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THE SITUATION ROOM
Jussie Smollett in Court; New Gag Order Placed on Roger Stone; Interview With Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL); Coast Guard Officer Accused of Planning Mass Killing Is Ordered Held Until Trial on Guan and Drug Charges; Sources: Senate Intel Pursuing Moscow-Based Trump Associate; Empire Actor, Jussie Smollett, Just Released On Bond; Police Say He Staged Racist Attack To Promote His Career; Judge Bars Trump Ally Roger Stone From Talking Publicly About His Case After Inflammatory Post. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 21, 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: Stone silenced and scolded. Trump ally Roger Stone faces a furious judge, who rejects his apology for an online post that appeared to threaten her. Tonight, this key figure in the Mueller probe has been given a choice. Abide by this new gag order or next time, you will go to jail.
Phony attack. "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett now free on bail, accused of paying two brothers to fake a hate crime against him. Police are offering a stunning motive, saying Smollett wanted to boost his pay.
Russia connection. CNN has learned that U.S. senators want to interview a well-connected and provocative American who once escorted Donald trump around Moscow. Can he confirm claims that the Kremlin has embarrassing information about the president?
And Cohen on the Hill. Mr. Trump's former fixer spends hours in a secure location as he prepares to testify before multiple congressional committees next week in public and in private. What was his reason for this unusual meeting?
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: A lot of breaking news this hour.
A federal judge orders Trump ally Roger Stone not to speak publicly about his criminal case, tightening his gag order, after he appeared to threaten her on social media. Stone, the key defendant in Robert Mueller's investigation, apologized for the post that appeared to show the judge with crosshairs behind her head.
The judge didn't buy it at all, warning Stone that if he breaks for rules once again, he will be thrown in jail. Also breaking, "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett released on bond just a little while ago. He's now charged with lying to police when he claimed to be a victim of a racist and homophobic attack that gained national attention. Police say it was all a hoax and that Smollett paid two brothers to fake the attack to promote his career.
This hour, I will talk with the House Ethics Committee chairman, Congressman Ted Deutch. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our political correspondent, Sara Murray.
Sara, you have spent a lot of time covering Roger Stone. He tried to offer a mayor culpa. But this judge said he wasn't credible.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Roger Stone President Trump's longtime political adviser, took the stand in his own defense today. And he began by offering what he said was this heartfelt apology, but things quickly unraveled from there.
MURRAY (voice-over): A federal judge banning Roger Stone from speaking publicly about his case, warning him if he violates the order, it will land him in jail. Stone took the stand to tell Judge Amy Berman Jackson he was "heartfully sorry" for posting what could be considered a threatening image of her to his Instagram on Monday.
He claimed the image which showed the judge with crosshairs over shoulder was a screw-up and a stupid lapse of judgment and insisted the crosshairs were misinterpreted. But Judge Jackson said the apology rang hollow, adding: "There's nothing ambiguous about crosshairs."
The judge had already put a lenient gag order on Stone. Today, she banned him from talking publicly about the case in any venue, warning him there will not be a third chance. She also banned others from speaking on his behalf.
The judge had ordered Stone to make the trek from Florida and appear in court after his post, which included a caption that called special counsel Robert Mueller a deep state hit man and claimed Stone's case was a show trial. Stone also implied that Jackson was biased because she was an Obama appointee. He rounded out his post with #fixisin.
He altered the text about Mueller and added a few more hashtags. That post was also taken down. The same day, Stone filed a formal apology to the judge. "I had no intention of disrespecting the court and humbly apologize to the court for the transgression."
The judge and the prosecutor questioned the sincerity of Stone's apology, given his other public comments.
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: When the judge issued a gag order that did not limit my First Amendment rights, the left went completely insane. That's why they have cooked up this false narrative. I threatened no one. I intended to threaten no one. I never disrespected the judge or the court.
MURRAY: Stone's legal troubles came to a head last month, when he was arrested at his Florida home in a predawn raid.
STONE: And 29 armed FBI agents, 17 vehicles, all an unnecessary expenditure paid for by the taxpayers for the theater of it, to create a public image of me as guilty before I get an opportunity to prove that I'm innocent.
MURRAY: He pleaded not guilty to seven charges of obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering.
MURRAY: Now, when it comes to his case, Roger Stone is allowed to say he's innocent. He's allowed to continue to ask for donations to his legal defense fund.
And, Wolf, he can still be out there publicly talking about other issues that have nothing to do with this case. But when it comes to what we have seen from him in the last week or so talking about the case all over Instagram, all over these various media interviews, that's not allowed anymore.
BLITZER: Sara, stick around.
I want to bring in Pamela Brown, our senior White House correspondent.
You have covered a lot of this Russia investigation over the past couple of years.
Threatening a federal judge, that potentially is another federal crime. Could Roger Stone face additional charges as a result of this?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly could, but it's likely that would have already happened.
I mean, the judge could have gone further than she did today. This hearing could have gone in a lot of different directions, as Sara well knows. And she did stop short of going any further. She did say, look, what he did, posting that picture with apparent crosshairs, could insight others.
So she really put it in the context of this could have been a very dangerous situation, but she stopped short of putting him behind bars for this, although she did expand the gag order. And it's going to be interesting moving forward what Roger Stone does, because he has made it clear posting online, talking to reporters, it's his oxygen, it's his lifeline.
But the judge said today, look, this isn't baseball. You don't get three chances here. This is it for you.
BLITZER: And she also said that if he violates this complete gag order, she's going to throw him in jail because she believes what he did on social media was incitement.
MURRAY: That's right. And she said he deliberately chose this image and he chose an image that sent a sinister message.
And it was a little bit surreal watching Roger Stone try to defend this post, because he almost sounded like President Trump or candidate Trump when he tried to defend something inflammatory that he's posted on social media.
Roger Stone said it was a volunteer initially and then he couldn't remember which volunteer. He couldn't remember where the photo came from. He was saying the crosshairs wasn't actually a crosshairs. It was this other logo that means something else and the judge obviously was not buying it.
BLITZER: Not at all. She's tough, tough lady, indeed.
Meanwhile, another of the president's former associates, Michael Cohen, was here in Washington today meeting behind closed doors with members of Congress. Tell us about that.
It's sort of a mysterious visit that caught us off-guard today. He went to meet in secure spaces with this the Senate Intel Committee. Unclear exactly who he met with, though, Wolf. He went there. Then he had lunch. Then he went back with his attorney, Lanny Davis.
It wouldn't be that unusual to prep before such a high-stakes interview with the committee, which is supposed to happen next week. And so that would be something that could happen, although we normally haven't seen this with other Russia-related witnesses in the investigation.
So it does appear that this was a prep session of some sort, but there is a lot of anticipation for next week, Wolf, when there are three different hearings with Michael Cohen, two behind closed doors, one that will be open session. And it's going to be about Trump and his businesses.
There will be a lot of focus on that while the president is overseas in Vietnam during the second summit with North Korea.
BLITZER: The president will be in Hanoi meeting with Kim Jong-un.
Michael Cohen will be before the House Oversight Committee 10:00 a.m. Wednesday morning meeting with members of Congress. And that will be open. We will have live coverage of that as well.
Guys, thank you very much.
Let's bring him the chairman of the House Ethics Committee right now, Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida. He also serves on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees. He's a busy guy, as we know.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Let me get your thoughts on Roger Stone right now. He's been completely gagged by this federal judge from speaking or posting on social media or anyplace else about his case. Do you think he will abide by that ruling?
REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: Well, he's got abide by the ruling or he's going to go to jail. It's shocking what he did.
The judge, I think rightfully, took strong action against him. His efforts to try to claim that he didn't really know what was happening, it wasn't really him, this is a symbol of the occult and not a crosshairs, none of it is believable.
What he did is reckless and extremely dangerous. He apologized for it because he had to. That, by the way, Wolf, is one more apology than we have ever gotten from President Trump for all of his attacks on the institutions of our democracy, our free press, our justice community, our intelligence community.
This is -- unfortunately, it seems par for the course. The president launches these attacks. And the people close to him then pick up on that and go one step further. It was really appalling and dangerous.
BLITZER: As you know, the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, he's going to be testifying publicly next Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee.
What will you be watching for in that hearing? He had private behind- the-scenes meetings with members of Congress earlier today.
DEUTCH: Well, I'm glad that he's coming to testify on the Hill.
Remember who Michael Cohen is. He's the president's fixer. So there are a whole range of questions that need to be asked that Congress has played no role for the past two years. Congress didn't take its oversight responsibility seriously under Republican rule.
Finally, we have an opportunity to probe these important questions, like the fact that Michael Cohen went into court and essentially made President Trump an unindicted co-conspirator in a felony case to win the election.
There's new reporting, obviously, about the ongoing discussions that took place far longer than we were originally told about the Trump Tower Moscow project. These are -- this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It's really important that Congress has the ability to try to get to these facts, even as we wait for the Mueller report to be released. BLITZER: The House Oversight Committee chairman, Elijah Cummings, a
man you know well, says they won't ask questions related to the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation.
So, how much will we actually learn during that open hearing next Wednesday?
DEUTCH: Well, I hope that we will learn a lot.
There is -- there enough questions to ask Michael Cohen about the relationship that he has with the president just based on the fact that Michael Cohen played the lead role in making a payoff, violating a felony campaign finance law, in order to help the president be elected president of the United States.
There are -- there's a whole array of questions to ask him about the other ways in which he worked on behalf of the president or at the president's direction potentially involving other crimes, certainly getting into the president's -- the president's longtime relationship that he's had with Michael Cohen.
BLITZER: CNN has learned, as you probably know by now, that Robert Mueller could end his investigation as early as next week, hand over his report to the new attorney general, Bill Barr.
What does Bill Barr need to provide to Congress in his summary of Mueller's work?
DEUTCH: well, we need to get the truth. That's what this entire process is about.
The Mueller investigation is about finding out the truth, determining what happened, what exactly happened in connection with the last presidential election. We know a fraction of what Mueller knows already, but it's awfully damning.
We're going to get a report . It's either going to connect all of the dots, Wolf, in which case Congress will have a clear road forward, or it will simply provide all of the additional information, in which case the responsibility will then fall on Congress ultimately to determine the full truth of what happened.
But, either way, the American people -- Congress and the American people need to see the Mueller report. They expect it. They deserve it. It's the first step in ensuring the respect and the necessary belief, the reassurance that no one in America is above the law. That's what's at stake when the Mueller report comes out.
BLITZER: I know that if you and your Democratic colleagues -- and you're not in the majority -- on the Judiciary Committee in the House, if you're not satisfied with the new attorney general's report to Congress, I assume you will want to move forward with a specific subpoena. Is that right?
DEUTCH: Well, I think it's -- we're going to move forward to get the report. But we're also -- as I said, Wolf, we need to move forward to get the truth.
There is a whole range of issues that we have to focus on involving obstruction of justice, whether the president violated his oath of office, whether he abused power. There is so much that we already know that, for two years, sadly, the Republican leadership on the Judiciary Committee simply brushed aside.
It's time for us to pursue these on behalf of the American people. Our job is to provide oversight of this administration. It hasn't happened until now. It is now happening, and we have only just started that process.
BLITZER: If the Justice Department can indict a sitting president, and that's the guideline right now, and if the Justice Department can't release derogatory information about someone who's not indicted, that's also a Justice Department guideline, how do the American people get answers about what exactly Robert Mueller learned about President Trump?
DEUTCH: Well, to the extent that there is more information -- and certainly we know that there is more information that's already been released -- there's more information that impacts the findings on what happened surrounding the 2016 presidential election, what Russia did, I mean, we're talking about Roger Stone.
Remember the issue of Roger Stone and WikiLeaks and what conversations took place there. I mean, all of this information impacts not just what happened in 2016. It impacts our national security.
And in a week where the former acting FBI director told the American people that they were so concerned about what the president was doing, that they launched a counterintelligence investigation into the president, I think it's only right that we get all of the information coming out of this report, and that the administration not try to characterize the facts about what happened as something other than they are, in an attempt to try to hide them from the American people.
BLITZER: Congressman Ted Deutch, thanks so much for joining us.
DEUTCH: Thanks, Wolf. It's always good to be with you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the actor Jussie Smollett now a criminal defendant charged with lying about a racist attack that police say was actually a hoax -- new details after his dramatic court appearance.
And what does this man know about Donald Trump's Russia connections? CNN has learned that senators, U.S. senators, they want to ask him specific questions about possible dirt the Kremlin may have on the president.
BLITZER: Another breaking story, the actor Jussie Smollett released on bond tonight.
Prosecutors offer stunning evidence that Smollett faked a racist and homophobic attack against him. Chicago police say the cast member of the TV series "Empire" took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his own career.
CNN's Nick Watt is joining us from Chicago right now.
Nick, you were in that courtroom when all this unfolded.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, and I want to start with what the judge had to say.
Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., he said that if these charges are true, he called this utterly outrageous. And speaking specifically about the allegation that Jussie Smollett asked these men, told these men to throw a noose around his neck, the judge said of that, that symbol conjures up such an evil in this country.
Now let's get to what else happened today. And let's hear from the prosecutors and the police.
WATT (voice-over): Jussie Smollett, known for his starring role on the hit TV show "Empire," tonight trying to avoid the spotlight, captured by cameras walking out of the Chicago jailhouse, has posted bond, given up his passport, now officially charged with a felony for filing a false police report after allegedly staging an attack designed to look like a hate crime, all, police now say, in an attempt to make more money.
EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: And why? This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. He concocted a story about being attacked.
WATT: Prosecutors say he knew his attacker, Abel Osundairo, he hired him.
RISA LANIER, COOK COUNTY STATE ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: During the course of this friendship, defendant Smollett and Abel socialized together, exercised together as well as worked on the FOX television series "Empire."
WATT: Smollett allegedly asked Abel to recruit his brother, Ola.
LANIER: Smollett asked Ola if he could trust him. When Ola said he could, Smollett detailed his plans of the attack to the brothers.
WATT: He allegedly told him to show "This is MAGA country." Prosecutors say initially the plan was for them to throw gasoline on Smollett. Later, that changed to bleach.
LANIER: Smollett further detailed that he wanted Abel to attack him, but not hurt him too badly, and to give him a chance to appear to fight back. WATT: There were also allegedly numerous phone contacts between
Smollett and the brothers before and after the attack. Smollett's lawyer told the court he was supposed to be on the "Empire" set early this afternoon. Instead, he was in a real life courtroom hearing prosecutors meticulously layout how he wasn't attacked, this wasn't a hate crime.
Police say they tracked the two alleged attackers using surveillance footage from around the city, identified the two men, one of whom had appeared on "Empire" with Smollett, found out they'd flown to Nigeria after the attack on return tickets, arrested them on arrival back in Chicago last week.
Eventually, they confessed and were not charged.
JOHNSON: So it wasn't until the 47th hour of their 48-hour hold time that we can legally hold them in custody that it -- that it took a change.
But when we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off.
LANIER: The staged attack lasted 45 seconds. And it was just outside the view of the desired nearby camera that Smollett had pointed out to the brothers approximately 15 hours earlier.
WATT: Smollett allegedly wanted this attack caught on camera, apparently even telling police to look at the tapes.
WATT: Now, some of that, of course, was in court. He spoke only to confirm his name.
His family was also there. They stood as Jussie Smollett entered the courtroom, and they remained standing throughout proceedings.
Now, Smollett's lawyer has maintained his client's innocence. They say that they will fight this aggressively. So, Smollett is due back in court next month -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick Watt in Chicago for us, Nick, thanks very much.
And we're going to be discussing all the breaking news. Our experts and our analysts, they are standing by. We have a lot to discuss. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories this hour, including rather dramatic developments in the case of the "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.
He's free on bail tonight, after being charged with falsely claiming he was a victim of a hate crime, which investigators now say Smollett staged to promote his career.
Let's dig deeper with our analysts and commentators.
And, Joey Jackson, have you ever seen anything like this before?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, this is problematic on so many levels. And it really, really begs the question of why.
Now we know at least the motivation that was given, in order to further his career.
We're living in difficult times, as we know. The rhetoric is unlike that which we have ever seen, attacks upon immigrants, attacks upon African-Americans, attacks upon everyone. And the fact that this is added into the discourse doesn't do us any service.
And so, you know, there's some really explaining he has to do. And, of course, you've heard and so earlier the chief speaking and just black mark upon the city in terms of what he did, the diversion of resources and what that did, why would someone do this, the holes in his story. And let me be clear, of course, everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence. As a defense attorney, I can say that. I'll yell it from the mountain top. But if the evidence is anything like what is being suggested, then it is highly problematic.
But let me also say this. I'm really looking to see what his defense does, and that's going to be very significant. In my view, they have two paths. The one path that is scorched earth, right? The brothers are lying, everything is made up, this is ridiculous, he would never do such a thing, and theother path is a mea culpa. And it really - it interest me which one he'll follow.
Remember, our system does in fact reward remorse. It rewards cooperation. It rewards ownership and acceptance of responsibility. I don't know what happened. The fact is this evidence is being revealed in terms of what did happen. But if the evidence, as we know it, is suggestive of him having to do with this and having staged this hoax, then he is in a world of hurt from state-related charges and that last point, Wolf, and that is there could be federal charges as it relates to the actual letter that he's alleged to have sent himself. And so if he's going to do a mea culpa, he needs to do it early.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: I'm really happy. Nischelle Turner is with us tonight at The Situation Room. Nischelle, you know Jussie Smollet, and I'm told you had a conversation with him after all this broke. Tell us about that.
NISCHELLE TURNER, HOST OF ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT: Well, you know, full disclosure, Wolf, I have known Jussie for several years and we are friendly. I did speak with him late last week. This was before the arrest. It was actually on Valentine's Day. And this was when a lot of questions were swirling, what was going on, people really were starting to doubt his story. So I reached out to ask him what was going on. And he, at that point, maintained his innocence to me very vigorously.
So at that point, he was still standing strong to his story. Of course, I haven't spoken with him today or since the arrest. But we do have late information here at Entertainment Tonight this evening that Jussie is, in fact, back on the on the set of Empire working. So he left court and he went back to work.
WOLF: That's pretty surprising, isn't it, Nischelle? After an up roar like this, they invite him back to film or whatever they are doing.
TURNER: Well, production is up at the show today. And, apparently, he has scenes to shoot. So apparently he thought that it was prudent for him to go back to work.
WOLF: And they're keeping him for at least for now on the job. And as Joey says, you are innocent until you're proven guilty. So let's see what happens on that front.
You know, David Swerdlick is with us as well. You know, if you believe the allegations made by the police and the prosecutors, the - he was trying to create this hoax and to blame it on Trump supporters, saying, this is MAGA Country, one of the alleged attackers supposedly said against him. What do you make of that?
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINTONG POST: So, Wolf, as you said, as Joey said, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. All the facts are not yet in. But the facts of this case, when they were first reported out, were always too pat to my mind, including that the attackers were wearing MAGA hats and that he had reported out to police that they had said, this is MAGA country. It almost reads like someone writing a script of a race-based or anti-gay attack.
Just to be clear, I don't want to make a light of what MAGA means, or what the slogan, Make America Great Again, means. It is not a benign slogan. Half the country takes it as a finger in the eye. I ask when was America not great, and I ask, what does the, again, mean?
But for this to have been part of this package that Jussie Smollett gave to police, I think, was painting with too broad a brush, trying to cement this idea that this was a racial attack when we don't know that was at all the case.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I certainly agree with everything, Joey said, David said. I have to say, I have a provincial view of this as someone who goes on live television frequently to talk about cases breaking in the news. This is a great cautionary lesson to all of us that you don't say people are guilty or innocent right away. We don't know all the facts. And I think there are some public figures, including some politicians, who embarrassed themselves in this case by immediately embracing his story. And I think it's just a poignant lesson to people like us who are in the public eye to say, let's wait and hear all the evidence before we start pronouncing people.
BLITZER: That's an important point. And, Nischelle, you have known Jussie Smollett for years. When you heard all of this, especially today, all of the allegations at Chicago Police and the prosecutors level [ph], what do you think? What do you believe?
TURNER: Gobsmacked. I mean, I am just being honest with you.
And I heard what Jeffrey said and he is right. And I tell you, because I have known him for years and never known him to misrepresent himself or to be a liar, when this story first came out, I believe him. I mean, you want to believe people that you know and that you care about.
But Jeffrey is right. I mean, we all have to sit back and really think about jumping to conclusions. And although I still want to believe the people that I care about going forward in the future, I do think this is a tale. I mean, this story still continues to make my head spin time after time, day after day, minute by minute. I mean, we're still getting information in as we speak. I mean, It's really, really - the words I'm looking for aren't even coming to me right now.
I think that what I'm so hurt and disappointed about is, as a black woman in this country, I've also experienced racism. So when you hear someone, an African-American, talk about an incident that happened to him that involves race with a noose around your neck, I mean, automatically, you feel a kinship there, and you want to believe them and you want to stand for them. And that happened with so many people with Jussie.
And if, in fact, it is true that he lied, it's just such a gut punch. And it's really, really ridiculous to stoke those kind of racial fears and homophobic fears in society at any time, but especially right now.
BLITZER: And if he lied, it wasn't just to the American public, it was to you personally in a phone conversation. So what would you want to say to him if you could speak to him again?
TURNER: I just want to know the truth. I just want to know exactly what happened. It kind of mirrors what the police chief said today, an apology, righting a wrong. And I do believe in forgiveness. I really do. But I think that you really have to come forward just with your heart open and tell the truth.
And, again, he deserves to go through the legal process. That is happening right now. The evidence against him is really, really staggering. But we just all - I think we all deserve to hear the truth. And especially people now who are really grappling with issues of hate crimes and homophobic situations, they deserve for him to be honest because they deserve to be believed.
BLITZER: And if he lied to you, Nischelle, do you think you could forgive him?
TURNER: Yes, because I do believe in forgiveness. But I'd have to really sit with what has happened and what has transpired and really believe that he wants redemption. And at this point, I just don't know. I don't think any of us do. I don't think any of us know.
BLITZER: You know, there's been a rise, Joey, in hate crimes. We've got the statistics. We can put a little graphic up on the screen involving all sorts of individuals, involving race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, disability. And this is going to have an impact of sorts, don't you think?
JACKSON: You know, you would think it would, Wolf. Let's hope it does not. And let me be clear in terms of what I'm saying. You know, every case needs to be evaluated on the merits of what it is. You can't really look at his case and say because there could potentially be a big lie here, that someone else's crime, Wolf, it didn't happen to them. I think police officials, we would trust and maintain that they would exercise professionalism and really investigating these cases and doing everything they need to root out what exactly is the truth.
But just one issue that Nischelle is talking about, and that's the issue, really, of really coming out and saying sorry in the event that this did not happen. And that goes a long way in the judicial system, too. You know, oftentimes, as a defense attorney, everyone thinks, you've got to win, you've got to win, you've got to win, no holds bar. You know, your job is really to mitigate the damage to your client. And I think in the event that this isn't true, it would go a long way in terms of people who love him, people who support him, people who care about him.
Sometimes there are underlying issues that we would never understand which make people or motivate them to do things. We do live in a forgiving world and I would only hope that his lawyers would be the agent of reality having evaluated and looked at the evidence. And if it's not a winnable case, then maybe it's a time to come out and say, "You know what, let me do my mea culpa, let me move forward, let me heal and let me tell everyone why I was going through this and why I did what I did.
BLITZER: Yes. It's an amazing development today. All right, everybody stick around. There's more breaking news we're following.
A judge slaps a gag order on long time Trump adviser, Roger Stone. And will this self-described political trickster comply?
Plus, life sentence investigators want to talk to the man who played the key role in President Trump's 1996 trip to Moscow.
[18:44:17] BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. The long time Trump adviser, Roger Stone, is now under a full gag order. He's barred from talking publically about his case after he posted a picture of what the federal judge said - of the federal judge with what appeared to be an image of crosshairs behind her. David Swerdlick, this judge, Amy Berman Jackson, she told Roger Stone, there's nothing ambiguous about crosshairs. She also said that at the world of social media there's no such thing as a take back. Her decision was, you've got to shut up completely. If you don't, you're going to jail.
SWERDLICK: She got it right on both counts and I think she handled it just right. Just the warning would have been too light. Cuffing him up and remanding him into custody probably would have been too strong at this point. So putting a gag order on his social media use going forward, I think, makes sense given where we are in this case.
BLITZER: You've spent a lot of time, Jeffrey Toobin, covering Roger Stone over the years. You have written a lot of articles about him. You were in that federal courtroom today. What was it like?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It was a wild scene in the courtroom. No one really expected that Roger Stone was going to testify. His lawyer, I think perhaps in a decision he might regret, put him on the witness stand.
And it started out fine. He apologized. But then he was asked, how did this post happen? And Stone told very bizarre, confusing story about how there were volunteers and they had his phone, he didn't know who did it.
The judge was furious. The judge was not impressed with Roger Stone's testimony as she have made very clear. I think given how badly his testimony went, he was fortunate to wind up just with a gag order and not locked up.
But as the judge said, this isn't baseball. You don't get three strikes. The next time you do something like this, you are going to get locked up.
BLITZER: And for Roger Stone -- going back to the Nixon years, to grovel and to apologize, you have covered him for a long time. How extraordinary was that?
TOOBIN: It was really an extraordinary scene. His brand is being brash. His brand is being outspoken. And he was trying to apologize.
And he apologized many times. He just couldn't keep his stories straight about what actually happened with his post. The judge was really not having it.
BLITZER: She's a tough judge.
If he breaks this gag order, he is going to jail awaiting trial.
You know, Sabrina, it happens -- this is unfolding. We have been reporting that Robert Mueller is expected to deliver his final report to the new attorney general as early as next week. But the Roger Stone case and other cases involving the special counsel will continue.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: Yes. In fact, Roger Stone's trial is only just beginning. He, of course, faces seven charges which include making false statements and obstruction. So, the trial in terms of how he should be punished, that's going to continue.
But I do think we got through the 25-page indictment against Stone, a pretty clear picture of some of his activities during the campaign, including his contacts with WikiLeaks. And I think most importantly, the fact that he was directed by a senior official in the Trump campaign to communicate with WikiLeaks and did report back to the campaign. So, I think there's a lot of expectations as to what Mueller's final report will reveal in terms who was that individual in the campaign and what, if anything, did the president know. That's why this looming battle over to what expect this report is going to be made public is so important.
BLITZER: Sabrina makes an important point, Phil Mudd. The Mueller filing recently revealed that Roger Stone -- there was evidence of Stone communicating with WikiLeaks. So, how does all this fit into the broader Mueller investigation?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think there's one simply question. We've gotten just a half a step closer to in that story, and that is, we still don't have the picture of whether this was active or passive. That is whether Roger Stone was sort of saying, I'm interested in what WikiLeaks was doing passively or actively saying, hey, if you could release something, that would be really helpful to us, which gets closer to a conspiracy.
So, as you said, in the charging documents, it shows that there's direct communication with WikiLeaks. I want to know, did he actually ask him to do something? And the final question I want to know, when Mueller asked him about it, did he lie or tell the truth?
I can tell you where that would be. He didn't quite get around to telling the truth and we'll hear about that, too.
TOOBIN: Well, and this was the thing that was so unfortunate I think for Stone, which is, here he is, he is going to trial before this judge about making false statements. He goes on the witness stand and makes false statements according to the judge, not a great way to introduce yourself. To the person who will be perhaps deciding how to sentence you.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's more news we're following.
We also have an important programming note. Be sure to join me Monday when I moderate our next CNN presidential town hall with Senator Bernie Sanders live from Washington, Monday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
There are also new developments tonight in another major story we're following. A U.S. Coast Guard officer accused of planning a mass murder targeting U.S. lawmakers and journalists, that individual has been ordered detained until trial.
Let's bring in our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica, you were there in the courtroom where prosecutors labeled Lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson a domestic terrorist. What's the latest?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, prosecutors are calling him a domestic terrorist, but they aren't charging him with any violent crime, only drug and firearms possession charges, at least for now.
So the public defender took issue with the government keeping Lieutenant Hasson detained without some more serious charges. Ultimately, though, the judge did side with the government and ruled that this coast guard lieutenant who stockpiled weapons allegedly and maintained this hit list, the judge had cited that he is a danger to the community and must be kept behind bars for now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[18:50:13] ROBERT HUR, U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF MARYLAND: The sheer number and force of the weapons that were recovered from Mr. Hasson's residence in this case, coupled with the disturbing nature of his writings, appear to reflect a very significant threat to the safety of our community, particularly given the position of trust that Mr. Hasson held with the United States government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So, Lieutenant Hasson will stay behind bars, but the judge issued somewhat of a caveat here, saying that if the government doesn't actually charge him with any additional violent crimes within the next 14 days, the defense team can come back and once again argue against continued detention.
And there is one other thing we're learning tonight, just into us. The Coast Guard now says it's been investigating Hasson since 2018, when its insider threat program identified some concerns about him. And a spokesman is telling us that it took until last week to actually arrest him. That's because that was when the FBI and the Coast Guard, Wolf, were fully confident in the actual strength of the evidence here.
BLITZER: Why doesn't Hasson face more serious charges?
SCHNEIDER: That's a big question here. It's something that the U.S. attorney actually wouldn't answer. And that's because the investigation is ongoing. So, it's possible, maybe even probable here that Lieutenant Hasson could face additional charges.
But here's the key here. Notably, there's no domestic terrorism statute that specifically authorizes the federal authorities to charge someone with committing acts of violence to influence government policy. Instead, they would have to charge something more along the lines of, you know, weapons of mass destruction charge or it would have to be a state or local hate crime charge.
So, Wolf, there has been this push for Congress to enact a federal domestic terrorism law, but so far, nothing. So perhaps that's sort of hindering the prosecution here in exactly what they can charge.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Jessica Schneider, reporting.
Just ahead, does Russia have compromising information on President Trump? Senate investigators want to talk to a man they think may know the answer.
[18:56:52] BLITZER: Tonight, CNN has learned that U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee members want to talk to an American businessman based in Moscow whose ties to president Trump go back decades.
CNN Europe editor, Nina dos Santos, has details. Nina is joining us live.
Nina, this is part of an effort to determine if the Russians have compromising material on the president?
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Yes, both from a personal and business perspective, as well, according to multiple witnesses who I've spoken tour under the condition of anonymity, Wolf. And also according to testimony that I have seen that has been submitted to this committee, saying that the Senate Intelligence Committee should speak to this individual, an individual, though, who remains in Moscow at the moment and has been thus far unable to help them or unwilling to help them with their inquiries.
DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to talk to this man, an American who once escorted Donald Trump around Moscow, to see if he can confirm claims that Russia has embarrassing material on the president, according to multiple sources.
David Geovanis has been based in the Russian capital for almost three decades, at one point taking this picture in front of a Joseph Stalin portrait surrounded by scantily clad woman. Sources tell CNN that Geovanis has known Donald Trump since at least 1996 when he helped organize meetings like these for the now president and men who would go on to become donors to his 2016 campaign.
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: It's been the best business year of my life.
DOS SANTOS: This Russian news report from the time emerged online a month ago. It shows Geovanis looking on as Trump meets with Moscow's deputy man. By his side, real estate moguls Bennett LeBow and Howard Lorber.
According to "The New York Times," Donald Trump Jr. called Lorber after his now-infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer in 2016.
TRUMP: Behind me, I have to say, we have some of our great businessmen of the world -- Howard Lorber, Ben LeBow. DOS SANTOS: Lorber did not respond to several requests for comment.
The 1996 trip was part of a long-held plan to explore building a Trump Tower in Moscow. Geovanis also has connections to another figure of interest in the investigations, Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian mining magnate. His ties to Trump's former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, had been scrutinized.
DOS SANTOS: Well, Wolf, I've been speaking to David Geovanis. I actually reached him yesterday evening, and he has said on multiple occasions that he has no comment to make about the Senate committee's interest in him. He also wouldn't disclose his location, although I have been able to confirm that he has been at the Moscow area as recently as this month.
The president's legal team declined to comment on his relationship to Geovanis, as did a lawyer for the Trump Organization, as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And very quickly, Nina, what are the chances that U.S. investigators will actually get a chance to talk to this guy?
DOS SANTOS: Well, considering as they've been trying to for the past 12 months, they originally issued a letter to him around about this time last year, and he has appointed U.S. legal counsel, but has not returned to the United States and there's very little that they can do to try to get more information from him. Of course, as I was saying before, he is now a Russian citizen, as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nina Dos Santos, excellent reporting. Thanks very much.
That's it for me.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.