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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Loses Another Legal Battle; Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Michael Avenatti Indicted; President Trump Gets Upset At Pelosi, Cancels Infrastructure Talks; Enraged Trump Slams Democrats In Rose Garden Rant After Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) California Accuses Him Of A Cover-Up; Tensions Rise Between Bolton And Pompeo As They Jockey For Influence On Foreign Policy; New York State Passes Bills Allowing Congress To Get Trump's State Tax Returns; Lawyer Michael Avenatti Charged With Stealing $300,000 From Former Client Stormy Daniels; 2020 Democrats Sharpen Focus On Female Voters, Tying Abortion Fight To Trump And "War On Women". Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 22, 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: The president just lost another round in his legal battle against subpoenas from House Democrats. I will get reaction from one of the top lawmakers behind the subpoenas, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff.
Trumper tantrum. The president storms out of a meeting with top Democrats and publicly unloads. He's now threatening to stop working with his opponents as long as they keep investigating him.
Calling it a cover-up. We're told the president was enraged by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, as she ramped up her rhetoric and accused him of a cover-up. How does this play into her go-slow strategy on impeachment?
And the con before the Stormy -- attorney Michael Avenatti is indicted, charged with stealing from Stormy Daniels, the client he famously represented in her legal battle with the president. After taking on Mr. Trump, will Avenatti be the one who winds up in prison?
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.
Breaking news this hour, the president loses a new courtroom fight with Democrats just hours after his anger at them exploded. Tonight, a federal judge is upholding how subpoenas to get Mr. Trump's financial records from two banks he and his businesses have used. It's the second ruling in three days allowing subpoenas from Democrats to go forward.
And it comes as the president says he won't work with Democrats on any legislation unless they stop investigating him. The president abruptly walked out of the meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer after Pelosi publicly accused him of engaging in a cover-up.
He then walked into the Rose Garden to vent his fury at what he calls phony investigations.
I will talk about these breaking stories with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to CNN's Kara Scannell. She's outside the federal courthouse in New York where this new ruling against the president was just issued.
Kara, this is the second major loss for Mr. Trump in his battle over subpoenas. Break it all down for us.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
It's the second major setback for the president in three days. This is all in the House Democrats' attempt to gain access to his financial records. Today, in the courthouse behind me, Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled that the president could not block the subpoena sent by Congress to two of his banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One.
He found that the Congress had complete authority, just as we heard from the judge in the Washington, D.C., case earlier this week. So the judge here saying that he is not going to block Congress' efforts to get Trump's financial records.
And these subpoenas are pretty broad. They're asking for documents going back in some cases as many as 10 years for the president, his family members, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as his companies.
There was a big effort here by the president to block that. Now, some of these documents will also include loan documents that the president had obtained from Deutsche Bank. Included in those loan documents, sources tell us, is that it would include some tax information.
So this is a big loss for the president in his efforts to block the House Democrats from gaining access to a lot of his financial records, the second time in two days, and the judge finding here in this case too that he would not grant a stay pending an appeal. That is, he would not put the subpoena on hold to give the president and his legal team time to appeal this, saying any delay would actually be harmful to Congress -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kara, you also have some other breaking news, exclusive to CNN, about a possible deal between Congress and President Trump's lawyers. Tell us about that.
SCANNELL: That's right.
So, in the court decision Monday involving his accounting firm Mazars, where the judge said that that subpoena could go through, the president's attorneys said they were going to appeal that. Now, what we have learned from sources familiar with the negotiations is that Congress is close to a deal with Trump's legal team in which they would not seek to enforce that subpoena immediately as long as the president's team moved for expedited appeal, that is, so that they can work through the appeals process without delaying the application of the subpoena, to get caught up in the legal system, which sometimes can span for years.
So this is an agreement that is reached in principle. It will have to be approved by the appellate judges. But it seems that Congress is willing to say, we will put the subpoena on pause to give the president's legal team time to make an appeal, but they want it on an expedited basis -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting. All right, Kara, thank you very much, Kara Scannell in New York.
Now to the president's Rose Garden tirade against Democrats and his new refusal to do business with them.
CNN's Abby Phillip is over at the White House.
Abby, the president has been feeling more heat from Democratic investigators, and then Nancy Pelosi clearly got under his skin.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
This is the second time this year that a White House meeting with Chuck and Nancy has ended with the president storming out. But, this time, the president walked right into the Oval Office and issued a lengthy tirade against the investigations ongoing on Capitol Hill.
But what this all means at the moment is that talks of any kind of infrastructure compromise are all but dead.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, I came here to do a meeting on infrastructure with Democrats, not really thinking they wanted to do infrastructure or anything else, other than investigate.
PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump today laying a Rose Garden ambush for congressional Democrats, blaming the breakdown in infrastructure talks on this broadside from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi an hour earlier:
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up, in a cover- up.
PHILLIP: Sources tell CNN Trump erupted over Pelosi's comments this morning, but kept the meeting on the schedule, only to walk out after less than five minutes and without shaking a single hand. TRUMP: And instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don't do cover-ups.
PHILLIP: Trump now issuing an ultimatum: End congressional investigations, or no legislation will get done.
TRUMP: I told Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, I want to do infrastructure. But you know what? You can't do it under these circumstances. So, get these phony investigations over with.
PHILLIP: Sources say Trump was prepared to go forward with discussions on infrastructure until Pelosi's comments this morning.
But Democrats say Trump carefully stage the walkout around this excuse for a clear reason.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Hello? There were investigations going on three weeks ago when we met, and he still met with us. But now that he was forced to actually say how he would pay for it, he had to run away. And he came up with this pre-planned excuse.
PHILLIP: For weeks, White House aides, including acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, had downplayed the prospects of an infrastructure deal with Democrats.
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think there's a much better chance of getting USMCA passed than there is in getting an infrastructure deal passed.
PHILLIP: And the White House sent this letter to Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last night, saying they wanted trade, not infrastructure, to be their top priority.
White House aides denying the Rose Garden event was planned and insisting they rushed to put the event together this morning, even printing these signs with the president's favorite talking points about the Mueller investigation.
TRUMP: It's a disgrace.
PHILLIP: The spectacle leaving Democrats in a state of shock.
SCHUMER: To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop.
PELOSI: It was very, very, very strange.
PHILLIP: Trump's anger building over what he called the I-word, impeachment.
TRUMP: All of a sudden, I hear last night, they're going to have a meeting right before this meeting to talk about the I-word. The I- word. Can you imagine?
PHILLIP: As Congress raises the pressure on Trump and his associates, issuing new subpoenas to one of Trump's longest serving aides, Hope Hicks, and Annie Donaldson, the chief of staff to former White House counsel Don McGahn, her detailed notes playing a key role throughout Mueller's report.
Tonight, Pelosi is issuing a clear warning to Trump, that obstructing investigations could lead to impeachment.
PELOSI: This is why I think the president was so steamed off this morning, because the fact is, in plain sight, in the public domain, this president is obstructing justice, and he's engaged in a cover-up. And that could be an impeachable offense.
PHILLIP: And, Wolf, President Trump today went pretty far in suggesting that he can't work with Democrats at all until these investigations stop.
But there are, of course, a lot of major priorities for this White House that will require Democratic votes, including the U.S.-Mexico- Canada trade agreement. And now, for the second time this year with the president walking out of a meeting, it really calls into question whether there is any trust left between both sides to work out compromises on some of these major issues -- Wolf.
BLITZER: These are major issues, indeed.
Abby Phillip, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on the president's escalating war with Democrats, how it's playing up on Capitol Hill.
Our Congressional Correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is joining us.
Sunlen, do Democrats believe they were set up?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely do, Wolf.
And we're hearing that from Democrats on the Hill today, calling this just a show. They are essentially alleging that this huge dramatic blowup in the Oval Office today was just manufactured by the White House as a way to get out of the infrastructure meeting.
That, of course, was the original reason behind that Oval Office meeting today. The White House was supposed to, by today, come up with a way to pay for the infrastructure plan that they had wanted, and they, at this point, had not seen like they were able to do that.
So, Democrats really highlighting that today, believing that is essentially their way of just hitting the escape button, blaming Democrats, blaming Democrats' investigations.
What Nancy Pelosi also said up here this morning to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, saying this is just a convenient excuse. It was, in his words, just a very inelegant way to get out of today's meeting.
BLITZER: You know, Sunlen, will the president's behavior today, storming out of that meeting at the White House, move the Democratic Party closer to formally beginning an impeachment process?
SERFATY: It could, Wolf, but it seems that, at least for this moment right now, the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has really stopped the bleeding that we have seen, the rebellion in her ranks, in the recent days, those adding their voices to calling for impeachment inquiries to start.
Pelosi convened her entire Democratic Caucus this morning, essentially to kind of reset, give an update on the investigations, again repeat that they should show restraint when moving potentially towards impeachment.
She had her committee chairs brief the entire caucus and really talk about their investigations, where they have been able to notch even little wins.
Here's Pelosi after that meeting today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: I'm not sure that we get any more information by instituting an impeachment inquiry. But if we thought that we would, that's a judgment we have -- that we would have to make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: So, Pelosi there very clear in all of her comments, public and private, that the directive is certainly still to stay the course, even as, Wolf, this battle between Trump and House Democrats certainly hit a new level today.
BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill, thank you.
Now let's hear from a major player in the House investigations of the president and the new court ruling on subpoenas.
We're joined by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
Congressman, thanks so much for coming in.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Great to be with you.
BLITZER: Let me get your reaction, this federal judge in New York, second time in three days, ruled against the president, in favor of what you're doing, congressional Democrats, this time involving Deutsche Bank and Capital One.
What message does this send to the Trump administration? SCHIFF: It sends a message that two different judges, same conclusion, not just that you're wrong, but your arguments don't even raise serious legal questions. And what's more, we're not going to be a party to an effort to delay Congress in the discharge of its oversight responsibilities. We're not going to stay our rulings. We're not going to result in essentially obstruction by delay.
And so another very powerful ruling, another judge very comfortable and clear on the merits, another rebuke of the Trump legal arguments, which are, by the way, very much the same as the Justice Department arguments.
So, a resounding win, I think, for our system of checks and balances.
BLITZER: What are you hoping to learn if you get these documents involving Deutsche Bank and the other bank?
SCHIFF: Well, I think we saw underscored again in the recent "New York Times" article why it's prudent for Congress to look into this.
There are reports that this bank, Deutsche Bank, for example, which has this history of laundering Russian money, that set up a special unit to make sure that it flagged suspicious transactions, has transactions that people inside the bank say should be flagged, should be brought to the attention -- attention of the Treasury Department that involved Russians, that involved foreign parties.
And they don't follow their own procedures. They don't make the reports, decisions made by the personal wealth division basically overruling those that are paid basically to look at, keep an eye out for suspicious financial transactions.
So, this needs to be looked into by the Congress. And both our committee and the Financial Services Committee have worked together on this litigation.
BLITZER: So are you concerned that Robert Mueller and his team didn't spend enough time looking into this part of the investigation?
On February 10, you said, if the special counsel hasn't subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, he can't be doing much of a money laundering investigation.
SCHIFF: I think it's clear, now that we have seen the Mueller report, that this is something that was not, at least in the special counsel's opinion, or Rod Rosenstein's, for all we know, not within the scope of what he was going to look at.
Now, it was within the scope of what he could look at. But there's no indication in his report that he did. And I think it's negligent for the Congress to ignore this. He may have viewed his mandate narrowly: I'm going to look into the social media campaign. I'm going to look into the hacking and dumping.
But in terms of other things like money laundering, that's beyond what he was prepared to do. But it leaves the country vulnerable, because, if this is a form of financial entanglement that Trump or Kushner have with foreign parties that's influencing U.S. policy, it needs to be exposed.
BLITZER: Well, do you and your committee know something that is leading you in this direction?
SCHIFF: Well, we have had a concern for some time about whether the financial contacts between Trump and the Russians go beyond what the public knows, because, for example, the president was lying about his business dealings with the Moscow Trump Tower deal.
They were seeking the Kremlin's help during the presidential campaign to make this transaction go forward, deceiving the country about it. And the Kremlin was helping them deceive our country.
When it came to light, the Kremlin issued a statement saying, we never responded to these overtures, when the Kremlin had responded. So there are -- there's good reason to be concerned. Whether we will ultimately find money laundering, time will tell, but it would be negligent for us not to do our due diligence.
BLITZER: But wouldn't that have been part of Robert Mueller's investigation, if there were some shady deals going on between the Trump Organization and the Russians?
SCHIFF: If he considered his mandate to be narrow -- and it appears that he did -- he looked into really only whether there was an agreement between the Trump campaign and the Russians to interfere in the election.
So if there was laundering of money that was unrelated to the election or trying to influence it, Mueller may have decided, OK, that's beyond what I'm going to look at. Or maybe Mueller wanted to look at it, and Rod Rosenstein says, you won't go there.
We won't know until we bring Bob Mueller in.
BLITZER: The speaker, Nancy Pelosi, she says her strategy is working. They're moving in the right direction. She's holding back from formerly calling for the start of impeachment procedures.
Is her strategy working?
SCHIFF: Well, it's certainly bearing fruit.
And we have now two courts that have ruled in our favor, that have expedited matters by doing so very quickly, by not staying the decisions on appeal. We're also seeing -- and it may be a result of seeing the writing on the wall in decisions like these -- we're seeing the Justice Department now producing documents to the Intelligence Committee that earlier they had refused to provide.
So we are making headway. But it is still excruciatingly slow. And there's a whole host of other witnesses that they're still holding back, people like Don McGahn, that the country have every right to hear from. And it may be necessary to escalate the enforcement actions on the House floor or undertake an impeachment.
But, right now, I think we are seeing very positive results in the courts. And we're starting to see at least a break in the dam when it comes to the Justice Department withholding information from Congress.
BLITZER: For the first time today, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said the Trump administration, the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.
Do you agree?
SCHIFF: I absolutely agree with that.
And it's hard to look at the Mueller report and reach any other conclusion. Whether you consider it a crime or not -- and I think it was -- these multiple acts by the president to obstruct justice, to discourage people from cooperating with authorities, to reward people who refuse to cooperate, all of that is properly described as a cover- up.
And the actions that they are taking since to prevent the country from hearing from these witnesses, I think, is a continuation of that cover-up. The fact that this is so out in the open now doesn't make it any less offensive. But I think it certainly meets the plain understanding of that term.
BLITZER: You're saying it's a crime, but doesn't fall under the category -- a cover-up, wouldn't they fall into the category of high crimes and misdemeanors?
SCHIFF: It certainly could.
I think a lot of the conduct that Bob Mueller outlines in the report could very well meet the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors, as well as other actions that the administration may be contemplating.
When they -- when the president talks at his political rallies about working with his attorney general to perhaps investigate, prosecute his political rivals, that is another high-level abuse of his office. So the list, I think, is substantial. It may be growing.
The obstruction of Congress certainly increases the -- I think the weight of those...
BLITZER: But if it's a high crime, or even a crime, isn't that worthy of immediately beginning impeachment procedures?
SCHIFF: Well, look, I think if we had a Republican Party that was willing to undertake that process in good faith and follow the facts, it would be one thing.
We don't have that. We have a cult of personality around the president. And so that puts Democrats in the very difficult position of trying to determine, should we put the country through this, when we can expect there's going to be no Republican support in the Senate?
Is that the right thing for the country? And I think the speaker is right to view this solely through that prism, not try to do the political calculus, does this help us or hurt us politically, but decide, is this the right thing for the country?
BLITZER: So, this is a political decision you're making, since you need a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict?
Even if he's impeached with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, you're not going to get the conviction in the Senate. And, as a result, you're holding back. Is that what you're saying?
SCHIFF: It's not -- no, quite the opposite.
I'm not saying that that's a political calculus. I'm saying, we have to -- we have to decide whether this is the best thing for the country, knowing what the result is going to be. We can't ignore the facts that, apart from now one House Republican, none of the Republicans are willing to question anything this president is doing.
And so does it make sense for us to put the country through this? Now, we may get there anyway, in the face of this obstructionism. But I do think that this is a wrenching, divisive experience we would be putting the country through. And that's not something we undertake lightly.
It may be that we have to, but it's not something that we should rush to do.
BLITZER: You have now reached an agreement, we understand, with the Justice Department to get at least certain documents involving counterintelligence that you really wanted from the Mueller investigation.
Is this information that wasn't included in the Mueller report?
SCHIFF: These are documents that were, at least in significant part, referred to in the Mueller report. They're documents that we know are in existence. There are 12 categories of documents.
But we chose these categories, both because we think they're important and relevant to our oversight work, but also because they were clearly not privileged. And they were also clearly counterintelligence or foreign intelligence information that we have a statutory right to obtain.
This was a way of testing, is the Justice Department going to simply oppose everything? And, quite last-minute, literally went up to about midnight the day before we were going to take up an enforcement action in our committee, the department relented and said, OK. Now, it's important to point out this is just the first of what we consider rolling document production. So, these 12 sets of documents are just the beginning of the document production. They're not the end, by any means.
BLITZER: When are you going to get these documents?
SCHIFF: They should start to be produced this week, and we expect them all to be produced by the end of next week.
BLITZER: So, are you going to make them public, or just review them on a classified basis?
SCHIFF: We're going to review the documents. I don't know at this point whether any of them will be classified, or some.
And then we will make a decision down the road about what can be disclosed. There may very well be leads that we need to follow that are raised in these documents, and it wouldn't make sense to be public about it.
And then, of course, because there are other equities involved, we would need to consider that in terms of any kind of disclosure.
BLITZER: And so, when you say these are counterintelligence documents, do they involve any suspicions of the president's relationship with Russia or with other countries, for that matter?
SCHIFF: Well, to give you an illustration, there any number of actors and incidents that are mentioned in the Mueller report with a lot of unanswered and open questions.
To give you one illustration -- and I'm not saying this is one of the documents areas that we're looking at in terms of these sets of documents -- but we know that Paul Manafort was providing polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence.
What do we know about that? What efforts were made to find out why that was taking place? Mueller says they weren't able to determine certain conclusions about it. But how far did Mueller go down this road?
BLITZER: Are you surprised Mueller didn't do more on that?
SCHIFF: I don't know, at this point, what obstacles they ran into.
I have raised my concerns about the president -- not pressing for an interview with the president. And the same president who's claiming he doesn't do cover-ups, well, he was unwilling to answer questions under oath about his own actions.
BLITZER: Mueller in the report said they tried for a year to get a formal interview with the president, and couldn't.
SCHIFF: Absolutely. And, in other respects too, we have profound questions about how far the Mueller team pushed. We're looking, as you know, into whether the attorneys around the president and his family participated in any way in the false testimony that Michael Cohen made to our committee.
BLITZER: You're referring to Jay Sekulow, the president's private attorney?
SCHIFF: Yes, among others.
And it appears that this was not something that the special counsel pressed because of concerns of attorney-client privilege. But, of course, there's an exception for crime or fraud.
And one of the things we want to ask Bob Mueller is, how much did you press? Why didn't you go further? Were you concerned that the litigation over that privilege, like efforts to get the president to cooperate and testify, would simply take too long?
Because, if that's the case, then maybe that's something that Congress needs to pursue.
BLITZER: And speaking of Michael Cohen, newly unsealed warrants, just unsealed, involving Michael Cohen show that he exchanged more than 1,000 calls and text messages with the CEO of a company linked to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. The communications started -- actually started on Election Day 2016.
You questioned Cohen, your committee, behind closed doors. Did you know about this?
SCHIFF: Well, we certainly knew about some of the contacts. I don't know whether we knew about the volume that has been disclosed.
But the connection between Vekselberg, the company and companies that he's affiliated with, the cousin that does business or related as well, these are all areas that we have looked into, that we continue to look into.
We're also looking into the inaugural committee and money that was funneled into the inaugural committee. So, these are all areas that we continue to have a deep interest in.
BLITZER: How do you explain that timeline, more than 1,000 text messages and calls, but starting on Election Day?
SCHIFF: Well, there could be a number of explanations for that in terms of the business that Michael Cohen was pursuing.
There could be more insidious explanations in terms of the motivations on Vekselberg's part. I don't know the answer. But like many other things that have been left open by the Mueller report, we have to try to find out.
BLITZER: I want to get your reaction to what the attorney general, Bill Barr, told "The Wall Street Journal" earlier this week. And I will put it up on the screen.
"If you destroy the presidency and make it an errand boy for Congress, we're going to be a much weaker and more divided nation."
That's the attorney general of the United States. What's your reaction?
SCHIFF: Well, this is what Barr thinks his role is, which is, protect the president at all costs, Consider the Congress essentially a nuisance, not a co-equal branch of government.
And his interview with "The Wall Street Journal," I think, was very telling. His interview with FOX was equally telling. When he was asked, for example, about Don McCann being instructed to fire Bob Mueller, have Mueller fired, Bill Barr's answer was, no, no, he didn't say he should be fired. He said he should be removed, as if that's a distinction that makes a difference.
That kind of sophistry is something we would expect from Rudy Giuliani, not from the attorney general of the United States. But it shows just how much Bill Barr believes his job is to place this president above the law.
And that is not what our Constitution contemplated. I think it makes Bill Barr a very dangerous attorney general. The fact that Bill Barr thinks that Donald Trump could have gotten ridden of Mueller at any time if he felt the investigation was unfair means that any president who is being investigated can fire the prosecutor because they think it's unfair.
It also puts at risk all of the investigations Mueller referred to obliquely that had been farmed out to other prosecutors, because, if you can get rid of Mueller, it stands to reason you can get rid of anyone else doing any other investigation that the president considers unfair.
BLITZER: Congressman Schiff, please come back, especially after you get all those documents, those counterintelligence documents. We'd love to know what they contain.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.
There's more breaking news ahead on the president's tirade against Democrats and their investigations. There was a lot of anger, but was there a strategy?
[18:30:00] BLITZER: We're covering a lot of breaking news in the President's battles with House Democrats. I want to bring in our analysts to assess what's going on.
You know, David Swerdlick, we just just got a copy of a letter that the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, wrote to her Democratic colleagues. Let me read a couple of sentences from the letter.
Sadly, the only job the President seems to be concerned with is his own. He threatened to stop working with Democrats on all legislation unless we end oversight of his administration and he had a temper tantrum for us all to see.
This thing is really escalating.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's escalating and Speaker Pelosi knows how to press the President's button. Temper tantrum, cover up. Earlier today, she said, I pray for the President. She may as well have said, I'm just going to let go and let God and hope for the best in this country, right?
She says it in her gentile way. She's a contemporary of the President. She goes at him slowly just kind of works the jab. That has been effective for her ever since she became the Speaker's gavel. I think she's going to continue to do that so that she can sort of score points and not have to go for the full impeachment move that her colleagues want.
BLITZER: And, Bianna, I want to play some clips. The President and the Speaker, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, they all spoke out earlier in the day. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDEND OF THE UNITED STATES: I just wanted to let you know that I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than up to do it. I'd be really good at that. That's what I do. But you know what, you can't do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop.
PELOSI: He came into the room and said that -- I said that he was engaged in a cover-up up and he couldn't possibly engage in a conversation on infrastructure as long as we are investigating him. It was very, very, very strange.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And, Bianna, apparently, the President was enraged because of what Nancy Pelosi had said earlier in the day that the President had engaged in a cover-up.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONRIBUTOR: Well, that may very well be the case, Wolf, but you could argue that the President wasn't prepared to focus strictly on infrastructure. He may want to. But when it comes to the math and numbers behind it, we know that up until now, they aren't even close to finding a way to come up with a $2 trillion infrastructure plan.
The President initially had been talking about somewhere near $250, $300 billion and more of a focus on a public-private type of plan, whereas the Democrats had a completely different idea. So this could have been a situation where the President didn't have specifics walking into a planned meeting.
Then you hear from Speaker Pelosi before then and then obviously we know what took place and ensued after the fact.
BLITZER: You know, Laura, take a look at this. The President clearly is feeling the heat from all of these investigations. I'll put some of them up on the screen.
The pressure is mounting. A judge upholds congressional subpoenas of banks that loaned Trump money. Judge ordered accountants to turn over Trump financial records to Congress. Former aide and confidant, Hope Hicks, subpoenaed by House Judiciary Committee.
Justice Department makes deal to hand over Mueller evidence to House Intelligence Committee. Search warrants for former lawyer Michael Cohen unsealed. Transcripts of Michael Cohen testimony released. All of that this week.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Just this week alone. Yes. I mean, he enjoys a fight, clearly, but he doesn't like to lose. And I think the two court decisions are obviously blows in the initial steps, and just district court rulings. Obviously, his team is going to appeal and they could appeal up to the Supreme Court. It could take a while.
But their language in the opinions is a resounding loss for the Trump administration. They go on and on. Both of these judges talking about there is a legitimate legislative purpose, that the whole reason that the Congress is doing this is actually perfectly well founded and legitimate. And so it sort of undercuts all the arguments that we've heard.
Whether it benefits Trump more or the Democrats, I think, remains to be seen. Obviously, the Democrats want to keep having this fight and gives them a little bit of an out instead of talking about impeachment.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERINTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, I think there's a basic issue here that we need focus on and that is, look, the Speaker trolled the President. The President took the bait. The bigger issue though is from day one, Democrats and republicans, rare bipartisan conversation look and say, like any American, if you travel across an American bridge on a road, like me, if you go into an airport, this country needs billions, hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment.
Notice what the President said. A bipartisan agreement including the President on what the nation needs is secondary to you stopping investigations into me personally. The message, nation second, me first, stop the investigations to me and then maybe we'll get onto the national priority. I think that's what we're at.
SWERDLICK: And he also made it easier on Democrats now to say, we don't really have to worry about working with the President because he already said he won't work with us.
BLITZER: The House Speaker, Bianna, she knows that more and more Democrats are calling, at least, to begin formal impeachment procedures in the House Judiciary Committee. Take a look at this. At least 29 already but there probably more Democrats calling for impeachment or impeachment inquiry, so the pressure on her is there.
GOLODRYGA: The pressure is there, Wolf. But don't forget, there are other more moderate Democrats who she also has to account to an answer to as well who are saying, not so fast. They had won in the midterms, seats that were previously held by republicans. They necessarily aren't in impeachment right now. They want focus more on issues and policy.
And when it comes to what we have heard from these judges this week, I would say that Speaker Pelosi has more ammunition in her argument of let's wait this out. It's not a constitutional crisis yet given that we have a judiciary system that seems to be working in our favor at this point.
Now, you have a constitutional crisis if, let's say, post appeals the administration still says they aren't going to honor any of the requests. Then you've got a situation where Pelosi may feel extra pressure to talk about impeachment. But not only that, she has time on her hands. We have an election that's coming up in over a year- and-a-half. So from her standpoint, now is not the time especially since you have one sole republican who has so far made the call for impeachment.
BLITZER: You know, amidst all of this, Phil, we're getting some really important fascinating new reporting from Pamela Brown, Kylie Atwood, Jamie Gangel on the growing tension that's out there now between the National Security Adviser, John Bolton, and the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Pompeo apparently feels that Bolton is stepping on his turf. What do you make of that?
MUDD: I mean, when I was out of college, I used to watch pro wrestling. This is a steel cage match. One person comes out of the match, that's Mike Pompeo, for two reasons. Typically, the National Security Adviser is behind the scenes. The Secretary of State publicly presents policy. Bolton is ahead of his skis on this in terms of presenting policy publicly.
The second thing is just look at the negative comments the President has said about Bolton and the positive comments for years the President says about Pompeo. Only one person wins. That's Pompeo. And Bolton, I predict, three months, six months, one month, he's out. He won't win this.
BLITZER: Well, let's see what happens.
MUDD: Bet book on the seat room (ph), bet book, he's going to be out.
BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There's more news. We're following another breaking story.
Michael Avenatti's legal troubles get even worse as the lawyer is charged with stealing from porn star Stormy Daniels, the client who put him on the note (ph).
BLITZER: More breaking news tonight, the battle over the President's financial records. Democrats and New York State have passed a pair of bills that would allow Congress to get hold of Mr. Trump's state tax returns.
Let's go back to our Congressional Correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty. Sunlen, this is another win for Democrats in Congress. So how soon will they get Mr. Trump's New York State tax returns?
SERFATY: Well, the New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is expected to sign this legislation, Wolf, into law very soon. And this certainly is a significant move coming from the President's home, State of New York, a place where he still, of course, has residency, a place where many of his businesses are still headquartered.
The legislation does not name President Trump directly in the actual text of the legislation but it requires the States Tax Commission to hand over and provide the state tax returns when they have been requested by the relevant committees up here on Capitol Hill. Committees like the House Ways and Means Committee and including Senate Finance Committee, the joint committee on taxation, all of these committees, many of whom are looking into, of course, President Trump's tax returns.
Now, this certainly is a significant step forward and many of these committees getting their hands on some but not all of President Trump's tax returns. This just, of course, involves the state tax returns and, of course, they are still defiant in not handing over his federal returns. Wolf?
[18:45:02] BLITZER: Sunlen, the fight also continues for the president's federal tax returns. What's the latest on that front?
SERFATY: Yes, that fight certainly does continue. And the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, he was back up here on Capitol Hill today, again defiant and refusing to hand over the federal tax returns and explaining in his argument here is that he believes that Congress has no legislative purpose to receive the requested returns.
But that argument was undercut by this "Washington Post" report today. They got their hands on a ten-page memo that was written by IRS attorneys and in that memo, they argue that the president's tax returns must be turned over to Congress unless the White House exerts executive privilege.
This was, of course, something that the treasury secretary was asked today by Democrats. He said he didn't know about this memo and that he hasn't talked to the White House about the memo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: We're trying to find out who wrote the memo, where it came from, when it was, and why it wasn't distributed. I've been add advised I'm not violating the law. I never would have done anything that violated the law. And quite the contrary, I've been advised had I turned them over, I would be violating the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: So, certainly, the treasury secretary trying to down play the significance of what that memo says, what the IRS attorneys were arguing in that draft memo. All of this as he potentially faces a very likely long court battle with Democrats ahead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Sunlen, thank you. Sunlen Serfaty reporting.
Just ahead, the former lawyer for Stormy Daniels is charged with stealing $300,000 from the porn star who claimed an affair with President Trump.
BLITZER: More breaking news. Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti is in more legal trouble tonight. A federal grand jury has indicted him for allegedly stealing from client Stormy Daniels and was trying to extort millions from sportswear giant Nike.
Let's go live to our national correspondent Sara Sidner.
What's the latest, Sara?
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the case involving Stormy Daniels was certainly a surprised to the public. Everyone knew about the Nike case, and that that was coming forward. But the case involving Stormy Daniels actually involves a book deal.
You'll remember the book that she wrote called "Full Disclosure" where she talks about her alleged sexual relations with the president, among many other things, and Michael Avenatti turns out, according to prosecutors, brokered that deal. But in brokering the deal, they say he stole from Stormy Daniels and lied to her, stole from her to the tune of some $300,000 in advance money for that book.
[18:50:09] He had paid her eventually $148,000 or so of that according to prosecutors but had already spent a bunch of the money on what they're saying is his extravagant lifestyle. This is obviously a huge rift in that relationship that has already broken apart. The two of them separated many months ago. And she got a different attorney.
But here is what he has said about all of this, especially concerning Stormy Daniels. He sent CNN this statement that we are about to show you, saying that, look, no monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. She actually received millions of dollars of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100 for all that she received. He says he will be totally exonerated in that case as well as the Nike case.
We actually asked him, Wolf, about this issue with Stormy Daniels. We asked him about, you know, whether or not it was all worth it for him. And here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Did you lose money?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY: Oh, there is no question I lost money. I mean, we lost millions of dollars by taking this case. There's no question about that.
SIDNER: Millions of dollars?
AVENATTI: Millions of dollars. Stormy Daniels didn't pay us a bunch of money. We crowd-funded, raised some money for expenses and the like. We lost millions of dollars in connection with this case.
I would have been far better off financially if I would never taken this case. Now, it was bigger than that, and it still is bigger than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: So, you're hearing there from him that he says that he lost a bunch of money because he was representing her and not being paid, according to him. But prosecutors say he was actually stealing from his client and not working in her best interests.
We have not heard from Stormy Daniels yet. But I'm sure we will sometime soon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We will. All right. Sara, thanks very much. Sara Sidner reporting.
Just ahead, we're going to tell you how Democratic presidential candidates are appealing to one of the most important voting blocks in 2020, women.
[18:56:45] BLITZER: Tonight, Democratic presidential candidates are sharpening their focus on female voters. They're trying to tie President Trump to new anti-abortion legislation across the country, accusing him of waging a war on women.
Let's bring in our Senior Washington Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, women will be key in deciding who the Democratic presidential nominee winds up being.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they certainly will be as they are in every election and they certainly were in the 2018 mid-terms when Democrats won the House. But this is one thing that Democratic candidates now, as they're trying to break out of the pack, they're trying to seize on some of those anti- abortion laws to make their case to voters.
ZELENY (voice-over): Democratic presidential hopefuls are increasingly setting their sights on a critically important voting bloc, women. The entire field of candidates is hoping to seize on the political backlash from new restrictive abortion laws popping up across the country. At a CNN town hall Tuesday night in Iowa, Beto O'Rourke pledging to make protecting abortion rights a priority.
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For so long, women have been leading this fight, shouldering the burden of making sure that their reproductive rights are protected. It's time that all of us join them in this fight.
ZELENY: And promising a litmus test for all judicial nominees.
O'ROURKE: To every federal bench, including the Supreme Court, understands and believes that the 1973 decision Roe versus Wade is the settled law of the land.
ZELENY: A majority of Americans support abortion rights. A new Quinnipiac poll today finds 60 percent of Americans say abortions should be legal in all or most cases, while 35 percent say it should be illegal in all or most cases.
Abortion has long fired up the Republican base more than the Democratic one. But the 2020 race could be different, with Democrats trying to rally their own voters particularly women against President Trump.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He apparently wants a war on women in America. Ifs in a war he wants to have, he will have it and he will lose it.
ZELENY: In hopes of breaking through, their own crowded field, Democratic candidates step forward with these new plans today alone.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pledging to implement what she calls a Family Bill of Rights in the first 100 days of her presidency, focusing on prenatal care to affordable nursery care.
Senator Kamala Harris is introducing legislation to address the black maternal mortality pregnancy crisis, saying the risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes is three to four times higher for black women.
And Senator Cory Booker is vowing to create a White House office of reproductive freedom, to safe guard reproductive rights and access to health care.
ZELENY: So, Republican strategists are also watching this very carefully, particularly those anti-abortion bills. One Republican strategist working closely with the president said this is the last thing we need. So, Wolf, this is, of course, the very beginning of this. But women are always a critical voting bloc, certainly will be in 2020.
BLITZER: Remember, women, though, are not a monolithic group.
ZELENY: Wolf, that is so important to keep in mind. Not everyone, of course, supports anti-abortion rights, supports abortion rights. So, this is something.
But those Trump voters, those women who voted for President Trump, they are most sort of at -- up for grabs if you will, particularly in the suburbs across America. That's what President Trump is worried about. Democrats, of course, are going after them.
BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny reporting for us. Jeff, thank you very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in TEH SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.