it any coincidence that the people using the Khashoggi murder as a cudgel against President Trump's Saudi Arabia policy are the same people who supported Barack Obama's rapprochement with Iran -- a regime that has killed thousands worldwide, including hundreds of Americans and brutalizes its own people.

Number one, it's tough language. Number two, it's just flat out wrong.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.

KING: It's not the same people.

HENDERSON: It's not the same people.

KING: Some of the same -- some of the critics -- some of the people who supported the Iran deal are now criticizing this president. But I don't remember -- Marico Rubio or Lindsey Graham --

HENDERSON: Or Lindsey Graham, Mike Lee.

KING: Or Joni Ernst. These are the president's fellow Republicans saying -- and they're not saying, as the administration suggests, to your binary point, cut off all ties with Saudi Arabia.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly

[12:05:14] KING: Stop talking to Saudi Arabia. They're saying separate, take a pause, step back, look the crown prince in the eye and say, pal, we've got a problem here, what are you going to do to fix it?

COLLINS: Exactly. And in this op-ed I think Mike Pompeo is unfairly saying it's one way or the other. Either you cut off all ties with the Saudis or you can hold them accountable for killing this journalist. And that's not what the senators on Capitol Hill are saying. They're saying we don't want to completely get rid of this relationship, but we do want to do something about this.

And I'm not sure that this is the right tone that he was hoping to strike with this op-ed right before he goes up on Capitol Hill and is trying to woo these senators into doing what he wants because he seems to be mocking them saying that it isn't popular in the salons of Washington. And as you just said, a lot of the people he's criticizing saying where was their criticism back with the Iran deal? A lot of those people did criticize the Iran deal and were concerned about it and I don't think mocking them for their concern over this is going to help him.

KING: Plus, this is not Dorothy from Kansas. This is Mike Pompeo, who was a me member of Congress. So if we're going to call this the Washington salon, he's been a member for --

COLLINS: Exactly.

KING: He's been a member for quite some time. But that was his strength, an administration that lacks allies on Capitol Hill, that lacks insiders on Capitol Hill, that lacks trusted voices. You have the vice president, to a degree, and you had Mike Pompeo, who was viewed as an add on. Somebody, maybe not everybody in Congress loves him, but they know him. He knows their language. He knows how to go into their cloak rooms. Isn't he burning a bridge here that's pretty important, him and the president?

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": He is from Kansas by the way. I did (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Yes, I know he -- yes, yes.

HULSE: Yes, I mean for some --

KING: Just not Dorothy.

HULSE: But from someone who was on Capitol Hill should know better. I mean what Kaitlan said, you're just angering these people. And, you know what that does? It causes them to dig in.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: Right.

HULSE: They don't want to back down on that. And a lot of these people have been engaged in Saudi Arabia issues for longer than Trump. And they have a history here. They do not want to see it this transactional. And I think the public sort of is looking at this too going, who's going to stand up?

You know, we've done a lot of dirty business with Saudi Arabia over the years, but this is a very public incident of which there's evidently an audio of. And people are going, wow, we're just going to stand by and let the president talk about the price per barrel of oil? I don't think it's going over very well. And I think these senators are reacting to that.

KIRBY: The tone he's striking is so antithetical to what we're actually seeing. He almost talks about Saudi Arabia like we have no leverage.

HENDERSON: Right, (INAUDIBLE).

KIRBY: Like -- like they're just running the table on us when we actually do. We're not as energy dependent. This isn't 1974 anymore. And if the Saudis didn't have the limited support that Mattis talked about for their campaign in Yemen, they wouldn't be able to conduct it. So we have leverage and we ought to be using that. There should be a positive effect here, not a negative.

KING: And to that point, the timing is interesting in the sense that the murder is reprehensible anyway. Trying to help cover it up is reprehensible anyway. But you have a good group of -- a good bipartisan group in the Senate saying we have questions. So there's enough critical mass, if you will, in the Senate.

Plus, you have the Democrats about to take over the House, which is why this is Chuck Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, saying, you know, Mr. President, you may disagree with us here, but we are a co- equal branch of government. You should have sent up the CIA director.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: What is the White House trying to hide? Well, we all know that President Trump seems to favor the crown prince to an extent that he'll look the other way at the greatest of transgressions. Members of this body have a right to hear from Director Haspel and her absence today speaks volumes, volumes about the White House's intentions from congressional oversight and Saudi Arabia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's a big deal and a big moment anyway, the war in Yemen, which you say has stretched on forever, human rights atrocities playing out there, you see them on the ground, the humanitarian crisis. Then the Khashoggi murder. Critical questions, not just for the crown prince, but for how the administration wants to deal with it. But also at this time of sort of a resettling of the power structure here in Washington.

HENDERSON: That's right. And you have in Congress, particularly in the Senate, certainly in the House too, Republicans who very much were going along with the president, right, giving him the benefit of the doubt as he, you know, found his sea legs as a new president. And here you have now Pompeo essentially saying, these folks don't really have a role. They're just part of the Washington salon. They're caterwauling, they're hysterical over this.

So I imagine, as some of the reporting shows, this didn't land very well with those folks at this point. And I think you are going to see a sort of growing criticism of this president, particularly after the midterms shows how weak he is in many ways across the country.

COLLINS: And to Schumer saying that Gina Haspel not being there, she's the one of very few people who has listened to the audio of that killing of this reporter. The president didn't listen to it and John Bolton was very defensive yesterday in that White House press briefing asking why do I need to listen to it, I don't speak Arabic. That's not the point. They're supposed to be gathering intelligence here and they're not even taking the time to listen to that.

But I think the larger question that we're going to walk away from today is, if they do let the Saudis get away with this -- and the Saudis have gotten away with a lot of bad things over the years, does this cement the idea that they can get away with anything and still maintain their ties with the U.S.

[12:10:02] KING: And to your point about, we'll learn more from Secretary Pompeo momentarily when we hear from him live. But to your point about, did this help or hurt? A stream of senators of both parties coming out of the meeting, I'm told by the control room, complaining, where was the CIA Director Gina Haspel.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: We have questions. We want them answered. We deserve to have our questions answered. So we'll wait for Secretary Pompeo. We'll bring you that live when it happens.

Up next, the new Twitter outburst from the president directed at, guess who, the Russia special council.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

A reminder, we're still waiting to hear from the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on Capitol Hill. We'll go there live when he speaks.

At the same time today, some fresh presidential fury at the Russia special counsel as some senators making a play right now to try to protect Robert Mueller's job. Senator Jeff Flake speaking right now on the Senate floor. You can see this there. Flake, along with Democratic Senators Cory Booker and Chris Coons want to force a vote today on legislation designed to lay down, you might call them spike strips, that would slow the president should he try to fire the special council.

[12:15:03] The president this morning says we're now living through what he calls, quote, our Joseph McCarthy era and that federal agents are, in the president's views, quote, viciously telling witnesses to lie. There's no evidence of that, but that's what the president says.

He also re-tweeted this, an image of two former presidents, a former secretary of state, the Russia special council, the former FBI director, two former attorney general, the former CIA director and the president's own hand-picked current deputy attorney general behind bars. You see the words right there under the words "treason."

The morning Twitter outburst follows new disclosures from Jerome Corsi. He's a potential special counsel cooperator who says he's rejecting a plea deal at the moment. Corsi, talking to CNN's Sara Murray, and he provided her draft court documents that Corsi claims came from the special counsel's team. And one of those documents names the president in a conversation about possible collusion. You see the document right there on the screen.

So let's bring it into the conversation here.

Number one, let me start on Capitol Hill. Mr. Hulse, you're our resident expert. Are they going to be able to pass this protection of Robert Mueller or is someone going to stand up and object?

HULSE: The interesting thing is, if it does pass, it probably doesn't have anything to do with Robert Mueller, but it has to do with judges because Jeff Flake is saying he won't support any more nominations. They want to rush a lot of these through. And without his vote and cooperation it gets difficult. So they've kind of been thinking, well, maybe we have to give him a vote.

I still think Mitch McConnell does not seem ready to go ahead with this, certainly on the grounds that it's intent --

KING: Let's go -- there it is right here. Let's go straight to the Senate floor. Mike Lee making your point, Carl.

HULSE: We think alike.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Madame President, for reasons articulated by Justice Scalia in his classic opinion in Morris v -- Morison v Olson, the prosecutorial authority of the United States belongs in the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice answers to the president of the United States. Its principle officers consists of people appointed by the president, serving at the pleasure of the president, after being confirmed by the United States Senate. This is a fundamental component of our liberty. The separation of powers protect us. That doesn't mean we're going to agree with what every president in every administration always does. But as Justice Scalia explains, we cannot convert an office like this one, an office like the previously existing office of independent council without creating a defacto fourth branch of government, fundamentally undermining the principle of separation of powers that is so core to our liberty. And on that basis, Madame President, I object.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Objection is heard.

Senator from Delaware.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Will my colleague from Utah consider a question?

LEE: I'm very late for another meeting, but, yes, I will, because I like my friend from Delaware.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without objection.

COONS: It was Justice Scalia's descent in Morrison v Olson the majority opinion?

LEE: No, it was not. And at the time it was written, it was somewhat novel. It was somewhat new. Since then, it has become a widely adopted view.

KING: All right, a little drama on the Senate floor. A rare thing. Actually a debate to -- a Democrat actually questioning a Republican. Something that, unfortunately, doesn't happen all that much in Washington these days.

The point at issue right there, Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who is retiring, along with Chris Coons, who you just saw on your screen there, he's a Democrat from Delaware, Cory Booker of New Jersey, also a Democrat, trying to pass a provision to protect Robert Mueller from being fired by the president, or at least to have Congress intervention if the president tried to fire Robert Mueller. They're having a legal argument now on the floor.

It just gets to one of the many dramas we see playing out in town in this post-election climate where the president clearly feels -- JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right.

KING: There's a big development just around the corner.

MARTIN: Yes.

KING: And we talked about this Jerome Corsi. He's a known conspiracy theorist. He's a conservative author. If you follow the right-wing, you know who Jerome Corsi is. He's a friend of Roger Stone. Robert Mueller is trying to piece together whether they had some inside information from WikiLeaks about the e-mails the Russians shacked from the Democrats and to whether or not the president or the campaign knew about that in any way. The president feels this coming, which is why, I don't know if you can put the image back up of all the people -- the president retweeting an account called @thetrumptrain, weighing, why aren't all these people in prison?

MARTIN: Right.

KING: Bill Clinton's there. Barack Obama's there. Hillary Clinton's there. James Comedy's there. Robert Mueller's there. The two former attorney generals. I think that's Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's aide is there as well.

MARTIN: So this is --

KING: And Rod Rosenstein, the current Trump-appointee.

MARTIN: Right.

Would you come to work today if you're Rod Rosenstein and the president says you should be behind bars for treason?

MARTIN: In the magazine -- and this is called high and low. So we go from the separation of powers debate on the Senate floor --

KING: Right.

MARTIN: To a tweeted image of some like PhotoShopped prison bars --

COLLINS: Badly PhotoShopped.

MARTIN: I mean --

KING: Right.

MARTIN: We're really kind of working it all in here, John. This is -- this is good.

[12:20:01] KING: But welcome to the Trump administration.

MARTIN: Exactly, man, the sacred and the profane, right?

So -- but it does -- both of those things, the Senate floor dramatics, or sort of ish-dramatics (ph) and then that image do get at the sort of larger story, which is we are, day by day, stumbling towards what's going to be inevitably some kind of a showdown here. I think it's too, too soon to say it's a crisis. But, look, at some point Mueller is going to come out with indictments. The president is going to be alarmed, or more alarmed than he is now. And I think that's what concerns senators, that he's going to then act in haste and try to stop the investigation before it's completed, once these indictments start really dropping here in the weeks to come. And I think that's why you're seeing this effort on the floor of the Senate to kind of tie his hands from doing that and creating a full-fledged crisis.

KING: And Roger Stone, I want -- this is Roger Stone on Fox last night. He is somebody who has been around since the Nixon days. He's always been on the outside fringes of conspiracy theory Republican politics, but he does talk to this president. He has for years. His friend, Jerome Corsi, has been meeting with the special counsel. This is Roger Stone's view of what the special counsel is trying to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER STONE, LONGTIME DONALD TRUMP ASSOCIATE: It shows what happens when you hot box a 72-year-old man for 40 hours as the Mueller interrogators did. Nothing we've learned in the last 72 hours shows that there was any collusion between the Russian state and Donald Trump's campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's interesting to me how he always says the Russian state. The issue is, did he talk to WikiLeaks that got the e-mails from the Russian state. So, follow your words carefully here.

COLLINS: Yes, and this is the third day in a row we've seen President Trump go after Robert Mueller. And it's because, if they do pass some kind of protection bill like this, he wants to be able to discredit the special counsel and essentially convince his supporters that whatever this report is going to say has nothing to do with him.

But it is interest to see what Roger Stone said there because yesterday we heard from Kellyanne Conway who made a remark saying that the president didn't know about the WikiLeaks or anything like that. Before they said no one in the campaign knew about it. She said the president didn't know about. So we do see them parsing their language here, changing it a little bit as we're getting closer to --

HENDERSON: Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been saying.

COLLINS: Same with Sarah Sanders.

KING: And let me try it a different way. You're being polite. They're changing their story again. They're changing their story again from flat out no collusion, no collusion, no one in my campaign, no one in my campaign --

MARTIN: Right.

KING: To, if it happened, it wasn't the president and it was somebody else freelancing.

MARTIN: Right.

KING: Maybe they thought he was going to lose. Maybe they had conversations. They didn't have -- but it wasn't the president. That's changing your story.

HENDERSON: Yes. And we'll see, I mean, how that works, right? I mean the idea is Mueller obviously is investigating whether or not there was any contact and how close does it get to the president? We all know about the meeting that happened in June. Top officials there, Robert -- obviously Manafort was there. Donald Trump Junior was also there. Jared Kushner. What does the president know about what --

KING: Just a bunch of nobodies.

HENDERSON: Yes, just a bunch of nobodies. Yes, yes, yes. Yes. And, you know, obviously the president has always maintained that he didn't know anything about any of this.

MARTIN: Yes.

HENDERSON: It's a little bit hard to believe that if you're Donald Trump Junior or Paul Manafort you're having these high level meetings and conversations about WikiLeaks and you never tell the president, who routinely on the campaign trail suggests that he was sort of obsessed with WikiLeaks and what they were doing.

KING: And we I learned yesterday, reporting this hour -- at this hour yesterday from CNN's Dana Bash, some additional reporting in "The New York Times," you gentlemen represent, about how Mueller's team is angry to find out the degree of cooperation that Manafort has been a cooperating witness, although the special counsel now says he's been lying, even after he promised to cooperate, but that apparently the Manafort's lawyers leaving these conversations and then immediately reporting them, or very quickly reporting them, to the president's legal team --

MARTIN: Right.

KING: Which has created a little bit of a game here in Washington. Is Manafort playing for a pardon?

MARTIN: Yes.

HENDERSON: Right.

KING: Is Manafort sharing information?

MARTIN: Right.

KING: Or, forgive me, I'm going to join the Jerome Corsi, Roger Stone conspiracy theory class, did Manafort know this was going on all along and is he knowing that the -- that -- I mean did Mueller know this was going on all along and he knows Manafort's saying things that are lies and still -- and then passing them on to the president? MARTIN: Which gets to the sort of larger concern that I don't -- even

a Mueller protection bill can't address, which is, does this president offer pardons left and right here in the days to come?

I thought the most revealing part of "The Washington Post," interview with President Trump yesterday, if you look at the transcript, which is online, when he's asked about pardoning Manafort, he goes off the record.

HENDERSON: Yes.

MARTIN: And then he's asked, well, is there anything you can say on the record on that topic? And he says, I can't right now. That, to me, is a huge (INAUDIBLE). If he does start pardoning, you know, whether it's Manafort or Roger Stone or perhaps even his own son eventually, that's going to create a huge issue on The Hill.

KING: I was just going to say, the Democrats are retaking the House and I know Republicans can say, hey, we picked up two seats in this midterm year. But they picked up seats in North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri. They should have won --

MARTIN: In Florida. In Florida.

KING: In Florida. Florida's a good pickup. Florida is a good pickup in a competitive state. But those other three are sort of -- were accidental Democrats. They didn't -- Republicans should have won them before. And they lose two out in the west, Nevada and Arizona and they hold Mississippi, which last night, whoop-de-do (ph). But what would the -- I'm sorry, it's just, you know --

[12:25:08] HENDERSON: Yes, No, it's right. It's Mississippi.

KING: It's -- but would the mood be on The Hill if the president all of a sudden started acting out like that?

HULSE: Yes, I think that's going to cause a big problem.

I still think the administration and the Republicans are not -- haven't gotten their heads yet around how different it's going to be --

MARTIN: Yes.

HULSE: With a Democratic House.

MARTIN: Yes. Yes.

HULSE: And how things change so much. You know, the thing you showed at the beginning where all of a sudden reporters aren't showing up at their press conferences. I mean that -- this is going to be rite large. And I think that, you know, you're going to have all sorts of blowback on those sorts of thing. It's just going to be a totally different environment. And that influences how the Republicans in the Senate think too because now the political pressure comes on them more than it's been before. HENDERSON: But is the Senate closer to Donald Trump at this point? You

talk about these new folks who are in there --

HULSE: Yes.

HENDERSON: Indiana, Missouri, Florida as well. Are they sort of more beholden to Donald Trump in a way that we didn't see before? Because you had people like Jeff Flake, you had people like John McCain, you had people -- obviously Lindsey Graham's still there, seems to be kind of figuring out what his relationship is to this president day by day. So we'll see. Are they going to be more likely to be closer to the president?

HULSE: Well, now you have the people who are going to be up in 2020.

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes.

HULSE: You have got Corey Gardner, Susan Collins, Tom Tillis --

MARTIN: Right. Tom Tillis.

HULSE: So those people, now they're the ones who have to start playing defense and protecting themselves.

KING: I think you make a great point about the newer freshman members certainly are more Trump-like --

HENDERSON: Right.

KING: More beholden to Trump because of his campaigning. At least several of them, many of them, in their states. Then you have the -- even Mitch McConnell, the leader, is up in 2020.

HULSE: Right.

KING: Which I think is going to be one of the big understated moments here.

MARTIN: Yes.

KING: He had a primary six years ago --

MARTIN: Yes.

KING: That gave him fits.

MARTIN: Yes.

KING: He may not think of it this time, but Mitch -- everything Mitch McConnell does now is going to be shaped by the fact that he's on the ballot in 2020.

MARTIN: Yes.

KING: And he didn't like the last time he went through that. HULSE: I do agree with you, though, six years seems like such a long

time when you're first elected to the Senate, and then it seems to go very fast.

KING: And so let's listen to this point -- to this point about the Manafort cooperation. The former independent counsel. They're called special counsels now. The former independent counsel, Ken Starr, asked today about this idea of Robert Mueller interviews Paul Manafort. Paul Manafort says whatever he says. Again, the special counsel says he's been lying. But then Manafort's lawyers leave the room and brief the president's legal team. What does that mean?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN STARR, FORMER CLINTON INVESTIGATION INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: If you're cooperating with a government, you should not be sharing information unless it's been understood. Hey, you're got to be transparent. And if you're not transparent as that cooperating witness, the government is really going to come down really hard on you. So, yes, if he's been sharing very helpful information, let's just call it a bad move.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: A bad move.

KING: Understated lawyers. Understated lawyers.

But to the idea that it's like, what is the significance -- what's the potential significance of this? I mean I guess I would say smart for the president's team if you have somebody willing to give you information, smart to get it, although doesn't it also potentially get into this whole question, the question to the president he answers in writing were more about the election season collusion. The other questions that Mueller says he might come back to later are all about, is there obstruction of justice?

MARTIN: Right.

KING: Is this -- is this --

HENDERSON: It sounds like it.

KING: Could you make a case that this is somehow witness tampering or obstruction?

COLLINS: And those are the questions that the president's legal team have fought so hard to keep as far away from President Trump as possible. They finally relented, agreed to answer these questions on pre-inauguration, what happened back during the campaign, but they are not answering any questions on what's going on. And they say that they're willing to fight that if the special counsel does come back and says that he wants to ask these questions about what's been going on since President Trump has been in office. Rudy Giuliani's made really clear that they're going to fight that.

But I did think Rudy Giuliani made an interesting comment yesterday which is that he said the president has been upset about the treatment of Paul Manafort in recent weeks. Someone who's been in and out of solitary confinement. So it is interesting that that's still someone the president is focusing on, even though he's tried to distance himself from Paul Manafort so many times saying that he only ran his campaign for a short amount of time even though he was there --

HENDERSON: Right.

COLLINS: During a very critical period for several months.

KING: Keeping very close tabs on that guy who was only around for a couple of weeks.

COLLINS: Yes.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: Yes, something like that. All right, a lot happening on Capitol Hill. We'll keep tracking that legislation, the effort to protect Robert Mueller in the Senate. You saw a bit of that flavor just moments ago. We're also waiting for the House Democratic elections. We'll bring you that when those happen. And the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in what we are told was a contentious briefing with senators about Saudi Arabia. He's supposed to speak any moment.

We'll be right back.

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