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THE SITUATION ROOM
Stone to Plead Fifth in Senate Russia Investigation; CIA Briefs Senators on Journalist's Killing; Rift Grows Between GOP Lawmakers, White House on Saudi Prince's Role in Murder; Mueller to Issue New Court Papers on Flynn's Cooperation in Russia Probe. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 4, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. "Willfully blind." A briefing by the CIA leads top Senate Republicans convinced that the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and that President Trump is ignoring the facts. Is the White House covering up for the Saudi leader?
[17:00:26] Level of cooperation. We're standing by for a key court filing by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, detailing how much information he's getting from the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, as part of his plea deal. Will Mueller also reveal critical new details of his Russia investigation?
Summit reward. A top adviser says President Trump thinks he should hold a second face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-un, because the North Korean leader isn't living up to commitments he made during their first summit. Why is the president rewarding Kim's bad behavior?
And final salute. In a moving tribute, 95-year-old former Senator Bob Dole is helped from his wheelchair to salute his long-time friend and fellow veteran, the late President George H.W. Bush. Tonight, new details of President Trump's private meeting with the Bush family ahead of tomorrow's state funeral.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news this hour. President Trump facing fury from fellow Republicans for failing to hold the Saudi crown prince accountable for the murder of "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi. After a briefing on the killing by the CIA director, Gina Haspel, top GOP senators say they're convinced Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the gruesome killing, which happened inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, two months ago.
I'll discuss that and more with Senator Dick Durbin, who was among those senators briefed today on the Khashoggi murder. And our correspondents and analysts and specialists, they are also standing by.
And we're going to get to all of that in just a few moments. But first, there's other breaking news right now involving the long-time Trump adviser and associate, Roger Stone.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us from Capitol Hill. Manu, update our viewers on the very latest.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Roger Stone, one of the president's closest associates, someone who has come under enormous scrutiny in recent weeks and months by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, who has been looking into his contacts that may have occurred in 2016 with WikiLeaks.
Now, there's been a separate effort by the Democrats on Capitol Hill to learn more about those contacts that may have occurred between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks and for him to produce a range of records.
Now, just moments ago, Wolf, Roger Stone sent a letter to Dianne Feinstein, who's the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and said that his attorney said that he would not provide this information to the committee, because he was pleading the Fifth.
Now, a quote from that letter says, "Mr. Stone's invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege must be understood by all to be the assertion of a constitutional right by an innocent citizen who denounces secrecy."
Now, what Stone says -- Stone's attorney says in that letter was that he has already testified before the House Intelligence Committee, answered a range of questions, and that those transcripts should be available soon, either publicly or the Democrats have said when they take power in the House, that they will provide those transcripts to Robert Mueller's team.
But Democrats will say that Roger Stone has not been fully truthful to the committee, not explaining the extent to which he tried to get information about the WikiLeaks hacks and the leaks of the Clinton e- mails during the 2016 campaign. And they have a lot more questions.
But a significant revelation by Stone's team tonight, saying that they would take the Fifth Amendment by not responding to these questions to Dianne Feinstein.
Also, interesting that they would choose to say that, because a lot of other people who Feinstein has reached out to have essentially ignored her requests; because as a minority, remember, Wolf, she does not have subpoena power the way that a Republican chairman would have, at least in the House side.
So this is a decision by them to make it very clear, they're not going to provide this information to Congress. Perhaps a sign to this House Democrats when they take power next year, that is they want to subpoena Roger Stone, they may have a fight on their hands going forward.
We'll see what Robert Mueller's team decides to do. Right now, we don't believe he has had contact with Roger Stone. But, of course, he's had contact with a lot of Stone associates and we'll see what the next steps Mueller's team takes to go after Roger Stone, Wolf. BLITZER: What's intriguing, this decision by Roger Stone and his
attorneys to cite their -- his Fifth Amendment privilege, not to appear before the committee, not to present documents before the committee, follows only by one day what the president of the United States said about Roger Stone.
[17:05:15] Let me read this tweet to you and to our viewers. "'I will never testify against Trump.' This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about 'President Trump.' Nice to know that some people still have 'guts!"
So what are they saying, if anything, on Capitol Hill? I know the news just broke that what Roger Stone is now doing comes the day after the president, in a truly extraordinary statement, defended him.
RAJU: Yes, that's a remarkable statement that was made by the president yesterday.
Democrats have pushed back pretty aggressively towards what the president is saying, essentially sounding like he's dangling a pardon for Roger Stone; urging him not to cooperate with the special counsel, as he went off Michael Cohen for cooperating with the special counsel.
We have not heard much pushback from Republicans about that yet. Not today, not yesterday.
Now a lot of members have not been in session, because of the Bush funeral; and they've scrapped their schedule from most of this week, so we have not heard much reaction to that yet. And most Republicans have sided with this president, increasingly so, as he's gone after special counsel.
But Wolf, this will only reenergize efforts by Democrats and some Republicans to try to protect the special counsel, try to potentially move on legislation to ensure he is not influenced by political pressure. So far, of course, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is not one to move forward on that.
But the president's tweet, interesting timing for this letter to come out soon after, saying that he would assert his Fifth Amendment rights. We'll see if Roger Stone decides to do that if he is, in fact, called for by the special counsel or is forced to testify before a grand jury, Wolf.
BLITZER: Clearly, President Trump strongly supports Roger Stone and his legal efforts, although it's a bit awkward, Manu, as you know. Remember what President Trump and candidate Trump used to say about individuals who were being investigated -- Democrats at the time -- by Comey, the FBI and others, members of Congress, what the president used to say about those who plead the Fifth. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you seen what's going on in front of Congress? Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment. Horrible. Horrible.
The mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?
When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment -- taking the Fifth so they're not prosecuted, I think it's disgraceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's pretty awkward for the president, having said that and now seeing one of his close associates plead the Fifth.
RAJU: Yes. No question about it, Wolf. He has time and again said things on the campaign trail that have come back to show -- embarrass the president or embarrass the White House, saying things like these are some of the -- he only hires the most talented people, the people -- the best people for his campaign. And we have seen one aide after another adviser either plead the Fifth, some pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.
It shows the president's inner circle increasingly under pressure by the Mueller team and on Capitol Hill. Only bound to intensify in the year ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly will. All right. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. I want you to stand by, because there's more news unfolding.
There's a briefing that was held up on Capitol Hill today by the CIA to select U.S. senators on the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is following this part of the story for us.
Jim, top Republican senators -- forget about the Democrats for a moment -- top Republican senators are now fully convinced that the Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi's murder. The White House says, not so fast. What's the latest?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The Trump administration is sticking to its conclusion that it's not clear that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, orchestrated the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
But President Trump's fellow Republicans, as you said, up on Capitol Hill, are furious tonight after the director of the CIA briefed some but not all senators on the Khashoggi murder. One GOP senator proclaimed, he's, quote, "pissed off."
ACOSTA: After CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed a small group of senators on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, top Republicans declared the evidence is crystal clear that the kingdom's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is behind the gruesome murder. Senator Lindsey Graham pointed to the killer's use of a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi's body. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: There's not a smoking gun,
there's a smoking saw. You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi.
[17:10:07] ACOSTA: An open and shut case, said Senator Bob Corker.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince, MBS, ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening, planned it in advance. If he was in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes, guilty.
ACOSTA: Another Republican senator, John Kennedy, was outraged the briefing was limited to a select number of lawmakers.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: My only point is that, by the director choosing to meet with some but not others, congratulations to her, she's pissed off everybody.
ACOSTA: The fury from fellow Republicans stands in stark contrast with the White House --
TRUMP: Maybe he did, maybe he didn't.
ACOSTA: -- where top officials, including national security adviser, John Bolton, are saying not so fast.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Secretary Pompeo and secretary Mattis both said without qualification they have read all the intelligence, as have I, and they didn't see anything that justified that conclusion.
So, you know, we will continue to look. Additional evidence is always possible that will come up. But that's where it stands.
ACOSTA: The Khashoggi case is hardly the only battle for the president, who picked up some family support after praising former advisor, Roger Stone, in the Russia investigation.
The president complimented Stone in a tweet for saying, "I will never testify against Trump," adding, "Nice to know that some people still have 'guts'!"
In response, D.C. attorney and husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, George Conway, tweeted the criminal code for witness tampering. That prompted a nasty tweet from the president's son, Eric Trump, who said, "Of all the ugliness in politics, the utter disrespect George Conway shows toward his wife, her career, place of work, and everything she has fought SO hard to achieve, might top them all."
The Trump family, it seems, has had enough candor from George Conway.
GEORGE CONWAY, ATTORNEY (via phone): You know, it's like the administration is like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) show in a Dumpster fire. And I'm like, oh, I don't want to do that. I don't know.
ACOSTA: The White House also has its eyes on the stock market, after a steep decline due to lingering concerns of a trade war between the U.S. and China. The president tweeted another warning to China, saying, "I am a tariff man." That's despite claims from the White House that Mr. Trump has chemistry with China's president.
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I've never seen Xi up close and personal. So at this dinner, I saw real chemistry between the two.
ACOSTA: The White House is trying to keep a lid on all of the chaos as the nation honors George H.W. Bush, even as some Bush relatives still remember some of Mr. Trump's attacks on their family.
GEORGE P. BUSH, GRANDSON OF PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: You know, I'm not going to lie that, you know, it hurts. It stings. But, you know, my grandfather, my uncle, and my dad, if they taught me anything, in politics, you get back up and you fight again.
ACOSTA: Still, there is something of a truce for now between the Trump and Bush families. Just a few moments ago, we saw President Trump and first lady Melania Trump wrap up a brief visit with the former President, George W. Bush and Laura Bush over at the Blair House, across the street from the White House. The president and first lady will be in attendance at services for Bush 41 at the National Cathedral tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you very much.
Let's dig deeper right now on the impact of the Khashoggi investigation and the growing split between the Trump administration and Congress when it comes to Saudi Arabia.
Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is working the story for us.
So Jim, does it appear that the White House is covering up now for the Saudis?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, at a minimum, it appears that the administration is coloring intelligence to the Saudis' benefit here.
Keep in mind: the administration -- Pompeo, President Trump -- have stuck to this "no smoking gun" line as somehow exonerating the crown prince.
The fact is, intelligence assessments rarely have a smoking gun. They take a preponderance of evidence. They take intelligence intercepts. They take clues and create an assessment, make a judgment on what they're confident in happened. And by all descriptions, this is a confident assessment by the CIA that this happened, either with the crown prince's knowledge or direction. The Trump administration seeming to hold out the possibility that
there would be some -- some clear, single clue that would make it incontrovertible. But what we saw today was even Republican senators and senators who have supported this president at difficult times, such as Lindsey Graham, hearing that same assessment and saying that it is a high-confidence one that the crown prince was behind this.
Listen to Lindsey Graham's explanation here. Because he was asked, "OK, you've heard this assessment. Yet we've heard from Mike Pompeo and the defense secretary another interpretation of it. What's your explanation for it?" Here's what Senator Graham had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: Since I have such respect for them, I'm going to assume that they're being good soldiers, and that when they look at the analysis, they're being technical in their statement, but they're not getting the assessment that I think the Senate will have. I would really question somebody's judgment if they couldn't figure this out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:15:11] SCIUTTO: Well, there you have it there. A Republican senator, Senator Lindsey Graham, plays golf with the president, often supports this president in difficult times, saying that he can't see how -- whether it's Pompeo or the president or his colleagues in the Senate -- don't see this as a clear and high-confidence assessment that the crown prince is behind this.
And Wolf, I have to say it, and I think it's worth noting, it is not the first time this administration has colored intelligence in a misleading way, frankly, if you look at Russian interference in the election. That was a high-confidence assessment, which the president questioned publicly, repeatedly.
If you look at North Korea, you have intelligence assessments about continued North Korean missile and nuclear activity, which, again, the president has dismissed in public. That is something that can be worrisome when you're dealing with the most -- the most important national security issues.
BLITZER: That's an important point. Over the weekend, I had a chance to sit down and interview the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who himself is a former CIA director.
Listen to what he had to say about the latest CIA assessment on the murder of Khashoggi. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He said there's no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Can you confidently tell his four children that he was not involved in that order?
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, obviously, sitting in an unclassified setting, here's what I can say. I have read every piece of intelligence that is in the possession of the United States government. And when it is done, when you complete that analysis, there's no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is an accurate statement. It is an important statement, and it is the statement that we are making publicly today.
BLITZER: Did the CIA conclude with high confidence that he was involved?
POMPEO: I can't comment on intelligence matters, CIA conclusions. I didn't do it when I was the director. I'm not going to do it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So Jim, is he playing to a technicality?
SCIUTTO: Well, that's exactly the word that Senator Lindsey Graham used. And Lindsey Graham has an advantage in that he sat across and heard the intelligence, as well, directly from the current director of the CIA, Gina Haspel. A technicality there.
And a very careful answer from Mike Pompeo, who is a careful, knowledgeable -- he led the CIA, a long time in Congress == to sort of play with what he could say publicly about intelligence. Because he said both things. He said, "All the intelligence I saw showed no direct link." But when you pressed him, he said, "I can't comment on intelligence."
Well, listen. You had senators get what apparently was an identical briefing, Republican senators. And they came out of that room with no doubt, Wolf.
And that is a problem for the president. Because this -- this briefing by Gina Haspel was delayed. It came on a Tuesday, the week of George Bush's funeral, which you heard from some on the Hill saying, well, was that timed to hide this in the midst of other news? If the intention of that briefing was to bring Republican senators on the fence away from penalizing the Saudis with legislation -- you've heard discussion of stopping arms deals, stopping support for the war in Yemen or other penalties. If that was the intention, it appears to have failed.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto reporting for us. Thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of the news that's developing right now. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois is joining us. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee. He was among those select senators who were briefed behind closed doors today by the CIA director on the Khashoggi murder.
Thanks so much for joining us, Senator. And I want to get your thoughts on the Khashoggi briefing in just a moment. But I want to begin with the breaking news right now.
Roger Stone, close associate of President Trump's, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights, refusing to turn over documents to your colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, including the ranking Democrat senator, Dianne Feinstein. What's your reaction to this late development in the Russia probe?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I've watched Mr. Stone over the months and even years of this investigation and questions asked. He's put on a very brave face and been very forward-leaning.
We asked him to produce some documents today that we think are important for us to continue our work in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to do that; not to incriminate himself by producing this information.
President Trump in previous occasions has inferred from the Fifth Amendment assertion that people have something to hide. I don't want to make that inference, but I want to tell you, it raises suspicions.
BLITZER: Does it suggest to you that Roger Stone fears he potentially could be indicted fairly soon?
DURBIN: I don't know if he does fear that. But I'm sure he worries, as his attorney might, that he could be involved in conflicting renditions of the same set of facts. Whether or not he had anything to do with Assange or the WikiLeaks remains to be seen. But the questions have been raised, and some of his e-mails have raised even more serious questions.
BLITZER: I want to turn to the late-breaking developments on the murder of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. You were one of, what, a dozen senators briefed behind closed doors by the CIA director, Gina Haspel, today. Give us your impression of the evidence you saw and heard.
[17:20:23] DURBIN: A jury would not need a lunch break to reach a guilty verdict based on the evidence that we heard today. I suspect that, as most everyone who entered the room, that the crown prince -- if he did not orchestrate this assassination, clearly, was well aware of it from start to finish. The evidence that we were given by our intelligence agencies confirm that.
BLITZER: We heard some very strong words, not just from Democratic senators like you, but Republican senators, as well. How could a bipartisan group of senators look at the very same intelligence and come away with such a different conclusion from what we're hearing from top officials in the Trump administration, including the president himself?
DURBIN: Well, I can't explain the president's take on Saudi Arabia. You remember, it was the first foreign country he visited after he is sworn in as president. He's had business dealings with the Saudis in the past. I can't explain his relationship with many countries, starting with Saudi Arabia.
But when the facts started pouring out, it was very clear from the beginning that the crown prince had knowledge, at least knowledge of what happened. Now more evidence has been piling up. The president has not changed his take on the facts. But most any objective observer would look at this evidence and say it is clear. This could never have occurred without the knowledge beforehand of the crown prince.
BLITZER: Do you believe the president has actually directed top officials in his administration to downplay the crown prince's involved involvement?
DURBIN: I think what he may have done -- and this is pure speculation -- is to limit their access to intelligence materials. What we had today was a thorough display of the gathered materials and the best analysts at the CIA giving us their conclusions. After that, I felt we had a good picture about what occurred here.
BLITZER: Only a dozen U.S. senators out of 100 were briefed on this intelligence that was created and developed by the CIA. Should the entire U.S. Senate have access?
DURBIN: Absolutely. Senator Schumer made a direct request, and many of us backed him up. This is the kind of information that should be shared with members of the Senate.
And I want to make it clear that, if it is obvious to others as it is to those of us who were briefed today, we have got to say to the crown prince, we find it absolutely unacceptable. This is inhumane behavior, barbaric behavior, and furthermore, the war which he has initiated in Yemen, which is causing so much human suffering and death, should not be supported with one nickel of American taxpayers' dollars or one American life.
BLITZER: Should the United States continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia?
DURBIN: Many of us believe that that needs to be stopped as a clear message to the Saudis that their current leadership has values inconsistent with our country.
BLITZER: As you know, the U.S. has a long-standing strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia. Do you believe, Senator, that the U.S. can punish the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, while at the same time preserving that overall strategic relationship?
DURBIN: It remains to be seen. But I would say that the leader in the Saudi kingdom, who appointed his relative into this position, has the power to make another decision if he believes he's not a good leader.
I believe, based on the evidence we've seen in Yemen, as well as this assassination of Khashoggi, that the crown prince, MBS, should not be the leader of that country.
BLITZER: Senator Durbin, thanks so much for joining us.
DURBIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right. Stay with us. We have a lot more on all the breaking news, and there's lots going on right now. Trump ally Roger Stone turning down a request for documents from a top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, citing his Fifth Amendment right. Also, will a new filing from Robert Mueller's team on former national
security adviser, Michael Flynn, reveal new details of the Russia investigation, including how close Mueller is right now to wrapping it all up?
[17:28:33] BLITZER: A court filing from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is expected at any time now, and it could reveal new details of his investigation, as well as how much the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has been cooperating.
Our political correspondent, Sara Murray, is joining us right now. Sara, Mueller's filing is due by midnight tonight, but could come out literally at any moment.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. Right now, we're waiting in suspense. And this is so interesting, because we have heard so little from Michael Flynn, one of the earliest cooperators in the Mueller probe. And this filing could give us insight into what Flynn knows and also into some potential contacts between the Trump administration and the Russians.
TRUMP: Honestly, it's unbelievable, right?
MURRAY (voice-over): Tonight, new details may be revealed about the alleged dealings Donald Trump's campaign and his administration had with Russia. The disclosures could come as part of Michael Flynn's sentencing memo, a filing that will also show the extent of the former national security adviser's cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.
TRUMP: The witch hunt, as I call it, should never have taken place.
MURRAY: The Flynn filing is one indication that at least part of the Mueller investigation, which has spanned most of President Trump's time in office, could be nearing completion.
Yahoo! News reports that Mueller's team is, quote, "tying up loose ends" when it comes to the obstruction investigation. On Monday, the special counsel's office told congressional investigators that the probe had reached a, quote, "mature enough stage" that any new subpoenas from House and Senate committees would not interfere with their investigation.
While Mueller has kept a tight lid on the inner workings of his investigation, Flynn's filing could offer a window into how Mueller is using an early key cooperator.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- would not interfere with their investigation. [17:30:05] While Mueller has kept a tight lid on the inner workings of
his investigation, Flynn's filing could offer a window into how Mueller is using an early key cooperator.
Flynn, seen here next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, pleaded guilty last December to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia. He admitted to discussing U.S. sanctions relief with former Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, who U.S. intelligence considers a spy.
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Lock her up! Lock her up!
MURRAY: Flynn, a centerpiece on the campaign trail, served only a brief stint in the White House. He was fired more than two weeks after former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, first informed the White House that Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians.
SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We believe that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.
To state the obvious, you don't want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians.
MURRAY: The new court documents just the latest insight into what three key players in the probe have offered Mueller. Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, revealed in court last week that he kept Trump in the loop about his discussions with Russians to build a Trump Tower in Moscow as late as June 2016. At that point, Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee for president.
This week, Mueller's team, in conjunction with the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, is expected to file a sentencing memo in the Cohen case, responding to Cohen's request for no prison time.
Mueller is also expected to reveal Friday why investigators believe Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, lied to them, even after agreeing to cooperate.
MURRAY: Now, Wolf, of course, there's another prong of this investigation that has to do with Roger Stone. And we just heard the news that he put out a letter to Dianne Feinstein, saying he would not cooperate with the senators' request; he would take the Fifth Amendment and invoke his privilege there.
And I just heard from his lawyer that they sent a seller letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee back in September, essentially saying the same thing.
Now, this raises the question of how they will deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Roger Stone tells me they still have not heard from the special counsel, although they've clearly been circling Roger Stone, and they've interviewed many of his associates, Wolf. BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front. If he is called to
appear before Robert Mueller, before a grand jury, he could similarly cite his Fifth Amendment privilege.
BLITZER: We'll see if that happens. All right. Thanks very much, Sara, for that report.
Much more ahead on the breaking news. How damaging will Robert Mueller's new court filings be to President Trump? We're standing by for the special counsel to release this important new information, the filing involving Michael Flynn.
[17:37:10] BLITZER: This hour's breaking news: President Trump's longtime ally and friend, Roger Stone, invoking the Fifth Amendment and refusing to turn over documents requested by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Let's get some more with our and analysts. This is major breaking news, Susan. What's your analysis of this decision by Stone?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, first of all, we should be clear that somebody invoking their Fifth Amendment rights is not them admitting guilt. That's something which the president of the United States has been consistently wrong.
Now, one of the interesting things here is whether or not the Senate decides, Congress can actually provide immunity and say, "No, no, we need your -- we need your testimony enough that we're going to immunize you such that you can't invoke the Fifth Amendment." Now, that can make it incredibly hard for prosecutors to come on and actually make a case.
So what we might be seeing here is behind-the-scenes negotiations between congressional committees and, actually, the special counsel's office about who is going to ultimately, you know, proceed with this and whether or not the Senate investigation is going to take priority over the special counsel investigation.
BLITZER: How do you see it, Laura?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And Mueller's team should have priority, because we're talking about a criminal prosecution, as opposed to having public accountability in the public square.
Now, Congress has a very important legislative role, but arguably, if somebody has broken the law, the prosecutorial end of the investigation should take precedence here.
And as we've seen, there is leverage from Mueller's team. Remember, one of the reasons they may not have incented to tried to immunize, is because every single person who is surrounded by Roger Stone seems to have been questioned about the actions of Roger Stone and his own words, leading to the conclusion that perhaps he, himself, is a target and/or defendant in a potential investigation or case. So there is a huge disincentive.
But Susan is right. There is, within the congressional power to try to ensure, they could subpoena at some point his testimony if they wanted to. But it's a calculated cost-benefit analysis that I think Mueller wins.
BLITZER: Listen to what the president used to say, Gloria, about -- during the Hillary Clinton investigation, the Democrats were being investigated, about those who plead the Fifth. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Have you seen what's going on in front of Congress? Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment. Horrible. Horrible.
The mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?
When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth, so they're not prosecuted, I think it's disgraceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Oops. I think that -- I think that the president who implied that Roger Stone had guts after he said that he wouldn't testify against Donald Trump this past Sunday --
BLITZER: It's what he tweeted yesterday, the president. He was praising Roger Stone.
BORGER: And don't forget that -- that General Flynn took the Fifth last year, because he wouldn't provide documents to the -- to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Look, I think now that the House is going to be run by Democrats, there's a possibility that they could, of course, always subpoena. They could always subpoena.
[17:35:04] But I do think that there is this kind of tug of war going on, and I do think Mueller wins in this, particularly if he wants to prosecute. We don't know -- we don't know the answer to that.
But I'm curious as to what the president would be saying about his friend, Roger Stone, this evening. He'll probably say that Feinstein was -- and the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee are overreaching, and there's no reason that he should participate in this, which is what his -- Stone's attorney said.
But if you look at that, it's pretty indisputable that, you know, the president said pleading the Fifth is pleading guilty.
BORGER: Which it isn't. Which it isn't.
BLITZER: Very awkward for the president right now --
BLITZER: -- especially after his tweet yesterday, praising Roger Stone for refusing to testify about all those issues. Here's what he said. I'll read it to our viewers once again. This is the president of the United States yesterday.
"'I will never testify against Trump.'" That's a quote. "This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about 'President Trump.' Nice to know that some people still have 'guts'!"
It's very embarrassing, all of this: the way he goes after the special counsel but also the way he defends Roger Stone. And now all of a sudden, Roger Stone is pleading the Fifth.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, that tweet could be from an episode of "The Sopranos," Wolf, and instead, it's from the president of the United States, encouraging one of his former associates to essentially lie or obstruct in this investigation. It's really unseemly for the president to be tweeting something like that.
But you could see why he would want Roger Stone to remain loyal, to try to obstruct, because Roger Stone was an architect of President Trump's political career. He knows so much about the inner workings of the Trump political organization, the Trump Organization. Of course, he left early on in this presidential campaign. But he remained in touch with President Trump.
And one of the big questions that we are likely to get an answer to, even through the investigation or through these congressional investigations, is was Roger Stone that link between WikiLeaks and, potentially, Russia and the Trump campaign.
BLITZER: Susan, we expect -- could be any minute now -- the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to release a formal document involving Michael Flynn's -- the former national security adviser, to the president, his cooperation. And we anticipate learning a great deal once that's made public. It's got to be made public before midnight tonight.
HENNESSEY: Right. So basically, the sentencing memorandum is going to tell us the extent of cooperation. And so prosecutors are going to -- are going to say how helpful that cooperation has been to them. Whether or not it's been critical to their case or not.
Look, we've seen a range of sort of cooperation in the special counsel's investigation. People like George Papadopoulos, who turned out not to have been such a great amount of help. Paul Manafort, who turned out to have been lying the whole time. Sort on the other end of the spectrum, Michael Cohen, who appears to have provided quite a bit of cooperation.
Now, we won't necessarily know what Michael Cohen [SIC] told the special counsel's office. They've left open the possibility that they might file a sealed addendum. But certainly, we're going to find out whether or not the special counsel's office found that cooperation valuable.
BLITZER: You meant Michael Flynn, not Michael Cohen.
HENNESSEY: Michael Cohen [SIC].
BLITZER: I want to be precise. Michael Flynn, as you know, the president's national security adviser, only for a month, but had been very close to the president for a year throughout the campaign. What are you going to be looking for once this document is released?
COATES: Here's what we won't see. We won't see anything past three weeks into the administration. So discussions about James Comey and the firing, any obstruction, we're not going to see anything about that, potentially.
But this is somebody who had a very key role in the transition, somebody who worked closely with people who have already become cooperators. And you've got the person who was the original connoisseur, if you will, of the "lock her up" chant, now facing. in the face, what will be his own sentencing.
What's most important to me about this is the timing of it, Wolf. Imagine this. We have had this person on the hook. "We" meaning Mueller, collectively the royal king English. Mueller has had him on the actual hook for over -- almost a year now. They've extended four different times his sentencing. What could possibly have held the attention of the special counsel all this time?
And within a week of the president of the United States providing his written, locked-in, although highly attorney-vetted testimony and statements, we've got Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn, all of a sudden coming out of the woodworks. To me, this is what you thought calling the linchpin. And I'm most curious to figure out why they delayed, what he provided and why now?
BLITZER: What do you think?
BORGER: And, well, don't forget, General Flynn is -- General Flynn is the man that Sally Yates, who was the acting attorney general at the time, ran down to the White House with her hair on fire to talk to the White House counsel, Don McGahn at the time, letting him know that she thought the national security adviser could potentially be subject to blackmail by the Russians. This was a big deal for her and, certainly, for the White House.
And yet, it took 18 days for Flynn to be fired. Apparently, because he had lied to Mike Pence about his communications with the Russians. So I'm interested in finding out if we will know -- and you guys tell
me -- what his communications with the Russians were, who else was involved in that aside from the Russian ambassador. Were people within the White House involved? Did the President know that he was talking about easing sanctions?
We know K.T. McFarland knew, his number two. So I sort of want to -- I want to get more of the whole picture here, and I don't know if we're going to get all of that tonight. But even if we get a piece of it, it will certainly lift the veil a little bit on what was going on during those 18 days.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of anticipation, Rebecca --
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.
BLITZER: -- for what will be in this document about Michael Flynn, who clearly lied when he said his discussion with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, during the transition had nothing to do with the sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration --
BLITZER: -- had just imposed on the Russians.
BERG: Absolutely. There is still so much we do not know about the big picture here, and about those conversations even.
Who was guiding Michael Flynn within the transition team, within the administration? Who was instructing him to have those conversations? Who was aware of them? Was the President aware? Was he encouraging this?
These are all pieces of the puzzle that have yet to be filled in. We've been talking about this now for more than a year. There's a lot we still don't know.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's much more news. Lots of breaking news unfolding right now.
A top administration official also says Kim Jong-un is not, repeat, not living up to the commitments he made during his summit with President Trump back in Singapore. So why is the Trump administration so eager for yet another high-level get-together?
[17:51:24] BLITZER: Tonight, it looks like the Trump administration still intends to arrange another meeting between the President and Kim Jong-un, even though the North Korean leader hasn't lived up to some of the promises he made at their earlier summit this year.
Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, what are you hearing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Trump and his team are saying that a second summit with Kim Jong-un is going to happen shortly after the first of the year, probably in January or February, no word yet on a location.
Tonight, there's real concern that the Trump team is simply too eager to reward Kim even though he's continued to build his weapons program.
TODD (voice-over): Kim Jong-un has dodged, weaved, mislead the Trump team about his weapons, secretly continued his missile program, all since the Singapore summit. And it's because he has behaved poorly that the U.S. should hold a second summit with him. At least according to President Trump's national security adviser.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They have not lived up to their commitments so far. That's why I think the President thinks another summit is likely to be productive.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, critics of the President's approach to North Korea say the administration is rewarding the North Korean dictator for stringing them along.
MICHAEL FUCHS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS: I don't think that they should be holding a summit without any progress. The United States needs to make clear to the North Koreans that there is another summit potentially on the table here, but you need to actually show us results.
TODD (voice-over): Since meeting with President Trump in Singapore in June and promising to draw down his nuclear weapons program, Kim Jong- un has supervised the test of a, quote, ultra-modern weapon.
A South Korean government source said it was likely a multiple rocket launcher. And a report from a Washington think tank said Kim was operating more than a dozen secret missile sites.
MARCUS NOLAND, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR OF STUDIES, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: What we have not seen is a nuclear test or an ICBM launch. But everything underneath that, the production of new sites, the production of new weapons, the testing of engines, it continues apace.
TODD (voice-over): Despite that, Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. won't demand that North Korea provide a full list of its nuclear and missile sites before Trump meets again with Kim.
While many experts believe the North Korean Supreme Leader is manipulating the President, John Bolton is still flush with optimism.
BOLTON: If the North Koreans follow through on the commitments they made in Singapore, President Trump will deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. He opened the door for them. Now, they have to walk through it.
TODD (voice-over): We asked experts -- even if Kim has deceived the Trump team, isn't it worth Trump getting him face-to-face to pressure him into holding up his end of the deal?
FUCHS: This president does not stand up to autocrats when he meets with them in person. And so to believe that he is going to somehow do that the next time he sees Kim Jong-un, I think, is the triumph of hope over experience.
TODD: So is the Trump team really going to hold Kim Jong-un's feet to the fire in a second summit and really press him to draw down his nuclear weapons and missiles or at least to account for them?
We pressed the White House National Security Council and the State Department on those questions. They didn't get back to us. But we do know that Trump has passed a message to Kim Jong-un recently through South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
That message, according to Moon, was to tell Kim that Trump has a, quote, very amicable view of Kim and wants to implement the rest of their agreements -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting. All right, Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting.
Breaking news next. President Trump's long-time confidante, Roger Stone, invokes the Fifth Amendment in the Senate Russia investigation. Why is he refusing a request for documents and for an interview?
[17:54:55] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Pleading the Fifth. The President's long-time confidante, Roger Stone, is refusing to comply with a request for an interview and information in the Senate's Russia investigation. Is Stone hiding something?
Flynn's assistance. At any moment now, Robert Mueller is expected to reveal new details on what he has learned from the President's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Will he offer clues about any new indictments in the Russia investigation?