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Trump's Lead Layer in Russia Investigation Quits; House Intel Committee Ends Russia Collusion Investigation; Joe Biden Calls Out Trump on Womens' Lawsuits Porn Star's Attorney Asks Trump Organization to Preserve Documents in Case. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 22, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: So Dowd, I think, felt that he could no longer represent the president because he felt his advice was being ignored. And now I asked somebody familiar with what's going on inside the legal team, so who is running the legal strategy now, and this person said to me, "The president."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm not surprised by that.

Laura Coates, you're a legal analyst. At this sensitive moment in a case like this, where the lead attorney for the president of the United States to quit, there must have been something that so upset John Dowd that he said, I can no longer work for you.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Certainly, it must have been. It's highly inconvenient. It's probably completely imprudent to do so. You don't want to not have a captain on your ship when you're in stormy seas, as you are right now approaching a Bob Mueller investigation interview. But it's simply the idea of whether we go with the strategy of an attack dog, which happened over the weekend, in what DiGenova has promised through his conspiracy theories, or one of patience, reluctant patience, albeit.

It's also the idea of -- remember that Dowd is initially the one that was promoting this theory that the president of the United States cannot be ever indicted into office or have obstruction of justice ever be charged against him. That's a very different charge than the one who said they never committed obstruction of justice or was worthy of indictment while in office.

I think that at the onset was one of the major problems. The president of the United States wanted to have an attack dog, one, and also one that was outwardly and publicly defending that did nothing wrong. A strategy of a nuance, legal thing, while technically he could never have done anything wrong legally is never going to be the answer to satisfy someone with that objective.

BORGER: And I think, Wolf, I don't think you have one single thing. Maybe it's Joe DiGenova on board. But this is something that -- go back to last weekend, you had John Dowd tweeting that at the urging of the president the Mueller investigation needed to end. This is something John Dowd would not do on his own because he is the one negotiating with Mueller. The president was upset. They got these groups of questions. John Dowd tweeted that because the president wanted him too. He's getting hammed by the president, meantime, your strategy isn't working. They bring in a new attorney to be his co- counsel. You put all of these things together, and I think, at a certain point, Dowd just threw up his hands.


COATES: Dowd has made mistakes. Sorry, he's made mistakes. Remember, it was him who made the comment about Michael Flynn being fired because he lied to the FBI as well as the vice president, Mike Pence, in a tweet. Later, he walked it back to say, wait, I didn't actually mean the president knew anything about the FBI lie at that point in time. He doesn't have the cleanest of hands, but certainly he was someone relied on in this investigation.


BLITZER: Stephen, I wanted you to weigh in as well, because you worked with the president during the campaign. You know the president. Even though you're an economic analyst, you could give us an appreciation. John Dowd, the lead attorney, all of a sudden, the president says, Joe DiGenova, former U.S. attorney here in Washington, well known to a lot of us, is coming in as co-counsel. Ted Olson, another big-time attorney in Washington, they went to him. He declined to come in. If you're John Dowd, you have to draw some conclusions that maybe they don't think I'm doing a good job.

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN ECONOMIC ANALYST: That might be. I think the bigger story is what Trump said a few minutes ago, which is I want --


MOORE: Look, to me, as someone who is watching this from a distance, because I don't pay much attention to the Russia investigation, I want to see Trump do that.

BLITZER: You want to see him testify?


MOORE: I do. I want to bring this kind of to an end.



BORGER: I'm not a lawyer.

STEPHENS: But, look, I do because I believe him when he says there was no collusion. Now, were there areas of bad and poor judgment? Yes, probably. But was there illegality? I don't think so. I don't see this coming to an end until Trump steps forward and testifies. But there would be conditions if I were Trump's -- I'm not a lawyer, but if I were his lawyer, I would say, we have to have a date certain that this investigation ends, whether June 1 or July 1. This can't go on forever.

BORGER: And Trump does want to testify. John Dowd did not want him to testify. His lawyers don't want him to testify.

MOORE: That's typical, though, isn't it?


BORGER: But there's also a reason, because they know Bob Mueller, and they don't want, as Ty Cobb famously said, they don't want a perjury charge.

STEPHENS: Right. Sure.

BORGER: So what they're trying to do is thread the needle now, get it down to such a limited amount that you can just fit it through that needle so that the president wouldn't be --

MOORE: That's their legal strategy, right?

BORGER: Yes. But, when Dowd gives you these four buckets and you start writing out the questions, as they did, you come up with dozens of questions, Pamela Brown and I were told. You come up with dozens of questions that could potentially be asked of the president, then you get into some dangerous --

STEPHENS: I agree with that.

BORGER: -- you get into some testimony

STPHENS: But couldn't you -- couldn't you start to --

[13:35:04] COATES: -- consistency is your best friend when you talk about somebody up against a team of lawyers who has had a career, and a well-respected one. Not a perjury trap but have been investigating things in a comprehensive fashion. Be careful what you wish for. By answering questions, it may not cap the conclusion of the investigation you would like to see. But more importantly, John Dowd has been a consistent figure for Donald Trump. He's heard all the answers he's given, he's heard all statements he may have made. The last thing you want to do is change it now when there's not someone to hold you accountable.


STEPHENS: If Trump does testify before Mueller, there are going to have to be guard rails there so he's not --


BLITZER: The president repeatedly said he wants to testify. He said today, "I would like to, I would like to." But then he always cautions, "I have to talk to my lawyers. Let's see what the lawyers say."

BORGER: And he's talking to more lawyers. So they are trying to bring more lawyers in, CNN is reporting, like they're reached out to three or four other attorneys. And you're not going to believe this, but in Washington, of all places, it's hard for them to find a lawyer. And the reason it's hard for them to find a lawyer in Washington is that law firms are conflicted because so many law firms are involved with this. Or lawyers don't want to take it because Donald Trump, let's face it, is a very difficult client.


BLITZER: But also has not agreed to -


STEPHENS: Joe DiGenova is also a darn good lawyer.

BLITZER: Joe DiGenova is a really experience lawyer in the area.

BORGER: He is.

BLITZER: Very well known. And he believes the president is being framed by elements of the Justice Department and the FBI.

Everybody, stick around.

There's more breaking news we're following. We're going to get reaction from a key Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee on the president's legal shakeup.

Plus, early reaction to the Republican members of her committee voting to end the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation, Congressman Jackie Speier. You see her live up on Capitol Hill. We'll go there when we come back.


[13:41:02] BLITZER: The close of the Russia investigation, at least in the House of Representatives. Today, Republicans, the majority of the House Intelligence Committee, voted to end the entire probe, go ahead with their report saying they found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Joining us from the Hill, California Congressman Jackie Speier. She's a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thank you for joining us.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D), CALIFORNIA: My pleasure. Thank you.

BLITZER: I'm going to get to a lot of them in a moment.

But let me get your quick reaction to the shocker in the White House, the sudden resignation for the lead attorney in the Russian probe, John Dowd. What's your reaction when you heard that about this major shakeup going on among the president's personal attorneys?

SPEIER: That's the only thing the president seems capable of doing effectively is shaking up those who are representing his interests. I think an attorney with any professional integrity would be loath to join his team now, because they become a punching bag for him. And unless they can wave a magic wand and reduce the Mueller investigation, he doesn't think that they are serving his interests. I think it's really disturbing.

BLITZER: Yes. I was going to say John Dowd was the point person dealing with the Trump legal team and Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and his team. So what happens now, do you think?

SPEIER: I think he has hired new staff, new attorneys and they'll have their chance to wave their magic wand, and when they're not successful, he'll fire them, too.

BLITZER: Let's get to the vote, a very important vote, your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, today. What do you think of the decision by the Republican majority so shut down the House Intelligence Committee investigation and go ahead with issuing a majority report?

SPEIER: You know, Wolf, I think this will go down in the history of the House of Representatives as an assault, the greatest assault on the independence of a House ever. And I am convinced that this has been orchestrated by the White House, from the White House. And it reflects, I think, just a very low point. We have not come to the conclusion based on evidence. We've come to the conclusion -- I should speak up for the majority here -- based on a script that the president had distributed.

I would also say that it's not over because the minority is going to continue to investigate. And in fact, we're in the process right now of having the whistle blower from Cambridge Analytica come in and testify when we return.

BLITZER: The argument they're making is they spent more than a year, year and a half, whatever it's been, going through witnesses and all evidence. The Republican majority says they've found no evidence of, quote, "collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians." What do say to that argument that just don't want to waste taxpayers' money and keep this thing going on and on and on?

SPEIER: That's quite ironic when they spent over three years on the investigation in Benghazi. They didn't seem to be concerned then.

This is about security for our country. This is about Russian intervention. This is not some small sidebar kind of investigation going on. We didn't spend one minute or have one of the elections companies come in that make the election machines and have them go through how they can commit to us that they are fail-safe. I don't think we have machines that are being used right now in this country that meet a standard that can't be hacked into. So I think there was a lot more for us to discuss and to inquire about. We had another 30 witnesses.

And as we found out this week, Cambridge Analytica had a relationship with a professor who was also a professor at St. Petersburg. It was the basis of which had he started profiling Americans. There are many more issues that need to be looked at. And all roads lead to Russia, and that's the problem. You now have a number of members of Trump's campaign team who have been indicted and a number of them who have pleaded guilty. How can we say somehow this is complete?

[13:45:26] BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to another sensitive issue that has now come up over the past several days. The lawsuits against the president, three of them brought by two women who say they had an affair with him, private citizen, Donald Trump, a decade or so ago. One who says she was sexually harassed when she was on his show, "The Apprentice." What's your reaction? What do you sense is going on with these lawsuits? And there may be more women coming out with legal battles against the president as well?

SPEIER: Wolf, I believe the women. And I think that these lawsuits are going to move forward. And for once, the president is not able to just use his ability to threaten and hire additional legal counsel and throw lawsuits at people. Women are standing up for themselves. And I don't doubt for a moment that he has harassed them that he has had affairs with some of them. I think he's a sexual predator and we should call him out for that.

BLITZER: Let's me play for you what former Vice President Joe Biden said about the president relating to these allegations by these women. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it, and then says, I made a mistake, they asked me if I'd like to debate this gentleman, and I said, no. If we were in high school, I'd take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.




BLITZER: He said at the end, if you couldn't make it out, "If we were in high school, I would take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him."

Today the president responded on Twitter, saying this, quote, "Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically. He doesn't know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way."

What's your reaction to this exchange by the former vice president and the current president?

SPEIER: I think that the president is exhibiting more indications that he is a malignant narcissist, and the antisocial behavior that he gets much glee just from tearing people down. Why can't he say that Putin is weak? Why can't he say that Putin has done horrific things to the people in the U.K. that were formerly Russian spies and citizens? Why can't he speak up against the biggest adversary we have in the world. BLITZER: Do you have any evidence that John Brennan said, the former

CIA director, said the other day, that it might be true that perhaps the Russians have something on the president, and as a result, he never criticizes Putin?

SPEIER: I would think that is how the Russians do business. I think that the fact that there has been just willful blindness by Trump and the Trump Organization in doing business with so many Russians and laundering money into the United States in violation of a number of our laws would suggest that he knows that the Russians have something on him. But, again, we're not at the point where we can say that, nor is that under the jurisdiction of our committee specifically. The relationships he's had with Russians and Russians who have purchased real estate come under our jurisdiction. But, again, the committee, the majority on the committee were not interested in pursuing that.

BLITZER: The majority of the committee has decided to wrap up the House Intelligence Committee investigation.

Congressman Jackie Speier, thank you so much for joining us.

SPEIER: Thank you for having me.

[13:49:03] BLITZER: More breaking news coming out. The attorney for the porn star suing President Trump now asking the Trump Organization to preserve all documents relating to the case. We'll get our legal analyst to assess what is going on when we come back.


BLITZER: Breaking news. Stormy Daniels' attorney has now formally asked the Trump Organization and two banks to preserve all documents relating to the $130,000 hush money payment paid to Daniels during the 2016 elections. In the letters, Daniels' attorney says he intends to serve a subpoena to the company sighting what he says are, quote, "unmistakable links" between the Trump Organization and the defendants in the lawsuit.

Our legal analyst, Laura Coates, is back with us.

Explain the significance of this latest move.

COATES: This is really standard to have these sorts of litigation holds or preservation of evidence. He's preparing for discovery. Discovery means you'll have an exchange of information about all the things that may come up in the lawsuit. Remember, it may be in federal court. So federal discovery rules allow for much of this.

The most important things to take from this request are two-fold. Number one, the Trump Organization, of course, is asked because Michael Cohen wrote an e-mail from his account, suggesting that perhaps the Trump Organization was involved in some way. Also Jill Martin, the assistant general counsel of the Trump Organization, also --

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: On the west coast?

COATES: On the west coast. Her office is on one of the golf courses. Essentially, facilitated that arbitration agreement that Michael Avenatto said was secreted and did not give his client a fair shake.

Finally, the "Wall Street Journal" reported a long time ago that the First Republic Bank, the person who in the bank who did the transaction of that $130,000, filed a suspicious activity report, which meant that they thought it was odd there was a transaction going on like this.

All these things, combined, to say, it's already out in the public eye. We want you to preserve it. Please do not try to destroy it or proactively seek to do something where we can't get the information.

It's one of those things, when involved in federal court, be careful what you wish for. Federal discovery rules are pretty impressive for a plaintiff or defendant.

[13:55:24] BLITZER: Yes. So the legal battle is intensifying.

COATES: It's intensifying. As she said in her tweet, I'm sure she's not going anywhere.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure you're right.

Thank you so much, Laura --

COATES: Thank you.

BLITZER: -- for that analysis.

Coming up, the president's lead lawyer in the Russia probe, John Dowd, has just resigned. What we're learning about the circumstances around this major development.

Much more of our special coverage after this.