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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Court Filing Shows Michael Flynn Helped in Obstruction Probe; Interview With Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI); Trump Unveils Immigration Plan; Newly Unsealed Evidence Shows Michael Flynn Helped With Mueller's Obstruction Investigation; Judge Orders Release of Transcripts of Flynn's Conversations with Russians; House Intel Chair to Take "Enforcement Action" Against DOJ; Trump Reports Making At Least $34 Million in 2018. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 16, 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: We're getting new information about Iranian military moves and the potential threat to the U.S.
And payday. We're getting a rare glimpse at how the president is expanding his wealth while in office, including earnings at his hotel down the street from the White House. We will have the bottom line on his just-released financial report.
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 multiple breaking stories this hour, including new inside information on Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
A court document just unsealed shows fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn helped the special counsel's obstruction probe, providing a voice-mail as evidence, as well as his testimony.
Also breaking, CNN has learned the United States has determined that Iran is using commercial freighters to move missiles. That's based on multiple images that show areas of the ship's decks have been removed, allowing them to carry hidden weapons.
I will get reaction from Democratic Congressman David Cicilline. He serves on the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, the new details of Michael Flynn's cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller's team.
Our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is joining us. Our CNN national legal analyst, Susan Hennessey, is with us as well. They're both working the story.
First of all, Evan, what can you tell us for? EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the first time, we're hearing from the government just how valuable Michael Flynn has been to the special counsel's investigation, over 19 interviews that the special counsel had with Michael Flynn.
And we're getting some new details that were just unredacted in documents that the government had filed in federal court. Among them -- among the new bits of information that we have from these documents is that Michael Flynn was providing information to the special counsel about conversations people inside the Trump campaign, people associated with the Trump transition, including information about conversations they were having about WikiLeaks, and about outreach to WikiLeaks, especially after those WikiLeaks e-mails started getting released.
I will read you just a little piece of what one of the documents says. It says, the defendant -- that's Flynn -- relayed to the government, statements made in 2016 by senior campaign officials about WikiLeaks, to which only a select few people were privy.
For example, the defendant recalled conversations with senior campaign officials after the release of the Podesta e-mails, during which the prospect of reaching -- reaching out to WikiLeaks was discussed.
You will remember, Wolf, that this is a big part of the volume one of the special counsel's report, of the Mueller report. And we now know that Michael Flynn was the source of some of that information.
We also learned from these newly redacted -- unredacted documents that there was some outreach from people associated with the administration. We now know a little bit more about what that was. They were reaching out to Michael Flynn, to his legal team, and, according to this document, was intended to help -- to essentially affect what kind of cooperation Michael Flynn was providing to the special counsel.
According to the special counsel, some of that information, they did not have until Michael Flynn provided it to them. And that includes a voice-mail from what appears to be a member of the Trump legal team, essentially talking a little bit about Michael Flynn's cooperation.
Now, this is new information that could, again, shed new light on exactly what was going on behind the scenes as part of the special counsel's investigation into potential obstruction. And it underscores, Wolf, why people -- why members of Congress on Capitol Hill really want to hear from Robert Mueller, from people who were involved in the investigation.
They want to know a little bit more about what went into the calculations of not making a decision on charging the president with obstruction.
BLITZER: Yes, there's a lot to unpack right now.
Susan Hennessey, what stands out to you -- you have been going through this -- as the most important revelations? SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think one of the most significant things is the reference to documentary evidence that might be in the hands of Michael Flynn.
So, already, we're seeing Congress and the executive branch gear up to have a major confrontation over what information DOJ is ultimately going to produce, not just the Mueller report in unredacted form, but also the underlying investigative materials.
What a filing like this is, is really bread crumbs to congressional investigators. If there is a voice-mail out there, if there's documents out there that are in the possession of Michael Flynn, Congress now has the ability to actually reach out and subpoena those documents directly.
The other piece that's potentially significant here is, the Mueller report only included evidence that the special counsel's office thought was relevant to whether or not to either prosecute or decline to prosecute a crime.
There's a big part of that story about what the campaign did, what it knew in response to WikiLeaks, other e-mails that they might have been pursuing that the special counsel essentially didn't believe existed, these 30,000 hacked e-mails from Hillary Clinton's server, what exactly the campaign did in that outreach.
There's a big part of that story that certainly might be relevant to the American people, might be relevant to Congress, as they -- as they potentially consider impeachment inquiries, but ultimately didn't make it into that Mueller -- that actual Mueller report.
BLITZER: Well, let me get Evan.
Evan, what can the Department of Justice do to stop Michael Flynn, potentially, from handing over information and documents directly to Congress?
PEREZ: Well, for now, Wolf, Michael Flynn is still awaiting the sentencing. As you recall, he has pleaded guilty to false statements.
And so, for now, probably the -- he's under the control, essentially, of a judge. And so they will have to go through a judge before anything happens. But, certainly, after that is done, the Justice Department probably can't stop him from providing any information that he has already provided to members of Congress.
Keep in mind, he's not protected by executive privilege, per se, with regard to anything that happened during the campaign. This executive privilege only protects you from -- or information during the time that he was inside the administration for just those few weeks.
So it's not clear to me that the Department of Justice could stop him from sharing information, especially as it relates to the WikiLeaks conversations that were happening, happening before Donald Trump became president, before he was elected president.
BLITZER: It's -- one of the aspects of this new information, Susan, involves WikiLeaks.
It's a significant, potentially significant new revelation. Explain how significant it could be.
HENNESSEY: I think it potentially could be really significant.
First of all, it indicates that Michael Flynn is one of a select few senior officials in the room. So, the conversations that Flynn was privy to really were the inner circle, potentially Donald Trump himself.
And so it speaks to the sensitivity and the potential value of Flynn's personal testimony. The other thing that the Mueller report didn't answer was the president's personal knowledge, right, what exactly they did in response to revelations and their own knowledge of what the Russians were actually doing.
How did they seek to capitalize on this information? Did they have a plan to warn the American public? Did they even consider warning the American public? Did they believe that they benefited from this assistance?
And so Michael Flynn really is in a position to fill in a lot of the gaps and the details in that volume one, which, of course, the special counsel's office determined that there were no additional chargeable crimes.
But to the extent that we're using collusion in sort of a colloquial term, there were lots and lots of contacts between campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government. And, certainly, there was a lot of focus within the campaign on whether or not they could potentially benefit from help by the Russians.
BLITZER: You remember, Evan, at one point, President Trump, according to Comey, said to Comey, when he was still the FBI director, let Michael Flynn go.
And that sort of fits into this right now, especially if Michael Flynn knew specific information about what WikiLeaks was doing, what the Russians were up to.
Wolf, I think this goes to the motivation of why -- we have always wondered, right, why Michael Flynn was treated differently by the president. He didn't attack him on Twitter. He's attacked all the others who he believed were -- he believed were betraying, essentially, by cooperating with the special counsel's investigation.
So one of the things that you see in these documents is the fact that you can see that there's these -- there's this outreach effort, and they're trying to essentially tell Michael Flynn that, hey, we're all in the same boat, we have common interests, we'd love to know what you're saying, essentially, to the special counsel.
The special counsel in this document says they weren't aware of some of that outreach until Michael Flynn provided it to them. And it shows you why they believe he was so valuable, why they have argued to the judge to treat him well, to essentially give him no prison time, because he's been so valuable to this -- to the special counsel.
BLITZER: I want to bring in Phil Mattingly, our congressional correspondent. He's up on Capitol Hill.
Phil, this is likely to increase Democrats' demands for what's described as the underlying evidence associated with the 400-page-plus Mueller report.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I don't think there's any question about it.
I think there's really three areas you need to pay attention to in terms of how Democrats are about to respond to this new information that is just breaking right now.
And I think the first one is related to the unredacted report. A lot of Michael Flynn's information was redacted in the Mueller report that has been released publicly because it pertained or in some way was related to the ongoing Roger Stone case.
This will underscore their efforts to receive the unredacted report in full. The other, as you note, Wolf, is the counterintelligence piece of this, the request for the underlying investigative investigation, not just as it relates to the Mueller report itself, but also as it relates to, beyond just the Judiciary Committee, which is conducting its own investigation, the House Intelligence Committee as well, related to any contacts that the campaign or individuals involved in the transition team may have had with the Russian government or may have broached at any point in time.
That would seem to line up with what that committee has been looking into, what that committee's jurisdiction is. And I think the third and probably most prominent, and one of the reasons I would be willing to bet over the course of the next couple of hours you will hear people start to talk about the need to have Michael Flynn come up and publicly testify is the idea of obstruction.
Obviously, this has been a huge piece of the House Judiciary investigation up to this point.
The idea that anybody from the Trump orbit was reaching out to Michael Flynn while he was cooperating with the Mueller investigation, the idea that there might be or there is a voice-mail that reflects that, that is something that members of Congress, Democrats who are investigating, looking into this stuff, is -- are going to want to get in some way, shape or form, whether it's voluntarily turned over, whether it is subpoenaed. Those are the types of things that they would be looking to get, as
they continue to move forward in their investigation. So I think you need to look at this and three tracks. You need to understand that Democrats, who, it should be noted, have basically been hitting a brick wall on obtaining information, beyond the public version of the Mueller report, on all sorts of investigations, will be seeking to get in any way they possibly can.
And I think it's also probably likely that at some point someone is going to be calling for Michael Flynn to come up and testify, because, remember, Wolf, Michael Flynn did not come up and testify on Capitol Hill through all the investigations over the course of the last two years.
This likely moves him on to a list to come up at some point to address some of these issues that were raised in these new filings.
BLITZER: Yes. And they certainly would love to question him. He's awaiting sentencing, as we know as well.
Phil, stand by.
I want to bring in Congressman David Cicilline. He's a Democrat. He serves on the Judiciary Committee, as well as the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to the breaking news.
Michael Flynn, once again, the former national security adviser to the president, testified that communication from people connected to the Trump administration and to Congress could have influenced his cooperation with the Mueller investigation.
Is this new information to you and to your committee, or were you aware of all of it?
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): This is new to me.
This is very explosive, Wolf. I think it's very clear that this further supports the urgent need of the committee to hear from Mr. Mueller directly to, get the fully unredacted report and all of the supporting materials, and to very likely bring Mr. Flynn before the committee as well.
This is -- this is new information to me. It is presumably contained in the redacted portions of the Mueller report. But it's very relevant to the question of obstruction of justice.
And it should be remembered that the special counsel found 10 instances where the president obstructed justice, and relied on the OLC memorandum that said a sitting president can't be indicted as the basis not to move forward. So this is very, very important evidence for the committee to see.
BLITZER: Well, do you want to investigate this as another example of possible obstruction of justice?
CICILLINE: Oh, absolutely.
Look, we -- the reason that we are pressing so hard for the full Mueller report and all the supporting documents is because the Mueller report can 10 specific instances where the president obstructed justice. And this is additional information.
And now it makes sense that the president was trying, if you remember, to have Director Comey leave -- let this Flynn thing go. We all wondered, why was the president treating Mr. Flynn so differently, trying to get him -- getting the FBI director to sort of let the thing go, never attacking him publicly?
And now we at least have part of the answer. So it's very important that the committee get the full context of this, the supporting documents, the tape recordings, if there are any.
And, again, this underscores the committee's urgent demand that these materials be made available to us, so that we can do our work to hold this administration accountable, to make judgments about how to proceed and whether or not impeachment is appropriate.
So this is further evidence of the need to do that.
BLITZER: Who might these individuals be, Congressman, these individuals associated with the Trump -- the Trump Organization, the Trump White House, with Congress, who may have been trying to influence Flynn?
CICILLINE: Well, I mean, we just don't know.
But we obviously know that those individuals need to be disclosed to us. It will -- obviously, if they're members of Trump's inner circle, which we assume they are, that's very relevant, what role they played on the president's team. What were the nature of those conversations?
I think Mr. Flynn will be expected to share those details with the committee and to produce whatever evidence he may have to support that. It's not just his sworn testimony, but he apparently has documentary evidence that is also going to be very valuable to the committee.
So I don't think we should speculate on it. But it's very clear that this is central to the obstruction of justice conduct of the president, and the committee absolutely must have access to these materials and to this witness.
BLITZER: Because Flynn also testified that the Trump campaign considered reaching out to WikiLeaks when John Podesta's e-mails became public.
Do you expect more charges to come related to WikiLeaks, for example, in the Roger Stone case or in other ongoing investigations?
CICILLINE: I think it's too early to know that.
But we know they were at least 140 contacts between the Russians and representatives of WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign that were detailed in the Mueller report. So I think there's a lot of information that relates to the conversations that were happening, why they were happening, what people knew.
This, again, is the subject of our inquiry before the Judiciary Committee, which is why it's really essential that we get the fully unredacted report, all the supporting materials, so we can make informed judgments about this very, very serious issue.
BLITZER: You're on the Judiciary Committee, where the chairman, Jerry Nadler, is working to have Mueller come before your committee to testify.
If the attorney general, Bill Barr, has no objection to that, as he's repeatedly now said, why hasn't your committee been able to set a specific date for that hearing with Mueller?
CICILLINE: Well, our committee staff has been in ongoing discussions with Mr. Mueller's team. My hope is that he will come before the committee in short order.
They have not yet reached an agreement with respect to his testimony or a date, but I know all the members of the committee believe very strongly that Mr. Mueller needs to come before the Judiciary Committee to walk the committee and the American people through his report, to the judgments he's made, the evidence he discovered, the conclusions he came to.
After all, this was an investigation that began on behalf of the American people because our country was attacked by a foreign adversary, our democracy. And this investigation was done on behalf of the American people. We -- they paid for it. They have a right to fully understand what the special counsel found.
And I hope he will come before the committee in very short order.
BLITZER: The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, today echoed the threat from the Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, of using what's called inherent contempt to fine those who defy your subpoenas.
What's the timeline, you think, for a package, a vote on contempt?
CICILLINE: I think our committee has already moved forward on the contempt proceeding against Mr. Barr.
There are a number of other committees that are confronting the same challenges. I think the idea is to maybe package some of those together to bring them to the fore for a single action. I think that will depend in part on what the other -- how quickly the other committees act.
But what is very clear is that we are committed to making sure that we use all of the tools at our disposal, including inherent contempt, if we must, to ensure that we get the documents we need to do our work, that witnesses are compelled to come before us to testify under oath, because, if we leave it to the executive branch, if they get to decide who's going to be a witness and whose -- what documents are going to be produced, the executive branch will have the ability to essentially extinguish the oversight function of Congress.
We cannot and will not allow that to happen.
BLITZER: It sounds like the speaker is still leaving open the option of using impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, perhaps not necessarily to impeach the president, but to gain more investigative powers.
At what point would you support going in that direction?
CICILLINE: Well, I think Tuesday is going to be a very important day.
That's when Don McGahn has been subpoenaed to appear before the committee. And you are absolutely right. Article three of the impeachment against Richard Nixon was based on obstruction of Congress.
And it may well be that, if the president continues in his effort to stonewall the American people, to prevent us from getting to the truth, to try to hold himself above the law by preventing Congress from doing our oversight investigations, that that could constitute by itself a grounds for impeachment of the president or the opening of an impeachment inquiry.
I think Tuesday is going to be an important day. But the president's efforts, ongoing efforts, to prevent the truth from coming out, to prevent the American people from knowing all of the facts is something that, in and of itself, could be an independent basis for an impeachment proceeding.
BLITZER: You think Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, will appear Tuesday before your committee?
CICILLINE: I hope so. I mean, he has been lawfully served with a subpoena for Tuesday. We expect him to appear and to testify before the committee.
And if he doesn't, I think the committee is fully prepared to move forward with contempt proceedings against him. But I hope we will hear from Mr. McGahn and that he will come, as the subpoena requires.
BLITZER: Congressman David Cicilline, thanks so much for joining us.
CICILLINE: My pleasure.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to follow all the breaking news right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories.
Just now, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, has responded to the White House refusal to cooperate with the panel's investigation and claim Congress doesn't get a do-over of the Mueller investigation.
Let's go to CNN's Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Manu, tell us more about this letter, this response.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this spawns from the House Judiciary chairman rejecting the calls from the White House to drop the probe that the Democrats led into potential obstruction of justice.
Jerry Nadler says they will not be doing that. They're planning to press ahead. In a very strongly worded letter to the White House counsel just sent moments ago, he said the committee has a right to all this information that the White House has said is off-limits.
Now, in this letter, Jerry Nadler says: "Your failure to comprehend the gravity of the special counsel's finding is astounding and dangerous."
He also goes on to say: "The committee has the right, indeed the duty, under the Constitution to investigate these and other related circumstances. Recent developments indicate that the objects of our investigation as to both past and current actions are needed more urgently than ever. Both the Russian threat to our elections and the president's threat to the rule of law continue."
Now, this is in relation to an investigation that was launched in March into potential obstruction of justice. Nadler's committee sent 81 letters to various entities all across Trump's orbit, including to the White House.
The White House responded yesterday, saying it would not comply with any of the requests, said there was no legitimate legislative purpose to provide these documents, said they would just be a redo of the special counsel's investigation. They said that's not what Congress should be doing.
But, as you heard just there, Jerry Nadler rejecting that on all accounts, saying that the White House must turn this over. Now, he does suggest that there could be some accommodation to negotiate what information could be turned over as it relates to some of the underlying evidence related to the Mueller investigation, but, nevertheless, these two sides in complete odds about what information Congress can get, and, again, setting the stage for what could be court action that could take some time to play out, as Democrats are demanding scores of information, and the White House is saying no -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you.
Let's go over to the White House.
Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is working this story as well.
First of all, Jim, is the White House saying anything about Michael Flynn and this new information?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not just yet, Wolf.
But I think it's important because the lane now appears to be clear for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to testify up on Capitol Hill. Presumably, if Michael Flynn was cooperating with the special counsel's investigation, that might be a key question that lawmakers will want to ask, when and if the special counsel, Robert Mueller, testifies up on Capitol Hill.
We do know that the president has been saying for days that it's up to his attorney general, William Barr, as to whether or not the special counsel should be allowed to testify. And we know that Barr has said in recent days that he sees no problem with the special counsel testifying.
And so that appears to be a lane cleared now for Bob Mueller to testify and perhaps be asked this very interesting question about Michael Flynn and any potential cooperation or actual cooperation, it sounds like, that he's been providing to the special counsel's office.
The president, by the way, we should point out, he's been turning his attention to other matters today. The president just proposed a radical change to the nation's immigration system earlier in the day in an address that sounded like a campaign speech straight out of the White House Rose Garden.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Playing to his base for the 2020 campaign, President Trump revealed his plan to change the nation's immigration system, issuing a warning from the Rose Garden that Democrats should stop resisting his proposals.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if for some reason, possibly political, we can't get the Democrats to approve this merit- based high-security plan, then we will get it approved immediately after the election, when we take back the House, keep the Senate and, of course, hold the presidency.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
QUESTION: Mr. President, what about DACA? What about the dreamers, Mr. President? ACOSTA: Without addressing the fate of the millions of undocumented in the U.S., including the so-called dreamers, the president said his administration would start turning away more asylum seekers at the border.
TRUMP: Legitimate asylum seekers are being displaced by those lodging frivolous claims -- these are frivolous claims -- to gain admission into our country.
ACOSTA: The president also proposed a new legal immigration system that would fast-track immigrants who speak English.
TRUMP: To promote integration, assimilation and national unity, future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission.
ACOSTA: But the proposed legislation is getting a lukewarm reception on Capitol Hill, where many Republicans are telling CNN there is little appetite for another immigration fight.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president's plan would make the current spike of migrants at the border even worse.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have always said that, as it gets to be more of a humanitarian crisis, the more that Republican -- the administration -- I won't paint all the Republicans with this -- the more the administration acts in the shameful way.
QUESTION: Mr. President, are we going to war with Iran?
TRUMP: I hope not.
ACOSTA: Behind closed doors, the president has another potential crisis on his hands, Iran. Sources tell CNN the president has been grumbling that some of his more hawkish advisers, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, are pushing too hard for military action against Iran.
Some of his political advisers worry, waging war with Iran would run counter to Mr. Trump's criticism of former President George W. Bush during the 2016 campaign.
TRUMP: We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none.
ACOSTA: Back in 2011, Mr. Trump falsely predicted that then President Obama would go to war with Iran to win reelection.
TRUMP: Our president will start a war with Iran, because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate. He's weak and he's ineffective. So the only way he figures that he's going to get reelected, and as sure as you are sitting there, is to start a war with Iran.
ACOSTA: The president is also revealing a bit more about his finances, even as he hides his tax returns from the public. In a new financial disclosure form, the president says he made more
than $400 million last year, including another $40 million at his D.C. hotel, which has pulled in twice that since he's been in office.
ACOSTA: And this news tonight that Michael Flynn, the former National Security Adviser, who was fired this President for lying to the Vice President about the National Security Adviser's contacts with the Russians during the transition period before President Trump came in to office, Wolf, that is a very interesting revelation that Michael Flynn has been talking with the Special Counsel's Office and potentially providing evidence, wolf. I think that potentially tees up some requests from lawmakers up on Capitol Hill to perhaps hear from the fired National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, a name that we haven't really heard a whole lot about in recent weeks.
But as we've noticed from this White House, when it comes to the former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, and others over here, that they have been very reluctant and some have been saying they've been stonewalling in terms of allowing former White House officials to testify before Congress. This news that's breaking tonight obviously tees up another one of those discussions that will obviously take place now, which is will this White House, if it comes to this allow, Michael Flynn, to testify up on Capitol Hill, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: Yes. I'm sure the democrats, especially the House. They want him to come testify as soon as possible. He's awaiting sentencing as we know as well. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you very much.
A lot more on all of the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: We have breaking news this hour. We're getting new details of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's cooperation with the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller and his team, including his help with Mueller's obstruction investigation. They come in a less redacted version of memos from the court record and Flynn's criminal case that have just been released. Let's dig deeper with our analysts and our experts.
Evan Perez, how valuable potentially is Michael Flynn in this investigation?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's clear, Wolf, that he is among the most valuable witnesses in this investigation. Certainly, as we get a little bit more of these documents, which have been previously released, but which are now providing a lot more new details about what the cooperation entailed, including according to these documents essentially Flynn describing who he talked to after his phone call with the former Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. If you remember, that's the thing that ends up being the reason why allegedly he is fired is because he lied about exactly what was happening in those conversations.
So according to the documents today that we are now seeing parts of, he tells various people in the administration, in the transition, about exactly what he was saying in those phone calls. And so that appears to be very key to the Special Counsel investigation as it was going on.
BLITZER: Susan Hennessy, what should we make of the indication that someone associated with a member of Congress reached out to Flynn to prevent -- try to prevent his cooperation?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I think this is potentially really significant because it indicates that potentially someone connected to Congress themselves engaged in obstructive efforts, efforts to actually prevent Flynn from providing that full and complete cooperation.
Now, we really have seen sort of a breakdown of congressional oversight. We've seen especially in the House, House Republicans, essentially acting as the President's defense team, acting against the Justice Department and FBI on behalf of the President. This certainly would be a Substantial escalation if any member of Congress or their associates weren't just exercising their own legislative powers in essentially preventing information from coming to Congress. But actually were attempting to prevent Michael Flynn from cooperating with federal investigators.
And so certainly other members of Congress are going to have serious questions about who that refers to and what exactly occurred.
BLITZER: You know, Bianna Golodryga, how significant is it, that there apparently is a voicemail connected to all of this as well and the role that Congress will have presumably they're going to want to get this?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it could be very significant, Wolf. And it makes the republicans' argument that this is yet another witch hunt and this is a Mueller investigation do-over that much more difficult. There are a few people who are arguably closer to then candidate Trump during the campaign than Michael Flynn. He relied on him for just about everything. And was his adviser on multiple fronts, not just foreign policy but even the economy.
You will recall the President was very upset when Michael Flynn stepped down and then started to distance himself once he realized that Michael Flynn was cooperating with the prosecutors. You can imagine how it would look at least, you know, optically to hear if that were ever a possibility what that voicemail was. He was a crucial part of this President's campaign, like I said, arguably one of the closest people associated with the President, and another reason why democrats are now pursuing more information from the report that was redacted.
BLITZER: What do you think, David Swerdlick, the house democrats, how are they going to be looking at this new development?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, Wolf, I think democrats are going to say two things. One, they're going to look at this new reporting about Flynn and let's say, so let's get this straight, not only did former National Security Adviser Flynn plead guilty to having lied to the FBI, but now, apparently, we're being told that he was potentially being asked to lie again.
And I think that is going -- they're going to want to seek, as Bianna said, more information about that.
They're also going to say, this is why we need not just the unredacted report but underlying evidence that the report was based on, which is something that Chairman Nadler has asked for, and so far has been stonewalled on.
BLITZER: So Samantha Vinograd, you worked on the National Security Council, you were an adviser then during the Obama administration. What do you make of this level of cooperation between the President Trump's former National Security Adviser and these others?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, Michael Flynn is finally acting like the two National Security Advisers that I worked for. He's cooperating with the law enforcement community. There is an FBI investigation into administration activity when I was at the White House and all of us cooperated, including the National Security Adviser, into that inquiry.
Michael Flynn is finally doing that when faced with the prospect of not getting a plea deal he liked. Plea deals don't come for free. He had to cooperate and show something to get the deal that he got. And as we've learned during the course of the Special Counsel investigation and Paul Manafort's case, if you are not forthcoming with the Special Counsel and with the legal teams, there are repercussions and deals can be taken off the table.
And I will just add finally, Wolf, Michael Flynn, did not act like someone that was expecting a pardon from Donald Trump. It's clear that he at least seemed to want to provide information to try to get the best deal that he could rather than wait and hope that President Trump was going to come to his rescue at some point.
BLITZER: Yes. We've known he has been cooperating with the Special Counsel. He's now awaiting sentencing, as we also know.
Everybody stick around. There's a lot more on the breaking news right after this.
[18:46:26] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're getting more information, more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, right now.
Evan Perez, I understand a federal judge has now ordered the release of some of the transcripts of Michael Flynn's testimony and other documents related to his case. What are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. As a result of what this judge now ordered, parts of the Mueller report that were redacted that had to do with Michael Flynn are going to be released, according to order from the judge by the end of the month. The Justice Department is going to have to release parts of the report that were redacted having to do with Michael Flynn, as well as details and transcripts of Michael Flynn's conversations with the former Russia ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Again, that's what Michael Flynn got in trouble over, as well as this voicemail we've been talking about.
Now, there was a reference to that in the Mueller report, but now, the judge is going to order -- is ordering that the Justice Department release the transcript of that voicemail of someone related to President Trump's legal team reaching out to Michael Flynn to essentially affect his cooperation with the special counsel. We'll see what exactly words were being exchanged and what the context of those conversations were.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise. They also want the transcript of the voicemail, is that right?
PEREZ: That's right, the transcript of the voicemail, as well as the conversations with Sergey Kislyak.
BLITZER: All right. Significant developments unfolding right now. Stand by. There's more breaking news.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, just announced that he plans to take what's called "enforcement action" against the Department of Justice.
Let's go to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
What are you learning, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just spoke with the House Intelligence Committee chairman about the subpoena he had issued to the Justice Department to turn over counterintelligence information gleaned during the Mueller probe and that counterintelligence agency has not been turned over to the satisfaction of the chairman. Now, the Chairman Adam Schiff plans to take what he's calling a, quote, enforcement action against the Justice Department next week.
Now, I asked him specifically, what do you mean by enforce, action? He would not say. He said he's going to consult with the house general counsel, and the committee will take a vote next week to take this enforcement action.
Presumably in the past, he's said potentially holding Bill Barr, the attorney general in context, which is a separate committee. The House Judiciary Committee already voted to do, but presumably, his committee could do the same. We'll see what they ultimately decided to do. Now, Schiff also announced, Wolf, that he plans to hold a vote in his
committee to release transcripts and exhibits of Michael Cohen, the president's former attorneys, his testimony multiple days before his committee. Those transcripts and committees could be released in a matter of days after his committee votes to release them.
And, of course, that's been a very significant testimony that now as the senator of another investigation by Schiff's committee to look into whether Trump attorneys in any way played a role in editing testimony that later turned out to be false and Michael Cohen later acknowledged lying to Congress about, about the pursuit of that Trump Tower Moscow project in the run up to the 2016 elections. We'll be able to see exactly what Michael Cohen is alleging behind closed doors and exactly what Adam Schiff is trying to pursue as part of that investigation.
But two key developments, that and releasing the transcripts and also this move to hold the Justice Department and take some sort of enforcement action after the Justice Department did not turn over documents related to counterintelligence information as part of the Mueller probe as Schiff was demanding was part of his subpoena -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Stand by. I want to get back to our legal and political analysts.
And, David Swerdlick, it looks like it's coming in all directions right now, so much unfolding.
[18:50:02] DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is, Wolf. I think one we're going to fine out the answer to soon where at least I hope we do is what Chairman Schiff means by enforcement action. Congress has oversight power and Article II of the Constitution gives impeachment power. We are not there yet.
The question is, if he is talking about enforcement, that could mean anything from a vote in the full house to censure someone to up and to and including the attorney general. It could mean actually taking a vote to hold someone in contempt. It's hard to imagine that that means that the House sergeant at arms would somehow try to, you know, effect an arrest of an official in the executive branch.
We need to know more about that. But I think what this clearly shows is that we moved very quickly from a phase where Congress is saying we are unhappy with the attorney general's interpretation of the Mueller report, to, hey, Mr. Attorney General, what have you not told gnaws underlies the report? That's where we are going in the coming days.
BLITZER: And, Susan Hennessey, it's not just House Democrats that are continuing this counterpunch against this administration. The federal judge you just heard Evan Perez's report, the federal judge has now ordered by May 31st, the end of the month, the public release of portions of the Mueller report involving Michael Flynn that earlier had been redacted as well as transcripts of Flynn's conversations with the former Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak, as well as the transcript of the sensitive voice mail that presumably is raising all sorts of questions.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I think of this -- the transcript of the Flynn/Kislyak phone call is going to be one of the most significant pieces of new public information. Keep in mind this was the phone that call Flynn lied about that launched the entire investigation which led to accusations of the president having obstructed justice.
Now what's really interesting and critical to understand about the call is whenever Michael Flynn was communicating to the Russian ambassador, the Trump administration's intention to lift sanctions when they came into office, was he indicating he was acting on behalf of the president or the president-elect at that time, that Trump told him to make this offer? Or was he suggesting this was something he was going to try and convince the president of?
Now, that's significant because the Mueller report couldn't ultimately establish whether or not the president-elect had actually directed Michael Flynn to make that offer. That's really -- that is significant, not just sort of substantively as to why the president would have made that offer to lift sanctions, but also because it goes to when Donald Trump told Jim Comey to see his way to et willing Michael Flynn go. Of course, if he was the person who directed Flynn to make that offer to lift sanctions, he would have known full well at that time that the Michael Flynn had lied to federal investigators and committed a crime.
BLITZER: Samantha Vinograd, it's pretty extraordinary to demand the release of a transcript of a conversation between a national security adviser and a Russian ambassador.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is. But let's keep in mind that the Russians already have the transcripts. At this point, the judge is ordering the release of transcripts of Michael Flynn telling the Russians something that we don't even know how many people within the Russian government have access to the information. It's entirely appropriate that this information should at least be released to relevant lawmakers on Capitol Hill so that we even the playing field a little bit.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. There is a lot more we need to follow up on. We'll do that right after this quick break.
[18:57:08] BLITZER: We're getting new information tonight about the president's finances.
CNN politics and business correspondent Cristina Alesci is joining us right now.
Cristina, tell our viewers what you're learning.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I want to be clear. This is far from a complete picture of Donald Trump's finances. But what we do have is a directional picture of whether his income went up or down. So, in 2018, he reported income of $434 million, that is $16 million less than 2017. We also get a picture of how his individual properties are performing.
And I want to point out too specifically, Mar-a-Lago and his iconic hotel in Washington, D.C. From Mar-a-Lago, it looked like it took a little bit of a hit, a little over $2 million, $2.5 million down from 2017, and the Washington hotel, the D.C. hotel, it's pretty much the same, but still a large amount of money from that hotel. It is a big money maker for them.
I want to point out a statement that Eric Trump gave me basically putting up a strong front behind these numbers, saying our iconic hotel's golf courses, commercial buildings, residential projects and other assets are the best in the world and unrivaled by anyone. That is Eric Trump who is running the business on a day to day basis, Wolf.
BLITZER: From these new numbers that have just been released, there is a lot missing, information that would be revealed if we had access to tax returns, right?
ALESCI: Right. These forms only require the filer, in this case Trump, to report income in ranges. So, for a lot of the numbers going through them today, I saw $1 million to $5 million. So, the tax returns that the Democrats are pushing for would show exactly how much income.
It would also show how much in tax the president paid and whether he used any tax avoidance or give us hints about whether he used any tax avoidance strategies -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, these disclosures show us nothing about how much tax he paid, how much he made in charitable contributions, a lot of specific information like that, right?
ALESCI: Correct. That's why the Democrats really want to see the president's tax returns. This is just a very general overview of the president's business. It doesn't get into any of the nitty-gritty.
We also get a bit of a picture of his liabilities. We did spot a new loan for a property in Florida. So, there are little tidbits that over the coming days, reporters will be able to pull the threads and find out a little bit more. But, again, if we want specifics and we want to know whether or not the president's income -- what the president's income is, we're going to have to see his tax returns -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, let's hope we do. Cristina, thank you very much.
On the heels of President Trump's new financial disclosure, CNN's Erin Burnett investigates how do he and his family do business? Join us tomorrow night for a CNN special report, "The Trump Family Business", 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.