tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN December 4, 2017 2:00pm-3:00pm PST
happening now. breaking news. what trump knew. cnn is learning that the president had already been informed that national security adviser michael flynn had misled the fbi and mr. trump asked director james comey to stop investigating flynn. was that obstruction of justice? obstruction impossible? the president's personal lawyer goes on the offensive, saying it's impossible for the commander in chief to obstruct justice because he's the nation's top law enforcement official. but two previous presidents faced obstruction charges. could president trump pardon himself? moore endorsement. president trump tweets his full backing of republican senate candidate roy moore despite allegations of -- fellow
republicans disavowing moore. how will mr. trump's backing impact the race? and failure to land. experts believe north korea's test of its most powerful missile ever ended with the icbm breaking apart and falling to earth. did the kim jong-un regime deliberately destroy it to keep the u.s. from recovering critical information? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." this is cnn breaking news. we're following breaking news. a source is now telling cnn that the top white house lawyer told president trump in january he believed then national security adviser michael flynn had misled the fbi and had lied to the vice president mike pence about his contacts with russia. that revelation, which the president appeared to confirm in a tweet, is raising serious questions right now about whether mr. trump attempted to
obstruct justice when he later asked that fbi director james comey to drop his investigation of flynn. but the trump team is pushing back. with the president's personal lawyer now claiming the president can't be guilty of obstructing justice. john dowd says in an interview that has chief law enforcement officer of the united states under the constitution, the president has the right to express his view of any case. dowd says he's the one who drafted a tweet sent by mr. trump that some say amount toes an admission of obstruction. the u.s. supreme court has just granted a request to allow the third version of president trump's travel ban to go fully into effect pending appeal. the first time the high court has allowed any version of the controversial ban to go forward in its entirety. we're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including senator chris coons of the judiciary and foreign relations committees. and our correspondents and
specialists are also standing by. first, let's get straight to the breaking news. our justice correspondent jessica schneider is working the story for us. jessica, if the president knew flynn misled the fbi when he asked then director comey to drop his fbi investigation, it raises serious questions about obstruction of justice. >> reporter: it does, wolf. it's the timeline here that is once again bringing those obstruction questions to the forefront. a source says the president was told in late january that michael flynn likely lied to the fbi. well, two weeks later, right after flynn was fired, then fbi director james comey says the president asked him to drop the investigation into flynn. tonight, a source tells cnn that president trump was told in january by the white house counsel that he believed national security adviser michael flynn misled not just the vice president but also the fbi about conversations flynn had with russia's ambassador and recommended to the president that he fire michael flynn. white house counsel don mcgahn
did not say flynn had broken the law or that he was under investigation. mcgahn made the recommendation after a meeting with then acting attorney general sally yates. yates came to the white house on january 2626th and warned mcgahn flynn may be subject to blackmail by the russians who knew that flynn indeed discussed sanctions with ambassador kislyak. >> the first thing we did was to explain to mr. mcgahn that the underlying conduct that general flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself. secondly, we told him we felt like the vice president and others were entitled to know that the information that they were conveying to the american people wasn't true. >> reporter: yates told mcgahn that flynn had been interviewed by the fbi just two days earlier, but according to the source did not get specific about what flynn had said. >> i remember that mr. mcgahn asked me whether or not general flynn should be fired, i told him that really wasn't our call, that was up to them, but that we were giving them this
information so they could take action no the source tells cnn that mcgahn -- not told the truth to the fbi or to pence who already repeated flynn's version of events on television. >> what i can confirm having spoken to him about it is that that conversations that happened to occur around the time that the united states took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions. >> that still leaves open the possibility there might have been other conversations about the sanctions. >> i don't believe there were conversations. >> okay. >> reporter: despite mcgahn's warning to the president, he did not fire flynn until about two weeks later on february 13th when the "washington post" reported for the first time that flynn had discussed sanctions with the russian ambassador. it was just one day after that that president trump asked then fbi director james comey to drop the investigation into flynn, according to comey's testimony. >> i understood him to be saying what he want me to do was drop any investigation connected to
flynn's account of his conversations with the russians. >> reporter: the new timeline of events raising new questions about whether the president tried to obstruct justice, something mueller's team is looking into. the debate reignited this weekend after the president seemed to admit on twitter that he knew flynn lied to the fbi while working in the white house. the president tweeting, i had to fire general flynn because he lied to the vice president and the fbi. trump's personal attorney john dowd later said he wrote the tweet. the investigation into possible obstruction extends to the firing of the fbi director james comey. soon after comey was fired for what the white house initially said was over the handling of the clinton e-mail probe the previous year, the president said on television he had the russia investigation on his mind when he fired comey. >> when i decided to just do it, i said to myself, i said, you know, this russia thing with trump and russia is a made up story. >> reporter: and the president reportedly privately bragged to top russian officials in the oval office, i just fired the
head of the fbi. he was crazy. a real nutjob. i faced great pressure because of russia. that's taken off. and even though the president pushed back against any obstruction implications in june -- >> in the meantime, no collusion, no obstruction. >> reporter: the president's lawyers are now asserting a new defense, the president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under the constitution's article ii and has every right to express his views of any case. this pushback by the president's lawyer that a president cannot obstruct justice, well, it's still an open question. there is a constitutional dispute over whether a sitting president can be indicted, but as we know from history and the proceedings against president bill clinton, a president can be impeached on charges of obstruction of justice. wolf? >> yes, indeed. jessica schneider, thank you. president trump is making his feelings about all of this very clear via twitter. let's go to our senior white house correspondent jim acosta. he has more on the president's reaction.
jim, the president left town earlier today with a lot of controversy in tow. >> reporter: he sure did, wolf. president trump is showing a lot of sympathy for his former national security adviser michael flynn who pled guilty to lying the fbi investigators. he officially offered his endorsement to accused child molester roy moore in the alabama senate race, but it's the president's legal team that may warrant the most attention don't for putting forward an argument that the president is essentially above the law. just as the president is sharing his personal feelings for his former national security adviser michael flynn -- >> well, i feel badly for general flynn. i feel very badly. he's led a very strong life and i feel very badly, john. i will say this, hillary clinton lied many times to the fbi, nothing happened to her. flynn lied and they've destroyed his life. i think it's a shame. >> reporter: mr. trump's legal team is offering a preview of a potential defense in the event the special counsel's office makes its way to the oval office. the president cannot obstruct
justice because he's the chief law enforcement officer, the president's outside attorney told axios and has every right to express his view of any case, a case echoed by professor alan dershowitz on fox news. >> you cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power to fire comey and his constitutional authority to tell the justice department who to investigate, who not to investigate. >> reporter: that claim ignores the fact that one of the articles of impeachment brought against former president bill clinton and richard nixon was obstruction of justice. >> well, i'm not a crook. >> reporter: president trump is also lashing out at federal investigators, tweeting that the fbi's reputation is in tatters, worst in history, but fear not, we will bring it back to greatness. as for the president's claim hillary clinton lied to investigators, former fbi director james comey, who was fired by mr. trump, said that didn't happen at a hearing last year. >> we have no basis to conclude she lied to the fbi. >> reporter: with the russia investigation apparently expanding, the president is out to preserve his party's majority
in the senate, tweeting his endorsement for republican senate candidate roy moore in alabama. according to the gop's senate campaign, the president talked to moore over the phone and cheered, go get em, roy. whether sexual abuse allegations against moore of -- as the white house once indicated. >> look, the president said in his statement earlier this week that if the allegations are true then that roy moore should step aside. he still firmly believes that. >> reporter: mr. trump all but said he believed mr. moore's denials later last month. >> he totally denies it. >> reporter: billy bush, the "access hollywood" host who was with mr. trump when he made lewd comments about women caught on tape -- >> grab them by the [ bleep ]. >> reporter: pushed back on reports that the president is somehow claiming he never made the offensive remarks. of course he said it, bush writes in "the new york times" and we laughed along without a single doubt this was hypothetical hot air from
america's highest rated bloviater. back in october, the president defended the comments. >> that's locker room. >> reporter: with so many controversies swirling, the president is trying to stay in the holiday spirit. announcing at a rollback of national monuments in utah, that he's looking to republicans in congress to pass tax cuts. >> we're now one huge step closer to delivering to the american people the historic tax relief as a giant present for christmas. remember i said we're bringing christmas back? christmas is back. >> reporter: now, besides tax cuts, the white house and members of congress are also working towards avoiding a government shutdown this month. democratic leaders nancy pelosi and chuck schumer say they're coming back to the white house later this week after their recent meeting with the president was scrapped. that was when the president claimed that democrats were not interested in a deal, of course. wolf? >> and, jim, a big win for the president tonight at the united states supreme court. a big win at least for now. >> reporter: that's right. for now. wolf, that's right, the supreme court is allowing the latest version of the president's
travel ban to take effect. that is pending appeal, of course, but it is a signal that perhaps some of the justices on the high court might be willing to rule in favor of that ban, which, of course, as we know is aimed at mostly muslim countries. wolf? >> jim acosta at the white house. thanks very much. let's get some more on all of this. democratic senator chris coons of delaware is joining pups he's a member of the judiciary and foreign relations committees. senator, thanks to so much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. always good to be on with you. >> the president knew michael flynn misled the fbi and then implored then fbi director james comey to drop his investigation of flynn. in your view, senator, does this amount to obstruction of justice? >> well, wolf, that's a legal conclusion for others to reach, but it certainly strongly suggests that the president was aware that in reaching out to jim comey, the former fbi director, and urging him to go easy on flynn that he was engaging in an inappropriate intervention in an ongoing investigation. there are recent reports that
over the summer the president also reached out to a number of senior republican senators, chair of the intelligence committee, majority leader and others to urge them to wrap up this investigation quickly. it suggests an ongoing deeply troubling pattern of personal intervention in an ongoing investigation by the president. and the suggestion today, wolf, by the president's lawyers that he can't be charged with obstruction of justice, that he can't commit obstruction of justice because he oversees the department of justice and the federal law enforcement infrastructure, i think is a laughable proposition. it would mean that the president would be above the law. and one of our core foundational constitutional principles in this country is that no one is above the law. >> you're referring to what the president's private personal attorney john dowd said, that the president can't obstruct justice because in john dowd's words, he is the chief law enforcement officer under the constitution and has every right to express his view of any case.
you don't buy that defense? >> i don't buy that one bit, wolf. i think it's nixonian to argue that somehow the president has cart blanch to do whatever he wants with regard to law enforcement and ongoing investigations. in particular, an investigation into his conduct. that would create a presidency that is completely above the law and unaccountable. i do think there is a debatable proposition about whether impeachment is the only means of removal of a president, but i don't think it's debatable whether the president has impunity to interfere with whatever investigations he chooses. >> does the president have the power to pardon himself? >> that's also something that's never been tested before. but i think going back to the federalist papers, to the very founding of our country, there has often been asserted the principle that you cannot be both judge and jury in a case. and if the president were to pardon himself, he would
literally be acting as both judge and jury in a case against himself. >> the president appeared to admit he knew about flynn's misleading the fbi. he tweeted this, and i'll put it up on the screen. i had to fire general flynn because he lied to the vice president and the fbi. he has pled guilty to those lies. it is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. there was nothing to hide. as you know, the white house later said the tweet was written by the president's personal lawyer john dowd. we just were speaking about him. do you buy that explanation? >> well, first, i've been encouraging the president since his inauguration to stop tweeting so much. it is not good for him or for our country. second, if his lawyer crafted that tweet, he might want to reconsider his representation because that certainly didn't serve the president's interests. i think mr. dowd has already conceded that it was certainly sloppy. third, it suggests that the
president or his lawyer representing him knew that there was reason for the president if he interviewed with jim comey to try to get him to lighten up on flynn. to be doing so in a way that was obstructing justice. it is a truly concerning tweet if this accurately reflects the president's knowledge and state of mind. and if it doesn't, i don't know why his lawyer representing him would have -- would have approved this tweet, put it in front of the president and had him sign off on it. >> over the summer, the special counsel robert mueller removed one of the fbi agents working on the russia probe after an internal investigation discovered he had sent messages that could be interpreted as showing an anti-trump boyce. that same agent also worked on the investigation into hillary clinton's private e-mail server. at one point changed crucial language in comey's statement about clinton's contact. do you worry about these revelations harming the credibility of the current investigation? >> wolf, what i think strengthens the credibility of robert mueller individually and
the investigation he's leading is that we know in an instance where there was some suggestion of bias by a critical agent, it was investigated, it was dealt with and he was dismissed. so this isn't something that is hanging out there as an unresolved issue, it's something that robert mueller when he became aware of it is reported to have acted decisively to remove any potential interference or bias in his ongoing investigation and i find that reassuring. >> all right. we're getting more breaking news on the mueller investigation, senator. i need you to stand by. we'll take a quick break. we'll resume our coverage right after this. another day of work. why do you do it? it's not just a pay check, you actually like what you do. even love it. and today, you can do things you never could before. ♪ ♪ you're developing ai applications on the cloud.
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this is cnn breaking news. all right. before we get back to the senate judiciary committee member chris coons, we have some breaking news to report. senator, stand by. the special counsel robert mueller's investigators say former trump campaign chairman paul manafort violated their trust and they're asking a federal judge to reconsider the deal that actually allowed his release on bail. let's bring in our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto working the story for us. the new papers, jim, have just been filed. >> that's right. listen, this is one of many shake your head moments in this case so far. here you have paul manafort, a little more than a month after he was charged with multiple crimes relating to the work he did for the pro-russian former president of ukraine was found to be ghost writing an editorial in violation of the terms of his bail and doing so with a russian who has ties to the russian intelligence service.
he was working on this editorial as recently as just this past thursday, just a few days ago. now, i'm going to quote from the judge's statement during the plea agreement. he said that his lawyers and prosecutors have asked him to, quote, refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case. his lawyers, the special counsel's office, say that doing this editorial with this russian known to u.s. intelligence is a violation of that. so he stands the possibility of losing some of the privileges he has from this deal, including being freed from house arrest, being freed from gps monitoring. that, of course, wolf, was in exchange for him putting up $11 million as property for bail because the prosecutors consider him a flight risk. just in the midst of negotiating that, he gets those little pieces of freedom here. then from the prosecutor's perspective has violated the terms of that agreement with really something you would think would be an obvious thing not to
do, right, an editorial, public statement -- >> i was going to say, he was on the verge of being allowed to travel from west virginia to florida to new york to d.c. all of that in exchange for the $11 million that he was going to put up, collateral bail in order to do so. but all of that seems gone. >> that's exactly ride. freed from house arrest and gps monitoring. giving him a bit of freedom to travel to his homes, perhaps do some business, but now he writes this public statement on issues of national security with a russian known to u.s. intelligence and the prosecutors arguing that bail agreement should therefore be rescinded. >> sounds like it was a pretty dumb thing for him to do in a sensitive moment like this. thanks very much. jim sciutto reporting. let's bring back democratic senator chris coons of delaware. he's a member of the judiciary and foreign relations committees. does it look to you, senator, like paul manafort was attempting to influence public. a opinion to help his legal case
in his aspect. what do you think he was doing by going ahead and accepting this offer? >> wolf, this is simply stunning news. the idea that paul manafort, president trump's former campaign chairman, who's facing federal criminal charges and had reached a plea agreement -- excuse me, a bail agreement where he was free to move without an ankle bracelet to leave his home, but on the condition that he not engage in public statements. he was literally drafting an editorial with a russian known to american intelligence. that is just stunning. a word i know is now overused, but that is deeply foolish. clearly he's not listening to his lawyers or he's more afraid of the russians than he is of federal prosecution in the united states. i mean, i have a really hard time, wolf, squaring that news with the idea that paul manafort is rational. that's an enormous risk for him to take and will almost certainly lead to the
reimposition of a different arrangement for his freedom in advance of his facing trial. >> what's amazing is that according to the court documents, senator, he was working on this editorial as recently as last thursday. which is pretty amazing, especially at a time when he was hoping to get some freedom to move around. >> well, wolf, just for those who may have forgotten about paul manafort, he was the director, the manager, the chairman of the trump presidential campaign and had received millions of dollars from ukraine's former lead, yanukovych, who is closely aligned with vladimir putin and with russian interests. the idea that he would reinsert himself into that maelstrom of issues that compete with american national security interests at such a sensitive time is really striking. >> because what's amazing is this apparent obsession with russia. how significant is it, senator, that he was allegedly writing this editorial with someone who
apparently has ties, as you point out and as our own report points out, with russian intelligence? >> if accurate, that reporting is deeply troubling. it suggests that manafort's ties to russians connected to russian intelligence services continues and continues unabated and he continues to work with them and cooperate with them, even while he faces federal criminal charges. that suggests a striking indifference to the legal situation he's in and an unwillingness to take responsibility for the ways in which he deflected or impacted the republican platform during their convention on issues of russia and ukraine. and impacted u.s. national security interests while he was the chairman of the trump presidential campaign. this really is stunning breaking news, wolf. >> it certainly is. and the hope that he had to get out of house arrest, move around the country a bit, apparently that's going to go away very, very quickly.
all right, senator coons, thanks for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. all right. we have more on the breaking news. new revelations about what president trump knew, when he knew it before the firing of national security adviser michael flynn and the fbi director james comey. plus, new details also emerging about what may have gone wrong during north korea's most recent test of its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile. when you really want to save big on a hotel just go to priceline. they add thousands of new deals every day at up to 60% off. that's how kaley and i got to share this trip together at this amazing hotel. yeah ash and i share everything - dresses, makeup, water bottles... we do? mmhmm. we share secrets, shoes, toothbrushes... what? yeah i forgot mine so i've been using yours. seriously? what's the big deal? i mean, we even dated the same guy. who?! uh, go to priceline and get the hotel deals you won't find anywhere else.
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we're following multiple breaking stories from the russia election meddling investigation, including word just now that special counsel robert mueller's investigators say former trump campaign chairman paul manafort violated their trust by working on an op-ed piece with a russian who has ties to russian intelligence. doing so as recently as last thursday. prosecutors now are asking a judge to reconsider the deal that would have allowed manafort's release on bail. let's bring in our specialists. phil mudd, let me start with you. what's your reaction to this word that manafort was working, ghost writing an op-ed with ukrainians and a russian who has ties to russian intelligence as recently as last week? >> i mean, you've got to be kidding me. as grandma mudd used to say, that dude ain't dumb, but he is stupid. how can you go into a bail hearing wherp you know the judge and the feds are so suspicious of you that they put incredibly restrictive measures in place so that you can't leave your house,
you have to ask permission to go see one of your kids, and you decide the feds are suspicious enough to ask a question about whether you're authorering a document with some contacts with a russian known to u.s. intelligence. what the heck is this guy thinking? the best part about this, wolf, is when he gets in front after a judge and says, old man, unless you want to spend some time in federal prison you better figure out how to pay attention. i think he's in trouble with the judge. i thought i've seen everything. you can't make this up, wolf. >> let me go to susan and get your thoughts. your our national security and legal analyst. former nsa attorney. under the agreement for him, in early november that he wouldn't go to jail right away pending the trial, prosecutors said he had to refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that posed a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case. if he's working on an editorial with russians and ukrainians, that seems like he was making
statements to the media. >> right. certainly this could be considered a violation of the gag order. we'll see what the judge decides. you know, again and again we've seen in the conduct of lots of individuals related to the trump team they appear to really not comprehend the gravity of their situation. that they are facing substantial legal peril here. and so, you know, this is just another sort of piece of evidence that somehow whether it's tone from the top or just, you know, their own shared personal instincts, they really appear to not be getting ow serious a situation this is for them personally at this point. >> how do you see it, michael? >> pretty much the same. it defies explanation. when you are under arrest and you are trying to get out from home detention and they look like they have a deal, they've put up properties that will be forfeited if you flee and you're sort of desperate to get out of the house, to do this just undermines any effort to do that and the judge is going to have
to determine whether or not she's going to not only let that deal go through or whether she's going to let him stay in his home or incarcerate him. it's a terribly stupid thing he did. >> he was on the verge of avoiding house arrest, putting up $11 million in his property as bail. >> i'm no lawyer, but i think antagonizing a judge over the conditions of your bail is not a smart thing to do. i'm with susan. it just seems as though there is not a not getting it aspect to all of this. that's literally like one of the dumbest things you could possibly do. oh, okay, well you have these charges against you, i'm going to co-write an editorial with a known russian -- it just doesn't -- it doesn't make any logical sense. it certainly doesn't make any legal sense. and i do think, although we're talking about criminal charges as it relates to donald trump -- as it relates to paul manafort and not donald trump, susan mentioned maybe it comes from the top. i do think any lawyer worth his
or her salt would say to donald trump, you know what, let's sort of cut out the tweeting about flynn and about the investigation and russia and the witch-hunt. he doesn't obviously take that advice. i don't know whether that influences manafort and the others, but it doesn't make any logical sense because what lawyers always tell you when you face any kind of peril is, stop talking. >> shut up. >> one thing is that paul manafort is under significant financial strain. as the president's team starts to assess the potential loyalty of certain individuals, i think this is evidence of what has been widely reported and that's going to be a significant source of pressure moving forward whether people like manafort, like gates decide to ultimately cooperate. >> he did have to put up, i mean, to make it even possible for his bail, he had to put up massive amounts of collateral. homes. to susan's points, he is strapped financially. >> it does show you my mueller
behaved as he did in the early stages of this investigation. people said why is he being so tough on the no-knock warrant? why is he seizing this and frisking that person? he just doesn't trust this guy. here is a case in point of that breach of trust even after the fact of an indictment. his lawyer if he knew about this did a very bad job for his client, but i expect his lawyer who is very good didn't realize that paul manafort was doing this. >> talking about the pre-dawn raid on his house in virginia. they showed up at 6:00 a.m. and started going through and taking out his documents and other information as well from manafort. >> they just don't trust him. >> obviously. let me get back to the other news and phil mudd, let me bring you back into this conversation. if the president knew about michael flynn, his then national security adviser, misleading the fbi and then asked the then fbi director james comey to drop the investigation. you served at the cia and the fbi. does that amount to obstruction
of justice? >> boy, i think that's tougher than we think from the outside, wolf. it looks from a common perspective that the president obstructed the investigation, but let's compare this to what we've seen in the previous moves taken by mueller. those were very clear instances of violations of the law. lies by flynn that you could catch by looking at the intercepts of the russians. financial irregular rarity later by manafort that should have been pretty straightforward to prove in court. answer me a question before we go too far, exactly what information could the fbi not acquire because the president obstructed them? did he prevent them from acquiring anything related to the case? what interviews did he stop? was there any material change in the case as a result of what the president did? i'm not a lawyer, but i look at this and say i think it's not as easy as yes/no, i think it's grayer. >> to answer phil's question, the obstruction of justice statute does not require that you be successful, it's an
endeavoring to obstruct statute. so if you endeavor to obstruct justice, whether you succeed or not, you still violate the law. and that's what i think is going on here. >> if he's having a conversation as the national security adviser, susan, with the russian ambassador to the united states kislyak, doesn't he know that u.s. intelligence is listening in and monitoring that kind of a conversation with the russian ambassador to the united states? and if he's going to lie to the fbi or to vice president pence, there is a record that people are going to have, hey, you did speak about sanctions, it wasn't just a curtity call. >> yeah, so, look, i think people might be surprised the number of times prosecutors are able to use jailhouse phone calls against defendants where the call literally begins with "this call is being recorded." don't underestimate people's ability to sort of disregard being unnoticed about those issues. it does speak to the fact that flynn thought he was operating in his own immunity.
he thought he was, you know, actth on the president's behalf or at the president's behalf or somehow had the message that he wasn't going to behold accountable, including for making false statements to the fbi for actually committing a crime. so that's just an indication of the fact that he didn't think he was going to get in trouble. >> hold your thought for a second. phil mudd, does it raise -- why would he lie about that? he's a former head of d.i.a., the defense intelligence agency. he knows how the u.s. intelligence community works. did someone instruct him to lie to the fbi, phil? >> no way. i mean, as susan was saying, any intelligence officer worth their salt, and he was by all accounts a very good intelligence officer, knows intelligence 101. what does nsa do? they listen to terrorists and they listen to foreign adversaries, including people like the russians. i can't imagine going into a meeting with the fbi and lying about that unless you're so overwhelmed by arrogance that you say, i'm the smart guy, they're the dumb guys, they will never figure this out. what i'm seeing in both cases, the manafort case and the flynn
case is that arrogance breeds contempt. in this case contempt for federal prosecutors who turn out to be pretty darn good, wolf. >> you know, chris, the white house says the president's private attorney now john dowd says the president can't obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under the constitution and has every right to express his view of any case. we just heard senator chris coons say that's nixonian, that analysis. >> yeah, anyone who has followed politics at all over the last 30, 40 years would say the exact same thing. it's not illegal if the president does it. i'll leave the legal wrangling over that to lawyers. what i will say is, politically speaking that argument is a dead on arrival stone cold loser. remember, impeachment -- we're certainly not there yet, but impeachment, the removal of a president is a political process that runs through congress, right? this is not a legal process. so you can cabinet the legalities here and the terminology.
politically speaking, i think if it came out if bob mueller concludes at the end of this that donald j. trump obstructed justice. not there yet, but let's say he does that. the argument of, well, the president can't obstruct justice. i don't think and i'll say think that is a convincing argument. >> so the debate of whether or not you can be indicted as a president for obstructing justice when you do something that you have a constitutional right to do is to be debating, and i expect that michael dreeben on bob mueller's staff, the solicitor general, the most expert person on this is exactly reaching these points. i think, though, in the balance when you do these acts with corrupt intend, you undermine the notion that the president is free to do anything he wants. chris is correct, even if they win that argument that he can't be indicted while sitting as president and he cannot be charged with obstruction of
justice because of his constitutional right to do it. if he lies about it in the grand jury then he is quite indictable for that lie. there is nothing that says a president can't be indicted for lying. there is nothing that prevents him from being charged in an article of impeachment for abuse of office. >> there is no legal standard that needs to be met. >> we're just getting word, susan -- >> i'm sorry. we'll see that in clinton and nixon. that's exactly the articles of impeachment for both of them. >> we're just getting word that the republican chairman of the senate intelligence committee richard burr says he does that agree with this theory that the president of the united states cannot be indicted for obstruction of justice. so, you know, he's from north carolina, but he's the chairman of the powerful senate intelligence committee. >> right. so, look, there atwo constituent parts to the question. one is whether or not the president can violate the statute. that's sort of -- john dowd is essentially arguing he cannot violate the law. the separate question is whether or not he can be held criminally accountable for violating the statute. those are two separate
questions. dowd on any read, dowd is sort of vastly overstating the president's case here and statements like that from richard burr is an indication, you know, if they overplay their hand or feel the special prosecutor isn't able to hold the president criminally accountable when they believe there has been criminal conduct that congress is -- >> phil, does it look to you like robert mueller, the special counsel, is building an obstruction case against the president? >> i would say be careful about this for one simple reason. i think he's looking into it and i would say there is virtually no question about that, but my judgement in this case would be he doesn't want to walk in front of a microphone and lay charges against somebody unless those charges are way over the bar. he doesn't want to charge somebody with doing 57 in a 55 zone. regardless of whether he's looking at this, my question would be is the information he had so clear that when he lays it out, to use a word that is probably inappropriate, unimpeachable evidence. >> everybody stand by. more breaking news we're following.
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than that that powerful long-range missile likely broke up reentering the earth's atmosphere but there's a question whether the disintegration was inadvertent or if the north koreans purposely destroyed their own missile. this comes as tensions on the peninsula are at their highest levels in month with u.s. and south korean fighter jets practicing to take out north korean missile sites. measure fighter jets catapult into the skies over the korean peninsula, part of a massive show of force tonight. 230 u.s. and south korean aircraft conducting aerial combat exercises. a senior south korean air force official tells cnn these drills will include attacks against a mock north korean missile launch site and facilities with simulated north korean radar. experts say in any allied strike against kim jong-un's regime, whether it's a preemptive or reactive strike, hitting the launch sites would be just the beginning. >> it would go after every known
target and suspected target that north korea has in their arsenal to launch their artillery, their missiles, their rockets, to exercise command and control of ground forces and to go after the leadership targets as well. >> the north koreans would respond, experts say, by pulling out artillery hidden in caves and bombarding south korea, potentially hundreds of thousands of casualties in the balance. the latest drills sparking the north koreans to accuse the u.s. and south korea of pushing the region, quote, to the brink of nuclear war. republican senator lindsey graham warning that preemptive war is now more likely, and advising american troops and their families in south korea to be ready. >> it's crazy to send spouses and children to south korea given the provocation of north korea, so i want them to stop sending dependents and i think it's now time to start moving american dependents out of south korea. >> an entire region clearly on
edge, since north korea's latest test of a long-range missile. it went higher than any north korean missile ever has, and officials say it has the range to strike the entire u.s. mainland. cnn has learned that missile, fired last wednesday, likely broke up when it attempted to re-enter the earth's atmosphere. experts say that may show the north koreans still haven't perfected missile re-entry technology but could also mean kim's regime doesn't want the americans and south koreans to learn more about the missile. >> the north koreans don't have the means to recover this. they furthermore know the japanese and the united states will do our very darnedest to recover what comes back down. they may have even detonated something to obliterate the material and prevent it from being recoveres. >> experts say another reason they don't want the u.s. and its allies to recover the missile parts because those recoveries often tell the allies just who
is helping the north koreans with their missile program. in the past parts have been recovered with russian, chinese and iranian markings on them. >> very intriguing indeed. there's new information tonight, brian, that a civilian aircraft came close enough to that north korean intercontinental ballistic missile last week to even see it. >> officials at the hong kong based airline cafe pacific tell cnn the crew of one of their passenger planes actually spotted the attempted re-entry of that north korean long-range missile last week. airline officials say the flight was far away from the location of the re-entry and the flight continued on its normal course. but if that missile broke up on re-entry and there was debris flying around, that flight could have conceivably been in danger, not to mention what it must have looked like for that crew to see the re-entry and possible explosion there. >> pretty awful indeed. all right, brian, thank you very much. brian todd reporting for us. there's breaking news we're following. president trump faces questions about possible obstruction of justice. his lawyer says that's
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happening now, breaking news. trump was told, cnn has learned, that the president new that michael flynn misled the fbi when james comey says he was pressured by mr. trump to stop investigating flynn. what will this mean for the special counsel's obstruction of justice probe? questions of bias. disturbing new details about the fbi agent who was fired from robert mueller's team for apparently sending anti-trump texts. cnn has learned about a pivotal change he made to comey's public statement on hillary clinton's e-mail investigation. go get 'em, roy. the president calls alabama's embattled senate candidate fully endorsing roy moore, despite allegations he sexually abused teenage girls when he was in his 30s. will that help or hurt moore? and land giveaway. mr. trump travels to utah to drastically reduce the size of o
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