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Trump Attacks Mueller; Trump Alleges Mueller Conflict; Giuliani on Collusion; Koch Network Distances from Trump. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 30, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Where you are -- you know, you have the shoe on your head saying you can't report on anything.

Thank you, "The New York Times," for doing that.

Thank you for watching and joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

"WOLF" starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Thanks so much for joining us.

Very soon President Trump takes the microphone, takes questions from the news media. He's appearing today with Italy's visiting prime minister over at the White House. It will be the first time reporters will have the chance to question the president since his rash of Twitter attacks against the special investigator Robert Mueller. Among a host of tweets was this one, quote, there is no collusion. The Robert Mueller rigged witch hunt, headed now by 17 angry Democrats, was started by a fraudulent dossier paid for by crooked Hillary and the DNC. Therefore, the witch hunt is an illegal scam, closed quote.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim the president now taking great pains to call Robert Mueller's investigation a rigged witch hunt and he names Mueller specifically as part of that evil doing, if you will.


BLITZER: We have to expect that the president probably will be asked a question about this that -- when he answers reporters' questions coming up fairly soon.

ACOSTA: I think that's right, Wolf. And I think even if the president decides to call on friendly conservative media during this upcoming press conference with the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, in the Rose Garden in a couple of hours from now -- within the next couple of hours, that it's very likely the president will be asked at least why he is being so pointed in going after Mueller by name in these tweets this morning.

Of course, this is sort of a rapid fire effect that we're seeing from the White House all morning long. Not only is the president going after the special counsel's investigation, you're also seeing Rudy Giuliani, the president's outside attorney, going after the investigation and talking about all sorts of things in that wide ranging interview with Alisyn Camerota on NEW DAY earlier this morning when Rudy Giuliani was essentially saying, if there was collusion, there's nothing wrong with collusion.

Wolf, I think one critical question that could be asked of the president at this upcoming news conference is that, well, if there's nothing wrong with collusion, why has the president been saying for the last 12 months or so, 18 months or so, that there is no collusion? And so they are sort of, you know, contradicting one another in that regard. I tried to ask the president about some of this earlier -- just a couple of minutes ago when the president was with the Italian prime minister in the Oval Office just a short while ago. The president did not take any questions from reporters.

He did compliment the prime minister. I think that's a sneak preview of coming attractions in terms of what we'll hear from the president at this press conference with the Italian prime minister. He did compliment the Italian prime minister on his immigration policy. The Italian prime minister has also been tough on immigration inside his own country. Of course, not to the extent that the Trump administration has been in terms of taking children away from their parents and so on that we've seen down on the border, that shameful situation that's been unfolding over the last couple of months. That has not been duplicated, obviously, in other places around the world. But the president was very complimentary of the Italian prime minister on his position on immigration when they met just a few moments ago inside the Oval Office.

Wolf, we tried to ask questions of the president and one thing that we should note, and this is becoming something that I've noticed and my colleagues have noticed with more frequency in these sort of Oval Office spray opportunities, the wranglers, the aides who work for the president, are nearly shouting at the top of their lungs overtop of reporters to make sure that the president's questions -- the questions from reporters to the president can't be heard. They -- I literally had an aide next to my ear nearly screaming within the last several minutes when the president was with the Italian president behind closed -- not behind closed doors but in the Oval Office. But it's an example of just how hard they are trying to keep reporters from asking the president questions.

Obviously, they can't do that at this news conference coming up in the Rose Garden with the Italian prime minister, although you may see the president, because of the content of the news that we're seeing right now. There is so much in the news about the Mueller investigation. Paul Manafort, Rudy Giuliani and so on. The president may be tempted to call on somebody in the friendly conservative media to lob a softball at him. We've seen them try to do that before, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's one of these Q&A sessions, two questions from American journalists, two questions from Italian journalists, is that right?

ACOSTA: That's right. And, obviously, the president, at some of these two plus twos, one thing that we've noticed is at the very end of them he'll be tempted -- this happened at Chequers with the British Prime Minister Theresa May. I asked him a question after they were wrapped up, taking questions from both sides. And so you may see an attempt from reporters in the Rose Garden to do that as well this afternoon.

But, obviously, Wolf, when you look at the tweets coming from the president this morning, when you see what Rudy Giuliani said and has been saying over the last 24 hours on all sorts of shows, including CNN's "NEW DAY," the Mueller investigation is obviously very, very much on their minds right now. And they're just saying just about anything at this point to try to, I guess, create some uncertainty as to what the special counsel's office is doing, the president and his outside attorney almost contradicting one another in the last 12 hours in terms of his tweets and what Giuliani's been saying on the morning talk shows, Wolf.

[13:05:28] BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House.

We'll have live coverage of that Q&A session coming up with the visiting Italian prime minister. Stand by for that.

In the meantime, the president, once again, firing off very angry tweets about the Russia probe and escalating his personal attacks against Robert Mueller, the special counsel, calling him out by name. But there are some glaring factual errors in his tweets.

Let's go to our politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza. He's joining us now with a fact check.

What are you finding out, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: OK, Wolf, let's get right to it.

We are talking about these three tweets in the last 24 hours in rapid succession about Bob Mueller. So here's our first.

The Robert Mueller rigged witch hunt, headed now by 17, increased from 13, including an Obama White House lawyer, angry Democrats. That's a mouth full. Your English teacher wouldn't love it. It's also not true.

Here's Mueller's team that we know about. Thirteen have, at one point in their lives, been registered as Democrats, four, no party affiliation or party affiliation wasn't available. Worth noting. But this is also worth noting. You recognize that guy? That's Robert Mueller, the guy running the probe, appointed by George W. Bush, a Republican president, to be the director of the FBI, appointed by Rob Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to run the special counsel, and a Republican in his private life. Both of these men are Republicans. These -- this is the boss. This is the second in command when you're talking about this probe. Obviously, Jeff Sessions has recused himself.

Let's go to the next one.

OK, we're picking up here. This probe was started by a fraudulent dossier paid for by crooked Hillary and the DNC. OK, good false label there. Let's go and tell you why.

OK, what we know is that the Steele dossier, Christopher Steele, former British spy, was not the genesis of the FBI counter intelligence investigation. What was? That's George Papadopoulos over there in the sunglasses, former foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump. He met with an Australian diplomat in Britain at which he bragged that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. That was passed along to American intelligence officials. The FBI launched a probe that became the Mueller probe.

OK, we'll keep going. Therefore, the witch hunt is an illegal scam. Put the capitalization on -- though it may be aside, it's -- number one, it's not illegal. That's not -- it's not illegal. Two federal judges have ruled that Bob Mueller has the right to proceed against Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman for the Trump campaign. So it's not illegal.

As for it being a scam. This is just some of what's come out of the Mueller investigation, 191 criminal charges, 32 individuals charged, three companies. And, I'll note, Wolf, five people have already pled guilty, including national security advisor Michael Flynn and deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates. OK, so these are people cooperating.

OK, let's keep going. Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump? Great third person there by Donald Trump, including the fact that we have a very nasty and contentious business relationship. OK, let's just jump forward here. First of all, the Department of Justice, which, by the way, is the Justice Department for the Trump administration, has ruled there are no ethics conflicts for Bob Mueller to run this investigation. Secondly, Rudy Giuliani on "NEW DAY" this morning, as Jim Acosta mentioned, couldn't tell you what the conflicts were. There's some talk that it's about golf fees at a Trump course that Bob Mueller was once a part of.

But, again, there's nothing in here that speaks to a conflict of interest as we would define it. So you have three tweets, you have a bunch of claims and you have seven, eight, nine things that are either totally wrong, exaggerations or willful misunderstanding, Wolf. And that's just three tweets sent in the last 24 hours on this case. It's part of a broader effort, I think, by Donald Trump to cast whatever Bob Mueller finds as being easily dismissed by him and his supporters.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Really escalating his personal attacks on Robert Mueller.

Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BLITZER: The president's tweet attacks are certainly also being backed up by Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. He tried to clear up the president's point on a number of investigation issues. Listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: He's referring to a dispute that actually wasn't settled even to this day.


GIULIANI: But I -- that's up to the president and Mueller to describe. I know how convinced he is that he didn't do anything wrong and wants to explain it. You can only investigate an innocent man so long.

I don't even know if that's a crime, colluding about Russia. Hacking is the crime.

CAMEROTA: That certainly is the original problem.

GIULIANI: Well, the president didn't hack. He's the big fish.

The reason that -- the reason they've got Manafort in solitary confinement is so that he'll give up Donald Trump.

The guy is unethical. He's a scum bag. He's a horrible person. We have 183 unique tape recordings.

[13:10:06] CAMEROTA: Got it.

GIULIANI: Only one with the president of the United States. He turned out to have a close friend betray him, like Iago betrayed Othello, and Brutus put the last knife into Caesar.

CAMEROTA: When Don Junior made calls to a blocked number, was that the president?

GIULIANI: I don't know.

I can't tell you whether he would pardon him. I wouldn't pardon him if he did that to me.


BLITZER: All right, let's get some analysis from our legal analyst, Laura Coates who is with us, Rachael Bade, CNN political analyst, congressional reporter for "Politico," and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

So all of a sudden Rudy Giuliani is saying he doesn't know if collusion is even a crime.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's kind of moving the goalposts a little bit. What he is saying is that if it were collusion, Trump would have had to pay for the hacking -- for Russia's hacking the American election and he said hacking is the a crime and -- and then he went on to say that Trump wasn't at the Trump Tower meeting and to disparage Michael Cohen.

Look, they are punching back at Michael Cohen. It is Shakespearian. I know that he's quoting Shakespeare here. He's right, it is Shakespearian, this relationship between these two men and how it has dissolved. And it's up to Bob Mueller, I presume, and perhaps the Southern District of New York, to figure out who is telling the truth here and what really occurred or did not occur at Trump Tower and what Cohn knows and what he doesn't know.

What we do know -- and, Laura, you can talk about this, is that Cohen is waiving a red flag right now to Mueller, or to the Southern District of New York, saying, I'm here, please talk to me, listen to me. And so far we don't think the response has been enthusiastic. So we'll have to see how that one plays out.

BLITZER: Because if he says collusion is not necessarily a crime, Rudy Giuliani, others have said that. Alan Dershowitz has suggested that as well. But conspiracy to commit a crime is a crime.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: To commit a crime. Right, let's put this to bed. Collusion is a term that is used in the law under anti- trust law. But when it's used here in terms of an umbrella term to show that there is a coordinated effort between two separate people who were trying to engage in criminal behavior, which is also a conspiracy, it could be money laundering, it could be a whole host of things, to have Rudy Giuliani focus on the semantics based argument as opposed to the underlying substance is laughable. And it's the third time in as many days as he's tried to do so.

If you're telling everyone, no, no, no, he didn't do this, x, y, and z, it's like you're saying, well, it's not a crime if I did do it. Well, are you saying he did it or he did not do it?

And, remember, as the focus has been on Mueller and about Rosenstein and about the partisan affiliation of the people who were on the actual legal team, remember, the more important numbers are, what is the actual grand jury composition because they're the ones that have to actually hear the information, deciding the (ph) indictment or not. They have to be questioned to figure out, well, is it a partisan affiliation and why they're not (INAUDIBLE) because it's like murder on the Orient Express all of a sudden. Everyone can't possibly be in on it, especially if it's a crime you did even commit and doesn't exist. It's becoming more and more laughable every single day.

BLITZER: If you substitute the word conspiracy for collusion, all of a sudden there is a lot of laws involving conspiracy.

COATES: It would be accurate. It'd be accurate.

BORGER: Conspiracy to defraud the United States government, period, right?

BLITZER: Or conspiracy to encourage Russia to illegally go ahead and wiretap or --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Or try to steal information from emails.

COATES: Another c word, campaign finance issues, et cetera. A foreign entity giving contributions to a government or to a campaign. All of these different c words may not sound like collusion, but they fall under an umbrella term for criminal activity, which is the number one seed to focus on. If you won't address that, then this is semantics.

BLITZER: You know, Rachael, all of a sudden the president, in his tweets, going personally, directly after Robert Mueller. It's no longer the witch hunt, it's the Robert Mueller witch hunt. Why is he doing this?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he said -- he's been calling this a witch hunt for how many hundreds of times we've heard this before.


BADE: But, yes, you're right, this is definitely more personal naming Robert Mueller, specifically calling this an illegal scam, the investigation, that has indicted Russians who have come after our country and tried to tap into or influence our elections.

It's clear that the president is trying to suggest that Mueller has some sort of bias. I think he's taking a signal from Republicans on The Hill who have successfully, I would say, argued that some people at the FBI have had some sort of bias against the president. They have held up these text messages between Peter Strzok and another agent basically saying they don't want the president to -- Trump to be the next president and that they're going to stop it. And I think what he's trying to do is trying to take that strategy and pull it towards Mueller.

But here's the problem. There are no text messages like this with Mueller. He clearly was appointed by a Republican. He has served Republican presidents. And so this is not going to stick and that's a big problem.

BORGER: He is a Republican.

[13:15:00] BADE: Exactly. Exactly.

BLITZER: Of course.

(INAUDIBLE) the FBI director, was named by the president and is a Republican as well.


BLITZER: The president said about Robert Mueller, we had a very nasty and contentious business relationship.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani, this morning on CNN's "NEW DAY," was asked repeatedly, what, what are you talking about?

BORGER: I think I --

BLITZER: And Giuliani refuses to say.

BORGER: Right. It's hard to know exactly what the president's talking about. But there have been stories about Mueller left the president's golf club and wanted a refund on his dues. And the stories are that it was resolved amicably and that there were -- there were letters exchanged and that it was -- you know, it was not -- it was not a terrible thing and that it was -- it was resolved. I mean it hardly seems to me to be a disqualifier.

What the president is trying to do is to further get his base together about anything Mueller might do. And I think -- don't forget the context here. The context here is that Trump's lawyers have proposed sort of some kind of hybrid way in which perhaps they could hear from the president, pre-inauguration versus post inauguration. Maybe they could work something out. And Mueller has been like Buddha. They have not heard a thing. He has been sitting there and they have not heard a thing back from him.

Rudy Giuliani today told Dana Bash that I think we need to -- it's time for us to hear back from Mueller. And so I think the president is probably a little agitated about Mueller because he's not talking right now to the lawyers. So consider that context as you think about the president tweeting against Mueller now because he's trying to kind of get this resolved and push him to some resolution. Knowing what I know about Bob Mueller, which is only from other people, I don't think he's a guy who can be pushed.

BADE: But also another reason this doesn't just happen in a vacuum, right, is Paul Manafort is going to be on trial this week specifically.


BLITZER: Starting tomorrow.

BADE: Right.

BORGER: Right.

BADE: Former head of his campaign.

BORGER: Right.

BADE: And they're going to be calling 35 witnesses to talk about what Manafort had done in terms of working for the Ukrainian officials secretly, taking money, not paying taxes on it. And this is going to be bad headlines for Trump. This is the guy who organized the Republican National Convention. And we could potentially see his deputy also, another campaign manager, testifying against the previous -- the campaign manager.

BORGER: Right.

BADE: So it's going to be a bad week for him and he probably knows it and is tweeting aggressively because of that. BLITZER: And we're going to stay all over the trial tomorrow and

everything else that's going on. We'll stand by to hear if the president is asked about this when he answers question at this event with the visiting Italian prime minister.

There's a lot more coming up, including the Republicans don't want it. They say it won't happen. But the president threatening, right now, a government shutdown if he doesn't get one thing. We'll discuss.

Plus, the Koch network. One of the most influential conservative groups in America now saying the Trump administration is too divisive and is willing to give money to Democrats. I'll speak live with a representative of the Koch Organization.

Plus, a new -- new today, the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, using air marshals to monitor unsuspecting passengers in planes and airports here in the United States in a secret surveillance program. We have new information.


[13:22:44] BLITZER: President Trump is threatening to shut down the federal government if he doesn't get his way on immigration reform. The president tweeting out that he wants money for the border wall with Mexico and also demanding that Democrats put up the votes for the rest of his immigration reforms. But with just over -- just under 100 days before the midterm elections. There's fear, at least among many Republicans, that all of this could end up helping the Democrats.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the funding of the border wall going to wait until after the midterm elections?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Probably. And that's something we do have a disagreement on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're not worried about a government shutdown before the midterms?

MCCONNELL: No, that's not going to happen.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I certainly don't like playing shutdown politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how damaging would that be for Republicans ahead of the November races?

JOHNSON: I don't think it would be helpful, so let's try and avoid it.


BLITZER: The president is also facing a backlash from one of the Republican Party's biggest supporters, the Koch brothers and their network, who spent tens of millions of dollars backing the Republican Party in elections, are now saying President Trump's divisiveness is causing long term damage. There's even been some serious talk of supporting at least some Democratic candidates if their interests align.

Joining us now is James Davis. He's a Koch Network spokesman.

James, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: So why is your network raising the alarm right now about the president?

DAVIS: Well, we've always had the same vision, how do we remove barriers that are holding people back from achieving their potential. And so our engagement in the public policy and political process is just a small part of what this network does overall. But it gets, obviously, a lot of attention.

And so as we look at the successes we've had in working with partisan coalitions throughout time, we've seen some great success. There are tax reform. We've seen justices. We've seen VA reform. And I could go on and on. But we've also seen tremendous setback. And those setbacks are significant. A $1.3 trillion spending bill. Then we see families being separated at the border. These are just injustices that we have to continue to fight against.

And so we want to make it clear that building policy coalitions as we have move forward we think is the best way to bring -- cut through the divisiveness that we're seeing across the country into actually mobilize on some change and make progress on some of these issues.

[13:25:10] We've talked about one of those areas this week. You had right to trial legislation, which is for terminally ill patients, the ability to use experimental drugs. Congress completely agreed on this. The House and the Senate had legislation on it. The president mentioned it in the State of the Union Address. The American people overwhelmingly support it and yet Congress was going nowhere. So we said, we have to step up our efforts and we launched a campaign ad highlighting it. We mobilized grassroots pushing forward on it. And, low and behold, we saw tremendous bipartisan support, both in the House and the Senate, and then the president signed it into legislation.


DAVIS: That's the kind of leadership that we need to bring forward in order to just tackle these challenges.

BLITZER: But let me just point out a couple other issues, important issues. As you know, your network, the Koch Network, has been trying to persuade the president to shift his views on trade and tariffs. So far without a whole lot of success. He's got trade battles going on with China, with Europe, Canada, Mexico. Is that a threat to the overall U.S. economy?

DAVIS: Absolutely. The economy's going really strong right now. The numbers just came out 4.1 percent. I mean that is tremendous. Stronger than in years. And that's a testament to the work that's been done on tax reform and removing some of the regulatory barriers. And the tariffs and this trade war threatens to undermine that progress significantly.

And this is a tax on the American people after all. And, you know, even the policy that's put forward, it's hurting the very people that it was meant to help. Farmers now need a bailout. There's a $12 billion bailout that's being put forward. And it's really not a bailout for farmers as much as it's a bailout for bad policy. And at the end of the day, we were talking about putting these tariffs in place to hurt China for the bad actions that they've taken on trade. And who holds our debt? China. So we're now -- this is -- you can't make this stuff up, Wolf.

BLITZER: The president's former chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, he replied yesterday telling "Politico" that officials at the Koch Network, and I'm quoting him now, need to shut up and get with the program. How do you respond to Steve Bannon?

DAVIS: We're not going to get into the divisive nature and continuing in that course. We're focused on uniting people to tackle challenges and help people succeed. And so that's where our focus is going to be. So I'll leave that to Steve Bannon.

BLITZER: Let me -- one final question on the budget deficit. It's exploding right now. And I'll put some numbers up on the screen. 2016, the budget deficit for that year, $587 billion. First year of the Trump administration, it went up to $660 billion. The Congressional Budget Office now suggesting it could be a trillion dollars next year less revenue coming in because there have been tax cuts, a lot more spending for military and other issues as well. How does the Koch Network feel about a trillion dollar budget deficit coming up?

DAVIS: We think that's awful. And the problem here is not the tax cut that Americans rightly deserve. That has stimulated the economy and created new growth. The problem is the $1.3 trillion package that Republicans signed into place. That is a lack of leadership.

BLITZER: Any Democrats yet joining your network for support? Have you got any names you'd like to mention?

DAVIS: Well, we have an open invitation. And, you know what, regardless of whether we agree on every issue or not, right, there are certainly going to be issues where we can find common interests. And we're going to aggressively pursue those areas of common interest so we can unite to build strong bipartisan coalitions and drive these policy changes so that we can make some progress. The problem is it's so divisive and factionalized at this point that even when you do find opportunities where there's agreement, it's hard to work with one another because those relationships have been destroyed. What we see is that we need to work toward a society of mutual benefit where people succeed by helping other people succeed, creating win-win situations for the American people.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see where this leads. James Davis, thanks so much for joining us.

DAVIS: Thank you.

BLITZER: The TSA under fire right now after it's revealed there's been a secret surveillance program in place for years that allows U.S. air marshals to track passengers. You're going to hear who's chosen, why they are being monitored. That's coming up.

Plus, a grandfather loses his wife and grandkids as the wildfires out in California closed in.


ED BLEDSOE, WIFE AND GREAT GRANDCHILDREN DIED IN FIRE: I talked to Junior on the phone until he died. He just kept saying, grandpa -- he said, come get me. He said, come and get me. The fire's coming in the back door. Come on, grandpa.