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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Rep. Scalise In Critical Condition After Attack, Gunman Dead; FBI Believes Shooter Had Been In D.C. Area Since March. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 14, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:08] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: "OutFront" next. Breaking news. New details on the gunman who attacked members of Congress. We're learning he opened fire with a semi-automatic. Plus the shooter, a Bernie Sander supporter declaring on Facebook, it's time to destroy Trump. What we're learning about him tonight.
And more breaking news at this hour. The Washington Post with a stunning report, saying President Trump is now under investigation, by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice. This is a major turning point in the Russia investigation. We have all those breaking headlines. Let's go "OutFront."
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. "OutFront" this evening, the breaking news, Congress attacked. Congressman Steve Scalise, the third ranking Republican in the House is in critical condition tonight after a lone gunman open fire on a Republican congressional baseball team. They were practicing in the field just outside Washington D.C. The first shot shots ringing out at about 7:00 this morning. The heavily armed shooter crouching behind the third base dugout, scattering fire across the crowded field. Several officers on the scene fired back. The gunman later died from his injuries. Cell phone video recorded the chaotic scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, is that guy OK out there? The guy -- has that guy been shot? Is he OK. Anybody talking to him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay down!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's what happened in that suburban park just a baseball field outside Washington this morning. The gunman has been identified 66-year old James Hodgkinson. The FBI investigators are researching his home in Belleville, Illinois. The FBI also revealing that the gunman had been in the Washington area since March actually living out of a cargo van. Four people were shot including Congressman Scalise who was shot in the hip. Matt Mika is a lobbyist who practices with the team. He was also shot multiple times. He's in critical condition tonight. Zack Barth is a congressional staffer. He was shot in the leg. He has been treated and released. One Capitol police officer Crystal Griner was shot in the ankle and another officer David Bailey was injured but he is recovering. And it is of course their heroism that saved lives today. Brian Todd is OutFront at the hospital where Scalise was being treated. And Brian what can you tell us about the congressman's condition at this time?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, tonight Congressman Steve Scalise is fighting for his life here at Washington Hospital Center as is another victim Matt Mika at another hospital, and also here at the hospital center Capitol Hill Special Agents Crystal Griner is in good condition after having been shot in the ankle. You know, witnesses say if it hadn't been for the fact that Scalise had these Capitol Hill police officers as his security personal detail, there might have been a massacre on that field.
TODD (voice-over): The gunfire captured on cell phone video by an eyewitness seemingly came out of nowhere. Members of Congress and their staffs.
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: I hear a big blam and thought it was a car backfire at first until I see the rifle barrel. And a white male taking careful aim at congressmen, staffers, whoever he could get hold of.
TODD: Witnesses say gunman identified by police as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson appeared to be laying in wait behind the dugout at this Alexandria, Virginia YMCA baseball field. On the field Republican representatives practicing for tomorrow's annual bipartisan congressional baseball game.
REP. CHUCK FLEISCHMANN (R), TENEESSEE: All of a sudden there were multiple gunshots being fired.
TODD: It was just after 7:00 a.m. and Congressman Rodney Davis was at that.
REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: Somebody on the field yelled run, he's got a gun. I ran into the dugout like most people on the field.
TODD: Steve Scalise, the majority whip and the third ranking House Republican was the first victim. He was in the infield.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: He dragged himself after he was shot from near second base about 10 or 15 yards into the field just to be I think a little further away from the gunman.
[19:05:06] He was laying motionless out there. And so I wanted to get to him but there were still shots going over head from both sides. And -- so finally, when we heard that the shooter was down, I just ran low out to Steve and started putting pressure on the wound.
TODD: A Republican staffer who identified as Zach Barth was also hit.
BROOKS: He (INAUDIBLE). He was saying it wasn't bad at all. But I mean it was a hole in his leg.
TODD: Capitol police officers assigned to as a protective detail to Scalise because of his leadership position return fire.
REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: I saw at least two of them go toward the shooter. They were putting their lives directly in the line of fire.
FLAKE: One African-American gentleman in the -- shot in the leg and I believe he's the one that brought the shooter down. He ran around for quite a while with the leg wound returning fire.
TODD: Tonight, witnesses are crediting the bravery of the officers with saving countless lives.
UNDENTIFIED MALE: It was the Capitol police that saved us all. If it wasn't for the Capitol police I assume everybody would have been killed this morning.
TODD: A total of four victims were shot including Congressman Scalise, lobbyist Matt Mika, staffer Zack Barth, and Capitol police officer Crystal Griner.
DAVIS: I watched Mike run and my fellow member Steve Scalise lay motionless on the field, wondering if he was going to be OK. That is a picture I will never forget.
TODD: The hail of gunfire evident in bullet holes as far away as the YMCA building as well as cars parked on the other side. And tonight as investigators try to find a motive, two members of Congress (INAUDIBLE) and Jeff Duncan are pointing to a conversation they had with the shooter earlier this morning in a parking lot.
REP. JEFF DUNCAN, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: He asked me if this team was the Republican or Democrat team practicing. I respond it was the Republican team practicing and he proceed to shoot Republicans. Take that for what it's worth.
TODD: And once again, an update on Congressman Steve Scalise. He is in critical condition here at Washington Hospital Center. Also law enforcement officials giving us new details on the shooter James Hodgkinson. They said he'd been in the Alexandra, Virginia area since March. Been members of the YMCA, the staffers at the YMCA next to that baseball field said that he had been a member there since April. A law enforcement official said he'd been living out of his vehicle in the area since March. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much Brian. And I'll put now one congressman who was there this morning, there at the shooting. Republican Gary Palmer, just yards away from Congressman Scalise on that baseball field. Congressman Palmer was playing shortstop. Congressman Scalise was playing second base.
And I thank you for being with us, congressman. Can't imagine what you went through. When this morning -- and it was just an early morning and I know you were all out. It was a beautiful morning. When did you realize that something awful was happening?
REP. GARY PALMER (R), WITNESSED SHOTTING: Well, when I heard the first gunshot I knew it was a gunshot. And Trent Kelly, Congressman Kelly from Mississippi is playing third base and I yelled at Trent that it was a gunshot. And Trent said, yeah, or I know and then he yelled, he has a gun and yelled run.
And as we were trying to get to cover, he fired a couple more at least two shots and Scalise was to my (INAUDIBLE) I knew he had hit low. I saw him go down and we got to cover outside the field and I want to say this. And it's been said many times already. The actions of the Capitol police were extraordinary. They showed extraordinary courage. I believe Officer Bailey was wounded. It may have been a shrapnel wound but he persisted in returning fire. Crystal Griner --
PALMER: -- was hit and I saw her pull herself to -- along the side of her SUV to return fire on the shooter as well. These extraordinary people and they saved our lives.
BURNETT: When this started -- and you heard that first shot and you knew there was something, could you see at any time, congressman, the shooter, to see his demeanour, how he appeared to be aiming? Were you able to ascertain any of that?
PALMER: No. As soon as Trent identified him and said he had a gun, we tried to get to cover. I didn't look back. I was actually looking at Scalise and heard those two shots and saw Steve go down. It's a miracle that he didn't hit Congressman Kelly. I believe that was his initial target. It's amazing to me that Trent was maybe 15 yards from him and I was maybe 20 yards from him and he missed Trent.
[19:10:06] BURNETT: So you thought you actually think he was aim at Congressman Kelly?
PALMER: Initially he was and he may have continued to try to shoot Congressman Kelly. I don't know. It appeared to me that it was somewhat random at that point and he moved to another location and tried to work his way around to the first base side where so many of us had taken cover. And as one person is already described, the Capitol police went in. They ran to the sound of the guns and when the guy changed positions and they switched back that's when I think Officer Griner was hit.
BURNETT: Have you had a chance to speak with Congressman Scalise or his family. I know that they have -- his wife, his young children of course rushing to be by his side.
PALMER: Well, I haven't. And I think most of us realize that at this point his family needs to be with him. We're checking on him as often as we can to get an update on his condition. And I'll say this about Steve Scalise. He's one of the finest people I know. One of the nicest guys and a guy that's constantly encouraging everyone. And so I encourage everyone, all your viewers to pray for him for his full recovery and for Matt Mika who was shot in the chest.
BURNETT: Now I know you're talking about how initially you thought Congressman Kelly may have been -- who has targeting and then it became more random and early on, of course you saw who shoot Congressman Scalise. You now, the shooter did have a social media presence, congressman, and he had made a congressman -- a comment about Congressman Scalise in a post back in 2015.
He wrote on Facebook, "Here's a Republican that should lose his job but they gave him a raise." Do you think that from what you saw he targeted Scalise specifically or you really thought that way with Kelly and then Scalise was in the more random part of the fire?
PALMER: I really don't know after this initial shot because when I -- when he fired his weapon and Trent Kelly turned toward him, his weapon was pointed directly at Trent. As I say, as we were trying to make our way to cover, I wasn't looking back to see where he was shooting and so I really couldn't say whether or not he targeted the whip but --
BURNETT: You talk about what kind of Man Congressman Scalise is. And last week you practiced, a reporter from (INAUDIBLE) spoke with him because obviously you take this baseball game very seriously. Many Americans may know not know about it but it is big deal. You play it national stadium. Of course it's going to be tomorrow night. He spoke to that reporter about why this game mattered so much to him. And here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), MAJORITY WHIP: We're competitive people by nature. When you get to go out in a major league ballpark and play, you know, play kids' game, there's nothing like it. And it's a lot of fun camaraderie around here too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: How important is that game tomorrow to you, congressman? Will you be playing?
PALMER: I plan to be on the field. Steve and I shared second base. I just happened to be over on the shortstop side this morning. And there's tremendous camaraderie and exists between the Republicans and the Democrats. We enjoy the competition with one another. It's really unique game and an American sport, but it's also a tremendous fundraiser and in addition to the charities that we're going to support, we're also going to support the fallen officers fund.
BURNETT: Yes. And I know when you talk about camaraderie, you know, two of your congressmen, you know, who had to leave early day actually spoke with the man they believe may have been the shooter and asked him a question, the moments he opened fire. He asked whether the team practicing on the field was Democrats or Republicans, do you believe that you all were targeted because you were Republicans?
PALMER: I believe we were and what I would want to say to the American people is that our country's been torn apart. Everybody, both sides need to tone it down. Whether it's social media or showing up at town halls. We have got to come together for the good of our country, for the future of our country. I really believe this is a pivotal point in our history and as Democrats, Republicans, it really doesn't matter. We need to come together as Americans and we really need to get back to a civil discourse to civil dialogue and work out these issues as we should.
BURNETT: All right. Well, congressman, thank you so very much. I'm so glad that you are OK tonight.
PALMER: Well, thank you, Erin, for having me on.
BURNETT: The next, more of our breaking news coverage. We are learning new details about the shooter tonight including his well- documented hatred of the president of the United States. And also breaking, at this moment, this, a major turning point in the Russian investigation. The president of the United States, Donald Trump now under investigation for possible obstruction of justice. This is according to the Washington Post in a major report. You'll get all the details in a moment.
[19:18:54] BURNETT: Breaking news. The man who opened fire on congressional Republicans today, the baseball team shooting Majority Whip Steve Scalise and leaving him in critical condition. Tonight, turns out that we can tell you now he was in Washington, D.C. area for months. Not from there but he had been there months sort of camping out in a camper. The FBI revealing that he was living out of a van in Alexandra, Virginia, since March. And there are more details emerging at this hour, including the shooter's Facebook page, which is clearly anti-Trump and anti-GOP. And then this. A pattern of run-ins with the law. Phil Mattingly is out front.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight investigators are digging into the past of this 66-year-old man, James Hodgkinson. (INAUDIBLE) of social media post that paint the picture of a politically active individual inferring (ph) Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
And public Facebook posting he called Republicans stupid, wrote that the party hated Americas and its full of smoke and mirrors. And said President Trump "Has destroyed our democracy. It's time to destroy Trump and company." He liked a political cartoon suggesting Congressman Steve Scalise should be fired.
[19:20:05] And three years impassioned letters to the editor of his local paper. Including one that concluded "I've never said life sucks. Only the policies of republicans. " Hodgkinson Facebook photo an image of Uncle Sam transposed with the face of Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders the former Democratic presidential candidate taking to the Senate floor Wednesday to acknowledge Hodgkinson may volunteered for his campaign and condemned his actions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I am sickened by this despicable act. And let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our societies and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Hodgkinson started his own home inspection company in 1994, only to quit the job on New Year's Eve last year according to a Facebook post. He was fired in 2003 as an independent contractor from a St. Clair Intergovernmental Grants Department for "unacceptable behavior" according to St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern while Kern wouldn't elaborate on that behavior itself. He noted that Hodgkinson returned in 2012 to ask for reinstatement. It would not have been granted, Kern said.
A public record search reveals several run-ins with the law, including a 2006 arrest on a charge of battery, causing bodily harm. A police report described Hodgkinson as allegedly punching a friend of his daughters in the face, firing up a gun, then dragging his daughter from a house by her hair, prying her out of a car by cutting her seat belt with a pocket knife. The charge was later dismissed. Law enforcement sources tell CNN they're tracing two guns an SKS rifle an 9 millimeter handgun as part of the investigation, one of which the FBI has now taken the lead.
TIMOTHY SLATER, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Law enforcement has reason to believe that the shooter has been in Alexandra, Virginia area since March of this year.
MATTINGLY: While back home a stun friend tried to defend a heinous act.
UNDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to let people know that he wasn't evil, that he was, I guess the tired of some of the politics that were going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Erin, one of the interesting elements is the Secret Service says he simply wasn't on their radar, despite the social media postings. And another interesting element we're learning that actually called his local congressman's office, Congressman Mike Boss, the Republican, up to 10 times. But still no red flags raised the reason why alt east according to the office (INAUDIBLE) the congressman is that his interactions were rather normal. Basically registering opposition but going no further than that. It's one of these things Erin that really raises a ton of questions. How he actually got to this point, what triggered this action. Still a lot of work for investors down here in Washington. BURNETT: Yes. All right, Phil, thank you. I want to go straight now
to retired FBI Special Agent James Gagliano and the former assistant director for investigations with the U.S. Marshals, Art Roderick. Art, let me start with you. I know you've been talking to people working on this case. What have you been learning this evening?
ART RODERICK, FMR. ASST. INVESTIGATIONS DIRECTOR, U.S. MARSHAL: Well, it seems like this individual either per chance had frequented the why hero right next to the ball field and had seen this as a target of opportunity but apparently the congressman had been practicing here several times a week and he was able to gain access to the facility fairly easily. I don't think he ever entered the ball field at all. He was able to leave his vehicle, which he had been sleeping in, it was set up as a camper where he had a dividing curtain between the front seats and the rear, so he was living out of the van and basically left his vehicle, which is only parked 10 yards from the third base dugout and start firing.
This brings up the whole issue of the protection issue of senators and congressmen when they're out in the public and specifically dealing with a large group of individuals, like congressmen at a specific location.
BURNETT: Yes, and did just hear of course from Congressman Palmer telling us how ...
BURNETT: ---heroic those officers were. They have not been there. This could have truly been horrific.
James let me ask you though. We do understand, you know, we were talking to someone earlier today, a bartender, he said been in bars around there come in. Didn't look like the kind of person who was living out of a camper but was (INAUDIBLE) and not be very friendly. Had been there for a couple of months. His family, he left his family. to come here. When you put all this together, does it sound like he was planning for this specific target or was it a target of opportunity?
JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FB I SPECIAL AGENT: Sure, Erin. He definitely seems like there was motive. There is modus operandi set up. You can go back in the Facebook posts and whether or not he likes a political cartoon or something, that's one piece of it. The thing that brings this under FBI purview, there's three ways that this could come under FBI purview.
GAGLIANO: First is terrorist act. Terrorist act is anything where there's the employment of violence or intimidation for political aim.
[19:25:08] GAGLIANO: This could count as that. The second is political assassination. And that's a difficult one because you have to get it to the mindset of the person because in the United States we want people to be able to think what they want, post what they want and we don't want to arrest for thoughts. The third, and that was a thing that we initially moved in on was the assault on federal officers, those two incredibly brave Capitol police officers that were shot by the assailant.
BURNETT: So, Art, you know, I just want to play again a clip here of when the shooting happen, someone caught on their cell phone video. And I want to play it and then ask you something about the shot here. Here it is.
Art, you know, Jeff Flake, the senator told CNN that the 50 shorts sort of reported initially he thought were an understatement to what actually happened there today. We know two firearms were recovered from the shooter, SKS rifle, a nine millimeter pistol. I f you had, not had somebody shooting back, right, you have people in that field who then had to run, what could have happened here?
RODERICK: I mean when you look at it in an SKS rifle it has an effective range up to 300 yards very easily and it's a high caliber, high-velocity type weapon, I don't know if he knew this was a soft target or thought it was a soft target. In realty. You had a protection detail here. It's hard to tell what his mindset, would have been nice been able to debrief him at the time and figured out how he picked this particular location, where the congressmen were at. But I'll tell you, it could have been very, very bad if these two Capitol police officers weren't there and you had Alexandra P.D. respond within the three-minute timeframe. But when you look at this individual and you look at his background, you almost have a checklist of, you know, preincident indicators, it's called in the protective services, that this individual check a lot of the boxes --
RODERICK: ---that you look at when you talk about an individual that's going to commit a crime like this.
BURNETT: Checked a lot of the boxes but James, there have got to be a lot of people who check a lot of these boxes. If just posting something saying Republicans are evil or Democrats are evil is a predicate.
BURNETT: Right now with the discourse in this county.
GAGLIANO: Art is probably right. And Art's background is in the Secret Service.
GAGLIANO: If somebody that would look at the Facebook post ago you should have arrested this guy. But it's the same thing as it kind of tears and (INAUDIBLE) FBI and the guardian system. We get something on Omar Matin. Omar Matin is an ISIS sympathizer a year ago who shot at the Orlando Pulse night club. You can't arrest people for thought. Now if somebody makes an overt threat, yes, you can go visit them, you can interview them. And there are statutes in place to make an arrest in that situation. But it's very difficult in the United States to arrest somebody for thought.
BURNETT: All right, thank you both very much.
And next, the breaking news, a major development in the Russia investigation at this hour. Breaking just moments here as we cam to air, President Trump now being investigated personally for possible obstruction of justice. This is according to the Washington Post. And the reporter who wrote this story is next. We're also getting new information on the victims from today's shooting rampage and we will have that for you later this hour.
[19:31:20] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: the president of the United States is now personally under investigation in the Russia probe. This is according to a stunning new report from "The Washington Post" tonight. Their headline: Special counsel investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice.
This is a major turning point in the investigation.
Sari Horwitz is one of the reporters who broke this story and she is with me now.
Thank you so much.
SARI HORWITZ, THE WASHINGTON POST: Sure.
BURNETT: And so, can you go through and is this a major report that you have here. So, let's start with this crucial news that Donald Trump himself, the president of the United States is now under investigation.
HORWITZ: Yes. We heard the FBI director testify before the Hill that the president was not under investigation. He testified that he told the president three times he wasn't under investigation.
But what changed was after the firing of James Comey and Trump said it was because of the Russian investigation, the FBI began to examine, investigate the president for obstruction of justice and now we know that special counsel Mueller is continuing that and expanding that and interviewing senior intelligence officials that also were witnesses to conversations with the president about the Russia probe.
BURNETT: All right. Let's talk -- we go through continuing and expanding. First, continuing. To your knowledge, when did this personal investigation of the president of the United States and the Russia probe begin? Do you know the date or about the date?
HORWITZ: Yes. We're told that the investigation into obstruction of justice begun days after former FBI Director James Comey was fired.
BURNETT: OK. And that was May 9th. So, that would be early to mid May.
BURNETT: The president of the United States is then under personal investigation.
OK. So, now, let's talk about what you just said, is that it has expanded. Expanded to what? Can you explain a little bit more?
HORWITZ: We know that within days, as early as this week, special counsel Mueller is going to be interviewing several key intelligence officials. One is Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence. The other is Mike Rogers, Admiral Mike Rogers, who's head of the National Security Agency, the NSA, and his former deputy Richard Ledgett.
What's important about that is shortly after Coats was confirmed for his position, he was in the White House, he had a conversation with the president. And the president said, can you do something to get FBI Director Comey to back off the investigation of former national security director Flynn. This is something also that Comey talked about in his testimony that the president had expressed to him he wanted him to back off that.
BURNETT: This is obviously going to be a crucial part of the whole question of obstruction of justice. Now, you also report and I want to be clear here, you and your colleagues, including Devlin Barrett, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, are saying five people briefed on these requests, so when people come out and criticize for sourcing, I just want to make sure you have five sources who know what's going on here.
So, let me ask you, because you also report in this article something that I think could be very crucial for those trying to understand what the president of the United States is actually under investigation for tonight. And you say this: the interview suggests Mueller sees the attempted obstruction of justice question as more than just a, quote, he said/he said dispute between the president and the fired FBI director.
So, to be clear, your reporting is that this isn't just an obstruction of justice question about whether the president ask Jim Comey to back off of Flynn, or anything about a loyalty pledge, but this is now bigger than that because of the involvement of Coats, Rogers and Ledgett.
[19:35:01] HORWITZ: Exactly. And besides the conversation I just told you about regarding Coats, we know that President Trump called Dan Coats and Mike Rogers on the phone and ask them both to come out and personally say that there was no evidence of collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election. They did not do that.
But Rogers' former deputy, Richard Ledgett, which is why he's going to be called in, wrote an internal NSA memo which we talked about in our story that laid out -- documented that conversation. BURNETT: OK. So there is a memo there as well. Do you have any
understanding as to the motive for that memo? I mean, obviously, we know Comey's motive was he felt that it was inappropriate, these were major moments and he wanted to memorialize them extremely specifically. Do you have any sense as to why this other memo?
HORWITZ: Well, Ledgett would not talk to us about this, declined to comment. But clearly, he wanted to document a phone call from the president of the United States to the head of the NSA, asking him to say publicly that there was no evidence of collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials during the campaign.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.
And one question quickly before we go, Sari. Are you able to --
BURNETT: We know the president of the United States had asked repeatedly to assure the American people he's not under investigation. You're not reporting that tonight, and as the past few weeks, the president of the United States is under personal investigation. Do you know if he's aware of that or is he also finding out from your report tonight?
HORWITZ: Well, we called the White House and the White House was not aware of it. We called his lawyer. It does not appear that he was aware of it until we got in touch with White House officials and his lawyer.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
And, of course, this is a major turning point, this report from "The Washington Post". John Avlon joins me, our political analyst, editor in chief of "The Daily Beast", Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst, and Jeffrey Toobin, senior legal analyst. David Sanger also here, "New York Times" national security correspondent, and our political and national security analyst.
Gloria, let me start with you. This will be a major turning point. This is a president who was not under personal investigation, that is, until he fired the FBI director and he now is under personal investigation. "The Washington Post" reports.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. You know, it's the first real sign that the question of obstruction is being investigated by the special counsel.
Don't forget. This is an investigation that started out about Russian meddling into the American election process, and now, according to "The Washington Post" reporting, the special counsel Mueller has broadened his investigation as often occurs with these special counsel investigations and has broadened it to look into this question of obstruction and whether the president was involved in that.
So, I do think, Erin, that it is quite significant. BURNETT: John?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, no question it's significant. What I think it does is it codifies the firing of Comey seems to have triggered a broader investigation. The president had not been a target, as Comey informed him, but the firing of Comey seems to have expanded the investigation, first within the FBI and now from the special counsel. And it's also, "The Washington Post" reporting and it's a great team of reporters is knitting together a number of stores that seemed to indicate a pattern of the president, requesting people to back off an ongoing investigation.
As in all things we learned from the wake of Watergate, it's the crime as much as -- the cover-up even more than the crime and this is a significant step to codify the fact that this is ongoing. It also forces the White House's hand with all the drum beats and trial ballooning about firing Mueller more difficult to do that in the wake of this disclosure.
BURNETT: Jeffrey Toobin, what do you make of this? Because, you know, there -- it is clear by the way that this is broadening, not just because the president of the United States is now under investigation himself, according to "The Washington Post", but they are now apparently also clearly looking for evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, right? So, this had broadened under Muller as many had suspected it might.
But I must ask you to explain this clearly, Jeffrey. If there is no underlying crime but they find that he had an effort to obstruct an investigation in and of itself, what are the ramifications of that?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there doesn't have to be an underlying crime for obstruction of justice to take place. That is long established law. And that makes sense.
The people involved in obstruction of justice can't know for certain that a crime took place and there will be a prosecution and a conviction, but -- so, it is not at all required that there be an underlying crime.
However, having listened to Comey's public testimony, this decision by Mueller was a forgone conclusion. I mean, the evidence of obstruction of justice was so significant, I mean, of --
BURNETT: But certainly you saw it that way.
TOOBIN: I --
[19:40:00] BURNETT: You were clear about that.
TOOBIN: Yes. And I'm not saying Trump is guilty of it, but certainly it merits investigation. I mean, here you have someone -- the head of the United States government saying to his subordinate, stop investigating my friend and then when he doesn't stop investigating his friend, he fires that person, he fires Comey. And now, we have this potential evidence, and again, it's potential evidence, of other people in the government.
TOOBIN: Rogers, Coats, Rogers' deputy, who all may have evidence that Trump said, look, let's back off this investigation. That's worth investigating for obstruction of justice.
BURNETT: So, Coats and Rogers when they went before Congress, rights, to testify about this, David, they were asked specifically where the -- whether the president of the United States had asked them to interfere with the FBI, all right? This is Rogers and Coats. And, well, let me play their answers for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I'm not prepared to answer your question today.
ADMIRAL MIKE ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR: I'm not going to discuss the specifics of conversations with the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now with this reporting, David, it becomes much more interesting, their refusal to answer the question.
DAVID SANGER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it does, Erin. It was particularly interesting at the time because if you lined it up with what James Comey said just days before, what did Comey tell you? First, he described his conversation with the president. Then, he said he turned the originals of his notes over to the special counsel, Bob Mueller. And then when asked whether he believed that this constituted obstruction of justice, he said Bob Mueller's going to have to decide that.
So, he pretty well signaled where this was going. And then you saw Mueller begin to hire people who were specialists in obstruction of justice.
So, then you move on to what you showed the clip of. We have the oddity which we all focused in on at the time. He had two officials who were refusing to discuss what they said with the president, but then also admitted that there would be no invocation of executive privilege, just wanted him to leave the room in case he wanted to declare executive privilege later. Well, that's not going to work with Bob Mueller.
SANGER: This is more Jeffrey's territory than mine, but if I understand the law correctly, you can't invoke executive privilege in order to stop a criminal investigation.
BURNETT: So, Jeffrey, is that the case that they will -- and now, we understand again from "The Washington Post" reporting that these interviews with Bob Mueller and these individuals, Mr. Coats, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Ledgett, are going to happen in days, that they are going to have to answer those questions, right?
TOOBIN: Even in office interviews with the FBI or in the grand jury. And, you know, what's quite clear under the law is that they on their own cannot invoke executive privilege. Only the president can invoke it in trying to stop them from testifying.
But what we know from the Supreme Court's decision in United States versus Nixon in 1974 is that they are -- the courts are not going to stop a criminal investigation and are not going to limit the questioning of potential witnesses. So, I think executive privilege, even if the Trump administration invokes is not going to be able to stop it.
BURNETT: And, today, John, we have exclusive video. Mueller actually had a meeting today Senators Burr and Warner, obviously, the chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He is going full bore ahead.
BORGER: And, Erin, I would have to say to you that this is exactly what James Comey had in mind.
BORGER: When he had his friend leak that memo about the president asking him if he could go easy on Flynn, because he knew that it would lead to the Mueller investigation of this question of obstruction. And so, I think this is precisely what Comey wanted because he believed --
BORGER: -- after listening to the president that he was fired because of Russia.
And I also believe Rod Rosenstein gave us a hint in his testimony yesterday when he was asked about this, and he said he expected Mueller to be investigated these kinds of questions and he refused to comment. So, again --
BURNETT: So, what is -- yes?
BORGER: It's not a surprise.
BURNETT: What is the significance, David and John -- David, let me just go to you first on this -- on the fact that the president is finding this out tonight. OK? This is a man who has been obsessed with not being under investigation, right? Part of this is that he kept going to Comey and saying, tell them I'm not under investigation.
So, now that he is under investigation, what is the toll that it will take on him? SANGER: Well, you know, the great irony here, Erin, is that it was
his fear of -- that Comey would eventually put him under investigation that led to the firing of Comey, we believe, or at least his concern about what Comey said in public in the testimony. Now, we've read in the past couple of days that he has also mulled and been advised against trying to fire Mueller.
[19:45:09] If "The Post" reporting is correct, and as we all agreed, all of the testimony we've heard so far would lead you to believe that Mueller has to be investigating this, it's got to raise in the president's mind again whether he should be tempted to go do that. And I'm sure now that he's going to have a lot of people surrounding him saying that wouldn't be a good idea, sir. You can't fire somebody in the midst of an obstruction investigation.
BURNETT: This is something he wanted to do. I mean, he --
AVLON: That's right. I think to David's point, this has the quality of sort of this D.C. Morrow O. Henry (ph) story what the president is trying to avoid is what he provokes with that unwise rush action.
And there are two other factors here, too. You know, the president's own words in the wake of the firing contradicting the cover story that had been pushed by the administration, where he said, well, sure, it was Russia. And then the tapes that came out in the meeting with the Russians all lead one logically to ask the question of -- if you take the president at his word, what role stopping or backing off Russia and the Flynn investigation had to do with firing? It couldn't be divorced at that point.
The second thing in "The Washington Post" investigation I think is the contemporaneous memo from the NSA. That means there are two contemporaneous memos of people feeling the president had put inappropriate pressure. That is close to irrefutable evidence. That is going to be difficult to (INAUDIBLE)
BURNETT: That is another memo, according to "The Washington Post". Obviously, very significant. Another memo not from Jim Comey.
Thank you all and more on the breaking news. President Trump reportedly under investigation as part of the Russia probe. A top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee joins me to talk about this next.
And victims from today's attack on Congress. Some of them still hospitalized tonight. We have the very latest on how they are doing.
[19:50:47] BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Democratic senator from Delaware, Chris Coons, who sits on both the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees.
Senator, I want to get your reaction to this breaking news just crossing now from "The Washington Post". They have five sources briefed on the request, saying that the president of the United States is now under personal investigation by special counsel Bob Mueller for possible obstruction of justice.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, Erin, this is a very stunning development. There were certainly hints and allegations in the previous testimony before Senate committees by fired FBI Director Comey, by acting attorney general for this matter, Rosenstein, that there might be some reason for there to be a broader investigation.
But this report in the "Washington Post" this evening suggests strongly, given five different sources, that the scope of the investigation has changed, since the firing of the FBI director, and is now targeted directly at the president and his actions which may amount to obstruction of justice.
BURNETT: And does this make you more likely as a member of the Judiciary Committee to think that obstruction of justice was committed when you put all this together or do you still think that there's -- it's too early to draw a conclusion?
COONS: I think it's too early to draw a conclusion. There's certainly lots of smoke here. There had been lots of concerning and even alarming stories from FBI Director Comey about what led up to his private meeting with the president, where he urged him to drop the investigation into former national security advisor, the meeting where he asked for his personal loyalty. I'm very glad that Bob Mueller is a special counsel. And I'm glad that yesterday, we heard directly from Rob Rosenstein that he will continue to have the resources and the independence he needs to pursue this investigation to its conclusion.
BURNETT: So, in this "Washington Post" report, they say, right, it wasn't just Comey who was asked to stop the investigation into General Michael Flynn. They talked about the time that the president talked to both the Director of National Intelligence and the head of the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers.
So, let me ask you this, because when the president called Mr. Rogers and asked him to issue a public statement saying, look, there's no evidence of any sort of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian government, Rogers and Coats, he also got a phone call, they refused to do so. Now, then, Rogers' deputy, Mr. Ledgett, went back and wrote a memo, because he thought this was important. He wrote a memo. He wanted to document it.
That obviously makes us think of Jim Comey and how he wrote a memo. But I want to ask you this, because the NSA director, Mike Rogers, testified last week on Capitol Hill, Senator, and he was asked directly, did you ever feel pressure to act improperly? Which would, of course, appear to fit right with this phone call, right? He did answer this question, and here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ADM. MIKE ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR: In the three plus years that I have been director of the National Security Agency, to the best of my recollection I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate. And to the best of my recollection, during that same period of service, I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, I mean, he's saying, I mean, obviously, somebody felt something because there was a memo, right? And he was asked to deny the existence of any evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. That's what he was asked to do, and he refused to do it. Do you think that he perceived that that request was not illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate?
COONS: Well, Erin, that's one possible way to square his answer in front of the committee, with that understanding of his conversation. This is why I'm glad there is a highly competent independent special counsel who's going to be able to take sworn testimony about this matter, because there seems to be such a real gap between what we understand to have been the conversations between the president, the director of intelligence and the head of the NSA, and the answers that they gave in front of a committee in testimony.
This is a very difficult, very important matter and I'm really glad we've got the opportunity now to get to the bottom of it promptly.
BURNETT: This is obviously a stunning development. The president does not seem to be in any way aware that he is under personal investigation until this story broke, and it's something we all know he is going to care deeply about. His spokesman, a spokesman for his private attorney, Mark Kasowitz, right, who's handling all things Russia for the president, said in response to "The Washington Post" report and I quote, The FBI leak regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.
[19:55:13] Does he -- does he have a point? Is he right? Should we know this from leaks?
COONS: It's not clear that this leak is from the FBI, I'll just point that out. But it is important that we continue --
BURNETT: Fair. But it's from someone?
COONS: -- respect that classified information, that information about this ongoing conduct of this investigation shouldn't be leaked.
I trust Bob Mueller, I trust the special counsel and I think it's important that all of us oppose illegal or unethical leaking and instead say we should wait for this investigation to reach it's appropriate conclusion.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Coons, I thank you very much for being with me tonight. And next, more breaking news. A gunman attacking members of Congress.
We have the very latest on those who were injured in the horrific attack.
BURNETT: And back to our breaking news tonight, a gunman going into a shooting rampage during an attack on Congress. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise remains in critical condition. We are learning more about others injured in that gunman's assault at a baseball field early this morning.
Matt Mica is a lobbyist who was practicing with the team. He was shot in the chest and is in critical condition. His family says he's thoughtful and fun loving and loyal, and one of our guests tonight was talking about what an incredible man he is.
Zack Barth is on Congressman Roger Williams' staff. He was shot in the leg. He, thank goodness, has been released from the hospital.
And Crystal Griner is one of the heroic Capitol police officers who prevented further tragedy. She was shot in the ankle, but is doing well tonight. And David Bailey was her colleague who also rushed into the fire, treated for a minor injury. Congressman Williams says they are, quote, what's right with America and showed courage in the face of death. All can agree to that.
And that charity baseball game which is scheduled for tomorrow will go on.
And it is time now for Anderson.