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Tipster Warned FBI School Shooter Was "Going To Explode"; Ex- Trump Aide Pleads Guilty, Is Cooperating With Mueller; McGahn, Rosenstein Discussed Kushner's Clearance Status 2 Weeks Ago; An In- Depth Look At Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Aired 9-10P ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:01:02] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A busy Friday night. Lots of breaking news. Even more details on missed signals in the awful shooting ten days ago at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

New reporting at the White House a couple of weeks ago that the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner was facing significant issues over getting a White House security clearance and a guilty plea in new charges in the Russia investigation. That is where we will begin with Sara Murray.

Sara, Rick Gates, the former Trump campaign deputy chair pleaded guilty today. Walk us through the details.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is in D.C. Federal Court. He pleaded guilty to two criminal charges. One was conspiracy to defraud the United States, the other was making false statements. And, you know, in these charges that he pleaded guilty to prosecutors sort of outlined how he and his business partner who is of course Paul Manafort, who was the former Trump campaign chairman, hid all this money from the Ukrainian lobbying work from the federal government and then they proceeded to lie a federal investigators about it in 2016.

2Now Rick Gates, had originally pleaded not guilty to these charges and he release a letter to friends and families sort of laying out how excruciating a last few months have been talking about the change of heart in deciding to plead guilty, what this has put his family though, why he did not want to go through a trial. We know he's been under enormous personal and financial pressure in this situation. This is a father of four, who once we got the new indictment from Mueller yesterday with facing potentially decades in prison if he went to trial and was found guilty under this plea deal, he will cooperate with the special counsel's team in this sort of expansive Russia investigation, and he faces about 4 1/2 to 6 years potentially in prison.

BERMAN: The bigger question here, Sara, is this part of a larger effort to get to Paul Manafort and get Manafort to flip? MURRAY: I think it absolutely it -- that's how these investigations tend to work, but I also think that, you know, they obviously threw a number of charges they gave to try to get him to cooperate. This agreement, it requires Gates to turn over any document the special counsel might need, it required him to testify potentially against Paul Manafort. And then today the special counsel unveiled five new criminal charges against Paul Manafort. So you can see Mueller's team is trying to turn up the heat on Manafort, trying to get him to cooperate, trying to get him to provide and particularly any information about the campaign.

Now, Manafort put out a statement today, and it was a prickly one. He's not very happy with his former business partner and also maintains his innocence and he says he's going to continue to fight these charges, he says that they are not true. So we will see if the Paul Manafort case actually makes it to trial.

BERMAN: All right, Sara Murray, terrific reporting, thanks so much.

Joining me now Van Jones, Paul Callan, Bryan Lanza.

Paul, you know, first to you. Legally speaking, you know, Rick Gates just won himself a lighter sentence, no question about that. And Paul Manafort seems like he won himself a world of problems, right now. These seem to really turn up the pressure on Manafort.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: An enormous world of problems for Manafort. And for Gates, you know, it's the story of the down side of having a friend in high places. I mean his relationship with Manafort is what brought him down completely. You read the indictment, you read the agreement that he made with the special prosecutor. He wasn't making a lot of personal money on criminal activity. He's charged with assisting Manafort into moving $20 million in offshore accounts and not paying taxes on it.

He's accused of lying in all of things, his proffer session with prosecutors.


CALLAN: Now, that's kind of like going into a proffer session with a prosecutor and picking the prosecutor's pocket on the way out. They really frown on that when you lie during the session that you're trying to convince them that you'd be a good witness for them. So he's facing a world of problems and financial destruction as well. Not only potentially six years in prison but a $200,000 fine.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Plus legal fees.

CALLAN: Yes, plus legal fees, which are of course back breaking. The father of four, a tremendous pressure on him to turn on Manafort.

BERMAN: So Van, look, the White House will say, (INAUDIBLE) in the past that these charges against Manafort and Gates, they don't relate to the campaign. They're not about the campaign, there are about things that happened with their Ukraine business years before they joined us. Plausible defense?

[21:05:13] JONES: I mean sure. I mean -- but, you know, Mueller's not done. You know, it's you -- what you have now is a situation where people who were as close to the Trump campaign as these people were, frankly, were the Trump campaign for a while, have these kinds of criminal activities going on, shady connections and, you know, he's getting closer and closer to be able to make a case. But, listen, Paul Manafort, if you have anything you'd like to say, sir, if you happen at any point happened you have notice these things about this President and, you know, possible shady connections, this would be a great time to cough it up.


BERMAN: You're nodding now. Go ahead.

BRYAN LANZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's unbelievable, because the whole point was Russia collusion and that's what -- you know, that's what Mueller was brought to bear, he's like -- your suppose to investigate this Russia collusion. And now the Democrats are hoping for this slight chance that maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe possibly, there's going to be another ties where of this heat seeking missile is going to find some target. He was tasked with a simple thing, we talked about collusion, there's clearly no collusion, this indictments they bring nothing regarding collusion. It's a tough decision for Gates to make. He made it for his family. You have to respect that decision. You can't lie to the FBI. You have to pay your taxes, you have to disclose these things. That's what you encourage people to do. He's going to make an example -- Mueller is going to make an example to other people to do these exact same things. They should. In doing so, they're going to expedite this process and we're going to get to a conclusion of this --


CALLAN: The harshness of Mueller in going after Gates with this level of malevolence almost in these charges, it shows he's not done. And there also shows he is like a laser missile, and if he finds the slightest degree of illegality in the White House or on behalf of the President, he'll move in that direction because that's the way he operates.

JONES: Let me say one more thing as well. You know, the Republicans keep saying this was only about, you know, this narrow set of issues, et cetera. Read the actual mandate. The mandate says any criminal activity that we find is fair game. And so -- and that's the way the special prosecutor works. And you guys loved it when Bill Clinton was under the hot seat, so this is the way it works. And the reality is a good prosecutor --

LANZA: Well, how long is he going to extend this?


LANZA: -- of one day finding the output (ph).

BERMAN: Well Bryan, I will say in the last week alone there were 13 indictments against 13 Russians --


LANZA: It had nothing to do with Russian collusion, I might add.

BERMAN: Those were everything to do with Russia meddling.


LANZA: They always had to do propaganda, I've been -- when I first started --

BERMAN: So do you wish that those indictments didn't happen?

LANZA: No, I mean they should happen.


LANZA: It's a good thing that they happen.

BERMAN: Is it a good thing they came out?

LANZA: It's good thing those indictments came out. Absolutely.

BERMAN: Is it good thing that --

LANZA: Because you know what it does? It shows that no Russian collusion took place.

BERMAN: Is it a good thing that law break -- well, we'll find out. Is it a good thing -- it hasn't shown anything yet.

LANZA: It hasn't shown collusion that's for sure. We spent hours saying the collusion exist --


BERMAN: Is it a good thing that law breaking, you know, whether it be, you know, line to prosecutors, you know, two weeks ago by Rick Gates or a conspiracy to defraud the government, is it a good thing these things are being turned up?

LANZA: Yes, it is a good thing. They broke the law.


JONES: Look, all I want to point out is the Russia -- you don't like the Democrats rushing to incriminate but your equally irrational for Russia to exonerate, you know --


LANZA: I'll just say what's the coverage been. Let's say the only focus on Russia collusion --

(CROSSTALK) BERMAN: We're not covering this, this happened. It's not about what --


LANZA: Your covering the collusion happened and we've now known that Gates has been investigated since 2014. We've know actually, you know, Carter Page has been 2014 under investigation of the FBI. Gates has been under review since 2013. Things haven't shown any collusion happened.


BERMAN: We haven't done collusion happened, we have said this investigation of it. We have reported that Donald Trump Jr. took a meeting at Trump Tower when promised dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians.

CALLAN: Can I just add one thing --

BERMAN: Go ahead Paul.

CALLAN: -- to bring it back to this Gates plea. This is road that could lead back to Russia. Remember Gates had a relationship with that lawyer. Remember the Dutch lawyer who was indicted and made a deal earlier in the week who was working for the Ukrainian government, particularly the Russian supported President of the Ukrainian government. That's a road back in the direction of Russia.

Now, Manafort was fired when that President was thrown out, and they started then shopping for other international clients. Were those clients Russian clients? Was Manafort's relationship with the Trump campaign used to communicate with those Russian friends that he was seeking business from. We don't know where the investigation is going, but it's certainly -- it's pointing in that direction, and Mueller is relentless when he finds a direction to investigate in.

[21:10:11] So I think in fairness until he wraps, and he may wrap and the President walks on this, but we can't say there's not going to by a Russian connection when this is secret investigation.

LANZA: But we can't -- in this network we constantly go by innuendo, that there is Russian collusion.

CALLAN: Well that maybe --


LANZA: There's a significant story line that says no collusion took place. You have people who come on this network from every day from newspapers saying we heard from an anonymous source that the President's word about this because of Russia collusion, that's what you guys are covering. I'm just saying let the facts stay where they are.

(CROSSTALK) BERMAN: We're continue to cover an investigation which is ongoing into whether or not --

LANZA: You should.


LANZA: -- with the fact is they are.

BERMAN: Last quick. Well the fact is there's an investigation, Bryan --

LANZA: And what happened today showed no Russia collusion, anything related to --

BERMAN: It showed the deputy campaign chair broke the law.


LANZA: It had nothing to do with the campaign. These crimes took place before --


BERMAN: That's actually not true. No. And also the conspiracy to defraud the government, the tax evasion that went on happened actually during the campaign these were -- many of those crimes happened during the campaign.


BERMAN: No, the relationship with Ukraine began back then, but they happened during the campaign.

All right, Bryan, Paul, Van, thank you all very, very much. We're going to have more to discuss in just a moment.

Next, I want to get your take on new reporting Jared Kushner's long running difficulty obtaining a security clearance.

Later more breaking, new details about the reaction or lack of one after shots were fired in Parkland, that and more tonight on 360.


[21:15:22] BERMAN: All right, Friday's tend to mean breaking news whether it's a damp late at night by those who hopeful missed it or stuff reporters on cover usually from those who never wanted it out at all, that's what this next story seems to be .

New reporting from the "Washington Post" and CNN on continuing snag and Jared Kushner obtaining a full security clearance. Remember, today the President went out of his way to say that Chief of Staff John Kelly will have the final say on it even as he praised his son- in-law to the skies and said he knew General Kelly would do the right thing, no pressure there. In any event the "Post" is reporting a Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein not really a Trump favorite, phoned White House Counsel Don McGahn two weeks with a warning, there was significant information according to the "Post," requiring additional investigation which would further delay Kushner's clearance. Well, this now legal journalistic and political panel that shies no matter what day the week it is. Carrie Cordero, Josh Campbell, Van Jones and Paris Deannard.

Carrie, first to you, what do you make of this warning from Rod Rosenstein to Don McGahn? How significant is that -- the fact this call was made at all?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it might have been in reaction -- I mean one possibility is it was in reaction to John Kelly's memo that went out exactly a week ago which said that they were going to require and ask the FBI and the Justice Department to give estimates as to when they were going to be able to complete clearance adjudication for certain White House officials. So John Kelly issue this memo that said I'm going to try to straighten out the security clearance problem. It's possible -- I don't know, but it's possible that then that phone call from the deputy attorney general to the White House counsel which is the appropriate channel of communication between those two entities was the Deputy Attorney General reporting back and saying look, with respect to this particular clearance, the Jared Kushner clearance, it's still held up, it still not adjudicated. There still are issues in his background. And White House, if you want to know that, then now I'm telling you that. And now it's up to John Kelly to do something with that information.

BERMAN: Josh, as you look at this how significant is it the fact that Jared Kushner still can't get a clearance 13 months in? And does it smell to you it's directly linked to the Mueller investigation?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANAYST: Well, it could very well be the case. So much of this relationship between this White House and the FBIs unprecedented, including the fact we maybe in a situation where the FBI cannot complete this background investigation, because the applicant of security clearance may be the subject of another investigation. If you recall on Tuesday, our colleagues here at CNN have reported that Mueller's looking into Kushner's financial ties, he ask him some questions surrounding China.

And so again, it may be that weird situation where the FBI can't put a stamp on the investigation because there already these ongoing issues. I know the relationship between the FBI and the White House when it comes to investigations, is usually a bit more transparent on the counterterrorism side and why -- I mean by is that, you know, the FBI can provide into subjects and the like when it comes to terrorism cases, they generally don't when it comes to other type of criminal activities certainly not the counterintelligence investigation that may impact the White House. So awkward to say the least.

BERMAN: Paris, you know, should Jared Kushner be running the Middle East peace process? Should he be seeing the classified daily intelligence briefing everyday? Should he be requesting as we're told he is, more than anyone else in the White House, classified information and research if he can't get a permanent clearance?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's like the President said that's up to the Chief of Staff General Kelly. But I don't think there's anything improper about what Jared is doing be given the portfolio that he has. If you're going to be leading the White House efforts on peace deals and a lot of things on the international front, there's some classified information that you're going to need. And I think the big problem that we have here is there's a lot of speculation and innuendo, he could be doing this, it might be this, it should be this, it could have been, the investigation might be connected to Russia.

What we do know is that this happens on the regular. People go into the White House and they have background checks and they try to get their security clearances, and you work until that is done. When it's completed it's complete. We do know that Jared did I think three amendments to his reporting. So each time a new amendment came, that required more investigation. When you are a successful business person with international connections, money tied up, especially going to different foreign entities, it takes a while to get to the bottom of all those possible entanglements when you're serving in government like he has never done before. So, I just don't think that there something that we should leave it as saying he is somehow unqualified or shouldn't be able to do the job he's been ask to do on the behalf of the American people.

[21:20:03] BERMAN: If the FBI, the Justice Department are saying he can't get the security, he can't get the permanent security, and it seems like that should matter. It seems like it should count for something.

JONES: Look, I think it's unusual and I think its unsettling because we don't know why not. If it's a financial issue, it's a criminal issue, substance abuse issue. Some of these issues could be very, very serious and subject anybody to blackmail, questions of judgment. If it's just because he's under investigation someplace else, that's reason to be concerned. So Paris is right, we don't know exactly. Some of these reasons could be quite benign, some of them could be, you know, other than benign. And so from my point of view I don't think we want to normalize this. I agree -- yes, you know, I went in, mine wasn't done. It is normal for them to still be in process, but this is very, very long time. This is very high ranking official. And so I do understand why people are concerned.

BERMAN: Let's play what the President said about this because it's pretty interesting.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: General Kelly respects Jared a lot. And General Kelly will make that call, I won't make that call. I will let General Kelly make that decision, and he's going to do what's right for the country, and I have no doubt he'll make the right decision. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right, so was that really leaving it up to General Kelly or was that leaning on General Kelly, Carrie?

CORDERO: Well, so General Kelly has a real decision to make, because in his recent memo what he said is that he's going to cleanup this process, but he also left room for him to make exceptions. And so the question is he going to have a new process and say that the White House is going to follow security clearance process, but he's going to make an exception, frankly, for the President son-in-law because of their access and relationship. And that's not the way security clearance is supposed to take place.

Remember, the process is supposed to evaluate someone's loyalty to the United States, their trustworthiness, foreign entanglements, financial entanglements that would affect their decision making and their ability to have trust in receiving classified information. Nobody has a right to classified information. Nobody's entitled to it. It is an access that one is granted if normally they meet the requirements to get that access.

BERMAN: And Josh, do you think that Jared Kushner will be treated any differently by the FBI officers investigating this because he's the President's son-in-law?

CAMPBELL: I don't think so. I mean the FBI's hallmark is its fairness. And I think the FBI rank and file, the background investigators will be fine, you know, regardless of what the decision is here because they don't make formal recommendations. I will say, though, that the larger intelligence community on the other hand to include the FBI national security apparatus is going to be furious if it looks like there's a double standard, because at the end of the day this is their information we're talking about. These are the people that we charge to go collect information to, you know, sacrifice, to risk themselves and the lives of other people to collect human source and single intelligence, it's their information. And if it's not treated appropriately, they're the ones who are going to be angry.

BERMAN: So to that point, Paris, you know, part of our reporting has been that, it's going to be difficult for Jared Kushner to get the full clearance. It might not happen. If it does not happen, do you think it would be appropriate for him to stay in those jobs?

DENNARD: I think what the White House will end up doing or what I hope they will end up doing is if he cannot get the full security clearance, that they will find a clearance level -- because there's multiple clearance levels. Find a clearance level that the FBI and everyone in the security, the international community is OK with. The intelligence community is OK with him having, so he can continue doing the work that he needs to do because he has the trust of the President and that's something that's important.


JONES: The problem there what I would say -- (CROSSTALK)

JONES: Well let's say is, he does have something in his portfolio that don't require that security clearance. He's doing, elevation stuff, I like that he's doing innovation on prison reform, criminal justice. So he does have some stuff in his basket that he can do without the highest priority stuff. So, you know -- usually people got deal with. Jared Kushner is going to be in that building and so -- doing something and hopefully doing something good.

BERMAN: And not getting paid as the President like to say or Ivanka who's in -- you know, Korea right now, not getting paid.

Everyone, thank you very much. One quick programming note, you can catch a new episode of the "Van Jones Show" tomorrow night, 7:00 eastern right here on CNN. Look at that smile. Van will be joined me Steph Curry.

Next, troubling new developments in the Parkland tragedy, breaking news. New reporting that not just one but four deputies were outside the school where 17 people were murdered.

We're also be joined by one of the Stoneman Douglas students. One of those students now pushing for change.


[21:28:45] BERMAN: Breaking news tonight. Troubling new questions at the very least about the immediate response to the Parkland shooting. That's on top of the Broward County Deputy and School Resource officers who did not rush into the building while 17 people were being murdered. Tonight along with that, along with other reporting about missed signals and red flags and all the rest, along with three of the wounded still hospitalized, there is this. That deputy who has since left his job allegedly had company outside the school.

The very latest now from our Randi Kaye who joins us from Parkland. Randi, you have new details about the sheriff's deputy, three additional ones that did not enter the school. What can you tell us?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, first I can tell you that we know at least the one armed Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Scot Peterson stayed outside that school even though he knew there was an active shooter inside that school. The sheriff said, the Deputy Peterson was outside for more than four minutes outside that school building the shooting massacre took about six minutes in all. But also tonight as you mentioned, we're learning three other Broward County Sheriff's deputies were also outside that school building. They had their hand guns draw but they didn't go inside, they were hiding behind their cars.

Now, it's important to note we don't know if the school shooter was still inside at this time, but we do know that they never entered the building, those other deputies. This is coming from sources at the Coral Springs Police Department, and we should also point out that it was the Coral Springs deputies John, who were first to go inside that building.

[21:30:13] BERMAN: Randi, you also have some new reporting about the tip the FBI received before the shooting.

KAYE: Yes. This was a major red flag John that went nowhere. That tip came in on January 5th, which was just weeks before the shooting. CNN has reviewed the transcript of that tipped call. And this tipster who called it in was very close to the Parkland shooter. Apparently warning the FBI that the teen was about to explode or close to exploding.

The female tipster spoke of his social media posts, his enjoyment of guns, his violence in school, and she said to the FBI that she feared him, quote, "getting into a school and just shooting the place up." Meanwhile the FBI as you know has admitted that proper protocols were not followed when it came to this tip. Somehow it went nowhere even though it was so close, John, to the date of this massacre.

BERMAN: And Florida social services also failed to act years ago on a pretty strong trip -- tip about this guy.

KAYE: Absolutely. That was in 2016. The Department of Children and Families here in Florida went to the home of this suspect. They went to check out his home life. He and his girlfriend had just broken up. And what they saw there was also very disturbing. They found that he was cutting his arms. He had Nazi symbols and racist language on his backpack for school.

He was planning to buy a gun. And still despite all of that they determined that he was very low risk. So they figured that he lived with his mom, he was going to school, he was getting some help for his mental health issues that's why he was a low risk. But meanwhile months after that report that the DCF close here in Florida is when he actually went out and bought this AR-15-style rifle which police say he used in this shooting.

BERMAN: Randi Kaye in Parkland, Florida. Randi thanks so much for your reporting.

Ever since the shooting we've been watching these remarkable -- remarkably -- remarkable kids, the remarkable hopeful sight of young people, standing up, speaking out, demanding that elected officials listen and act to prevent the next tragedy. Stoneman Douglas Senior Emma Gonzalez among those leading that effort. And today Florida's Governor Rick Scott broke with the NRA and proposed new regulations.


GOV. RICK SCOTT, (R) FLORIDA: If the court and voluntarily commits someone because they're a risk to themselves or others, they would be required to surrender all firearms and not regain the right to purchase or possess a firearm until a court hearing. We're also imposing or proposing a minimum 60-day period before individuals can ask a court to restore access to firearms. Also we will require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older. Let me repeat. We will require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Joining us now is Emma Gonzalez. Emma thanks so much for being with us. You just heard Governor Scott saying he wants to rise the minimum age to purchase any weapon including AR-15 to 21. The NRA is oppose to this Governor Scott is pushing it anyway. Do you think this and the other things he mentioned are good first steps?

EMMA GONZALEZ, STUDENT, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I do think they're good first steps. They're very strong first steps, actually. And a lot of us in this community are happy to hear that this is starting to move in a good direction. But it's not enough. As of yet it's not enough.

There needs to be more regulations on the semiautomatic weapons themselves. This is not just a case of how old a person has to be. This is not just a case of mental illness affecting -- mental illness and gun related shootings and mass shootings, they're not directly related.

It's when they get together that they get really, really messy and really bad. But they're not directly correlated. So it's important that we need mental health reform, but this topic, we need to regulate guns more than just mental health.

BERMAN: You say it's a good first step. I just spoke with the Republican Congressman Brian Mast from Florida. He's a Republican, again, a Republican combat veteran who now says he would support a ban on AR-15-style weapon, a ban on assault rifles. So, you know, when you couple this good first steps that you're talking about, you coupled this shift from Brian Mast right there, you know, who says he was moved in part by students like you, do you feel like you're making a difference?

GONZALEZ: We're definitely making a difference. If you look around you can see everybody is making changes on their own. People are being inspired by what the kids here at our school are doing.

[21:35:00] They're getting out there, they're getting registered to vote, they're getting pre-registered to vote, they're talking to their parents, they're talking to members of their community. Schools have been walking out in solidarity with our tragedy. The difference is astounding. You can see it if you look anywhere. It's right outside your window.

BERMAN: Emma, I have to ask you about some of the other news today. The clear failures in the system to prevent this from happening beforehand and stop it from happening while it was going on. We know the school resource officer did not enter that building.

CNN reporting tonight, breaking the news there were three other Broward County sheriff's deputies who are outside the school who did not enter. Unclear if the shooter was still there or not, but they didn't go in after at all maybe to treat some of the students who were wounded there. What does this news -- how does affect you? GONZALEZ: It makes me pretty angry. I got to say. I'm pretty upset about that because as a police officer you've made a vow, you made an oath to protect the people that you are policing and they didn't do that for us.

And I can understand that they were scared of a fully automatic -- semiautomatic weapon. I can understand that. I can respect that, but as -- it's your job to protect those who didn't sign-up for this. And I'm glad that one of them stepped down. Happy to hear that. Pretty solid move.

But when it comes back to -- when we go back to the FBI and admitting, you know, their slip-up in not figuring out or, you know, not contacting the shooter before he committed the crime. I will restate that I do not know what goes on in an FBI investigation, and I know things slip through the cracks sometimes. And this was a really bad mess up, but they admitted their mistake and they apologized, which is more than I can say for any single person at all right now.

BERMAN: Emma Gonzalez, we appreciate you being with us. Thank you for your action. We wish you the best of luck.

I know there's an open house at the school on Sunday. Students head back to school next week. Our thoughts are with you because I know that's not going to be easy. So thanks for being with us.

GONZALEZ: Thank you very much for having me.

BERMAN: All right, when we continue an in-depth look at special counsel Robert Mueller. CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger profiles a man who's been involved in some of the most important Justice Department investigations in its history.


[21:41:03] BERMAN: The breaking news tonight is yet more evidence that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been busy indicting 22 people and companies over the last nine months. Securing five guilty pleas and just today getting the cooperation of former Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates.

So who is this virtually silent special counsel, a man of few words but clearly lots of action? Gloria Borger reports.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Special Counsel Robert Mueller is a mystery man. Perhaps the most private public figure in Washington. But as the leader of the Russia investigation he's also a political ground zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the public trust in this whole thing is gone.

BORGER (voice-over): And in the sights of a President who wanted him fire. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Last year, the President have ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller back down after the White House counsel threatened to quit.

BORGER (voice-over): Putting Mueller in a bizarre position of investigating whether the President tried to fire him. But you'll never hear about it from Mueller.

GARETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, "THE TREATH MATRIX": I mean this is someone who has turned down more press conferences and interviews than most people in Washington ever get the chance to give. He doesn't really live talking about himself. He doesn't really like speaking with the press.

BORGER (voice-over): At the start, Mueller was a bipartisan favorite.

ROBERT RAY, INDIPENDENT COUSEL DURING BILL CLINTON INVESTIGATION: He would have been on anybody's list of let's say the top five people in the country to have, you know, taken on this kind of a responsibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all need to let Mr. Mueller do his job. I think he's the right guy at the right time.

BORGER (voice-over): With a long resume. At 73 he's been involved for decades in some of the Justice Department's most celebrated cases. Mobster John Gotti, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.


BORGER: And the Pan Am 103 bombing in Lockerbie Scotland in 1988, a case that's still remains personal.

MUELLER: I'll never forget the visit that I made to Lockerbie where I saw the saw the small wooden warehouse in which were stored the various affects of your loved ones. A white sneaker, a Syracuse sweatshirt, Christmas presents and photographs.

GRAFF: He's been effectively the same Bob Mueller in every place he has ever worked. Whether that was the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco in the 1970s, whether that was the George H.W. Bush administration in the 1980s, whether that was the D.C homicide prosecutor's office in the 1990s or the FBI in the 2000s. He is a hard driving, he's tenacious, he is incredibly thorough and has a very strong sense of right or wrong.

BORGER (voice-over): Not Republican or Democrat.

PHILL MUDD, FRMR. FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENECE ADVISER: In one or half years or whatever, 2000, I didn't say hear him say anything political.

BORGER (on-camera): Really in Washington?

MUDD: Yes, I know that sounds weird. He might have said that guy's a jerk. I didn't see it as a partisan issue.

BORGER (on-camera): How would you describe his politics? LISA MONACO, FMR. MUELLER CHIEF OF STAFF: Not --

BORGER (on-camera): As in there are none?

MONACO: He's apolitical. He's nonpartisan. He is, I -- sorry, I think he's become quite clear, a pretty law and order guy. But he doesn't speak of things in political terms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.

BORGER (voice-over): Which is partly why President Bush picked him to run the FBI in 2001.

GEORGE BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The FBI must remain independent of politics and uncompromising in its mission.

BORGER (voice-over): Mueller arrived at the FBI just seven days before 9/11. He served most of his term under Bush. And when President Obama asked him to stay for two more years, it required an act of Congress the Senate approved 100-0.

His MO, a behind the books guy even after hours.

MUDD: People told me after that Christmas party, while we're going to the director's house, the guy who never really interacts with us. That at the end of the party that he would flick the lights. So, it's going to 7:09, at 9:03, it's like, well, on the invitation, 7:09 it's 9:03 lights on, that's kind of a signal.

[21:45:10] BORGER (voice-over): Married for 50 years to a former teacher, the father of two daughters. There still wasn't much small talk about family at work. A literally buttoned up and buttoned-down boss.

MUDD: I remember telling him, director you wear a white button down shirt everyday. Can you wear like tattered or something?

GRAFF: I asked him finally years after he had been director, you know, what was the deal with the white shirts when you were at the FBI? He said, "I understood I was leading the FBI through a wrenching period of change. I wanted to wear the white shirt because I wanted the other FBI agents to be able to know that this was still the agency that they had signed up to join.

BORGER (voice-over): His dress code as unforgiving as his work ethic.

MONACO: He was in the office between 6:00 and 6:30 every morning, and he would always plop his briefcase down on the chair, opposite my desk, not to sit down and keep a tour or a shoot the breeze. Immediately what's happening, what's going on?

BORGER (on-camera): What if you're not a good briefer?


BORGER (on-camera): Done?

FERNANDEZ: Then you're done. I mean, the boss likes a good briefer. People use to wake up at 4:00 in the morning and study for two hours before briefing the boss. It was like the big test to the day.

MUDD: There's not a lot of back and forth. Very quickly you're going to go through the details of the case.

BORGER (on-camera): Would you assume that he is managing the special counsel investigation the same way?

MUDD: No, heck yes. I wouldn't assume it. That is his -- it's not like a professional twist, that's his DNA. What's going on today? What do you got? What do you got? What do you got? I don't want to hear a lot of noise, I want to hear what the facts are. Let's talk about it. What's your judgment? What do you think? OK. Next, there's the decision, let's move on. Let's go. I never saw any curiousness or nervousness ever. Ever. Ever.

BORGER: Ever, never?

MUDD: Never.

BORGER: The pressure on Muller now as special counsel is intense but he's seen worse.

FERNANDEZ: Forge this is man that in his early 20s fought in Vietnam. I don't think there's anything in Washington that's going to be any type of fear that he'd face when he was a young man.

BORGER (voice-over): Mueller grew up in the wealthy Philadelphia suburbs and attended an elite boarding school, a classmate of John Kerry. Then to Princeton. But the combat death of classmate David Hackett (ph) in Vietnam inspired Mueller to join the marines.

GRAFF: He was wounded in combat, shot through the leg, received bronze star with valor, purple heart and, you know, goes right back in the fight a couple of weeks later.

MUELLER: I will always consider myself fortunate to have lived through the war in Vietnam, and there were many men such as David Hackett who did not.

And in some sense you feel that you have been given a second lease on life and you want to make the most of it to contribute in some way.

BORGER (voice-over): After graduating the University of Virginia Law School, Mueller soon found his way to the Department of Justice and remained there for most of the next four decades.

MUELLER: My colleagues here at the Department of Justice passed --

BORGER (voice-over): With two short breaks to give private practice a try.

GRAFF: Bob Mueller has been notoriously unhappy every time he has tried to be in private practice. He just can't defend guilty people. They'll meet with a client, they'll explain his problem, and he'll say, well, it sounds like you should go to jail then. You know, that --

BORGER: So he'll tell his client --

GRAFF: It sounds like you're guilty. Bob Mueller is someone who sees the world in very black and white terms.


BERMAN: Up next for us, part two of this. Look at the man behind the mystery including Robert Mueller's trip to the bedside of a very ill attorney general.


[21:53:02] BERMAN: Now more of our look at the man behind the Russia investigation. Especial Counsel Robert Mueller, Former FBI Director James Comey is a big part of his world now and this is not their first rodeo together. More now from Gloria Borger.


BORGER(voice-over): By 2004 Mueller was running the FBI when his phone rang. It was James Comey, then Deputy Attorney General. It was the first time Mueller and Comey would find themselves in a very controversial legal drama.

JAMES COMEY, FMR FBI DIRECTOR: I was very upset. I was angry.

BORGER (voice-over): Comey was worried the Bush administration was determined to keep a warrant less eavesdropping program that Mueller, Comey and their boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft thought was illegal. But Ashcroft was in the hospital recovering from surgery leaving Comey in charge.

COMEY: I was concerned that given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that. Called Director Mueller, which whom I'd been discussing this particular matter and had been a great help to me over that week, and told him what was happening. He said, "Ill meet you at the hospital right now."

BORGER (voice-over): They had to literally race administration officials to Ashcroft's bedside.

COMEY: Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances.

BORGER (voice-over): In the end, Ashcroft backed Comey and Mueller.

GRAFF: He enlisted Bob Mueller because he knew that Bob Mueller had this incredible nonpartisan reputation in Washington, while Comey might be able to be personally blamed for having political motives or thinking politics, no one was going to be able to attach that label to Bob Mueller.

BORGER (voice-over): That was then. Now Trump views their relationship with suspicion.

TRUMP: Well, he's very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome.

[21:54:59] BORGER (voice-over): Mueller loyalists deny it. But it's all part of the new landscape as he investigates the President.

REP. TREY GOWDY, (R) HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: In Congress we just assume politics infects and invades everything.

BORGER (voice-over): And it has. News of disparaging text messages about Trump led Mueller to remove a member of his team.

GOWDY: I think they're devastated. They're beyond showing political preferences. It very much impacts people's perception of fairness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President are you --

BORGER (voice-over): Then the President declassified a document challenging the FBI's professional behavior.

TRUMP: I think it's a disgrace what's going on in this country. I think it's a disgrace.

BORGER (voice-over): The intended message to Mueller was clear. Your investigation is contaminated. Mueller remains silent, instead letting his work speak for itself.

GOWDY: He is the best hope to produce a product that my fellow citizens can have confidence in. It will not come from Congress, let me assured you of that. It is not going to come from bunch of politicians. I hope it can come from a former marine who is the head of the FBI and a U.S. attorney but he has got to be mindful of the perception. I'm going to give him benefit of the doubt and I'm going wait on the product that he produces.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Gloria Borger for that. We'll be right back.


[22:00:11] BERMAN: And that's it for 360, I'm John Berman. Time now for Don Lemon, "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.