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Tornado That Killed 23 Had 170 MPH Winds, Almost A Mile Wide; House Judiciary Demands Info From 81 People And Groups, Including White House, Trump Org And Transition; Three Trump Org Executives Under Scrutiny After Ex-fixer Michael Cohen Suggests They May Have Knowledge Of Crimes; Netanyahu Echoes Trump As Prime Minister Faces Corruption Charges; Interview With Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA). Aired on 6-7p ET
Aired March 4, 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: Is it proof Mr. Trump tried to block the merger involving CNN's parent company to punish this network?
And deadly tornadoes. We're learning more about the raw power and the horrific destruction, as twisters rip through Arkansas and Georgia, killing nearly two dozen people, including children.
We want to welcome or viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the new investigation into every corner of President Trump's world, as Democrats look wide and deep into possible obstruction, corruption, and abuse of power.
The House Judiciary Committee is demanding information from 81 people and groups targeting the president's sons, as well as his son-in-law, as well as his administration, his business, his campaign, his transition, his foundation, and his inaugural committee.
The list reads like a who's who of Robert Mueller's investigation, with Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, and Michael Flynn also named, among so many others.
Democrats are also going to new lengths to learn what President Trump said in his private talks with Vladimir Putin without other U.S. officials in the room. Three key committee chairmen, they are demanding the administration make Mr. Trump's translators available for interviews.
This hour, I will talk with House Judiciary Committee member Madeleine Dean. And correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, what are we hearing from the president about this very broad new investigation of him and his inner circle? JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not much so far,
Wolf. It's been awfully quiet over here at the White House in terms of any comments to news-of-the-day questions, but the president seems to be suggesting so far he will cooperate with this massive congressional investigation that is really going to be delving into just about everything in the world that's related to Donald Trump.
But the White House is already signaling that attorneys over here won't be complying with the requests coming from House Democrats in this huge investigation.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Surrounded by college football players at the White House, the president sounded ready for the blitz, as House Democrats launched an expansive new investigation into allegations of corruption in nearly every corner of Trump world.
QUESTION: Are you going to cooperate with Mr. Nadler?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I cooperate all the time with everybody. And you know the beautiful thing? No collusion. It's all a hoax. You are going to learn about that as you grow older. It's a political hoax. There's no collusion. There's no anything.
ACOSTA: The House Judiciary Committee issued demands for documents from more than 80 relatives, aides, and associates to the president, from his own family members to top White House officials to other close advisers past and present.
Also targeted in the probe, organizations tied to the president, as well as companies and other groups that may have aided Mr. Trump's campaign. The House Judiciary Committee chairman said it's too early to talk impeachment.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Impeachment is a long way down the road. We don't have the facts yet. But we're going to initiate proper investigations.
ACOSTA: The White House signaled it won't be complying with the document demand, saying in a statement: "The fact Chairman Nadler would try to force the public disclosure of private conversations that he knows are protected by law proves he only wants to play politics."
Hugging the stars and stripes over the weekend, the president made it clear what he thinks of the special counsel's investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
TRUMP: You put the wrong people in a couple of positions, and they leave people for a long time that shouldn't be there, and all of a sudden, they're trying to take you out with bullshit, OK, with bullshit.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ACOSTA: Using a Southern accent, the president also expressed his feelings for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself in the probe.
TRUMP: As you know, the attorney general says, I'm going to recuse myself. Going to recuse. And I said, why the hell didn't he tell me that before I put him in?
ACOSTA: The president even tried to rewrite history about his call on Russia to intervene in the election, insisting he was joking in front of an audience.
TRUMP: If you tell a joke, if you're sarcastic, if you're having fun with the audience, if you say something like, Russia, please, if you can, get us Hillary Clinton's e-mails, please, Russia, please, please get us the e-mails. Please.
ACOSTA: But that's not true. Mr. Trump made the remark at a news conference in response to a question from CNN. He didn't sound like he was joking.
(on camera): Why not get tough on Putin and say, stay out?
TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But there may be new calls for other investigations into Mr. Trump's actions while in office. "The New Yorker" reports the president ordered former economic adviser Gary Cohn to block the merger between AT&T and Time Warner, then the parent company of CNN.
The president is quoted as saying: "I have been telling Cohn to get the lawsuit filed, and nothing's happened. I have mentioned it 50 times, and nothing's happened. I want to make sure it's filed. I want that deal blocked."
ACOSTA: As to whether the president ordered Gary Cohn to try to block that merger between AT&T and Time Warner, the White House has not responded to a slew of questions from CNN about this.
And earlier today, the president was not asked about it in those couple of photo opportunities. There was no White House briefing today. So there was no opportunity to ask Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, about any of this.
But getting back to the Judiciary Committee's investigation into Trump world, that is just beginning, as some of the targets of that probe with receiving notification from the panel seeking these documents. And I talked to one of those targets earlier today. This target of the Nadler investigation told me that one lesson that he's taken from the 2016 election is that it would be wise to hire a lawyer before joining a presidential campaign or administration.
Wolf, that is certainly the case with this administration -- Wolf. BLITZER: These 81 individuals and entities that have to provide
information, all of them are going to require Washington lawyers to go through that...
ACOSTA: A lot of lawyers.
BLITZER: ... extensive investigation.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now for more on this extensive investigation of Trump world and what Democrats are hoping to accomplish.
Our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us.
Manu, so what is the Democrats' strategy right now? Is this setting up potentially an impeachment proceeding in the House of Representatives?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're not going to draw conclusions or say that they're planning on impeaching this president. Right now, they want to have this investigation, which is going to carry on for weeks and weeks and months, will dominate much of the work for the House Judiciary Committee and also could be very distracting for the White House and all the entities that this broad request of documents is demanding.
Now, these 81 individuals and entities close to the president encompass all aspects of the president's inner circle, the Trump Organization, the CFO of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, his longtime gatekeeper there, Rhona Graff, his own -- his two sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., his senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and former aides like Hope Hicks and Don McGahn, all hit by these requests for documents, information.
Now, Jerry Nadler wants this information within the next two weeks. And if there's not compliance from all these entities, including the White House, Justice Department, the FBI, over a wide range of information it's seeking, including those hush money payments that the president was involved to silence stories about those alleged affairs, if there are not responses within the next two weeks, expect the fight then to intensify.
Subpoenas, potentially public hearings, that's something that they're open to. They want to bring this forward and bring this to light. They're saying they want to conduct this in public. So while Robert Mueller's investigation is looking into a lot of similar matters, they say they want to do this in a public setting, so people can judge for themselves exactly what happened here.
The question ultimately is how much compliance will they get from the White House and all these other entities? Right now, the White House is saying that they have received these documents. They're criticizing the Democrats from moving forward, but we will see what this next phase leads to. They're saying, the Democrats are saying, Wolf, these 81 individuals, that's not the list, the exhaustive list. There are going to be many more people who they are going to seek information from.
BLITZER: Yes, I suspect it's only just beginning.
As you know, House Democrats, Manu, they're also asking the White House and the State Department for information about the president's communications with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. How significant is this request?
RAJU: Yes, three powerful Democratic Chairmen, Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel, Elijah Cummings, all sending these letters after weeks of demanding information about what exactly happened in those face-to- face encounters between President Trump and President Vladimir Putin over the last couple of years.
There's been very little documentation about what they discussed, very little readout about what exactly happened. And, of course, the president gave remarks at the Helsinki summit last year that raised a lot of concerns among individuals, because the president seemed to side with Vladimir Putin over the intelligence community's assessment about the Russian interference campaign in the 2016 elections.
Now, these chairmen are demanding information. They want by the middle of the month responses to their questions about exactly what happened here. They're asking whether or not the president destroyed any of the evidence or interpreters' notes involving -- that happened during this conversation.
And, Wolf, they want transcribed interviews with everybody who was involved and knowledgeable about what happened here, including the interpreters themselves who were involved in this discussion between Trump and Putin.
Again, the question is, will there be compliance? The State Department saying they have received the letter. They're going to look into it. They will decide how to respond in a timely fashion. We will see what they ultimately decide to do, -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we will follow it closely with you, Manu. Thank you very much.
Let's get some more context right now on the new House investigations, how they figure into the Mueller probe.
Our Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is joining us right now.
Shimon, the White House has repeatedly said this Russia investigation, the probe, the Mueller investigation, has to end, but the sprawling request is suggesting, at least from the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, it's only just beginning. SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: it is only
We're talking about this could go all the way through his presidency. So we're not even talking about months here. This is -- when you look at everything they're asking for, 81 individuals, entities, all of this information, I mean, this could take years to go through, when you really think about and try to connect the dots and trying to figure out what all of this means.
And then we're not even thinking about some of the legal battles some of these folks are going to put up in turning over some of these documents. The only one other thing I would say is that a lot of this information has already been provided to the Mueller team, people at the Southern District of New York. So some of it may be readily available, and so folks may just go ahead and turn it over.
But, nonetheless, we do expect to see, obviously, a big legal battle. The other thing that I think is significant is that the committees said that they ran this by the Southern District of New York and the Mueller team, and it seems that they have given them their OK to go ahead and pursue some of this. That's certainly significant.
And then we're going to see. I think the other thing that's really going to be significant for the White House and for this president is the fact that he's -- that people who are within his organization, the people that are closest to him who have been around him for decades who know all of his history, his political foes, the people that he's now fighting in Congress are going to have access to all of this information that has not been out there yet.
And that in many ways will politicize a lot of this and could arm them with information that they don't have.
BLITZER: Is that the biggest concern the president right now has?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, I would say that is the biggest concern. It's a political concern in terms of all of this information getting in the hands...
BLITZER: That Mueller may have.
PROKUPECZ: Mueller already has a lot of this information. The Southern District of New York has a lot of this information. These are people who have been before Mueller. Mueller has talked to them. Mueller has subpoenaed them.
So, a lot of this information, it has not been publicly out there, but it has been before investigators. And what we're seeing here is also a concern, perhaps, maybe from members on the committee that the Mueller report may not be made public, so they need to find a way to at some point get this out there.
They may be able to do that in this fashion.
BLITZER: Yes, there's a lot going on right now. Shimon, thank you very, very much.
Joining us now, Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, a Democrat who serves on the House Judiciary Committee. That's the panel that has launched this new wide-ranging investigation.
Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.
REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, the scope of the investigation, as you have heard and as you know, is very, very broad right now. Is this a serious new investigation, or is it simply, as the Republicans are alleging, all for show?
DEAN: No, it's obviously a very serious new investigation, robust in its request for documents.
But I would say we could use the word, target, or we could just say we're asking for documents from 81 people and/or organizations, documents, most of which they have already handed over either to Special Counsel Mueller or others. And if there's nothing to hide in these documents, then it's not that big a burden.
But this is a robust oversight initiative by our committee, the Judiciary Committee, seeking documents from 81 different entities and people.
BLITZER: You have a list of these 81 different people and entities. How do you prioritize their importance?
DEAN: Actually, I think they're all important, because each one will be able to offer us facts and evidence to put the puzzle together.
We know, for the past two years, under this administration, we have seen observable actions and then also accusations about improprieties, possible improprieties by this administration, and yet we have seen absolutely no oversight.
Congress has an obligation, a duty for oversight, to make sure that we are those checks and balances on these branches of government. No one branch is superior to the other. So I'm very glad that we're going to be taking a look at -- and you saw the framework that the chairman came up with.
We are looking at possible obstruction of justice, possible abuses of power and possible political corruption. These are very important areas to be looking at for any administration. This is a monstrous and robust investigation, and it's the right thing to do.
BLITZER: Logistically, do you have the staff to do all this?
DEAN: I do believe we do. It's a really impressive staff on the Judiciary Committee. And you know we have hired two top counsel to help us sift through this information. So we're prepared.
[18:15:04] BLITZER: Is this a backup plan of sorts in case Robert Mueller doesn't come back with evidence of collusion or obstruction or anything significant against the president?
DEAN: I don't call it a backup plan.
What I do realize is that I and I believe every person on the Judiciary Committee wants the Robert Mueller report protected, but also brought forward into full light of day, because, remember, at the end of the day, the American public has the right to this information, and also recognize that what we're looking at is far broader than the mission and the mandate of the Mueller investigation.
The Mueller investigation is narrow in its scope, even though we see that it's broad in the people and entities it's touching. It is to look at possible collusion between Trump, Trump campaign, Trump Organization, and the Russians. Ours, we're looking much broader.
BLITZER: Is this investigation, from your perspective, laying the foundation in case you decide to begin impeachment proceedings in the House?
DEAN: I believe we have to do the background, but I don't leap to impeachment. I know that the chairman doesn't leap to impeachment. I do believe we owe the American people the facts and the evidence, and take that where it leads us.
If it leads us to the very difficult burden of impeachment, then we will have done our homework, and it may not lead us there.
BLITZER: Because, as you know, the chairman of your committee, Jerry Nadler, says -- and I'm quoting him now -- "Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public, including Trump voters."
That's a pretty high bar right there. Do you agree that should be the standard?
DEAN: What I agree is that the facts and evidence ought to show us whether or not the president is likely guilty of impeachable offenses.
I believe the American public has a right to that. And I'm also old enough to have lived through the Richard Nixon era. And I know the gravity, the weight that possible impeachment puts on the American public and puts on our government. So I take it very, very seriously, and I don't leap to any of it.
BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to this explosive article in "The New Yorker" magazine that President Trump may have actually tried to -- wanted to pressure the Justice Department to file a suit challenging the acquisition of Time Warner, which owns CNN, by AT&T.
The president reportedly said -- I'm quoting now from the article -- "I have been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed, and nothing's happened. I have mentioned it 50 times, and nothing's happened. I want to make sure it's filed. I want that deal blocked." From your perspective, is that an abuse of power?
DEAN: Certainly, that's a troubling allegation. I have not yet read the article, which I realize just went online today, and will be in print next week.
Those are troubling quotes, troubling accusations. I want to make sure they were corroborated. But that would go toward possible abuses of power, public corruption, but also obstruction of justice.
So this tells me exactly that we are doing the right thing by, in this committee, going after the documents that will tell us, will tell the story, so that we can tell the American public. We have a duty to report. Just like you do, Wolf, we have a duty to report what actually happened.
BLITZER: If proven true, the allegation in this article, would you consider that an impeachable offense?
DEAN: I wouldn't leap to that. A, I haven't read the article, and, as I said, I'm somebody who really believes in doing my homework, collecting the facts and evidence, and then we can draw legal conclusions with legal counsel.
BLITZER: Very long article. Very important article. Very well- reported.
Thank you so much, Representative Madeleine Dean, for joining us.
DEAN: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have much more on what information House Democrats will actually get from those 81 people and groups connected to President Trump. And will it lead down the road to impeachment?
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, House Democrats launching a sweeping investigation of President Trump, looking for possible obstruction of justice, possible corruption, possible abuse of power and more, all of it possibly laying the groundwork for impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.
Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and our analysts.
And, Gloria, the investigation, they're trying to get information now from these 81 individuals...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: ... and entities. What do you make of the scope of this new investigation?
BORGER: It's everything. It's absolutely everything. And, you know, what they're saying is, this is essentially a pre- impeachment strategy. I mean, Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said something that I thought was telling over the weekend on ABC. He said, you can't proceed with impeachment unless you have the public on your side.
So what they're trying to do is educate the public, bring these people before cameras, if they can. And I think the only danger here is that it can look like overreach at a certain point.
When you have a president who's saying witch-hunt, witch-hunt, witch- hunt, and then you look at this list that you were just showing of people that they want to interview, the president can say, oh, this is just presidential harassment, and his supporters will probably believe him.
BLITZER: How's the White House, Pamela, responding?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're echoing the same message that Gloria just said, that, look, this is overreach.
You have heard Sarah Sanders say that Nadler is playing politics, that he's trying to force the disclosure of private documents protected under the law. She claims executive privilege.
But, today, the White House sent out a statement saying that it has received this letter, that White House counsel and other White House officials are looking at it and will respond accordingly.
But I can tell you, though, in speaking to White House officials, this is what they have been preparing for. The new White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, has been beefing up his office with more lawyers than the previous White House counsel. This is exactly what they have expected to happen, and they're preparing for battle.
BLITZER: How does this fit in, Jeffrey Toobin, with Democrats' calculations potentially on launching impeachment proceedings in the House?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I try not to be too cynical.
I think in part Congress is just trying to do its job. I mean, there is a lot to look into in the White House and in the Trump administration and in the campaign. And there are has been no oversight for two years.
Now, obviously, impeachment is a possibility down the road. But this is a Democratic Party that is deeply informed by the 1998 experience of the Republicans, who went ahead with impeachment in the House, knowing it would never succeed in the Senate.
This Democratic Party, Democratic majority, is simply not going to do that, but they're not going to stop investigating. They're going to do their job. And this, if it leads to impeachment, well, as Donald Trump would say, let's see what happens.
TOOBIN: But I don't think -- you know, it is not just an impeachment or even primarily an impeachment strategy. It's a strategy to find out what the heck happened here.
BLITZER: Yes, you need a simple majority in the House to impeach a president, but you need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict the president and remove him or her from office.
Let's talk, David Swerdlick, about what Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is up to. He's setting a pretty high bar right now for impeachment, suggesting you got to convince more than just Democrats that this is the right thing to do. You also got to start convincing Republicans and even Trump supporters.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right. Congressman Nadler is part of leadership. He's a committee chair.
And the leadership of the Democrats, kind of along the lines of what Jeffrey was just saying, know that the line they have to strike, Wolf, is they don't want to rule out impeachment too soon and they don't want to rule it in too soon. It's not a made-up procedure. It's right there from the framers in the Constitution.
But they don't want to proceed along a party-line vote just with Democrats, just as you just said, because they know both from 1998 and also that, because of the public mood, that it would be seen as removing a president from power illegitimately, even if they find things out in this investigation that are damaging to the president.
And Democrats -- excuse me, Republicans, I think the conventional wisdom is, they're cowed, right? There's not a Republican like Howard Baker saying, what did the president know and when did he know it? There's not a Senator Goldwater eventually putting the arm on President Nixon in that case, saying, look, it's time to go. So, that's where we are.
BORGER: Well, these things are not mutually exclusive. You know, as Jeff says, look, you can make the case that this is Congress doing its job, and I believe that's absolutely true.
You can also say that there's a political strategy at work, and I believe that is absolutely true, which is educating the American public and educating themselves, because, as they prepare for the Mueller report, and Pamela knows this, as they prepare for the Mueller report, they're not so sure what they're going to get.
BROWN: The White House doesn't think they're going to be getting much.
BORGER: Right. BROWN: And the way that they view the regulations is that Barr has
the discretion to decide, and that he won't be handing over much of the confidential report from Mueller.
And so I think what you see is Democrats preparing for not getting a whole lot from the attorney general.
BLITZER: This new long list of investigations that the new Democrat majority in the House of Representatives has now opened, Jeffrey, what does that give you, what kind of insight does that give you about what the Democrats potentially are expecting from the Mueller report?
TOOBIN: You know, I don't think it necessarily tells you much.
I think, you know, they have been guided by the news coverage of the Mueller investigation. You know, Mueller hasn't said anything, but, you know, we know who's been called on the grand jury, we know who's been indicted, we know, you know, who's been subpoenaed to a certain extent.
And they are tracking that in seeking the information. You know, it's not just the 81 names that you have up there. If you drill down into what the Democrats have done, they have requested specific documents from all of those people. And so it's not just, give us all your documents. It's very specific requests from each -- you know, for each of those figures.
And each of those people have had some connection to the Mueller investigation. They don't know any more than we know how much of the Mueller investigation is ultimately going to be public, but they are tracking the Mueller investigation, so that they can make public whatever they can find out.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Gloria. All the 81 individuals and the entities that have now been addressed by the House Judiciary Committee for all this information, they all have to go and hire Washington lawyers right now, which is obviously good for the Washington legal business, not necessarily what these companies and these individuals want.
But this is an expensive proposition, clearly...
BORGER: Well, this -- this is the...
BLITZER: ... for all of them. How do you expect this to unfold?
BORGER: Well, it's going to take a long time. And this is the way Washington works now. You go work in the White House, you've sort of certainly presume you're going to end up having to hire a lawyer. For better or for worst, many of these people, I should say, or sort of overlapping with the Mueller investigation. And so they already have lawyers, but they're going to be - if they
don't come willingly, there are going to be subpoenaed, and they're going to have to produce documents, and that's costly and it's also takes a long time. So this is going to take months and months to play out. It isn't going to happen overnight.
TOOBIN: Can I just say one thing?
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: People in Barack Obama's White House, they didn't have to hire lawyers because there were no scandals in the White House back then [ph]. No, I mean, it's true. And George W. Bush, there were no scandals to speak up in the White House there. So the idea that --
BORGER: It's the way it is now.
TOOBIN: Well, no. I mean, I don't think it's just the times. I think it's the presidency.
BORGER: Well, like that's what I mean.
TOOBIN: I mean, yes. It's like not all presidents are the same. I mean, this is a president who was under investigation for a good reason.
BORGER: Well - and anybody going into this White House knows up front you're going to end up having to hire a lawyer.
TOOBIN: That's true, yes. We agree on that.
BLITZER: Which is obviously not cheap. The White House right now - you heard Shimon Prokupecz say, probably one of their big concerns, if not their biggest concern, is all of this information that the Mueller team has is going to be made available to their political opponents, the democratic majority in the House of Representatives leading these investigations.
BROWN: And I think this is really where you're going to see this fight over executive privilege. Because Mueller was still in the executive branch, they didn't invoke executive privileges. As you well know, Gloria, we've been working on this reporting. But this changes things, obviously, if these documents are going to be turned over to a different branch of government.
And so I think, again, you're going to see the White House Counsel's Office really putting up a big fight for any documents that are covered under executive privilege.
BLITZER: And what about that, Jeffrey, executive privilege? How strong of a case will the White House have in invoking it?
TOOBIN: Well, the way executive privilege works is you have to look at document-by-document. You can't just say we invoke executive privilege into everything. But remember, the executive privilege only applies to the White House. There are 81 names there virtually all of them don't work in the White House. And they certainly don't have any executive privilege. So I do anticipate there will be some --
BROWN: But the ones that did work in the White House, like Don McGahn, his deputy, that would be protected under executive --
TOOBIN: That - so you're certainly right about that. But there are a lot of names there that have - that were not government employees, didn't work in the White House, and they have no executive privilege. But you're certainly right that, you know, what, you know, both current and former White House employees, there are likely to be legal fights over there.
BORGER: But the President is the one who invokes privilege, right? I mean, the President is the one who says these -- my conversations with, say, Corey Lewandowski or whoever it is, they're privileged. I mean, so it has to come from Donald Trump.
BLITZER: And David Swerdlick, it's --
TOOBIN: And remember too --
BLITZER: Yes. Go ahead.
TOOBIN: -- Emmet Flood is now in charge of these responses. Emmet Flood comes from Williams & Conley. They don't believe in accommodating anything. This is a new group, you know, it's not Ty Cobb who was in charge initially. Emmet Flood is going to lead a fight on everything. And, you know, as, again, to quote the President, we'll see what happens.
BLITZER: You know that Allen Weisselberg, David, the Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization, he's been there for 40 years. He's not going to be able to cite executive privilege. He never worked in the White House with the President. He worked for the Trump Org. Or David Pecker, the head of American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer, he's not going to be able to cite executive privilege.
SWERDLICK: No, not at all, and for two reasons. One, because Allen Weisselberg worked for President Trump when he was Donald Trump in a business capacity.
SWERDLICK: And number two is that even if he had worked for him in some political capacity, it's not anybody who's politically worked with the President, it's the senior advisors, as Jeffrey said, in the White House.
SWERDLICK: Not anybody the administration.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more we need to discuss right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:35:00]
[18:38:49] BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and analysts as we follow the breaking news. House Democrats now opening a wide- ranging new investigation into possible corruption and obstruction of justice involving President Trump.
You know, Pamela, I want to play for you some excerpts. This is the President on Saturday. He spoke before CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, for more than two hours, two hours and two minutes and went on and on and on. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: And I said, "What the hell, let's run for President." You know I'm totally off script right now. New Green Deal or whatever the hell they call it. All of a sudden they're trying to take you out with bullshit, okay, with bullshit. The Attorney General says I'm going to recuse myself. And I said, why the hell didn't he tell me that before I put him in? He still hasn't gotten over getting his ass kicked, okay? And we kicked their ass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Were you surprised to hear the President that go on and on and on? That's a tiny little snippet of what he said.
BROWN: I have to say, after covering this President for a while, it does not surprise me at all. I feel like I've seen this show before.
I mean, this reminds me of candidate Trump when he was on the trail.
And, you know, last year, I remember at CPAC, I think he said something similar, like we're going off script. This - he was clearly in his element. And it seemed like he was blowing off steam after what appeared to be a rough week for him. The --
BLITZER: Look at this. Look at what he's doing now.
BROWN: Yes, hugging the American flag,
BROWN: He's clearly --
TOOBIN: He's pawing the American flag.
BROWN: He's pawing, hugging, however you want to say it. It was quite an interesting display for more than two hours. And what really just, I guess, if I am going to be surprised, it's that two years later, he is still fixated on inauguration crowd sizes, on Jeff sessions not recusing himself, doing an impersonation of Jeff Sessions. I mean, really kind of interesting behavior. But, again, it seemed like after the week where he then blamed his attorney's hearing on Capitol Hill for the failed North Korea summit, that he was happy to be in front of a crowd that likes him and he was blowing off steam.
TOOBIN: You know, most people don't know this.
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: Most people don't know this, but that speech was a word-for- word quote of a speech from Abraham Lincoln.
BLITZER: We didn't know that.
BORGER: The Gettysburg address was a little shorter.
BLITZER: You're the historian.
SWERDLICK: I agree with Pamela that it's no surprise anymore. Especially you heard someone on tape two years ago saying grab them by the P. Okay, he drops a BS in the middle of the speech. But here's the thing. It underscores this incredible, incredible hypocrisy among people on the right and republicans about the comportment that they demanded from President Obama versus what they demand from President Trump.
You had Andrew Card criticizing President Obama for not wearing a suit jacket at the resolute desk. Representative King criticized Obama for wearing a tan suit. It's not a perfect comparison because President Obama didn't ever say BS in a speech. But the idea now that this just as anything goes when all that criticism happened before, it's just a -- it's BS.
BLITZER: It was the first time, you know, Gloria, that I heard him make fun of Jeff Sessions' southern accent.
BORGER: It was awful. It was terrible.
BLITZER: It was the first time I heard him use that vulgar word in public.
BORGER: Right. It was like a Tweet storm on steroids. It was just - he unloaded because he had this awful week, as Pamela points out. The North Korea summit had failed and Michael Cohen had testified, calling him a conman, a cheater, and a racist, and he was before an audience that loves him.
And what does he like more than anything else? To be flattered and he was getting cheered. And so then he continued and continued and continued. This is - this is who Donald Trump is. He gets his energy from the audience. The audience had a lot of energy.
And he just decided, you know, I'm going to go with it, and was profane in a way that's, you know, it's not befitting the office of the Presidency, quite frankly. You're President even when you're giving a speech at CPAC and you're not in the Oval Office. SWERDLICK: And he said over and over again that he could be the most presidential President ever. He can't do it. Two years in, he's proven he can't.
BLITZER: Let me go to Jeffrey. Jeffrey, they had, originally, at the CPAC conference, they budget at 50 minutes, but he spoke for two hours and two minutes.
TOOBIN: He delivered big value. I think they were happy. That's what they came for. You know, he responded -- you know, I don't think that audience was unhappy with what he said.
BORGER: No, not at all.
TOOBIN: And, you know, is anything surprising about what he does anymore? I mean, this is just how he conducts himself.
BLITZER: We're going off script there forgetting about a teleprompter. That was his style, Jeffrey, during the campaign. He beat 17 other republicans for the nomination and then he won the presidency.
TOOBIN: And may well get reelected. I mean, you know, look, I, you know, have pointed out many times how wrong I was about the 2016 election. So I am out of the prediction business. But anyone who predicts the outcome of this election, you know, this next election with any great confidence, you know, buyer beware because I don't think anyone knows what's going to happen.
BLITZER: Yes, Jeffrey makes a great point, Gloria, the new NBC News, The Wall Street Journal poll, his job approval number has gone up to 46 percent last April. According to the same NBC News, The Wall Street Journal poll, it was it was 39 percent. So this is obviously among republicans, it's much, much higher, but this is the country as a whole.
BORGER: Well, was it 80 or 90 percent among republicans.
BLITZER: 46 percent, that's pretty good.
BORGER: Yes. I thought that was a striking number because, normally, his approval rating has been sort of at the 35 to 40 percent range and his disapproval is still 52 percent, as you can see there. But among his base, you know, this is a President who has done nothing to reach out to anyone beyond his base, but you see his approval number moving up. I mean, among his base, he's, what, 90, 80, 90 percent.
BLITZER: Yes. It's just one poll but that's actually a little higher than he was on inauguration day. It was about 44, 45 percent.
BORGER: We'll see.
BLITZER: 46 percent is not that too bad at this point with his presidency.
BROWN: Very high. BLITZER: Everybody, stick around, there's a lot more that we need to follow.
We're also going to give you some new details that are emerging right now about a killer tornado that's left at least 23 people dead.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more we need to follow.
[18:45:01] We're also going to give you some new details emerging right now about a killer tornado that's left at least 23 people dead.
BLITZER: New details tonight on the monster tornado that ripped through parts of Alabama, killing at least 23 people.
Our Senior Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin, is on the scene for us tonight.
[18:50:01] Drew, this tornado packed 170-mile-an-hour winds, was almost a mile wide. What are you seeing there?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGAVIE CORRESPONDENT: And left destruction like what you see behind me, which is nothing. The blocks behind me, Wolf, held a mobile home. That mobile home is basically disintegrated. It's just pushed off into the trees.
There were a family of four living here. Miraculously, three of those family members left just moments before this tornado struck. This is what happened.
GRIFFIN: You would have been here, but --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had just left and went to the grocery store with my kids to get my baby formula.
GRIFFIN: So but for that mother necessity, you would have been inside that trailer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
GRIFFIN: Tell me how bad your boyfriend's hurt?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has a fractured leg, his ribs are broken, he has puncture wounds, cuts, bruises. He's really sore. I mean, he got out of the hospital last night. We're thankful he's alive.
He'd seen the porch fly up, the front porch was a like a patio. He seen that fly up and he said he had just enough time to dive to the couch, which the couch is about a foot away from the screen door and just held on to the couch for dear life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Wolf, he rode that couch through the tornado. They looked for that couch today. They couldn't find it. That's how bad the damage is. He is fine.
The death toll is at 23 and thankfully, it is holding there. We did see dogs out, going through all the debris, looking for anymore potential victims out there. Apparently, they didn't find any today. They have kind of reconciled the missing list, so this may be contained to 23, although the sheriff said, don't be surprised if the body count doesn't go up a few because of people we don't know about.
But right now, just people reeling in this county from this, as you said, 170-mile-per-hour tornado that just ripped through here yesterday afternoon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Awful situation, indeed.
All right, Drew Griffin on the scene for us. Thank you.
And we'll have much more right after this.
[18:56:46] BLITZER: Now to Israel where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing corruption charges and taking a page from President Trump's playbook.
CNN's Oren Liebermann is joining us now from Jerusalem.
Oren, after a two-year investigation, Israel's attorney general has announced he intends to indict Netanyahu.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On charges of bribery and breach to have trust, a major blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he seeks a fifth straight rather -- a fifth election term here in Israel. The challenge he faces, he's answering it in a very Trump-esque style. The two employing the same sort of message and style as they attack the investigations they face.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Two leaders, one message.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Fake news.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake news.
LIBERMANN: As the Mueller investigation comes to a close, criminal investigations are encircling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His (INAUDIBLE) built, like Trump's, on the testimony of former associates. The two have used the same strategy: attack the media, the opposition, and the justice system.
TRUMP: So, the attorney general is weak and ineffective and he doesn't do what he should have done.
NETANYAHU (through translator): Today the press is carrying against us an unprecedented political witch hunt. It's only goal, to overthrow the right wing government under my leadership.
LIEBERMANN: They favor social media to traditional news outlets, with one American exception.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have not been able to beat Bibi Netanyahu at the ballot box, so they're trying to beat him through these trumped up, he calls it a witch hunt, call it what our president calls it, trumped up charges.
LIEBERMANN: The two leaders share more than a message. Trump and Netanyahu are well-connected millionaires, the ultimate insiders, who portray themselves as fighting a system rigged against them, and standing up for the little guy.
There is one big difference here. Trump keeps crashing into the American political system. Netanyahu is a master of finessing Israel's system.
ABRAHAM DISKIN, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, HEBREW UNIVERSITY: I think that Trump in his reactions, definitely was very emotional, very impulsive. And I don't think that Netanyahu is either emotional. I think that he is very calculated and he's definitely not an impulsive person.
LIEBERMANN: Trump has made his admiration of Netanyahu clear.
TRUMP: I can say this, that he's done a great job as prime minister. He's tough, he's smart, he's strong.
LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu has done the same.
NETANYAHU: Israel has no better ally than the United States.
LIEBERMANN: The mutual adoration has helped each leader's popularity. Right-wing Israelis celebrate Trump. Republicans hero worship Netanyahu. In a time of surging right-wing politics, these two have risen hand in hand. They have supported one another, as each leader faces the investigation that threatens to topple him.
LIEBERMANN: In the first election polls since the attorney general announced his intention to indict Netanyahu, Wolf, according to both of those polls, Netanyahu will not be able to form a coalition government in Israel's parliamentary system. His response to that has been to go on the attack.
BLITZER: And the Israeli election is coming out April 9th. Not very far down the road. We'll see what happens over the next few weeks. It's going to get very, very intense, the political situation over there.
Oren Liebermann, reporting from Jerusalem, thank you very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.