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Dow Drops Over Trump Warning; Trump Considering Firing Rosenstein; Ryan Not Seeking Re-Election; Trump Tweets about Russia Troubles; Trump Warns of Missile Strike. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 11, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Of real political tensions really setting the tone of the day. This is a market that's going to really be moving on every news headline that crosses today. And depending on what that headline is, you're going to see action immediately unfold here at the -- at the New York Stock Exchange.

The bell. Just opening, the Dow already down 190 points.

John, we're also keeping an eye on oil prices, which are also spiking a bit, up about 0.5 percent. Oil prices were already higher on production cuts from OPEC, but this is sort of escalating those -- that rise in oil prices because that is a rich oil producing region of the world.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Dow down 200 points at the open, reacting to the president's announcement of a missile strikes in Syria.

Also, no doubt, to the fact that investors like Paul Ryan, probably don't like seeing him go as speaker of the House.

Alison Kosik, thank you very much.

Let's get back to the White House right now where CNN has learned that the president is considering firing the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and he just issued a new attack on that subject moments ago.

Abby Phillip at the White House.



Clearly Rod Rosenstein is on the president's mind. He mentioned him in a tweet this morning. Let me just read the tweet to start off with. Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by a fake and corrupt Russia investigation headed up by all Democrat loyalists or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted at all except Rosenstein, who signed FISA and Comey letter. No collusion so they go crazy. Rod Rosenstein is someone who otherwise would not be, you know, at the

forefront of a conversation like this, but because he is the deputy attorney general, in this particular case, he is in charge of the Mueller probe, the Russia probe that the president believes has gone off the rails. And sources tell CNN that the president has been having conversations about potentially firing Rosenstein, in part because of his perception that he's conflicted, that he wrote the letter justifying the firing of James Comey and that that letter is being looked at by the special counsel. So he is -- he could be a witness in the special counsel's case.

That's the justification that the president is looking at for firing Rosenstein. But, ultimately, all of this is about the president's desire to reign in Mueller. And we know that we've -- that in the White House there are conversations happening about what's the -- what is the president's ability to actually fire Rosenstein. Many people believe in this White House, according to our sources, that he legally can do it. That he can fire -- that he can fire Rosenstein and also that he can fire Mueller directly. So this is a big question, will the president go in that direction or will he -- or will he try to do something else?

We know that Jeff Sessions is still in the president's cross hairs. He has not gotten over that recusal. The president has been venting about him publicly and privately in recent days. And all of this, John, happening at a time when the president's lawyers are coordinating or having conversations with Mueller's team about a potential sit down interview with the president, what that would look like and whether or not it's going to even happen at all. Our sources tell us that the fact that the FBI raided the president's personal lawyer's office this week has caused the president and his attorneys to rethink the whole strategy behind a potential interview, potentially rethinking whether he's willing to do that at all. And, as you note, he's getting a lot of advice from the outside and from the inside sitting down with Mueller would be a mistake. Just, point-blank, that it's just not a good idea to do it, John.

BERMAN: Abby Phillip for us at the White House. A lot of news, Abby, thank you very much.

Joining me now is former U.S. attorney and a former colleague of Rod Rosenstein, Jan Paul Miller.

Thank you so much for being with us, Mr. Miller.

Rod Rosenstein is under direct attack by the president of the United States, on Twitter this morning, we heard him Monday at the White House himself by name. That's a lot of pressure. How do you think it will impact your friend, your former colleague, Rod Rosenstein?

JAN PAUL MILLER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I don't think it is going to impact Rod as far as how he carries out his job. Rod is going to do what he believes is the correct thing to do under the facts, under the circumstances. You know, he's done that all the way through. The very fact, frankly, that staunch Democrats were upset when he wrote the letter regarding Director Comey, and that staunch Republicans are upset now because he continues to support Director Mueller's investigation shows that he does things based on what he believes is the correct thing to do, what the Department of Justice structures (ph) requires him to do, as opposed to what the political thing is to do.

BERMAN: He does what he thinks is the right thing to do. Based on the available fact pattern that is out there, the fact that we believe that the deputy attorney general approved these searches on Michael Cohen's apartment, hotel room, and also his offices, what do you see in this investigation right now?

MILLER: Well, let's focus on something. It's not just that the deputy attorney general approved these searches, but it had to go through other levels as well, including --


[09:35:04] MILLER: Including, of course, the magistrate, had to be signed off on by a judge.

So it's clear that the investigation that Director Mueller's carrying out is obviously looking at a variety of financial transactions, which is what's normally done in any white collar investigation. I mean the old standard rule of thumb of follow the money still stands today. And through the information that has come out in the public through the charges that have come, the pleas that have come, it's clear that the Mueller investigation is looking at a variety of financial transactions, which is what exactly -- exactly what one would expect in this situation.

BERMAN: Preet Bharara, another former U.S. attorney like you, says he looks at this and he predicts, based on what he's seen, that the chances of Michael Cohen being charged is high. Do you think that's reasonable?

MILLER: Well, I want to be a little cautious about that because obviously I haven't read the affidavit that supported the search warrant. But I will say this, it is a very high bar, both regarding the Department of Justice requirements and what a judge is going to allow when it comes to searching an attorney's office, any attorney's office. When you're dealing with a search warrant for the president's attorney's office, that's an exceedingly high bar. And so I would suspect that the information that they have, the evidence they had already to justify this search was strong. And given that, I would certainly expect that Mr. Cohen is potentially facing some difficult times.

BERMAN: Finally, very quickly, as a former prosecutor right now, when you hear Michael Cohen in his words to CNN overnight, who went out of his way to say how gracious investigators were when they were searching his apartment and then went on to say -- asked if he was worried, he'd say, I'd be lying if I told you I'm not. When you hear those words, what does it mean to you?

MILLER: Well, it means a couple things. It means that Mr. Cohen recognizes the seriousness of the situation that he's in. You know, you never want to be obviously the subject of a federal investigation. The fact that they decided to do this by search warrant as opposed to subpoena. Him being an attorney, obviously, he also recognizes how serious that is. And the fact that he went out of his way to talk about the professionalism and the courtesy of the FBI agents I think indicates that he's being smart there.


MILLER: You don't want to attack the prosecutors and the investigators at the outset because you might be in a very different situation as far as your relationship with them in a few months.

BERMAN: Jan Paul Miller, fascinating discussion. Thanks so much for being with us.

MILLER: Thanks for having me, John.

BERMAN: One more piece of breaking news we've been following all morning. The top Republican in the House, Paul Ryan, says he will not run for re-election in November. We're expecting to hear from the House speaker, the public announcement, coming in just minutes. Stay with us.


[09:42:16] BERMAN: We have a huge amount of breaking news. Two major announcements this morning.

The president announces a missile strike that will happen in Syria. He did this on Twitter.

And House Speaker Paul Ryan is announcing he will not run for re- election. That will happen on camera in just a few minutes. So stay tuned for that.

Joining me now, Matt Lewis, a CNN political commentator, and Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for RealClearPolitics.

Paul Ryan will not run for re-election, Caitlin. This may not be a complete surprise, but it is a very big deal.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Sure. And the timing is extremely significant. There have been rumors, of course, that he was planning to step down. But by announcing this now, it raises a lot of questions about, you know, him being a lame duck for the next several months. What a Republican Congress can do in that time, especially heading into a midterm. Let alone the message that it sends about the House Republicans chances of losing the House in November. That was already a precarious situation. This certainly sends signals. And I'm wondering if it might send signals to other Republicans who may say -- who were on the fence about retiring, maybe they're thinking about retiring too.

On the other hand, it could perhaps -- oh, not to mention the fundraising component too. Obviously Ryan has been a prolific and profound fundraiser for Republicans, raising millions and millions of dollars, very effective. Can he be that effective now in the next few months?

On the other hand, I'm wondering if it could empower him to do some of the things last minute that he's wanted to do, maybe on immigration.

BERMAN: He can go full bore (ph).

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly.

BERMAN: I've got nothing constraining me now.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. So that's something --

BERMAN: The thing is, the thing that Paul Ryan really wants is entitlement reform, and that ain't going to happen. I don't think going full bore (ph) on that is going to be an issue.

You know, Matt Lewis, Caitlin brought up the electoral issues here. There are a lot of reasons Paul Ryan is retiring. And you don't want to overgeneralize. But normally if you thought you had a good chance of being House speaker come next January you wouldn't leave?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's absolutely right. I think I put the Republicans chances of holding the House now at maybe 20 percent. So it's not very good.

Look, I think Paul Ryan has legitimate reasons that he might want to leave anyway. He does have a young family.


LEWIS: He's said from day one, he really never wanted to be speaker and he also envisioned himself, if he had to do it, as sort of doing it as a place holder speakership.

But this sends -- this is problematic at the macro level. As you were just discussing, it sends messages to other congressmen should they retire or not, other Republican incumbents. But also just at the micro level. I mean Paul Ryan's seat is now up for grabs. And, you know, so that's, you know, one out of 435 seats, but they're going to be fighting over who has the majority. It could come down to something to one or two seats. So you never know.

BERMAN: So, Matt, one of the things that I think Paul Ryan is trying to run away from is having to answer for President Trump. He's holding a news conference and now it's going to be a statement about the retirement. Before he was going to have to face questions about Rod Rosenstein in various matters.

[09:45:12] The president put out this statement on Twitter, after declaring a missile strike against Syria on Twitter and being tough on Russia admittedly, which is a long time coming and I think a lot of people will applaud, he seemed to blame a lot of the conflict with Russia on the election meddling investigation.

Let me read this tweet to you. Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the fake and corrupt Russia investigation headed up by all the Democratic loyalists and people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all, except Rosenstein, who signed FISA and Comey letter. No collusion so they go crazy.

It's an absurd notion to suggest that the conflict between the United States and Russia is based on the fact that Russia meddled in the U.S. election and the media has been covering it. It has a lot to do with Crimea.


BERMAN: It has a lot to do with support of Bashar al Assad. This is a pretty crazy statement.

LEWIS: Yes, no, it makes no sense. And, look, I don't know that we should be shifting blame. But if you want to shift blame, you could talk about red lines in Syria, you could talk about Ukraine. You could talk about a president who looked Vladimir Putin in the eye and saw his soul. And we can go back decades of people to blame for this.

BERMAN: Right.

LEWIS: But I -- but I think shifting blame to the Mueller investigation is absurd.

BERMAN: So, Caitlin, overnight, CNN reporting that the president is considering firing Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. We spent so much time talking about what happens if he pushes out the special counsel, Robert Mueller. What do you think happens if he makes this move on Rosenstein? What do you think Congress does?

HUEY-BURNS: Well, it's been interesting to watch their reaction because you have had a Republican saying over and over again that they don't think the president is going to do this, but they're also speaking in pretty pointed terms trying to reach him. You heard the senator from Louisiana, Senator Kennedy, saying the president is too smart to do this, right? That seems like he was trying to talk to the president through these interviews and kind of warning them.

You have -- you know, Republicans are in this weird situation where they don't necessarily want to pass legislation because they're kind of afraid to rock the boat here and also to send the signals that they actually are really worried about this. But at the same time, they are -- you know, we have seen several iterations of this.

And then just back to the question that you were posing to Matt, one thing I would add too is that the president -- the administration has acted on information from the Mueller probe. They pushed forward sanctions in reaction to it just recently. And so you have these kind of dueling messages coming from the administration as it pertains to Russia. But yesterday I would say Sanders' statement about what the president can do in terms of firing Mueller, I think, advance this conversation more than it had before.

BERMAN: Absolutely, she says, the president believes he has the ability to fire Robert Mueller. Not what a lot of legal analysts think, to be sure. HUEY-BURNS: Right.

BERMAN: Caitlin Huey-Burns, Matt Lewis, thanks for being with us this morning. We have a lot going on.

President Trump is warning Russia this morning to get ready for missile strikes in Syria. We have a live report from the ground there in Syria, next.


[09:52:33] BERMAN: All right, this morning, President Trump announced that the U.S. will strike Syria with missiles. He was issuing a warning to Russia, which has troops and influence there, telling them to get ready for this missile strike that he says is coming. And this happened after Russia vowed to shoot down any missiles headed to that nation.

Let's go to the ground in Syria. Our Frederik Pleitgen in Damascus.



Yes, and the Syrian government has certainly gotten the message. They've issued a statement just a couple of minutes ago calling the Trump tweets reckless and saying that America is, they say, endangering international stability. And I really do think, John, that it's sinking in among many people here on the ground in the government, but regular folks as well, that the threat of U.S. military action is very real and could happen very soon. There are reports that the Syrians apparently are moving jets and other military hardware around potentially to get them out of the way of air strikes.

And then, of course, you have that massive spat now going on between the Russians and the Syrians with neither side backing down, which really is a very dangerous situation. You know, John, I've been reporting here 20 times from Syria. I've been here also with the Russian military. And one of the things many people don't know is that the Russians have a huge amount of military hardware on the ground here. And they have their air base here in Latakia (ph). They have a port. They have ground troops here, as well.

And then I was on a destroyer a couple of months ago and all of a sudden several Russian submarines turned up and started firing cruise missiles at ISIS targets. So the Russians have a lot more military hardware than people think here. And it's their most modern military hardware.

Again, the Russians are saying that any missiles that would be fired by the United States would be shot down and the bases from where they would be firing would be targeted as well. So a very dangerous situation and certainly folks on the ground here are quite concerned.

John. BERMAN: Such important insight, Frederik Pleitgen. You know, it makes it much more unlikely that the U.S. would actually fly planes over Syria. That's why they would choose to use tomahawk missile and the like.

Frederik Pleitgen, thank you very much.

We have a lot of breaking news this morning. We're just minutes away from House Speaker Paul Ryan, who will make it official. He will announce from behind that microphone he is not running for re- election. We'll carry it live. Stay with us.


[09:59:14] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

We are following major breaking news.

House Speaker Paul Ryan announcing he will not seek re-election. He is set to speak any moment from Capitol Hill. You're looking at live pictures right there.

As we await the House speaker, the president of the United States has already reacted. Let us put up his statement on Twitter. Speaker Paul Ryan is a truly good man and while he will not be seeking re-election, he will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. We are with you Paul.

We are all over this developing story this morning as we wait for the House speaker.

I'm joined by CNN's Phil Mattingly and Manu Raju.

First, Phil, give us the why and how this happened.

[10:00:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, John, we've talked about this, the expectation was that Speaker Paul Ryan was likely not going to be around the next Congress. The surprise was that he decided to make this announcement now.