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Former President And Laura Bush Return to Capitol to Pay Respects to George H.W. Bush; Putin Jabs U.S., Russian Media Mocks Trump After Cancelled Meeting with Kremlin Leader. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 4, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Loose ends. The special counsel is said to be wrapping up his work, as he prepares to file new documents on Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, two pivotal figures in the Russia probe. The legal pressure on the president is escalating tonight.

And smoking saw. That's how Senator Lindsey Graham is describing evidence that the Saudi crown prince was complicit in the murder and dismemberment of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. After a CIA briefing, key Republicans suggest the president is intentionally ignoring the prince's involvement.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news.

A major figure in the Russia investigation invokes his Fifth Amendment rights, refusing to testify and turn over documents. We just learned that Trump ally and confidante Roger Stone has rejected a request coming from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Stand by for details.

This as we expect to get new information on Robert Mueller's Russia probe at any moment. He's expected to reveal the extent of the cooperation he's been getting from the president's fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The documents could contain very important clues about what's next in the Russia probe.

This hour, I will talk with the House Intelligence Committee member Jim Himes, and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go directly to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, Roger Stone, he is a big part of Mueller's probe into whether the Trump campaign was working with WikiLeaks. Why is he using the Fifth Amendment right now to avoid answering the Senate committee's questions? JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is

a question.

And let's remind people why Roger Stone is central to this investigation, because Roger Stone tweeted repeatedly in the midst of the campaign and the releases of these stolen Clinton e-mails, prior to those releases, he tweeted messages talking about damaging information to come. How did he know that?

His defense in recent days has essentially been that it is just bluster, he was just making it all up. But keep in mind Robert Mueller has other information here. He has other witnesses who are giving information under sworn testimony. He has other -- at least the possibility of intercepted communications, the possibility of Twitter messages, direct messages between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks.

So the question is, what is the evidence? Does it make Roger Stone a liar here on these claims? And, of course, the big picture question is, was there ever a communication between Stone and Trump in advance of those releases?

So Roger Stone is central to the continuing question as to whether there was collusion during the campaign between Russia, who stole the e-mails, and WikiLeaks, who then released the e-mails. As Mueller is doing his investigation, of course, you have the Senate doing its own investigation, and that's the root of today's news, because the Senate demanded from him any records of communication between Stone and WikiLeaks.

And now Stone responding today, saying he's not going to give that testimony. He's not going to give those records. I'm going to quote from his lawyer's statement now here.

He says: "The requests, as previously stated to staff, are far too overbroad, far too overreaching, far too wide." It continues, "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."

That his word from the -- Stone's words through his attorney just in the last few moments, Wolf.

BLITZER: What is so intriguing is this comes only a day after President Trump publicly in an official statement on Twitter praised Roger Stone for saying he wouldn't testify against him.

Could this be considered, as some legal scholars are now suggesting, witness tampering?

SCIUTTO: Listen, it was a very public statement from the president of the United States, the highest official in the land, seemingly signaling the target of a continuing investigation, saying that he supports him.

And keep in mind, this is a president who has doled out that kind of support -- and I will read the tweet. "I will never testify against Trump," Trump quoting Stone there saying, and then characterizing the investigation as 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 in that very public statement, the president praising him in a way that the president has not others who have cooperated with this investigation, Michael Cohen among them. He attacks them for that. And one day later, Roger Stone invokes his Fifth Amendment rights here.

We should remind people what the president has said in the past, in fact repeatedly, about people who are the subject of investigations when they invoke their Fifth Amendment rights. The president in the past not speaking too highly of them.

[18:05:07]

Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, 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 are 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 is disgraceful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: So why is Roger Stone taking the Fifth today? Is he concerned about legal exposure?

And also that question that you raised, Wolf, is the timing of today's invocation of that Fifth Amendment right, which every American has, we should note that, that does not presume guilt, but the timing is interesting here, because it comes a day after a very public announcement of support, words of support by this president for Roger Stone, praising him for not cooperating with the special counsel investigation.

BLITZER: We will see how the president responds to this decision by Roger Stone to plead the Fifth. All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

Also this hour, we are standing by for Robert Mueller to drop new court documents and offer new revelations in his Russia investigation. This is a huge week for the special counsel as he moves deeper and deeper into his endgame.

Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, Michael Flynn's role in the Russia probe is moving back into the spotlight tonight. JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, and we're finally

set to get a glimpse inside this yearlong cooperation between Michael Flynn and the special counsel.

Now, Flynn may have a lot to reveal, since he was by the president's side throughout the campaign and in the early days of the administration, while at the same time we know that Michael Flynn was communicating with a former Russian ambassador and later lying about it to the vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, the yearlong silence surrounding Michael Flynn and his cooperation with the special counsel could finally be broken.

MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Yes, that's right. Lock her up.

SCHNEIDER: The president's short-lived national security adviser was front and center throughout the 2016 campaign.

FLYNN: The next president of the United States right here.

SCHNEIDER: And has been talking to Mueller's investigators since he pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators last December.

Now, with Flynn's sentencing scheduled in just two weeks, the special counsel will brief the judge about the extent of his cooperation and could reveal how much Mueller knows about the Trump campaign and the administration's dealings with Russia.

FLYNN: I have called on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race. because she, she put our nation's security at extremely high risk.

SCHNEIDER: Flynn was the first high-ranking former Trump adviser to cut a formal cooperation deal.

TRUMP: Mike Flynn is a fine person. He was just doing his job.

SCHNEIDER: The man who once sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a dinner in 2015 lasted less than a month in the White House before he was ousted for lying to Vice President Pence about discussing sanctions relief with then Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who U.S. intelligence considers a Russian spy.

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We believed 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.

SCHNEIDER: The expected Flynn revelations come as the Trump administration braces for Mueller to reveal his findings. Yahoo News reports that special counsel prosecutors have told defense lawyers in recent weeks that they're now tying up loose ends. Plus, Mueller's office told congressional investigators Monday that

the investigation has reached a mature enough stage regarding possible obstruction that any new subpoenas issued from House and Senate committees would not interfere with the overall Russia probe.

And two key filings are expected from Mueller by week's end, one on Michael Cohen, who continues to cooperate, and one on Paul Manafort, whose plea deal has been called off after the special counsel accused him of lying.

The Manafort filing is expected to detail exactly how Manafort lied. It could give a window into what the special counsel asked him and reveal how much Mueller knows about the campaign's ties to WikiLeaks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: And in this Flynn filing that could come just about any minute now, we're also expected to hear from prosecutors about what sort of sentence they're recommending here, Wolf.

We're expecting the prosecutors will ask for zero to six months, you know, but it is also possible that given the extent that Michael Flynn has cooperated with them, if they think he has cooperated extensively, they might ask the judge for no prison time at all and just probation.

BLITZER: Jessica, stand by.

Sara Murray is here. She is doing a lot of reporting on this as well.

How much does Michael Flynn know? How damaging potentially could this document that Mueller and his team are planning to release at any moment now actually be?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is really hard to say.

We know obviously that Michael Flynn was very close to the president throughout the campaign, throughout the transition, and then in his early days in the White House. He obviously had a number of these conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador, that he for whatever reason felt the need to lie about.

[18:10:01]

And this is something that has really stumped people who were serving in the White House at that time, why he felt like he needed to make up these cover stories, why he felt like he needed to lie about these conversations, and also why he felt like he could get away with it for so long and that it wasn't going to come out.

I think it will be fascinating to see, you know, if they lay out a little bit more substance about what the conversations were about and, of course, whether Michael Flynn shared any of this information with president-elect Trump or President Trump at the time.

BLITZER: Jessica, how cooperative with Mueller's team has Flynn been? SCHNEIDER: All signs point to the fact that he has been extremely

cooperative here.

Now, when Michael Flynn pleaded guilty on December 1, one year ago, he agreed to sit down with the special counsel's office as often as they needed, and it seems like he has done exactly that, because at four different times over the past year prosecutors have said to the judge, we're not ready to go to sentencing just yet.

And that indicated that they were really getting more and more information from Michael Flynn. What is interesting as well is there was a joint status report filing in September, and in that report all the way back in September, prosecutors said, Judge, we're ready to go to sentencing here, but you need to give us until at least the end of November.

And they asked for any filings related to sentencing not to be filed until November 14. That was just about one week after the midterm elections. That implies that Michael Flynn may have given them some very politically explosive information, and they didn't want it revealed in any filings until well after the midterm elections just to abide by those guidelines to not do anything to impact the election.

So there could be a lot in this report. We will see if we actually see it all.

BLITZER: Yes, because they could redact potentially some of it.

SCHNEIDER: Exactly.

BLITZER: We will see how much of it is made public.

And it is interesting, Sara, that later this week the Mueller team is going to be releasing yet another document involving Paul Manafort and why he lied and how that could affect the sentencing that's coming up in the coming days as well.

So we potentially could learn a great deal in this document at the same time.

MURRAY: That's right.

You know, I think that what we have seen from the special counsel's team is they do put out fairly robust documents that do kind of sprinkle these bread crumbs about where their investigation is headed and what they are learning and also tend to implicate other individuals along the way.

I think the reason Paul Manafort's situation is so interesting is it was this explosive filing where, you know, we learned that all of the sudden the government believed Paul Manafort was lying to them. He had already agreed to cooperate and then he apparently, according to prosecutors, was lying.

The big question, of course, is what was he lying about? But, you know, we saw it in the Cohen filings. They talked about Cohen's contact with the president's team as he was crafting his lies. That's something to look for when we see Paul Manafort's filing, depending on how much they make public. Is there any reference to him being in contact with anyone on the president's team when he was supposed to be cooperating with the government?

BLITZER: It is so intriguing that Mueller and his team are releasing all of these documents, all of this information only days after they received the president's written response to those questions that they submitted. An intriguing development.

Don't go too far away. We are anticipating getting some of the documents fairly soon.

In the meantime, I want to bring in Congressman Jim Himes. He's a Democrat. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

Lots to discuss, but I want to begin with Roger Stone, the president's longtime associate. As you know, he is now pleading the Fifth in the Senate Judiciary Committee's Russia investigation. He argues his testimony before your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, is enough, is sufficient.

What is your reaction to these late-breaking developments?

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, it is sort of bizarre, Wolf.

It is not unusual for somebody to plead the Fifth. It is a little unusual for them to do it after they have testified to both the special counsel and to the House Intelligence Committee. And lawyers can probably have a field day about whether, by, you know, speaking once, you don't waive some of your rights in the future.

Now, the Fifth Amendment right, of course, is one that is not contingent, so I guess he has the right to do what he has done. His lawyer's statement was also strange, too. It was, yes, the Fifth Amendment, which, of course, is an unconditional right not to testify, but then there's a bunch of complaints about the overbroad nature of the request, about how it was confusing.

It is a little hard to know where they're coming from. If the requests are overbroad, Dianne Feinstein could presumably narrow them, but what would that -- what would be the purpose of that if in fact at the end of the day this is a Fifth Amendment issue?

BLITZER: Let me just press you on this point because it is very sensitive. We know that Roger Stone did testify behind closed doors before your House Intelligence Committee, but are you suggesting now he has also testified before Mueller's investigators? Because we were told he hasn't yet been called.

HIMES: Yes, I may have gotten out ahead of myself there, Wolf. I was under the impression that he had, but, reflecting on it, I'm not sure that I'm not sure that he has.

He certainly testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee.

BLITZER: Because Stone's lawyers say he has not testified, has not been called to appear before Robert Mueller's investigation.

HIMES: OK.

BLITZER: But let's get to the letter, Stone's letter, dated December 3, the same day President Trump actually praised Stone for saying that he would never testify against President Trump.

[18:15:04]

Do you view that potentially as obstruction of justice on the part of the president?

HIMES: Well, the facts are certainly uncomfortable for Mr. Stone.

Again, he testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee. He spent a lot of time speaking publicly to the press about what he did and didn't know and who he talked to, and he didn't -- and then all of a sudden he asserts his Fifth Amendment privilege.

Now, again, he can assert that Fifth Amendment privilege, but the facts are pretty ugly, considering he was happy to talk about this with anybody right up until the moment where the president, in something that was right out of "The Godfather," started criticizing and calling people who were actually working with law enforcement weak and praising Paul Manafort and others for standing strong.

I mean, this is just language right out of "The Godfather." And so, yes, it is a series of pretty uncomfortable fact for Mr. Stone. But, again, somebody has the right to assert their Fifth Amendment privilege.

BLITZER: We are also awaiting right now the Mueller filing on the Michael Flynn sentencing, the former national security adviser to the president.

How important is it, the Michael Flynn document right now? How important is Michael Flynn for that perspective to the overall Russia investigation?

HIMES: Well, it is hard to know.

I mean, Michael Flynn has been the character -- of course, he was, I think, the first person charged here, disappeared from the stage, and we haven't heard much about that in this whole adventure of George Papadopoulos and Manafort and Stone and everybody else.

So the length of time between the charges being leveled -- and, of course, now we are where we are -- that's a long time, with lots of opportunity, of course, for, I would, assume for Flynn to unburden himself of all he knew about contacts with the Russians.

Of course, that's what he was accused of lying about, the nature of his contact with the Russian ambassador. So, I would think -- and I don't know, because we don't -- Mueller has been doing this right and quietly -- but I would think that Flynn would be one of the key people who could really describe the nature of the campaign's contacts with Russia.

BLITZER: Yes, he didn't just -- he wasn't just accused of lying. He actually pleaded guilty to lying specifically on that issue.

When you connect the dots, Congressman, of the Flynn, Manafort, Stone, Cohen investigations, what stands out to you?

HIMES: Well, it is a good question, Wolf, because as we get into the details of all of this, you tend to forget the big picture. And the big picture is unmistakable, inasmuch as everybody, everybody is lying. People are going to jail for lying. They're pleading guilty to lying.

That's Michael Cohen, that's Flynn, that's -- everybody is lying. Most people, Wolf, I don't think lie as a matter of course. They lie for a reason. And, of course, if you are lying to a federal official, you're risking jail time. So, of course, the question is begged, what are they hiding?

And that, of course, I think is what we may begin to learn in the coming weeks and months.

BLITZER: Yahoo News is reporting that the Mueller team has told House committees that if they want to issue subpoenas on the issue of obstruction, it wouldn't, wouldn't be a conflict with their own probe.

What does that tell you?

HIMES: Well, the attitude here in the Capitol is one of waiting on Mueller. You know, I think we don't want to duplicate efforts. We, of course, never wanted to be in the position when our investigation started of impacting Mueller's investigation.

But, again, that statement would suggest that they're pretty close to wrapping this up, that they have got a report and that they're towards the end of this process.

BLITZER: Have you heard -- and you're a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Have you or Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat, been told by Mueller, go ahead and investigate obstruction of justice?

HIMES: I have not. I can't speak for Adam Schiff, but that's not something that has gone to the committee as a whole.

BLITZER: It certainly looks like they're beginning to wrap things up very quickly.

All right, Congressman Jim Himes, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

HIMES: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we are standing by for the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, latest court filing on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. What might it reveal about President Trump's ties to Russia?

And how close is Mueller to wrapping up his sweeping investigation? We may soon have a much better idea.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:44]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news in the Russia investigation.

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, expected to release new information at any moment in court documents related to sentencing of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

This as we just learned that Trump confidant Roger Stone is invoking his Fifth Amendment rights in the Senate's probe.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the news on Roger Stone will no doubt be welcomed by President Trump, right?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Music to the ears of this White House and this president, of course, Wolf, yes. The president tweeted as much yesterday, when he praised Roger Stone for refusing to turn against the president, in contrast with how he went off on his former attorney Michael Cohen for cooperating with the special counsel's investigation.

Meanwhile, Wolf, as you know, the Trump administration is sticking to its conclusion that it is not clear that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, orchestrated the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but President Trump's fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill, they are furious tonight after the director of the CIA briefed some, but not all senators on the Khashoggi murder.

One GOP senator proclaimed earlier today he's -- quote -- "pissed off."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): After CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed a small group of senators on the killing of Saudi 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.

[18:25:08]

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 command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi.

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 has 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, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mattis both said without qualification they have read all of 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 it 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 adviser 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 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 of the ugliness in politics, the utter disrespect George Conway shows towards 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, HUSBAND OF KELLYANNE CONWAY: It is like the administration is like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) show in a dumpster fire. And I'm like, 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 fan."

That's despite claims from the White House that Mr. Trump has chemistry with China's president.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I have never seen Xi up close and personally, 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 though some Bush relatives still remember Mr. Trump's attacks on their family.

GEORGE P. BUSH, GRANDSON OF PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I'm not going to lie that it hurts, it stinks. But, you know, my grandfather, my uncle and my dad, if they taught me anything on politics, you get back up and you fight again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Still, there is something of a truce between Trump and the Bush families.

The president and the first family will be in attendance at services for Bush 41 at the National Cathedral tomorrow.

Wolf, obviously, we will have to see what kind of mood the president is going to be in, as he may be receiving some unwelcome news, courtesy of the Mueller investigation and the Russia investigation later on this evening -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see what happens.

All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Just ahead, we could get more breaking news on the Russia investigation at any moment, as we stand by for Robert Mueller's important new filing with the court.

We are also getting more reaction to Roger Stone's just-announced decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in the Senate's Russia investigation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking tonight, Robert Mueller could drop a new bombshell in the Russia investigation at any moment. We're standing by for new documents to be filed in federal court. They're in connection with Michael Cohen's [SIC] cooperation agreement and sentencing. It could potentially be a treasure trove of new details about Mueller's end game.

[18:33:49] Also breaking, Trump confidante Roger Stone says he's pleading the Fifth, refusing to comply with a request for an interview and information in the Senate's Russia investigation. Let's bring in our analysts and our correspondents. Jeffrey Toobin,

what do you make of Roger Stone's decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it has been clear for some time that Stone has been the focus of an investigation by Mueller's grand jury. So any lawyer in America would have told Stone to do just that: take the Fifth, don't give Mueller any more ammunition.

Now, it may be a political problem, but that's not Roger Stone's problem at this point. His issue is trying to stay out of -- get an indictment, try to stay out of jail, and he made absolutely the only rational decision for himself, which is to take the Fifth.

BLITZER: Yes. You mean Michael Flynn, not Michael Cohen? I want to make sure.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry. Did -- no, I mean --

BLITZER: I said Michael Cohen, and I meant Michael Flynn.

TOOBIN: I said Roger Stone, right.

BLITZER: That's correct. I want to be precise on that.

TOOBIN: Right. OK.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about this Stone decision, the letter that his lawyer sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, dated December 3.

His lawyer now says he actually sent the letter just before the president tweeted that -- that tweet praising Roger Stone for refusing to testify anything negative about the president. What do you make of these developments?

[18:35:11] DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So Roger Stone clearly has the right to assert a Fifth Amendment privilege.

TOOBIN: Oh, I was confused.

SWERDLICK: He hasn't been charged or pled, or pleaded, to anything, so let's take it as face value.

That being said, if you look at what the president said in his tweet yesterday, he may as well have said, "Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut." Whether that rises to the level of a crime or not is to be determined, or whether it's witness tampering or not is to be determined. But I think that is the -- there's no other logical inference from that tweet.

BLITZER: Here's what the president used to say about those during the Obama administration, the Hillary Clinton investigation, about those who plead the Fifth.

(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: How do you think the president is going to react to his friend and confidante Roger Stone pleading the Fifth?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, now that it's someone the president is praising for not speaking to prosecutors, he's going to say it is a good thing. And I doubt he's going to say that only the mob takes the Fifth now that Roger Stone is doing so, since the president has been praising him.

We've seen that as a pattern with the president throughout the last several months, whether it's talking about Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen or Roger Stone. Depending on how they are reacting is dependent upon how the president treats them.

He did that with Michael Cohen, saying he didn't believe Michael Cohen is somebody that would flip. When he said that he believed cooperating with prosecutors should be illegal. And then, of course, now we know that Michael Cohen has sat down with the special counsel for at least 70 hours.

So it does seem that, if it's someone in the president's corner who is doing it, he's not going to criticize them for that. So don't expect the president to tweet tomorrow morning that only the mob takes the Fifth and, if you're innocent, why would you take the Fifth?

BLITZER: Yes. A lot of times, as you go back and listen to what the president used to say and what he says now, there's a -- there's a clear difference.

We're waiting, Dana, for the Mueller filing to come in on Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser who was fired after about a month, but he had spent the whole previous year as a close adviser during the campaign.

BASH: Yes. And the reason this is so important is because it should give us clues that we have been missing and waiting for into potential collusion or, if that doesn't exist, just more broadly what could Michael Flynn have possibly offered to these investigators in order to get a deal, a plea deal.

Because you don't get that for nothing. You have to offer some information that is valuable to prosecutors. And that's the information that should be filed, you know, maybe even in the next 20 minutes while you're on the air, Wolf.

I mean, we're really waiting with baited breath, because this is one of the bread crumbs that we've seen -- we've seen lots of them dropped, whether it was in the Cohen agreement last week or before that in the Manafort agreement, which fell apart. This is maybe the biggest that we could potentially see to date.

BLITZER: And, remember, Jeffrey, what the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, said about Michael Flynn just before she was fired. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SALLY YATES, FORMER U.S. ACTING 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Because he was accused of lying about his conversations with the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey Kislyak, about sanctions. He insisted there was no discussion about easing sanctions after the president took office. This was during the transition. He's now admitted that he lied about that.

TOOBIN: And this just goes to the heart of the Mueller investigation. It's like, what was the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, either directly or through intermediaries like WikiLeaks? And why, over and over again, were people affiliated with the president lying about their relationship with the Russian government or Russian affiliates? Flynn, you know, most prominently, because he was such an important person as national security adviser.

But this issue of sanctions, of the atmosphere, the promises, the possibility that Trump would get rid of these sanctions, was at the heart of his relationship with Russia. And that issue of why -- of the negotiation over sanctions is so important, and we will presumably learn a lot more about Flynn's role once this mysterious document is filed.

And frankly, it's just weird that it's not available, because you're supposed to file documents in court during working hours, and on the East Coast it's almost 7 p.m. What's up with that?

[18:40:09] BLITZER: Well, didn't they say they have to do it before midnight tonight? Is that -- there was a technical explanation they offered.

TOOBIN: I guess, but it's just odd.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll get -- we'll get it very soon.

BERG: I think one thing to note for people who are sitting at home, wondering why are we sitting around waiting for this, is that we've learned so much about the special counsel's investigation through these kinds of filings.

SWERDLICK: Right.

BERG: They don't often talk. They're famously tight-lipped, but we learn a lot about what's going on and what they know and how this investigation is developing through these court filings that we've seen over the last several months.

And there's reporting that shows this investigation could be coming to an end, with Yahoo! reporting that they are tying up the loose ends, so that would give an indication that maybe the special counsel no longer feels the need to hold back on what it knows, which is what they've done before.

And there's certainly a possibility that some of what is included in this tonight could be redacted, given that he was the national security adviser. Just because it's been several months, I don't think that that should be lessened, a thing to think about, that this is the national security adviser. But Mueller may have less of a reason to hold back, as he's done in previous court filings.

BLITZER: And Mueller has told congressional committees, go ahead, issue subpoenas, investigate obstruction, clearly indicating he's moving on beyond that.

SWERDLICK: Right. If he's giving Congress the green light to bring some witnesses back in or release some information, there is a sense, then, that he's got enough of his investigation nailed down that whatever is going on on Capitol Hill is not going to interfere with what he's -- the case he's already laid out, and preparing in these filings and potentially in a report to the acting attorney general.

BLITZER: House Democrats, they're getting ready to explode, potentially, after January 3, when they take the majority in the House.

BASH: Yes, I mean what you're seeing today with Roger Stone, I mean that's part of, or leading up to that, you know, explosion of investigations that you're going to see from the House Democrats, who are going to get the gavel. I mean, part of Roger Stone's statement was, "No, I'm not going to come back. You have to show me specifics, and then maybe I'll come back."

Look, I mean you also have the question of whether or not, depending on what happens with Mueller, the House Democrats have the potential to offer him immunity for some testimony. You never know with someone like him.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens.

Stick around. Just ahead, how far will Robert Mueller go and what will he reveal when he shares new information with the court? We're standing by for the document drop. That's coming up.

And is Putin over Trump? What his snarky new remarks tell us about U.S./Russia relations. Tensions right now after President Trump called off their meeting in Argentina.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:45:26] BLITZER: There's the former president, George H.W. Bush, and Laura Bush, they're paying respects up on Capitol Hill at the rotunda. They're remembering the 41st president of the United States.

Jamie is with us, Jamie Gangel.

An emotional moment clearly for the former president and former first lady.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: No question. Look, he paid his respects. Then he went over to people in the crowd to say hello. There's clearly someone there from -- either family or there must be a friend of the family or a staffer that they recognized that they went over to hug.

Wolf, this has been a very emotional couple of days for him, and I will tell you that his eulogy tomorrow at the National Cathedral, I don't think there will be a dry eye in the house. I'm told that his eulogy, no surprise, will be not about his father, the president or the statesman, it will be just about his father, the man. And I think that he's -- you know, he's clearly very happy here. You know, he is smiling, saying hello to people.

But as we have seen over the last couple of days at the arrival and departure ceremonies yesterday at the capitol when the casket arrived at the rotunda, just watching his face --

BLITZER: You see the twin daughters are there.

GANGEL: There's Jenna and her husband, Henry, shaking hands.

The other thing I want to say about this picture, it looks obviously as if there are some people in the crowd that they know. There's Jeb there. But this family is, I think, channeling former President Bush. What would 41 do?

And you may remember that when his wife, Barbara Bush, died and the public came to pay their respects --

BLITZER: That's Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, and his wife.

GANGEL: Right. And look at that sigh. I mean you could just see this is very hard.

BLITZER: Let's listen and watch for a moment.

(INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you all for coming.

BLITZER: Is this expected, though, Jamie, that they would go back up there? Yesterday, they were up there when the casket was brought in, the Lincoln catafalque. Were they expected to come back and greet those who had come to pay their respects?

GANGEL: I don't think it was publicly announced. We were given a heads up that the family was going to go back, that a large number of them -- you know, we have the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, a lot of cousins, former President Bush's sister, Nan Ellis, his brother, Jonathan Bush.

So, we knew that a large contingent of the family was planning to come up today, but it wasn't publicly announced. Just watching him, you know, it looks as if some of the people he's hugging and saying hello to may be former staffers or family friends paying their respects. But I think some of them -- I think a lot of those people are just members of the public, and he is walking around shaking hands, saying thank you.

And it's just very reminiscent of what his father did in Houston when the public came to pay their respects for Barbara Bush.

[18:50:09] Former President Bush 41 went and greeted the public.

BLITZER: Yes, that was back in April when she passed away, Barbara Bush, and he was there, George H.W. Bush, and he received those who were coming to pay their respects.

GANGEL: And those pictures were so moving because there he was in the wheelchair. No one expected him to be there. And he said to his staff that he wanted to go because it was the right thing to do and I think you are seeing a very similar thing right here.

Next to Jenna there is Doro Bush, former President Bush 41's daughter, and her husband, Bobby Koch, with his arm around Jenna. I think that's next to Jenna that may be Amanda, George P. Bush's wife.

BLITZER: Last night, President Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, they went to the rotunda to pay their respects. Earlier today, they went over -- across the street from the White House to the Blair House where the Bush family is actually staying, to meet with the Bush family. The former president and former first lady, and it seemed like a warm moment.

GANGEL: So, the Bush family has made no secret that they do not want criticism of President Trump. They, again, you know, what would 41 do? And he would want to be a gentleman. He would want everybody to honor the presidency.

And they really made a point of letting everybody know, please, this is a time when we need to put these things aside. They have been very gracious.

I can report that Laura Bush, who we know went to the White House today with 20 other family members, Melania Trump gave them a tour. There were -- they took a picture in front of the portrait of 41, but also what hasn't been reported before is that President Trump stopped by himself to personally greet them there, and then he went, as we know, to Blair House to pay his condolences. So I think both families are trying to make this as gracious as can

be. They also want that because this is a week to remember their father and grandfather.

BLITZER: To celebrate the 41st president of the United States. And I take it that's going to be the theme at the Washington National Cathedral tomorrow during the formal -- the formal memorial service.

GANGEL: No question. So, we have four eulogists tomorrow.

As we said, his son, former President George W. Bush, who will talk about his father as his father. I'm told it's a very emotional speech.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney will talk about Bush 41 the statesman on a global level.

Former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who I smile just saying his name because he is an old dear friend. I am told that his eulogy will be very funny.

And Jon Meacham, presidential biographer of President Bush, will talk about the man and his character.

BLITZER: I've been looking at the list of those who were invited. And several major international figures are coming as well to pay their respects to the 41st president of the United States.

GANGEL: No question. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be there. There will be many former presidents and prime ministers. John Major will be there. Former president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas, will be there. Prince Charles will be there representing the royal family, that the Bushes have had a great relationship with over the years.

And I think you can also expect some familiar faces who don't have the word president or prime minister in front of them. There are going to be a lot of people from the sports world there. President Bush loved to play golf and tennis.

You're going to see a lot of famous names. And also some famous country music stars will be there. And the tenor Ronan Tynan is going to be singing one of President Bush's favorite songs.

BLITZER: And we, of course, will have live coverage of that memorial service at the National Cathedral here in Washington. It certainly will be an emotional moment, but also, as you point out, a celebration of the accomplishments of the 41st president of the United States.

[18:55:05] And he was a one-term president but he spent eight years as vice president, and certainly, so much occurred during his one term as president, including the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War.

Look at the former president, George W. Bush, he's there. He's certainly enjoying this moment at the rotunda, whether they're paying their respects and remembering his father, the 41st president. GANGEL: You know, I look at that picture and of course you have to

say once a politician always a politician. You know how to take a picture with a baby, but it's also very generous of him to take the time. He is mourning his father, he is celebrating his father, but he is stopping.

Many of these people are just members of the public who happen to be in line to pay their respects when the family came in. And that's George W. Bush. He likes people.

BLITZER: Very, very moving moment indeed. As I say we'll have special coverage tomorrow morning.

Jamie, thank you very much.

There's other news we're following right now. New signs of strain in President Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin after the White House scrapped plans for them to meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. Putin and Russia state media -- they're having some fun right now at President Trump's expense.

Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, is joining us live from Moscow.

Fred, what are you hearing, first of all, from the Russians?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, the media here in Russia absolutely lashing out at President Trump, mocking President Trump, saying that President Trump is essentially a rock around Russia's neck in a sign that the Kremlin might be losing its patience with the U.S. president. Here's what we learned.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Is the Trump/Putin bromance over? After President Trump snubbed the Russian leader at this weekend's G20 Summit, calling off a bilateral meeting last minute, claiming it's because Russia seized several Ukrainian military boats and 24 sailors, snarky comments from Vladimir Putin.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We've had two small boats, gifts from the U.S. to the Ukrainians, that couldn't pass through the Kerch Strait.

PLEITGEN: Despite the fact that the boats were not an American gift to Ukraine and the White House saying the meeting was cancelled to show Vladimir Putin that the seizure of the ships was unacceptable, Kremlin-controlled media going into attack mode. TV programs that until recently called the president Trump nash or our Trump now ripping into the U.S. president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What kind of person is this? At first, he says it's happening. Then it's not happening.

So we should do what? Wait until he gets re-elected and only then we can start communicating with America again? What kind of stupidity is this? Seems like this person is unstable.

PLEITGEN: State-run Russian TV has mostly followed the Kremlin's line, saying they believe President Trump is keen to improve U.S./Russian relations but is hampered by Congress, the media and the Mueller investigation.

Now, a possible fundamental shift, both in the Kremlin and in Russian media, portraying the U.S. president as weak, like Russia's top TV pundit.

DMITRY KISELEV, HOST, RUSSIA 1 (through translator): A dissidence to everyone's mood was Trump, looking morose, sitting there with crossed hands as if he is trying to shoo (ph) himself from everybody else, scared of blurting out something unnecessary. It looks like he was just not prepared for a coherent meeting with Putin.

PLEITGEN: President Trump did speak briefly with Putin on the sideline of the summit, but the Russians are clearly annoyed. Asked today how the Kremlin would characterize U.S./Russian relations, Vladimir Putin's spokesman said only dialogue is not really working out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, it really is a far cry from right after the election in 2016 and before President Trump took office in 2017 when Russians were cracking open champagne bottles, Russian politicians. And throughout the years that President Trump has been in office, you have heard the Russians consistently defend him, saying that he wants better relations with Russia, they believe, but it was others who were getting in the way.

Now, it really seems as though the Russians really are starting to lose their patience. It was quite interesting, because after the G20 summit took place, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, was asked which are these two presidents going to meet? What are President Trump and President Putin going to meet? He said at this point in time he doesn't even want to speculate about that, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, is there a fear there the relationship is going to continue to deteriorate?

PLEITGEN: Oh, certainly. I think right now when you ask Russian politicians, you ask specifically the folks in the Kremlin, they say that they believe that the relationship could very well get worse before it gets better, as they put it. They believe that right now in Washington, the atmosphere simply isn't conducive to improving those relations, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.