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Trump Shakes up Legal Team; Austin Bombing Update; FedEx Explosion Could be Linked to Austin Blasts; Maryland School Shooting. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired March 20, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:17] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
We're following two breaking stories right now. The first, a school shooting in Maryland. Police say a male student fired a handgun, wounding two other students before the school's resource police officer pursued and engaged him. The shooter now dead. It's not clear, not yet, how. We'll go there shortly. Stand by for that.
Also, a new explosion in Texas. This one at a FedEx center about an hour from Austin. The feds now looking into whether it's connected to the serial bomber. Stand by. We've got much more on that coming up as well.
But first, legal drama here in Washington. President Trump is looking to add a high-profile, high-powered attorney to his legal team as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation surges ahead. Sources telling CNN, the president has reached out to attorney Ted Olson. Olson is no stranger to handling headline-making cases. He's a former solicitor general, former assistant attorney general over at the Justice Department. He was part of the legal team that helped overturn the gay marriage ban here in the United States, and he argued the Bush versus Gore Citizens United cases before the United States Supreme Court.
The overture to Olson could be part of a wider legal shake-up. According to "The New York Times," the president has talked about firing attorney Ty Cobb, while John Dowd has considered resigning. He's another presidential attorney. The newest addition to the Trump legal team, by the way, is attorney Joe DiGenova, who claims people in the Justice Department and the FBI have been trying to frame the president.
All this just nine days after the president tweeted this, the failing "New York Times" purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am very happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job and have shown conclusively there was no collusion with Russia. Just excuse for losing. The only collusion was that done by the DNC, the Democrats and crooked Hillary. The writer of the story, Maggie Haberman, a Hillary flunkie, knows nothing about me and is not given access.
Clearly she had some pretty good information.
Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown.
Pamela, what more are you learning about this possible shake-up, the addition that's coming potentially to the legal team of the president?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have learned, Wolf, that the president's team has reached out to Ted Olson, the former solicitor general, to join the president's legal team. Sources tell us that his firm, Gibson Dunn, is not supportive of this because it believes there are too many conflicts of interest. A couple of their clients are tied to the Russia investigation, including Fusion GPS, as well as FaceBook.
It's worth noting that the president's aides and others have reached out to Ted Olson before, early on when they were initially searching for his lawyers to represent him in the Russia probe, and Ted Olson declined at that time. But it's clear here, Wolf, that there is an effort underway right now to only add to the president's legal team despite that tweet you pointed out a little over a week ago from the president because they've already hired Joe DiGenova, the former U.S. attorney in the district to the team he is expected to more -- play more of a PR role we're told by sources.
All of this comes as the president is now growing increasingly agitated and going after Robert Mueller by name on Twitter for the first time. Sources tell us that he is realizing that the Russia probe is only seemingly ramping up. It's not expected to end any time soon despite what he has been told by his lawyers.
And, Wolf, sources familiar with the matter tell us that his lawyers, the president's lawyers, as well as investigators with Robert Mueller's team, actually met in person last week to discuss possible topics, more specifics of topics to go over if an interview does happen with the president, including Jeff Sessions' role in the firing of James Comey and what the president knew about his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his conversations about sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, the former Russian ambassador.
But, Wolf, as you know, the president has publicly said he is willing to sit down with Robert Mueller, that he's eager to do so, but privately sources tell us that he's been vacillating on that as he realizes that the Russia probe appears to not be wrapping up any time soon, wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, certainly not. This probe is moving ahead full speed.
Pamela Brown over at the White House, thanks very much.
We're standing by for the White House briefing later this hour as well. We'll have live coverage of that. For more on the legal drama and the president's more aggressive attacks on the special counsel Robert Mueller, let's bring in CNN contributor Adam Entous, CNN political analyst Eliana Johnson, and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
[13:05:06] Gloria, what are you hearing about all of these potential -- you know Ted Olson well. You know Joe DiGenova. I know them as well. What do you think?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, as Pam has just been reporting, we've been -- we've been trying to report this for the last couple of days, and it's very clear to me that what's going on from our sources is that the president thought this was going to be over. He was listening to his attorneys, and we all know this because we've reported it, who were saying to him, it will be over by November, then it will be over by December, no, early in the new year.
Suddenly the president sees, OK, there's a subpoena for the Trump Organization. They get a bunch of questions or topics that they look at, including the ones that Pamela is talking about, which talked about Sessions' role in the firing of Comey, what did the president know about General Flynn's conversations with the Russians. And the president says, wait a minute, I've been getting bad advice. This isn't going to end any time soon, and he blows up.
And John Dowd and he talk over the weekend, I'm told, and the president -- Dowd ends up sending that tweet, which was clearly approved or encouraged or urged by the president, and Dowd's tweet was critical of Mueller. And so I think what the president is trying to do now is figure out where to go.
He's unhappy with everyone because it's not over. And as a result, his lawyers are also struggling with what to do next. So I think it's a big mess, to be honest about it, and John Dowd, however, is the person who has been communicating with Mueller all the time. If you were to remove him or he were to remove himself, and he's been the go-between, I think that looks very bad for the president, and it's a difficult situation when you're trying to deal with the special counsel.
BLITZER: He clearly is frustrated, Eliana, the president. He clearly is not happy that this investigation, which he calls a witch hunt, a hoax, is going on and on and on, and there's been some concern he may go ahead and fire Mueller, although the speaker responded to those fears earlier today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The special counsel should be free to follow through his investigation to its completion without interference, absolutely. I am confident that he'll be able to do that. I've received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration. We have a system based upon the rule of law in this country. We have a justice system and no one is above that justice system.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, so what are you hearing, Eliana?
ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, when you hear Paul Ryan say that sort of thing, we've heard Republican Senator Lindsey Graham come out and say that firing Robert Mueller would be an impeachable offense, these Republicans are going on TV to talk to the president and set clear parameters for him to tell him that firing Bob Mueller will turn even into even a bigger headache for you than Bob Mueller is right now. Don't go there.
But I think there are two points to make on the broader drama with the president. The first is that the president -- the legal advice, quote/unquote, that the president has been getting is mixed in with his lawyers attempting to manage him by telling him that this is going to be over soon, don't tweet, and so on. And that's why it's gotten tricky because he was clearly going to catch on that this isn't actually over when my lawyers are telling me it's going object over.
Second point is that the constant -- and all of the drama surrounding the White House, the personnel, you know, drama with his lawyers, the broader personnel drama with the White House, there's one constant in it and that's the president. So I think the frustration that you're seeing the president express with White House personnel and with his cabinet secretaries, it's the same thing that's happening with his lawyers. He -- his views on people change on a dime and he simply gets frustrated with the people surrounding him.
BLITZER: And, Adam, he clearly wants some of those lawyers to be more assertive, to go on television and make the case with him.
ADAM ENTOUS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, no, he definitely is looking for people to kind of go out there and -- and whip up the base, keep the base supporting him.
I think what's interesting about this also is, you know, his frustration goes beyond just Russia when it comes to -- he has this instinct, and he wants to take action. And his advisers, whether they're the lawyers or his national security adviser or others, are trying to keep him from doing what his gut is telling him to do. They're trying to manage him, like you said. Whether it's North Korea, do you talk with the -- the leader of North Korea? Whether it's the Iran deal. And he alluded in his public statement today in the Oval Office, you know, wait and see what I'm going to do in a month from now when that comes up.
So constantly you can see that he wants to go further and people are just trying to keep him from going as far as he maybe wants to go. And so what we don't know in the Mueller case and what Ryan is saying is, you know, the president is the kind of person that clearly is willing to go a lot further than what people will tell him he should be doing. So I wouldn't rule out the possibility that in a few months from now, in one of these fits of rage, he does go further.
[13:10:10] BLITZER: And he's clearly upset that this is going on and on and on.
BLITZER: And also that Mueller's team is looking at Trump Organization business records, which earlier he had told "The New York Times" would cross a red line.
BORGER: Right. And I -- he's upset -- he's upset at all of that. And you combine that with the fact that he's telling his friends that he knows how to do this job now and that he can -- he knows -- he wants to surround himself with people that aren't going to tell him no all the time anymore. And that was part of the -- the issue with Gary Cohn. It may be part of the issue with McMaster. Maybe with, you know, with Kelly. And so you have a president who feel emboldened. Now, I got this -- I got this job with somebody who doesn't have anybody to tell him no and he's mad on top of it. It's kind of a toxic brew.
BLITZER: Hold on a moment, guys.
I want -- quickly want to go to Austin, Texas. There's a news conference on the latest developments in the serial bomber case. Let's listen in.
OFFICER DESTINY WINSTON, AUSTIN POLICE: Right now they are investigating this incident. Due to the nature of this incident and past events, we have all of them on scene as a precautionary measure to ensure the community's safety.
So, again, we are still investigating this incident.
Now, if you see anything out of the ordinary or anything suspicious, we are asking that you call 911 immediately. I don't have any further information to provide right now regarding the incident itself. We are, again, currently investigating.
QUESTION: Officer, have --
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) in any way to the ones found in San Antonio?
WINSTON: I don't have information if there's any type of link. Again, we take these suspicious package calls very seriously. And so we ensure that we have all of our partners out here, including our bomb squad, our executive staff just, again, as a precautionary measure. So as of right now, we don't have any type of link to say that this is, in fact, related to the San Antonio incident.
QUESTION: Can you say who called it -- who --
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) federal partners agreed that it was suspicious in some way enough to call out the bomb squad?
WINSTON: Any type of package or suspicious package call that we get right now as a department, due to past events, we are taking very seriously. So we are going to investigate to our full ability. And that's why we have everyone out here right now because we want to make sure the community's safe.
QUESTION: Can you say who called it in and what made it -- what made it suspicious?
WINSTON: I can't provide the information on the caller at this point in time. I don't have the details on what exactly made the package suspicious or what -- had it identified as a suspicious package.
But, again, as police officers, or just as a department, when we receive any type of call like this, we make sure that we take all the necessary precautionary measures just to ensure the community's safety.
QUESTION: You're asking the public to -- you're asking the -- you're asking the --
QUESTION: We hear that they're going to detonate it in the parking lot. Is that going to happen?
WINSTON: I'm sorry, what was that?
QUESTION: We understand that they might detonate the package in the parking lot. Is that going to happen?
WINSTON: I don't have any information regarding any type of detonation of any type of package. Again, you can see right now, the scene is still very active. As we have more information, we'll put it out there. But right now, we're still investigating this incident.
QUESTION: Are you (INAUDIBLE) multiple (INAUDIBLE) around the city?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're taking one last question.
WINSTON: I don't have information again or details or specifics on the actual package itself and what made it suspicious.
QUESTION: You're asking the public to determine is there a suspicious package, but you can't tell us how people recognize it's a suspicious package. It sounds very complicated.
WINSTON: If you didn't order something, if you are not expecting a package, if it's something that doesn't have an official label on it, or really just -- not just a package itself. If there's anything out of the ordinary, we are asking the community to please call 911. Let our officers come out. Let us handle it.
So, again, if anything suspicious, whether it be a package or just something out of the ordinary that you don't feel comfortable or you feel unsafe about, please call 911 and let officers respond so that we can assist.
Thank you. Thank you.
QUESTION: Could you say of whether was anybody was in danger inside that facility, Destiny?
(CROSS TALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right, so that's the latest from the officer, Destiny Winston, in Austin, Texas. Apparently they found a suspicious package that they're investigating right now at the airport in Austin, Texas.
This follows yet another explosion of some sort of package at a FedEx site about an hour, hour and a half away from Austin, not too far from San Antonio. Three other bombings. Police there, FBI, calling all of this -- at least the first three bombings in Austin the work of a serial bomber.
Bob Baer is with us, a former CIA operative.
You know something about these kinds of investigations. We don't know if the FedEx incident, we don't know if this suspicious package at Austin, at the airport, is connected to the three earlier bombings, but it looked so worrisome.
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, I think, Wolf, we could connect them, you know, even without the evidence, simply because it's a fairly small town bombs are very rare these days. And what we're dealing with is a psychopath who's killing randomly, which makes it very difficult to find out who this is.
[13:15:06] And what disturbs me is often these bombers will understand one technique, one kind of bomb, and they'll continue to use it until they're caught. But this guy's gone to trip wires, he's sending it through FedEx, and there's no apparent motivation. That's what's very disturbing, what makes it so difficult. And that's why they put this call out, anything that looks suspicious that lands on your door, call us. But I guarantee you, that's going to overwhelm the Austin police.
BLITZER: Well, we don't know if this is the work of one individual bomber or multiple individuals who might be involved in some sort of plot.
BAER: Well, the first two couple victims were African-Americans. And you could have said, well, maybe this was -- this was a racist deal here. But the fact is that there were two random people walking along the path with a trip wire tells me that this person doesn't apparently have any political motivation. In that case I would go out on a limb and say this is just a psychopath who happens to know his way around explosives.
BLITZER: So how do they go about finding this individual if it's one person?
BAER: It's like the Unabomber. You know, you're waiting for somebody to come forward. If they can't tie the victims together, for instance, with metadata, then it's really very difficult to do. And if this guy is -- appears to be very smart, he can vary his signatures on the bombs. And unless there's some sort of military explosive being used, we're going to be at this a while unless the police get lucky.
BLITZER: All right, everyone stand by. There's a lot of news that's breaking this hour. We'll have more on the other developments.
An armed student opens fire at a school in Maryland before engaging in a shot -- a shootout with the school resource police officer.
Also, the White House briefing moments away from now as the president shakes up his legal team, escalates attacks on the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Much more right after this.
[13:21:10] BLITZER: There's been another school shooting here in the United States, this time in Maryland. Police say a student -- a student shot and wounded two other students at a high school in the town of Great Mills. Moments ago police made this statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF TIM CAMERON, ST. MARY'S COUNTY, MARYLAND: This, in a reality, we hope would never come to fruition. This is our worst nightmare. Today at approximately 7:55 a.m., Great Mills High School student Austin Wyatt Rollins, age 17, produced a handgun while in hallway F in Great Mills High School and shot a Great Mills High School student, a female, who was 16, and a Great Mills High School student, a male, who was 14.
The school resource officer, Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskell, was alerted and immediately responded and engaged the shooter. DFC Blaine Gaskell fired at the shooter and what is described to me as almost simultaneously the shooter fired.
First aid was immediately initiated by deputies, troopers and school nursing staff to include a tourniquet placed on the shooting victim and CPR.
There is an indication that a prior relationship existed between the shooter and the female victim. We are working as we speak to determine if that was, and, if so, the extent of that and if it was part of the motive for this shooting.
We continue to interview witnesses, collect forensic evidence from multiple crime scenes and examine the shooter's electronic devices and all aspects of social media and social media traffic.
The 14-year-old male student was transported to Medstar St. Mary's Hospital, is in stable condition there. The 16-year-old female student was transported to PG Shock Trauma and she is in ICU with life- threatening critical injuries.
I would ask that anyone that has any information, please call the hotline that's been established, 1-800-CALLFBI.
Now I would like to introduce the governor of Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan.
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: Thank you.
Well, thank you very much for being here today.
My -- first of all, I want to thank Sheriff Tim Cameron and this incredible team at the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Department, who responded in an incredible way with the support of law enforcement agencies from neighboring jurisdictions in Calvert County, in Charles County, together with state police. And we've got ATF and FBI here. This has been a terrific joint effort.
I also want to thank all of the first responders who did an incredible job, and I think everybody went above and beyond the call of duty in this particular incident.
It's tragic. Our hearts are broken. And we're extremely saddened. And our thoughts and prayers are always with the victims, all of the students and their families. You know, no parent should ever have to worry about, when they send their kids off in the morning to school, whether they're going to come home safely or not. And we need more than prayers.
I want to thank these first responders and law enforcement officers for the job they did, but we need more. We've got to take action. We've got one of the most aggressive school safety plans in America that we introduced several weeks ago as an emergency legislation in Annapolis and the legislature has failed to take action on it. We put $125 million into school safety, $50 million a year into additional school resource officers, like the great deputy sheriff that saved further people from being injured and killed today. But not every school has that opportunity. And more mental health counselors.
[13:25:09] So it's a tragedy. We're going to continue to support law enforcement at every level. All our first responders, we're going to be here for the community. We're going to be here for the families and the children at Great Mills High School. And we're going to try to get something done in Annapolis. We've only got less than three weeks left in the legislation session and to me it's outrageous that we haven't taken action yet on something so important as school safety. So we're going to fight to make sure it gets done and we hope you will help us do that.
QUESTION: Governor --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so there you have the latest developments. Another school shooting here in the United States, this time in Maryland.
CNN's Joe Johns is over at the Great Mills High School. He's working the story for us.
So what else are you learning, Joe, about this 17-year-old gunman who's now dead and possible motives? JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, yes, I
think the most important thing we got from the authorities there is something that may not bring any consolation to the family members of the victims of this school shooting. Nonetheless, authorities indicating that there was apparently a prior relationship between the shooter and the young woman, the girl who was shot here at this school in southern Maryland, suggesting that it was not an attempt to create indiscriminate havoc as we've seen at some of the other school shootings around the country. So that, I think, is an important fact.
The one thing the authorities have still not made clear, and perhaps they don't know, and it is important, is the circumstances surrounding the fatal shot that was fired to kill the gunman. The question, of course, there is whether this individual shot himself, in other words, an inflicted gunshot, or whether it was the school resource officer who responded to the shooting who actually put him down.
Why is that important? Because it goes into the debate over whether to arm personnel, including teachers in schools.
So we're live here in southern Maryland waiting for more information.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we hope there will be complete full recoveries for the 14-year-old male student who was shot, who's in stable condition right now, and the 16-year-old female student, who's now, unfortunately, in life-threatening, critical condition at a local hospital. We hope both of them will wind up OK.
Joe, thanks very, very much.
There's other news we're following. We're also standing by for the White House press briefing. You're looking at some live pictures coming in. The president, right now, shaking up his legal team as one lawyer reportedly says he has no control over the president.
Lots of news. We'll be right back.