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FBI Wants to Speak to Austin Bomber; Trump Lawyer Pushing Theory DOJ, FBI Framed Trump; Saudi Crown Prince to Meet with Trump Tomorrow at White House; Interview with Rep. Francis Rooney. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 19, 2018 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:03] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The city of Austin is on edge right now. For the fourth time this month, an explosion has rocked the capital of Texas. But this blast was different. Police say the explosive device was placed on the side of the road and may have been triggered by a trip wire. Two men were injured. The first three packages were left outside of homes, killing two people. Police say they're dealing with what they describe now as a serial bomber.

For some insight, I'm joined by CNN law enforcement analyst, former assistant director of the U.S. Marshall's office, Art Broderick.

Art, give us your assessment of these four bombings now.

ART BRODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCMENT ANALYST: It gets scarier and scarier every time. I think what's happening is, now that we've classified him as a serial bomber, we've seen past serials shooters or serial killers, they watch the news all the time. So he's changed his method of operation. As opposed to leaving packages on doorsteps and now he's setting bombs with trip wires, which is pretty sophisticated. This individual has a very good knowledge of how to make these bombs and transporting them and set them up without having them accidently explode.

BLITZER: The first bombings we initially thought to be racially motivated, going after minorities, but with a trip wire, anybody could have tripped that wire.

BRODERICK: This seems very random, which elevates it more in my eyes. How they're going to catch this individual is how they've caught other individuals that are either serial shooters or serial killers. It will come down to three things. The forensics they can pull off the particular devices. Number two will be the phone calls from the public. And number three will be the painstaking process of going through all the videos, the traffic cameras, the security cameras at individuals' houses, security cameras of business to try link a common denominated between these four bombings and what occurred yesterday --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: How -

BRODERICK: It's very scary.

BLITZER: Yes, very scary. How sophisticated are these bombs?

BRODERICK: Listening to the ATF experts -- I'm not a bomb expert -- but they say it's pretty sophisticated to be able to put this bomb together do the transport, set this up without it going off. So this person knows what they're doing. I think, now the net has gone out across the U.S. to see who has the capability of making this bomb, transporting and setting up this type of device.

BLITZER: We heard the FBI agent in charge reach out and say, at this news conference, they would like to speak to the bomber. What are the chances the bomber would get in touch with the FBI?

BRODERICK: It's hard to say. They could do that. But everything has been pretty quiet. We had the one bombing on March 2nd. It was 10 days before the second bombing. And the third bombing went off in the same day. Then the police came out and made a plea for him to call in and, all of a sudden, a device goes earlier the next morning -- or late at night. So it doesn't sound like this individual wants to be caught because he's changing his method of operation, and that make it a lot more difficult for our law enforcement to --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It certainly does.

Art Broderick, thanks very much.

BRODERICK: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, as President Trump goes on a three-day tirade about the Russia investigation, we're getting word he's considering hiring a lawyer who pushed a conspiracy theory that the Justice Department and the FBI actually framed the president. We'll get Republican reaction to that and more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:37:47] BLITZER: President Trump is reportedly on the verge adding a controversial new voice to his legal team in his fight against the Russia investigation. "The New York Times" reports that Joseph DiGenova will be joining the Trump team. It could signal a change in strategy.

DiGenova has said in the past that he thinks the president is being framed by FBI and the Justice Department.

Joining us now, Florida Congressman Francis Rooney, a Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY, (R), FLORIDA: Thanks for having me on again.

BLITZER: Do you buy any of this theory that Joe DiGenova put forward? I read you a quote from what he said on FOX News in January: "There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton, and if she didn't win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime. Make no mistake about it, a group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime."

ROONEY: That's pretty strong language. I've said before I think a lot of people in the DOJ and the FBI crossed the line about partisanship, said or texted some things they shouldn't have done. I think they corrupted the FISA warrant process by using Steele's dossier. That's a whole different level of a situation to apply a fringe on.

BLITZER: Because the implication of what he's suggesting is that there's a group of FBI and Department of Justice officials who just came up with these allegations to frame the president of the United States.

ROONEY: I still believe that we have an honest bureaucracy. I'm a little concerned about what we saw out of Strzok and Ohr and some of them, and Mr. McCabe, because they did things in his office. But I'm sure that, by and large, most FBI agents are good public servants trying to help keep us safe out there.

BLITZER: The president, this morning, tweeted: "A total witch hunt with massive conflicts of interests."

He's now, really, for the first time, directly going after Robert Mueller by name, the special counsel. What do you think of that?

ROONEY: I think Director Mueller has an impeccable reputation. I would rather he had a more balanced team. He seems to have a lot more Democrats than Republicans. I think it was in his interest to do that. But I think he needs to finish his investigation.

BLITZER: You have confidence in him?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: After all, he is a Republican.

ROONEY: I have no reason not to have confidence in him. I don't know where the thing is going to go. He hasn't generated much so far, other than catching a couple of people who should have registered under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. He hasn't --

[13:40:04] BLITZER: He's indicted 13 Russians.

ROONEY: Yes, 13 Russians.

BLITZER: Yes.

ROONEY: There are plenty of bad Russians out there.

BLITZER: Yes.

ROONEY: Though he hasn't gotten anything done on what he was hired to do, which was to prove collusion or successful Russian interference.

BLITZER: Well, he's gone, he's gotten guilty pleas from Michael Flynn, the president's national security adviser. That's --

(CROSSTALK)

ROONEY: Oh, yes. He should have registered as a foreign agent. He shouldn't have taken that money from, I think, it was Turkey. But one of them took money from Turkey. And Manafort and Flynn, one of them took money from the Ukraine. I get them mixed up.

BLITZER: But these are serious allegations against high ranking - and he's got these charges against Paul Manafort, who was the Trump campaign chairman. And we don't know, because they're been pretty secretive, what else they've been doing.

But do you think it's smart for the president to be tweeting, speaking publicly about all of this at this sensitive moment? Trey Gowdy, a man you know, Republican Congressman, he says, if you're innocent, behave like you're innocent.

ROONEY: I thought Trey hit the nail on the head. Yes. If he is innocent, let the process play out and he'll be judge innocent.

BLITZER: I want to play a little clip. This is Jake Tapper, yesterday, speaking with Lindsey Graham.

Oh, we don't have that clip.

But basically, Lindsey Graham said Lindsey Graham suggested, and I'll read it to you: "If the president tried to fired Mueller, if he tried to do that, that would be the beginning or the end of his presidency."

Do you agree with Lindsey Graham?

ROONEY: I don't know. I know I was in college when we had the Archibald Cox situation. It certainly focused more attention on Watergate and became the end of -- it was at least the end of the beginning, if not the beginning of the end for Richard Nixon.

BLITZER: The president's lawyer, Ty Cobb, had to issue a statement at the end of the weekend saying the president is not considering firing Robert Mueller. Do you believe that?

ROONEY: I wouldn't have any way to know, yes or no. But I think the better decision is to let Director Mueller finish his investigation, find out if he can come up with anything.

BLITZER: Let him get the job done. He's been working hard. And you say you have confidence in Mueller.

Let me get your thoughts on this whole issue of collusion. You're not a member of the House Intelligence Committee, but the Republican majority, they concluded they have seen no evidence of collusion. The Democratic minority say they have seen evidence of collusion. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrats, says there is public evidence but there's also secret, private evidence that they have seen.

Was it smart for your Republican colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee to go ahead and issue the statement, even though they didn't interview some of the key players at all of this?

ROONEY: We're in a situation where we can't find out what's fact and what's fiction because it's all classified material.

BLITZER: But the House Intelligence Committee has access to that classified material --

ROONEY: Yes, it does.

BLITZER: -- classified material. But it sounded, to a lot of the critics, the Republican critics, that they just want to end this thing and move on without finishing the job. If you start the job -- I'm sure your mom and dad always said to you, like my mom and dad -- finish the job.

ROONEY: Again, you, me and the American people are in a position of not knowing what's what, and who is saying what correctly or not, because it's all classified. When they released the classified material for the FISA warrants, we could see what people were going on.

BLITZER: Would you support legislation, as some of your Republican and Democratic colleagues are now supporting, to protect Mueller and to prevent the president from being able to fire him?

ROONEY: I would have to look at it at the time. I just really hope the president let's Mueller finish what he's doing. I think he will exonerated anyway. As Trey Gowdy said, if you're innocent, act like it.

BLITZER: Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

ROONEY: Thanks for having me on.

BLITZER: Always a pleasure.

Coming up, new revelations about former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks' time at the White House. Why she was known as the Trump whisperer and why the president apologized to her. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:48:01] BLITZER: Tomorrow, the Saudi crown prince will meet with President Trump over at the White House. The visit comes as the U.S. Senate is expected to debate a war powers resolution that calls for the United States potentially to end its involvement in the Yemen conflict. The U.S. has provided military support to a coalition led by Saudi Arabia against Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.

The conflict has created a dire humanitarian crisis a Yemen, a topic the crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, addressed in an interview in "60 Minutes."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, CROWN PRINCE OF SAUDI ARABIA (through translation): The Iranian ideology penetrated some parts of Yemen. During that time, this militia was conducting military maneuvers right next to our borders and positioning missiles at our borders.

It is truly very painful. And I hope that this militia ceasing using the humanitarian situation to their advantage in order to draw sympathy from the international community. They block humanitarian aid in order to create famine and a humanitarian crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Meanwhile, welcome His Royal Highness, Ambassador Khaled bin Salman, of Saudi Arabia, the younger brother of the crown prince.

Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us.

PRINCE KHALED BIN SALMAN, SAUDI ARABIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be here.

BLITZER: There's some opposition in the Senate and in the House to the U.S. support for the Saudis and others in this war in Yemen.

I want you to listen to Senator Rand Paul. This is what he told me back in 2016, but he still leaves this. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: So we supply the Saudis with arms, they create havoc and refugees in Yemen, then what's the answer? I think we're elevating an arms race in the Middle East and I don't think it's good for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What's your response to Senator Paul that he wants the U.S. to stop selling arms basically to Saudi Arabia?

SALMAN: Here's what's happening in Yemen. We have a terrorist militia that is backed by the biggest sponsor of terrorism, Iran. They decided to take over the country and slaughter their way to the capitol. And they have launched more than 95 ballistic missiles. They have killed Yemeni people. They have threatened our stability, our security and regional stability and security.

[13:50:06] BLITZER: This is really a proxy war that Saudi Arabia is having with Iran?

SALMAN: If you look at, on the micro level, the activities we see Iran has established a terrorist militia in Lebanon, Hezbollah, in the early '80s. They have bombed the United States embassy in 1983. They have bombed the Marine barracks in Lebanon. They have assassinated the prime minister. And they have copied that model to Syria. They have killed 500,000 people in Syria, committed genocide. They have copied that model to Iraq and they have killed 500 American soldiers, injured a thousand. In Yemen, they are trying to copy that also to basically create another Hezbollah in Yemen that will not just threaten our security and Yemeni security, but also regional security.

BLITZER: I assume this will be at the top of the agenda when the crown prince meets with President Trump tomorrow. President Trump is considering, for example, ending the U.S. support for the Iran nuclear agreement. What's Saudi Arabia's position on that?

SALMAN: Well, we have been focusing on the weapons of mass destruction, the WMD. What we should be focusing on is the M.D., the mass destruction Iran is committing in the region that threatens regional and international security. Iran, as I said, have been committing genocides in Syria, killing innocent people, basically continuing to do these destructive actions with expansionist ideology. We have to work together with our allies the United States and the international community to push back on that.

BLITZER: Do you think the U.S. should walk away from the Iran nuclear deal --

SALMAN: Well --

BLITZER: -- that was worked out with other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council in Germany?

SALMAN: We think the deal needs to be fixed. We are an autopilot headed toward a mountain. We need to fix the deal now, not to face the consequences later.

BLITZER: The crown prince says Saudi Arabia doesn't want to develop nuclear weapons, but it would if the Iranians achieved that. Explain your position on that.

SALMAN: We'll do whatever it takes to protect our citizens, our people, and our country.

BLITZER: You are saying that Iran represents the number-one threat to Saudi Arabia right now?

SALMAN: Iran represents the number-one threat to the region, the number-one threat to the international security. They are continuing to escalate with their activities in the region. And they have currently launched 95 ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia, including our capitol. It is unacceptable. Imagine a terrorist militia in the United States borders launching ballistic missiles at New York, Washington and Texas. It would be unacceptable to any American citizens.

BLITZER: So at least for now, Saudi Arabia and your allies will continue to go into Yemen and deal with this crisis?

SALMAN: We'll continue to protect our security and our neighbors, no matter what it takes.

BLITZER: Is there any progress being made? The humanitarian cost is enormous, as you know.

SALMAN: We are deeply moved with the humanitarian situation in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has donated to Yemen more than any country in the world. We have initiated the Yemen comprehensive humanitarian operations lately. That will help alleviate the situation in Yemen and all the territories, including Houthi-controlled territories. But what we see is, the reason, the root cause behind this entire situation is the Houthis. Remember, they have started this war. They have started moving from their hometown inside the north of Yemen to slaughter their way to the capital, taking over the country. We came in to support the government of Yemen, the legitimate government of Yemen, selected by the people, to fight all terrorists and non-state actors, including AQAP and the Houthis.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, right now, no end in sight to this humanitarian, this war, this crisis going on?

SALMAN: We'll continue, as we face our threats, to support the Yemeni people, to alleviate the humanitarian situation. And we'll continue to work with our allies to find solutions to Yemen's situation.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Are you satisfied with the support you are getting from the Trump administration?

SALMAN: We have always been at the negotiation table. The Houthis are always walking away. They want to remain as a terrorist militia that uses heavy -- medium and heavy weapons and ballistic missiles. This is unacceptable. If you look at the latest panel of expert reports in the United Nations, it states that the Houthis are the aggressors in Yemen. And --

BLITZER: You're saying the ballistic missiles were provided by the Iranians?

SALMAN: Definitely. Definitely. It's not just Saudi Arabia saying that. You have the United States, and we have clear evidence on the Iranian missiles and the Security Council.

BLITZER: Are you satisfied with the support you get from the Trump administration? There is a big meeting. The crown prince will meet with the president tomorrow.

SALMAN: We'll continue to work with allies in the United States and the world to increase our economic cooperation, increase our security cooperation, and serve our mutual interests and face our mutual threats.

BLITZER: One final question. When will women have full rights in Saudi Arabia? I know you are making a little progress. They are going to start driving cars, but there is still a long way to go.

[13:55:01] SALMAN: Let me tell you what's happening in Saudi Arabia. We have a long-term strategy called Vision 2030. We have a fascinating change and transformation period in Saudi Arabia. We want to reform our economy. We want to modernize our society. We want to empower our youth, including women. On the women issue, currently in Saudi Arabia, we have more percentage

of women in our council, the equivalent of Congress than in Congress. In elections, women are allowed to run and vote. They have ran, they have voted, they have won seats. Women are allowed to drive. The biggest stock market in the Middle East and Africa, the Saudi stock market, is headed by Saudi women. As the crown prince said yesterday on his interview, we have done a lot of changes. But we still have a long way to go.

BLITZER: Very long way to go. Good luck with that. The women of Saudi Arabia deserve only the best, of course.

SALMAN: Of course.

BLITZER: We are hoping for that.

Ambassador, thanks for joining us. We'll have extensive coverage tomorrow --

SALMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: -- of the crown prince's meeting with the president at the White House.

SALMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

More on the breaking news coming up. The president hiring a controversial lawyer for his legal team, one who has pushed a theory about the Department of Justice and the FBI framing the president. We'll have that and more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)