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Interview With California Congressman John Garamendi; Russia Probe Targets Trump Son-in-Law; Another Former Trump Adviser Flips; Students Protest for Gun Control; School Killer in Court: CNN Learns He Obtained At Least 10 Rifles. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 19, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Kushner under scrutiny.

CNN has learned that the special counsel is expanding his investigation to look at the foreign business dealings of the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, going beyond Jared Kushner's Russia contacts. Stand by for our exclusive report.

All tweet, no action. President Trump is on the attack once again tonight, blasting President Obama's response to the Russia election meddling, while refusing to blame Vladimir Putin. We are tracking Mr. Trump's ongoing rant about new Russia indictments.

Kremlin denials. Russia is helping the president feed his false narrative, dismissing the Mueller investigation as much ado about nothing. CNN is live in Moscow with new reaction from the Putin government.

And warnings and anger. The Florida school shooter appears in court, as we're learning more about his arsenal of deadly weapons and warning signs that were missed. The family who took him in is now telling CNN what they knew.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the Russia investigation and the special counsel's growing interest in one of the most prominent members of the Trump administration, the president's son-in- law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Robert Mueller casting an every widening net just days after his bombshell indictment of 13 Russians for election meddling. I will get reaction from Democratic Congressman John Garamendi, a member of the Armed Services Committee, and our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by.

First, let's go to members on the team behind CNN's exclusive new reporting on the Russia probe.

Shimon Prokupecz and Kara Scannell are joining us.

Shimon, first to you.

What's at the center of what Mueller is now investigating?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, CNN has learned the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is now asking questions about Jared Kushner's personal business dealings during the presidential transition.

We're told by people who are familiar with the investigation that Mueller's lawyers are asking about discussions Kushner had with potential Chinese and Qatari investors. This is the first indication that Mueller wants to know about contacts the president son-in-law with foreigners outside of Russia.

The discussion revolved around this building in Manhattan at 666 Fifth Avenue which Kushner's company owns. The financing on the building is in debt by over a billion dollars. It is not clear what is behind Mueller's specific interest in the financing.

And we're told that special counsel hasn't asked the Kushner companies for information. He also hasn't asked for interviews with other executives from the companies. A spokesman for the special counsel has declined to comment.

And moments ago, within the last hour, Abbe Lowell, who is Jared Kushner's attorney, provided this statement to CNN.

And let me go ahead and read that to you. And that says: "Another anonymous source with questionable motives now contradicts the facts. In all of Mr. Kushner's extensive cooperation with all inquiries, there has not been a single question asked nor documents sought on the 666 building or Kushner company deals. Nor would there be any reason to question these regular business transactions."

Again, this is his attorney general, Abbe Lowell, who just gave us the statement about an hour ago after we first published this story.

BLITZER: Kara, what are the details of the meetings that we're learning?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are two meetings and discussions that were had with foreign investors that we understand special counsel Robert Mueller's team is exploring.

One of those has to do with meeting that Kushner had with Anbang Insurance. It's a Chinese conglomerate. And "The New York Times" reported that they met with Kushner and others one week after the election and they discussed financing for 666 Fifth Avenue.

Those conversations continued into the president's first term. And we understand that no financing took place. Another investor that special counsel Mueller has asked questions about is a very prominent Qatari businessman.

Those conversations began well before the -- during the campaign and continued on through the administration. Again, no deal was ever reached in either of those. Kushner previously had declined to comment, but Shimon has the updated statement. And we have been unable to reach the Qatari for comment. Anbang also declined to comment.

BLITZER: They both declined to common this.

Shimon, what would Mueller, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, be seeking to try to figure out in asking these kinds of questions about Kushner and his business dealings?

PROKUPECZ: Certainly, the question of whether he was mixing his personal business with his work as an incoming administration official. Certainly, that would be something perhaps Mueller would want to ask questions about.


We know that there have been several meetings that the special counsel has asked about, specifically as it relates to Kushner's conversations, Kushner's dealings with some of these foreign nationals. And now it seems, at least from multiple sources, Abby Lowell could say this is based on one anonymous source, but we have several sources that we talked who basically say, yes, these questions have come up in our meetings with the special counsel.

BLITZER: You know, Kara, the president, President Trump, has said that getting into his personal business dealings or his family's personal business dealings, the finances of all of that would cross what he calls a red line. Is there an argument that can be made that this doesn't necessarily fall under the purview of what Robert Mueller's mandate is?

SCANNELL: I'm sure we will hear that argument from those close to the White House, because they're going to look at the authority that Mueller's team has, but it is also important to remember that Mueller's team was also given this as part of the mandate.

It says that "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." Now, we don't know how Mueller's team is using this information. They could be asking questions about this to check the box and say there's nothing to see here. They may be looking at it from a different angle that has nothing to do so much with personal finances, but why they were having these conversations.

And so I think it is too early to know why these questions, where they're going to go, if a red line is being crossed here.

BLITZER: Could Kushner, Shimon, be actually facing charges?

PROKUPECZ: There's no indication here from the sources we talked to that he's facing any charges or is in any kind of legal jeopardy at this point. People have expressly said to us that they get the sense that Mueller

is certainly exploring this avenue, but there's no indication that Kushner is a target or that he's going to face any charges.

BLITZER: Shimon, Kara, good reporting. Thank you very much.

Exclusive CNN reporting.

Also right now, President Trump is heading back to Washington from Florida. He's still stewing over new indictments in the Russia investigation. He's picking up where he left off in a blame-and- anger-filled rant on Twitter. Tonight, he's targeting President Obama while continuing to leave Russian President Vladimir Putin off the hook.

Let's go live to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, it has been a long holiday weekend. The president, he has been riled up about the Russia probe. Update our viewers on the latest.


The president got worked up over the weekend at his resort in Mar-a- Lago, after talking to his sons and watching coverage of the Russian indictments spurring on his Twitter tirade, according to sources familiar with the matter.

And after a round of golf today, the president went back to Twitter, this time taking aim at his predecessor, but notably, not Russia.


BROWN (voice-over): President Trump began his President's Day at his Florida golf course, after deciding to avoid the links Saturday and Sunday in the aftermath of last week's mass shooting.

After golfing, he took to Twitter, blaming his predecessor, tweeting: "Obama was president up to and beyond the 2016 election. So, why didn't he do something about Russian meddling?"

The president has spent much of the weekend raging on Twitter at his Mar-a-Lago resort, watching cable news, and getting riled up by his sons Don Jr. and Eric, who urge their father to take a tougher stance with the FBI, after it was revealed the agency failed to follow up on a tip about the Florida shooter.

"Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable," the president tweeted. "They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. There is no collusion."

In the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of 13 Russians for meddling in the 2016 election, the president appears to be lashing out at everyone but Russia. First, he fired off a tweet suggesting he had been vindicated in the Russian probe, pointing to comments made by the deputy attorney general.

But Rod Rosenstein never definitively said there was no collusion, merely that this specific indictment does not include collusion.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: There's no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge. And the nature of the scheme was the defendants took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists.

BROWN: The top Democrat overseeing the House Intelligence investigation, Adam Schiff, seizing on the indictment of the 13 Russian nationals as clear-cut evidence of Russian meddling.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: And it ought to put to rest for anyone, including the president, who continues to call this a witch- hunt, that the evidence is now overwhelming and unequivocal, and we need to move to protect ourselves from Russian interference in elections that are coming up.

BROWN: The president choosing instead to focus on comments Schiff made about the Obama administration, Trump tweeting: "Finally, little Adam Schiff is now blaming the Obama administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Obama was president, knew of the threat, and did nothing."


SCHIFF: I said all along that I thought the Obama administration should have done more. None of that is an excuse for this president to sit on his hands.

Knowing what he knows now, knowing what our Intelligence Committee knows now in this excruciating detail about the Russian effort, it is inexplicable that the president of the United States continues to sit on sanctions that Congress passed, that Congress wants enforced against Russia over this interference.

BROWN: For its part, the White House is avoiding specifics.

QUESTION: Can we expect the president to have additional action against this country, who clearly doesn't fear or respect us?

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I won't get ahead of what the president is prepared to announce, but I wouldn't for one second say that his foreign policy has not been effective.

BROWN: Trump also claiming he never said Russia did not meddle, contradicting himself from the past.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Could have been a lot of people interfered. I have said it very simply. I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries.

BROWN: But the president claims the multiple Russian investigations are satisfying Putin's plan, tweeting: "If it was the goal of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S., then, with all the committee hearings, investigations, party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart, America."

This as his deputy White House press secretary, Hogan Gidley, deflected blame on Russia by accusing Democrats and the media of dividing the nation.

HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: There are two groups that have created chaos more than the Russians, and that's the Democrats and the mainstream media, who have continued to push this lie on the American people for more than a year, and, quite frankly, Americans should be outraged by that.


BROWN: And the president is expected to arrive back here at the White House very soon, this after a day of demonstrations outside of the White House pushing for gun reform.

Sources say that the president spent part of the weekend at Mar-a-Lago talking about the gun issue, getting input from friends and family there. The White House has said that the president does support efforts to improve the federal background check system, but now, Wolf, we will have to wait and see what concrete steps the White House takes next to address the issue.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown at the White House for us, thank you.

Also tonight, as President Trump lashes out at his predecessor, there's some new reaction from Russia that's dismissive of the special counsel's investigation.

Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen, joining us live from Moscow right now.

Fred, what are you hearing from the Kremlin?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it's really interesting, Wolf, because we were on a phone call today with the Kremlin and, for months, the Russians have been saying the U.S. investigators have put forward no evidence there was Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

Today, we asked them look, special counsel has now put forward this evidence in the form of these indictments, and the answer from the Kremlin was in the form of the spokesman for Vladimir Putin to say that Russian citizens have been implicated, but not the Russian state.

And one of the things that U.S. investigators have been talking about so much over the past couple of months is the way the Russians try to maintain what they call plausible deniability, using companies like the ones in question for these kinds of operations to make sure there's some sort of space between them and the Kremlin.

So far, the Russians haven't given an explanation as to why a Russian oligarch who is close to Vladimir Putin would sink millions of dollars into a trolling campaign against U.S. democracy and against the Clinton campaign for any other reason, whether or not he had anything to do with the Kremlin.

As far as Pamela's report was concerned, the president tweeting his anger towards the Democrats, towards the media, but not towards the Russians, the Russians are actually returning the favor. There's a pattern here in Moscow of them criticizing the U.S., but not criticizing President Trump.

Wolf, I actually went past some of the things the top three people here in Russia have said over the past couple months. You have Vladimir Putin in December saying all of the charges have been dreamed up by Trump's opponents in an effort to discredit him. Then, in January, you had Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, come out saying Trump was forced into making anti-American decisions by some of his political enemies.

And then just a couple of days ago, you have the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, come out and saying the U.S. elite is using all this to settle political scores with President Trump.

As you can see, a lot of this goes both ways, where on the one hand, you have President Trump not criticizing the Russians, you also have the Russians not really criticizing President Trump, while, of course, lashing out at the U.S. over this investigation and everything that has been such issues for U.S.-Russian relations, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. All right, Fred, thank you, Fred Pleitgen reporting live from Moscow.

And let's talk more about all of the breaking news.

Joining us, Congressman John Garamendi. He's a Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.


REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, you heard our new reporting. This was all happening as Jared Kushner was helping with the presidential transition, the president's son-in-law, senior adviser.

What risks could that pose?

GARAMENDI: It is a simple conflict of interest.

He's in a very, very important, powerful position, probably the closest person next to the president, receiving all kinds of classified information, and, at the same time, dealing on his own for his own business, not only during the transition, but apparently, according to a report after, after the president was in place. That's a conflict of interest, plain and simple. Does it lead to

something? We don't know. But clearly it's a conflict of interest, using your position to deal for yourself. And I must say, the president seems to be doing the same by hanging out and inviting foreign dignitaries to his various golf courses.

But, beyond that, listening to what's going on from the Kremlin, I think I have heard that before. When the Russian government took over Crimea, they denied that they had anything to do with it. Hello. We knew they had something to do with it. And the little green men in Ukraine, guess what? They denied involvement there. Denial, denial, denial. But the facts are clear.

The facts are clear that the Russian operation most certainly under the authority of the Kremlin involved in our elections, sending spies into America, subversion, and subverting American citizens, this is beyond the pale. It requires a very, very -- hit back from the U.S. government. And I'm afraid we're not going to get it.

BLITZER: Jared Kushner's lawyer says the new security clearance policy won't, repeat, won't influence Kushner's ability to work in the White House with sensitive material, key national security-related issues.

In light of this new reporting, though, should Jared Kushner, Congressman, have access to classified information, including the presidential daily brief?

GARAMENDI: Absolutely he should not be given that information.

And let's go back to conflict of interest. He's double-dealing. He is sitting there in the White House, putting forth policies, and at the very same time he is involved in his own personal business.

I think his wife had something to do with China during that period of time when he was reaching out to China for money. What was it? Had something to do with trademarks, like, a lot of trademarks. So what's going on here? Are they interested in protecting America or are they interested in protecting their own business interests?

It seems to be at least the bottom. And if one were to look at what Russia did, not supposedly did, but did in this election, hacked the DNC, hacked John Podesta, then use that information in the campaign, and then this indictment even goes in an additional direction.

And what is this administration doing? Well, they're cozying up to Putin, at the very same time that they ought to be hitting back in every way.

BLITZER: Congressman, should Jared Kushner recuse himself from any decisions related to national security, any policy with both China and Qatar?

GARAMENDI: I think it goes beyond that. It goes beyond that.

This White House, the Trump family, writ large, is involved in multiple deals around the world, in countries all around the world, where their business is dependent upon the goodwill of that country. It is a conflict. It is a conflict that in some ways is directly opposite the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which in its very plain language says that the president and officials cannot take gifts from foreign governments.

Those trademarks are an enormously important, valuable commodity to the Trump family. It is a conflict of emoluments, the Constitution itself.

And I think -- not think -- we know we saw him. We saw the president pledge that he would defend the Constitution. Well, my sense of it is that this family's business interests are in direct conflict with the Constitution, and there should be no continuation of the conflicts that exist.

We cannot do too much immediately about Trump's conflicts, although every previous president put all of their financial interests in a blind trust or disposed of their assets. This president did exactly the opposite.


He maintained his personal financial involvement through a trust in which he receives all of the benefits.

Now, what's going on with Russia? There are two tracks here, Wolf, two very, very serious tracks. One track has to do with the Russian investigation, all that we're talking about with Kushner and family and so forth. That's important. But the most -- but the other track is equally important, and that is we must defend our democracy. And that is not happening.

BLITZER: Congressman John Garamendi, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

GARAMENDI: Happy to be with you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, what prompted the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to dig deeper into Jared Kushner's business dealings? We will talk more about our exclusive breaking story with a former FBI special agent.

And armed to kill. New information about the Florida school shooter's cache of weapons.



BLITZER: You're looking at pictures.

Just moments ago, the president and the first lady, their son Barron, they arrived at Joint Base Andrews right outside of Washington, D.C., from Florida. The president is now getting in a motorcade, heading back to the White

House. The weather here a little rusty right now. That's why they're not taking Marine One from Joint Base Andrews over to the South Lawn of the White House. The president back from his long holiday weekend in Florida.

Also breaking tonight, CNN has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller is now asking questions about Jared Kushner's personal business dealings during the presidential transition, going beyond his Russia contacts.

Let's talk more about our exclusive reporting.

Joining us, CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell, a former FBI supervisory special agent.

Josh, what red flags might have led the special counsel to open this line of inquiry?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think it is yet to be seen, Wolf.

We have seen great reporting from our CNN colleagues Shimon Prokupecz and Kara Scannell. It will be interesting to see how this new line of inquiry with Kushner plays into the larger investigation.

If you will recall from the order from May 17 of 2017, where the deputy attorney general appointed the special counsel, he gave him the charge of investigating any potential collusion, any links or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

But there also was that second prong. And that is any additional information that is derived from the investigation, a very broad mandate.

I can tell you in law enforcement when you are conducting an investigation, even if you're charged with looking at one crime, if during the course of that investigation you uncover additional information or addition crime, you don't simply ignore it.

BLITZER: Yes. That helps explain why Paul Manafort right now is in deep trouble, the former Trump campaign chairman.

The president hasn't condemned Russia since we learned about the details of its interference in the 2016 election. But he did link the Parkland, Florida, school shooting to special counsel investigation, tweeting this. Let me read it to you.

"Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. There is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud."

What's your response to that, Josh? CAMPBELL: Well, I think it's an unfortunate political distraction,

and the FBI is no stranger to unfair political attacks lately. We have seen a lot of that.

But what I think it does is that it takes our focus sadly away from what we should be doing, and that's making the FBI better. Let me say at the outset that the FBI's primary mission is the protection of human life. It is, and always has been, always will be.

But it can walk and chew gum. It can simultaneously defend the United States against the attacks of foreign intelligence services who are attempting to do harm here in America. They can do both.

But what I'm afraid that it does when you take these two issues and you combine them is that it takes our focus away from looking at the FBI, looking at what happened in this incident and making it better, ensuring that it does not happen again.

BLITZER: The Florida governor, Rick Scott, is calling for the FBI director, Christopher Wray, to resign over the FBI's failure to properly follow up on a January warning about the Parkland shooter. Is that appropriate?

CAMPBELL: So, at this point, you know, I have said that I think that it would be a distraction, and I think it would be premature.

The focus has to be on determining what happened. But it goes broader than that, not only within the FBI, but how does the FBI and law enforcement throughout the country, mental health institutions and educational institutions, how do all of those agencies fuse together to share information that may stop potential threats?

And then the last issue, which is obviously the big one, is how do we get these weapons of war off our streets and out of our schools? We should be focusing on that. I don't think that a New York one resignation at this point would be helpful. I think it actually may hinder those efforts.

That's something to be determined down the road. But I think we need to come together, look at the mistake that was made, which is a big one, it's a colossal mistake here on the FBI, but we have to look at it collectively and help make the agency and our nation safer.

BLITZER: Josh Campbell, thanks very for that analysis.

Just ahead, more on our CNN exclusive reporting, as the special counsel's investigation looks into Jared Kushner's efforts to get foreign financing for his company during the presidential transition.

Plus, the Florida high school shooter appears in court today, as we learn more about the warning signs that were missed, and the family that sheltered him now speaking out, in both shock and horror.


BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories right now. President Trump returning to Washington from Florida and resuming his Twitter rant against -- Twitter rant about the Russia investigation.

This as CNN is reporting exclusively on the special counsel's growing interest in the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. Robert Mueller's team now looking into Kushner's personal business dealings, including discussions he had with potential Chinese and Qatari investors.

[18:35:18] Let's bring in our analysts and specialists. And Jeffrey Toobin, what is the latest reporting on Jared Kushner's foreign business dealings, specifically during the presidential transition, tell you about the scope of Mueller's investigation right now?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, it shows that it's broad, as does the indictment that surprised all of us last week.

But the Kushner story just underlines why senior government officials are not supposed to be conducting their personal business at the same time they're exercising governmental power.

You know, Jared Kushner is involved in an extremely troubled investment here in New York, at 666 Fifth Avenue. He needs money. He needs investors. He's been seeking money and investors. That is a conflict with exercising governmental power over the people and the countries that might do the investing.

Whether he committed any crime I certainly don't know. There's no evidence that he did at this point, but it is certainly a good reason not to have these sorts of conflicts of interest.

BLITZER: And the fact that he still, thirteen months into this administration, Phil, does not have full security clearances, even though he continues to have access to some of the most sensitive information out there, what does that say to you?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This is pretty straightforward.

When you look at a security clearance process, you're looking for vulnerabilities. The person walking into a polygraph, for example, is not going to necessarily say, "I'm uncomfortable. I have problems at home." You're looking at vulnerabilities like, for example, spousal abuse, child abuse. We saw that all the time in the security process at the CIA. It weeded people out. A lot of shoplifters.

But one of the most significant vulnerabilities that was looked at over the years, especially after major spy cases, was financial vulnerability, and the U.S. government involved in terms of what kind of documentation they ask people like me about their financial backgrounds.

I look at this and I think not only of the Mueller investigation but of whether this suggests why Jared Kushner, as you're saying, doesn't have a security clearance. Maybe he doesn't want to talk -- turn over the documentation that would allow the government to process the security clearance, because he's worried about it. BLITZER: You know, Laura Jarrett, "The Los Angeles Times," as you

know, now reporting that Rick Gates, who was a senior adviser to the campaign, may soon be cooperating with the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

How worrying should that be for Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, and for others in the Trump campaign?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, if Gates gets this plea deal, I think that can only mean a lot more trouble for Paul Manafort. You remember in that indictment back in October, the two are inextricably linked with their business dealings, all of their work in the Ukraine. The special counsel lays it out in, you know, over 30 pages.

And so Gates knows a fair amount about Manafort and his business dealings, but he also has a lot to lose. We know that he has a young family, and these are serious charges. He's facing decades in prison if convicted, and so he may feel more pressure to go through with this, given his limited financial means. He can't be paying over a million dollars in legal fees, Wolf.

BLITZER: The president sent the weekend at Mar-a-Lago's resort down in Palm Beach, and he was, we're told, watching a lot of TV, cable TV about all the Russia investigation, the latest breaking developments, including the Russian trolls and all that.

What's the impression you get, David, from his long weekend tweet storm? There were what, 15, 18 tweets that were really going at various issues.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, we've all gotten used to these weekend tweet storms. So the president is frequently combative, frequently misleading. But this was like the -- you know, the chef kisses fingers of President Trump tweet storms. It was hostile. He made the Florida tragedy about himself, and he kept going and going, blaming others for his problems.

It suggests to me, Wolf, that he's really worried about the special counsel investigation. Because what we saw on Friday was Special Counsel Mueller laying out indictments that, even if they don't ever bring criminal charges or ever get extraditions of these Russians, he is leaving bread crumbs, so with each passing thing -- Rick Gates, the Russians -- it's harder and harder for this investigation to get shut down.

BLITZER: What does this suggest, Jeffrey, to you?

TOOBIN: Well, that the president doesn't operate by the rules of American politics. I mean, the idea that he is just, you know, continuing to attack law enforcement and attack the FBI when they are trying to solve the problems, some of which he created with his campaign, it's just astonishing.

And you know, and attacking Oprah Winfrey. I mean, it is something that presidents have never done before and perhaps they'll never do again.

[18:40:03] BLITZER: Let me get Phil to weigh in. Go ahead, Phil.

MUDD: He's sinking into irrelevance. That's what it tells me. I'm going to give you proof of that in just a moment.

That is, he says things that don't correspond to reality, for example, his characterization of the indictment. And people step back and say, after 13 months of this, we don't pay attention.

The fact that I want to mention is, we've lost track of this, but this week the Pentagon will issue a report on how it's going to take steps forward on the president's tweets about transgenders in the military.

I'm going to lay my personal money on the table, Wolf. I'll lay a thousand bucks on the table, my money to the charity of your choice, if what the Pentagon says this week in terms of instituting policy on transgenders looks anything like what the president tweeted. Let's lay it on the table. I think what the president tweeted was irrelevant, and what the Pentagon will say is fundamentally different this week. That will happen within two or three days.

TOOBIN: If I can just voice a little disagreement, I don't think the president is irrelevant at all. Every single member of the Republican Party in the House and the Senate, except those who are not running for re-election, are supporting him 100 percent. The Republican Party is Donald Trump's party, and you know, we can be outraged on cable news, but the people who cast the votes are still very much with the president.

BLITZER: You want to add something before I go to break, Phil?

MUDD: Absolutely I do. We're going to tear up the Iran nuclear deal. No, we're not. Discussions with North Korea are irrelevant. No, they're not. We're going to distance from NATO. No, we're not. We're going to build a wall. No, we're not. Every time the guys talks, you look at it and say, put your money where your mouth is. It doesn't happen.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. We're going to continue our coverage of the breaking news right after this.


[18:46:20] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We are back with our analysts. We're following the breaking news.

And, you know, Phil Mudd, on Sunday, the president tweeted this. I'll put it on the screen.

I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said it may be Russia, or China, or another group, or it maybe a 400-pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer. The Russian hoax was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. It never did.

That's what the president tweeted over the weekend. But his comments over these past several months tell a very different story. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC.

How many times do I have to answer this? Russia is a ruse.

This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.

The entire thing has been a witch-hunt.

The Russia story is a total fabrication.

Russia did not help me, OK? I call it the Russian hoax.

They made up the whole Russia hoax.

That was a Democrat hoax.

It's a Democrat hoax.


BLITZER: All right. So, Phil, what message is the president sending to Russia with these comments and his most recent tweets?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: They won. I mean, if you look at what the president said over the weekend in terms of the Russians laughing, of course, they're laughing. The president now has two options as we go to midterm elections. Number one, violate what he said and what you just ran in that clip, and get out and speak to the American people about the threat they face not only from a foreign security service but from foreign security service that wants to swing the election one way or another.

His second option, say nothing and have the Russians come in and say, well, if the president of the United States doesn't say anything, and if he said before this was all a ruse, why wouldn't we continue to operate? And, by the way, as you know, U.S. intelligence agencies said they have continued to operate.

He's got two options, neither of which are good. I look at the Russians, they say I can't believe how successful this is from their perspective.

BLITZER: What does it say to you, Jeffrey, that he has been president now for 13 months? He really hasn't spoken out, hasn't ordered anything, he hasn't done much, if anything, as far as Russian meddling in the U.S. democratic system is concerned.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF JUSTICE ANALYST: No. The one person, the one person he never says a bad word about is Vladimir Putin. I mean, it is just incredible, and this goes back years. He has not acknowledged any sort of wrongdoing on the part of the Russian government, and especially on behalf of Putin. And it remains one of the mysteries of why he is so insistent on

defending Russia and diminishing this scandal which is now completely apparent to anyone who is paying attention.

BLITZER: In contrast to that, David, he goes after former President Obama.

He tweeted this: Obama was president up to and beyond the 2016 election, so why didn't he do something about Russian meddling? So, he is accusing his predecessor of not doing enough when he hasn't done really anything over the past thirteen months.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. Couple of things, Wolf. First, a flaw in the president's logic. If it's a ruse and a hoax, how can President Obama be in the wrong for not addressing said ruse and said hoax.

The other thing is that, of course, in October of 2016, President Obama's Department of Homeland Security and director of national intelligence issued a joint statement saying the Russians were meddling in the election. It happened to drop the same day as the "Access Hollywood" tape, didn't get the coverage it otherwise would have.

BLITZER: Let me get to you, Jeffrey Toobin. You got a terrific new article on "The New Yorker Magazine". You went to Russia, went to Russia, you did some investigating on the Miss Universe pageant that the president was involved in as a private citizen.

Just quickly tell viewers what you discovered.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, it fits very well in with news of this weekend that, you know, the president, then candidate, then -- before that, developer Donald Trump, has been trying to do business with Russia since the days of the Soviet Union.

[18:50:14] He first went there in the late 1980s and finally in 2013, with this oligarch family, the Agalarovs. They put on the Miss Universe contest. And you saw how he was trying to gin up business there, even still, always trying to meet with Vladimir Putin. He didn't manage to do it in 2013.

And, of course, the connections he made with the Agalarovs led directly to the most direct evidence of collusion we have so far which was the meeting in Trump Tower in June of 2016. So, the line from Russia through Trump to the 2016 election is direct and it starts or it leads very clearly to the sort of bizarre spectacle of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant which was in a big shopping center outside of Moscow.

BLITZER: Yes. And you were there.


BLITZER: Excellent reporting.

I recommend people go read the article in "The New Yorker".

Thanks very much, guys.

Stand by. Just ahead, the Florida school shooter in court as more of his victims are laid to rest. We'll have a live report with new information about his mindset, his behavior and his weapons. Multiple red flags that were missed.


[18:56:08] BLITZER: As we follow the breaking news on the Russia investigation, we also have new reporting on the deadly weapons amassed by the school shooter in Florida before he gunned 17 people. Nikolas Cruz appeared in court today.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is joining us from Parkland, Florida, right now.

Kaylee, what's the latest?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, more red flags missed. I was in that courtroom today when the shooter was escorted in by sheriff's deputies shackled. He kept his head and his eyes down. He only communicated with his public defender by way of nods and very short responses.

But the new information we're learning of his troubled behavior didn't come from that brief court appearance.


HARTUNG (voice-over): Nikolas Cruz in court for a procedural hearing today. Amid new questions as to how he was able to amass an arsenal of rifles leading up to as attack on Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

A law enforcement source briefed on the investigation says Cruz bought 10 rifles in the past year. The buying spree apparently setting off no warning signs with authorities or those who knew him.

James and Kimberly Snead took Cruz in last fall after his mother passed away. They spoke with CNN's Alisyn Camerota.

JAMES SNEAD, HOUSED SCHOOL SHOOTER: He told us he was depressed. We knew he was depressed.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, when you say he was quirky, just give us a sense of what that look like.

J. SNEAD: He's just trying to fit in. He didn't know what to say or when to say it or how to say it, you know? So, he would ask a lot of questions. He would apologize a lot.

If he told him to do something, if he needed to clean up something after himself or something, he'd apologize and said he was sorry. You don't have to be sorry. Just do it.

It's a rollercoaster of emotions.

HARTUNG: They told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he showed no signs that would lead them believe he could commit such atrocities. They knew Cruz had guns but demanded that he'd keep them in a safe.

J. SNEAD: I thought I had the only key to the gun safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And had he ever asked you beforehand to use a gun and take it out of safe?

J. SNEAD: He asked twice. Once I said yes because he wanted to clean it. I don't know which gun he wanted to clean, but he said he wanted to clean the gun. I said OK. And another time he asked and I told him no. It wasn't a good time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why did you tell him no?

J. SNEAD: I don't know what the situation was in the house. It just wasn't a good time.

HARTUNG: Though they knew of one Instagram account, they say they were unaware of the others which contained alarming images and racist rants.

KIMBERLY SNEAD, HOUSED SCHOOL TEACHER: If we had known anything about that, he wouldn't be in our home. That wouldn't even been an option.

HARTUNG: This as chilling images like this continue to emerge. Surveillance video showing the confessed killer walking down the street just minutes after the attack.

A 2016 report from the Florida Department of Children and Families citing Cruz's now deceased mother revealed that he suffered from depression, ADHD and autism. She also told the department he began cutting his arms following a break up.

The report ultimately found that the final level of risk was, quote, low because he was living with his mother and receiving in home mental health services.

Meanwhile, services continue for the victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott saved the lives of his students.

HARTUNG: Mourners gathered to honor teacher Scott Beigel, hailed as a hero. He was killed after unlocking his classroom to take in students fleeing the shooter.

Others taking to the streets with hopes of affecting change to bring about an end to these tragic events.


HARTUNG: Also included in that report from the Department of Children and Families, record that Cruz' adopted mother told investigators she had seen Cruz draw on his backpack Nazi symbols and write the racist language "I hate N words". She said when she asked why he would do such a thing, he claimed to not know what they meant -- Wolf.

BLTIZER: All right, Kaylee. Thank you very much, Kaylee Hartung, down in Florida.

CNN will explore the demands for gun action against gun violence during a town hall event. We're going to hear from students, parents, community members affected by the Florida shooting, as well as local politicians, including Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. The Florida Governor Rick Scott and President Trump, by the way, they have declined the invitation. Wednesday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

That's it for me.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.