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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego; Mueller Scouring Trump's Twitter Feed?; Trump Organization Finance Chief Subpoenaed; House GOP Move to Impeach Deputy Attorney General Falters. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 26, 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: And getting Trump's taxes? A judge green- light a lawsuit against the president, accusing him of accepting illegal foreign gifts through his D.C. hotel. Will his tax returns finally be exposed?
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 how President Trump's public tweets and hidden finances are figuring in to a pair of criminal investigations.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports that the Trump Organization's financial gatekeeper, Allen Weisselberg, has been subpoenaed in the Michael Cohen case. We're told Weisselberg -- quote -- "knows where all the financial bodies are buried," secrets that might be exposed under oath.
This as "The New York Times" reports that Robert Mueller is poring over the president's tweets, looking for potential evidence of obstruction and witness intimidation. I will get reaction from Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego.
And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our national correspondent, Brynn Gingras.
Brynn, first of all, tell us more about the subpoena of Allen Weisselberg.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, Weisselberg has been at the center of the Trump Organization for decades.
He controls the movement of the money. And it's clear U.S. attorneys believe he has information that could be useful to their investigation. And, as one former employee put it, this could be a nightmare scenario for Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GINGRAS (voice-over): Tonight, the man once described as the most senior person in the Trump Organization who isn't a Trump is tapped to talk to federal investigators.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in the ongoing federal probe against Michael Cohen.
If Weisselberg's name sounds familiar, it's because you heard him mentioned on that secretly recorded conversation between Cohen and Trump exclusively obtained by CNN from Cohen's attorneys.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be...
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wait a sec. What financing?
GINGRAS: On the tape, Cohen and Trump are heard discussing buying the rights to Karen McDougal's story, a woman who alleges a ten-month-long affair with Trump.
TRUMP: Replacing George this week is my chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.
GINGRAS: Weisselberg, seen here in an episode of Trump's reality show "The Apprentice," controlled the movement of money at the Trump Organization. "The Journal" reports Weisselberg has been linked to two payments made to women who allege sexual encounters with Trump and that he paid Cohen, who in October 2016 paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged sexual affair with Trump.
Trump denies the affair, and according to "The Journal," Weisselberg didn't know about the payment to Daniels. Cohen had a habit of recording his conversations. The government seized more than 100 tapes now part of the investigation into his business dealings.
Sources tell CNN many of the tapes include discussions with reporters and conversations relating to Trump. The tape that first aired on CNN is likely the most significant in terms of hearing Cohen's conversations with the president.
COHEN: I protect Mr. Trump.
GINGRAS: Cohen, who once said he'd take a bullet for Trump, has increasingly felt alienated by the president. Longtime Cohen friend Bo Dietl tells CNN Cohen told him -- quote -- "I don't understand why no one's calling me. I don't understand why no one's communicating with me."
This as Cohen faces mounting pressure from investigators and an attack from the president. Trump tweeting: "What kind of lawyer would tape a client? So sad." Sources tell CNN Cohen's lawyers did not tell the Southern District they were releasing the audio, possibly fracturing Cohen's chances of striking a deal with the office that is currently investigating him.
GINGRAS: A source says the decision to go public with the tape was approved by Cohen's attorney Guy Petrillo, who's known for a by-the- book mentality and used to work in the Southern District.
But it's important to note, Wolf, as of now, Cohen has not spoken to federal investigators -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Important information indeed.
Brynn Gingras, thank you.
Now the special counsel's investigation and his focus on the president's tweets.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Abby Phillip.
Abby, Robert Mueller's apparently particularly interested in Mr. Trump's tweets about Jeff Sessions and James Comey.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, Wolf.
The president's penchant for attacking his political opponents could be causing him more legal troubles. His attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey have come under Mueller's scrutiny. And they could be a subject of conversation with the president if they were to sit down for an interview.
And all of this as we're learning that the president is still trying to clean up the fallout from his Helsinki press conference with Vladimir Putin.
PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump's social media counterpunching could soon become a legal liability.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the president's Twitter attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and fired FBI Director James Comey as part of the probe into whether Trump obstructed justice, "The New York Times" reports.
TRUMP: The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself.
PHILLIP: Comey and Sessions have now become key witnesses in Mueller's probe because of tweets like this in June, when the president said, "The Russian witch-hunt continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me that he was going to recuse himself," and appearing to threaten Comey after hiring him, writing, "James Comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press."
Mueller's team also scrutinizing the president's actions to see if he violated U.S. law that deals with tampering with a witness, victim or an informant. All this as Trump still struggling to clean up missteps in Helsinki.
TRUMP: Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.
The sentence should have been I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia. Sort of a double negative.
PHILLIP: A White House official telling CNN the president will convene a meeting of the National Security Council on Friday to focus on election security, that as Trump attempts to flip the narrative, claiming that Russia will tamper in the 2018 elections to help Democrats.
Amid bipartisan backlash, the White House now postponing the president's invitation to Putin to visit Washington this fall. In yet another reversal, President Trump declaring a victory on trade with the European Union after threatening massive tariffs that could hurt U.S. manufacturers and farmers.
TRUMP: I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us on trade. Now, you wouldn't think of the European Union. But they're a foe.
PHILLIP: Now declaring:
TRUMP: The biggest one of all happened yesterday, other than China, the E.U. We just opened up Europe for you farmers.
PHILLIP: The president abandoning his tough words for little more than a promise to keep talking.
TRUMP: We signed a letter of intent, or agreed to a letter of intent, and we're starting the documents. But the relationship is very, very good. So we're very happy.
PHILLIP: Declaring in a tweet that the E.U. and the United States love each other and sealing it with a kiss.
PHILLIP: And minutes ago, the president just wrapped up an economic tour in the Midwest and Illinois and in Iowa, where he touted his economic policies.
But the administration is also acknowledging that some of his policies have actually hurt Americans. They have proposed $12 billion in subsidies for farmers to help them with the trade policies the president has put in place in the last few months. And as for that deal with the E.U., while President Trump has been
touting it all day today, saying that he's made progress, the White House hasn't offered much in the way of details, and all signs point to the status quo being basically the same.
President Trump, though, is still taking credit for all of that, Wolf.
BLITZER: Abby Phillip reporting for us, thank you.
Congressman Ruben Gallego is joining us right now. He's a Democrat who serves on the Armed Services Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: So, you heard the "New York Times" report that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is now taking a very close look at the president's tweets to see if they amount to witness intimidation, obstruction of justice.
Do you think that those tweets rise to that level?
Look, if this had been the president writing letters, or writing letters to the editor, publishing in "The New York Post," or "The New York Times," or "The Washington Post," I think a lot of people would have actually said, yes, this is a form of intimidation, form of obstruction of justice.
Just because it's done on some modern technology, modern social media does not mean that he's not still trying to attempt the same outcome. So, I think it is relevant, and I think what we should be looking at is what is the intent of this president? His intent was obstruction of justice. That is a worthwhile reason why Mueller should be investigating.
BLITZER: You think your Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives would buy that argument?
GALLEGO: No, but they won't buy any argument at all. They are never going to stand up to this president. They will look away and make excuses for this president up until the last minute.
So you really can't depend on Republicans in Congress at all to be any type of legitimate validator of what is purposely -- or what will be decided as valid vs. not valid.
BLITZER: What is potentially very significant and a serious headache, political headache, legal headache for the president is that the CFO, the chief financial officer, of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, he's now been subpoenaed as a witness to testify before a federal grand jury in New York investigating Michael Cohen.
How important is he potentially as a witness? He's worked with the Trump Organization for decades.
GALLEGO: Well, I think it's going to expose what many of us at least understand, that this Trump administration has been loosely funded by what we should -- many of us would say are nefarious Russian entities.
And the only reason we can assume that is because this president has not really given us a reason why he's not shown his taxes. Every other president before that has actually shown his taxes. We know who are the people that are paying him. We know the people that he owes money to.
But this president has repeatedly come up with excuses and lies to not show his taxes. We wouldn't even have this discussion if the president actually just had some form of valor and just say, this is who I am, this is where my money's coming from.
But he knows there's something in there, and I think it's all going to come out now.
BLITZER: So, you think he knows everything about the president's finances over these many years?
GALLEGO: I ceremony believe so.
BLITZER: So this is -- I'm sure this is a source of concern for the president.
A lot of Americans, as you know, believe, you know what, as far as the president and his alleged affairs, treatment of women, they knew about this before the election in 2016. He was still elected president of the United States. All of these new developments, do you think it's really going to have much of an impact among those, the president's base who really supports him?
GALLEGO: Well, let's be clear. We don't know that the president actually used campaign funds to keep these women quiet. If he used hush money from his campaign funds to actually keep these women quiet, then that is actually something that we should be investigating.
If you looked at what happened with Senator John Edwards when he did that with his mistress many years ago...
BLITZER: He was acquitted, though, John Edwards.
GALLEGO: But he was still at least investigated. Right now, we don't even have that.
If we had an actual speaker of the House that was willing to actually investigate this, do this through the regular order process, we could actually have some answers to these questions. Instead, we're going to have to go through this long, drawn-out process. And we do need to know.
The public needs to know if the president used his campaign to launder money to keep his mistresses quiet.
BLITZER: Because the allegation supposedly is an in-kind campaign contribution to keep this quiet just days before the election.
GALLEGO: And at least, the least we should have is this president should actually answer the questions, so the public gets to decide.
BLITZER: Yes, campaign contributions have to be fully disclosed to the FEC.
I know you were at a meeting today with the secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen. She met with the Hispanic Caucus in the House of Representatives, I take it all Democrats. How did that go?
GALLEGO: It did not go well.
We were hoping it would be go better. We were very respectful of her time. But we asked some pointed questions. One of the first questions we asked is, when are these children going to be reunified with their parents? And she said they were on track to meet the deadline.
BLITZER: The deadline is, by the way, 12 minutes ago.
GALLEGO: Right. And I pointed out that that is impossible, and that she was clearly lying to us. And she was insistent they were going to make the deadline.
At a minimum, we expected her to show some level of leadership. She should have just been honest with us and said we're not going to make the deadline, but here's the plan on how to reunify these families.
This administration again has bungled even this effort, which is what was their own effort to basically deter migration to this country. And they have no idea how to put these families together. They don't want to admit that they made a mistake. And because of that, they're now essentially missing the deadline with this federal judge.
BLITZER: What's so worrisome is that there are apparently hundreds of kids whose parents, for whatever reason, have already been deported, and the kids are still here. Did she get into that with you?
GALLEGO: We did get into that. And I think it's really important for us to understand that we as a country have potentially made orphans. We have made hundreds of orphans, for a country that values family and we say we're a family values country.
This administration has separated families, unnecessarily so. And there is no plan. We asked about the plan. How's this going to end? And we did not hear something positive from Secretary Nielsen.
BLITZER: Is it possible some of these kids are going to never see their parents?
GALLEGO: It's entirely possible that...
BLITZER: Did you ask her about that?
GALLEGO: We -- I can't remember exactly, but we did point out that it is possible that this will never happen. She did not respond to that.
BLITZER: On the basis -- what basis does she say the deadline, which was the top of the hour, on what basis did she say the government would meet the deadline?
GALLEGO: No basis at all. She just basically said that we're going to -- we're on track, we're on track.
She did not give us any indication, any plans. She did point out, you know, how well they have done so far. But we also pointed out that it is very hard for us to trust those numbers and to trust her, considering that they had no plan to begin with to reunify these families and they are basically doing everything ad hoc right now, and mostly just so they can say that they're getting rid of this political problem, because they have no idea what they're doing.
BLITZER: But if the deadline is met -- and apparently it hasn't been met -- the federal judge is limited in what he can do. There's not much he can do, right?
GALLEGO: Unfortunately, from what I understand, there's very little things we can do.
Most importantly, what we could do is actually vote. The reason why this president is acting is not because of the federal judge. It's because the public was against separating families, was against incarcerating children in these cages.
And I think if they don't have this solution, maybe the judge won't be the ultimate decider, but the voters will.
BLITZER: Did she explain why these families can't be reunified?
GALLEGO: She did go into various reasons why. But that's not a really good excuse.
We are the most powerful country in the world with the largest amount of intelligence assets that we can find. If this administration actually put their mind to it and their focus on it, they could get this done. They just haven't.
Partly it's because the president doesn't have the leadership to do it, and Secretary Nielsen doesn't have her own leadership within Homeland Security to do it either.
BLITZER: Very disturbing situation, indeed.
Thanks very much, Congressman, for coming in.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more on the subpoena of the Trump Organization's chief financial officer. What does it tell us about the Michael Cohen case and the legal dangers for President Trump?
And we will talk about the legal risks for Michael Cohen after going public with a secret recording of Mr. Trump.
The former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara -- there you see him -- he's standing by live. We have got lots to discuss.
BLITZER: We're back with breaking news on Robert Mueller's investigation and on the Michael Cohen case.
New reports out tonight are driving home potential very, very serious legal dangers for President Trump.
We're joined by our senior legal analyst, former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara.
Preet, as you know, "The New York Times" is reporting that Robert Mueller is looking into whether President Trump's tweets against his investigation and key witnesses amount to obstruction of justice or witness intimidation.
As you know, the president is prolific on Twitter. How difficult would it be for Mueller to make that case?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He's prolific, indeed, and people talk about it all the time.
And it's not shocking that Mueller's team would be looking at the tweets. I don't think you would ever have a criminal case against anyone, even someone who tweets as prolifically as the president, by having paragraph after paragraph quoting from tweets or social media.
I also have been of the view for some time that I don't think Bob Mueller is going to indict the president, and so there won't be any specific charge from the special counsel against the president because of the prevailing legal opinion that a sitting president can't be indicted.
However, I do think that the special counsel is going to prepare a report and there might be proceedings in Congress, depending on what happens, and that any showing of potential obstruction on the part of the president would probably have, if it happens, would probably have as a part of the narrative some of the things that the president seems to blurt out from his own mind on Twitter.
A lot of the other statements that get made by press secretaries and formal statements that come out, I don't think show as well and as precisely and as directly what's the intent of the president.
But, over time, in tweet after tweet after tweet, to build a narrative that the president really did not like the Russia investigation and really wanted the Russia investigation to go away, the tweets that he sends late at night and early in the morning and often out of anger, I think, go way some way to showing what his state of mind was.
And to prove obstruction, in whatever context, in a criminal case or in a congressional proceeding, you have to show state of mind. And the tweets are relevant to that.
BLITZER: As you know, the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani told "The New York Times" -- and I'm quoting Giuliani now -- "If you're going to obstruct justice, you do it quietly and secretly, not in public."
What do you make of that?
BHARARA: Well, yes, what Rudy Giuliani says is the norm. This president likes to break norms. And maybe he likes to violate the law in a way that breaks norms as well.
But it's also true that lots and lots of things are done quietly and secretly, and the president, in this case, some of the things he's doing are out in the open. Sometimes, bad conduct can happen out in the open, because you think that people don't believe that you're committing a crime out in the open. That's Giuliani's argument.
But at the same time, some things were done quietly, like, as the reporting has told us, the president quietly and secretly asked Jim Comey for his loyalty. The president quietly and secretly asked Jim Comey to lay off of Michael Flynn. And so other things like that, in combination with the things he's doing publicly, as I said a minute ago, can begin to weave together into a story of obstruction or nefarious conduct.
BLITZER: That's a good point.
The other big story, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's CFO, chief financial officer, executive vice president, he's now been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in New York in the Michael Cohen investigation.
As you know, he was mentioned in that recording that Cohen released about the Karen McDougal payment. So what does that tell you?
BHARARA: It tells me that the people in the Southern District of New York are doing their job. They have a very, very important witness.
One would expect that everyone who is in a chain between Michael Cohen and any of these payments that we have been reading about or anyone who is mentioned in the conversation that was recorded by Michael Cohen surreptitiously with his client, the president of the United States, would need to be spoken to.
And, as you point out and as other guests have pointed out, Weisselberg was at the center of pretty much every financial transaction on the part of the Trump Organization, also had dealings with the tax returns.
And so you absolutely want someone like that. I don't know if they have evidence of criminal activity on his part, in which case you would be able to get him to flip potentially, and then he would be able to give lots and lots of testimony that's incriminating against other people. That may or may not happen.
But I think it's an incredibly significant thing for them to be getting his testimony.
BLITZER: And it's a potential nightmare for the president. No doubt about that.
There may be others, as you know, Preet, who have been subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury, but this is the first we have heard of publicly. Is the investigation entering a new phase?
BHARARA: It's always hard to know what phase an investigation is in.
Usually, people like us who are now on the outside are always behind the curve on this. We find out things because a particular witness may have talked about it or a lawyer for a particular witness may have revealed something to the public, because I think the Mueller team is pretty locked down and pretty tight-lipped.
Usually, you interview the people at the higher ends of the food chain later in the investigation. To the extent Weisselberg is the CFO and a high-ranking person at the Trump Organization, maybe not the highest, but pretty high, it could indicate -- with all due caveats, it could indicate getting to the end of at least part of the investigation.
BLITZER: What's your analysis, Preet, of the tape that Michael Cohen released of his conversation with President Trump talking about that payment? What are the possible legal consequences of that audio recording being released publicly?
BHARARA: Well, there's a lot of debate back and forth about what that small segment that's been released, what troubles it could cause the president and other folks. It cuts off sort of abruptly at the end.
What I think is really interesting about the tape is partly what's on the tape, but the fact it was made, which signals that Michael Cohen believed, I think, like a lot of other people have, that the president says things and later recants them, or wanted to have cover in case someone would accuse him of doing something inappropriate, and wanted to make sure that the conversation was documented.
So, the fact that a lawyer would record his client, in some ways even more so than the brief content that we get on the tape, is incredibly significant.
And then, second, the fact that the Trump team would waive privilege as to that tape is also significant to me. And it shows that a lot of what's happening here is taking place not in the realm of what a legal defense might be, but what the P.R. consequences are of these things.
You wouldn't see this kind of information coming out in this way by one of the lawyers representing one of the potential people under fire.
BLITZER: We're told that Michael Cohen apparently blindsided prosecutors by releasing that recording to CNN.
You used to be the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. How would you view it if someone put out a tape like that without first informing you?
BHARARA: Poorly. You would view it very poorly.
Look, prosecutors are trying to do their job. They like to keep buttoned down, keep their heads down. They like to have control of information that's disseminated from their investigations.
And if you have a concern that people who you may be thinking about bringing in as witnesses, whether they are flipping or they're innocent third parties who are witnesses, you don't like the idea, based on things that they have done, that when they come in and talk to your prosecutors, that they're going to march right out to a camera and say what questions they were asked and spin things, A, because you don't want people to know about your investigation.
And, B, they create a record of statements that can be more easily contradicted by other folks on cross-examination later. There was a story a few weeks ago reported that there was supposed to be a meeting between folks in my old office and Stormy Daniels, and when word of that meeting leaked out somehow, they canceled the meeting. They canceled the interview.
They want to make sure that they have control over the information. And sometimes when you have witnesses who are uncontrollable, that presents a greater degree of difficulty for them, and they have to figure out how to deal with that.
But I would not be surprised if they were apoplectic.
BLITZER: Really? OK, interesting.
Preet, thank you very much.
BHARARA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, as Robert Mueller examines the president's tweets, does Mr. Trump care about the possible consequences? And what might the Trump Organization's chief financial officer reveal before a federal grand jury?
Our analysts standing by to weigh in.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news tonight. The Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, is reportedly reviewing President Trump's Twitter feed as part of his obstruction of justice investigation. That according to the "New York Times."
[18:33:33] Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and our analysts. And Jeffrey Toobin, how difficult would it be for Mueller to argue that the president's tweets amount to obstruction of justice or witness intimidation?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's important to remember what the context this will arise in. The Mueller investigation, they're not going to make a criminal charge against Donald Trump. Constitutionally, that's an open question. The Department of Justice has a policy against it. So this would be in the context of an impeachment investigation. And that is as much a political matter as a legal matter.
That said, the issue with obstruction of justice is always intent. Was there criminal intent? Was there an intent to corrupt? And there is no better way to determine someone's intent than their own words. And that's what these tweets are. They are the president's own words. And it is a perfectly appropriate and logical place for Mueller to look to see whether there is criminal intent, to see whether there is an acknowledgment that the reason for the firing was improper.
BLITZER: You know, Mark Preston, there's no shortage of examples of the president in this Twitter feed going after the Russia -- what he calls the "Russia witch hunt," going after James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Jeff Sessions among others. But clearly, the president doesn't seem to care about that. He's going to continue doing what he does.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He is. And it really goes to what Jeffrey had just said. The president doesn't think that he can be prosecuted at all, that he is above the law. As Jeffrey said, it's an open question about the Constitution.
But he's absolutely right. There's no way Robert Mueller is going to go out and file charges against Donald Trump. This is what Congress is supposed to do. This is what Congress is supposed to make that decision.
[18:35:10] And having said that, if they were to find something, I highly doubt that Donald Trump would be convicted of impeachment. Now, he could be impeached in the House of Representatives much like William Jefferson Clinton was, President Clinton, but I don't think we're ever going to see him do jail time.
BLITZER: President Clinton was impeached in the House and acquitted and not convicted in the U.S. Senate.
The pressure clearly, David Swerdlick, is mounting on the president. The "Wall Street Journal" report that the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization has now been subpoenaed to appear as a witness before this federal grand jury in New York investigating the criminal investigation of Michael Cohen. This has got to be a deep source of concern for the president. DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. If you read that "Wall
Street Journal" story, it points to the couple of instances on these tapes where -- where Michael Cohen had mentioned, whether or not it's actually true, had mentioned to the president that he spoke to Mr. Weisselberg about matters related to transfer of funds. We don't know all the specifics. But that's got to alarm the White House.
It's worth mentioning always that Michael Cohen hasn't been indicted yet, but it clearly shows that this investigation in the Southern District of New York is proceeding apace. They're going all the way into the Trump Organization, which the Trump camp should have foreseen a long time ago.
BLITZER: And the president knows that Allen Weisselberg, who worked with him for decades at the Trump Organization, knows a lot. In fact, a former Trump Organization employee told us, quote, "Allen knows where all the financial bodies are buried. Allen knows every deal. He knows every dealership. He knows every sale, anything and everything that's been done. He knows every membership, anything you can think of." Sounds like a critically important witness.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Michael Cohen is small potatoes compared to Allen Weisselberg. He is the Trump Organization, essentially. He hasn't only worked with Donald Trump in the Trump Organization for decades, but he even worked with Trump's father.
So to give you a sense of how much he knows, how much context he would have for the president's business dealings and even his personality, it's just limitless when it comes to Allen Weisselberg. So he'll be a very valuable witness. And you could see why the president would be so troubled, potentially, by this development. And by the way, he said a few months ago that this would be a red line for him.
BLITZER: Yes. Stay away from the Trump Organization.
BERG: That -- if it goes into his business.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, go ahead.
TOOBIN: Well, just remember, when we talk about, you know, a financial investigation. Yes, it's important that Michael Cohen is interviewed. Yes, it's important that Mr. Weisselberg is interviewed. But even more important than that are the financial records themselves, because they never have a bad memory. They never disappear.
You are talking about bank records that always can be subpoenaed. And that is the way you do a criminal investigation, even more than a -- than through the testimony of witnesses, because in an investigation like this, if any case is going to be made, it's going to be made with records. And that's what the prosecutors will certainly be looking at.
BLITZER: I'm curious, Jeffrey. There's the Mueller investigation, the federal probe. There's also the separate Southern District of New York investigation of Michael Cohen. Potentially, could they be combined?
TOOBIN: Well, I think they undoubtedly, they are already coordinating their efforts with each other. As I understand it, it was the Mueller office that referred the Cohen investigation --
BLITZER: That's correct.
TOOBIN: -- to the Southern District of New York. So it was not -- so there has already been some contact, but obviously, you're dealing with a very similar cast of characters in both. And it is perfectly appropriate for the prosecutors and FBI agents who are working on each case to compare notes and share evidence if there is -- if there is some overlap, which I have to believe there is.
BLITZER: What does it tell you, Mark? A few months ago the president did say don't get near the Trump Organization. For all practical purposes he drew that red line.
PRESTON: Well, his unpredictability puts us in a situation that we really don't know how he's going to act or what he's going to do. You know, so far we've seen him lash out and make threats against those who have, you know, damned him or said something wrong with him. Look at the security clearance issue that we've been discussing for the past few days, because he didn't like what the former security officials had said about him.
The big problem is we don't know what he's going to do, and he has incredible amount of power; and he can do an incredible amount of damage. That's why we hope the Congress just continues forward and does their job of oversight.
BLITZER: I'm very curious, David. As you know, yesterday John Bolton, the president's national security adviser, said they were going to put off the second Putin summit, not going to happen in the fall but next year after what Bolton called the "witch hunt" of the Mueller probe is over. Does he know something that we don't know, that it definitely would be over next year?
SWERDLICK: No. I don't think he does. But we never know.
What we do know for sure, Wolf, is that would be after the midterm elections. I think it has surprised, to a degree, the White House and the president's inner circle how much blowback they've gotten over this invitation to President Putin, and so why not put this out a few months, see if politics and circumstances change?
[18:40:15] As many people pointed out, you know, John Bolton, the national security adviser Bolton, has gone from someone who's been incredibly hawkish on Russia to just sort of going with the flow of the administration. It's hard to predict where he's going with this.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure the optics of Putin coming to the White House. Not invited to Capitol Hill but to the White House before the election, the midterm elections. Not necessarily great for Republicans. Stand by. There are new developments unfolding right now in the
effort by House conservatives to impeach the deputy attorney general of the United States, Rod Rosenstein.
[18:45:24] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The move by conservative House Republicans to impeach the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has faltered.
Let's go our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.
Phil, this was a long shot to begin with. Give us the latest.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it took only a few moments after a clear escalation in the months-long battle between the Justice Department and a group of House conservatives to really recognize when you talk to Republican members that the votes simply weren't there to pass an impeachment resolution.
As to why? Well, take a listen to Paul Ryan. He lays it out pretty clearly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Do I support impeachment of Rod Rosenstein? No, I do not. I do not for a number of reasons.
First, it takes -- I don't think we should be cavalier with this process or with this term. Number one. Number two, I don't think that this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, a really high standard. Number three, we, since I got involved, have been getting a lot of compliance from DOJ on the document requests.
We do not have full compliance, and we have to get full compliance, but we've been making tremendous progress to that point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Wolf, there's also another underlying issue here. You hear it a lot from Democrats but also some Republican members as well. And that's intent.
The group of conservatives that have been pushing, this 11 signed on to the impeachment resolution. As I noted, they've been in a months- long war almost with the Justice Department over document requests and redactions to the documents they've received. Now, they say this is oversight, this is oversight of the Clinton e-mail investigation, this is oversight of the Russia investigation, special counsel probe, that they believe has overstepped its bounds.
But when you talk to members who are wary of this, they point out that these groups -- this group of conservatives is also very close to President Trump. This group of conservatives is also very clear that they are opposed to the Mueller investigation. Many have called for it to be shut down. And this group of conservatives also requested more than just general
documents from the Justice Department. They requested classified documents related directly to the Mueller investigation, the type of documents from an ongoing investigation that the Justice Department policy-wise never turns over to Congress.
There's a lot of questions right now as to whether this is a legitimate oversight request or if this is an effort to undercut the Mueller investigation. Again, this group of conservatives led by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows have made clear they believe this is purely about oversight. But as long as those questions remain, the ability to kind of garner support even within their own party, to push for impeachment or push for some type of censure, right now the votes aren't there.
I will note this, Wolf, this fight's not going anywhere anytime soon. The House may be out of session. They may not be coming back until early September. But it's been made very clear, these issues are still on the table, they will be used as leverage in the behind-the- scenes negotiations with the justice correspondent, and these conservatives are not backing down anytime soon. They want the documents they asked for, and they think at some point they'll get them. If they don't, they're willing to bring this back to the table, Wolf.
BLITZER: But the question comes up, Phil, the suspicion out there that these conservative Republicans got a wink and a nod from the president or from the White House to go ahead with this impeachment threat.
MATTINGLY: Yes. We don't have reporting that that actually occurred but it's worth noting, again, the kind of context here is important. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, is a very close ally of the president. They talk regularly by phone. Jim Jordan, another top ally of the president who's also leading this push. Whether or not the White House pushed for this we don't actually know.
I will note the White House doesn't really have to. These individuals, these conservatives have made clear this is their position and this is their perspective now for months. I think the big question now becomes what can they get the Justice Department to give?
It's important to note the speaker coming out saying he was opposed to this, the speaker coming out saying this isn't the right mechanism, there are a lot of levers members of Congress can try to pull and utilize as they try and gain oversight over the agencies, that they rightfully deserve. If the speaker is not behind this, even though there's some kind of questions about where the rest of the leadership may be right now, that certainly undercuts the opportunity to actually move something forward on this.
That said, keep in mind, Wolf, this fight is not going anywhere anytime soon, which means we will likely be dealing with this in a few weeks with when the House members come back.
BLITZER: Yes, let's see what happens in September.
All right. Phil, thank you very much.
What do you make of this, David?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wolf, it's a little bit theater of the absurd right now. Republicans have a motion to impeach a Republican who was appointed by a Republican president, and it's presumably for the purpose of blocking an investigation into that same president. As Speaker Ryan said, whatever their concerns are, no one has made the case that this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.
[18:50:03] Congress created the special counsel's office. They can simply take the findings of the special counsel's office and do whatever they want with it once they get to that point, but the investigation proceeds.
BLITZER: Mark, as you know, on Monday, the president tweeted, they should drop the discredited Mueller witch hunt now.
So, are the Republicans doing what the White House would want them to do?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the White House is certainly happy that they're doing it. There's no doubt about that and the message --
BLITZER: Trying to impeach the deputy attorney general?
PRESTON: Listen, I think that Donald Trump. Let me rephrase, OK, because you have to separate the administration. There is Donald Trump and everybody else in the administration who understands how government works.
I think that Donald Trump, himself, loves to see these members of Congress doing it. I think that General Kelly and others inside the White House are saying to themselves, what are they getting themselves into right now right before the midterm elections?
BLITZER: Yes. What do you think, Rebecca?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I see this, Wolf, as purely a political move, right, because this was never going to actually go anywhere in legislative terms. But these members wanted to make a point. They wanted to help gin up energy among the Republican base for whom this is a very potent issue. It's why we see the president tweeting about this all the time and it's a potent issue in part because of his tweets about this, because of his statements about this in public.
But it's also, you know, potentially a fund raising tool for them and it helps them to endear themselves further to the president.
BLITZER: There was no roll vote, Jeffrey, today. If it would have, it would have been overwhelmingly defeated. Clearly, they don't have a chance of getting this even close to a majority.
So, what's going on?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what's going on is that this is an absurd political stunt that, you know, that just underlines how the House Republicans faced with Russian attempts, successful, to manipulate the result of presidential election, have not investigated the Russia attempt to interfere with the election but rather investigated the investigation. That's what this is all about. This is an attempt to help Donald Trump by discrediting his investigation.
Unfortunately for Donald Trump, there is nothing to discredit, because Rod Rosenstein has run this investigation by the book, but that problem is, that's a problem for the House Republicans here because they just want to discredit the investigation, but they just -- they have no material to work with.
BLITZER: Yes, it's not going anywhere, at least not now.
Stay with us. There is a lot more. We'll be right back.
[18:57:13] BLITZER: All right. We are back with our correspondents and analysts.
And, Mark, I know there's another story that you have been following very closely. What can you tell us?
PRESTON: Well, Wolf, we are following good news from the box office this evening. It's premier night right now for "Mission: Impossible - Fallout". Now, of course, we're going to see Tom Cruise. He is the star of the film.
But guess what, there is another new face that will appear in this film. In fact, it's going to be you, Mr. Blitzer. Let us take a quick look, show our SITUATION ROOM viewers a quick view of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without first a great suffering, the greater suffering, the greater the peace. In the end, you always feed. It's coming. It's coming. The blood will be on your hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PRESTON: Now, you know, Wolf, you get to work with such stars every day as Rebecca and David, of course, Toobin behind us, and a slub like myself.
But what was it like working with Tom Cruise and these other stars?
BLITZER: It was exciting. It was thrilling. I went to England last summer, a year ago for the filming. You know, they invited me to be on the "Mission: Impossible", the new "Mission: Impossible." How often does that happen? I was thrilled to do it.
And when you see the scene, you haven't seen it. You haven't seen it. I've seen it twice now, seen the film twice. It's a really exciting movie.
You guys will like it, when you see me in it, you will like it even more.
TOOBIN: Now, wait a second. Now, Tom Cruise is famous for doing his own stunts.
TOOBIN: Did you do your own stunts?
BLITZER: The answer is yes, I did all my own stunts. When you see me in this film, you will see the stunts. There was no double. It was me. I personally did all the stunts they asked me to do.
As you know, I know, David, you used to be a member of the Impossible Mission Force yourself, so you got some experience in this area.
SWERDLICK: My motto is mission impossible. But, Wolf, right, all the critics have been saying for years that no blockbuster is complete without a Wolf Blitzer cameo. So, I'm --
BERG: I heard a rumor they called you One Take Wolf. Is that right?
BLITZER: That is not true. Many, many takes. It took us a lot of time, every time.
I would do a scene, a great director, there is a picture all the way to my right over there, the director, Chris McQuarrie, who was a great director. There's the picture of Chris McQuarrie, all the way to my right over there, the director, great director.
Every time I would do a scene, he would say, oh, great, perfect, perfect. You know what? Let's do it again one more time. That was the nature that I would do it again, oh, that was great, great, great. Let's do it one more time.
TOOBIN: Can we sing the "Michelle: Impossible" song?
BLITZER: No, we go to go. Go see the movie "Mission: Impossible - Fallout." You will enjoy. Good movie, lots of action. I do my own stunts.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.