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Interview With Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes; Stormy Daniels Releases Sketch of Man She Says Threatened Her; One Person Killed in Southwest Jet Engine Failure; Source: Trump "Apoplectic" About Cohen Raids; New U.S. Warning About "Brazen" Russia Election Meddling. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 17, 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: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the terrifying engine failure of a Southwest jet in mid-flight. One person has died after a passenger was sucked toward a window broken by engine shrapnel.
Standing by for harrowing accounts of what happened, including new cockpit communications. We're waiting for that right now.
Also tonight, new finger-pointing, as the Trump administration pulls back from slapping more sanctions on Russia. A top Trump aide suggesting the president's U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was confused when she said additional sanctions were coming.
I will talk about that and more with House Intelligence Committee member Jim Himes and the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. And our correspondents and analysts are all standing by.
First, let's go to CNN's Brian Todd on the latest on that fatal in- flight emergency.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have just spoken to a passenger board that plane who describes a scene of horrifying chaos.
This passenger was able to capture images from inside the cabin. He was sitting just two rows behind a woman who was killed and he thought he also would not survive.
TODD (voice-over): This is passenger Marty Martinez Facebook Live streaming what he thinks will be his death. Martinez tells CNN he was on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 when one of its engines failed, possibly from an explosion about 30 minutes into the flight from New York's La Guardia airport to Dallas.
MARTY MARTINEZ, PASSENGER: All of a sudden, we hear this loud explosion. And it's like within a span of five seconds all of the oxygen masks deploy, and then just a few seconds later, another explosion happened and it was a window that just completely exploded. And, as you can imagine, everybody was going crazy and yelling and screaming.
TODD: Martinez says the flight attendants appeared to be panicking. The pilot projected calm.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Southwest 1380 has an engine fire. Descending.
TODD: Tonight, the NTSB says one passenger was killed. It may have been a woman who witnesses say was sitting near this window blown open, they say, by shrapnel from the explosion.
MARTINEZ: Her body and her arm was sucked into that direction. From my vantage point, you see people on the back of the seat holding on to her, trying to keep her contained.
TODD: Martinez tells CNN a man who tended to that passenger had blood all over his hands. He says the plane experienced violent turbulence, that he saw his colleague sitting next to him typing out a goodbye message to his family. The plane quickly depressurized and made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
ADAM THIEL, PHILADELPHIA FIRE COMMISSIONER: The flight crew did an incredible job getting this aircraft on the ground.
TODD: Officials say a few other passengers suffered minor injuries.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we landed, they told us, I guess they did tell us to sit there, and then the paramedics came on with all sorts of equipment and ran to the back.
TODD: Former NTSB official Peter Goelz says initially investigators may focus on possible failure of the fan blades inside the engine.
PETER GOELZ, FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Most typically, a fan blade fails because of some sort of maintenance oversight, some sort of foundry failure, that there is the tiniest little anomaly that can grow with the enormous pressure that the speed of the rotating engine puts on it. You can have a fatigue crack that could have been hard to determine where it was.
TODD: Tonight, a terrified, emotional passenger tells CNN the landing was so violent he thought they were crashing.
MARTINEZ: I feel just so really lucky to be alive.
I have had a lot of people contact me and loved ones calling. And, you know, all I can think about as I was going down in that plane was how my life was being taken away from me.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: This incident, of course, could have been so much worse.
Tonight, aviation experts tells one thing that could have happened is the plane's left wing could have been compromised at least somewhat. They say these 737s have fuel tanks throughout the winds. If shrapnel had ignited one or more fuel tanks, damaged that wind, possibly compromised the hydraulic controls, they say the pilot could have lost control of the flaps and this plane could have crashed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, you have some new information on just how precipitously this plane dropped, right?
TODD: That's right. The tracking Web site called Flightradar24 estimates that the plane descended more than 21,000 feet in only about five minutes.
That passenger who we spoke to, Marty Martinez, told us when they landed he thought they were actually crashing into a building.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Very disturbing, indeed. Thanks very much.
Let's turn to other breaking news coming out of the Trump administration right now. The president says direct high-level talks are under way with North Korea in preparation for his talks with Kim Jong-un. Mr. Trump also acknowledges plans for the summit could still fall apart.
Tonight, there is also fresh uncertainty and confusion surrounding the president's Russia policy.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's with the president down in Florida.
Jim, there is a blame game clearly going on tonight.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The White House is blaming the administration's own ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, for jumping the gun on sanctions to Russia.
The confusion over the sanctions, which could be tied to Russia's support for Syria, comes as the president is holding talks here in Florida with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, on another pressing national security issue. That, of course, is North Korea.
The president said today high-level talks with the North Koreans have already begun.
ACOSTA (voice-over): As the president and the Japanese prime minister meet at Mr. Trump's ritzy resort in Florida to try to get on the same page on North Korea. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have also started
talking to North Korea directly. We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea.
ACOSTA: The White House is attempting to make sense of its policy on Russia, one day after U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley warned new sanctions on Russia would be announced by the administration.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Absolutely. So, you will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn't already.
ACOSTA: The White House was walking that back, insisting a decision had not been made and putting the blame on Haley, who said Russia would be punished for its support for Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad and the regime's suspected gas attacks on its people.
On an off-camera briefing with reporters, the president's new chief economist, Larry Kudlow, told reporters Haley simply got it wrong.
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: She's gotten ahead of the curve. She's done a great job. She's a very effective ambassador. There might have been some momentary confusion about that.
ACOSTA: It was a curious purported stumble for Haley, who has consistently been a tough voice on Russia for the administration, in stark contrast to the president, who has only recently stepped up his rhetoric on Moscow.
Even fellow Republicans are noting something seems off.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It just sounds like confusion from the White House.
ACOSTA: While in Florida, the president and his aides are busy responding to the new book from former FBI Director James Comey. The president has suggested Comey could face jail time for his actions, tweeting: "The big questions in Comey's badly reviewed book aren't answered, like how came he gave up classified information? Jail. Why did he lie to Congress? Jail."
Comey, who is promoting his new book, reacted to that, accusing Mr. Trump of crossing a line.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: That is not normal. That is not OK. First of all, he's just making stuff up. But most importantly the president of the United States is calling for the imprisonment of a private citizen, as he's done for a whole lot of people who criticize him. That is not acceptable in this country.
ACOSTA: Still, Comey has critics on both sides of the aisle. Democrats are still furious with Comey for very publicly reopening the Clinton e-mail investigation just days before the 2016 election.
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Well, I think it was his -- to some extent his arrogance that led him to make a very bad error of judgment. But I thought he was an idiot in the context of this election and that it was influential in the outcome.
ACOSTA: And there is new uncertainty on the subject of North Korea. While the president told reporters his meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un could happen "very soon," Mr. Trump also said it's possible his face-to-face encounter may not even occur.
TRUMP: It's possible things won't go well and we won't have the meetings and we will just continue to go along this very strong path that we have taken, but we will see what happens.
ACOSTA: Now, the president told reporters that five locations are under consideration for his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un, if that, in fact, that happens.
Other nagging concerns for the president resurfaced today, that in the form of his tax records. The White House announced today the president is planning for an extension to file his 2017 tax return. Of course, the president has refused to release his returns to the public, the first president in decades to do so.
And the White House is not giving any indication, Wolf, as to whether the president will actually keep those returns for 2017 secret as he has with all the other returns.
BLITZER: Yes, not holding my breath to see those returns. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta, for that report.
We have some late-breaking news right now on the president's state of mind as he's being slammed by James Comey and worrying about the criminal investigation of his lawyer in New York, Michael Cohen.
Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.
Pamela, What are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I spoke to a source close to the president.
He says he is still apoplectic about the Michigan raid. This source familiar with the matter says he is particularly concerned, Wolf, about what federal investigators seized from Michael Cohen's home and his office, communications the president had with his lawyer and what Michael Cohen did for the president before he was elected.
A source close to the matter says this is what has the president concerned, those communications, which of course raises the question if the president didn't do anything wrong or if there was nothing unseemly here, why would the concern be there?
Now I asked, of course, Washington, what specific concerns the president has. The source says only the president and Michael Cohen know the answer to that.
Also interesting to note, as you know, yesterday, there was the court case in New York, where the judge didn't really make a final decision on whether an FBI taint team would make the decision on the attorney- client privilege sensitive information.
I am told the president has no confidence in that process. As we know, Michael Cohen and other lawyers, people on the president's team, will be looking over these documents that were seized, which is certainly a win for Trump's team.
But it could be the judge decides to allow the taint team to look over these materials. I am told the president is very concerned about that because he does not believe he will be protected by any sort of taint team, given his distrust of the process.
But, certainly, this is something that has consumed the president. A source telling my colleague Kaitlan Collins that he has been more consumed by the raid which happened seven days ago, Wolf, than anything that has happened after, including James Comey's book and his recent interviews.
BLITZER: Why do you think the president is so worried, apoplectic right now, about what is going on, this criminal investigation of Michael Cohen?
BROWN: Sources I have speaking with say, look, it does say something that he is this concerned, apoplectic, he's so focused on it, given everything else on his plate that really he could more focused on.
He is more focused on, though, than his attorney, his private attorney and the information seized having to do with him, the communications that the two had. And what is there, we don't know. But it certainly makes you ask the question, Wolf, why is he concerned if there is nothing to be worried about?
BLITZER: Explain what a taint team, an FBI taint team is.
BROWN: An FBI taint team or U.S. attorney's taint team would basically go in and separate the sensitive information that is protected by attorney-client privilege.
So, they're a special team. Therefore, the information that is separated, that is protected would not then be given over to investigators to be used as a part of the case. It is something that is commonly used in sensitive cases such as this when you are dealing with potential attorney-client privileged information.
BLITZER: Because the president wouldn't trust the so-called taint team, because right now he has a very low regard for the FBI, is that right?
BROWN: Exactly. Yes. That's exactly it.
BLITZER: All right, Pamela, good reporting. Thank you very much.
Joining us now, Congressman Jim Himes. He's a Democrat who serves on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
You just heard Pamela's reporting. The president is apoplectic about this raid going on in New York City involving his longtime fixer and friend and lawyer Michael Cohen.
What does that imply about, first of all, the Cohen-Trump relationship?
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I'm not sure it implies anything, other than what we've known for a long time, which is Michael Cohen is -- maybe he in some way, shape and form is a lawyer, but he is really the president's fixer. Right?
And I think the president knows that he fixed some stuff, legal or illegal, might not want to see the light of day. And any president, of course, would think back to the '90s under the Clinton administration when you had a special counsel looking into -- and this is the part nobody remembers, started out looking into a strange land deal in Arkansas.
And, of course, what Americans remember today and the impeachment of that president was about a blue dress and a statement made in a deposition. So I think the president is looking at that and saying, my God, these things can go in unpredictable ways. And my guess is that there is some stories between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump that president would rather not have out there.
BLITZER: The president apparently very worried about all the documents, recordings, everything else that the FBI took in those raids.
How did your House Intelligence Committee investigation view Michael Cohen? Should your committee bring him back?
HIMES: Well, as you know, the Republicans prematurely ended the House investigation.
You know, this was before Mueller's investigation turned up all sorts of new information. In that sense, the president and Devin Nunes achieved one of their objectives, which is to get one of these things to go away.
So, I don't think we're likely to get Michael Cohen back. But, look, Michael Cohen came and told us what he's been saying publicly about the Prague meeting and any other number of things. So, yes, in a world where we had an opportunity to interview him again, I think we would want to know whether he was honest with the Congress and what else he might know.
BLITZER: The fired FBI Director James Comey has chosen sides against President Trump with his new book, as we all know by now and all the interviews he's done.
Do you worry that could impact American trust in the FBI and the Justice Department, for that matter?
HIMES: Well, I don't think it's Jim Comey's book that is impacting trust in the FBI.
It's the fact that the president of the United States pretty much every single day is lighting up the FBI on Twitter, suggesting that they're a rotten organization, suggesting that they're politically motivated without any evidence whatsoever.
And, of course, this at a time when the FBI director is his appointee, where the deputy attorney general who is in charge of this investigation along with Bob Mueller are both Republicans, and, other than Mueller, his appointee.
So, I mean, the damage being done to the FBI here is not a function of Jim Comey's book or activities.
BLITZER: Whenever we do see Robert Mueller's final report, assuming we eventually do see it, do you worry some Americans will simply dismiss Comey's role in the investigation because of his criticism of President Trump?
HIMES: Well, I think you have to keep some things separate here.
One, Jim Comey, appropriately, has come under a lot of scrutiny and criticism for his decision, unusual and unprecedented decision, to discuss the investigation of Hillary Clinton prior to the election.
And that's particularly interesting, given what we know now, which is that there wasn't just a Hillary Clinton investigation going on. There was also a Donald Trump and Trump campaign investigation going on. He chose to talk about Hillary Clinton, but not the other.
I personally believe he made a mistake in doing that, a mistake of judgment. That does not that mean that Jim Comey is what the president is accusing him of being, dishonest, a leaker of classified information.
So, look, what worries me much more, Wolf, is that we have watched now for months as the president and the president's people and the president's party have worked very hard to delegitimize not just Jim Comey, but Robert Mueller and the investigation.
You just need to spend a little time on social media to see what is said about this Vietnam decorated war hero, who people understand to be upstanding. And you see that they have already tried to erode his credibility, so that if a report comes out with adverse information on the president, they will do their level best to do what they're doing to Jim Comey today.
BLITZER: On another sensitive issue, Congressman, the line from the White House right now is that U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley got ahead of the curve in announcing new sanctions on Russia on Sunday. She said they'd be implemented. They'd be announced by the Treasury
Department on Monday. It certainly hasn't happened. What does it say to you about the Trump administration?
HIMES: Yes, well, it's funny. The Congress actually heard exactly that line from a senior administration official who came to the Congress today to talk about the justification for the Syria strike.
So that's clearly the story, that Nikki Haley got out in front of the story. Now, her story was pretty darn specific with respect to the treasury secretary soon making an announcement.
One of the jobs of the people that work for the president is to take the fall when the president changes his mind. So, my bet, and I don't mean this to be the case, but my bet is that there was some vacillation on the president's part about the right thing to do here.
And I'm very interested in why a plan that was just about to get green-lighted, the secretary of the treasury announcing new sanctions, why did that all of a sudden get scotched? I would love to know the story behind that.
BLITZER: Good question. We will try to work it and find out.
Congressman Jim Himes, thanks very much.
HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more reaction to what James Comey has been saying about the president. I will talk to the former national director of intelligence, James Clapper. He is standing by live. He was in the room, by the way, with Comey when Mr. Trump was briefed on Russia's election meddling.
And Stormy Daniels' lawyer reveals the man who allegedly threatened the porn star. She says, her lawyer says as well, that this so-called thug has an indirect connection to the president. We are hearing from Daniels about the newly-released sketch and the threat she says left her shaken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM ACTRESS: He had at his hands in his pocket. And he looked at my daughter.
And I just remember him saying, like: "Oh, it's a beautiful little girl. It would be a shame if something happened to her mom. Forget about this story. Leave Mr. Trump alone."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories at this hour, including the Trump administration walking back the U.N. ambassador's claim that new sanctions on Russia were imminent.
Top aides to the president saying earlier today -- quote -- "She got ahead of the curve. There might have been some momentary confusion."
That was what Larry Kudlow, the president's top economic adviser, said. But just moments ago, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, released her own statement -- and I'm quoting now -- "With all due respect, I don't get confused."
We're joined now by the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. He's a CNN national security analyst.
General, thanks so much for joining us.
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: What is your reaction to that little exchange?
CLAPPER: Well, first of all, I think Nikki Haley has been an articulate and clear spokesperson at the U.N. And it's never struck me that she had been confused about anything.
And I just think this is indicative of some of the disarray in the administration, and particularly with respect to Russia, where there seems to be this schizophrenia about just what our policy is. One day, we're real tough, the next day, we're not.
And I also think that perhaps some of the turnover contributes to this confusion and turbulence.
BLITZER: Turnover among the national security staff?
CLAPPER: Among the national security team.
BLITZER: Because she said on Sunday flatly that there would be an announcement by the treasury secretary, Mnuchin. Maybe she said it already had occurred, but it would definitely take place on Monday announcing new sanctions against the Russians.
Then, yesterday, they said, not so fast. And then you heard what Larry Kudlow, the economic adviser, said. And now she's saying, I don't get confused.
Well, again, I don't know what -- there is clearly a failure to communicate here. It would appear to me at one point that's the direction the administration -- at least the national security team below that of the president was going.
And I guess the president got wind of it and said not so fast and, unfortunately, you know, keep of hung her out to dry.
BLITZER: This reversal and the confusion, if there is confusion, came out on the same day now that the Trump administration has just warned about Russian cyber-attacks targeting network infrastructure devices here in the occupation, the type of routers all of us use every day.
And they're saying this Russian effort actually began years ago. How worrying are these cyber-attacks?
CLAPPER: Well, they're very worrying and they also very insidious, since they're not overtly visible to people unless you start feeling the effects of them.
The Russians have had an active program for some time to infiltrate and embed themselves in various aspects of our infrastructure. And just to reinforce an earlier point about the turnover in the administration, with Tom Bossert and Rob Joyce, who was a cyber- coordinator, who is really a competent professionals, individuals, both of them just having departed.
Well, once again, we're in a bad place I think with respect to how we react to these Russian attacks.
BLITZER: Bossert, he was until a few days ago the homeland security adviser over at the White House.
Let me get your reaction to the James Comey book and the interviews he is giving. In January 2017, just a few days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, you were in Trump Tower with Comey and others to brief the president-elect on Russian election interference.
Comey said he was struck by their response. I want you to watch how he described that moment in that interview on ABC News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: No one to my recollection asked, so what's coming next from the Russians? How might we stop it? What's the future look like? There was none of that. It was all, what can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You were there. You were still the national intelligence director. Is that accurate?
CLAPPER: It is.
At the end of the briefing, in fact, we hadn't departed yet. The team led by the then chief of staff-designate, Reince Priebus, went immediately to drafting a statement as a result of our briefing in which they wanted to say that Russian interference didn't have an impact on the election, which we didn't say, couldn't say in our intelligence community assessment that was published publicly later that day.
So, yes, there was no concern about what are they going to do next or what is the future of the Russian threat, which, of course, that indifference sort of has been sustained since that day on January 6. BLITZER: President Trump says James Comey in his words is a proven
liar and leaker and a slime ball.
In your dealings, and you dealt with James Comey when he was the FBI director for a long time, how did he strike you? How credible is the president's account?
CLAPPER: Well, to me, it isn't credible at all. I don't agree with that characterization.
I think it's inappropriate and inaccurate and unfair. You may disagree with decisions that Jim Comey made, but for me, he is the epitome of the public servant, served with great distinction as the director of the FBI, and, before that, as the assistant -- deputy attorney general.
BLITZER: You find him credible?
CLAPPER: I do. I do.
BLITZER: Comey says it's possible, in his words, in these interviews he has been giving that President Trump has been compromised by the Russians, that the Russians have some dirt on him that could compromise the president of the United States. Do you agree?
CLAPPER: Well, that's not news, first of all, and, secondly, there are all kinds of speculation for why this strange and disturbing indifference to the Russian threat, although it would appear, of late, the president is awakening at least sometimes to the threat that Russia -- the profound threat that Russia poses.
BLITZER: Let me just press you on this, General, because you were the director of national intelligence. Would you go further? Do you believe the Russians do have dirt on the president of the United States that could compromise him?
CLAPPER: Like Jim, I don't know. It is certainly one of a range of possibilities. The other, of course, that could explain it is the financial entanglements we don't know about.
Or, as Mike Hayden has suggested, perhaps it's just -- it's incompetence or just the erratic nature of the administration. I don't know, but it certainly is a possibility. And this is in the Russians' genes.
If they co-opt somebody with either real or contrived kompromat, to use the term they use, I'm certain they would have done that. But I don't know, just as Jim doesn't or any of us know, whether that's the case.
[18:30:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You speak as someone who spent decades in the U.S. intelligence community, including heading the National Security Agency. Another sensitive issue that Comey has made, he says he has concluded
that President Trump, in his words, is not -- is morally unfit to be president. Do you agree with him?
CLAPPER: Well, I've previously stated my concerns, and maybe I'm old and a traditionalist. But I think the ethical, moral and honesty exhibited --standards exhibited by this president is bothersome, very bothersome to me.
As far as his fitness, well, a lot of Americans, 63 million Americans voted for President Trump. And so perhaps they're, by doing so, establishing a new standard for morality and ethics of the president. It doesn't comport with what I've long adhered to and believed in, starting with my father, who was an army officer. So, you know, I have questions and concerns about it.
BLITZER: General Clapper, thanks so much for coming in.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, there's more breaking news. Stormy Daniels shows a sketch of the man she says threatened her to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. Why didn't she report the threat at the time?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STORMY DANIELS, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH TRUMP: I would have had to tell an entire police department -- and the police reports are public record, I know that for a fact -- I had sex with Donald Trump. And then the whole world would have known. And I was in the process of trying to quiet that or figure out what to do and honestly, I was just afraid, and I didn't want everyone to know.
[18:36:39] BLITZER: We have breaking news in the Stormy Daniels legal battle with President Trump. Tonight, her lawyer tells CNN that a man who threatened the porn star seven years ago likely worked indirectly for the Trump Organization or the president's lawyer, Michael Cohen.
It's the capper to a day of high drama for Daniels and her attorney as they released a sketch of the mystery man on national television.
Let's bring in our national correspondent, Athena Jones.
Athena, Daniels and her lawyer, they're hitting hard at the president today.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
That's right. Stormy Daniels says she's standing up for herself. And she's standing by her story about President Trump. She even joked about the president's acting skills when he denied he knew anything about the hush money his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her. And as you mentioned, Daniels and her lawyer have now released a
sketch of the man she says threatened her after she told a magazine about her sexual encounter with Trump. They're hoping someone somewhere knows who this guy is.
JONES (voice-over): Stormy Daniels is hoping someone recognizes the man in this artist's sketch who she says threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2007 after she spoke with a tabloid with an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump. The tabloid didn't punish the story at the time. But in a new interview on ABC's "The View," Daniels suggested someone seemed to know about it.
STORMY DANIELS, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: He had his hands in his pocket, and he looked at my daughter, and I just remember him saying, like, "It's a beautiful little girl. It would be a shame if something happened to her mom. Forget about this story. Leave Mr. Trump alone." His face is burned in my memory.
JONES: Tonight in a new interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Daniels's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said since revealing the sketch this morning, he has gotten more than 400 tips and that he is closer to identifying the mysterious man.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: As you said you have some names in mind of whom that sketch might be of. Has Ms. Daniels looked at photographs of these individuals, who it might be?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: She has reviewed, Jake, a number of photographs over the last few weeks, couple weeks, actually, and we've narrowed it down.
TAPPER: The photographs that you have that she has looked at, are they individuals who work for Mr. Trump or Mr. Cohen at some point in the past?
AVENATTI: We believe indirectly.
JONES: Avenatti is offering a reward for anyone who can help identify the man.
AVENATTI: If you positively identify him, we're going to pay you $100,000, because we want to get to the bottom of who this is.
JONES: At the time Daniels didn't go to the police, saying she didn't want to, because her husband didn't know of the alleged encounter with Trump.
DANIELS: I would have had to tell an entire police department -- and police reports are a public record, I know that for a fact -- I had sex with Donald Trump, and then the whole world would have known. And I was in the process of trying to quiet that or figure out what to do. And honestly, I was just afraid, and I didn't want everyone to know. I didn't want my family to find out that way. I didn't want my life turned upside-down. JONES: Daniels is also firing back at Trump after the president
denied on Air Force One any knowledge of the $130,000 payment his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to her to keep her quiet about the alleged 2006 encounter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. No. What else?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why -- why did Michael Cohen make it, if there was not truth to the allegations?
[18:40:01] TRUMP: Well, you have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my -- an attorney, and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.
DANIELS: Let me just say, I work in the adult business, and I'm a better actress than he is.
JONES: Today's interview comes a day after Daniels created a stir outside a New York federal courthouse, where she attended a hearing to discuss the handling of evidence seized in last week's FBI raids on Cohen's home, hotel and office, a search Daniels believes may have swept up communications related to her case.
DANIELS: I just wanted to make my presence known and wanted to make sure that people knew that I was taking it serious.
JONES: As for criticism, she's doing all this for publicity.
DANIELS: I'm doing a job that I've been doing for the last almost 20 years. Yes, there's a lot of publicity. But I didn't do it for that. Because this isn't what I want to be known for.
JONES: Now we reached out to Michael Cohen in the past about Daniels's alleged threat in that parking lot. He has told us he's never talked to Daniels, e-mailed with Daniels or met with Daniels and he has nothing to do with the threat. We've reached out to him again today after that sketch was released and have not heard back -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena Jones, thanks very much.
We've got lots to discuss. Our panel is here. We're going to discuss this and more right after a quick break.
[18:45:51] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We are back with our analysts.
We're breaking down all the latest news on President Trump. We're told he is apoplectic about the raid on his long time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, and he's fixated on that, above everything else.
Gloria, what do you think? How seethes is the president when it comes to what's going on in New York City right now?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The president we are told is enraged by a lot of it, upset. Pamela Brown is reporting apoplectic, I believe that's the word. And we've been -- we've been reporting that he's worried about the Cohen investigation because courses involve his legal work that he's done for the president since 2006 and a lot of this is personal as we know and we know the search warrant was largely about the women, Stormy Daniels, "Access Hollywood," Karen McDougal. There was some stuff about Cohen's finances in it.
But I believe the president's attorneys think that this is all a subterfuge to get at the president one way or another. So, he has this investigation, which he's upset about. He has the Russia investigation, which we know he is a host and is upset about. He's got foreign policy issues about what to do with Russia now. He's got a meeting coming up in North Korea. And this is taking up a lot of his time.
BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey Toobin, we are also told he is deeply concerned about the tape recordings, the documents, the e-mails that the FBI clearly has now collected, including earlier reported there have been a warrant for Cohen's e-mails, specifically communications between Cohen and Hope Hicks, who have been the president's long-time aide, and communications between Cohen and Corey Lewandowski who had been the campaign manager.
That could explain why the president is as concerned as he is right now.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, in fairness to the president, I think people who are saying, well, if have you nothing to fear, why are you worried about a search like this? I mean, this is an incredibly intrusive search on someone who is very close to the president and deals with extremely sensitive subjects. I don't think you have to have a guilty conscience to be concerned about that.
Now, it seems to me that given the circumstances, this was a legitimate search, but the idea that the president is angry about it, I don't think that proves that there is anything incriminating in these documents. It's just very intrusive, very personal, and by his own account, Michael Cohen is the person who keeps all of Donald Trump's secrets. So, of course, he'd be upset about it.
BLITZER: That is understandable.
David Swerdlick, Michael Avenatti, who is the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, he predicts this investigation will put so much pressure on Michael Cohen that he will eventually flip on the president of the United States. What are the chances of that in your view?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, most presidents use their pardon power toward the end of their term, or the end of their presidency. President Trump has pardoned two high file people in the first year and a quarter of his presidency. If I were Michael Cohen, I would not be confident but certainly thinking about the possibility of getting a pardon from President Trump.
And in that sense, I wouldn't bet on him flipping on President Trump unless like Joey said in your last hour, Wolf, unless state charges are brought by the D.A.'s office in Manhattan. If not, if it's just federal charges, he might be waiting the president out.
BLITZER: He thinks the president will protect him.
BORGER: Well, Michael Cohen is very worried. His family is very worried and while I never met anybody more loyal to anybody in my entire life than Michael Cohen is to Donald Trump, I do think there are family issues here. I think that he's got a wife, he's got two kids, and they can be very influential in saying to him, you know, we need you to cooperate because we don't want you to wind up in jail.
BLITZER: It's a serious, serious issue.
You know, Sam, Samantha Vinograd, is with us as well. You know, it's amazing on Sunday as you know, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., says, get ready, there will be new sanctions imposed on the Russians either later today or tomorrow.
[18:50:07] The secretary of the treasury, Mnuchin, he's got those. They'll probably be announced tomorrow.
The next day, they say, not so fast and now, the president's new economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, says she was confused, she was ahead of the curve, and she put a subsequent statement saying, I was not confused.
What do you make of this extraordinary exchange?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, for one, Wolf, I think this family feud needs to be handled behind closed doors. This finger pointing between the White House and Ambassador Haley is not good for national security. They're spending more time laying blame with each other than they are talking about the reason the sanctions were being discussed in the first place, which is Russia.
And I think that it's unfortunate that there was this major process foul. In my experience, whenever any cabinet official goes on air, like on "Face on the Nation", his or her talking points are cleared by the White House. So, I think it's very unusual that Ambassador Haley would have just winged on "Face and the Nation", and made this up.
But I think the problem is we have an awkward timing issue. We have this role of walk back on the sanctions on the same day the Department of Homeland Security publicized that Russia has been hacking into private homes and computers and said that we would use all tools available to punish them to stop more intrusions.
So, we publicize that Russia's been hacking us. We walk back sanctions. So, we're not willing to actually punish them and we're finger-pointing at each other. That's not a great policy to me. BLITZER: The final question, Jeffrey, to you, on this sketch that was
released of the so-called thug that threatened Stormy Daniels. From a legal perspective, what does all this mean?
TOOBIN: I'll tell you what it means. Let's call up -- let's call up the sketch. We get it there?
That's Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.
TOOBIN: It is. I have cracked the case, Wolf.
I don't know. I mean, the statute of limitations has probably run on this any way. I mean, this is all very interested. But I just don't see any realistic way we're going to find this out. You know, to solve the case and even if it were, you probably couldn't have a prosecution. So, you know, Tom, you're probably home free.
BORGER: The thing about Avenatti is that he leaves a crumb every day. There's a trail of crumbs and every day. So, today we get the sketch. Tomorrow, maybe we'll get the narrow down the sketches. I mean, who knows?
This is an attorney who has figured out how to keep his client in the news, bringing her into the courtroom. Why she need to be in the courtroom? No familiar reason. Every day.
BLITZER: We want Tom to know, Jeffrey was just joking.
TOOBIN: Yes, joking.
BORGER: I don't know that Jeffrey --
TOOBIN: Even though I'm a Jets fan. So --
BLITZER: Just ahead, there are other serious developments unfolding. The U.S. issues a new warning about Russia's election meddling, even as Russian hackers are setting their sights on a troubling new target.
[18:57:43] BLITZER: Breaking tonight, a new warning from the Homeland Security secretary about Russia's election meddling.
Let's bring our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.
Jim, what did we all hear from the DHS secretary?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, she worked for a president who doesn't often talk about this threat, in fact, has doubted the interference in the 2016 election, but the DHS secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, delivering a very stark warning to U.S. adversaries including Russia specifically about tampering with U.S. election systems, and saying in these word: Complacency is being replaced by consequences. The message being if you try again in effect, Russia or other country,
we're going to make it hurt for you going forward. She also coupled this with a message reiterating that they're making a real effort, the 2018 and 2020 elections approach to get states to defend themselves better from overseas hacking consult with DHS and so on so that this doesn't happen again. It is constantly reiterated by DHS and other people who are briefed on the intelligence.
I speak to Democrats and Republicans on the Hill who say Russia is still attacking the U.S. political systems, et cetera. They're not sure they're going to try to change the vote, but they are making probing attacks that could set them up for that kind of interference as these elections actually happen.
BLITZER: And this as we're learning now that the Russian hackers are making very impressive strides now in going after the infrastructure.
SCIUTTO: That's right. And this was a rare joint warning from the U.S. and U.K., saying Russia is in effect targeting the entire infrastructure of the Internet, going after routers, big routers that carry Internet traffic, smaller ones, business, but even routers that people have in their homes infecting them with malware, which is a way that Russia can then not either control or block that traffic or monitor that traffic. A very wide ranging attack by hackers that the U.S. government has high confidence it believes that they're Russian hackers.
BLITZER: It sounds more robust than earlier thought.
SCIUTTO: It is and setting themselves up for the possibility of more robust attacks going forward. And trust me, it's the election issues that is most at the top of their minds.
BLITZER: Very worrisome, as a lot of these developments are.
Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, for that report.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURENTT OUTFRONT" starts right now.