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Midterm Showdown Set; Nunes Talks to Republican Donors; Players in Trump's Orbit Face Legal Trouble; Omarosa Tapes Conversations; Interview With Rep. Ryan Costello. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 9, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: The president. She does get the president.

All right, we'll keep an eye on that one as well.

Thanks for joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere. More breaking news with Wolf, who starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

The ball is in Robert Mueller's court this hour because it appears the Trump legal team isn't budging. According to them, Mueller either avoids certain questions on obstruction of justice, or he doesn't get to talk to the president at all.

Listen to this.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: The reality is, he doesn't need to ask a single question on obstruction. He has all the answers. They're not going to change. The president's not going to change his testimony. So stop the nonsense. You are trying to trap him into perjury because you don't have a case.


BLITZER: Those condition also come with a warning from the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, end the investigation by September or else.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Well, I think if it isn't over by September, then we have a very, very serious violation of the Justice Department rules. They shouldn't be conducting one of these investigations in the 60-day period.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: We should note, there is no such rule or custom that requires Robert Mueller to end the investigation completely before the midterm elections. In fact, other investigations similar to this one have happened during both midterms and presidential election years. For example, the Iran Contra and Whitewater investigations lasted some 80 months, almost seven years each.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. She's joining us live in New Jersey right now, where the president is spending his summer break.

Kaitlan, Rudy Giuliani warning Robert Mueller to wrap all of this up by the midterm, by September. You just heard that clip. How worried is the White House right now that this investigation could hurt Republicans in the midterm elections in November?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in one hand, Rudy Giuliani is making the argument that Robert Mueller needs to wrap this up in less than a month, but then also he is making the argument that he believe if this investigation does go on through the midterms, that it could actually rally Republican voters, something that the White House has been concerned about for this fall. Rudy Giuliani telling my colleague Dana Bash, when I first got involved, I would have told you not testifying would be the right legal strategy, but then hurt politically. Rudy Giuliani said now he's thinking the continuance of the investigation would actually help because people are getting tired of it, and the president needs something to energize his voters because the Democrats look like they're energized. Nothing would energize Republicans more than let's save the president.

Now, Wolf, that is certainly a thinking that some Republican operatives have had, that maybe this could actually help the base, get them out there now that the president has been making this public case that this is all a witch hunt based on nothing. But also there's another side to that coin, that it could raise the question for midterm voters of why the president wouldn't just sit down with this special counsel and be interviewed by him if he has nothing to hide. So certainly two sides of that.

This comes as they have responded to the special counsel's latest request for an interview with the president, saying that they would be willing to limit the number of questions about obstruction of justice. That is not something the president's legal team wants to see. Instead, they don't want there to be any questions about obstruction of justice because they said the president has already answered those questions, like why he fired James Comey. Of course, Wolf, the president answered that question to a cable news host and not a federal investigator, but that is the argument that the president's legal team is making.

Now, Wolf, all of this comes as the president is also tweeting about this. Once again, his typical rhetoric we're seeing today coming in just the last hour or so. The president writing on Twitter that this is an illegally brought, rigged witch hunt run by people who are totally corrupt and/or conflicted. The president says it was started and paid for by the crooked Hillary and the Democrats, the phony dossier, FISA disgrace and so many lying and dishonest people already fired. Seventeen angry Democrats? Stay tuned.

Now, Wolf, it's those last two words that caught everyone's attention when the president sent this tweet out. Kind of an ominous warning, it seems. And it's coming one week after the president directed his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from all of this, to bring the investigation to an end. The president raising more questions on Twitter today, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, stay tuned. Ominous words indeed. We'll see what the president has in mind.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes tells Republican donors that a GOP majority in the midterm elections is necessary to protect President Trump. In secretly recorded audio from a Republican fundraiser, Nunes draws a direct connection between the Russia investigation and the upcoming midterm elections. This is from the recordings provided to MSNBC.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: So therein lies -- so it's like your classic Catch-22 situation where, I mean, we're at a -- this -- this puts us in such a tough spot. And if Sessions won't un-rescue and Mueller won't clear the president, we're the only ones, which is really the danger. That's why I why I keep -- and thank you for saying that, by the way. I mean we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.


[13:05:32] BLITZER: Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is here.

Manu, he's been a very strong protector of the president, Devin Nunes. How likely is all of this -- how is this likely to play out up on Capitol Hill, these words that we just heard him utter?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it undoubtedly is going to confirm all the Democratic suspicions and accusations that have been mounting at Devin Nunes for the past year that he has been using his chairmanship to protect the president. We recall last year when he viewed some things that he viewed as problematic in those intelligence reports. He rushed to the White House, briefed the president about it before even briefing his committee. He was forced to step aside from the Russia investigation on his committee last year, but he still wielded considerable influence from the outside. He stopped Democratic attempts to subpoena witnesses, to get more records, to schedule witness interviews.

I mean behind the scenes, he mounted his own investigation to try to sew doubt on the FBI, the Russia investigation, the Mueller probe. That led to the release of the Nunes memo from earlier this year criticizing how that FISA warrant was obtained to monitor that Trump adviser, Carter Page. And all of which led Democrats to say, this is all part of this effort by Devin Nunes to try to protect the president. And this is the first time we're hearing Nunes' own words making the direct connection himself. So undoubtedly it's going to spark these concerns from Democrats.

But, no, Wolf, I'll note, I reached out to both the speaker's office and Kathy McMorris Rogers, who's part of the Republican leadership, who attended that fundraiser with Devin Nunes. No comment. We have not heard back from either of those offices yet.

BLITZER: And he also spoke about impeaching -- impeaching the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe.

RAJU: Yes, that's right. And this has been a big push among conservatives in the House to impeach Rosenstein because they demanded a bunch of documents. They've gotten a lot of documents but not enough to the satisfaction of people like Devin Nunes.

So yesterday, when he was -- this recording came out and he was discussing the impeachment, he said, let's wait until after the Senate confirms Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh.


NUNES: The Senate would have to start -- the Senate would have to drop everything they're doing and start to -- start with impeachment of Rosenstein. And that could take the risk of not getting -- not getting Kavanaugh confirmed. So it's a -- it's not a matter of (INAUDIBLE) Rosenstein, it's a matter of -- it's a matter of timing.


RAJU: Now, Wolf, I'll note that -- that chances of impeachment of Rod Rosenstein are very slim. The House Republicans are divided on this. Senate Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to convicting him and removing him from office. But people like Nunes are pushing this very hard and this is going to be an issue of debate for the House Republicans when they return for that fall session right before the elections, Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu, very interesting stuff indeed. Thank you very much.

Let's discuss this and more, the new reporting that we're getting. Republican Congressman Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania is joining us.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

Let's get to the questions right away. After hearing that tape of your colleague, Devin Nunes, saying it's his job, it's other Republicans' jobs to protect -- protect the president. That's the job of members of Congress, to protect the president. Do you agree? Is that your job?

REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: What I interpreted Devin saying there was that Democrats would go about seeking impeachment against President Trump. That was, to me, what he was implicated. And so thereby what we need to protect is the integrity of the investigation. Where I disagree with Devin is on the issue of impeaching Rosenstein.

I don't think he should be impeached. I think the investigation that Mueller has undertaken is legitimate. Again, this is broader than any Russian interference or collusion as it's been alleged with the Trump campaign. This is about Russian election interference in America writ large. So I disagree with Devin a little bit.

But on that -- on the initial point, the other takeaway I took from that was, I don't think he said anything in that fundraiser that he hasn't said to the press. I could be wrong, but I think he's been pretty outspoken in terms of what he thinks. So there's a -- there's a part of me that thinks that because it was behind closed doors and it was secretly recorded that some are making it to be a bigger deal than it may actually be.

BLITZER: Yes, what sort of jumped out at me, and I'm anxious to get your reaction, is when he said it's the role of Republicans in Congress, members of the House of Representatives, members of the Senate, Republicans, to, quote, protect the president. It's your role. You're a co-equal branch of the federal government. It's your role to engage in oversight to make sure that the executive branch, including the president of the United States, is doing the right thing, right?

[13:10:15] COSTELLO: I agree with you totally, and I felt that the one hearing that we had that was a joint judiciary oversight hearing where I believe Rosenstein testified, we did not -- we -- I don't think we conducted ourselves properly because I think that there is at least the appearance that at times we are not acting as a co-equal branch and we are not providing that check and balance, that oversight, and instead we're just defending anything or everything that the president may say or do. Your point's well taken. I totally agree with you.

BLITZER: And I want to get your reaction to this tweet from the president within the past hour or so. And you heard Kaitlan Collins read it. I'm not going to read it again. But he's basically saying that the whole Mueller investigation is rigged, it's corrupt, it's conflicted. And then he ends with the words stay tuned.

What is he threatening, do you think?

COSTELLO: I have no idea. I think the tweets are ad nauseam at this point. We know what he thinks. It is a legitimate investigation. I'll repeat that once again. I don't understand what he means by stay tuned.

He obviously likes to suck all the oxygen out of the room. Whether or not he has something additional coming by way of tweet or any sort of action, I simply don't know. It could very well be something that Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan may propose. They seem to be his chief defenders and Mueller's chief protagonists in the House. So it's -- your guess is as good as mine. Probably better than mine.

BLITZER: Yes. I mean, those words jumped out at all of us, I'm sure.

Final question, congressman, before I let you go. Your colleague, Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York, he's now been arrested. He's now been indicted on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI. Here's what he said about those charges. Listen to this.


REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: The charges that have been levied against me are meritless. And I will mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name. I look forward to being fully vindicated and exonerated.


BLITZER: So you've seen the evidence that the U.S. attorney for the Southern District and the FBI in New York they've put out. Do you think the charges against him are meritless?

COSTELLO: Two things. One, I sit two seats down from him on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Speaker Ryan did temporarily remove him from the committee. I think that that was the appropriate action.

He has the right to a trial. He's presumed innocent. This I would really put in the same category as Senator Menendez in the sense that while you have an indictment, they have the right to defend themselves. I do think it creates a complication for him politically. I know him quite well. So I don't want to go too far.

I did read portions of the indictment, but it, you know, it says what it says. They're serious charges. I don't want to make light of that either. That's probably the best answer I could give you right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, no, that's a good answer because he is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. And he certainly has a right to defend himself. He is going to seek re-election in November. We'll see what happens in that district outside of my hometown of Buffalo, New York.

Congressman Costello, thanks so much for joining us.

COSTELLO: Good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, Omarosa, the former White House adviser, reportedly taped the president of the United States inside the White House and makes claims about Ivanka Trump and Anthony Scaramucci in her new book that is about to be released. Anthony Scaramucci is standing by live. I'll discuss with him. That's coming up next.

Plus, Fox News host Laura Ingraham, she's under a lot of fire right now for blaming illegal and legal immigration to the United States for her vision of America not existing anymore because of, quote, demographic changes.

And a truly horrific scene unfolding in Yemen. An air strike hits a school bus, killing dozens, mostly children. We'll have that story and a lot more. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:18:34] BLITZER: President Trump promised to drain the swamp here in Washington, but more and more people in the president's orbit are getting bogged down in that swamp. The former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on trial right now for tax and banking violations. His deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty, just finished testifying against Manafort, as well all know. And don't forget about Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, both of whom have already pleaded guilty.

And now the first congressman to endorse President Trump, a Republican, Chris Collins of New York, indicted for insider trading and lying to the FBI.

Joining us to discuss that and a lot more, the former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.

Anthony, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: All right, let's talk about the swamp. It seems to be getting deeper and deeper. What's your analysis? What's going on here?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, I actually did read through the indictment like your -- the congressman that was just on. I mean it's a lot of compelling evidence there. But you have to give Chris the opportunity to prove that that stuff is not true.

But I do think that there is nefarious activity. As you -- as you know, you remember the Stock Act from 2012, as they were trying to repeal some of the insider trading nonsense that takes place in the Congress. The American people are just fed up with this sort of stuff. So I hope Chris is innocent, but if he's not innocent for some reason, I do expect there to be more cases like this, you know.

I mean there will be more cases like this either way, but I -- I just don't -- I don't like the activity at all. It's one of the reasons why in 30 years on Wall Street I've never had a trading account for that reason.

[13:20:06] BLITZER: Yes, one of the -- one of the things that they point out, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in the charges against him, is that once he got word that that pharmaceutical -- that biotech company, that the clinical trials on MS had failed, he was actually at the White House Congressional Picnic with the president and made that phone call, according to this indictment, to his son from the White House lawn. That was awkward, right?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, but that's another reason why you don't have trading accounts and you try to stay above the fray because what happens is you have all these human impulses, Wolf. And if you get information like that -- and he's saying that this call was false, but let's say that it wasn't for a second. You get information like that, your human impulse is to save yourself the money. And so it was a lot of money, probably $750,000 according to the indictment. And so keep -- if you -- if you don't want to drink, you've got to stay out of a bar. And if you don't want to get tagged with insider trading when you're loaded up with all that information that you get in the Congress, just don't have a personal trading account.


All right, let's discuss Rudy Giuliani while I have you, Anthony.

The back and forth that's been going on and whether the president will eventually agree to a sit-down interview with the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Giuliani says he wants the negotiations all wrapped up by September. He also says Republicans could benefit if things drag on during the midterm elections in November. What do you think it is?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think he's saying if it drags on, it will galvanize the base and it'll increase the participatory turnout of the people that like the president. It will sort of be a vote for him in those congressional districts.

I'm personally not in love with that strategy. I would like to see this thing completely wrapped up. But it seems unlikely, frankly, that this will get wrapped up before the midterm elections. And so what Jay -- Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani are working on is a very narrow testimony for the president so that he doesn't get boxed into a potential perjury situation. And so, you know, I was trained in law school. I don't like the idea of the president even going before the prosecutor, frankly. And so I hope it doesn't happen. But if it does come to pass, it would seem unlikely to come to pass given the narrowness of what both Jay and Rudy are suggesting.

BLITZER: You know, it's a simple concept but --

SCARAMUCCI: I don't think Robert Mueller will go for that, basically.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect he won't go for it either. But it's a simple concept. And explain to our viewers why you presumably disagree with the concept. They say to the president of the United States, you know what, if you have nothing to hide, if you've done nothing wrong, just tell the truth and get it over with. What do you say to that?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, what I would say to that, if you understand the president's communication style, and this has gone back from 45 years, he's prone to some levels of hyperbole and he's prone to some levels of, you know, what my grandfather would say, we sometimes remember things the way we would like to remember them, as opposed to how they actually happened.

And so what would be at risk there is you put him in that room, he believes in his heart and in his brain that he's done absolutely nothing wrong. He wears everything on his sleeve. And he misstates a few things and he gets nailed for perjury as opposed to obstruction of justice or collusion. And so I think that's the worry that the legal team would have in a situation like that with somebody like the president and with his personality. And so I would do everything I can to avoid that sort of situation, if you will.

BLITZER: So what you're saying is the legal team, the president's advisers, they're really afraid that given the president's history, he could wind up committing perjury or lying during the course of this kind of interview.

SCARAMUCCI: Not intentionally, not sitting there, you know, saying things like what the definition of "is" is and things like that, but just, you know, his personality is such where he likes to embellish stories. And so, you know, I'm a friend of his. I want to see him do well. The economy's humming along fantastically. So many good things are happening around the world. This is like a mill stone on the White House and the West Wing and so we'd like to see it -- we'd like to see it passed. But you sometimes have to protect your principal from things that you know about their personalities.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on to some other sensitive issues. And it's causing a bit of a stir right now. The Fox News host, Laura Ingraham, she's facing a lot of blowback over a comment she made about immigration, legal and illegal, by the way, and how it's changing the United States. Listen to this.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people. And they're changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don't like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country has changed. Now, much of this is related to both illegal and, in some cases, legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.


[13:25:09] BLITZER: All right, so what's your reaction to that?

SCARAMUCCI: You know, I'm super not happy with that. I mean like her as a person. But if you remember Father Tom Coughlin (ph) in the 1930s, my grandparents certainly remember him, and, you know, it's the same rhetoric. It's the same sentence structure. And it's the same level of xenophobia that, frankly, my immigrant grandparents faced as Italian-Americans 70, 80 short years ago.

So, I'm not in love with it. I love the concept of America, the ideas of America, and the great experiment of our great republic where we really are, where Lincoln said, the last best hope for mankind because we have our diversity. We get our strength from that diversity.

And one last point, Li Quan Yu (ph) once said about America, Wolf, that we have such a competitive advantage around the world because you can come to the United States as a Chinese or a German and become a German-American or a Chinese-American. But that's not true going to those other countries. And so that's a huge competitive advantage that we have versus the

rest of the world in terms of the intellectual capital. And I really wish she wouldn't talk like that because it sounds ignorant, and it's unfortunate, particularly if you know your grandparents' immigration story or you yourself are an immigrant. So I hope she walks it back. I hope she realizes that what she said is -- it's just not -- it's just not -- it's against the American values that she's supposedly touting.

BLITZER: But does that rev up her -- that base that clearly so supports the president, that kind of language?

SCARAMUCCI: Yes, you see, so I -- I sort of disagree with -- about that because I'm writing a book about this. I'm writing a book called "The Blue Collar President," about my experiences with the campaign and going into those markets and having grown up in a blue collar family where neither one of my parents went to college. The identification that these people have with the president, they're not nativists. They're not xenophobes. I know they're being portrayed like that on the TV and so forth. But it's a very small population of those people, Wolf, that are like that. If anything, each of these people have an immigration story and they just want what we all want in the United States is an aspirational economy and an aspirational opportunity for their children.


SCARAMUCCI: So it may tweak and it may get a lot of media attention for a small group of people, Wolf, but I really think it's un- American. And, by and large, most Americans are great people and they don't like that sort of nonsense.

BLITZER: And almost all of us are children of immigrants, to be sure, as you correctly point out.


BLITZER: Before I let you go, quickly, a once loyal Trump aide now admits to secretly recording the president of the United States. We're not talking about Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer, the president's former fixer. We're talking about the former "Apprentice" star, the White House adviser, Omarosa. She says she has secret recordings of President Trump. And according to "The Daily Beast," she has those tapes. Do you have any knowledge of any of this? And what do you make of the president of the United States being secretly recorded inside the White House?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, I don't like -- I don't like the notion that these people are taping the president. Having said that, I like Omarosa a great deal. My guess is, there's probably nothing on those tapes. And certainly even though she's writing a book, which I think she's really trying to be objective in the book, I think she's still very loyal to the president.

I talked to Omarosa yesterday. She loves the president and the president's family. And I don't think there's anything in those tapes that are going to be explosive or nefarious. But I don't like the notion, if it is true, I didn't ask her if it is or it isn't, I don't like the notion that people are taping him. Certainly, you know, I got taped by somebody that still comes on your air. I thought he was a friend. I obviously made a mistake making that presumption. That's my fault. I have to own it.

But, you know, when you're a good person, you don't think people are going to do that sort of activity. And so that's naivete on my part, of course. But I'm sure the president's probably miffed that people are taping him without his permission, even though they're in a quote/unquote one party consent situation where they can just run the tape recorder on them. I don't like it at all. I personally would never do it.

BLITZER: I'm sure he's very upset about it. These are individuals who have worked with him, support him, and secretly recording the president. Obviously that is very, very awkward.

Anthony, thank you so much for joining us.

SCARAMUCCI: Great to be here.

BLITZER: All right, there's more news we're following. The Kremlin right now firing back after the U.S. imposes a fresh round of sanctions. Why now and what Russia is facing.

And a horrific scene unfolds when an air strike hits a school bus full of children going to a summer camp in Yemen. Dozens are killed. We have details.