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THE SITUATION ROOM
White House Pushes Back On Investigations; Interview With Rep. Harley Rouda (D) California; House Oversight Chair: White House Rejects Demand For Documents On Security Clearances, Alleged Abuses Involving Jared Kushner; Trump Slams Democrats For Sweeping House Investigation; White House May Claim Executive Privilege On Documents; Source: Trump Organization Insurance Broker Subpoenaed By New York State Finance Department; Stone Headed to Jail? Aired 6-7p ET
Aired March 5, 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: A federal judge may be fed up with Roger Stone tonight, after the indicted Trump ally appears to have repeated a past mistake, potentially violating his gag order. This time, will Stone be thrown in jail?
Calling him a criminal. Nearly two-thirds of voters believe Mr. Trump committed crimes before he was president. And they're divided on potential crimes in office. What does it mean for the possibility of impeachment?
And Russia mocks Congress. The Kremlin is trying to discredit the U.S. House probe into President Trump's contacts with Vladimir Putin. Tonight, Moscow is on the same page as Mr. Trump and borrowing from his playbook.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the White House defying Democrats who are investigating the president and the his inner circle.
The House Oversight Committee chairman says the administration is refusing to produce documents and witnesses on alleged abuses involving Jared Kushner's security clearance. Two Democratic lawmakers now are calling for criminal investigation after a report that Mr. Trump ordered top-secret access for his son-in-law and senior adviser, overruling intelligence officials' concern.
Also breaking, we're told the White House is preparing to push back on the House Judiciary Committee's sweeping new probe of the president, weighing claims of executive privilege, despite public promises to cooperate.
I get reaction from the House Oversight Committee Democrat Harley Rouda. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. First, let's go to our chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, we heard the president's reaction to the new Democratic investigations, and it all sounded very familiar.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
The oversight fight has begun. The White House is digging in its heels over these new investigations launched by House Democrats into allegations of corruption across Trump world. Asked about the avalanche of probes coming his way, President Trump all but declared his own resistance.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Faced with one of the most far-reaching congressional investigations in years, President Trump doesn't sound like he's in the mood to cooperate.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no collusion. That was a hoax. There was no anything.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump blasted away at this week's House Judiciary Committee request for documents from 81 individuals and organizations connected to the president as part of a larger probe into allegations of Trump world corruption.
TRUMP: Basically, they have started the campaign. And the people understand it. When they look at it, they just say presidential harassment. It's too bad, because I would rather see them do legislation.
ACOSTA: Aides to the president have told CNN they may assert executive privilege to block any document demands from Democrats. Hinting that the White House will be digging in its heels, the president accused the Obama administration of obstructing Republican probes.
TRUMP: They didn't give one letter of the request. Many requests were made.
ACOSTA: The Democratic investigations are providing the president with new ammunition for his Twitter feed, as Mr. Trump called the House Judiciary probe a big fat fishing expedition desperately in search of a crime.
Democrats aren't buying it.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D), MARYLAND: The people who spent more than two years on the Benghazi investigation or Hillary Clinton's e-mails are -- make very bizarre champions for the idea that we have gone too far, when all we have done is send out document requests.
ACOSTA: A new Quinnipiac poll finds nearly two-thirds of registered voters believe Mr. Trump committed crimes before becoming president, a view shared by 89 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents, and more than a third of Republicans.
Asked who do you trust more, 50 percent said the president's former personal attorney Michael Cohen. Only 35 percent said the president. But only 35 percent said it's time to impeach.
TRUMP: Thank you all.
ACOSTA: The president did not respond to questions about reports that he had ordered White House staff to grant a security clearance to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, despite concerns from the intelligence community.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings released a statement demanding the administration's cooperation in the matter, saying: "The White House security clearance system is broken, and it needs both congressional oversight and legislative reform."
Cummings released a letter from the White House counsel, complaining: "We will not concede the executive's constitutional prerogatives or allow the committee to jeopardize the individual privacy rights of current and former executive branch employees."
Democrats say they won't take no for an answer.
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: It raises all sorts of red flags. And we need to find out why they believe that he should not have gotten a security clearance.
ACOSTA: Now, as for the security clearance questions, a White House official complained that House Democrats on the Oversight Committee are making unreasonable demands for information, knowing full well that aides to the president will refuse to comply.
But the president already has another investigation to worry about, as New York City insurance regulators say they plan to look into what Mr. Trump's personal attorney, former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testified last week, when he told lawmakers that the Trump Organization had been inflating the value of its assets to insurance companies.
Wolf, everywhere you look these days, it seems the president is facing new serious legal questions. But over here at the White House, they have their own version of resistance, as they seem to be in the mood to resist all of these requests coming out of Capitol Hill, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, this battle is only just beginning.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now for more on the Democrats' investigations, including their questions about Jared Kushner's security clearance.
Our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, is watching all of this unfold.
Manu, the House Oversight Committee chairman says the White House is withholding information on security clearances. Is this the first sign that the administration will refuse to cooperate with these various congressional probes?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats here are girding for what could be two years of fights, intractable fights over document requests, subpoenas and demands for witness interviews that the administration may ultimately resist.
Now, today, in a private meeting at the White House, the president himself complained about these Democratic investigations. Lindsey Graham, who's a Republican senator, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, attended to this meeting. He told me afterwards that the president was concerned that the Democrats are -- quote -- "trying to take a wrecking ball to his life."
He believes the Democrats are going to go -- quote -- "nuts." That's according to Graham, who said that Trump expressing a number of concerns. I asked Graham whether or not the president would to comply with these requests. He said that he urged the president to listen to his lawyers, to fight back when necessary, but ultimately try to govern the country the way that, in Graham's view, Bill Clinton did.
Now, I had a chance to ask one of the Democratic congressmen who is planning to mount a very aggressive investigation into the president, into Russia interference campaign, and any money laundering that may have occurred with the Trump Organization and the Russians. It's Adam Schiff.
I asked him about the president's concerns and if he's right and the president is trying -- the Democrats are trying to take a wrecking ball to his life. Schiff responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The president has had two years of a Republican Congress that did no oversight whatsoever, so he doesn't know what oversight looks like.
Every day, we learn about new impropriety. For a president that talked about draining the swamp, he has filled the swamp to overflowing. So I'm not surprised that he doesn't like the idea of oversight, because I think he's all too conscious of the corruption large and small in the administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Wolf, I also asked him about the new House Intelligence Committee effort, along with two other committees, demanding information about Vladimir Putin's communications with President Trump and those interpreter notes and actually demanding witness interviews, people who -- knowledge of those meetings and whether the president discarded any of those notes.
I said, if they do not respond to you within two weeks, as you're demanding, what is your next step? He said, we're going to do what we can to protect this country.
So expect that to be a major fight going forward, if the State Department the White House don't comply to the House Democrats' request on that front as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The House Intelligence Committee is also expanding its staff, as you know, Manu, including hiring a former federal prosecutor who went after the Russian mob with some success.
What does that signal about the committee's efforts to ramp up its own Russia probe?
RAJU: Yes, Daniel Goldman one of several hires announced today by the House Intelligence Committee. Goldman was a former federal prosecutor who is now going to be the head of the director of investigations for the committee -- director of investigations.
He worked for the Southern District of New York. He has experience looking into Russian mob activity, Russian organized crime. The committee has been very clear. Adam Schiff has been very clear he wants to investigate any efforts, any of the financing of the Trump Organization, any financial ties between the Trump Organization and the Russians.
And Goldman very clearly is going to lead that investigation going forward. I asked Schiff about that. He said he just wants to fill his staff with the best possible people. But they're ramping up for what could be two very intense years on his committee -- Wolf.
All right, Manu, thank you very much.
Let's look ahead to another round of potentially crucial testimony, as the president's former lawyer Michael Cohen prepares to return to Capitol Hill tomorrow.
Our Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is joining us right now.
Shimon, "The Wall Street Journal," as you know, is reporting that one of Cohen's lawyers actually sounded out one of the president's lawyers about a possible pardon. I assume that's going to be a subject of a serious investigation up on Capitol Hill.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is, and it's already been asked of Michael Cohen whether or not this ever came into play, whether or not he ever considered a pardon, and whether or not the president ever spoke to him about a pardon.
And the whole point of this -- well, there's two things here. First, this information coming out obviously after Michael Cohen testified, saying that he was not interested in a pardon, he had no intention trying to even ask for a pardon.
So it goes to his credibility, because now you have this story out there that says, well, actually, his attorneys did discuss a potential pardon. But that seems to have come at a time when everybody was getting along.
The president and he were getting along, the lawyers were all getting along, there was a shared defense agreement. So that came at a different time. But here's what Michael Cohen had to say when he testified.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I have never asked for, nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: And when he started cooperating, Wolf, as you know, he was insistent, Michael Cohen, that he had no interest in seeking a pardon. He was about to do the right thing. And he didn't want the president's help because he felt it was the right thing for him to do was to come forward and tell people what he knew.
BLITZER: And amidst all of this, today, we learned that New York state regulators are beginning yet another investigation into some of the president's business practices.
And, as you know, he's a New Yorker.
And you have to wonder who in New York is not at this point investigating the Trump Organization. Look, between the Southern District of New York, the attorney general's office, now the Department of Financial Services, there's a lot going on for the Trump Organization in New York. They are being scrutinized from every end now.
Interestingly enough, this comes, this subpoena to the Trump Organization comes after Michael Cohen testified on the Hill, where he was saying that the Trump Organization was inflating its assets for insurance purposes. So this is not going to end anytime soon.
What's going on now is that every part of this organization, the Trump Organization, is now under scrutiny. And it's going to be problematic.
BLITZER: And there's another intriguing development today. Roger Stone, he's out on bail awaiting trial, but he's in deep trouble right now with the federal judge overseeing all of this, Amy Berman Jackson.
PROKUPECZ: Yes, and this has to do with a book. He's re-releasing a book. He added some additional information to the introduction. And he alerted the court about this. It wasn't like the court found this. He alerted the court, which is making some wonder whether or not he was doing this, alerting the court, to try and get attention to try and get -- to sell books, right?
We all know he needs money. He needs money for his legal defense fund. So there are some questions about what was the point of him doing that. So that's one part. The other part of this is that the judge is not happy.
As you know, he's under this gag order. And she wants to know why didn't you tell me that this was coming in advance? So, obviously, she wants to know now when he planned to do this. When was the planning for this book? Did it come before the gag order? Did it come after?
Look, I think the judge does not trust anything that Roger Stone says. So now, I mean, he potentially could face some consequences. Again, we have talked about this before. He could be sent to jail for his trial. She could fine him. We will see what she does.
But now sort of we have a little investigation going into exactly what was going on there.
BLITZER: She could revoke his bail. He could wind up spending time awaiting trial in jail, like Paul Manafort.
PROKUPECZ: That's right. She could do that, and then really gag him, right?
He won't be able to speak publicly to anyone. Look, Roger Stone is pushing it close to the line here each and every time. He claims it's volunteers sometimes. In this case, it seems what he did was he filed these legal papers to try and get publicity at least for this book.
BLITZER: All right, Shimon, thank you very much for that.
Joining us, Congressman Harley Rouda. He is a Democrat. He serves on the House Oversight Committee, one of the House panels investigating the president.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. HARLEY ROUDA (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, so the chairman of your committee, Elijah Cummings, says the White House refused to hand over any documents on your investigation into security clearances.
And CNN has learned they're planning on fighting back against other requests as well. So how do Democrats, how do you plan to respond?
ROUDA: Well, I think the first thing is subpoenas.
If we can't get the dissemination of the documents we have requested lasted voluntarily, we are left with no other alternative but to issue subpoenas for that information. And then we fully expect the White House and the administration to provide those documents.
BLITZER: Because the chairman said publicly, he said he's going to be meeting with your committee to determine next steps. He didn't specifically say there would be a subpoena.
But you're saying there inevitably will be subpoenas if these documents are not made available? Is that right?
ROUDA: I think it's safe to assume that, if we continue to have the White House not provide what was requested voluntarily, that you will see subpoenas down the road.
BLITZER: But you haven't issued subpoenas yet? You're waiting?
ROUDA: That's correct.
BLITZER: Why not issued subpoenas right away?
ROUDA: Well, I think we want to work with the administration, in hopes in seeing a good-faith effort on their part. But if they continue to stymie the constitutional obligations of Congress to provide oversight of the White House and the administration, they're leaving us with no other choice.
BLITZER: Two of your Democratic colleagues are calling on the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into Jared Kushner's security clearance.
Is that necessary, when your committee is already investigating this issue?
ROUDA: Well, we do need to investigate what's going on with the security clearances.
Certainly, we don't want to set a precedent for any president to completely disregard the advice of the national defense and so on.
You can hear the horns going off for our vote.
And we need to make sure that we're not setting that precedent, and that the president the United States is held accountable, whether it's a Democratic president or Republican president, held accountable to what the advisers say.
I used to be Republican. I was a Republican for 17 years. And I can tell you what we see from this president. Regardless, again, whether it's a Democrat or Republican, this is not a party question. This is a right or wrong question that all of the members of Congress need to stand up.
BLITZER: Let me get your response to that "Wall Street Journal" report that Michael Cohen's lawyer actually raised the idea of a pardon with the president's lawyers.
Cohen testified before your committee last week, said he never asked for a pardon. Does this report raise questions about Michael Cohen's honesty under oath?
ROUDA: It does.
So the question I would want to know is whether the attorney did in fact ask that question. And, if so, did he do it with his client knowing that that occurred? If he did, in fact, know it, and denied it, that certainly shows that we have an issue regarding his credibility under oath.
BLITZER: Well, do you think he perjured himself?
ROUDA: Well, I think it's a little quick to jump to that until we have all the facts. But let's get to the facts, and then we can make that determination.
BLITZER: How are you going to do that? How are you going to get to the bottom of this?
ROUDA: By continuing to investigate, whether it is through the Oversight Committee or the Judiciary Committee. We will continue to appropriate investigations.
BLITZER: You questioned Michael Cohen last week about the president's relationship with Russian American businessman Felix Sater.
BLITZER: As you know, the House Intelligence Committee will have Sater testify publicly next week. What do you hope they ask him?
ROUDA: Well, it's the old adage, follow the money.
And there is clear evidence that there has been a long-term relationship with the Trump Organization and Russian-backed banks and oligarchs that have provided funding for the operations of the Trump Organization, as well as numerous condominium sales at cash sales at full price, which demands further investigation to understand what the true relationship there is.
And that's really all we're trying to do. We're just trying to get to the truth. The American public wants the truth. And from that, we can ascertain what really happened.
BLITZER: It seems clear that these investigations could go on now for months, maybe even years. A new poll from Quinnipiac out today shows that only 35 percent of Americans right now think Congress should begin impeachment proceedings.
Is the Democratic strategy to try to convince more people to support impeachment or to put aside that option and drag out these investigations through the 2020 election?
ROUDA: I think our job is to do the investigative work that we're required to do under the Constitution.
And I find it absolute hypocrisy that the administration is talking about how we have already gone overboard in doing what we're supposed to do. Let's keep in mind for two years Republicans holding the House did nothing. And we have only been sworn in, the 116th Congress, for two months, of which 35 days was a government shutdown.
So to suggest that we are overreaching and in the basically 25 days is absolutely hypocrisy.
BLITZER: Congressman Harley Rouda, thanks so much for joining us.
ROUDA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, how fiercely will the White House fight Democrats who are looking at every nook and cranny and potential crime in the president's world?
And we will discuss Michael Cohen's role in those wide-ranging investigations. What might he reveal when he resumes his marathon testimony tomorrow?
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, the White House is rejecting the House Oversight Committee's demand for security clearance documents, with one White House official telling CNN that the Chairman, Elijah Cummings, is asking for things he's not entitled to get under the law.
They include documents pertaining to the president's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who was reportedly given top-secret security clearance on the orders from the president, despite deep concerns among intelligence officials and the top White House lawyer
Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and our analysts.
And, Kaitlan Collins, you have been doing a lot of reporting on this, the White House refusing to provide basically any documents to Elijah Cummings and his House Oversight Committee. Is this a sign of what's to come?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is.
We're going to have this fight play out over the next few years. And it's going to be a fight where Cummings has implied that the next step in this, if the White House did reject that request, which they did today, could be a subpoena.
Now, if the White House tries to defy that subpoena, then it is going to be something that ends up in the court. And this is really the overall strategy we're looking at coming from the White House.
We reported today that after that trove of requests yesterday of 80 people and entities that they wanted documents from, the White House is ready to push back against that, even though publicly they're saying they're going to cooperate, because they say they feel the right -- the president has a right to confidentiality, and that some of those documents are off-limits, especially the ones pertaining to the president's time in the White House.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, what do you make of this strategy?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: To paraphrase Charlton Heston, the Democrats are going to have to pry these documents out of their cold dead hands.
I mean, this is just not happening. The whole mind-set of Emmet Flood, who is the former Williams & Connolly partner, is that you don't give anything to your adversaries unless you have to.
So, as Kaitlan said, the next step is a subpoena. After that is a court fight, then perhaps finding some people in contempt of Congress. They are going to get nothing. I don't think there's going to be tremendous political pressure on the White House to surrender these documents.
So I think Democrats ought to not get their hopes up that they're going to see a lot of these documents any time soon.
BLITZER: And if there's a court fight, that could drag on for months. Right?
And the clock is ticking on the Trump administration. I mean, there are 20 months left or so. And that's to the White House's advantage. I mean, court fights drag on. And they're just not going to get their documents, as far as I can tell.
BLITZER: David Swerdlick, there's a new poll out today from Quinnipiac. It shows only 35 percent of Americans support the Democrats launching impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives right now.
So are long investigations a smarter political strategy for the Democrats?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think, if safer is smarter, then, yes, it's smarter, because right now Democrats can try and do this sort of drip, drip, drip, where, with each investigation of each different allegation, both in terms of the president's conduct vis-a- vis Russia, or the president's advisers vis-a-vis Russia, or whether it's the investigations in the Southern District of New York, they can continue to drag this out and try to bring down the president that way, vs. the risk of having egg on their faces if they go for impeachment in the House, don't even get it in the House.
Or if they get it in the House and can't convict in the Senate, it would give the president an ability to turn the tables that they don't want.
BLITZER: Two Democratic members of the House, Sabrina, Ted Lieu and Don Beyer, they have now written to the Justice Department asking for a criminal, criminal investigation into Jared Kushner's security clearance, how he got top-secret security clearances.
Their logic is that it's a crime to like on the security clearance application. You think that effort is going anywhere?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, I think it's highly unlikely that the Justice Department is going to take up this issue. In fact, I reached out to a spokesperson for William Barr. Not surprisingly, no response.
We already knew that Jared Kushner had omitted more than 100 foreign contacts on those security clearance forums. And his lawyers argue that those omissions were inadvertent. They included, of course, the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016, as well as another meeting with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. at the time during the course of the campaign.
And Democrats are sort of looking at those omissions in a new light after reports that the president overruled officials and demanded that Kushner be granted a security clearance. But it is going to be difficult to prove that Kushner intentionally lied, especially if they can't get their hands on documents that the White House is going to, of course, as Kaitlan pointed out, use executive privilege to try and withhold.
Where it will get interesting, though, is if Democrats subpoena John Kelly, who was the chief of staff at the time, who wrote a contemporaneous memo outlining his concerns over the security clearance process, and whether anything would come out of that potential testimony.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeffrey. Go ahead.
TOOBIN: Well, just for example, the executive privilege does not cover absolutely everything in the White House.
It covers advice that the president is giving -- is given. For example, I don't know why a memo that John Kelly wrote about Jared Kushner's security clearance would be covered by executive privilege. That is not a matter of the president getting -- getting unfettered advice from his advisers.
So the idea that absolutely everything that goes on in the White House is covered by executive privilege has been rejected by the Supreme Court. And I don't know why Democrats should be intimidated by that, even though the process to get those documents may be very slow.
BLITZER: Let me ask you this, Jeffrey.
If Kelly, John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff, he did write a memo -- if he did write a memo like this, could he hand it over on his own without going through the White House?
TOOBIN: Well, that's an interesting question. I assume he would honor.
And since he wrote it as White House chief of staff, he would honor the request of the White House counsel. I don't know if he even has the document, if he took it with him when he left the White House.
But, I mean, you're pointing to an interesting point there, that as a private citizen, he is in at least a somewhat different position than the people who are still employed at the White House.
BLITZER: Yesterday, Kaitlan, the president said he always cooperates, he's going to cooperate with Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
But, today, he and his team, they're sounding an extremely different note.
COLLINS: Well, and you saw a very different -- two statements come out of the White House yesterday.
First, when they received this first letter, as I said, we've gotten this letter from Chairman Nadler that we're going to interview, and so as the Counsel's Office. That was it, short and simple.
Then later on, you got the statement from Sarah Sanders going after -- a blistering statement from Sarah Sanders that essentially ended with the democrats don't want the truth, they just want go after the President. And that was something the President echoed on Twitter today. So, likely, he directed Sarah to put out a statement of that nature going after it.
So you're really seeing a different tactic behind the scenes as their preparing for what to do, because they think the democrats have overstepped their boundaries here. They've cast way too far -- too wide of a net, and that they're going to end up failing, because instead of targeting certain lines of inquiry, they're going after everything, and that's not going to help them be successful in the end. So the White House thinks they can fight this successfully.
BLITZER: As you know, Jeffrey, the House Intelligence Committee is dramatically beefing up its staff as these investigations unfold. The Chairman, Adam Schiff, he announced five new hires today. You've written an important article about one of the new lead investigators, former Federal Prosecutor Daniel Goldman. He has a background in prosecuting Russian organized crime. Tell our viewers what this all means as far as this House Intelligence Committee investigation unfolds.
TOOBIN: Well, remember the division of labor among the committees that is at least holding for now. The turf fights are at least on hold. The Intelligence Committee is very much responsible for the Russia investigation, the investigation of Trump Tower, President Trump, candidate Trump's relationship financially with Russia. This is precisely in Goldman's wheelhouse. I mean this is the kind of thing he investigated when when he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern district of New York.
And Adam Schiff has said many times, he is concerned about where President Trump's ultimate loyalties lie. Is he someone who is so fixated on trying to make money in Russia that he put his commercial interests ahead of the national interests? And these former prosecutors seem like the right people to try to find that out, at least that's what they're going to try to do. And we'll see how far they get.
BLITZER: Well, it's a pretty impressive staff, David. You've got to admit the new people that are coming in backed up by all the other staffers who are investigating.
SWERDLICK: Yes. I mean, clearly, the Mueller team has got the right people in place from the beginning. The question, to Jeffrey's point, is whether or not they will ultimately find something that unravels the whole case, so to speak, or if mostly what we find out from the Mueller report ultimately is along the lines of some of the stuff that we already know.
BLITZER: What do you think, Sabrina? Where is this heading?
SIDDIQUI: Well, just for the question of the President's business interests, because this is sort of have been his red line. I think that's why this conversation of these negotiations right around a potential Trump Tower in Moscow is, really, at the heart of where the Russian investigation goes, at least in the eyes of democrats in Congress. Because if you was, in fact, as Michael Cohen testified, pursuing this potential deal well into the course of the campaign, at the same time that he was vowing as President to pursue renewed relations between the U.S. and Moscow, it calls into question what was really driving his motivation.
TOOBIN: I assume White House officials are nervous about what Michael Cohen will tell the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow when he testifies behind closed doors and what Felix Sater testifies in open session next week.
COLLINS: Well, and they're irritated by Michael Cohen. The President has said repeatedly, this is someone who lied in front of Congress before. Why is everyone trusting him now? But the thing that the White House and officials I've talk to you behind the scenes can't deny is Michael Cohen knows a lot about the President. Maybe he is not always truthful. He's certainly not the most reliable person given his history. But he knows a lot about the President, how he ran Trump Organization, about the President's children. So that's the fear for the President.
So that's why you saw him so annoyed after Michael Cohen testified while he was in Vietnam meeting with Kim Jong-un, because Michael Cohen is out there essentially laying out all the President's dirty secrets from how he ran his business, whether or not they're illegal, unethical, whatever, he knows a lot about the President.
BLITZER: And the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, says, at some point, sooner or rather than later, they are going to release the transcripts of all of the closed door hearings, which will be important reading for all of us.
Standby, we have more breaking news coming up. We're learning of yet another investigation into the Trump Organization.
[18:39:06] BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. CNN has learned about yet another investigation into the Trump world. A source now says that the New York State regulators have opened an inquiry into the Trump Organization's insurance practices and have issued a nine-page subpoena to the company's longtime insurance broker.
Sabrina, let's talk about this because it's a very, very serious -- potentially serious development. Michael Cohen testified last week. He was asked by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Congresswoman, to your knowledge, did the President ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company? Cohen said yes.
SIDDIQUI: Yes. Under oath, Michael Cohen implicated the President in potential insurance fraud, bank fraud and other fraudulent activity with regard to his charity. Cohen said that the President inflated his assets to insurance companies as well as in order to get a loan from a bank.
And so I think this is really of concern for the White House, because what we were talking earlier about this notion of executive privilege. But when it comes to the President's business, there's no real claim for executive privilege.
And so there's another aspect that concerns them, whereas the Special Counsel has certain limitations with respect to the scope of the Mueller investigation. When it comes to prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, there is no real clear mandate. They can pursue any line of inquiry that comes to their attention. And there is a lot for them to follow up on with -- I mean, the aftermath of Cohen's testimony.
BLITZER: I can only imagine, Kait, how angry the President must be that all these New York state, New Jersey, all these Attorneys General and others, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, they're looking into his business, the Trump Organization, every little deal.
COLLINS: Yes. And that's kind of the sinking feeling in the White House, is realizing that even when Robert Mueller's investigation is over and said and done with, they have got so much to deal with now, with not only the democrats but with what Michael Cohen said. All these people, basically, every name that Michael Cohen uttered in public, they're going to drag in front of them and interview them, interrogate them about all of this.
And so that's really the problem for the President. And that's why he is so irritated, specifically with Michael Cohen. And we've seen that ever since the FBI first raided Michael Cohen's office. And now we see why. Because Michael Cohen knew so much about the President and the way he ran his business, things that are now going to have a spotlight on them for months to come, maybe years.
SWERDLICK: Yes. And all he had to do to avoid inviting all this scrutiny was not run for president. And he just wouldn't have -- this never would have been looked into with this much -- this degree of intensity.
BLITZER: You know, let me get --
TOOBIN: Alternatively, if he had conducted his business in an honest and honorable way, he would have avoided this problem too.
SWERDLICK: Yes, that too, Jeffrey, good point.
BLITZER: That's another matter. You know, Jeffrey, let me ask you about this Wall Street Journal report that one of Michael Cohen's lawyers actually pitched the idea of a pardon to one of the President's lawyers. And, you know, last week, when he was asked about this, Cohen, in open session, under oath, he said, I have never asked for nor would I accept a pardon from Mr. Trump.
TOOBIN: Well, you know, the lawyer was only doing his job in seeking that out. I mean, the lawyer's job is to help his client in any way possible. A pardon obviously would be a very good thing, at least it was at that time. You know, whether Cohen knew about or asked for the lawyer -- it's a previous lawyer, he's no longer representing Cohen -- to do that is a question we don't know the answer to.
But everyone involved in this investigation who was at least, at one point, allied with the President, will be very interested in a pardon, because the President has obviously shown that he is willing to do it for allies, like Joe Arpaio and Dinesh D'Souza, and Paul Manafort and anyone else, Michael Flynn, they are all going to be looking for one either now or towards the end of his administration.
BLITZER: We know, you know, Kaitlan, how interested the President is in ratings, in poll numbers. Look at this one. This must be driving him crazy, this Quinnipiac University poll. 50 percent of the people trust Michael Cohen more than they trust the President. The question was, who do you believe more, President Trump or Michael Cohen? Trump 35 percent, Cohen 50 percent.
COLLINS: Yes, he is not going to like that. I did talk to someone from the White House who made an interesting remark talking about all these investigations into the President's business. And they essentially believe that the people who supported the President and have questions about whether or not he committed shady business practices aren't going to change their support for the President just because more evidence comes out.
The people who already think the President is a criminal and had these shady business practices aren't going to change their mind and suddenly start supporting the President. So they said that even given all these investigations, the onslaught of them, they don't think it's going to move the needle with the President.
Now, whether or not that's true, whether or not it plays a factor in the 2020 reelection campaign, whether or not there could be an issue if the President doesn't get reelected, and he could be indicted for some of these potential or alleged crimes is still another question.
BLIT ZER: Everybody stick around. There's more news we're following. President Trump now poised to face a major republican rebellion as the Senate prepares to vote on his national emergency declaration. And the Putin government is weighing in on the multiple investigations that President Trump is facing. Details of the Kremlin's new comments, that's coming up as well.
[18:49:03] BLITZER: President Trump is poised to face his first major Republican rebellion when the Senate votes on a resolution disapproving of his national emergency declaration to fund the border wall with Mexico.
Our Congressional Correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill for us.
Sunlen, how many Republicans do we expect will break from the president?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, right now, we know that at least four Republicans are going to vote against President Trump on this, and that's the important number because that means it has enough to pass up here in the Senate, and will push President Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency. Very likely, though, when we see the Senate move to vote on this at some point next week, very likely that number can and will grow, maybe seeing at least ten Republicans voting against the president on this.
Now, importantly, though, while there is enough support to push this forward, Senate side and send this rebuke over, this to President Trump, it is certainly not enough to override a presidential veto.
[18:50:02] And that is important here. They do not have enough Republican support. They need two thirds majority in the House and Senate to override a veto. Those are numbers that they will not reach.
Senator Lindsey Graham, who is holding a hearing on this next week, he'll be -- excuse me, tomorrow, he will be having a hearing with the chief of border patrol. He met with President Trump today over at the White House, and he said he left that meeting very clear impression that President Trump can and will veto this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There's no backing off. I mean, number one, it is an emergency. After you hear the testimony tomorrow, I challenge anybody to say we don't have a crisis on the border. But I think he has all the authority he needs under the statute to do what he's doing with the $3.5 billion for construction. To me, it's not a constitutional crisis. I think he'll win in court and I think his veto will be sustained.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And Senator Graham said that President Trump in that meeting also said that Republicans who are opposed to his national emergency declaration, they're, quote, playing with fire here. Certainly striking words coming from President Trump to members of his own party, and certainly next week when this happens, this will be a huge rebuke coming from his Republicans up here on Capitol Hill, Wolf, even if, of course, this doesn't change much in the end with that threat of a presidential veto (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Have they decided what day next week they'll vote on this?
SERFATY: As of now, no date certain set. Things are tricky to set that date, but likely midweek. They have to vote on this, though, by Friday of next week. They had 18 days, the Senate, from the time the House voted it through.
So, at some point time next week, we'll see this huge rebuke likely sent to President Trump.
BLITZER: It probably will lead to the first veto by this president of a resolution passed by the House and Senate.
Sunlen, thank you very much.
Just ahead, the Russian government's response to the wave of new investigations targeting President Trump.
[18:56:36] BLITZER: The Kremlin is reacting tonight to the multiple investigations now focusing in on President Trump with the Russian spokesman referring to them as, quote, diminished and laughable.
Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen is joining us live from Moscow right now.
Fred, the Kremlin seems to be echoing what the White House is saying.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, echoing what the White House is saying and also echoing the way that President Trump is quite annoyed at this new set of investigations that has now come up. You can tell how the Kremlin spokesman was also annoyed when he asked him about it earlier today.
The Kremlin obviously believes that President Trump still wants to improve relations with Russia but he's hamstrung precisely by investigations like the ones that were now launched. And that's one of the reasons they were trying to mock this new set of investigations. Here's what we're learning.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Tonight, the Kremlin blasting the new wide ranging congressional investigation into the Trump administration, requesting among other things records of President Trump's communications with Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin's spokesman trying to discredit the probe.
DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESMAN (through translator): We do not have the capacity nor the desire to comment on every single new investigation launched by one or the other groups of U.S. lawmakers. There are so many of these investigations that their value has definitely diminished.
PLEITGEN: The chairman of three House committees citing, quote, profound national security, counterintelligence, and foreign policy concerns, saying they want to know whether Putin managed to influence Trump's foreign policy decision-making.
The Kremlin trying to laugh off those concerns.
PESKOV (through translator): It's less and less resembling a serious approach. The most important thing is that none of the previous investigations have yielded any sort of serious results. It's nothing but laughable results.
PLEITGEN: The Kremlin's line, very similar to President Trump's.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know the beautiful thing. No collusion. It's all a hoax. You will learn about that. It's a political hoax. There's no collusion.
PLEITGEN: All this as Russia seems to increasingly see itself in an act of conflict with the U.S. and its Western allies. Vladimir Putin's top general laying out his vision for Russia's military strategy of hybrid warfare, involving not just military but also political, economic, and information battles, saying, quote: Acting quickly, we must be able to preempt the enemy with our pre-emptive measures, promptly identify its vulnerabilities and create threats of unacceptable damage to it. This insures that the strategic initiative is captured and held.
Many of President Trump's critics say his actions in office could amount to creating national security vulnerabilities. One of the reasons those leading the new investigations say they want to know exactly what was discussed at the closed-door meetings with Vladimir Putin.
PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, it's worth noting that the Russians time and again have also said they deny that President Vladimir Putin was trying to influence President Trump in any of the meetings as they held the Kremlin has said both leaders obviously represent their own countries. But at the same time, it's quite interesting to hear that the Kremlin has told us in the past that they believe scrutiny of their relations with the White House is going to become tougher as the campaign season heats up in the United States -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fascinating how intense the Russians watch everything that's going on here in Washington.
Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us -- thanks very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @wolfblitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
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