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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
CNN Sources: Trump Considers Firing Rosenstein; Trump Canceled Scheduled Trip to South America; Source: Cohen Answered Door During Raid; NY Prosecutor Recused From Cohen Probe Before Search Warrant; Interview with Rep. Jackie Speier (D), California; Zuckerberg Reveals Facebook is Cooperating with Mueller; Interview with Sen. John Kennedy (R), Louisiana. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 10, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:01] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So that's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next. Breaking news, President Trump said to be weighing whether to fire the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, a crucial development tonight. Is it his way of getting rid of Bob Mueller?
Also breaking this hour, new details on the FBI raid on Cohen, how the initial moments went down and what the feds took with them.
Plus, a bombshell, Mark Zuckerberg admits Facebook has been contacted by Bob Mueller's team.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. President Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. A move that could upend the entire Russia investigation, and lay the ground work for Bob Mueller's firing.
According to multiple people, the president is enraged over the FBI's decision to raid the office of Michael Cohen, his long time attorney. Today at the White House, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about what the president thinks of Rosenstein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I ask, what about Rosenstein? What's the president's thinking about Rosenstein in terms of his tenure at the Department of Justice? He did not appear to be very happy with him last night. Can you confirm that Rosenstein was the high level DOJ official that signed off on the FBI raid?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'll refer you to the Department of Justice in terms of their process. Certainly, the president's voiced his frustrations, but beyond that, I don't have anything else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The president is frustrated. And tonight's development is crucial because it is the person who holds Rosenstein's job who can actually fire Bob Mueller. According to Justice Department federal regulations, quote, the special counsel may be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of the attorney general.
So the special counsel is Bob Mueller, the attorney general is Jeff Sessions. Now, Jeff Sessions of course has recused himself from the Russia investigation, so the person in charge is Rod Rosenstein. It is his responsibility to oversee Mueller and make those decisions. Whether he is hired or fired, that's up to Rosenstein now.
And as of December of last year, Rosenstein has publicly testified that he sees no reason to fire Bob Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen good cause to fire Special Counsel Mueller?
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. If you were ordered today to fire Mr. Mueller, what would you do?
ROSENSTEIN: As I've explained previously, I would follow the regulation. If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you've seen no good cause so far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Rosenstein didn't see a reason to fire Mueller. Is that why his job is in jeopardy tonight?
Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT with this breaking development. And Pamela, you are breaking this story. What more are you learning at this hour about what the president is thinking about firing Rod Rosenstein?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, our team has learned that the president's consideration of firing Rod Rosenstein has gained urgency following the raid of the office of the president's personal lawyer. Sources familiar with this matter say this is one of several options on the table right now, including going so far as to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions as well. This is what the president is weighing.
Now, officials say if Trump acts, Rosenstein is his most likely target because installing a new deputy attorney general could provide the check on Mueller that Trump is seeking. Now, we should note, Erin, that not all of Trump's legal advisors are on board with this, but others are telling him that they now have a stronger case against Rosenstein. They believe he has crossed the line and what he can and cannot pursue and they consider him conflicted since he is a potential witness in the special counsel's investigation because he wrote the memo that justified the firing of former FBI director, James Comey. So even though Trump has considered firing him in the past, Erin, the possibility has taken on a more serious tone in recent days according to sources we've spoken with.
BURNETT: And of course, Pamela to your point, that memo supported what the president did and was used by the president to defend it so to now fire him and say you're conflicted because you did that to help me, obviously ready hard to circle that square.
You are also reporting more breaking news though tonight, Pamela, that the president canceled his trip to South America, scheduled to go this week. His economic adviser this morning thought it was still on. It turns out, no, it's not and it's in part because of all this?
BROWN: That's right. We have learned that president who had already shortened his itinerary for the planned trip to South America and had been grumbling to aides around him that he really didn't want to go. Staying behind in Washington in part to decide the next steps on potential changes at the Justice Department. This is according to two sources we've spoken with.
Now, Sarah Sanders, the White House overall has said that Trump is staying behind to oversee a response to the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria over the weekend. But -- so it appears, Erin, that there are a number of factors including not only just monitoring their response in Syria, but also what next steps if any he's going to take for his Department of Justice.
[19:05:05] Now, sources are saying, Erin, that Trump's anger has reached a boiling point. It has even surpassed previous outrage he's had over the Mueller investigation. One source said Trump views the raid on Cohen which was executed as you know by the attorney's office, U.S. Attorney's Office for the southern district of New York and not Mueller, as a ruse and directly related to the Mueller investigation.
According to the source who is familiar with the president's feelings, Trump believes Mueller is unregulated with few checks and balances on his conduct and this could be a turning point for the president. Erin?
BURNETT: And then a turning point of course for the country as a whole, if that were to happen. Pamela, thank you so much with all of those breaking details.
Let's go now to David Gergen, who served as adviser to four presidents, Carrie Cordero, former counsel to the U.S. Assistant attorney general for national security, and Renato Mariotti, former federal prosecutor.
David, this is -- I'm sorry, stunning development in many ways. The president tonight, Pamela reporting, considering firing Rod Rosenstein who is the man who decides the fate of Bob Mueller. DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, we may be nearing a crisis point in all of these investigations. There are two steps that would have to be taken. That is to fire Rosenstein and possibly Sessions and then to put somebody else into place, who would then order the firing of Mueller.
And it does seem to me as it's really interesting the president according to Gloria Borger's reporting, sitting down with Alan Dershowitz this evening, that will be interesting to figure out what Alan --
BURNETT: Famed attorney, Harvard professor.
GERGEN: Yes, and he had a very hard line view on this as you know. He'd been very sympathetic to the president on this all the way along at this. And so you know, conceivably could Alan step into one of those posts? Anything could happen, right?
But the other thing is, Erin, where are the Republican leadership? It seems to me knowing how much -- how fearful they are over the firing of Mueller, how they think it'll be a bad political mistake for the party especially heading into the midterm elections. Why isn't there a Republican delegation trying to come down and see the president? There's nobody else in the White House who can talk him out of it. Why not the Republicans try?
BURNETT: And that is a big question. Tonight, we're going to be joined by a Republican later this hour, Senator Kennedy. Carrie, how big of a deal would it be if the president fires Rod Rosenstein?
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: It would be a very big deal, Erin. You know, after watching this investigation for some time and watching the way that Rod Rosenstein has been exercising oversight and has been very public, both in his public statements and to members of Congress in open hearing about the extent to which he is providing hands on oversight.
I've come around to the view that he really is the lynch pin for ensuring that the investigation continues in a way that is protected from political influence and continues to whatever ends it is intended to go towards. He has insulated this special counsel's office from political pressure. He has -- according to his own accounts, exercised oversight. Meaning that he is consulting with the special counsel regularly about different directions that they might go in and it does seem from the -- at least the reporting that we're seeing on the Michael Cohen execution of the search warrant that he has determined that certain things are outside the scope of the special counsel's investigation. At least according to the reporting over the last day.
So, I think Rod Rosenstein has become a central figure and an incredibly important figure that is protecting the integrity of this investigation.
BURNETT: Renato, what would this do Bob Mueller's investigation? I mean, do you think? I mean, I suppose there's always someone. But on a practical level, could the president find someone to put in that position who truly would just go in and do what he says and fire Bob Mueller considering what it would do to their reputation?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, certainly, he may be able to find some lackey who is going try to do whatever possible to squelch this investigation, but it's not going to be as easy as he thinks, Erin, because these cases are open in the FBI. They're open in the Justice Department. Literally, they're ongoing investigations and they're ongoing court cases and what would have to happen is not just a new person to take over the role of, you know, attorney general or deputy attorney general, and potentially a new special counsel.
But then, you know, what would have to happen is somebody would have to go in and decline prosecution in all these cases. Somebody would actually have to close all these investigations. There's a lot of paper work that comes along with that, and is somebody going to come in and do that. I think what might happen, Erin, and what I hope happens for the good of this country is that somebody comes in who has enough integrity to say no, I'm not going to do that. And then it brings this all to a head.
BURNETT: Well, and then of course, you also have real crimes that have -- that, you know, allegedly been committed by the likes of Paul Manafort or 12 Russians. I mean, this is a lot easier said than done to say you're just going to pretend all that didn't happen.
[19:10:01] I mean, David, you know, this also comes, Pam's reporting, that the president is now canceling that trip to South America and he did so very suddenly. You know, this morning, his economic adviser, Larry Kudlow was on the radio saying, I'm looking forward the going with him. Well, within hours, we found out the president wasn't going at all. He's cancelling it because he wants to know -- figure out what to do about the DOJ. I mean, that's pretty specific.
GERGEN: That is absolutely right. And this is not the first time Larry Kudlow has been surprised in his very short tenure there. He's trying very hard to keep the ship right and to navigate it well, but it's very, very hard for him.
If he fires Rosenstein -- if the president decides to fire Rosenstein, it sounds like he's very close to doing that. We're going look back and say this was Saturday night massacre in slow motion. This has been -- you know, we've seen a process unfold now over a period of weeks leading to the effort to get Mueller out of there. I think the point is well taken.
You know, when Archibald Cox was fired, way back in the Nixon period and he was essentially conducting the investigation, Leon Jaworski got appointed and carried it out. I think the chances of shutting down the Mueller investigation all together I think would cause such an uproar in this country. I think it would go well beyond trying to fire Mueller. And I would imagine the Republican Party at that point (INAUDIBLE) and would tell, Mr. President, you can't do that.
BURNETT: I mean, even Chuck Grassley today, of course chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a Republican said it would be suicidal to do so.
You know, it's also interesting, though, Renato, Sarah Sanders said something today. You know, I went through the actual line, right, of the mandate for the special counsel, and it said that the attorney general was the one, the only one who had the ability to fire and of course, because he's recused himself, that's the deputy.
Sarah Sanders today said that's not even true. And I just wanted to play the exchange for you and for our viewers. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
2UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe he has the power to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Can he do that within his power?
SANDERS: Certainly believe he has the power to do so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said the president believes he has the power to fire Robert Mueller because usually, most legal experts believe that he would have to order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller and Rosenstein could of course refuse.
SANDERS: I know a number of individuals in the legal community and including at the Department of Justice that he has the power to do so. But I don't have any further announcements on --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They told me. I've asked. They said that it's Rod Rosenstein who oversees the special counsel and only he has the power to fire special counsel.
SANDERS: Again, we've been advised that the president certainly has the power to make that decision. I can't go anything beyond that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, look, it's significant, Renato, on many levels. One, according to the regulations, she's wrong. "The special counsel may be disciplined or removed only by the personal action of the attorney general", right. So that's lies in the face of what she is clearly saying. But she's also saying, Renato, we've been advised. In other words, they've look into it, they've spent time looking into whether President Trump can directly fire Mueller.
MARIOTTI: That's right. And couple of things I would say. One way they could try to get around it, Erin is, by putting in a new attorney general and then ordering that attorney general to remove the regulations entirely, to get rid of the regulations. That's could be the one --
BURNETT: So you fire Jeff Sessions, change the rules, and then you can do it without Rod Rosenstein.
MARIOTTI: Basically. That's one way they could do it. But I will tell you, you know, one thing you're catching here, Erin, and you're very keen in noticing this is, a sort of double speak that's going on here. What we hear from Republicans is there's no reason to protect Mueller. We don't need to pass this legislation to protect Mueller. Mueller is not in jeopardy.
And then what we're hearing at the White House is well, we've already looked into it. The president has to power to do it and so on. There's a lot of double speak here. And I worry for the sake of the country as somebody who's an American and somebody in law enforcement, that what David Gergen is saying won't come true and that Republicans won't stand up if we have somebody who's under investigation, who goes through the extraordinary step of firing the people investigating.
BURNETT: And this comes, you know, Carrie, as the investigation itself moves forward, right? Not only do you have the move that -- the close unprecedented move to move ahead, right, with raiding three locations at least related to Michael Cohen. We're learning tonight, Stormy Daniels is cooperating with federal investigators, who of course are looking into this whole payment in the hush agreement.
A source familiar with the investigation is now describing it as extensive and aggressive and that the team working on it is sizable. This is related to possible payments, bank fraud, Stormy Daniels. We're not even talking specifically about Russia here and we're talking aggressive, extensive, and sizable.
CORDERO: Right. Well, so it's still a little bit unclear from the reporting exactly how this -- it's being called a referral was made from the special counsel's office to possibly the southern district of New York. It looks like it was the FBI division of New York that executed the search warrants, so it's a little unclear how that relationship. But assuming that the Stormy Daniels piece of it, the Michael Cohen piece of it was spun off into a separate investigation. You know, this special counsel investigation is wide ranging. And if, in the course of it, they come across information that is evidence of other crimes, then they're -- within the FBI, they're going to send leads to other offices and they're follow up on that. They're not going to just look the other way.
[19:15:10] BURNETT: Final word, David.
GERGEN: Yes, (INAUDIBLE). Final word. Yes.
Listen, the president's action and getting so angry at Rosenstein is not fair. And he's really been sliming him. As far as we can tell from all the reporting so far, what Mueller did, what the FBI did when it picked it up from Mueller and then what Rosenstein did in approving it is all by the book.
This is -- the president is stating today the attorney-client privilege is dead. It is not dead. There are exceptions written into the rule book for U.S. district attorneys. That make it clear that in exceptional cases, you can do this.
I mean, I know it sounds odd (INAUDIBLE) so many of us celebrate the attorney-client privilege, but there are some exceptions. And it's just wrong headed, and I think it's a mistake for the president to take action based on a misunderstanding or a misstatement of the facts.
BURNETT: Right, and of course one of those exceptions is probable evidence of a crime, which they could have put in front of a judge, and got an order to get these warrants. We simply do not know all the details.
Thank you all three so much. Next, more breaking news. New details about how the raid went down on Michael Cohen. What happened with FBI agents when Cohen answered the door.
Plus, one Republican senator saying it would be suicide if the president fires Mueller. Then why aren't Republicans stepping up an doing more to protect the special counsel?
And Mark Zuckerberg today, grilled on Capitol Hill. But when it came to crucial questions, he was very short on answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Senator, I'm not aware of that. I actually am not aware. I'm not sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:20:27] BURNETT: Breaking news, OUTFRONT has new details on the raid to report tonight.
A source familiar with what happened tells me, FBI agents knocked on Michael Cohen's door early Monday morning. Cohen answered the door, his wife was also inside. An FBI agent immediately stuck his foot in the door so that it could not be closed.
Cohen was holding his cell phone when he opened the door and an agent took it from him right away. The source also tells me the agents were exhaustive, with agents also removing items that are not related in any way to Stormy Daniels.
Former assistant FBI director for the Criminal Investigative Division, Chris Swecker joins me, along with White House reporter for "The New York Times," Julie Hirschfeld Davis, and former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, which is of course who oversaw this entire raid and warrant, Harry Sandick.
Chris, let me start with you from your years as director for the Criminal Investigative Unit. What do you make of how this raid went down? Early in the morning. A knock on the door. A foot in the door.
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: That's a no nonsense execution of a search warrant. It could be that they were able to get a special provision in the search warrant that what we call no knock. It's hard -- we don't know at this point because I'm sure the search warrant is sealed, then the affidavit is sealed. But putting the foot in the door indicates to me that this was that type of warrant. You only get those kind of warrants if you can show the magistrate or the judge that there's the high potential that evidence is going to be destroyed if they take their time and execute the normal way. So that was a decision made by the agents. A -- the judge agreed with them and issued the warrant in that fashion, so that's a -- this is a bare knuckle execution of a search warrant.
BURNETT: So when you say, bare knuckle, I mean, the source telling me there was a knock. I mean, they did knock. The door was opened, but that would still fit what you're calling a no knock no nonsense.
SWECKR: Yes. I mean, I will caveat and say that we don't know that that's the case, but sticking the foot in the door, taking the cell phone, those are indications that this could have been a no knock type of search warrant.
BURNETT: And Harry --
SWECKER: And a knock would have been just to get him to the door so they wouldn't destroy evidence.
BURNETT: Which, you know, Harry, it's significant when you think about this and all the details we're learning, right. The FBI we know searched multiple locations, not just the one where Cohen happened to be. His hotel room, his office, reportedly, his apartment.
The fact that the FBI was able to get a search warrants for these locations, for a lawyer's office. Given this whole attorney privilege question, obviously, it's hugely significant isn't it?
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Very significant, Erin. Lots of hurdles to clear if you want to search a lawyer's office. So you have to show among other things that there's no other way to get this evidence than searching a lawyer's office.
BURNETT: In other words, they're not cooperating even if they have said they are which in this case, they said.
SANDICK: Not cooperating enough and also that there isn't some other place where you could find the same information that you could hope to find at 2the lawyer's office. The coordinated nature of the three searches at the same time. Standard when you have an investigation that has multiple places where you think evidence could be destroy. You don't want to seize evidence at one place and then find out that it was really somewhere else.
So definitely, they had to get higher levels of approval than you would have to get in an ordinary case. You'd have to go to the criminal division within Department of Justice in Washington. My understanding here is the deputy attorney general himself may have approved the execution of this search.
All of which I think is good. Because process is important and we want to see prosecutors following process. We don't want people to be cowboys.
BURNETT: No. You want it to be exactly by the book and by the rules especially when so many are questioning the rules now.
I mean, Julie, Michael Cohen has been very close to Trump for a long time, right. I mean, we're talking about a dozen years. And I don't think anyone's every heard him publicly say a bad word about Trump. In fact, he said a lot of extremely kind words. You know, some of which he said on this show multiple times when he talked about why he was sure Americans would vote for Trump.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: They're looking for leadership. They're looking for somebody that can actually do for America what only Donald Trump can do.
Donald Trump is presidential. He looks presidential. He speaks presidential. He wants to be the president of the United States of America because he knows that he can fix the country's problems. He knows he could really make a difference for so many people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Julie, those are words of loyalty. The question now for the president is, will he pay back this loyalty now. When Cohen is facing serious legal issues and if he is found to be guilty of something, significant time possibly in jail.
[19:25:00] JULIE HIRSCHFELD, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, absolutely, Michael Cohen has been, you know, among the most loyal people in Trump's inner circle. The president knows that. He likes that. We heard that Michael Cohen is expressing that even as recently as today.
And this is one of the reasons that the president has been so enraged by these raids is because he feels that it really hits him close to home. And -- I mean, there is an open question of if they do attempt to use Michael Cohen to -- as leverage over the president, what he will do. I mean, what we have seen in the past is that the loyalty with Donald Trump really only goes one way. But the fact is that he is at a level of outrage now about these raids that we haven't actually seen from him before. We've heard him talk about the witch hunt, we've heard him talk about how Mueller is out of line and that this is, you know, an unfair investigation when it comes to the Russia election meddling.
But on this, we are just hearing and you hear from people around him, he is at a boiling point. He is at a level of anger that could prompt him to try to do something so that he won't be faced or he thinks he won't be faced with that choice of having to choose between someone who is a loyalist to him and his own (INAUDIBLE) essentially.
BURNETT: Right. Which is of course is a choice he may very well face.
I mean, Chris, Sarah Sanders today said something really interesting, right. She said she's not even sure if Cohen is still Trump's attorney. Of course, obviously, technically, he isn't formally but it's unclear what the relationship is in some ways. Trump referred to Cohen as quote, my attorney on Air Force One this past Friday when asked about Stormy Daniels.
What's the significance of this, of this sudden uncertainty or gray area about whether he's even the president's lawyer?
SWECKER: Yes, maybe he's trying to put some distance between him and Cohen. This case might be about -- mostly about Cohen. I mean, I think there was a preexisting investigation in the southern district of New York. They didn't just open this investigation yesterday so -- and it was a logical decision to pass the information up to the southern district and have them incorporate that into their preexisting investigation.
So, he may just be trying to put some distance. I mean, we don't know that Cohen is even on retainer quote unquote, or whether he represents Trump on specific transactional things. So that's a little bit unclear at this point.
BURNETT: Unclear and important. I mean, Harry, let me ask you, when you talk about the southern district of New York, obviously, there is confusion over who ordered what. We do know Mueller referred it. Rosenstein sent to the southern district, and then it's perhaps a bit unclear.
Geoffrey Berman is the name of the top federal prosecutor here in Manhattan in the district right now. He was recused from the Michael investigation -- Michael Cohen investigation before the search warrants were issued. We know he requested that recusal. But our source didn't know the reason why.
Obviously, he of course is Trump's appointee for that position. What's your sense of what happened here?
SANDICK: It's hard to know, to engage in a small bit of speculation. It is possible that he believed that his decision, whether to execute the search warrant or not and to seek the search warrant, would be subject to second guessing either way. If there was a referral, that means that Berman didn't have to pursue the search warrant, but an independent decision was going to be made by prosecutors in his office.
So if he were to decline to do it, someone might say you're trying to curry favor. And if he made it, it's possible somebody might say he was bending over backwards to avoid an appearance of favoritism.
Meanwhile, you have somebody here who has extremely talented people beneath him, a deputy U.S. attorney Rob Khuzami who had been at the SCC and was in the U.S. Attorney's Office for many years, a criminal division chief (INAUDIBLE).
BURNETT: -- very serious, very qualified people made this decision.
SANDICK: No doubt about that. If it was made by his deputy or by the chief of the criminal decision, those people have vast experience in white collar and other types of investigations.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, all of you.
And next, more breaking news. "The New York Times" just reporting that Trump tried to fire Bob Mueller in December, but he was talked out of it by his lawyers. So why do Republicans insist even today that the president will never fire the special counsel, so don't worry about it?
Plus, Mark Zuckerberg admits Facebook is working with Mueller on the Russia investigation. What we are learning about this significant admission tonight.
[19:32:40] BURNETT: Breaking news, CNN reporting that President Trump is considering firing the man overseeing the Russia investigation. That's Bob Mueller's boss, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who actually has the power to fire Mueller.
And that's a red line for the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I think it would be suicide for the president to firing. I think the less the president says about this whole thing, the better off he will be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: To be clear, he's talking about Bob Mueller. And "The New York Times" is reporting just at this moment that Trump sought to fire Mueller in December, after there were reports that Mueller subpoenaed Trump and the Trump family bank records at Deutsche Bank. Now, those reports turned out to be inaccurate and Trump stood down.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
And, Congresswoman, as always, good to have you with me.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: You know, first the breaking news, the president is considering firing Rod Rosenstein, who, of course, has the direct authority to fire Bob Mueller. Do you believe the president is getting ready to get rid of Mueller?
SPEIER: Well, we certainly don't know what the president is about to do. But he has certainly been signaling his interest in wanting to do just that. He wants this investigation to come to an end. He doesn't respect the rule of law and has shown in recent months in an uberous and an uber confidence that I think could be very dangerous in the White House.
I think the adults who have been supervising him have mostly left and I think he feels that he can do almost anything he wants, much like he ran his family business. But this is a country of laws, not of men, and he has not been very good at recognizing that.
Now, you have been warning that firing Mueller was possible since last year. In fact, "The New York Times" reporting he sought to fire Mueller in December and you warned about it in December. Here's what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPEIER: The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week and on December 22nd, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, of course, he didn't do it. But "The New York Times" is reporting tonight that he was considering doing just what you said in December.
[19:35:01] Here though is what your Republican colleagues are saying about the situation with Bob Mueller right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: Well, the president has the ability to do that but I don't see him doing that.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I think it would be a mistake to fire him, so I don't think his job is in jeopardy.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't think he's going to be removed. I think he'll be allowed to finish his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is that enough?
SPEIER: Well, I hope they're right, and if the president takes this road not followed by others, I think he will reap the consequences. And Saturday Night Massacres happened some decades ago. If he chooses to do it midweek, it's still going to be a massacre for him as well.
BURNETT: You know, you heard Chuck Grassley say it would be suicide to fire Mueller. Do you believe -- look, Republicans are saying right now, essentially, he's not going to do it. Don't worry about it. We don't need to protect him legislatively. That is Bob Mueller, right? So, if the president does do something to get rid of Bob Mueller, do you have the full confidence that your Republican colleagues, Cornyn, Ernst, all the ones you just heard there, Grassley, that they will stand up then and say that is not OK?
SPEIER: Not at all, because every time they make a very strong statement that I see as being very courageous, they walk it back for whatever reasons, whether it's in their districts or the White House. So, I don't have a lot of confidence.
But what I do have confidence in is that this investigation doesn't end if he goes to the process of firing Rod Rosenstein and then a Robert Mueller, because the investigation is still being conducted by those within the FBI who are going to continue to do their job and the Justice Department as well.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you though, because right now, obviously, you've got the Russian investigation. But the development that the president is most upset about, that is driving this, cancelling his trip to South America, talking about firing Rod Rosenstein has to do with the raid on his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and we understand a lot of the materials sought, although not all sources tell me, but a lot were related to Stormy Daniels.
A Quinnipiac poll out today, Congresswoman, shows a majority of Americans, 73 percent, say the president's alleged affair with Stormy Daniels is not an important issue and a majority of Democrats also agree with that. That's not just Republicans.
Do you worry, Congresswoman, that the Stormy affair and the payment have become too much of a focal point and that Americans simply do not care?
SPEIER: Well, they don't care about the affair and I understand that, but we do have laws on the books, and whether they care about the laws we have on the books relative to the Federal Elections Commission and when you disclose campaign contributions and when an in-kind contribution must be disclosed, whether the public thinks that's important or not, that is the law, and we must follow the law.
BURNETT: All right. Congresswoman Speier, thank you for your time tonight.
SPEIER: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, more on our breaking news, CNN reporting Trump tonight is considering firing Rod Rosenstein and now we know of a second time Trump tried to fire Bob Mueller. Is this all obstruction of justice?
And Mark Zuckerberg facing tough questions on Capitol Hill tonight over what Facebook is doing with your information.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I say this gently: your user agreement sucks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That senator joins me next.
[19:42:26] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump's outrage over the Russia investigation intensifying. CNN learning he is now considering firing the deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a move which could have a major impact on the Russia investigation and lead to Bob Mueller himself being fired. This comes as we are learning the president sought to have Mueller fired in December this is a headline just out from "The New York Times" which is reporting that the president told advisors back in December that in the words they use are no uncertain terms. Mueller's investigation had to be shut down.
That outrage was fueled by reports that Mueller had crossed the president's redline and subpoenaed information about his business dealings with Deutsche Bank. Now, when those reports didn't seem to be true, the president backed down.
OUTFRONT now, Carrie Cordero, former counsel of the U.S. assistant attorney general for national security, and Renato Mariotti, former federal prosecutor back with me.
And, Carrie, literally, this headline breaking at just the past 15 minutes. You know, what do you make of this report here, because when you have -- you couple it with the reporting tonight that the president is seriously considering firing Rod Rosenstein, who is basically Mueller's boss and you now have that the president wanted to fire Mueller in December and was basically just talked out of it by his lawyers?
CORDERO: Here's my take, Erin. The president has been nothing if not consistent in his desire for this investigation to go away. I mean, this is what he has been consistent about since the appointment, since before the appointment of the special counsel when Director Comey was still running it and now, once there is a special counsel.
He has wanted this investigation to shut down. He has made those statements publicly, privately to members of Congress. He tweets about it all the time. He hates this investigation.
And so, I'm not surprised to learn that he would -- was considering back in December. There were some other things going on in December as well in addition to those reports about those subpoenas. Mike Flynn, his national security advisor, former advisor, had also pleaded guilty in early December. So, there were a few things going on in December that probably were causing him increasing concern.
BURNETT: Renato, what do you make of this, that the president tried to do this, was talked off the ledge as the word maybe by his lawyers, and now here we are again seemingly back on that ledge?
MARIOTTI: Well, you know he has certainly been consistent in doing everything he possibly can to undermine the Mueller investigation and, frankly, he is building and further building the obstruction of justice case for Mueller. And Mueller can use all these statements that he's made to his aides against him. He could use those to try to prove up the president's corrupt intent.
[19:45:03] Now, the only caveat, of course, Erin, is what happens if Donald Trump is able to fire everyone who investigates him? I mean, that's really the end game for him here is, you know, he is making it so easy for Bob Mueller to show that he had corrupt intent. And the question is, will he be able to get away with it now?
I -- we were on earlier in the show today, I mentioned that these investigations will live on even if Mueller is fired, and I really guess the question is, first of all, how dedicated is Trump to ending any investigation of himself and his allies? And will the Republican Party let him get away with it, because obviously they control Congress?
BURNETT: Right, they control it and we're not -- I mean, I'm sorry, Carrie, they will control these fate too, most likely, no matter what happens in November, given obviously the supermajority you need to have in the Senate for any sort of an impeachment. If what you end up with here is obstruction, if they even get that far, if that's what you have, obstruction of justice, but no underlying crimes, is there any way Republicans would ever get on board with going ahead and with impeachment in that situation? It would seem no.
CORDERO: Well, I think there's a lot more to be revealed through this investigation. I mean, I think we've seen some indictments, we haven't yet seen the resolution of the obstruction piece. But we still haven't seen any indictments regarding the hacking -- the hacking that took place of the DNC, the release of emails. There's a whole piece of this larger investigation that I think members of Congress would be wanting to see the results of, whether obstruction alone would be cause for them to launch an impeachment inquiry I think is an open question.
But there are things that members of Congress and people who are in positions of authority can do now, and that is that members of Congress who are concerned that this investigation should at least run its course.
CORDERO: Need to make their views known, both publicly and privately, to the White House.
And I would also say that's probably people within the Justice Department thinking about whether or not they want to make their views known, senior officials if there are more firings, how that might react within the Justice Department leadership.
BURNETT: All right. Carrie, Renato, thanks both.
And next, breaking news, Mark Zuckerberg today facing tough questions on Capitol Hill about -- well, all of the security of every piece of information you've ever given them and the Russia investigation. Why though did Mark Zuckerberg answer this way?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I'm happy to have my team follow up with you. I can certainly have my team get back to you. I'll have my team get back to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:51:43] BURNETT: Breaking news, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitting that his company is cooperating with Special Counsel Bob Mueller in the Russia probe. Zuckerberg making the admission during a Senate hearing which lasted more than five hours. It focused on the company's data privacy scandal and how Facebook allowed Russian propaganda to spread during the U.S. presidential election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PAT LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I assume Facebook's been served with subpoenas for the special councilwoman's office, is that correct?
LEAHY: Have you or anyone at Facebook been interviewed by the special counsel's office?
LEAHY: Have you been interviewed?
ZUCKERBERG: I have not. I have not.
LEAHY: Others have?
ZUCKERBERG: I believe so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Very significant there to say they've got the subpoenas and people have been interviewed.
Senior technology correspondent Laurie Segall is OUTFRONT.
And, Laurie, you've been reporting on this. Obviously, this was significant for Mark Zuckerberg to come out and say this, answer these 2questions. What else do you know about Facebook and Bob Mueller?
LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's interesting after that exchange, he said, let me clarify. I'm actually not aware of a subpoena. He said there may be one.
I actually reached out to a Facebook spokesperson who said we're providing information to special counsel, including ads and related content information.
You know, it was actually confirmed in September that that Facebook was working with investigators to get a better idea of what happened with election interference and one thing Mark did say today during a five-hour grilling of a lot of -- you had 44 senators asking questions, was he said one of his biggest regrets was being too slow to respond to Russian interference.
He also spoke about whether or not the company was a monopoly. He was asked that point-blank. He said he didn't feel like it was, and the room laughed which was an interesting response, you know?
So, he answered a lot of a lot of questions today.
BURNETT: And, Laurie, you have also learned that there was an extraordinary amount of preparation that Zuckerberg did for this hearing.
SEGALL: Yes, absolutely. I mean in the last -- last week, Facebook had a conference room that they actually set it up to look like a congressional hearing room, and I think part of why you heard Mark sounding as confident as he is today, especially when he's not used to speaking in public settings like this, especially political ones that can be theatrical in a way, is they were going over this for about a week. They were doing mock hearings, which was pretty interesting.
And, you know, that I was told even before he was going to try to sell people on the idea of Facebook and, you know, why it's really important. So, you know, we heard quite a bit today and I know a lot of rehearsal went into this because, you know, knowing Mark, the little bit I know him and having sat down with him weeks ago, you know, I know that he was nervous in this setting. But someone said to me earlier, he's nervous but he was confident and he's a smart guy, he'll get through it.
And I think a consensus today is that he did a pretty good job.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Laurie.
And OUTFRONT now, Republican Senator from Louisiana, John Kennedy, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and just questioned Zuckerberg moments ago.
Senator, good to have you back on the show. I appreciate your time.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: You bet.
BURNETT: You know, I want to talk about your colorful exchange with Mark Zuckerberg in just a moment because it's worth our viewers getting a chance to hear it.
First, though, the breaking news, Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg saying yes, we're working with Mueller.
[19:55:00] We're answering questions. We're doing all of this. Were you surprised to hear that?
KENNEDY: Yes, I was. Clearly, Mr. Zuckerberg didn't want to talk about it. I mean, I'm sure his counsel advised him not to. But everyone's ears kind of perked, and yes, I was pretty surprised.
There were two surprises today. That was one. And the other one was when Mr. Zuckerberg said repeatedly that Facebook is responsible for its content.
You know, in the past, Facebook has always said, look, it's a neutral media platform. It's not responsible for what people say. Today, he said twice that it was. I was surprised to hear it was.
BURNETT: Yes, the way you put it, that does appear to be a shift.
Now I want to get to the exchange, because you did, Senator, have some harsh and colorful words for Zuckerberg when it comes to Facebook user agreement, which is at the heart of what they are responsible for. Let me play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: Here's what everybody has been trying to tell you. You know, I say this gently. Your user agreement sucks. You can spot me 75 IQ points. If I can figure it out, you can figure it out. The purpose of the user agreement is to cover Facebook's rear end.
It's not to inform your users about their rights. Now, you know that and I know that.
I'm going to suggest to you that you go back home and rewrite it. And tell your $1,200-an-hour lawyers -- no disrespect, they're good -- but tell them you want it written in English and non-Swahili.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, let me start with your bottom line there. Is he going to take your advice? Is he going to go back and make changes to that user agreement?
KENNEDY: Erin, I don't know. I just -- I was mildly disappointed today. Mr. Zuckerberg is a really bright guy and he was well- rehearsed. I kind of wish he hadn't rehearsed.
I'm just not sure we connected with him. I mean what we tried to tell him was, look, Facebook is an extraordinary company. You've done some magical things. But the digital land has mine fields. One of them is privacy. The other one is propaganda. Go back and address these.
And he was --it was all -- he was sort of well, yes, I want to do better, but I'm not doing anything wrong. And I'm just not sure we connected.
Now, there's going to be a flurry of bills introduced. They are coming. And whether they pass or not is up to Mr. Zuckerberg. I don't want to regulate him. It's the last thing I want to do.
BURNETT: You don't want to regulate him?
KENNEDY: By God, I will -- I will vote to do it if he is not going to really sit down and be serious about this. I'm not saying he's unserious. I'm just not sure we connected. He was too rehearsed. He did too good of a job. I wanted him to just come in and let's talk, you know?
BURNETT: I want to play a little bit of that in just a moment. But, first, at the end of that exchange when you were asking the question of Mark, you know, you said in English, not in Swahili. And, obviously, you're probably aware, there has been outrage over your Swahili line by some, some calling it a racial slur, disparaging, distasteful, unnecessary.
Do you want to apologize for it or do you think that those people are taking it too seriously?
KENNEDY: No. There is nothing to apologize for. I think everybody understood the point I was trying to make.
BURNETT: So, no apology at all?
BURNETT: All right. There were multiple occasions when Zuckerberg wasn't able to answer the questions which is what you refer to. You know, you said you failed to connect. Others might say he didn't want to answer the question, and I just wanted to play a few of those to give people a sense of what we're talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZUCKERBERG: I'm happy to have my team follow up with you. I can certainly have my team get back to you. I'll have my team get back to you. I'll have my team follow up with you. I think we should have our team follow up with yours to discuss the details around that more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is that what you're talking about, too rehearsed?
KENNEDY: Yes, yes, there was a lot of that. I mean, Mr. Zuckerberg kept saying, look, you own your data and folks would say, well, it doesn't feel like I own my data. It feels like Facebook owns my data. Would you be willing to do this? Would you be willing to do that? Would you be willing to let our data be portable?
And, you know, it was all we'll get back to you, we'll get back to you. I don't want to be unfair to him. I mean, you know, it's important --
KENNEDY: What's important is what he does and not what he says.
But I just didn't feel like we were connecting.
BURNETT: Yes. KENNEDY: I just didn't. I'm not sure he appreciates that Congress is serious here and we've got a problem and we don't want to hurt Facebook. But, my God, these need to be addressed.
BURNETT: Senator, I literally have 10 seconds.
BURNETT: Does Bob Mueller deserve to stay in his job?
BURNETT: All right. You answered it less than 10. That's a clear one word answer.
Thank you very much. Senator, I appreciate your time.
KENNEDY: Thank you.
BURNETT: And I appreciate all of your time. Thanks for watching.
We hand off now to "AC360" with Anderson Cooper.