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Interview With California Congressman Ted Lieu; Trump's Fury; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies Before Congress; U.S., North Korea Secretly Prepping for Trump-Kim Summit. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 10, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Firing Mueller? The White House says the president is convinced he has the power to oust the special counsel, as his furry goes beyond his past rants about the Russia probe. Will Mr. Trump say you're fired and potentially risk his presidency?
And Facebook apology. As founder Mark Zuckerberg tries to make amends for a stunning violation of users' privacy, he tells senators the social media giant is cooperating with the special counsel's Russia investigation. We will have the latest on his unprecedented testimony.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the FBI raids on the president's personal lawyer. We are going to bring you the first direction reaction from the attorney, Michael Cohen, in just a moment.
Tonight, CNN has learned that federal agents who raided Cohen were looking for records on a deal struck with Playmate Karen McDougal, as well as information on the hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. As the president fumes about all of this, the White House says Mr. Trump believes he has the authority to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
I will get reaction from the House Judiciary Committee member Ted Lieu and former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. And our correspondents and analysts, they are all standing by.
First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, by all accounts the president is still seething tonight.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The president is angry and apparently weighing his options.
Wolf, it was a pretty stunning statement from the White House today that President Trump believes he has the authority to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. But while the White House is flirting with that possibility, top lawmakers on Capitol Hill are warning the president such a move could mean the end of his presidency.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Still furious, but seething behind closed doors, President Trump declined to answer whether he is considering a dramatic move to try to end special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
But the White House made it clear the president thinks he has the authority to fire Mueller.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly believes he has the power to do so. The president has been clear that he thinks that this has gone too far and beyond that I don't have anything to add.
ACOSTA: The other looming question is whether the president could force out or constrain Mueller by firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who could name a different special prosecutor. Asked about the fate of Sessions who showed up at, of all places, a celebration for the Alabama college football team:
QUESTION: Mr. Attorney General, have you spoken with the president today?
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Not today. Roll, Tide.
ACOSTA: The White House didn't hold back the blitz of questions.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think the president was pretty clear about his frustrations when he spoke about that last night.
ACOSTA: While the raid at the office of the president's personal attorney Michael Cohen was ordered by the U.S. attorney's office in New York and not Mueller, Mr. Trump is outraged at the special counsel.
According to Justice Department rules, Rosenstein, a Republican, had to sign off on the Cohen raid.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why don't I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it is a disgrace what is going on. We will see what happens. But I think it is really a sad situation when you look at what happened. And many people have said, you should fire him.
ACOSTA: The president also vented his frustrations by tweeting, "The Russia investigation is a total witch-hunt," adding, "Attorney-client privilege is dead," a continuation of the rant he unleashed while sitting next to top military commanders.
TRUMP: And it is a disgrace. It's, frankly, a real disgrace. It is an attack on our country in a true sense. It is an attack on what we all stand for.
So, when I saw this and heard it, I heard it like you did. I said that's really now in a whole new level of unfairness.
ACOSTA: Democrats are taking issue with the comparison.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor was an attack on our country; 9/11 was an attack on our country. When Russia interfered with our elections, that was an attack on our country.
ACOSTA: Republicans are urging caution, some with the hope the president is simply letting off steam.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't think he's going to be removed from his office. He shouldn't be removed from the office. Should be allowed to finish the job.
ACOSTA: While other GOP senators are warning Mr. Trump to leave Mueller alone.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I think it would be suicide for the president to fire him. I think the less the president says about this whole thing, the better off he will be. And I think that Mueller is a person of stature and respected. And I respect him. Just let the thing go forward.
ACOSTA: The Cohen raid comes during another turbulent week at the White House, as the president suddenly scrapped a trip to South America set for this weekend.
QUESTION: Are you disappointed not to go to South America?
TRUMP: I am, actually. I would love to have gone.
ACOSTA: A decision that surprised even his top economic adviser, who thought Mr. Trump was still going just this morning.
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I will be traveling with him, with the group going to Latin America this, well, say, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Japanese summit. After that in Florida. I don't think it's going to stop him. It never stops him.
ACOSTA: That's not the case anymore. The White House says the president is no longer going to South America, where he was to attend the Summit of the Americas, so he can focus on the U.S. response to the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.
But we should note the last time the president authorized airstrikes on Syria last year, he was at Mar-a-Lago.
As for that event for the Alabama -- Florida -- excuse me -- Alabama football team here at the White House, the president, as you heard there, told reporters he would have loved to have gone to South America. Wolf, at the same event, you also heard from the attorney general
there talking to reporters saying he hadn't spoken to the president today, but roll, Tide.
But one thing we should point out, Wolf, Attorney General Sessions was spotted leaving the White House about 90 minutes after that event concluded over here. It's not clear who he was talking to over here at the White House. White House officials at this point aren't saying who the attorney general was talking to after that event concluded here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting. Jim Acosta, thank you.
Now to the first reaction directly from Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer, fixer speaking exclusively to CNN's Don Lemon about the FBI raid on his office, his phone, his hotel room.
Don is joining us now live.
Don, thanks so much for doing this.
These are Cohen's first comments since all this went down. Tell our viewers what he's saying to you tonight.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I have got to honest with you, Wolf. He's concerned mostly about his family and he's upset.
He's saddened by this. Who wouldn't to have your home and your businesses raided? He wouldn't talk, go into detail about the raid, because his lawyers are steering him away from that. But he did say that in his words the raids were upsetting, he says, in the least.
But in contrast to what the president said about the raid yesterday, he described these agents as having broken into his office. The president said they had broken into his office. He said that they were courteous and they could not have been nicer.
He stressed the opposite of what the president did. And we have the direct quote from him saying: "I'm not happy with my personal residence and office being raided, but I have to say the members of FBI conducted the search and seizure were all extremely professional, courteous and respectful."
And, again, he said he even thanked the agents after they left. But he wouldn't go into detail again because obviously this is a legal matter and he doesn't want to get himself into trouble, any more trouble.
BLITZER: Did he say anything, Don, about if he thinks he's at risk? Is he worried?
LEMON: Well, I think in the end he said that he believes everything he did was legal. And that will be proven. Everything he did when it comes to Stormy Daniels, he believes that that part is legal.
But what I said to him, I said, listen, are you worried about this? And he said: "I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't worried about this. I'd be lying if told you that I'm not. Do I need this in my life? No. Do I need be involved in this kind of thing? No," he says.
But, again, he's worried about his family. He said if he had to do this all over again, I asked him, I said, would you do it? He said, as up until yesterday with the raid he probably would, but I think he would rethink how he handled the payment to Stormy Daniels.
He is deeply loyal to the president, but I think he would rethink. He may not do it again the way he did it this time or the last time.
BLITZER: Did he say how he would handle it the next time if he had a do-over?
LEMON: No, he did not. Again, he didn't want to go into it. But I think he would rethink.
I think he didn't realize or didn't expect that it would have the impact on his family that it's had on his family. Again, this is according to another source that I spoke to after I spoke to Michael Cohen. I started digging around and doing some investigating.
Sources telling CNN that his wife was there with him at the time and that his daughter came in. Obviously, they were upset about it and again during the raid that they collected financial documents, all kinds of information that he wasn't sure about why they were collecting it.
But again he said they were courteous and opposite of what the president said, they were courteous, and he wanted to thank them for it.
BLITZER: Did he give you any sense how long this is going to drag on? He's obviously very concerned not only for himself, but, as you point out, for his family.
LEMON: He doesn't know.
He said, I want this to be over with. I just want this to be over with. In the end, he said I think I will be proven that everything I did was legal.
And I think everything he did in relation to Stormy Daniels. But I think -- he's an attorney and he realizes as long as there's an investigation into the president, as long as the Stormy Daniels thing is out there, that he's going to be the focus of the news and the focus of headlines.
And now he's been the subject of an FBI raid. I'm sure he knows that this is going to go on for quite some time. But, Wolf, who wouldn't want this to be over with? Who would want their offices and their home, homes raided?
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure it's a total nightmare for him and his family.
And, Don, I know you're working your sources. You are going to be back with us in a few moments. Stand by.
I want to get a big picture right now on this FBI raid, the connection to the special counsel and what this could mean, all mean for the future of the Russia investigation.
I want to bring in our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, and our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, what do these raids tell us about Mueller's intentions right now?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, one thing it shows, that he's very serious about following through even people very close to president, and that he's pursuing multiple lines of inquiry here.
You will remember the Mueller investigation started as a way to look into Russian interference, any possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia, but also this key phrase that we said many times on the air, any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.
That's now including things like payments to Stormy Daniels and to this other Playboy Playmate that the president had this relationship with. At least questions about that. We don't know if Mueller has established a legal behavior, but also things going back prior, it seems, and separate from Cohen's relationship with the president, his investment, as Evan was described on the air earlier, in taxi medallions in New York and were there any nefarious business practices there.
It shows that this in fact is quite a broad investigation. Whether in the framework of that broad investigation, he faces criminal charges, we don't know the final answer to that. But they don't do these raids like this lightly. And based on past practice, at least, you wouldn't have gone in there unless you had pretty good evidence that someone had broken the law.
BLITZER: Very interesting.
Evan, what are you hearing about how all this potentially could play out for Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think we're seeing hints of this certainly from the president's frustration on Twitter. You're hearing also from people on Capitol Hill. There's this growing frustration that they have with Rod Rosenstein.
And certainly people close to the president are telling him that one of the problems here is that they believe that Rod Rosenstein is not managing Robert Mueller properly, that if Rod Rosenstein were doing his job, in their view, that Mueller would perhaps have some fences around him and some of this stuff would not be happening. Certainly, maybe the Stormy Daniels questions would not be coming up
right now. And so I think what we have to stay tuned for is the possibility the president might act on some of this. Certainly, the idea that firing Rod Rosenstein might be more politically palatable, because obviously Mueller firing would be a red line that he cannot cross.
Maybe firing Jeff Sessions would anger people in the Senate, conservatives in the Senate. But Rosenstein is another matter. And I think people close to him are telling him that this is something that maybe he could get away with politically.
BLITZER: Are these latest developments -- Jim, you are doing a lot of reporting on this as well -- directly related to the Russia probe or separate beyond?
SCIUTTO: Based on what we know about what they acted on yesterday, no. Payments to the women, the taxi medallions, investments, et cetera.
But we do know that Michael Cohen, in addition to being the president's lawyer, was his fixer and involved in many of his business dealings. And we know one example of that being the failed project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
We know, based on CNN's reporting from a number of months ago, that Michael Cohen actually reached out to the Kremlin for help on that Trump project, that this was during the campaign, and that he reached out to the Kremlin multiple times.
We also know that Robert Mueller and his team have asked other witnesses to the investigation specifically about Trump Tower Moscow, this business project. We don't know he's found anything again illegal or nefarious related to that with Michael Cohen, but we do know he's asked questions along those lines.
So, it would be pretty reasonable to expect that he might have questions for Michael Cohen on that as well.
PEREZ: I think also if you're Michael Cohen you have to look at Paul Manafort and what Paul Manafort is going through right now ,Wolf, and think about the fact that they raided, Mueller raided Manafort's home in July. In August, he learned he was a target of this investigation, that he was going to be charged, that he was likely to be charged with criminal charges.
And I think if you're Michael Cohen, you have to start thinking this is where this is going, simply because the fact they did this raid in a very public fashion, obviously, they're not afraid to let him know that they are onto him or they are onto something and they believe he's more than a witness, that there is some information he had that would basically trump the attorney-client privileges that they normally respect with lawyers.
And, again, as Jim was just mentioning, he's more than just the president's attorney. He was a confidant. He was somebody who went beyond the normal things that lawyers do. And keep in mind the fact that Cohen and the president have said that the Stormy Daniels payment that the president was not aware, that means that's not protected by attorney-client privilege.
There's a lot of problems that they have created for themselves with the story that they have told us about what happened.
SCIUTTO: And one more point on that. If this was truly turned over to the Southern District of New York, as opposed to them in effect carrying out a search warrant on behalf of the special counsel, there's a legal view.
Having spoken to a number of lawyers on this, that that would protect that portion of the investigation, even if Mueller were to be fired, even if the special counsel';s investigation would somehow come to an end.
And that's an unlikely scenario, but still, that by moving it into that turf, in effect, it was a way to put a wall around that portion of the investigation.
PEREZ: The stunning thing today, Wolf, is simply just real quick that Sarah Sanders is basically telling us that they have researched whether the president can fire Robert Mueller and they have determined that he can.
It's not just what we have been led to believe all along that Rod Rosenstein has to do it. Somebody has gone and done the research to figure out what he has the power to do. And so that's telegraphing something.
And it's very interesting that she chose to do that today.
BLITZER: I agree, very significant development. Evan, Jim, thanks very much for your reporting.
Joining us now, Congressman Ted Lieu. He's a Democrat who serves on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees.
Congressman, let me get your reaction. The White House says they have been advised that the president had the power to fire Robert Mueller directly. What's your reaction to that?
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Wolf, for the question.
The president does not have the power to directly fire Robert Mueller. He would have to do what Richard Nixon did, and he would have to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, then stick in someone else and get that person to fire Robert Mueller.
When Nixon tried it, it did not work out well for him. It will not work out well for Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Does the president have the authority to rewrite the code of criminal conduct involving a special counsel? Could he do that on his own?
Maybe that's part of the research the White House is coming up with to go ahead and say the president could fire him directly and not necessarily have to go through Rod Rosenstein?
LIEU: It's possible. But that would take time. And there's no reason to believe that people would actually consent to rewriting the code that way.
And keep in mind what we have here is lawlessness. We have the president who is trying to get people fired because they are standing up and enforcing the law. These search warrants on Michael Cohen, they were executed by the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. It was done according to law.
There was nothing there that showed that anything was wrong. If the president were to get people fired, it's only because he doesn't like what's happening with the rule of law.
BLITZER: If the White House, Congressman, has sought advice on the president's authority to directly fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel, why are so many of your Republican colleagues convinced that the president will never let Mueller finish -- the president will let Mueller finish his investigation and won't be fired?
LIEU: I don't know the answer to that.
But I do agree with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who said if the president were to fire Mueller or get him fired, that would be political suicide.
And I think that's true. The American people understand that our country was built on the rule of law. And we really have a choice here. Do we want the rule of Trump or do we want the rule of law? I believe the American people would choose the rule of law.
I'm deeply disappointed that people like Speaker Ryan have remained so silent on this issue.
BLITZER: Let's say the president were to fire Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. What are the immediate actions that you think will need to be taken?
LIEU: All options would be on the table.
I also believe people would take to the streets. And you will see even larger marches and rallies than the Women's March and the Marsh For Our Lives. I think the American people understand what is at stake here.
This is a turning point for our democracy, for our country if the president would be completely lawless and fire Rosenstein or Sessions or get Mueller fired.
BLITZER: There's now, as you know, a second federal investigation under way. The Robert Mueller investigation, but now the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan has got a separate investigation under way.
Does the president make his problems go away if he interferes in the Mueller investigation, now that this second investigation is under way?
LIEU: No, he does not.
Last month, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice and I wrote a letter to the FBI asking them to investigate Michael Cohen, as well as "The National Enquirer," for making two payments to two women to silence negative stories they were going to say about the president, about their affairs.
Those are massive violations of campaign finance laws. That's what the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York is investigating. And that investigation is going to continue regardless of what happens to Mueller, Rosenstein or Sessions.
BLITZER: You heard Michael Cohen's reaction to CNN's Don Lemon, to the raid that went down yesterday. He says he's unhappy to have his residence raided, his office raided.
What do you make of that?
LIEU: Well, certainly, he would be unhappy and I think he acknowledges that he would have done things differently.
But for this to have happened, an independent federal judge had to look at the evidence and conclude there was probable cause that evidence of crimes would be found at Cohen's residence or office.
So, that's pretty significant. They were looking at some pretty significant evidence of actual crimes that they thought Cohen had committed. If I were Michael Cohen, I would be very scared now.
BLITZER: You remember yesterday the president said that the FBI broke, they into his residence. They broke into his office to start taking documents.
Michael Cohen just told Don Lemon that the FBI agents were very polite. They worked through the process. You believe that Cohen is on the same page as the president?
LIEU: As often is the case, the president of the United States does not know what he's talking about.
Michael Cohen was there. He saw the professionalism and dedication of the FBI agents. I believe Michael Cohen when he said that the FBI agents were courteous and they did their jobs, as they're required to do.
BLITZER: Just how vulnerable is President Trump right now in this new investigation into Michael Cohen? LIEU: If the president or his campaign in any way coordinated with
Michael Cohen on the payment to Stormy Daniels or with "The National Enquirer" on the payment to silence Karen McDougal, then those would be campaign finance law violations that would be attributable to Donald Trump.
Any campaign violation over $25,000 constitutes a felony. So, the president is also at risk in that line of inquiry.
BLITZER: Congressman Ted Lieu, thanks so much for joining us.
LIEU: Thank you.
BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.
Just ahead, more reaction to the president's belief that he can fire Robert Mueller. We will get reaction from Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney who was actually himself fired by Mr. Trump.
And Michael Cohen admits to CNN that he's worried after the FBI raid. How much legal trouble could he or the president be in tonight?
BLITZER: We're getting some breaking news coming in right now on the U.S. attorney in New York who was appointed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Let's go to our justice reporter, Laura Jarrett.
What are you learning, Laura?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey there, Wolf.
A significant piece of the puzzle coming here together tonight as we learn more about the FBI's raids on the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
I'm told by a source familiar with the matter that Geoffrey Berman, the top prosecutor in Manhattan, is actually recused from the investigation into Cohen. He was recused before the raids were executed just yesterday.
The source did not know the precise reasons for his recusal, but you will remember Berman was personally interviewed by President Trump last fall, an unusual move all on this own. And he was appointed by Sessions in January. And his term is actually coming up in May, expiring, if a district court does not install him before that date.
Now, I'm also told that the role of attorney general -- rather, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he was made aware of the matter, but I'm told that this was really by the book, according to the U.S. attorney's manual. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York there came to main Justice and got sign off from the Criminal Division here. And so Rod Rosenstein obviously someone who is in the crosshairs of President Trump, yesterday, we heard those comments, that he was made aware of warrant before it was executed yesterday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: If Geoffrey Berman didn't sign off on this raid yesterday involving Michael Cohen, the president's personal attorney and fixer for so many years, who did?
JARRETT: We're looking into that with some additional reporting.
But he obviously has a deputy that he put in, in January and there's also of course the public corruption section at the Southern District of New York.
And Shimon Prokupecz has reported their role as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: Laura Jarrett, good reporting. Thank you.
Joining us now, the man who held the job of the U.S. attorney in New York until he was fired by President Trump, our senior legal analyst Preet Bharara.
Preet, what does it tell you that Geoffrey Berman, the top prosecutor in Manhattan, has now recused himself from this Michael Cohen investigation?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
It tells me that the new interim U.S. attorney thought for optical reasons or otherwise he should step aside from that case. Sometimes, it's true that you're required to step down because the career ethics folks both in your own office and in the Department of Justice in Washington tell you that you must recuse.
But on other occasions -- and this was true when I was the U.S. attorney also -- even if there wasn't an absolute requirement, according to the rules, that you recuse yourself, sometimes, it's better, so it doesn't give an appearance of a conflict of interest.
And so among the things probably that Geoff Berman was thinking about were that, A, he met with the president, B, he was appointed by the president, C, he gave money during the campaign to President Trump.
It may also be the case -- and I don't know if this is true or not -- that he had some personal interactions with Michael Cohen, the person whose office and hotel room and residence were raided.
For a combination of reasons, which we don't know yet for certain, he decided best for him to step a away.
BLITZER: We will see what the reaction is from the president when he see that Geoffrey Berman actually has recused himself. We know the president has not been happy about the attorney general recusing himself from all of this? Do you believe, Preet, that the Cohen referral by Robert Mueller to the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan was designed in part to protect his investigation in case he were to get fired?
BHARARA: That doesn't seem so plausible to me.
Some of the reporting that I have seen suggests that Bob Mueller, according to what he thought the guidelines were, brought evidence of this issue with respect to Michael Cohen to Rod Rosenstein, in the hopes, which seems plausible to me, in the hopes of being able to retain doing that investigation, because he came across evidence of a crime, presumably, while he was investigating other crimes.
[18:30:16] And my sense is the special counsel's office would rather keep everything under one umbrella and pursue all aspects of their investigation, and in this case, according to the reporting, Rod Rosenstein decided to cut a part of it away and give it to my old office in the southern district of New York.
You know, and a consequence of that will be, as I've said and I will continue to say, that whatever happens to Bob Mueller, the investigation has been commenced and has been proceeding rapidly with respect to Michael Cohen will continue.
I think, though, that that's a consequence of the decision made by Rod Rosenstein and others, not necessarily a strategic mood by Bob Mueller. I think it's significant that the career prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office are going to be running with this ball.
BLITZER: What if, in the course of this investigation, Preet, the U.S. attorney finds something related to the Russia probe. Does -- does he then send it back to Robert Mueller?
BHARARA: So that would be my presumption. It's a little bit peculiar, as I said a minute ago for one office that is heavily staffed and has a lot of people who are focusing on all aspects of things related to the president, his colleagues, his associates, perhaps also his family to chop off a piece of their investigation, where you have overlapping personnel.
you have Michael Cohen, who could decide if he's charged to cooperate, or could decide to cooperate before he's charged. If he has information, as you suggest, about things relating to collusion with Russia, the Mueller team is going to want to take that back.
So it will require some amount of coordination and back and forth between, you know, an independent United States attorney's office and the special counsel. And the devil is in the details about how they work those things out, but I presume that Rod Rosenstein who is currently, at least for the moment, the quarterback is going to want to make sure that the lines of communication are open, if things arise in connection with the Michael Cohen investigation that relate back to Russia.
BLITZER: Does President Trump have the power to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller as the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said earlier today?
BHARARA: No, he does not. And Sarah Sanders, with all respect, says a lot of things that are demonstrably false. And sometimes it's useful to actually have the regulation in front of you. And it's very quick, and I'll read it. And it says very specifically the special counsel may be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of the attorney general.
And the attorney general may remove the special counsel for a variety of reasons. But they are enumerated here. And they include misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest or other good cause and then has to put those reasons in writing.
So the regulation is very clear, in affording the special counsel some measure of protection from the whims of even someone like the president. So that language is about as clear as you can get. And if Sarah Sanders and others would take the time to read it, they would understand it.
So if Bob Mueller got a call from the president of the United States, who said, "I'm firing you. I'm not happy with what you've done," for a reason or for no reason at all, if I were Bob Mueller and knowing Bob Mueller, I think he would proceed this way, he would say, "With all due respect, Mr. President, you don't have the authority to fire me, and I'm returning to work every day unless somebody who's designated in the regulation fires me."
And the regulation talks about the attorney general and, in this case, obviously, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is recused. And so for all purposes related to this investigation, the attorney general is Rod Rosenstein. So if I were Bob Mueller, and Bob Mueller, I believe, is a very good reader of English, he would not take an instruction from the president to leave his job.
BLITZER: Could the president change that regulation?
BHARARA: Regulations can be changed. Laws can be changed. Congress is discussing further protections for Bob Mueller. That can all happen. Maybe that's what's afoot. I think that would be a mistake and a problem if you change the rules in the middle of the game.
BLITZER: Preet Bharara, thank you so much for your explanation.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the Playmate, tje porn star and the FBI raid on the president's lawyer. We're getting new information on what the agents were looking for in this new criminal investigation. We'll have more on CNN's exclusive interview with the attorney, Michael Cohen. Is he sending any kind of message to President Trump tonight?
[18:38:48] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. President Trump venting fresh outrage at Special Counsel Robert Mueller following the FBI raids on his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen in New York. Tonight, Cohen is speaking out exclusively to CNN. Let's get some
more from our experts, our analysts and our anchor, Don Lemon. You had a chance to speak to Michael Cohen. He's obviously -- he's very frightened right now. Tell our viewers once again what he's telling you.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: In the and he thinks that he -- everything he did is legal, and so he'll be vindicated in the end. He's concerned that maybe, I think that the FBI will try to, you know, find something that is not there. I think that's a concern.
And obviously, Wolf, the concern for his family, as I said earlier in the show. And as I spoke to him, he said, you know, obviously, he didn't want his offices raided. He said, "Do I need this in my life? No, I do not need this. I did not need this in my life."
But in the end, he said that he thinks that he will be vindicated. And if he had to do it all over again, he would possibly re-think the way he handled the Stormy Daniels situation and the nondisclosure. But he's very worried about his family at this point.
BLITZER: Gloria, you're doing some -- a lot of reporting, what the FBI agents were actually looking for. What are you discovering?
[18:40:07] GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, it's kind of a stunning development that you would raid a lawyer's office like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll say.
BORGER: And --
BLITZER: Not just any lawyer but the president's lawyer.
BORGER: Not only his office, his hotel, you know, his residence. They were looking at not only the Stormy Daniels and the payment to Stormy Daniels, his communications with the president about that and potentially his communication with the campaign about that.
That was one major part of the search warrant. Another part of the search warrant involved another woman. And that's Karen McDougal. And I think the same questions are generally being asked about that, although I was told that the Stormy Daniels part of it was much larger.
But then you go to the personal investments. The question that goes years back when he was in the taxi medallion business, which at one point was quite profitable, but now that Uber/Lyft has come along, it's not so profitable. Another part related to federal election law, and we know that's been a question in the payoffs to -- to these women. Where did the money come from, given he time that the money was -- was given to them? For example, Stormy Daniels, 11 days before the election.
The question is, is this a campaign contribution? So it was quite broad, and I think that it was probably quite stunning to him. And it also involved to not only Karen McDougal, but the media company, American Media, that she sold her story to -- and that never published it, because the owner of the -- of the publication is a very good friend of the president.
They put out a statement today, saying that they intend to cooperate. So it was -- it was really multilayered.
BLITZER: American Media, the parent company of "The National Enquirer." You know a lot about that. You've done a lot of reporting on that. How much trouble, Jeffrey, is Michael Cohen in right now?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: How big can you spread your arms? That's how much trouble he is in. The idea that the FBI and the Justice Department agreed to search the lawyers' office. They are very lucky to even let you subpoena lawyers, much less search their offices. This has to be more than just probable cause.
Now what he actually is at risk for, I don't want to pretend that I know. But I do know Justice Department policy on lawyer searches, and they are very tough on it, even in the run-of-the-mill case. And the idea that they would search the lawyer for the president of the United States' office, that has to be a very high bar.
LEMON: Not just his office, Jeffrey. His home, as well. And his hotel room, yes.
TOOBIN: You know, in today's day and age, the only thing we need to search of anyone is this. I mean, this is where we carry his whole lives in. This is -- they took Cohen's phone, as we know. And that's -- and that's the whole ball game, because most of us carry our whole lives and our --
BLITZER: Don, you spoke with a source. What happened during the raid, based on all the information you're learning.
LEMON: Well, Jeffrey brought up the cell phone. And my source tells me that in the hotel room, agents photographed the entry and the exit. They said which is routine. I spoke to -- having worked with the FBI, I know that that is routine for them. If they do a raid or any sort of search, they'll do the entry and exit point. They'll photograph that.
The sources have said they removed the computers, the cell phone, the business files, the financial documents. And the source says that Cohen kept extensive electronic records and records for any sort of Internet transaction that he may have done electronic transaction, which would have been the transaction with the NDA with Stormy Daniels and the attorney.
But a source also saying that on Monday during the raid, guys, that his wife was there, and then his daughter walked in while the raid was happening. And that his son had just left a short time ago. They were inside the Loews Hotel when it happened. And they came in to seize those documents, electronics and anything related to the criminal investigation.
But again, also when it comes to Karen McDougal, my source is telling me that Michael Cohen had nothing to do with Karen McDougal and never paid her anything.
BLITZER: How do you see all this unfolding, Laura?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, two things. No. 1, there's no magistrate in their right mind is going to issue a warrant for an application that only says "Gone fishing." They actually have to have something concrete and evidentiary information that's going to go far back than just a few weeks ago. I think this is no way in this world they're going to have 12 FBI agents raiding someone's three different issues because of a campaign finance information alone. That's just not happening.
You already have indicators that this is a far more serious issue that probably dates back much further. You also have the information about the idea that who was behind the actual execution? Who signed off on it being very important in this investigation. Because it shows you that, yet again, you have this trail, paper trail. And it goes back to Mueller. It goes back to a variety of people who are independent and exercise their own judgement on these issues.
So, he's in a heap of trouble. It is unheard of to have it be an attorney's office raided. But they also in calculation, Wolf, that the idea that they're going to take documents that's not going to be covered by privilege. A magistrate is going to want to know that. You're going into lawyer's office, do you expect non-privileged info you can actually use. I bet they said yes and found some.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. We're getting some new information. I want everybody to stand by. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with our experts and our analysts as we cover the breaking news and lots of breaking news right now.
Phil Mudd, in addition to working at the CIA, you also worked at the FBI. So, give us your sense of where this is unfolding right now. What do we know?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Quick perspective. The president is doing the right thing trying to look at Bob Mueller and telling the American people this is about Bob Mueller. This is more significant than the White House is playing. You have the Mueller investigation.
Now, you have a separate team including separate investigators, a separate judge obviously who is looking at the information and authorized the intrusion by the FBI into a hotel room, a residence and an office who's saying, we see such significant information that we're willing to raise questions about attorney-client privilege to go into these residences. I see why the president is trying to wrap this up with Mueller. He's
trying to say this is all one big conspiracy.
Well, now, we have two independent conspiracies by independent investigators and independent judge in New York who said, forget about the Mueller investigation. We think, too, there is a lot going on here, Wolf.
BLITZER: What are you hearing, Gloria, about what the president's thinking tonight?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, he's supposed to have dinner with Alan Dershowitz tonight, which may give you a little bit of a --
BLITZER: Jeffrey's former professor.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And my frequent sparring partner.
BORGER: Yes, I mean, he's a big defender of the president. But I was told that Dershowitz is there to talk about the Middle East, because he does advise the president on Middle East policy, but I can only imagine that Russia will certainly --
BLITZER: Let's ask Jeffrey. What advice is Dershowitz is going to give the president tonight?
TOOBIN: I mean, it is true that Alan Dershowitz is deeply involved in Israel affairs and, you know, those issues. But, you know, to the surprise of many including me, Alan has become a deeply outspoken defender of the president on these legal issues. The president has cited him in tweets. Alan has become a regular on Fox News. And, you know, like Jeanine Pirro, he is now welcome in the White House.
BORGER: But he is also said --
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: In Alan's defense -- in Alan's defense, I'm not listen, I'm not judging it any way, he will say he's a defender of civil liberties and not necessarily a defender of the president. That's what he says in my conversations with him and on my show.
BORGER: He has also said that he doesn't advise the president. He has said that publicly. He has said he doesn't want to be one of the president's lawyers.
[18:50:03] And quite frankly, a source I was talking to said, look, Alan Dershowitz is of more value to us talking on television about the president's case than he may be inside. And so, there wasn't any indication to me at all that he was going join the legal team.
BLITZER: The president could use a good legal help right now.
JARRETT: He really could. He has, you know, very few and far between in term of the numbers of his counsel, and Alan Dershowitz is also an appellate phenom. That's part of the reason he's been so respected in his field, not just civil liberties.
And remember, a lot of the issues we're talking about were all in new territory, no man's land, about whether or not you can subpoena a sitting president, whether you'll be able to have a grand jury in person.
JARRETT: Whether you'll be able to have a whole of issues coming? Can you hold him in contempt?
These are all things that are going to probably go straight to appellate courts and probably the Supreme Court to wrestle with these issues. So, it's very prudent for him to look ahead and go past the rigmarole of trial counsel and advice and go straight to the heart of the matter.
BORGER: Sure. If I were he, I'd have dinner with Ted Olson if I could, for example.
JARRETT: If he would accept it.
BORGER: I mean --
TOOBIN: But, you know, look, I love Alan, he's a great mentor of mine. But he's picked sides here.
BORGER: He has.
TOOBIN: He has picked sides. And he's with the president. And you don't have to eat dinner with someone to support. He's there eating dinner. I mean --
BORGER: They think they're there to talk about the Middle East and just have a little.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around.
LEMON: Hey, Wolf, let me just say this.
LEMON: I said to Alan Dershowitz, I said, you taking over for Dowd and he said, no, I want to maintain my independence as a civil libertarian who calls it as he sees it. And I said, OK, good deal, thank your response.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, everybody, stick around.
Very important to our viewers. Don did amazing reporting today. He's going to have much more later tonight. His exclusive interview with Michael Cohen, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, on his program, "CNN TONIGHT". You want to see that.
More on the breaking news right after this.
[18:56:15] BLITZER: We're learning new details tonight of secret direct talks between the United States and North Korea as the countries prepare for a summit between President Trump and Kim Jong- un.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
Brian, you're getting some new information from your sources.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Our sources indicate that preparations for this possible summit are much further along than many thought. Also tonight, we're getting word that Kim Jong-un has acknowledged his possible summit with President Trump for the first time publicly.
TODD (voice-over): We now have the first clear indications that a historic summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un may really happen. Chairing a meeting of the North Korean worker's party, Kim for the first time, acknowledged the possibility of a meeting with Trump.
According to his news agency, the dictator presented a, quote, in- depth analysis of possible talks between his regime and the United States. This comes as CNN is told by several Trump administration officials that the U.S. and North Korea have been holding secret, direct talks to prepare for a Trump-Kim summit.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo has been leading the secret negotiations according to CNN sources, with U.S. and North Korean intelligence officials even meeting in a third country to nail down some details.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've been in touch with North Korea. We'll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June. And I think there will be great respect paid by both parties and hopefully, we'll be able to make a deal on the denuking of North Korea.
TODD: Several U.S. officials tell CNN, Kim's regime has reaffirmed its willingness to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But now, analysts warned about what that really means. For the U.S., it means North Korea would talk about giving up its nuclear weapons, but for Kim, they say, denuclearization means something completely different.
LISA COLLINS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: What that means in practical team terms is usually the removal of U.S. troop from the Korean peninsula, a disillusion of the U.S./South Korea alliance and eventually a peace treaty between the United States and North Korea.
TODD: And experts say there are other sticking points that might prevent a deal between Trump and Kim, and might still prevent a summit from occurring in the first place.
DEAN CHENG, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: North Korea has this very, very bad habit of making incredible demands. It's possible they're demanding cash. They're probably demanding political recognition and end to U.S./South Korean military exercises. The list is almost endless, as preconditions for talks.
TODD: North Korea once got $500 million from South Korea just for agreeing to hold a summit with the South Korean president in 2000.
Tonight, while Kim Jong-un talks about summit, he's strangely silent on another major development. He hasn't said a word about joint U.S.- South Korean military drills going on for the past week.
Exercises which Kim always views as a threat.
COLLINS: The North Korean leader is actually preparing for talks, and so, doesn't probably want to raise a lot of conflict or tension, additional tension, with the United States and South Korea in the run up to both the inter-Korean talks on April 27th, and then the future U.S./North Korea talks slated for either May or early June.
TODD: Now, another possible complication for a Trump-Kim summit could come in a couple of weeks when President Trump meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago. Analysts say Abe is expected to raise several concerns Japan has about a possible summit and he asked Mr. Trump to press the North Koreans to stop flying missiles over Japan in their tests and to send back several Japanese citizens who the North Koreans have kidnapped over the decades -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lots going on behind the scenes. Good reporting. Brian Todd, thank you.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.