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White House Official Confirms that President Trump Told Staff that John Kelly was 100 Percent Safe; Lawyer of Stormy Daniels Says She was Physically Threatened to Stay Quiet; Autopsy Report of Nikolai Glushkov Indicates He Died from Compression to the Neck; Mueller Subpoena Crosses What Trump Called His Red Line; Putin Critic Found Dead; Russians Hacked Energy. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 16, 2018 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer, it's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 5:00 p.m. in Salisbury, England, 8:00 p.m. in Moscow, wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

Season finale, that's how one source described the potential firings involving the West Wing and the president's closest advisors.

A disturbing claim. The lawyer for the porn star suing President Trump over their alleged affair says there's proof she was physically threatened to stay silent. And now, the lawyer says six more women have come forward.

And Robert Mueller's Russia investigation taking a dramatic new turn as he subpoenas the Trump organization, crossing what the president once called "the red line". All that coming up, but first though, everyone loves a season finale.

That's how one White House official describes the West Wing drama over who is in and who is out and who might be the next to get fired?

White House officials confirms President Trump told his advisors that Chief of Staff John Kelly was and I'm quoting now, "100 percent safe." Kelly's fate had been in question.

Sources say the president is ready to get rid of his national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, but the timing is up to the president.

For more on all the intrigue that's unfolding right now, let's go to our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, what more can you tell us about the turmoil and that the idea that the president seems to be enjoying all of this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's no question that President Trump has spent much of the week fueling this speculation himself.

He has said publicly a couple of different times, change is good, and he is about to change some members of his cabinet to have it just like he would like it to be. So that is built up here. Certainly in conversations here at the

White House and indeed across Washington and different administrations wondering who could be the next to be fired or dismissed.

So much so that there is a hashtag firing Friday that was going around online on Twitter. But now White House aides are urging and advising aides to focus on their work, they're trying to dial back, there's speculation that anyone is going to be fired immediately.

We do know, as you said, the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster could be among the senior advisors next on the list, if you will.

The president has been talking privately to people about he would like to have someone else in that position. Of course, several cabinet secretaries themselves also on the hot seat for a variety of, you know, misspending money and other things.

But Wolf, as we stand here right now, 1:00 in the east, still no firings and no sense that there are going to be any before the close of business.

And of course, plenty of time for all of this to happen. Again, the president, we are told is talking with his friends and his allies about many different positions, and surely, watching all this unfold on cable television which we know he likes to watch well.

BLITZER: Yes, we certainly do. We're also following some new developments in the Stormy Daniels saga, her attorney is now making a rather disturbing claim about efforts to keep her quiet.

Listen to what that lawyer said on Cnn's "NEW DAY".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER: And the fact is that my client was physically threatened to stay silent about what she knew about Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The attorney also says six more women have come forward, alleging sexual relationships with Donald Trump. He says at least two of them claim that they have some sort of non-disclosure agreements with the -- with the president.

What's the latest response to this stormy saga and how is it impacting the president and his agenda?

ZELENY: Wolf, no surprise, the White House is not responding to this. As they've tried not to respond to this entire saga and controversy for weeks.

But the reality here is, this story is not going away. There are still many unanswered questions about who knew about this?

You know, are there other people involved here? So I do expect that the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders will be asked about this again today, this afternoon at our daily press briefing here.

So far the president himself has not been asked directly about this hush money or any of these, you know, variety of stories that have spun out of this.

But Wolf, no sign it's going away. As for how it's impacting his agenda, I think that's unclear, it certainly is not impacting his key supporters here.

But it is a distraction without a doubt. And as this goes forward here, will it be a legal matter? We don't know the answer to that.

But again, it's something that at some point, the president will certainly be asked in a public setting. We've not yet heard from him on this, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny at the White House. Let's get some perspective on all of the turmoil unfolding in the West Wing and the Stormy Daniels saga as well.

Cnn political analyst April Ryan is here along with our chief political analyst Gloria Borger. What do you make, Gloria, first of all, of Stormy Daniels' lawyer claiming she was physically threatened to keep quiet?

[13:05:00] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think it's an incredible charge, and I think we need to get more detail. Physically threatened by whom?

I mean, we know that she already told much of her story to "In Touch Magazine" a while ago. So I don't know if there was some of the story that was missing, and we need to -- we need to -- you know, when an attorney levels a threat saying, you know, my client was physically threatened, I think -- I think we need to know more of the details about that.

He also said, of course, that he's had women lining up. Six more women, I presume he's vetting them with similar charges about -- it seems similar charges about a relationship with the president.

I think we need to know more about that, too.

BLITZER: Yes, he says six women have come forward to him, and at least, two of them claim they have a non-disclosure agreement that they signed as well.

Stormy Daniels, as we know, got $130,000 in exchange for the nondisclosure agreement that she signed. And what will be interesting if those agreements are all the same, basically, if the words are the same in all three of them.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not only if the words are the same, but if they came from e-mails from the Trump organization.

And you have Robert Mueller going into, trying to find out more in this Trump organization. And you know, I talked to Chris Darden about two days ago, the former prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, and he says it's all about the money, the trail of money.

And if indeed there's a trail of money, this is within the scope of what Mueller could be doing. So this is -- you've got intrigue, you've got high names, you've got sex, I mean, you would think it is a TV show.

BORGER: It is.

RYAN: It's sad, Gloria, it's so -- I mean, it's a lot.

BLITZER: Yes --

BORGER: Yes --

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, another story, you helped break the story. That the president is ready to replace his national security adviser, General H.R. --

BORGER: Right --

BLITZER: McMaster. Let me quote from an article you wrote on cnn.com. "In conversations with people who know the president well, one point seems clear.

The president thinks the turmoil is great. It shows he's in charge -- in charge, not for real. He thinks he's got it, says an ally. I can tell you when he's concerned and when he's not. He's not. He's on cloud 9, a man in full."

So what's behind this new found confidence --

BORGER: Well --

BLITZER: That the president has?

BORGER: Yes, so according to my sources, president believes -- OK, he's got tax reform under his belt, he feels that he's finally mastered the White House, and that he was taking advice from a lot of people who gave him advice that now he believes was wrong.

And he wants to find his own comfort level, particularly among the people who work for him directly every single day. He cares about all the stuff going on in the cabinet insofar as it embarrasses him.

But what he really wants to get right is sort of the inner circle. And he and McMaster have had a very difficult relationship for some time, and he has wanted to make a change there.

The problem has been change to what? And also I think he wants to make sure that McMaster, whom he respects, lands well.

And I think that's been -- I think that's been part of the problem. But what we see here is just a president saying, OK, I'm close to getting the cabinet I want, I'm close to getting the team I want, and the question is whether he just wants to rip the band-aid off and do it all at once. Imagine working inside that White House right now, where General Kelly is meeting with the president and finally saying, OK, you're not fired, you get to stay on the island. And then --

RYAN: For another week, maybe.

BORGER: For another week.

RYAN: Yes --

BORGER: And then people don't know the fate of the people they're working for or the Stormy Daniels story out there. I mean, it's a -- it must be a very difficult working environment --

BLITZER: Yes, there's no doubt, April that the way that the president fired Secretary of State Tillerson with a tweet, not even a personal phone call, not even a face-to-face meeting --

RYAN: Unprofessional --

BLITZER: That has really demoralized a lot of the folks over there.

RYAN: Yes, and that's part of the issue. People who will believe, and rightly so for some, that they are on the chopping block. They are concerned about how they will look once they are fired and depart this administration.

You know, and it's also demoralizing to hear your name in the news. We're hearing this, you know, that I'm -- this time it's my turn. You know, when you see the blocks of the people who could be up for firing.

And it is demoralizing, but at the same time, this president is someone who's got a list of people who he feels are friends, loyal, and would do -- he would be in sync with to replace those who are up for possible firing.

But also an issue, and I talked to someone who is in the intelligence field who said this. This is not normal, it is something that really sends a message not just to the American public, and to Americans, but also to the world globally.

[13:10:00] And they're saying it does not -- then to our enemies or those who look at us as we are their enemy. It makes it look like the president is distracted with all of this that's going on.

BORGER: He likes this.

RYAN: He likes this, but is it --

BORGER: Right --

RYAN: I know, but is it really safe? It could actually be a security issue. When you're talking about getting rid of McMaster two months before you're going into North Korea. This -- McMaster, the national security adviser, brings in options,

you know, options on these issues for the president to consider. And now, he's possible living -- this is a bad time.

BORGER: You know, all of this, though, all of this turmoil, who's in? Who's out? It's kind of -- these stories are as solid as Jelo(ph), because the only person who really matters in all of this right now is the president.

And the truth of the matter is that the president himself may say to people, you know, I want to get rid of this one, and I don't like that one and this one bothers me.

So he kind of spreads it, but then in an instant, he can tell General Kelly, don't worry, you're safe. So, the uncertainty is so difficult and --

RYAN: I would quit.

BORGER: Well --

RYAN: I would quit, I mean, seriously, I will just -- I mean, think about it. I mean, you're not sure of your job, and what you're doing for the American public. And there's maniac behavior going on, it's uncertainty. Is this about the American public or is this entertainment to keep people --

BLITZER: The departures no doubt will going though. So Hicks, Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, let's see what happens --

RYAN: And his cabinet, secretary --

BLITZER: Everybody is bracing to see what happens later today --

RYAN: Firing Friday --

BORGER: Stay tuned --

BLITZER: Stay tuned --

RYAN: All right --

BLITZER: All right, indeed, guys, thanks very much. There is breaking news out of the U.K. where a disturbing post mortem of a Russian businessman, a Putin critic has now sparked a murder investigation.

Plus, he's described as a hawkish warmonger in favor of preemptive strikes at North Korea and Iran. We have details of a possible replacement for General H.R. McMaster.

And a fresh twist at Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as the president's business dealings take center stage.

[13:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: U.K. police are treating the suspicious death of a Russian

citizen as a murder. The victim, a Putin critic Nikolai Glushkov was found dead in his home this past Monday.

Today, an autopsy reveals the cause of death and I'm quoting now, "compression to the neck." I want to go straight to our Cnn International Correspondent Melissa Bell, she's joining us from Salisbury, England, right now Salisbury is where a former Russian spy and his daughter were found poisoned just a week before Glushkov's death.

And Melissa, do police believe Glushkov's death could be related to these poisonings?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, (INAUDIBLE) certain that there's no link between the death of Nikolai Glushkov in south London, and the death of that father and daughter that you mentioned here on March the 4th.

But clearly, the timing of Nikolai Glushkov's death, a man who had a number of links with the Russian immigrants here in London, several of whom including Boris Berezovsky, Alexander Litvinenko were found dead in the U.K. in suspicious circumstances has raised a number of questions.

And certainly the interest that is being paid to his death. And the police are now saying they believe it was -- it is a murder investigation that's been opened, an anti-terror investigation because of those associations as well open to begin with.

They now believe that he was killed, no finger yet is being pointed, but clearly this death coming as it did only eight days after Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found dead -- were found slumped onto a bench, they're still in critical but life threatening condition.

Also slumped on a bench just behind me here in the town center of Salisbury is what has really attracted a great deal of interest, even if no link is been made.

That investigation as Skripal says here in Salisbury continues to be investigated. It is being squarely placed at the feet not just of Russia, Wolf, but actually of Vladimir Putin himself.

There's latest words of the foreign minister, and even as that investigation continues here in Salisbury, of course, all eyes very much now on this latest death being treated not just as unexplained as it was just now, that of Nikolai Glushkov, but actually as a murder investigation. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, a truly disturbing development where you are. Melissa Bell, thanks very much. A plan to plunge the U.S. into darkness. The Department of Homeland Security here in Washington is now detailing planned cyber attacks, they say, from Russia targeting U.S. energy, nuclear, even water facilities.

The report is part of the newly imposed sanctions that have just been imposed against Russia for its election meddling here in the United States. Joining us now, Congressman Chris Collins, he's a Republican from western New York. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're on the House Energy Committee, your district out in western New York near Buffalo includes Niagara Falls area. Major Niagara power plant.

A lot of production for electricity coming from that part of the -- from your district and the district next to yours. What have you been told about these alleged cyber attacks that the Russians are planning, and how close are they to actually succeeding?

COLLINS: Well, we've been monitoring this, we've held hearings on it. And when you look at -- it's not just Russia, it's North Korea, it's Iran. We said all along that the cyber attacks into our infrastructure, which includes power plants but also any and all, you know, computer-related things, is something that we all take very seriously.

You know, we're trying to harden everything we can, even from an electromagnetic pulse which we've always been talking about the last ten years, the EMP, vulnerability of electronics.

So we should be concerned about this, we need to make sure that our counterterrorism folks are on this.

[13:20:00] We -- on the Energy and Commerce Committee in Congress are very aware of it, the industry is very aware of it.

We take it very seriously.

BLITZER: Even with the announcement of these new sanctions that the Treasury Department just imposed this week against the Russians, the White House pointedly still isn't saying, at least as of yesterday, whether they consider Russia a friend or a foe. What do you consider Russia to be, a friend or a foe?

COLLINS: Oh, there's no question, they are a foe. They are flexing their muscle. Vladimir Putin is flexing his muscle around the world.

It's somewhat disturbing to hear that his popularity is at an all-time high as he is flexing the Russian muscle, meddling in any and all sorts of activities, not only in the U.S. but in Europe and around the world.

So we need to be very diligent in this. The sanctions that Trump imposed recently are certainly a step, but you know, this is the type of activity that has to be monitored by many agencies around the clock, and I don't see it stopping any time soon.

BLITZER: We know that the president's top national security advisors, whether the outgoing secretary of state, Nikki Haley; the UN ambassador and others, they've really been outspoken in criticizing the Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But the president doesn't do that, he never criticizes Putin. Why is

that?

COLLINS: Well, I mean, I can't speak for the president, but the sanctions he just leveled on Russia, I think, speak for itself. We all know that Putin is, in fact, a dictator.

You know, they may have elections, but those elections are not true elections. And he is focused on disrupting the west, what we call democracy and freedom which does not exist in Russia.

And so I'm glad to see we put more sanctions in place. Certainly, I was someone that voted for those in Congress, and certainly from what I've seen, his administration and all the things that I have read say, that is our number threat to just disrupting our way of living.

You know, we have a nuclear threat from North Korea and the same with Iran, but it's Russia who is meddling in all sorts of our activities.

BLITZER: The administration this week as you know, they finally did impose those new sanctions on Russia overwhelmingly approved in the Senate and the House.

The president didn't want to sign that legislation into law. He did so because he knew he couldn't override a congressional veto.

But it's 90 days after the deadline, he goes ahead and authorizes the Treasury Department to implement those sanctions. Why do you think it took so long? As you know, you voted in favor of the sanctions together with almost all of your Democratic and Republican colleagues last August.

COLLINS: The important thing is they are now in place. You know, I'm not part of those discussions inside, you know, the West Wing. And you know, there's a lot of moving targets.

We actually, frankly, are still hoping that Russia could assist us in denuclearizing North Korea, and there are places that we still need because Russia is, you know, a very powerful nation.

Russia and China can do a lot to help us with North Korea. So it's a fine line you walk where you're an adversary one day and a potential ally another day when it comes to the nuclear threat of North Korea.

That's where we stand with both Russia and China. So it's a delicate balance, Wolf, and I'm not privy to those particular discussions.

They are now in place, but we have to remember that Russia could assist us greatly in the nuclear threat from North Korea.

BLITZER: The president last summer said it would be a red line if the special counsel Robert Mueller looked into Trump family finances.

The special counsel has now gone ahead and subpoenaed records from the Trump organization. Do you believe that this does cross that so- called red line, and do you think if it does, the president is close to firing Robert Mueller?

COLLINS: Well, I mean, to many of us, you know, we've closed our investigation in Congress, Devin Nunes issued his report, finding no collusion whatsoever between --

BLITZER: That's just in the House Intelligence -- the House Intelligence --

COLLINS: Correct --

BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting.

COLLINS: Right.

BLITZER: There are other congressional investigations going on, the judiciary --

COLLINS: Yes, the Senate --

BLITZER: Today, it's the Senate investigations --

COLLINS: Right --

BLITZER: So it's only the Republican majority in the House Intelligence Committee that's closed up its investigation.

COLLINS: Well, that's correct. And many of us have seen Mueller go on what would appear to be a very -- much what we could call a witch- hunt.

But putting that aside, I think if -- and Trump has cooperated fully with this. If the current subpoenas as specific to Russia, then I don't think that's crossing a red line.

[13:25:00] I think it's you know, a stretch at best. But not having seen the subpoenas, I think we have to see whether they're delving into a Russian money piece which I suppose you could say would fall under the auspices of his charge.

But if they're, you know, looking at some financial deal in Hilton Head, South Carolina, you know, that's a whole and other matter.

And I don't know the answer to that, and I'm sure we'll see more as this develops over the next few days, but I have not heard any indications that Trump is close to firing Mueller.

And again, we have to see what the details of the subpoena are.

BLITZER: Yes, well, he does have the authority under the terms of his assignment, Robert Mueller, to investigate not only alleged collusion or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia, but other related matters that are discovered during the course of the investigation, presumably matters that don't have anything to do with Russia if he wants to go down that road.

We'll see if he does. There's so much that we don't know about his investigation --

COLLINS: Right --

BLITZER: Clearly right now. Congressman Chris Collins of western New York, near my hometown of Buffalo, thanks very much for joining us.

COLLINS: Always good to be with you, Wolf, have a great day.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. Coming up next, he's called for preemptive strikes at Iran and North Korea, and now he may be the next top adviser to the president when it comes to national security.

And there's more layoffs loom over the West Wing, we're awaiting a White House briefing, stay with us for live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:16:06] BLITZER: U.K. police are treating the suspicious death of a Russian citizen as a murder. The victim, Putin critic Nikolay Glushkov, was found dead in his home this past Monday. Today an autopsy reveals the cause of death, and I'm quoting now, compression to the neck.

I want to go straight to our CNN international correspondent Melissa Bell. She's joining us from Salisbury, England, right now. Salisbury is where a former Russian spy and his daughter were found poised just a week before Glushkov's death.

Melissa, do police believe Glushkov's death could be related it these poisonings?

BELL: Well, for the time being, Wolf, they're saying that there is no link between the death of Nikolay Glushkov's in south London and the death of that father and daughter that you mentioned here on March the 4th.

But clearly the timing of Nikolay Glushkov's death, the man who had a number of links with Russian immigrants (ph) here in London, several of whom including Boris Berezovsky, Alexander Yakovenko, were found dead in the U.K. in suspicious circumstances has raised a number of questions and certainly interest is being paid to his death. And the police are now saying they believe it was -- it is a murder investigation that's been opened, an anti-terror investigation, because of those associations is what was open to begin with. They now believe that he was killed.

No finger is yet being pointed, but clearly this death coming as it did only eight days after Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found dead -- were found slumped, rather, on a bench. They're still in critical but life-threatening condition in hospital, slumped on a bench just behind me here in the town center of Salisbury is what has really attracted a great deal of interest. Even if no link is being made.

That investigation into the Skripal's death (ph) here in Salisbury continues to be investigated. It is being squarely placed at the feet, not just of Russia, Wolf, but actually of Vladimir Putin himself. There is the latest words of the foreign minister. And even as that investigation continues here in Salisbury, of course, all eyes very much now on this latest death being treated, not just unexplained, as it was just now, that of Nikolay Glushkov, but actually as a murder investigation.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, truly disturbing developments where you are.

Mellissa Bell, thanks very much.

A plan to plunge the U.S. into darkness. The Department of Homeland Security here in Washington is now detailing planned cyberattacks they say from Russia targeting U.S. energy, nuclear, even water facilities. The report is part of the newly imposed sanctions that have just been imposed against Russia for its election meddling here in the United States.

Joining us now, Congressman Chris Collins. He's a Republican from western New York.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, you're on the House Energy Committee. Your district out in western New York, near Buffalo, includes the Niagara Falls area. Major Niagara power plant. A lot of production for electricity coming from that part of the -- from your district and the district next to yours.

What have you been told about these alleged cyberattacks that the Russians are planning, and how close are they to actually succeeding?

COLLINS: Well, we've been monitoring this. We've held hearings on it. And when you look at, it's not just Russia, it's North Korea. It's Iran. We've said all along that the cyberattacks into our infrastructure, which includes power plants, but also any and all, you know, computer related things, is something that we all take very seriously. You know, we're trying to harden everything we can, even from an electromagnetic pulse, which we've always been talking about the last ten years, the EMP vulnerability of electronics.

So we should be concerned about this. We need to make sure that our counterterrorism folks are on this. We -- on the Energy and Commerce Committee in Congress, are very aware of it. The industry is very aware of it. We take it very, very seriously.

[13:20:09] BLITZER: So even with the announcement of these new sanctions that the Treasury Department just imposed this week against the Russians, the White House pointedly still isn't saying, at least as of yesterday, whether they consider Russia a friend or a foe. What do you consider Russia to be, a friend or a foe?

COLLINS: Oh, there's no question, they are a foe. They are flexing their muscle. Vladimir Putin is flexing his muscle around the world. It's somewhat disturbing to hear that his popularity is at an all-time high as he is flexing the Russian muscle, meddling in any and all sorts of activities, not only in the U.S., but in Europe and around the world. So we need to be very diligent in this. The sanctions that Trump imposed recently are certainly a step. But, you know, this is the type of activity that has to be monitored by many agencies around the clock, and I don't see it stopping any time soon.

BLITZER: We know that the president's top national security advisers, whether the now outgoing secretary of state, Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, and others, they've really been outspoken in criticizing the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. But the president doesn't do that. He never criticizes Putin. Why is that?

COLLINS: Well, I mean, I can't speak for the president, but the sanctions he just leveled on Russia, I think, speak for itself. We all know that Putin is, in fact, a dictator. And, you know, they may have elections, but those elections are not true elections. And he is focused on disrupting the west. What we call democracy and freedom, which does not exist in Russia. And so I'm glad to see we put more sanctions in place. Certainly I was someone that voted for those in Congress. And certainly, from what I've seen, his administration and all the things that I've read say that is our number one threat to just disrupting our way of living. You know, we have a nuclear threat from North Korea and the same with Iran, but it's Russia who is meddling in all sorts of our activities.

BLITZER: The administration this week, as you know, they finally did impose those new sanctions on Russia, overwhelmingly approved in the Senate and the House. The president didn't want to sign that legislation into law. He did so because he knew he couldn't override a congressional veto. But it's 90 days after the deadline. He goes ahead and authorizes the Treasury Department to implement those sanctions. Why do you think it took so long? As you know, you voted in favor of the sanctions, together with almost all of your Democratic and Republican colleagues last August.

COLLINS: The important thing is they are now in place. You know, I'm not part of those discussions inside, you know, the West Wing. And, you know, there's a lot of moving targets. We actually, frankly, are still hoping that Russia could assist us in denuclearizing North Korea, and there are places that we still need because Russia is, you know, a very powerful nation. Russia and China can do a lot to help us with North Korea.

So it's a fine line you walk where you're an adversary one day and a potential ally another day when it comes to the nuclear threat of North Korea. That's where we stand with both Russia and China. So it's a delicate balance, Wolf, and I'm not privy to those particular discussions. They are now in place, but we have to remember that Russia could assist us greatly in the nuclear threat from North Korea.

BLITZER: The president, last summer, said it would be a red line if the special counsel, Robert Mueller, looked into Trump family finances. The special counsel has now gone ahead and subpoenaed records from the Trump Organization. Do you believe that this does cross that so-called red line, and do you think if it does, the president is close to firing Robert Mueller?

COLLINS: Well, I mean, to many of us, you know, we've closed our investigation in Congress. Devin Nunes issued his report, finding no collusion whatsoever. Between --

BLITZER: That's just in the House Intelligence -- the House -- the House Intelligence Committee.

COLLINS: Correct.

BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting.

COLLINS: Right.

BLITZER: There are other congressional investigations going on. Judiciary Committee. The Senate investigations.

COLLINS: Yes. Right.

BLITZER: So it's only the Republican majority in the House Intelligence Committee that's closed up its investigation.

COLLINS: Well, that's correct. And many of us have seen Mueller go on what would appear to be a very much -- what we could call a witch hunt. But putting that aside, I think if -- and Trump has cooperated fully with this. If the current subpoenas are specific to Russia, then I don't think that's crossing a red line. I think it's -- it's, you know, a stretch at best. But not having seen the subpoenas, I think we have to see what -- whether they're delving into a Russian money piece, which I suppose you could say would fall under the aspics (ph) of his charge.

[13:25:16] But if they're, you know, looking at some financial deal in Hilton Head, South Carolina, you know, that's a whole nother matter. And I don't know the answer to that and I'm sure we'll see more as this develops over the next few days. But I have not heard any indications that Trump is close to firing Mueller. And, again, we have to see what the details of the subpoena are.

BLITZER: Yes, he does have the authority under the terms of his assignment, Robert Mueller, to investigate not only alleged collusion or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia, but other related matters that are discovered during the course of the investigation, presumably matters that don't have anything to do with Russia if he wants to go down that road. We'll see if he does.

There's so much that we don't know about his investigation clearly right now.

COLLINS: Right.

BLITZER: Congressman Chris Collins of western New York, near my hometown of Buffalo, thanks very much for joining us.

COLLINS: Always good to be with you, Wolf. Have a great day.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

Coming up next, he's called for preemptive strikes on Iran and North Korea. Now he may be the next top adviser to the president when it comes to national security.

And as more layoffs loom over the West Wing, we're awaiting a White House briefing. Stay with us for live coverage.

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