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THE SITUATION ROOM
Senate's Russia Probe Split Revealed; Angry Senate Intel Chair on Ex-Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen over Postponed Testimony; Trump Stirs Confusion on Deal to Avoid Shutdown; Interview with Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT); Millions Hit by Severe Winter Storms; Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to Face Questions in a Town Hall; Ex-White House Aide Suing Trump Over Nondisclosure Agreements. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired February 12, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @Jaketapper. You can tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Be sure to watch the Howard Schultz town hall tonight. Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Senate probe divided. The top Democrat on the Intelligence committee exposes a sharp and rare split over the panel's Russia investigation. He's publicly disputing the Republican chairman's claim that there's no evidence of collusion.
Not doing the trick. President Trump vents his disappointment with a bipartisan deal to avoid a new shutdown that gives him even less for his wall than he could have gotten last year. As conservatives fume, will the president sign the measure anyway?
Suing to speak. A former White House aide says Mr. Trump is trying to stop him from promoting his new tell-all book about what he calls a team of vipers in the administration. Does he have a solid legal case?
And early and often. 2020 hopefuls are scrambling right now to get their messages out. Even though it's only February of 2019. Tonight former Starbucks chief Howard Schultz answers questions about his potential and controversial independent run for the White House in an exclusive CNN town hall.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on a crucial question in the Russia investigation. Did the Trump campaign engage in collusion?
Tonight we're learning that the stop members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are divided on that. The Democratic Vice Chairman Mark Warner is publicly rejecting statements by the panel's Republican Chairman, Richard Burr, who claimed their investigation found no evidence of collusion.
Also breaking, President Trump is creating suspense and confusion about whether he'll sign a new bipartisan deal to avoid another government shutdown. He says he's not happy with the agreement that falls short of his demands to fund a border wall. A White House official says the president is likely to sign the measure. But the Senate majority leader says he has not gotten any assurances of that.
I'll talk with Republican Congressman Chris Stewart. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju.
Manu, we're seeing a rather rare public split between the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They tried to keep their disagreements behind closed doors over the key issue in the Russia investigation, whether or not there was any campaign collusion, coordination or conspiracy between Trump campaign officials and the Russians.
This investigation that had been occurring between the Senate Intelligence Committee has happened for -- about two years now and this is one issue in which Republicans and Democrats have really tried not to draw any firm conclusions. But in the recent weeks the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr has said very clearly he believes that the fact that they have seen has led him to make the early conclusion, at least at this point, that there is no evidence of collusion.
And that has sparked President Trump to react rather strongly, aggressively, pointing to this, campaigning on this, tweeting about this. And that has irked Democrats on this committee who say this investigation is still ongoing. Now today I had a chance to catch up with Richard Burr as other reports did to ask to him very clearly if he believes that the president has been exonerated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'm not sure how to put it any clearer than I have said it before. We have no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So Mark Warner, who is the vice chairman of the committee, the Democrat from Virginia, today making it very clear that he does not agree with the sentiment pushing back, saying this respectfully I disagree. I'm not going to get into any conclusions I have reached because my basis of this has been that I'm not going to reach any conclusion until we finish the investigation.
And we still have a number of the key witnesses to come back and they have a number of witnesses that they have not yet spoken to. Of course they haven't spoken to Roger Stone who is facing his own legal issues and indictment. And there are also questions about how much this committee has uncovered compared to the Mueller investigation. These members were investigating this, still want to see what Mueller has come up with looking to his report, see if anything that they're missing and investigate further.
So at this point some frustration you're hearing from Democrats towards the Republican chairman who said he doesn't believe there's collusion. The president jumping all over that. But they say there's much more to investigate. The question is, what will they ultimately find and will they agree to that central question? Was there a collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia or any conspiracy that occurred in 2016?
[17:05:01] BLITZER: We had seen last year that kind of split, dramatic partisan split on the House Intelligence Committee but it's extraordinary now that it's emerging in the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Manu, on another sensitive issue, Senator Burr, the chairman of the Senate committee, also expressed deep frustration with President Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen who has now delayed testifying on the Hill on three separate occasions.
What did Senator Burr say?
RAJU: Yes. He's frustrated because Michael Cohen's attorney told this committee because of a medical issue that he could not appear today behind closed doors. Of course this is one of the two committees in which Michael Cohen agreed he pleaded guilty to lying to about those conversations about that Trump Tower Moscow project that occurred in 2016. His conversations with the president, how long they went on for, they've been eager to talk to him again.
Richard Burr made clear they've been asking to talk to him for six months and he was very frustrated to see on Twitter that Michael Cohen was out in a restaurant, perhaps not dealing with his medical issue that he suggested he had when his attorney said delay this hearing -- Wolf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURR: I can assure you that any goodwill that might have existed in the committee with Michael Cohen is now gone. He's had a letter for six months asking for his return. He's already stiffed us on being in Washington today because of an illness. Yet on Twitter a reporter reported he was having a wild night Saturday night out in New York with five buddies. Didn't seem to have any physical limitations. And he was out with his wife last night.
I would prefer to do it before he goes to prison. But, you know, the way he's positioning himself, not coming to the committee, we may help him go to prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Well, of course he's scheduled to go prison next month and three committees including Richard Burr's want to talk to him. He's delayed before the House Intelligence Committee, delayed coming into a public setting for the House Oversight Committee. And the of that committee, Elijah Cummings, Wolf, told me that even after Michael Cohen goes to prison they are prepared to subpoena him, bring him back to Capitol to testify.
So Michael Cohen under a lot of pressure. Will he come back to Capitol Hill? Members demand his appearance. What will he ultimately do? We'll have to see in the coming days and weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, Michael Cohen is scheduled to begin his three-year prison sentence in Upstate New York on March 6th. We'll watch all of this closely.
Manu, I want you to stand by. I want to bring in our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez.
Evan, what are you hearing? What's behind all of Michael Cohen's delays?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So now, we had three different reasons why Michael Cohen has delayed testimony on Capitol Hill, Wolf. The medical reason, which is what he cited for that committee, for the Intelligence Committee, his family's safety, and because of the ongoing Mueller investigation. So the reasons are all different and so the question is which one is it? Are they all three? Is he simply playing a game because he was trying to get delayed his -- the day for him to show up in federal prison?
Remember he's supposed to show up to begin serving time on March 6th for the charges that he has now pleaded guilty. So it's not clear exactly what is happening here, or whether he simply is just playing a game so that once he goes to prison he gets some time off and gets brought up to Washington to answer questions. But it's clear that these committees want him and they're going to get it somehow.
BLITZER: He admitted lying to the committee once before. One of the reasons he is going to jail. But if he lied again he would be in further trouble.
PEREZ: Absolutely. Absolutely. If he were to have any -- if he would be lying to the committee he would definitely get into further problems. And look, the picture that they showed on Friday -- over the weekend, rather, when he was having dinner there at this restaurant in New York City, the picture shows you that he doesn't seem to have any kind of medical issue.
Christina Binkley, a former fashion editor of "The Wall Street Journal," is the one who took that picture. And it's clear that he's not having any of the issues that he seems to be saying that he was having.
BLITZER: All right. Evan, I know you're working this story. We'll get back to you as well.
Evan Perez reporting. Now to the president and his refusal so far to say whether he'll sign
a bipartisan deal to avoid a new government shutdown. Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
What's the latest, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Trump is making it clear that he's not happy with the border deal aimed at preventing another government shutdown. But he is sending signals that he will sign the agreement. A White House official tells me he's likely to sign the deal at this point.
But the question at this hour is whether the president will follow through on those signals or is the country barreling with another costly shutdown.
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump is bordering on a deal to keep the government from shutting down again but he is far from pleased.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not happy about it. It's not doing the trick but I'm adding things to it. And when you add whatever I have to add it's all -- it's all going to happen where we're going to build a beautiful, big, strong wall that's not going let criminals and traffickers and drugs into our country.
[17:10:02] It's very simple. It's very simple. We're building a wall.
ACOSTA: A White House official said the president is likely to sign the deal that includes more than a billion dollars in new border fencing. But that's only a fraction of what the White House wanted and even less than what Democrats offered Mr. Trump in December, all raising the question, did the president shut the government down for nothing?
REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D), KENTUCKY: I think it's what every compromise should be. It's not everything Democrats wanted. It's certainly not everything Republicans wanted and certainly not everything the president wanted.
ACOSTA: Slumping in the polls after taking ownership of the last shutdown the president made it clear that's not going to happen this time around.
TRUMP: I accept that. Have always accepted it. But this one I would never accept if it happens but I don't think it's going to happen. But this would be totally on the Democrats.
ACOSTA: And Mr. Trump hinted at what White House officials have been previewing for days. That the administration is likely to tap into other funding sources to scrape up more money for the wall than what Congress is offering.
TRUMP: We are using other methods other than this and in addition to this we have a lot of things going. We have a lot of money in this country. And we're using some of that money, a small percentage of that money to build the wall which we desperately need.
ACOSTA: Still the president is eager to take the fight to Democrats in 2020, painting them as socialists with a radical environmental agenda.
TRUMP: It all has to do with 2020 and the election. But I really don't like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights, of let's hop a train to California. You're not allowed to own cows anymore.
ACOSTA: The president is still using misleading talking points, continuing to spread the falsehood that a wall led to a drastic reduction in crime in El Paso when local leaders have insisted Mr. Trump is lying.
TRUMP: I don't care whether a mayor is a Republican or a Democrat. They are full of crap where they say it hasn't made a big difference.
ACOSTA: The president is still crying foul over the Russia investigation blaming the news media.
TRUMP: No president should ever have to go through what we've gone through in the first two years. It's a hoax. It's a disgrace.
ACOSTA: But this time Mr. Trump's attacks on the press may have pushed one of his supporters over the edge as a man in a MAGA hat was spotted roughing up a photographer for the BBC.
TRUMP: Everything OK?
ACOSTA: Just another Trump rally that's gone to the dogs.
TRUMP: How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn? Would that be --
TRUMP: Sort of not -- I don't know. It doesn't -- I don't feel good. Feels a little phony to me.
ACOSTA: Now the big question moving forward this week is whether the president declares a national emergency to build his wall, a move that would possibly trigger legal challenges or if the administration would simply look for other funding sources that won't get tied up in court. Either way the president may not be able to find enough money to build a wall that he promised his supporters during the campaign. I'd remind the fact that Mexico is no longer picking up the tab.
And Wolf, we should point out Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, we didn't see her today. But she did release a statement about that incident where a BBC photographer was assaulted last night at the Trump rally in El Paso. She put out a statement saying that President Trump condemns all acts of violence against any individual or a group of people including members of the press. The statement goes on to say, "We ask that anyone attending an event do so in a peaceful and respectful manner."
But, Wolf, missing in that statement was any sign, any signal whatsoever the president is going to stop the kind of language that creates a dangerous environment for journalists. Something that we know about all too well, Wolf.
BLITZER: Unfortunately indeed. All right. Jim Acosta at the White House. Thanks very much.
And joining us now, Republican Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah. He's a key member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's begin with the Russia investigation. It sounds like the co-chairs of the Senate Intelligence Committee are now divided over a key question Republican Richard Burr, as you just heard, says he hasn't seen any factual evidence of collusion. The Democratic vice chair Mark Warner says he disagrees. How do you see it?
STEWART: Well, I actually don't think he does disagree. I think what he would say if you got him in a room, and with honesty, was I haven't found any yet either, but I think the investigation is not completed yet.
Look, Mr. Burr was very clear. He doesn't see evidence of collusion. The House has found no evidence of collusion. Mr. Mueller, by his indictments, has found no evidence of collusion. And I think if Mr. Warner has found some, he should share that with us. But again I think it's not so much that he believes there's evidence of collusion as he just thinks the investigation isn't completed yet.
BLITZER: Adam Schiff, who's the chairman of your House Intelligence Committee, he essentially reopened the Russia probe the other day by saying that the Democrats, now that they've taken control of the majority, they now want to take very aggressive in seeking more evidence of financial transactions between the Trump Organization, President Trump as a private citizen, and as president, with the Russians.
[17:15:04] What do you think?
STEWART: Well, and I think it's not only President Trump they're targeting. They're targeting his children. You know, private citizens. And look, Wolf, we've been at this for more than two years. And I know some have discounted the House investigation. I think that's unfortunate because it was a very, very thorough, very sincere effort. But put the House investigation aside. The Senate is going to reach the same conclusion and probably fairly shortly.
I think Mr. Mueller is completing his investigation by all of the signs that we can see. He is close to completing that. And I don't think he's going to find evidence of collusion. And so do the American people think it's fair to just say, well, we didn't find what we wanted to find, what we hoped to find, but let's just keep investigating.
So if we don't find evidence of Russian collusion, maybe there's something there with their finances that we can look into. Maybe there's something in their business dealings. I think it's fundamentally unfair to say we're going to take any person -- this president or any other president and have them under investigation for the entire first four years of their presidency?
I think a lot of Americans look at that and say when is enough enough? And if you don't find evidence of things you were looking for when you though there was a crime, show us your evidence why you think there's financial crime because there should be some evidence of that before you begin another two-year investigation.
BLITZER: You believe that -- you believe, Congressman, that Robert Mueller, when he completes his investigation, should show all, everything he found even if it doesn't eventually, as you say, wind up with formal collusion between the president and the Russians?
STEWART: Yes. I really do, Wolf. I think we've talked about this before. I think it's far better for the American people. I think it's better for this president if every word of the Mueller investigation is provided to the American people. I hope they don't redact a single sentence. A single paragraph. Part of the reason is I don't think they're going to find anything there.
And the second reason is, if they redact anything then the conspiracy theorists are going to, yes, yes, yes, but we didn't see what was in this paragraph. We don't know what included. And I just think we'll be talking about this like we did John F. Kennedy for another generation. I hope the whole thing is provided to the American people.
BLITZER: I think that's good advice for Mueller and his team. As you know, the president's former attorney, John Dowd, he was the attorney until last year, he doesn't think the president could have in his words pulled off an interview with the special counsel Robert Mueller without perjuring himself.
What's your reaction to that?
STEWART: Well, I would feel the same thing about me or about a lot of people I think feel that way. I mean, Mr. Flynn certainly feels that way. I have a lot -- as you know, the vast majority of the indictments regarding this have been crimes that occurred after the investigation began. In other words crimes in talking to the FBI or the special counsel.
And I'd be scared to death. I think many Americans would be scared to death be put into those circumstances, that they might just say something, you know, with their memory may not be perfect, they may say something as -- you know, as not 100 percent accurate but they didn't realize at the moment it was not 100 percent accurate.
I think that it would be -- any one of us would be fearful to be put in those circumstances. And I think the president probably felt the same way.
BLITZER: Let's turn to the latest on the shutdown negotiations. The deadline is midnight this Friday. Should the president take the bipartisan bicameral deal that is now on the table and sign it into law?
STEWART: Well, I think he is going to. And I'm very disappointed in what I know about this compromise, although I am glad that we came to a compromise. I didn't get what we wanted on it. I mean, my heavens, we started out at $25 billion we were requesting for border security. We're down to something like $1.3.
I think the president is very disappointed in that but I don't think -- look, the last thing in the world I want is another government shutdown. We didn't get anything out of this. We didn't accomplish anything by it. I think the president probably feels the same way.
I would maybe follow up with this, Wolf, and that is, we have now an opportunity, Republicans and Democrats, to go to the American people and to justify where we were on this. And I look forward to going to the American and saying look, we wanted to fix Dreamers, for example. We wanted to give some protection to Dreamers and we couldn't get there. We couldn't get there because the Democrats wouldn't work with us on that.
We all ended up with a tiny fraction of the money that we really needed for border security. And why? Because the Democrats wouldn't give us anymore than that. I think now the argument doesn't go before Congress any longer. I think it's going to go to the American people.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask you what you're going to do. I'll put some numbers up on the screen. Before there was a deal that the president turned down in December, before the 35-day government shutdown that the Democrats were willing to give him $1.6 billion for 65 miles of a new wall. The president wanted $5.7 billion for 234 miles. What they've reached yesterday with this compromise, $1.375 billion for 55 miles. Are you going to vote for it?
STEWART: Well, Wolf, I have to see it. I mean, as you know, we haven't even seen the language yet. It's still being worked and I can't commit until we see the final language --
[17:20:04] BLITZER: But you don't want another government shutdown, do you?
STEWART: No, no. And I don't know -- I don't know a single person who does honestly. And if I thought we could accomplish something by doing that, I might feel differently. But I don't think we can. Is this what I wanted? Clearly it's not. Would I support it? I hope that I can and we'll wait until we see the final language.
BLITZER: Was the government shutdown which the president says he wanted, was it worthless looking at these numbers?
STEWART: Well, you have to ask yourself. We displaced workers. We made it difficult for a lot of people. What did we accomplish? And at the end of the day we didn't accomplish anything that I can see? So it's hard to say that it was a strategy that worked.
BLITZER: Congressman Chris Stewart, thanks so much for joining us.
STEWART: OK. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, the committee that has seen the most united on the Russia probe is now currently divided. What will the Warner versus Burr split over collusion mean for the broader investigation?
And we'll also talk more about the frustration clearly evident up on Capitol Hill after Michael Cohen delayed his testimony three times. Is the angry Senate Intelligence Committee chairman threatening the president's former fixer?
[17:25:30] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. A rare public disagreement between the top Republican and the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee about whether their investigation has turned up evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Let's bring in our political and legal experts to discuss the path ahead.
Susan Hennessey, Senator Burr and Senator Warner, they -- for that long time they've been working very closely together. All of a sudden they're coming to different conclusions.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so obviously there is some element of sort of seeing what you want to see here. Democrats are obviously going to want to read as much possible into any evidence against the president and Republicans are going to want to try and minimize that evidence.
You know, I do think that it indicates that there probably isn't some big new nonpublic piece of information that the committee has stumbled again. That said, it's really odd for Chairman Burr to suggest that this investigation has got no evidence to suggest collusion.
Of course the investigation has found evidence to suggest collusion. We've seen public evidence. Anything from sort of the Trump Tower meeting, communications with Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone, Paul Manafort's contacts during the campaign. The president's own statements. And so it is a little bit odd to sort of hear him make this characterization of oh, there's absolutely no there-there.
You know, one thing I do think that it -- it sort of gets to is ultimately it's not going to matter what the vice chair or the chairman concluded about these facts. The value of things like the Senate report is actually coming to a commonly agreed upon set of facts, right? Saying this is what we think happen and putting those out there for the public because ultimately it's going to be what the American people think that those facts ultimately indicate.
BLITZER: And Rebecca, it's pretty unusual for these two senators, the chairman and the -- the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to publicly disagree because they've worked very, you know, cooperatively over the past year plus.
REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. And what a contrast, right, to the House side where there's been fighting and partisan bickering the whole time. The whole process. It's been a partisan process. But what this tells me, Wolf, is that this process, this investigation on the Senate side is probably nearing its conclusion. This partnership does not need to exist any longer because there isn't any further fact-finding, there isn't any further questioning really that the committee needs to do. They're almost at the end of the line.
And so now they can retreat back into their partisan corners, look at the set of facts and maybe view them a little differently. But it is quite remarkable given how polarizing the climate is right now, given how the president has made this into a very heated issue himself that these two lawmakers have found this common ground to work together.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: And although the Senate Intelligence Committee had been operating in a way that's more nonpartisan than the House Intelligence Committee, I think this reinforces how this was always going to end, which is that regardless of what lawmakers on Capitol Hill conclude it's all going to come down to what is in the special counsel's report.
And this is a preview of what's to come because to Susan's point everyone is going to see what they want to see. And Republicans are already sort of tipping their hand that even a lot of the evidence that we have already seen in their eyes is not sufficient to suggest collusion.
If you even just look back to the days that leading up to the Trump Tower meeting for Donald Trump, Jr. to say if it's what you say I love it, when he was told that there was an effort by the Russian government to help this father, and that they were willing to provide incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, that at least at a minimum suggests a willingness to collude.
So again, when you talk about what comes after the report, impeachment, this all really tells you that the battle lines have already been drawn and it will be to Susan's point up to the American people.
BLITZER: Because it will all come down to how do you define collusion or conspiracy, and that may be in the eye of the beholder of all of the evidence. Because they all have the same evidence. The question is, what do they collude with that?
Senator Burr was also very upset with Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer. He was scheduled to testify today before the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors but he did -- he decided he couldn't come. He cited his shoulder surgery and he wanted to deal with that. Listen to Senator Burr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURR: I can assure you that any goodwill that might have existed in the committee with Michael Cohen is now gone. He's had a letter for six months asking for his return. He's already stiffed us on being in Washington today because of an illness.
Yet on Twitter a reporter reported he was having a wild night Saturday night out in New York with five buddies. Didn't seem to have any physical limitations. And he was out with his wife last night. I have never gotten in who we have subpoenaed and who we haven't subpoenaed.
[17:30:00] But I think he just clearly rises to one of the people that I would give every length I could to make sure that we got his testimony. I would prefer to get him before he goes to prison. But, you know, the way he's positioning himself not coming to the committee we may help him go to prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Yes, Senator Burr is usually pretty mild mannered. He doesn't often speak like that. It's pretty unusual.
RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ESQUIRE: It is. And I think you're seeing a senator who likes witnesses to show up when they're scheduled to show up. Before I came on and we were going to talk about this, I talk to someone close to Michael Cohen. And their argument is look, he had shoulder surgery and then he was struck with the flu. He told the committee that. The committee came back to them and said well, we'd like some evidence.
The Cohen team then produced two letters from doctors saying, look, he had this -- he's on Percocet (ph). He's got the shoulder issues, got the flu. Sorry he's not going to be there. And they have committed to appearing before that committee in two weeks. So unless they're playing a big game here and they're going to, you know, bow out again and then he's going to be in prison and they can't get him, the Cohen team is saying that they will -- he really was sick. Yes, he was at dinner Saturday night but he's going to be back in front of that committee in two weeks, and you know, won't say exactly --
BLITZER: Show you this picture.
LIZZA: You should calm down.
BLITZER: Take a look at this picture. We can show our viewers the picture. He's at a restaurant in New York with some friends. That was tweeted by someone so -- and he looks like he's OK but he's scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee February 28th, also behind doors. So what you're hearing is around the same time he'll go to the Senate Intelligence Committee. LIZZA: Yes. I mean, they're saying the 26th and then the 28th. So
in two weeks, they're saying that he's still committed to speaking before both of these committees. And this was -- they were not trying to skip school while, you know, going out to the -- going out to dinner but that he was genuinely struck with the flu and recovering from shoulder injury.
BLITZER: The 26th and the 28th. And the president will be in Vietnam for a summit with Kim Jong-un. The 27th and the 28th, it's going to be a busy time at the end of the month with all of this going on in March 6th. Cohen is scheduled to begin a three-year prison sentence in Upstate New York.
What do you think of that story?
SIDDIQUI: I think that it's interesting because Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in contrast to Burr, he said that as of last week Michael Cohen was still very much cooperating with the respect to the postponement of his appearance before that panel.
We don't know exactly what Michael Cohen is going to be able to discuss based on the terms of his agreement with Robert Mueller, certainly in a classified setting behind closed doors with members of these intelligence committees. He can probably share more than he would be able to in a public setting before the House Judiciary Committee. Still no date on when he's going to make that appearance.
But it's also worth noting that members of Congress want to ask him about more than just the Russia factor. They want to ask him about this hush money that was paid to some of these women who alleged to having an affair with the president as well as his knowledge of the Trump Organization and many of the potential conflicts of interest there. So whether or not they're going to actually have that opportunity remains to be seen. But he is on track to appear at the end of the month.
BLITZER: John Dowd, the president's former lawyer did a podcast and he had some very interesting things to say about the president, the Russia probe. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN DOWD, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: In my questioning him or talking to him, he questioned -- you know, the first question easy. Second question easy. Third question, he wasn't sure. And he doesn't like being unsure. So he'll guess. There is your trap right there. It's not whether he lies or not. Everybody wants to get into this -- you know, this integrity business. It's not a matter of integrity. It's overload.
What I was worried about is that he really couldn't do it. He couldn't do it. There's no way he could -- I mean, we have to script it. As a matter of fact I told Bob, I said, why don't you just let us script it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's from the new ABC News podcast. What did you make of those comments? It's pretty unusual for a former lawyer to be speaking about his client that bluntly.
HENNESSEY: Yes, it's certainly -- look, Dowd's comments just don't make any sense. You don't have an issue for false statements or perjury because you were mistaken about something or because you don't remember. You have to -- you have a problem whenever you actually lie and prosecutors can prove it.
You know, more to the point, you know, Donald Trump wasn't unsure about whether or not he had an affair with Stormy Daniels. Donald Trump wasn't unsure whenever he said that he didn't know why Michael Cohen may or may not have paid off these women. He was lying. Right? And so the problem at hand is that we know that those are -- those among other things are matters which the Mueller investigators are interested in getting answers to.
We know that the president has publicly lied about it and so obviously that's going to raise concerns in the minds of his attorneys about whether or not he's also going to lie in a context in which there are actually, you know, pretty high stakes. Keep in mind, the president has had over a year to prepare for these questions. They knew exactly what was coming. His lawyers have been looking at all kinds of documentary evidence.
[17:35:03] If after all of that time the president still isn't sure, still can't remember the answer, then he can say so. And so I really do think that this is -- this is doubt expressing fear that the president is going to perjure himself by actually lying and trying to sort of move the goal post or suggest that this is going to be some sort of trap that the president might accidentally walk into.
LIZZA: And he's treating him like he has some kind of disability that should be respected. It's like he's basically saying the president is incapable of telling the truth even in the seriousness of a criminal case where there's the threat of perjury, right? The president of the United States generally we would expect him to really care about that kind of process and do his best to tell the truth. And here's his lawyer, his ex-lawyer saying he's not able to do that.
BLITZER: Yes. He did have some written questions in writing as we all know, but no direct Q and A from the president and the Mueller team.
Mueller -- Dowd also said something very interesting, Rebecca, that Mueller, he suspects, in the end won't issue a report at all.
BUCK: It is interesting. And you can look at that in the context of Comey coming out after the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and saying, you know, we didn't find anything but then going further than that and he received a fair bit of scrutiny for saying those things when the investigation was closed and there was nothing there. But on the other hand with this investigation and the great national
security importance, also importance in the context of just having confidence in the president of the United States, that's why Democrats and Republicans have called for this report to be released. And of course the public is also expecting this report to be released. So in this case you could argue that there is a great public good that is done by releasing this report. And if there's nothing in there why would the president be --
BLITZER: Some legal experts -- and Susan, I'm anxious to get your thoughts -- have suggested if Mueller were to conclude, and we don't know what he's going to conclude, but if he were to conclude and he didn't find collusion between the president and the Russians, you don't go ahead and release a report if there's no crime or whatever there.
HENNESSEY: Well, Mueller's job is to decide whether or not a crime was committed that he can be charged with. The report that he might send to Congress is about Congress making a totally separate determination about impeachment inquiries and so the evidence that he might conclude that there's nothing for him to do on the prosecution side but still need to issue a substantive and potentially very damaging report so Congress can do its job.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick --
LIZZA: This will be the worst season finale since "The Sopranos'" "Black Screen."
LIZZA: There is no report at the end of this. He owes us one.
BLITZER: There may or may not be a report. We'll soon find out because by all indications he is getting ready to wrap things up.
Everybody, stick around.
Severe weather warnings, watches and advisories posted for about a third of the U.S. population, as millions cope with snow and ice. We have an updated forecast right after this.
[17:42:28] BLITZER: One-third of the U.S. population is coping with snow, freezing rain, and miserable weather. Storms forced thousands of commercial flights to be cancelled. Ice prevented two military planes carrying members of Congress including the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, from landing in Michigan for today's funeral of the late Congressman John Dingell.
Let's go to our meteorologist Jennifer Gray.
Jennifer, so what's the latest forecast? JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, it has been a miserable day
across the country for a lot of Americans. We're talking about a wintery side as well as a rainy side. And you can see the winter warnings as well as the winter weather advisories in effect all the way from the Midwest to the northeast.
Here is a look at the big picture. And you can see the snow across portions of New England, as well as the Midwest including Chicago. The pink and purple, that's what's creating such a huge headache. That is freezing rain. We have ice, some sleet as well. And then we also have the rain to deal with across the southern end of this.
We have seen many, many flight cancellations but not only that, it has been treacherous on the roadways especially with the freezing rain, the sleet. That is causing just travel nightmares across some of these areas. New York City right now getting some of that wintery mix. Temperatures have warmed a little bit. 32 degrees. We have already switched over to rain across some of the southern sections.
And of course with those flight delays 2400 flight cancellations. A lot of these have been in the some of the big cities where we have more than three-hour delays for a lot of these flights -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jennifer, thank you very much. We'll check back with you.
Also right now we're counting down to what is likely to be many voters' first chance to see and hear from the former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz who is considering an independent bid for president in 2020.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is joining us from Houston where Schultz will be taking questions at a CNN presidential town hall later tonight.
You know, Jeff, there's a long list of candidates running in 2020 and more who are still considering a presidential run. Are they trying to make a name for themselves this early in the race?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is no question that they're trying to make a name for themselves, to introduce themselves and distinguish themselves from this large crowded field. At least nine are in now. At least there's many more are considering jumping in. But tonight we will be hearing from Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks. He'll be on stage here behind me.
Our Poppy Harlow will be asking questions as well as voters here in Houston. He's going to be making the argument for why he believes that he is the right candidate for a third-party bid for the White House, something that has never been successful, of course.
But he is a lifelong Democrat. He now is saying that the Democratic Party has left him, and he believes that it's time for a third way. Of course, many difficult roads on that.
But, Wolf, there is also another interesting event here in Texas last night, in El Paso, Texas, a dueling rally that was still on the President's mind this morning back at the White House.
He was talking about Beto O'Rourke. The former Texas congressman, who was having a rally just outside the President's rally, at least certainly caught the attention of the President as they were making dueling arguments about the wall and building the wall.
I asked Beto O'Rourke if he is going to jump in soon. He said he'll decide by the end of the month, but, Wolf, so many others are also considering jumping in. We have Joe Biden, Sherrod Brown, Michael Bloomberg. Of course, many senators already in the race.
So this is shaping up to be a -- certainly a large Democratic field, but it's already taking shape in terms of ideology and geography. And there is a sense now that there's a left sort of a wing of this Democratic field, if you will, and a centrist wing of that.
Howard Schultz will be making the case here tonight that he believes there is room for a third way, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we'll see how that goes. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.
And to our viewers, be sure to watch later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, as CNN presents a special presidential town hall with the former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz.
And at 8:00 Eastern later tonight on "A.C. 360," Anderson Cooper talks with the latest Democrat to jump in the Presidential race, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Coming up, a former Trump insider says he won't let the White House silence him about his tell-all book. But will he prevail in a new lawsuit against the President?
[17:50:15] BLITZER: Tonight, a former White House aide who wrote a tell-all book is suing the President, challenging the nondisclosure agreement he was asked to sign to work for Mr. Trump. Brian Todd is joining us now with more on the lawsuit.
Cliff Sims, Brian, says -- Cliff Sims says the President is trying to stop him from promoting his new book.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He does make that claim, Wolf, but the Trump side says that Cliff Sims has violated a nondisclosure agreement he signed with them. Tonight, we have new details on the controversy over Sims' tell-all book on life inside the West Wing.
TODD (voice-over): He was once one of the President's aides, but, tonight, he is drawing the President's ire. Cliff Sims worked on President Trump's campaign and later in the White House as director of message strategy. But, tonight, he is suing Trump, saying the President wants to stop him from getting out his own message. CLIFF SIMS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF WHITE HOUSE MESSAGE STRATEGY: And he
does not respond well to weakness, that he only responds to strength. And so I want -- you know, I wanted to stand up and say that I'm not going to be pushed into a corner. I'm not going to be bullied on this and stand up for myself.
TODD (voice-over): Trump is reportedly furious with Sims over a tell- all book Sims wrote with stories of chaos and deceit inside the West Wing. After Sims went on a book tour, Trump lashed out, tweeting Sims was a low-level staffer who pretended to be an insider when, in fact, he was nothing more than a gofer. Quote, he is a mess.
The Trump campaign filed an arbitration claim against Sims, saying he violated his nondisclosure agreement or NDA. Sims says he is suing Trump to stop the Trump campaign in the White House from trying to silence him.
SIMS: I served him faithfully, but I worked for the American people. And so that's essentially what the suit is saying. I was backed into a corner by some legal action that the Trump folks took.
TODD (voice-over): Legal experts say if Sims signed an NDA as a White House employee, it probably wouldn't be enforceable because federal employees' rights to free speech are protected.
But in his book, Sims also dishes about his time with the campaign. At one point, writing about Trump's hair care routine on the trail, saying, quote, if there's any hair out of place, somebody in the room better have the TRESemme Tres Two hair spray, extra hold.
It's those comments, lawyers say, that could be a problem. Because while Sims says he is not sure if he signed an NDA for his work at the White House, he admits he did sign one for the Trump campaign when he went to work for them in 2016.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: If he's making statements about his time during the campaign and signed a nondisclosure agreement, then there is an enforceability factor against him for that. If, however, it trails off into things related to his time at the White House, the campaign NDA does not have any weight with those matters.
TODD (voice-over): Donald Trump has a history, some say an obsession, with making people sign NDAs, both for his businesses and his private life. Trump's lawyer drew up this NDA between Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels, who says she once had an affair with Trump which he denied.
And Trump has lashed out at former employees like Omarosa Manigault Newman, who he claimed violated an NDA she signed with the 2016 campaign when she wrote a tell-all book.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Lowlife. She's a lowlife.
TODD (voice-over): A Trump biographer says his preoccupation with NDAs speaks volumes about the culture in Trump's inner circle and his own paranoia.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": This idea of someone speaking negatively about him really does enrage him. It makes him furious and it makes him eager to exact revenge.
TODD: Now, the irony, in this case, is that Cliff Sims says he still admires Trump and his agenda, saying that Trump is getting bad advice from the people around him. Neither the White House nor the Trump campaign has responded to CNN's request for comment about Cliff Sims' lawsuit against the President.
Now, last summer, CNN was told by people close to the White House that a lot of White House staffers were no longer signing nondisclosure or nondisparagement agreements because they were largely seen as unenforceable.
Is that still the case that they're not signing those anymore? We got no response from the White House today when we asked that question -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And, Brian, didn't the former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman reject an offer from Trump's campaign over an NDA?
TODD: She did, Wolf. In her book that was released last year, Omarosa said she refused a cushy $15,000 a month retainer from Trump's 2020 campaign because that came with another NDA. Trump likes these NDAs, but he does get into some sticky business with them sometimes.
BLITZER: He certainly does. Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you.
There's more breaking news just ahead on the rare split within the Senate Intelligence Committee over evidence of collusion in the Russia probe. And the panel's chairman is lashing out at Michael Cohen after the former Trump fixer and lawyer delayed his Senate testimony. Will Cohen pay a price?
[17:55:05] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Russia probe split. In a rare public split, the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman and Vice-Chairman appear to be at odds on what their panel's investigation has found when it comes to the question of collusion.
[17:59:58] Blasting Michael Cohen. The Intelligence Committee Chairman also is venting his frustration with President Trump's former fixer and lawyer who postponed today's scheduled appearance before the Committee.