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Interview With Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Top General: "Tens of Thousands" of ISIS Fighters Remain; Iran Threatens U.S. and Slams Trump. Aired on 6-7p ET
Aired February 11, 2019 - 18:00 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: border stall. As President Trump heads to Texas to promote his wall, are talks to avoid another government shutdown making progress or going nowhere? We're following late negotiations this hour and the status of a new Democratic proposal that Mr. Trump is attacking tonight.
Postponing again. Michael Cohen is putting off another chance to appear before Congress, coming up with a new reason to delay. After multiple hearings have been nixed, will the former Trump fixer ever testify?
The odd couple. We're digging into Roger Stone's indictment and his relationship with another key figure in the Russia investigation. Why does their unlikely alliance matter to Mr. Trump and to Robert Mueller?
And inside Iran. CNN is live in Tehran, as Iranians mark 40 years since the Islamic Revolution with defiance of the U.S. president and chants of "Death to America." Does it feel like 1979 all over again?
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 on the threat of another government shutdown just four days from now.
This hour, President Trump is on his way to El Paso, Texas, to rally support for his wall and to try to blame Democrats for a new holdup in talks on border security. As negotiators are expected to resume talks up on Capitol Hill this hour, the partisan divide over immigration remains deep.
It will be on full display tonight as Democrats protest the president in Texas with a counter-rally called Stop the Wall, Stop the Lies.
I will get reaction from Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, we heard from the president just before he left the White House
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
President Trump is starting to dig in his heels all over again as the deadline approaches for another government shutdown. The president is on his way to El Paso, Texas, at this hour, to pitch his border wall one more time. But there's one other sticking point in the shutdown talks that also goes to the heart of the immigration debate.
The president, by the way, is not vowing to own the shutdown this time around. When asked a short while ago whether there will be a shutdown, he said that's up to the Democrats. But this time around, the president wants more than just a wall. He wants beds.
ACOSTA (voice-over): With just four days and counting until the government runs out of money again, President Trump is looking to escape any blame this time around and pointing the finger at Democrats.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, we need a wall. We can call it anything. We'll call it barriers. We'll call it whatever they want. But now, it turns out not only don't they want to give us money for the wall, they don't want to give us the space to detain murderers, criminals, drug dealers.
ACOSTA: Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney warns a shutdown could happen again.
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: You cannot take a shutdown off the table. And you cannot take $5.7 billion off the table. But if you end up someplace in the middle, yes, then what you probably see is the president say, yes, OK, then I will go find the money someplace else.
ACOSTA: But now there's a new wrinkle. Not only is the president demanding more money for his wall as part of a deal to avert a shutdown. Democrats want something, too, a cap on the number of detention beds used by ICE to keep undocumented immigrants in custody.
TRUMP: Democrats want them to go into our country. That's why they don't want to give us what we call the beds. It's much more complicated than beds.
REP. DEB HAALAND (D), NEW MEXICO: I was just at the border this past weekend. And the whole situation with those facilities is that they weren't meant to detain families. Whole entire families now are being detained at the border facilities, and it's an untenable situation.
ACOSTA: The president is off to El Paso, Texas, to whip up support for his wall, but he will have company as potential Democratic contender in 20 Beto O'Rourke is planning a rival event just down the street from Mr. Trump. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS: Not too far from the coliseum where
we're going to present a powerful, positive message for the country about who we are on the U.S.-Mexico border.
ACOSTA: The president has been taking jabs at potential rivals in 2020, mocking Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar's snowy announcement over the weekend, tweeting: "She was talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing. By the end of her speech, she looked like a snowman, woman."
Klobuchar said the president doesn't know the difference between weather and climate issues.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would like to see -- when he called me a snowwoman, I would like to see how his hair would fare in a blizzard.
ACOSTA: The president is also trolling Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and her past claims about her heritage, tweeting: "Will she run as our first native American presidential candidate? See you on the campaign Trail, Liz."
Mr. Trump capitalized the word trail, which appeared to be in reference to the death of Native Americans on the Trail of Tears. The president's son Don Jr. was loving it, calling it "savage."
Warren didn't wait long to fire back.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here's what bothers me. By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WARREN: In fact, he may not even be a free person.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ACOSTA: The president is also defending how much time he spends on the job after leaks of his schedule to Axios showing he's spending hours in the residence on executive time, as he tweeted: "No president ever worked harder than me, cleaning up the mess I inherited."
With the government closing in on another shutdown, Mr. Trump is asking Democrats to lighten up, tweeting: "Loosen up and have some fun."
ACOSTA: A top official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency known as ICE, held a conference call with reporters earlier this afternoon and blasted any notion there should be a cap on the number of detention beds for immigrants coming into their custody.
But Democrats worry the White House has moved way beyond law enforcement concerns and is simply trying to use ICE to round up law- abiding people who pose no threat to their communities.
And hammering this point earlier today was the California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. He is pulling hundreds of the state's National Guard troops from the border, accusing the president of the trying to manufacture a crisis. Wolf, there are four days and counting until this government shutdown. But it's starting to feel like here they go again -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, let's hope they can resolve this. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Let's get some more now on the shutdown negotiations that are under way behind closed doors up on Capitol Hill right now.
Our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us.
Manu, top negotiators, what, they are planning to work through the evening. What are you hearing?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, actually, a more optimistic note, Wolf, than yesterday, when negotiators were concerned that negotiations had essentially stalled.
I talked to the top Senate Republican who's working to try to cut a deal, Richard Shelby, just moments ago. And he told me that negotiations have reopened and he feels more positive than he did yesterday, simply because they are talking.
Of course, they broke down on Friday night after Senate Republicans rejected that Democratic offer to limit the number of detention beds of individuals held in ICE custody on American soil.
Now, this -- after that, the Republicans rejected that. There were really no talks up until this afternoon when the top four negotiators met for about 90 minutes behind closed doors, and, afterwards, not just the Republicans, but Democrats sounded potentially more hopeful about getting a deal, including Patrick Leahy, who's the top Democrat appropriator.
He said that he's hopeful that they can try to finish tonight and, of course, time is of the essence. If they do cut a deal, they got to move it still through both chambers of Congress, get enough votes, of course, get the presidential signature, so a lot of hoops they need to jump through.
But at least, according to both sides, they're talking about seeing if they can get a deal. We will see if they're able to do that tonight. We expect more talks to happen this hour, Wolf. We will see if any more developments happen, but, at the moment, a little bit more optimism than yesterday, Wolf.
BLITZER: That's good to hear that, but if there's not a deal reached by Friday, Manu, is there a backup plan to avoid a government shutdown and prevent 800,000 federal workers and their families from suffering, as we all remember what happened during the 35 days of the first shutdown?
RAJU: It's unclear at this point.
I asked that question directly to Richard Shelby if there will be a short-term stopgap measure to keep the government open. He said, "I don't think so, I hope not," meaning they hope to get a deal and not resort to that last-minute effort.
But it remains to be seen. All this has to be negotiated, of course, big question about whether the president tries to declare a national emergency and try to fund his border wall. That would open up a whole range of political and legal questions going forward, but that remains an option as well. Still, a lot needs to be negotiated to avoid that shutdown. Still very possible there's another government shutdown, but negotiators now fervently trying to avoid that, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope they can avoid it.
Manu, thank you very much, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Joining us now, Senator Bob Menendez. He's the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, as you know, the president, he is continuing to call for a wall. Even if negotiators can reach a deal -- and they're working, obviously, very hard to come up with some sort of compromise -- do you believe the president will accept it?
MENENDEZ: Well, it will be either he will accept a bipartisan compromise, the second one that has come about -- we had one in December -- or it will be at his doorstep to -- if he rejects it, we will be in the midst of another government shutdown simply because he is recalcitrant here.
So, I mean, you know, I hope we all don't forget that the president's insistence here is about billions of dollars toward what is an even bigger figure, $20 billion, $25 billion, ultimately, to build a wall that he wants to build, and ultimately something that he said Mexico would pay.
And Mexico's made it very clear they never will. So it is the president's insistence. If he cannot accept a bipartisan compromise, which I believe can, in fact, ultimately take place, then he will be responsible for doing damage to the American economy, to the American people, and to all of those federal workers and federal contractors.
BLITZER: There's a sensitive issue involving beds. Going into the negotiations, as you know, Democrats wanted about
35,000 ICE detention beds. Then on Friday, they proposed a cap of less than half that number. Why did Democrats take a stand on that issue when talks seemed to be going so well?
MENENDEZ: Well, Wolf, in a negotiation is exactly that, a negotiation.
All we have heard is what the administration wants. The problem here is that ICE is out of control. They are already 8,000 beds daily over their existing budget. They want the Congress to bail them out for violating the budget that already exists.
So the bottom line is that we cannot go on a path in which ICE and the Border and Customs Department is already bigger than all of the other federal law enforcement entities together, FBI, Secret Service, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm.
And that's because the president has decided to criminalize everybody who is an undocumented immigrant, even when he uses them at his luxurious country clubs and properties to make profit.
BLITZER: The deputy director of ICE says a cap on beds, in his words, would be -- quote -- "extremely damaging to the public safety of this country." How do you respond?
MENENDEZ: The reason that they are already 8,000 over their budgeted amount, so they're violating the budget, is because of the president's zero tolerance policy that has turned everyone, regardless of their record, into a criminal.
For example, if you cross the border undocumented, he has now made you a criminal. He is creating that problem by turning people away who legitimately seek asylum.
If a person has a driving while under the influence violation, he is now making that, saying that that's a criminal. What we have seen in the past under, for example, President Obama, that violent criminals, yes, we want to see those persons not only arrested and detained, we want to see them deported.
But at the end of the day, because he tears children away from their mothers and puts them all in detention facilities, he has an over- demand as a result of his policy. So it's his policy that's driving this. No one who is a real criminal at the end of the day, anyone is going to advocate for them to be let go. No, they need to be detained, they need to be arrested and they need to be deported.
But that's different than what we're talking about and what's driving this demand for beds. It's his demand to take everybody. Look, I had a grandfather from New Jersey who's been here over 20 years. Works hard. Never had a criminal record. They wanted to deport him. They wanted to detain him.
That's not the essence of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers who otherwise have been law-abiding in every other respect. He wants to incarcerate them as well as he seeks to deport them. It's far different than criminal aliens.
BLITZER: But if the government does wind up shutting down once again, will Democrats share the blame if they insist on this issue of a limit on beds?
MENENDEZ: Wolf, a negotiation is exactly that. It's not a limit on bed. It's that ICE cannot have an unlimited budget. It's beyond the question of beds.
It's a question of, can ICE continue to over-expend and expect the Congress to bail it out because of a policy that the president is directing that doesn't go to the essence of our national security?
So at the end of the day, there was a bipartisan agreement, unanimously passed in the Senate on December 18 of last year. The president rejected it. There hopefully will be a bipartisan agreement. The president cannot accept a bipartisan agreement, then it is fully on his lap and in his responsibility.
And so I hope he accepts a bipartisan agreement that I think can come forward and that ultimately will be fair and balanced at the end of the day.
BLITZER: They're working really hard on it right now. Let's hope the bicameral, bipartisan negotiators can come up with a deal.
Senator, I want to turn to the Russia investigation right now. The House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff, says he's concerned that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, might not be pursuing the question of money laundering as far as the president is concerned hard enough.
Why are we just now hearing this criticism of Mueller? What do you suspect is going on?
MENENDEZ: Well, I think there's a concern.
You know, Deutsche Bank, which is the financial entity involved here, when everybody else was not willing to lend to the Trump Organization, lent them hundreds of millions of dollars.
In 2017, Deutsche Bank was fined by both the United States and the United Kingdom for significant violations of Russian money laundering. So you have to wonder whether or not the fact that Trump, President Trump, said, if you go into that, you're crossing a red line, that somehow the special counsel was prohibited in some way from pursuing that.
It needs to be understood whether Deutsche Bank, that was doing Russian money laundering and seems to be one of the few financial institutions in the United States that wanted to give Trump money, was doing so for reasons outside of its financial determinations. So we need to know whether the president is being responsive to his interests and whatever interests overshadow him, or whether he's being responsive to the interests of the American people, particularly in foreign policy.
BLITZER: Schiff says the House Intelligence Committee will investigate that.
Let me get your thoughts on the Trump administration's failure to meet Friday's deadline to provide Congress and the American public, for that matter, a full report on the death of "The Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi and what role the Saudi crown prince may have played in his murder.
You're now preparing new legislation, I understand, with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in response to that failure to meet that deadline. What will that bill look like?
MENENDEZ: Well, first of all, Wolf, the president didn't have a choice here. The law is clear. I helped write that law.
And, in fact, the then Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, and myself, as the ranking Democrat, invoked the provision of the law to demand for the president to make a determination.
It's not discretionary for the president to decide whether he wants to make that determination. So he's violating the law, number one. And we're looking at ways in which to force that determination to be made, pursuant to the law.
The legislation that we have co-sponsored, and there are several Republicans with us, Lindsey Graham is the lead on it, but there are several Republicans with us as well, the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act would do a series of things. It would deny a series of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, it would impose sanctions on those who are in the midst of the Yemen conflict, both those who are supporting the Houthis and those denying humanitarian aid.
And specifically as it relates to Khashoggi, it would insist on direct sanctions on those individuals who are ultimately found to be responsible for Khashoggi's murder.
And from everything that I have seen, it is very clear to me that the crown prince was intimately engaged in that murder. So, at the end of the day, the president may seek to avoid that responsibility. The Congress will put his feet to the fire.
I'm glad that we have broad bipartisan support in this legislation and I look forward to putting a vote on the floor of the Senate, because we cannot just simply allow the indiscriminate killing of a journalist to ultimately go by without consequences at the end of the day.
BLITZER: Senator Menendez, thanks so much for joining us.
MENENDEZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, former Trump fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen is postponing another date with Congress to testify. So what's his excuse this time? And will Democrats do a better job investigating the president's
personal finances than Robert Mueller? We're taking a closer look at the House Intelligence Committee chairman's concerns about the special counsel's probe.
BLITZER: There's breaking news this hour in the Russia investigation.
The president's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen has postponed planned testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee tomorrow. It's the third time this month that he's delayed an appearance before Congress.
Let's bring in our Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.
Shimon, what does this latest delay by Cohen signal?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I don't know. It's hard to tell really, Wolf.
You would think that this guy who was willing to come forward, wanted to tell his side of the story, now that we have a third delay, big question is, will he ever wind up testifying before members of Congress?
He's set to go to jail in just a few weeks, March 6. He's supposed to report to that federal prison where he's supposed to start serving his sentence. We have a date where he's supposed to appear before the House Intelligence of February 28. That was delayed, they say because of the investigation.
So it's hard to tell, really, what the next steps are here. Perhaps maybe he's trying to only limit it to one committee. We will see. But the big question, I think, still remains, will we ever hear from Michael Cohen? Will members of Congress ever hear from him?
BLITZER: What do you make of Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee's seeming criticism of the Mueller investigation for not wanting to go into the president's personal finances?
PROKUPECZ: I was certainly surprised by it.
But I think what's going on here is that maybe members of Congress, and certainly Schiff, do expect that Mueller will not go everywhere that they wanted him to go, look into certain investigations that they think he should have been looking at.
So that could be where this is going. And this is what he had to say on "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: There has been reporting that when it was alleged that the special counsel had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, that the president moved to fire Mueller.
And the way they talked him off the ledge is by promising that that reporting wasn't true, that the special counsel hadn't subpoenaed Deutsche Bank.
Well, if the special counsel hasn't subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, he can't be doing much of a money laundering investigation. So, that's what concerns any.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: And it's not entirely even clear that Mueller's whole role here has been to do money laundering investigations.
If you remember, he was given very specific mandates, had to do with obstruction, had to do with Russian interference. There could be parts within that investigation that may have caused some concern about money laundering, and that could have gone to other U.S. attorneys. But we will see.
But I think the bottom line here is, when Mueller winds up wrapping this up -- and, according to the acting attorney general, that might be soon -- we may not see everything that we thought we were going to see. And it could be that Schiff is preparing for that.
BLITZER: Schiff and the Democrats, you can see, are really interested in Deutsche Bank.
BLITZER: But what's the link between Deutsche Bank and the Russia investigation?
PROKUPECZ: It really comes down to, Wolf, that Deutsche Bank was one of the biggest, if not the biggest lender for Donald Trump for many, many years, despite his bankruptcies, despite financial issues that he had with everything he's ever owned.
Deutsche Bank, for some reason, had continued to lend him the money. So the other connection is the Russians. They have certainly been scrutinized for their dealings with the Russians. Obviously, you take the two, a lot of concern. And I think that's what Schiff and other members of Congress now want to take a look at, make sure that somehow their decisions were not swayed, that meaning Deutsche Bank, was not swayed by the Russians in their lending of Trump.
And the other thing when you think about what Schiff says he's going to be looking at, they want to make sure that policy decisions, foreign policy decisions, are not being swayed in any way because someone is doing something favorable for the president or people in his administration. So we will see. So, all of this, lots more to come, I guess.
BLITZER: I'm sure there is. All right, Shimon, thank you very much.
There's more breaking news. Can a second government shutdown be averted? We're monitoring the negotiations under way right now up on Capitol Hill and whether President Trump helps or hurts the talks at a border rally in El Paso, Texas, later tonight.
We're also getting new insight into a relationship that may be key to Robert Mueller's investigation, the unlikely pairing of Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi.
[18:31:49] BLITZER: We're following negotiations up on Capitol Hill right now, aimed at preventing another government shutdown this Friday. We're told obstacles remain after the talks collapsed a day earlier. President Trump is trying to blame it all on the Democrats as he heads to the Southern border this hour for a campaign rally and a new pitch for his border wall.
Let's talk about all the breaking news with our analysts. And, David Swerdlick, the other day it looked like they were getting close to a deal. All of a sudden yesterday, talks stalled as they said. Now, they've resumed. What's happening?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: So there's this dispute about the beds, and you were just talking to Senator Menendez about it. Though, I think this is less about a specific number of beds or a specific dollar amount than the democrats, as the Senator suggested, trying to rein in the ability of the federal border enforcement to keep people in detention if they are arrested for crimes other than their immigration status.
The problem with that though, I think, is that republicans would rather play on that turf than on the wall. The wall was a losing issue for republicans. I think the president and republicans like this issue better if a couple of days from now another shutdown is on the horizon.
BLITZER: Everybody says they don't want another government shutdown, but it's possible that could happen.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's possible, I would say, not probable. But anything is possible these days, for sure.
BLITZER: We didn't think there would be a government shutdown the first time.
BASH: No, you're right.
BLITZER: Mitch McConnell kept saying there won't be a government shutdown, won't be a government shutdown. All of a sudden, 35-day government shutdown.
BASH: You were absolutely right, Wolf. The thing - I totally agree with David that the focus has been for the past two months on whether the President is going to get his border wall or not. Because there has been that focus and because the President made it that focus, we have not been looking at some of the real issues that democrats have.
And this is a reminder that the - during the democratic - during the elections and leading up to the midterms, a lot of the democrats were very aggressive about saying abolish ICE. And even though some who weren't going that far were saying, look, we have to deal with the interior issues, deal with the fact that they are getting a lot of pressure, particularly those who are representing these areas, about ICE. as being too aggressive. So that is a reform that is a very real thing that has been on the backburner when it comes public discussion, but it's really been active.
I think if we want to be optimistic, and the bar is not very high right now, we should remember that there are negotiations going on --
BASH: -- which is no small thing because those hadn't occurred now on and off for the past two days, but before that they hadn't occurred in earnest for more than a month.
BLITZER: Let's hope they work out a deal. You know, the President, Jeffrey, is going to be in El Paso tonight giving another campaign speech. This is his first political rally, by the way, of 2019. He's going to be making the case for a border wall. How effective have all of his various speeches on a border wall been so far?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they certainly haven't been very effective with moderates and democrats but that's the way he's run his whole presidency, that it's all been pitched towards his base, his base obviously cares a great deal about immigration in all its respects, the wall, limiting illegal immigration, limiting legal immigration.
None of that is very popular outside of the base, but a lot of what the president does is not popular outside the base. And that seems fine with him. That's the way he's run his Presidency, that's the way he's going to run for re-election and, you know, we'll see whether it's successful. He won once and most presidents get re-elected, so we'll see. But, no, it has not changed a lot of minds.
BLITZER: You know, Jackie, if you take a look at this graphic, we're going to put it up on the screen, violent crime in El Paso, Texas, that's where the President is going to be speaking tonight, you can see where the border wall was constructed there about 30, 40 miles of a fence in El Paso. But violent crime had really deteriorated long before that fence was built in El Paso. It's a very, very safe city. The President keeps saying, the only reason it's a safe city today is because of the border wall.
JACKIE ALEMANY, ANCHOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST" POWER UP: That's right. And, I mean, if you've talked to any democrat and any republican who represents districts along the border, none of them are in support of this President's wall. I think it goes back to the main issue here, is that there's a fundamental disagreement of coming up with a policy prescription for something that the President wants that is not necessarily based on the facts here.
That even leads us back to this situation about the beds. I mean, if you look at the statistics on the ICE Web site, it disproves what they're pushing for, right? They say that, you know, limiting the number of beds limits the amount of criminals, the amount of immigrants, who have committed - illegal immigrants who have committed violent crimes. But their own statistics show that only a small percentage of the people that they detain have actually committed these violent crimes.
And so I think what you see here is the President, you know, throwing red meat at his base and, again, not necessarily rooting his policy prescriptions in reality.
BLITZER: Yes. The violent crime in El Paso was really declining long before that wall was built, or the fence, whatever, the barrier, whatever you want to call it in El Paso.
Everybody, stick around, much more on all the breaking news right after this.
[18:41:44] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts and another missed opportunity for longtime Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, to face Congress and talk about the President. Cohen postponing testimony planned for tomorrow. It's the third time that has happened. What does that tell you, Jeffrey Toobin?
TOOBIN: He doesn't want to testify, at least now, now that the statement said it was a medical reason, and it is common for people who are going into prison, who have the resources to try to get their medical needs taken care of because it's always better on the outside than the inside, but three times is a lot of times.
Now, just because he goes to prison, which will happen on March 6th, doesn't mean that he can't testify. In fact, many people in prison would prefer to be taken out to go. But it is peculiar there have been these three delays. But I do have to believe, based on everything I know, he will be testifying at some point but I don't know when.
BLITZER: Yes, none of us know when. We know there are schedules and including February 28th to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. We'll see if that happens.
Jackie, listen to Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He seems to be raising some concerns about which way the Mueller investigation is going as far as the President's personal finances are concerned. REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), C.A.: There has been reporting that when it was alleged that the Special Counsel had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank that the President moved to fire Mueller. And the way they talked him off the ledge was promising that that reporting wasn't true, that the Special Counsel hadn't subpoenaed Deutsche Bank. Well, if the Special Counsel hasn't subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, he can't be doing much of a money laundering investigation. So that's what concerns me.
BLITZER: It's pretty significant. I haven't heard criticism of the Mueller investigation like that from any of the democrats.
ALEMANY: No, we haven't heard that talking point yet, but we do know that Adam Schiff and Chairwoman Maxine Waters have, for a few months now, been planning to subpoena Deutsche Bank. Because what we do know is that they current - Deutsche Bank is currently at the center of the biggest money laundering scandal in Europe at the moment, especially as it relates to dealing with Russian oligarchs. And we also know that Deutsche Bank is the only bank that has loaned the Trump organization extraordinary amounts of money. And we also know that in 2016, right around the time that the President was making it past the primary and becoming the republican nominee, that they denied him a loan.
And so I think what you see here is a Democratic House majority exercising their oversight powers. You know, when the President did become the candidate in 2016, he was - he owed $360 million to Deutsche Bank. I think that's unprecedented to have a president indebted to a bank to that great of an amount. So I think it's only natural to know if the President - the President's debts are potentially imperiling any decision-making that's going on in this White House.
BASH: It is significant to hear Adam Schiff, you're right, criticize or question the Mueller investigation. And what we don't know is whether or not he is doing that from the perspective of knowing more than he knew before now that he's Chairman about where the Mueller Investigation is going. But, you know, if - you have to also remember, despite what Schiff is saying, is that that is a question broadly about money laundering, not a question of the core mission that Mueller was given, which is collusion between Russia and anyone in the Trump orbit.
[18:45:16] What we don't know is whether or not this whole investigation into money and so forth is going on within the federal government, but not in Mueller, meaning the Southern District of New York where they're doing a lot of looking into the Trump Organization and its finances.
BLITZER: Remember last year "The New York Times" interview, the president said there's a red line, you don't cross the red line, you don't investigate my family or my personal finances.
SWERDLICK: Right. And I imagine that some of that reporting that Chairman Schiff is referring to is about conversations that probably were had within the White House legal team or President Trump's private lawyers about what they thought would be subpoenaed and how far the investigation would go. Whether or not they actually told him this was definitively not on the table, not clear from Congressman Schiff's comments.
Wolf, I think we may get to a point ultimately where if the special counsel's report does go public, and if the chairpersons of the Democratic committees, oversight committees, aren't happy with it, they might have to, as Jackie alluded to, start subpoenaing people that they think they need to hear from that the special counsel didn't talk to.
BLITZER: Listen to Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democratic presidential candidate now, talk about what she anticipates awaits the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
In fact, he may not even be a free person.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
BASH: The Democratic toned-down version of "lock her up". I mean, it's what it is. It's what -- she is -- this has been her M.O since way before she announced but was clearly thinking very strongly about running. Her whole approach to Donald Trump is gloves off, let's have at it.
And she fights like he fights and she's appealing to the pretty big section of the Democratic electorate that wants to see that in their potential candidate. Others don't, but she is all in on that perspective.
SWERDLICK: Can I just -- the gloves-off approach I think will work for senator warren in the long run, but that specific charge, if the special counsel's report comes back and it's not an absolute, you know, just wide open cracking open of the investigation and things start tumbling down for the Trump administration, she'll be stuck with that position even though it was a good applause line over the weekend.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, you got a terrific new piece in "The New Yorker" magazine. You spoke to Roger Stone. He's been indicted by Mueller, as we know. He gave you some insight into his approach. Let me read a quote from your article.
We're going to fight them on every piece of evidence, fight them on every witness. We are going to concede nothing.
And he says he's also going to testify on his own behalf?
TOOBIN: Yes, his lawyer was emphatic about that, and, you know, there will be no empty seats in that courtroom, I'm sure. You know, and the interesting thing about this case is that Jerome Corsi, who's the other major figure who has not yet been charged and may not be charged, he's the main witness against Roger Stone. And they're at each other's throats already.
Last week, Jerome Corsi filed the $25 million defamation case against Stone. Stone told me that Corsi was clinically insane, with his usual restraint, Stone was speaking. And, you know, that may yet complicate the trial because there is so much hostility on the part of the main witness against Stone. So that trial, which may be in October, may be earlier, will be some must-see TV even though it won't be televised.
BLITZER: Well, certainly. You also spoke to Randy Credico who Stone says was his connection to WikiLeaks. Tell us about that.
TOOBIN: Well, see, that's what's so actually important about this whole chapter is was there some connection between people in the Trump orbit, that is Stone and Corsi and WikiLeaks, and the e-mails that they released, especially the John Podesta e-mails which came out in the fall.
Stone says Credico was his source and Credico says, I'm not his source, I didn't have that information, and one of the charges against Stone was that he threatened and tampered with Credico and most dramatically, he threatened to kidnap Credico's 13-year-old dog and I don't think the dog will be testifying, but the dog may be an exhibit at the trial.
BLITZER: It's a must-read article of the new issue of "The New Yorker" and I recommend it, obviously, very highly.
[18:50:00] Great reporting by our own Jeffrey Toobin.
Much more on all the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: Tonight, there's a new warning about ISIS from the top U.S. general from the Middle East.
Our Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr is in Egypt with General Joseph Votel, who says tens of thousands of ISIS fighters remain in Syria and Iraq.
Barbara, tell us more about what the general is saying.
[18:55:02] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Trump wants to declare that ISIS has been pushed out of its last stronghold in Syria and that the physical caliphate, the land, the territory, ISIS once controlled is no longer in its hands. Here in the Middle East tonight, General Joseph Votel, the head of the Central Command, is sounding a much more strategic long-term view, caution about what he thinks ISIS is still capable of. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: It's an important objective for us to take that away from them. But it doesn't mean the end of the organization. And we are going to have to continue to put military pressure on and the Syrian Democratic Forces will and we will help them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: General Votel, of course, is not contradicting the president. But he does point out it's easier to put pressure on ISIS if you're right there on the ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOTEL: It's always easier when you are there on the ground but in this case, our president has made a decision. We're going to execute that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: And General Votel notes that the campaign against ISIS initially begun with strikes from basis inside Iraq. So, working remotely has worked in the past -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr in Cairo for us, thank you.
Now to new threats against the United States from Iran. The nation is marking 40 years since the Islamic Revolution with attacks on President Trump and familiar chants of "death to America".
Our Senior Correspondent,Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran. He has an exclusive report for us.
Fred, this anniversary comes as U.S.-Iranian tensions clearly are escalating once again.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly are, Wolf. And Iran's leadership is showing itself to be more combative than it has in the past, saying it wants to keep and enhance its ballistic missile program.
Here's what we learned.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Tonight, a show of defiance against the U.S., during Iran's celebration of 40 years of the Islamic Revolution. Many saying they're not impressed by what President Trump says is his tough stance against Tehran.
Trump is a stupid and crazy man, this Iranian navy sailor says.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United States policy is doomed to be exploded, to be collapsed. PLEITGEN: Many in the crowd mocking the U.S. One children stand even
had what appeared to be a bug's bunny-type figure in "death to America" chants.
Iran's Islamic Revolution culminated with Ayatollah Khomeini returning from exile in 1979. On February 11 of that year, the U.S.-backed shah was officially overthrown. Iranian students later overran the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding more than 50 Americans hostage for 444 days.
The U.S.-Iranian relations never recovered. Speaking exclusively to CNN, the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps ripped into Washington.
The Americans and other big powers know that conflict with the Islamic Republic of Iran would fail, he says. So they've started a soft war, a cultural political and economic war against us. And our people have understood that, they're resisting and they're prepared.
The Trump administration scrapped the Iran nuclear deal last year and has since hit Iran with crippling economic sanctions. The White House saying, Tehran is destabilizing the Middle East with its ballistic missile program. Iran says, its missiles are for self-defense. The country's president vowing to continue the development.
We have not asked and we will not ask for permission from anyone to develop our missile capabilities. And we will build a wide range of missiles that include ground-to-air, air-to-air, land-to-sea and ground-to-ground, he says.
Forty years after the Islamic Revolution, Iran is arguably one of the strongest nations in the Middle East but also one in economic turmoil as sanctions continue to take their toll.
PLEITGEN: And that, certainly, Washington is one of the things many Iranians do worry about. The fact that this economy has been tumbling, of course, also as a result of some of those strong sanctions by the Trump administration. You know, for many Iranians, they don't see there will be a way out of this, especially with the White House currently in the way that it is and threatening to be even tougher on Iran than it has been even in the past, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, 40 years ago, exactly, today, the revolution in Iran succeeded. The shah was replaced. We know what has happened over these past 40 years.
Fred Pleitgen, reporting exclusively for us from Tehran. Thank you very much, Fred, for that report.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.