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Steve Wynn Is Out As Finance Chairman Of The Republican National Committee, New Questions About Whether President Trump Will Focus His Anger At White House Counsel Don Mcgahn, Republican Theories About A So-Called Secret Society At The FBI Crumble, Larry Nassar, The Former USA Gymnastics Doctor Just Sentenced For Abusing Female Athletes, Grammys Take Center Stage. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 27, 2018 - 16:00   ET



[16:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We have breaking news on CNN. A second shoe falls for a real estate billionaire who is also a quote "close political ally of President Trump." I'm talking about Steve Wynn, the powerful Las Vegas casino and hotel boss.

First, sexual misconduct allegations. Dozens of his employees talked to the "Wall Street Journal," some describing how he pressured women who worked for him to perform sexual acts. And now just short time ago, confirmation that Steve Wynn is out as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. He resigned.

Our White House correspondent is Boris Sanchez joining us from Washington.

Boris, Steve Wynn is a man the President has called a great friend. Has there been any reaction from the White House?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet officially, Ana. CNN has reached out to the White House press team multiple times but we have yet to hear back.

On background, a White House official did tell my colleague Jeff Zeleny that the President backed Wynn's resignation, in part to minimize political damage, not only to the party but also to the White House or the President, supporting Steve Wynn resigning over sexual assault allegations.

Interestingly, it was curious to see how the White House would respond to this given their inconsistent record on sexual assault allegations in the past. As you know, they attacked Al Franken, but then backed Roy Moore, two men that have been accused of sexual misconduct in the past.

Now the President was actually set to see Steve Wynn at a fund-raiser in Mar-a-Lago last week. The President couldn't make it because of the government shutdown, but Wynn gave a speech in which he praised the President multiple times and defended his agenda. Listen to this.


STEVE WYNN, LAS VEGAS MOGUL: But then all of a sudden, once again, in American history, an unlikely person became President. Perhaps the most unlikely of all since Abe Lincoln. Don John Trump became the 45th President of the United States to the Chagrin, to the hysterical Chagrin of the other side. He was their worst nightmare.


SANCHEZ: The President was actually included in a video presentation at that event where he thanked Steve Wynn. Again, no official response from the White House yet and nothing from the President on twitter either, Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Boris Sanchez at the White House, thanks for that update.

Let's talk it over. With us now, politics reporter for "the Guardians," Sabrina Siddiqui. CNN reporter Kara Scannell, and former U.S. attorney Michael Moore.

So Sabrina, in the wake of Roy Moore and that scandal and even the ongoing sexual misconduct accusations against the President himself, what do you make of the RNC response here?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICS REPORTER, THE GUARDIANS: Well, I think it was notable that the statement from the RNC made no mention of the sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn, nor did it address whether or not they would return the donations that he has made to the committee. He has also donated, of course, to a number of Republican candidates, and they have been largely silent.

You will recall that the RNC and Republicans more broadly went really hard after Democrats in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, really pressuring Democrats to give back their donations. And you had several Democrats give some of that money towards women's advocacy groups recognizing that there is a question of hypocrisy. Both parties, of course, in this Me Too moment of reckoning have had to address sexual misconduct allegations among their own.

But for Republicans, I think the prevailing issue is what you mentioned just now, that they also backed Roy Moore, even after sexual misconduct allegations against him, and they have refused to really acknowledge the sexual misconduct allegations against the President which have been made by as many as 17 women.

CABRERA: And Sabrina, let's remember, too, there are a couple members of Congress, Republicans, including Patrick Meehan, this week, who has announced he will not seek re-election, as he faces allegations and the revelation that he paid a settlement to one of his former staffers who accused him of sexual misconduct. We also have, of course, Blake Farenthold, who continues to serve, also not running for re-election, who also paid a settlement. But remember John Conyers and Al Franken, they were forced out. Is

there any pressure right now that you know of on Capitol Hill by their own party for them to resign?

SIDDIQUI: There doesn't appear to be. In fact, when House speaker Paul Ryan has been asked why he doesn't believe that Blake Farenthold shouldn't resign immediately. He says that he thinks it's appropriate that he won't run for re-election.

And I think for Democrats, the reason that they really felt compelled to push out Al Franken and John Conyers is because they wanted to be able to reclaim the moral high ground. They have certainly positioned themselves as a party that advocates on behalf of women that believes women and stands up for them. And given, of course, the focus that they have placed on the misconduct allegations against Trump and as well as those we saw against Moore, I think they really felt that they needed to take a very clear stand.

And Republicans, I think, alt this moment, they still have been struggling with how to grapple with some of these allegations. Probably in part because the tone is set from the top. And I think that has made it a difficult issue for them to navigate.

[16:05:16] CABRERA: OK. I want to turn to another pressing issue. New reporting this week, the new efforts to protect both the special counsel and his ongoing investigation in the wake of reports the President tried to have him fired. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill this weekend, they are working to make sure President Trump cannot and will not fire Robert Mueller.

Kara, you are learning more here for us at CNN. What have you discovered about Trump wanting to fire Mueller last summer?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, we know that last summer in June, President Trump had made a directive to Don McGahn, the White House counsel, saying that he wanted Robert Mueller out. And one of the issues that he was concerned about several things he perceived as conflicts of interest. Some of them included but anything from dispute over a fee of a Trump country club that Robert Mueller was a member of when he was FBI director to Trump's perception that Robert Mueller was close friends with former FBI director James Comey where they are really more professional acquaintances.

So it was this perception by the President that there was an inherent conflict and a bias, and he wanted Don McGahn to eliminate Robert Mueller. McGahn told others in the White House would he resign if he has to. We know that he packed up some boxes and he really seemed to be serious about the threat, even if he has expressed his frustration in other ways before. And now we understand that the President is also very frustrated with deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein because he is overseeing the special counsel's investigation and we are coming up to a moment where the President is going to have to make a decision of whether he sits down with the special counsel or is able to work out a deal or not. So that's where we are heading now, and that only heightens these tensions. CABRERA: And as we are talking, we are getting note. Notice that the

Democrats are now coming up with a strategy to perhaps tie some kind of legislation that would make sure Mueller is protected into some budget deal, as we know they are now facing this new February 8th deadline for the debt ceiling.

Michael Moore, do you think it's come to that? That this is even necessary? That Mueller could still potentially be fired or would that be completely devastating to the President himself?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: Well, let me say yes to both of them. Yes, I think that it would be devastating to the President himself. And yes, I think he's going to have to try to fire Bob Mueller because I think Mueller already has the information on him, probably, to move forward with the investigation.

You know, you are seeing all these things happen at one time. We have the Republicans with the chairman Nunes wanting to talk about the memo that is out there and releasing this thing. We got him attacking the FBI, which is sort of standard playbook that you see when you are under scrutiny of government investigation. You start attacking the investigators. And then we have got the President over here in his White House counsel talking about whether or not he ought to be fired and the President upset with Rod Rosenstein.

You have this confluence of things happening at one time. And my guess is that's because they are starting to feel the noose tighten around the administration and the people higher up in the administration.

The investigation really is in three parts. But it's really one. And I think what's happening is we are talking about obstruction. We are talking about collusion. At the end of the day, and this is what I think Bob Mueller is going to come back with. We ought to be looking ahead. And he is probably looking at the money and following the money.

There's a reason that Trump didn't want to give his tax returns. There is a reason that Eric Trump said that all the money for the golf course was coming from the Russians during the time that no banks were lending money on those things.

All that stuff is out there. And my guess is that Bob Mueller already has a pretty good grasp of where he's at. I think the President's likely to find himself either in a federal grand jury under subpoena or he is libel to find himself talking in a free interview with the Mueller investigative team. I just don't think that Bob Mueller is going to have a big appetite for letting the President and his counsel dictate the terms on which he might appear to give a statement.

And you know, this is classic federal prosecutor style. I have said that all along, that Bob Mueller is sort of the classic prosecutorial tactician. And that is that he is going to bring his man in. He is going to look him in the eye. He is going to be able to tell when he is lying to him. And Trump is going to be his own worst enemy if he gets in there for an interview, either with the agent or in front of a grand jury.

CABRERA: So, I want you all to listen to what the President has said about the Mueller investigation. Just this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking forward to it, actually.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a date set?

TRUMP: Here's the story, just so you understand. There has been no collusion whatsoever. There's no obstruction whatsoever. And I'm looking forward to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath?

TRUMP: I would do it under oath, absolutely.


CABRERA: Sabrina, Trump is anything but predictable. We know. How are his attorneys preparing him for the possibility of coming face-to- face with Mueller?

[16:10:05] SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that the President has constantly had this caveat where he says, yes, I would be happy to talk to special counsel, but I have to consult with my own legal team. And my understanding from sources I have spoken with who are close to the President's lawyers is they want to try and limit his exposure to the special counsel as much as they can. And so they recognize that they are likely to avoid altogether the President sitting down with Robert Mueller and his team. They are hoping they can give as many responses in written format as they can.

There is also the possibility that the President pleads the fifth, but that could be politically incriminating for him because it gives off the perception that he has something to hide. I think that's why you actually see this parallel campaign by Republicans, a handful of them on Capitol Hill and allies of this President, to try to discredit this investigation because regardless of whether or not he sits down with the special counsel, they want to at least color the public's perception of this inquiry so that in the court of public opinion, they can try to absolve this President of any wrongdoing. But I certainly think that they are still discussing the parameters of the interview. And they recognize this President is unpredictable. And frankly, inconsistent when it comes to his version of events with this entire investigation.

So I think that they don't want him to be sitting down for hours with the special counsel and his team if they can avoid that. CABRERA: Kara, CNN's new reporting is about how frustrated Donald

Trump is with deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. And that he apparently is now in the crosshairs. What have you learned about their relationship?

SCANNELL: Well, they have always had a more of a distant relationship because Rod Rosenstein is a career prosecutor. He is not someone who is very political. He was not unlike attorney general Jeff Sessions a surrogate for Trump during the campaign. And when Rosenstein was on Capitol Hill and asked should Robert Mueller be fired, he said no, he saw no reason for it.

So, you know, as this investigation was written, as the question comes to whether Trump will meet with the special counsel and under what conditions he could, I think that only is inflaming the President to field those frustrations, and we're hearing take them out in a sense on Rosenstein.

CABRERA: Really quickly, if you will, Michael Moore, any chance of the President doesn't have an interview with Mueller face-to-face if Mueller wants to go there?

MOORE: I think it will either be in person or he will find himself being questioned in a grand jury. So I think that, you know, Mueller will want to have an interview with him face-to-face. That's the kind of thing prosecutors live for. That is to get the adversary or the suspect or target on the other side of the table and have a shot at him to see where they are at. So I think Trump is going to find himself there.

Let me say this. Rod Rosenstein is a good guy. I served with him in committees. I served with him in the U.S. attorney community. I think if Trump is waiting on him to do his bidding, he is wiping on the wrong man because I bet Rod is probably got too much principle to be bullied in to taking some action just because of White House want him to do.

CABRERA: Michael Moore, Kara Scannell, and Sabrina Siddiqui, thank you all.

Coming up, he is the man who reportedly told the President, don't fire Robert Mueller, but who is White House counsel Don McGahn? And why is he at the center of so many controversies?

And later, what we are learning about how first lady Melania Trump spent her week amid salacious headlines about her husband and a porn star.

Plus, the secret society theory debunked. Why Republican efforts to undermine the Mueller investigation may be in part based on a text message made in jest.


[16:17:41] CABRERA: There are new questions about whether President Trump will focus his anger at White House counsel Don McGahn. Those questions sparked by the explosive news that this week, McGahn apparently had threatened to quit previously after the President ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last June.

Tom Foreman has more.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some are hailing White House counsel Don McGahn as a hero in the wake of the report he stood up to President Trump and beat down an attempt to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. The man leading the investigation Trump finds so infuriating.

TRUMP: Russia is fake news. Russia, this is fake news put out by the media.

FOREMAN: Others, however, are not so sure. The former director of the office of government ethics tweeting, I bet McGahn's objection was not that firing Mueller was wrong but that it was dangerous. Also, this is not the first leak to paint McGahn in a good light at Trump's expense. If I were Trump, I would wonder about McGahn.

But if the President has doubts about his top legal gun, they are not showing.

DON MCGAHN, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: There's a reason why President Trump appointed -- asked me to be his lawyer.

FOREMAN: A longtime lawyer for Republican interests and a Trump ally for several years, McGahn has been by his side throughout the Russia probe. At times, to the consternation of investigators.

When the department of justice first raised red flags that security adviser Michael Flynn was lying to White House officials about his Russia contacts --

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: One of the questions that Mr. McGahn asked me was essentially, why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another White House official.

FOREMAN: When the President fired FBI director James Comey, McGahn reportedly pushed Trump to make sure he cited concerns about Comey's competence backed up by other government officials.

TRUMP: He is a showboat. He is a grandstander.

FOREMAN: An attempt, perhaps, to make it appear the dismissal was not purely about the FBI's Russia probe, which Comey led.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The Russians interfered in our election.

FOREMAN: And when the President wanted attorney general Jeff Sessions to hold the reins of the Russia investigation and not recuse himself -- TRUMP: Which frankly, I think is very unfair to the President.

FOREMAN: Whom did he reportedly send to change Sessions' mind? He failed, but "The New York Times" says again, it was Don McGahn.

Important to note in all of this, McGahn and several members of his legal team have reportedly been questioned as part of the Russia probe.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


[16:20:16] CABRERA: Joining us now is the former director of the office of government ethics, Walter Schaub. He stepped down last July after clashing with the Trump White House over ethics concerns.

So Walter, we just saw your tweet where you wrote that if you were Trump, you would wonder about McGahn. So sounds like you don't think McGahn is so innocent?

WALTER SCHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF THE GOVERNMENT ETHICS: Well, I'll tell you one thing about Don McGahn. He is a smart man. He is not a dumb person. And he is an experienced attorney. And there isn't a single experience not dumb attorney in Washington who would think it was a good idea to fire Mueller.

So Don McGahn did what any attorney in Washington would have done, which is not carry out the order. Now, there are some portraying it as a rather big showdown between the two. But from what I read in both "the Washington Post" and "The New York Times" and on CNN, it sounds like the sources are saying that the instruction was delivered to Don McGahn second hand to go fire Mueller. And McGahn responded second hand that let's just not follow it and maybe the President will back off.

So I don't know that there's been any kind of big showdown. Maybe if McGahn wants to talk publicly, he can tell us whether that's the case. But he certainly is not insane and he's not dumb. And so he is not going to do a thing like fire Mueller.

But let's remember that this is the same Don McGahn who pressured Jeff Sessions to essentially break the law. I shouldn't say essentially. To break the law, to break a criminal law. Do not recuse from a matter in which you have a conflict of interest. And he is the one who told Sally Yates, what do you care if Flynn is lying to us? And he helped rewrite the Comey letter so that it would pass muster when Comey was fired. And he reportedly checked out whether DOJ was issuing FISA warrants on the Trump campaign.

And so this is not a guy who has shown any particular love of the rule of law or concern about right and wrong. This is just a guy doing what any attorney would do, which is not commit suicide, you know, career suicide by firing Mueller and potentially risk going to jail if it's found that it's obstruction of justice. CABRERA: The stuff you just laid out, that implicated Don McGahn in

some way, in a negative light, just to clarify, do you think McGahn may have leaked this to "The New York Times" to make himself look good?

SCHAUB: Well, listen, I wouldn't want to make that an accusation like I have any factual knowledge. But I made the observation that this is not the first favorable leak about McGahn that paints him in a good light and Trump in a bad light. And somebody's doing that. And there is one person who would benefit from that.

Now, maybe it's him. Maybe it's somebody who cares about him. And maybe that person who cares about him did it with or without his knowledge or at his quest or not his request. We can't know because Don McGahn isn't talking. But I will tell you if I was Donald Trump, I would be awfully nervous about Don McGahn right now, not following your order and a lot of stories coming out that paint me as Donald Trump in a bad light and Don McGahn in a good light.

CABRERA: So I want to ask you about some conflicts of interest that the President apparently had presented to McGahn for his reasoning to why Mueller could be dismissed.

Three things. Mueller was involved in a disagreement, apparently, over fees at a Trump golf club. Mueller's previous work for a law firm that represented Jared Kushner, and because Trump has interviewed Mueller for the FBI director job after Comey was fired where the reasons President Trump thought perhaps this wouldn't be such a bad idea to fire Mueller. Are those valid concerns of conflict of interest?

SCHAUB: No, they are comedically bad reasons. I mean, if you are looking for a cover story, you really could do a better job than that. The idea that he can't conduct the investigation that he would have been authorized to conduct if he were the FBI director and he applied for the FBI director job.

I mean, if he got as far as being one of the only four candidates interviewed for the FBI job, then certainly, Trump didn't think he had any problems with him. And that certainly negates the idea about a dispute over a greens fee. Or the idea that he worked for one of the larger law firms in the world that happened to have had a client who is interested are aligned with the President. So I don't even know how you make the case that that's a conflict of interest.

That's really kind of a silly and flimsy rather transparently bad excuse. But what it does show, because it is so bad, is potential consciousness of guilt that he knows that he is trying to fire Mueller because of the Russia investigation, which is what he told us was the reason for firing Comey. It certainly suggests that the differences, we now also know that he knows that's wrong because of the blowback from the Comey firing. And that really increases the one more puzzle piece that Mueller can look at as circumstantial evidence because ultimately, an obstruction of justice charge comes down to motivation or intent. And every one of these pieces suggest the President has a particular intent, which is to shut down the Russia investigation. [16:25:31] CABRERA: Walter Schaub, thank you very much.

SCHAUB: Thanks.

CABRERA: All right, a horrific story now overseas. A suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed nearly 100 people today by driving a car bomb into a crowd of people in the capital Kabul. Police say the bomb was an ambulance filled with explosives. Ninety-five people are now confirmed dead. More than 150 others are wounded.

The head of the U.S. central command General Joseph Vital (ph) was at Kabul there at the time in the city, about two miles away, when this bomb went off. Nobody from the detail was hurt. The Taliban is claiming responsibility now for this explosion.

Coming up, conspiracy run amuck. Republican theories about a so- called secret society at the FBI crumble. And at the center of it all, a text message that was apparently just a joke.


[16:30:45] CABRERA: It was the conspiracy theory that sparked days of outrage and then crumbled in the bright light of facts. A conspiracy theory created and promoted not by some fringe site or some fringed group but by prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill. Attacking the integrity and the incredibility of our nation's top investigators.

At issue, two words used in a single text message exchanged between FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok after President Trump won the election. Those words, secret society. That text caught the eye of Republicans who without any context ran before the cameras to express their concern and condemnation.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There's a text exchange between these two FBI agents, these two supposed to be objective fact centric FBI agents saying perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society. So of course, I'm going to want to know what secret society are you talking about.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The text messages between Strzok and Page, which you just mentioned in the intro to this segment are very damning. It's not Republicans who created the theory of a secret society. That was Lisa Page's text message to her boyfriend, Peter Strzok.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: What this is all about is further evidence of corruption, more than bias, but corruption at the highest levels of the FBI. That secret society, we have an informant talking about a group that were holding secret meetings off site.


CABRERA: Here is the actual text. Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of

depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society.

And now what we have learned is to the back story there. That text message was actually about a gag gift of a Putin themed calendar that one of the agents had purchased for those working on the Russia investigation. And in that context, it's very possible the secret society was simply a reference of some kind of a joke.

Joining us now, CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI supervisory special agent, James Gagliano.

So James, again, it comes back to the FBI's credibility. So this is having to have some kind of an impact. I think I called it incredibility earlier. We know a lot of these investigators are incredibly hard workers. And so this probably is a punch in the gut to them. What are you hearing? Are they wanting an apology from some of these Republicans?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Ana, I wrote a piece for "the Hill" and I talked about the secret society piece of this. And generally speaking, Senator Johnson and Representative Gowdy, I mean, they are solid individuals and they have some legitimate concerns.

This was a clear overplaying of their hand. Now, I always caution folks. I became an FBI agent in 1991. We didn't have text messages. But throughout my career when cell phones and personal electronic devices became more common, that became part of investigations. So not only using title (INAUDIBLE) would you listen in on telephone calls, you would also get the text messages.

And I learned very early on, you have to be careful directive context to your point to take something out that fits your narrative. We think that guy is guilty, there, that's it. You have to have things to corroborate it. And in this instance, they have plenty of things to be deeply unsettled about, but to use that secret society, as an FBI supervisor, I met with law enforcement officers in my region. I met with fellow FBI agents off site over coffee, if it was after hours, over an adult beverage, and we talked about things off site.

So the reference here that, you know, they met outside of, you know, FBI headquarters, meaning that there was something nefarious --

CABRERA: That's not a red flag to you.

GAGLIANO: That's not a red flag.

CABRERA: Let me ask you more about the op-ed for "the Hill" because in it you say when something seems suspicious, incompetence is usually a better explanation than conspiracy. What did you mean by that?

GAGLIANO: I stole the line from Peter Bergen. It's perfect. I think what we always want to do is want -- if something is amiss, we automatically want to say, it's got to be a conspiracy. And it's the same way with secrets. Secrets work if there's two people and one of them is dead. They never hold together. It's why I'm not a conspiracy theorist.

But in this instance, it was incompetency. Were there some folks in the upper echelons of FBI headquarters that did some things that were unseemly, improper, inappropriate, and deserve scrutiny? Absolutely. Is that indicative of the 36,000 employees of the FBI, the rank and file, the 12,000 agents who toil daily to keep us safe? Is that indicative of the fix being in? No.

[16:35:07] CABRERA: Let me ask you about some other text messages we are just hearing about, learning about, that were released. They are fueling these claims about ant anti-Trump bias. And this is actually having to do with Hillary Clinton.

On February 25th, 2016, Lisa Page wrote this. She might be our next President, the last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear. You think she's going to remember or care that it was more DOJ than FBI? To which Peter Strzok replied, agreed. Does anything about that trouble you?

GAGLIANO: Again, looking at these text messages in a vacuum without -- we don't have the ability to look at all the ones that have now been released that the office of the inspector general at the DOJ is taking a look at. And I have called and said there should be independent eyes looking at it.

Should it be a special prosecutor? I think we have special prosecutor exhaustion right now. So I trust the OIG. But there were a number of these messages that were redacted. And some of them that were withheld because there were personal informations back and forth that had nothing to do with the Clinton case, nothing to do with the Russian collusion case, and those two should be withheld.

So it's difficult to divine out of this and say that line means this. Are there troubling things, are there threads that can be drawn between the insurance policy and what we talked about in Andy's office and this is horrific and this is a grave risk. We have to go to, you know, our plan, whatever that is.

CABRERA: And clearly through the text messages we see at least these two FBI officials were not happy President Trump won the election, but what I'm hearing you say, correct me if I'm wrong, is that some scrutiny is deserved, but we shouldn't draw any conclusions at this point.

GAGLIANO: You said it perfectly. And then you add to this piece the fact there were a number of notations they made to go to other devices, meaning to go to their personal devices. You should never as an FBI agent ever discuss parts of a case on a device because when you do that, they are subject to discovery. You have to give that over to the defense.

They knew this. They also knew that injecting their personal animus toward Trump would be big deal. That's when they decided to go off line. That's the tough part. There were other discussions. You put them in with this. And you go, it deserves scrutiny.

CABRERA: We will continue to find out what the IG reveals in their investigation.

Thank you so much. Good to see you.

GAGLIANO: Thanks for having me, Ana.

CABRERA: Coming up, time's up for USA gymnastics. Its board of directors being forced to resign after a former team doctor is sentenced for preying on dozens of young female athletes.


[16:41:36] CABRERA: The notoriously private first lady Melania Trump back at the White House today. Her office firing back hard after her last-minute decision to skip the President's high-profile overseas trip. The first lady's spokesman tweeting, the laundry list of salacious and flat out false reporting about Mrs. Trump by tabloid publications and TV shows has seeped into mainstream media reporting. She is focused on her family and rule as first lady. Not the unrealistic scenarios being peddled daily by the fake news.

So while the President was in Davos, Switzerland, Melania visited the holocaust museum in Washington Thursday alone and unaccompanied by the media. And then she hopped on a plane for a quick trip to Florida.

So what is going on here? Let's talk about it with CNN White House reporter, Kate Bennett.

Kate, this come, of course, amid allegations that Donald Trump had a fling with a porn star, Stormy Daniels. Months after Melania gave birth to their son, Barron. Allegations that Trump denied long ago.

So what is going on here? Canceling Davos, surprise trip to Florida. Is this just typical Melania behavior?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: So, it's two parts, right. This is a very private first lady, as you said, perhaps the most mysterious and hard to know first lady of the modern history, really. So we have to take these things as we see them, as nonverbal cues.

She was going to go to Davos. She was going to go and support her husband there. And then she abruptly canceled before citing scheduling and logistical issues. Then she popped up on this solo trip to the holocaust museum and all of a sudden down to Florida overnight.

So I understand her spokesperson Stephanie Grisham getting upset and being angry that people are sort of talking gossip, but you can't really have it both ways, right. You can't have a first lady that sort of isn't saying what she is doing or sharing her schedule with the press during these controversial headlines and canceling trips, et cetera, and then also expect that people aren't going to, you know, try to guess or, you know, tabloids aren't going to get engaged with this, and stories aren't going to rise to the surface. We also, Ana, have to remember that this, on the anniversary of the

inauguration last weekend, she tweeted that picture of herself with a military escort. And it wasn't her husband. There was no mention of the President in that tweet. And you know, these are things, and then there was no mention of the couple's anniversary which was last Monday.

So you know, again, people are going to read in and fill in that vacuum of no information. And it might create a story line that they might not enjoy.

CABRERA: Of course, we have to remember, Melania has endured a lot. Nineteen women accusing her husband of sexual harassment, Michael Wolff's book. Hinting at a possible affair between the President and Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations. Here's what Haley had to say about this.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: It is absolutely not true. It is highly offensive. And it's disgusting. This isn't something that's just happened as a cabinet member. I saw this as a legislature. I saw this when I was governor. I see it now. People see lies for what it is. Do I like it? No. Is it right? No. Is it going to slow me down? Not at all. Any time this has happened, it only makes me fight harder. It only makes me work harder. And I do it for the sake of other women that are behind me.


CABRERA: Kate, is it really so surprising given all of this that Melania might want to dodge the spotlight right now? Is this what she has learned to do?

[16:45:06] BENNETT: I don't know if this is what she's learned to do. The one thing we do know about this first lady is that she continues on with doing whatever it is she wants to do without really worrying or quite frankly caring what the rest of the public or media or other people might be saying about her. She continues to have an agenda of helping children. She is not one of those people who sort of paints on a fake smile and goes forward and makes a statement, like I support my husband. It's just not her. And this is what we have learned.

I think it's interesting that you can almost apply Nikki Haley's statement that she just made about her own, you know, run-in with gossip, right, this week, with what Melania Trump might possibly say herself, if she was asked. This is certainly a time that the first lady is keeping her head down to a certain extent and moving forward. But I don't think that's any different than how she's behaved in the face of her husband's fairly controversial first year.

CABRERA: Kate Bennett, thank you so much.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:50:28] CABRERA: The Michigan attorney general has now opened an investigation into who knew what when in the case of Larry Nassar, the former USA gymnastics doctor just sentenced for abusing female athletes.

Now Michigan's attorney general says he will investigate every corner of MSU, from the President's office down. Already, Michigan State University's athletic director resigned, as did its President. And the entire board of USA gymnastics will also be stepping down over the scandal.

CNN correspondent Jean Casarez was at the Michigan attorney general's news conference this afternoon.

Jean, what is the A.G. looking for?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are looking for facts. They are looking for evidence. And I think the pivotal question is, how could Larry Nassar have been able to assault young women on this campus affiliated with MSU for two decades? And some of the people you just mentioned that stepped down this week, and it was fast and furious, they are going to be very important people that this attorney general's office is going to want to interview and talk with.

Now, we did learn this is the first time that they officially said that they have been investigating Michigan State University. But they didn't want to announce it publicly until all of the young women were able to give their statements in court. But we also know they are bringing someone in from the outside. An independent special prosecutor, his name is Bill Forscythe. He has been a prosecutor for decades, and he was the county prosecutor in Kent, Michigan.

In other news, the attorney general for Michigan had a response to the Michigan State University board of trustees. You see last week, they said, you know what. We think you attorney general's office, should launch an independent investigation on our university.

Listen to the attorney general give them a response to that statement.


BILL SCHUETTE, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me also add this. I don't need advice from the board of trustees at MSU about how to conduct an investigation. Frankly, they should be the last ones to be providing advice given their conduct throughout this entire episode. Their conduct throughout this entire episode speaks for itself.


CASAREZ: And the attorney general took no questions today. Almost absolutely beginning to walk out the door, saying we have got work to do -- Ana.

CABRERA: Jean Casarez there for us in East Lansing, Michigan. Thank you.

Coming up, behind the music. How the Me Too movement will take center stage at this year's Grammy awards.


[16:57:32] CABRERA: Tomorrow night, the Grammys take center stage honoring not just the best in music, but also the spirit of the Me Too movement that has swept the entertainment industry.

CNN's Chloe Melas has a preview.


CHLOE MELAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York, the city Jay-Z famously paid homage to, now hosting the Grammys for the first time in 15 years. So it's fitting the rapper also happens to lead the pack in Grammy nominations.

He's up for eight, including album of the year.

Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars come in second and third as the most nominated artists. Both are slated to perform at the show, which will be hosted again by late night's James Corden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get on with the show.

MELAS: But music's biggest night comes at a complicated moment for the entertainment industry. A sexual harassment reckoning that spawned the Me Too movement has dominated awards shows. Expect to see white roses on the Grammy red carpet and message of female empowerment.

SHANON COOK, SPOTIFY TRENDS EXPERT: There's some very strong self- aware female musicians who are going to be taking the Grammy stage. You have Kesha, you have Lady Gaga, you have Pink, Lorde, Miley Cyrus. I think we are going to see some really strong, wonderful moments.

MELAS: Musicians tend to be a more unbuttoned, unpredictable crowd, but here at Madison Square garden, there's a sense anything can happen on Grammy night. And that probably includes some jabs at President Trump.

COOK: Historically, the Grammys hasn't been as politically charged as other awards shows. But given that we're just a little over a year past the election and the mood in this country is very fired up and still very divided, I would be very surprised if no artist spoke about politics at all at the Grammys this year.

MELAS: The topic of race may also come up, especially in light of President Trump's controversial comments about African countries. Either way, the Grammys are already sending a strong message of diversity.

This year, the seven most nominated artists are all people of color. And Despacito, the Latin cross over sensation could make history. It could become the first Spanish language song ever to win song of the year.

Chloe Melas, CNN, New York.


[18:00:01] CABRERA: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Our breaking news tonight, a sexual misconduct scandal in Las Vegas sending shockwaves into the top level of the Republican party. A billionaire friend of the President who is at the center of it all, Steve Wynn.