Skip to main content

tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  January 25, 2018 9:00pm-10:00pm PST

9:00 pm
good evening.
9:01 pm
thanks for joining us, we'll get to that but we begin keeping them honest with the unraveling of a conspiracy theory not created and promoted by a fringe radio huckster, no, this was created and promoted by elected officials on capitol hill and part of it by the president of the united states himself. there were two aspects to the theory, one revolving around a phrase in a single text message some republican lawmakers claimed was evidence of a dangerous secret society in the fbi and the other revolved that high level officials in the fbi were trying to undermine president trump, today both parts of this conspiracy theory crumbled as they often do in the bright light of facts. let's take a look at what happened because it tell as story of lawmakers attempting to undermine the premiere law enforcement agency in the country, the fbi.
9:02 pm
the secret society text message was part of an exchange between two fbi officials, peter strzok and lisa page. they were romantically involved and sent a variety of texts that included their personal feelings, including about president trump. strzok was taken off the mueller investigation after it was discovered he had anti-trump sentiment. one caught the eye of multiple republican congressmen who hot footed to fox news and quoted, perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society. now no one knew the context of that message. a rational person's first thought might be that this was some sort of an inside joke between two people who are personally involved with each other. but that was not the take of the republican lawmakers who allegedly believed or wanted to make it seem like they believe that people formed a secret society in the fbi to undermine the president of the united states would text about it and call it a secret society and not bother to come up with some cool code word. the loudest voice was ron
9:03 pm
johnson, chairman of the governmental affairs committee. he's the chairman of the senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee. here he is on fox news tuesday night. >> what this is all about is further evidence of corruption, more than bias but corruption at the highest levels of the fbi. that secret society, we have an informant that's talking about a group that were holding secret meetings off-site. there is so much smoke here. >> let's stop there. a secret society. secret meetings off-site of the justice department? >> correct. >> and you have an informant saying that? >> yes. >> is there anything more about that? >> no. we have to dig into it. >> oh, yes, let's do that. let's dig into it. we've said it on this program before, extraordinary claims
9:04 pm
demand extraordinary proof. a secret society in the fbi holding secret off-site meetings is an extraordinary claim. an informant is also an extraordinary claim, but the senator offered no proof. he didn't show the actual text message or didn't say any more about who the informant might be. no proof was offered, extraordinary or even ordinary proof. we caught up with johnson yesterday and asked him what he had to say to people who thought that a prominent united states senator was engaging in conspiracy theories by talking about secret societies. >> that's not my words. >> can we see the text. >> at that point we can't see the text. johnson released some of the text but not that one. that was yesterday, and what a difference a day makes because now we can see the text, not because senator johnson released it, but because news organizations, including ours, got them from other sources. here's what it says. the day after the election, page texted strzok, quote, are you even going to give out your calendars? seems kind of depression, maybe it should just be the meeting of the secret society.
9:05 pm
it doesn't read as a serious text especially when the calendars she's talking about refer to vladimir putin-themed calendars bought as a gag gift. so today we caught up with senator johnson again. >> this text message seems to be a secret society message in jest. do you think it's in jest? >> it's a real possibility. >> he's very eager to get into that office. did you notice something else missing? he didn't mention anything about his alleged informant. we aren't the only ones who noticed the disappearance of this alleged informant. claire mccaskill, the ranking democrat on the committee which johnson chairs today asked him for evidence to support his claims, quote, she said if the committee has any evidence that the fbi is, as you have stated, bias and corrupt at the highest levels, i assume that evidence is strong in quantity and quality and extends far beyond a casual mention in a text message. later today johnson wouldn't comment further and said quote, we will see what the next texts
9:06 pm
say, ah, yes, the next texts. let's get to that, the missing texts. that was the second part of this conspiracy theory being floated by the president's allies. the five months of texts missing, not just between strzok and page but from about one in ten fbi phones according to the department of justice, due to a misconfiguration glitch. now a number of republicans claimed a coverup. how vine, missing text messages. it turns out they're not missing anymore. the inspector general says they used forensic tools to recover those. it appears it was a widespread
9:07 pm
malfunction. but lawmakers were very quick to jump all over it despite an absence of evidence. these are some of the same lawmakers critical of democrats for creating conspiracy theories about collusion. this is all become a familiar playbook. someone has a little information or misinformation or information the public hasn't seen and it gets churned into talking points until it explodes into a conspiracy theory. when one gets debunked by facts there are plenty of more that churn up. devin nunes was one of those who was concerned. some of the members have been all over fox news saying this is wore than watergate. it is, they haven't seen it either. why would the justice department not have seen the memo when it alleges misdeeds within the department of justice? you'd think they would be the ones who should see it. they've asked. perhaps they would do well to be as transparent as possible. at least with the organizations they're accusing of some very serious misdeeds. joining me is phillip mudd and carl bernstein.
9:08 pm
what do you make of this idea that they were taking this idea of a secret society seriously? >> pretty much what you said. but more important, this is a really dangerous moment in our history, when one of the two major political parties is committing itself to the suppression of the rule of law
9:09 pm
and legitimate information, particularly into the president of the united states. >> that's what they're trying to suppress. >> we cannot have the principle that the president of the united states can be investigated like every other citizen, as happened in watergate, and that precedent was established and confirmed by the supreme court. if we can't have that kind of unfettered investigation such as mueller is trying to do, we are as good as a banana republic. why mitch mcconnell and paul ryan can't get up and say to their members, look, let mueller's investigation go forward, quit this grand standing. let's find out what happened. if there are problems with the investigators, there's plenty of congressional oversight to look at that after the fact, but what we are doing now is also about the future of the republican party. because the republican party is now tethering itself to donald trump, his personality. his stability. the question of his fitness for office. they're throwing in all their
9:10 pm
cards on this. but it's going to be defined in the future by how it reacts to the question of the rule of law. that's what's at stake here. >> phil, when the president and his allies repeatedly raise questions without proof of malfeasance, what kind of message does that send to the fbi? >> if you look at the long-term impact on the bureau, if president bush had come out and said the cia is not effectively delivering the war against al qaeda people at cia would have said wow, the president just hammered us. if president obama said fbi, when i was there president obama was the president. the fbi is not effectively countering extremists, representatives of al qaeda in america you would have said wow, what are we doing wrong? when you hammer a thumb a thousand times the workforce says this is what president trump does. he didn't do it 100 times, every day he's out there going after the federal workforce. pay no attention. i will say, i hate to add some humor to "ac 360", but i was part of a secret society. i sat on what's called mahogany road. that's sit, ten, 12 offices down
9:11 pm
from the fbi director. that's executive suite of the fbi. the e-mail would say we have a staff meeting at 6:00. you know what a staff meeting was? that meant because we're on fbi computers, we're going out for drinks. i guess that would be a secret society because we used a cover term. people across america every go out for drinks and complain about the boss. it's mountain out of a molehill and a story about the same thing that's happened since the beginning of man. >> a person in the position that senator johnson is in would so quickly go on television waving flags about this text which he wasn't revealing, it has only been revealed because reporters did work. >> the playbook right now is to go out in front of the cameras with whatever the latest thing down in the reeds is that you might grasp to somehow undermine the investigation and smear it
9:12 pm
and go out there with it. he looks buffoonish in what we see. >> because it is the same thing that republicans were critical of some democratic lawmakers for jumping on television with every little piece that came out of any testimony saying look they're jumping at conclusions, let the investigation finish. >> that's right. but the question is, why are they so afraid and unwilling to allow the facts to be established by a duly constituted investigation supervised by a republican, ron rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, by a republican special counsel. all the cards are held by republicans here. to speak of. and the investigation needs to go forward in the interest of the national security of the united states. and these republicans are undermining the national security of the united states when they attack our institutions in this unjustified way. look, the fbi has a terrible history under j. edgar hoover. it's righted itself. it's become a respected institution as it should be. we depend on it. it's got some bad actors like any other institution. we've got plenty of time to deal with that if it happened here. we are in the midst of learning what our president, his family, his campaign, aides, his closest
9:13 pm
business associates might have done. we are right at the cusp of finding out. that's what we're watching here is their concern that we're at the cusp of finding out, and they don't want us to find out. >> charles grassley tonight releasing more texts between page and strzok. grassley says evidence of them pulling punches in the clinton investigation, one exchange reads page says she might be president, the last thing we need is us going in there loaded for bear. that's been one of the accusation that they were soft on clinton. >> did you see what fbi director james comey said about clinton after he closed the investigation? in my opinion completely inappropriate. he as a hard-liner in the clinton investigation, he reopened it if you recall right before the voting for clinton and trump, he came out and said before that that we got to reopen the clinton investigation, he's a softy on clinton? he takes a shot at her, her use of the e-mail server was completely inappropriate. if you are going to close a case, you don't comment and say that the person didn't commit a crime. my point is, if you are going to say that the fbi was soft on clinton, how do you square the circle to come out and say she says the fbi was the reason i
9:14 pm
my point is, if you are going to say that the fbi was soft on clinton, how do you square the circle to come out and say she
9:15 pm
says the fbi was the reason i lost against trump. this is like a cartoon show, i don't get it, anderson. ahead, new news on the president's immigration plan, including what one called a dramatic concession. details on that ahead. and the details from stormy daniels and we'll hear from her and a friend that said she was invited to quote with citizen donald trump and daniels. join t-mobile, and when you buy one of the latest samsung galaxy phones get a samsung galaxy s8 free. yahoooo! ahoooo!
9:16 pm
plus, unlimited family plans come with netflix included. spectacular! so, you can watch all your netflix favorites on your new samsung phones. whoa! join the un-carrier and get a samsung galaxy s8 free. all on america's best unlimited network. it's abor it isn't. ence in 30,000 precision parts. it's inspected by mercedes-benz factory-trained technicians. or it isn't. it's backed by an unlimited mileage warranty, or it isn't. for those who never settle, it's either mercedes-benz certified pre-owned, or it isn't. the mercedes-benz certified pre-owned sales event. now through february 28th. only at your authorized mercedes-benz dealer.
9:17 pm
gathered here are the world's finest insurance experts. rodney -- mastermind of discounts like safe driver, paperless. the list goes on. how about a discount for long lists? gold. mara, you save our customers hundreds for switching almost effortlessly. it's a gift. and jamie. -present. -together we are unstoppable. so, what are we gonna do? ♪ insurance. that's kind of what we do here. ♪ advil liqui-gels minis. our first concentrated pill that rushes powerful relief. a small size... that's fast, 'cause it's liquid.
9:18 pm
you'll ask... "what pain?" advil liqui-gels minis.
9:19 pm
breaking news tonight, there are a lot of details about president trump's new immigration proposal set for release on monday, but on capitol hill both democrats and republicans are getting pretty good advance look at what he has in mind. what do we know exactly is in the white house proposal? >> many lawmakers tonight are briefed by white house officials on the framework of this proposal. first and foremost, it outlines a pathway to citizenship for so-called d.r.e.a.m.ers, that would apply to about 1.8 million people, white house officials calling this tonight a dramatic concession on this part. it calls for $25 billion for border security, $20 billion for the wall and the rest would go for things like securing ports
9:20 pm
of entry, cuts to family reunification which some conservatives call chain migration, cutting family-based green cards except for spouses and minor children and ends the visa lottery. for weeks now, lawmakers have been calling on the white house to get specific on what the president would sign into law. clearly they are using this as a starting point and saying they want lawmakers to go back and digest this and come back with legislative text. >> i'm wondering about the reactions on both sides of the aisle. >> both sides finding something to dislike in this plan. many democrats first and foremost very happy with the potential for a pathway to citizenship, but to what extent, they're saying that they're giving away too much, that it's coming in exchange for all the other things i just talked about. weigh heard from senator dick durbin who has been one of the chief negotiators of this up on capitol hill. he says d.r.e.a.m.ers should not be held hostage by president
9:21 pm
trump's desire. he uses the word crusade, to tear families apart. and some colorful language tonight coming from lu ease gutierrez. he say it is would be far cheaper to erect a 50 foot concrete statue of the middle finger. because it would be equally infective and both would expect trump's deeply-held suspicion of latinos. some republicans not happy about parts of this plan, too, saying essentially, they think the president is giving away too much. many conservatives of course viewing a pathway to citizenship as being tantamount to amnesty. >> 24 hours ago in the new normal in the trump presidency, the president said he was more than happy to talk to the team from mueller's office. >> are you going to talk to mueller? >> i'm looking forward to it. there's been no collusion whatsoever, no obstruction whatsoever, and i'm looking forward to it. >> do you have a date set? >> i guess they're talking about two or three weeks, but i would love to do it. i have to say, subject to my lawyers and all that. >> tonight comes word from president trump's outside
9:22 pm
attorney in washington not so fast. gloria borger joins us with details. what's his attorney say? >> john dowd said that he is going to be the one to decide if the president is going to sit down for an interview with the special counsel. and moreover, he said i haven't made any decision yet. so there's a lot of cleanup going on here, anderson. the president did caveat his statement a little last night saying, you know, subject to his attorneys, and his attorney
9:23 pm
today said not so fast. >> gloria, there's more breaking news happening right now. i believe we have maggie haberman on the phone, do we have maggie? what's this breaking story that you're just breaking now? >> caller: sure, my colleague, mike schmid and i just reported that the president last june ordered the white house counsel to fire robert mueller, mcgann protested and threatened to quit if he was ordered to go through with this. the president ultimately backed down. this is the first time that we know of, anderson of the president actually engaging in this and doing what had been seen as an option he was keeping open, and he was very consciously keeping it open last july in an interview with the
9:24 pm
"times". he has said i'm not thinking of firing robert mueller. obviously, it would have created a massive earthquake had he done so. >> let's just repeat this. this is really huge. this is june of this past year, 2017. >> caller: yep, that is correct. >> and he went through and asked don mcgann, the white house counsel to do that. >> caller: he ordered the firing of him, and mcgann said if this happens i will quit. and that is how it ultimately went away. mcgann is not the first person to quit to impact the president's behavior. john kelly, a few times in his tenure as chief of staff. >> it's hard to remember back in june, because it's six months or so ago it feels like ages ago, what else was happening around that time that would have led the president in that moment to, to try to fire mueller? >> caller: it's a great question. it was a couple months after obviously, he had fired comey, and it was during a period of
9:25 pm
time where he was talking both about mueller and increasingly taking aim at jeff sessions. he was very frustrated. he was very angry that this was taking place. there were new reports about mueller's activity and what he was looking into. and that was a moment in time when mueller was, was under the president's watch when the president's former lawyer from new york, mark hasowitz was leading the defense team for the president. he had a much more adversarial approach than the current lawyers do. and i think that may have impacted it. >> was this, i think it was your reporting about, not only was he publicly going after sessions but sessions at one point had offered to resign, is that correct? >> caller: that is absolutely correct. >> was that around this time? >> it was, god, i'm sorry, i can't remember. i think that was -- >> that was earlier, i think. >> caller: earlier, i believe.
9:26 pm
that may have been may or june, but there was a period of time, and it was over several weeks where it happened where the president was berating sessions over the recusal from the russia probe and sessions at one point offered his resignation, you know, the president wouldn't accept it, but then sessions still handed in a letter, president said i wouldn't accept the resignation, but it took a while before he gave the letter back, and this played out over a long period of time. longer than this issue with mueller did. >> if you can stay with us, i want to bring back carl bernstein. it's stunning. >> it's a huge story, and i'm going to assume that maggie is as good a reporter as she always is. and if the fact is that the white house counsel threatened to resign over this, but what it shows once again is that the president at all costs does not want this investigation to go
9:27 pm
forward. that he is, in some way, terrified of where this is going. he does not want to allow the facts to emerge. he does not want the rule of law to prevail. and it's time, it would seem to me, as we were saying in the earlier segment, that republicans start demanding that their party say let us get to the end of this investigation. this story should be the turning point for the republicans to say we need a conclusion to this investigation without further interference, obstruction, undermining and demeaning by president trump and the white house. >> caitlyn, it's hard to overstate, had don mcgann not, you know, drawn a line here, what the ramifications of firing mueller would be. >> look at the relationship, not only has don mcgann been around during the campaign but for all the scrutiny surrounding the
9:28 pm
president, all the things that mueller is looking at, don mcgann has played a key role in all of that, advising the president, been a huge part of the special council's investigation, so had he turned around and fired the special counsel, the ramifications for that would have been, i just can't even overstate how crazy that would have been. >> we also have gloria borger and dana bash, but maggie, don mcgann, has he spoken to robert mueller? has he been interviewed by robert mueller? >> caller: i'm not sure whether he is among the people who has gone in or not. most people who are in the white house or have left the white house have already been in for at least one round. >> this would have been something, i wonder if this would have been something that robert mueller himself was aware of previously or at that time. >> caller: i don't know the answer to that, so i don't want to speculate, if mcgann has been in already and it didn't come
9:29 pm
up, i feel confident he will be called back in and it will get raised. >> i think don mcgann has already testified, and i agreed with maggie. if it wasn't raised he'll be asked about it. don mcgann is a witness here in a lot of ways. don't forget, sally yates went to don mcgann about general flynn. and that was 18 days before flynn was eventually fired. >> he was the point person. she was -- >> he was the point person. and we've been told throughout this year that don mcgann and the president have had a very uneasy relationship, and there were times that the president wanted to get rid of don mcgann. and so i think if the president listened to him, it's because it's clear that he was also, and maggie, this is your great story, that he, he was hearing also the cries from people outside, from congress and elsewhere, saying that this would effectively create a constitutional crisis and, and i think mcgann was probably of that, of that school and not surprisingly threatened to quit, according to this great story. >> dana bash, if memory serves
9:30 pm
me, and again, i don't want to conflate events, but there were plenty of people or have been plenty of people on capitol hill warning about the impact of firing or at least months ago warning about the impact of firing robert mueller. >> absolutely, in fact there has been bipartisan legislation proposed, republicans and democrats, with the explicit intention of saying, mr. president, you, you should not fire robert mueller. the one thing i want to add by way of context, anderson, in all these months and year plus of talking to people in and around the president, people who are still in the white house, people who are not in the white house anymore, in the campaign, one of the themes that i hear over and over is the desire by the president to fire xy or z person depending on the hour, depending on the minute, depending on the story he's watching on cable tv. obviously, the special counsel in charge of investigating russia collusion and now potentially obstruction of justice is a whole different
9:31 pm
league. but it is in keeping with kind of how he operates. that he gets frustrated. he gets angry. he gets annoyed, and he threatens to fire somebody, and it has been, i'm told, there have been several instances where his senior staff have, they've had this sort of stand in front of the train and say no, mr. president, you can't do that. that did not happen with james comey. it did happen, according to maggie's reporting with robert mueller. and i just think that that is very telling. but it is important -- >> yeah. >> piece of evidence. >> yeah. >> to talk about in terms of how this president operates. >> maggie, as more people join, i wish you could repeat the main parts of this story.
9:32 pm
this is a story that is just break, the "new york times" just breaking this. so maggie, just explain again the broad strokes on this. >> caller: sure, and forgive me, i'm losing my voice a little bit. michael schmid and i reported based on what people are familiar with what took place, that the president had ordered the firing of robert mueller back in june of 2017, don mcgann, the white house counsel threatened to resign if this went ahead and ultimately that made the president back off. this is the first time we are aware of it, of the president actually ordering such a thing as opposed to keeping the option open or musing about it. and it is significant, it's also worth noting that we asked the white house for comment on this, and what we got in response from ty cobb that out of respect for the process and special counsel's office that they wouldn't comment. >> i want to go to our senior legal analyst, jeffrey toobin on
9:33 pm
the phone. how big a deal is this? >> caller: it's a very big deal politically. it's yet another remarkable scoop by maggie and mike schmid. but i don't think it can be used as evidence against trump for obstruction of justice, because there was no ultimate obstruction of justice. he didn't actually fire, he didn't actually fire mueller. if i could just dab at the legal matter, the three purported justifications in maggie's story that trump supposedly cited as conflicts of interest on the part of mueller that he quit a golf club, a trump golf club, that his firm used to represent jared kushner and that he had been interviewed for the fbi job. those are preposterous arguments. that is not a legitimate grounds for any claim of conflict of interest. so, you know, i think don mcgann saved the president from at least a major, major political
9:34 pm
crisis and, firing robert mueller, i think he's the only thing in this whole situation that might motivate some republicans to abandon the president. you know, and i think don mcgann saved the president from that fate. >> maggie, i want to ask you a question. you may not know the answer to it. you said this was based on four people you talked to with information. a decision like this or a desire like this by the president just in terms of the inner workings of the white house, how widespread would that knowledge be? would the president's, you know, would the chief of staff know about it? or is this something that the president would just go to don mcgann with? and, again, you may not know the details. maggie, are you still there? >> caller: i'm sorry, i couldn't hear you. >> you may not know the answer to this, but how widespread
9:35 pm
would this information have been within the president's inner circle, in terms of how the white house works. is this something the president would have spitballed with the chief of staff or gone directly to don mcgann? >> caller: i don't want to speculate how broad the circle would have been, but it is a white house where certainly, until, you know, i would say april or may there was a very small group of people who were involved in almost every decision. that changed somewhat after there was a falling out between jared kushner and steve bannon. >> continue to follow that. carl, again, to the notion that the president of the united states, that this, who else is there left, would there be left for him to fire, if he wants to try to stop this investigation. at the time he had already fired comey. >> he is determined to make this investigation go away. he has made it clear to those around him, and in fact, i'll ask maggie this as well, i've
9:36 pm
been hearing in the last three weeks that he has become even more vociferous about the need for this investigation to go away and to the point people in the white house talking about it being an unstable place and at the level of instability is caused by his rants and rages, particularly about this damn spot that won't go out. that he seems consumed by where this investigation is going. it involves his daughter. his son-in-law. his son. himself. and he feels, apparently, that he's being closed in on. and it's affecting the whole temper of the white house and the question of whether the white house itself is a place of stability. >> it was interesting, caitlyn. yesterday in that 15-minute off-camera discussion the president had answering questions to reporters, he described all the actions which others might describe as attempts at obstruction, he described it as fighting back.
9:37 pm
>> exactly. that's how he saw it, not as tampering or obstruction of justice but fighting back. it's interesting to look at what the president has said privately about robert mueller according to maggie's reporting and publicly. because he said many times he was not going to fire him, he had no plans to fire him. his spokesman echoed that. and just last night he said he was looking forward to sitting down with him. so it's very interesting to say that publicly he's saying of course he's cooperating, but in private he's threatening to fire him. and something to know i believe that the reporting was in june, in the summer when he asked him to fire him, and we reported that don mcgann was interviewed by the special counsel around the end of november, early december, just to put that in perspective for everyone. >> we're going to take a quick break. the breaking news, last june, the president ordered the firing of robert mueller but backed down after the white house counsel threatened to quit. we'll be right back with more.
9:38 pm
t. aleve pm is the only one to combine a safe sleep aid plus the 12 hour pain relieving strength of aleve. i'm back. aleve pm for a better am. there'swhatever type ofhe end of eweekender you are,ton. don't let another weekend pass you by. get the lowest price when you book at my hygi...a mouthwash.o try... so i tried crest. it does so much more than give me fresh breath. crest pro-health mouthwash provides all... ...of these benefits to help you get better dental check-ups. go pro with crest mouthwash. checkup? nailed it do you like freshly steamed lobster? do you like the word and? then you'll love outback's steak and lobster. back by popular demand, only $15.99. so hurry in now. outback steakhouse. aussie rules.
9:39 pm
ethat's the height ofs somount everest. because each day she chooses to take the stairs. at work, at home... even on the escalator. that can be hard on her lower body, so now she does it with dr. scholl's orthotics. clinically proven to relieve and prevent foot, knee or lower back pain, by reducing the shock and stress that travel up her body with every step she takes. so keep on climbing, sarah. you're killing it. dr. scholl's. born to move.
9:40 pm
we know life can be hectic. that's why, at xfinity, we've been working hard to simplify your experiences with us. now, with instant text and email updates, you'll always be up to date. you can easily add premium channels, so you don't miss your favorite show. and with just a single word, find all the answers you're looking for - because getting what you need should be simple, fast, and easy. download the xfinity my account app or go online today.
9:41 pm
breaking news tonight, president trump reportedly wanted to fire robert mueller and actually ordered that to happen last june. this is new reporting just breaking in the last 30 or so minutes from maggie haberman and michael schmid. the reporting is that the president ordered the firing of special counsel robert mueller but backed down once the white house counsel threatened to quit. also joining the conversation is michael zelden. gloria, i understand you just got something from ty cobb?
9:42 pm
>> and ty cobb basically said to us what he said to maggie and the "times", that he's not commenting on this out of respect for the special counsel. one comment i'd want to make here is that ty cobb and the new lawyers, john dowd, et cetera, were not on board at the time that this occurred. this was the other team, this was marc kasowitz, et cetera, the president's new york lawyers, and they are in the donald trump school of being belligerent. and i think this was trump being trump. and when dowd came on and jay sekulow came on and ty cobb came on they implored the president and said back off the attacking of muller. we are going to cooperate with muller. you have nothing to hide.
9:43 pm
we are going to, you know, basically show that we are going to be completely transparent and cooperate and you saw the president kind of back down a little. he hasn't been tweeting about mueller since, since last july. and so it's been a real change of strategy, and they've managed, you know, they've managed to calm the president down to a degree. and back last june, as maggie's story shows, the president was really in a swivet about mueller. >> in your piece in "times", which is on right now, you go through the three things that the president used to justify firing mueller, believing that he couldn't be, that he wouldn't be fair or impartial. one of them included old golf fees at one of his resorts? >> caller: right, which i, for those of us who have covered the president for a very long time, which a number of people on this panel have, or interviewed him many times, i don't think that comes as any surprise that that's something that he would have been talking about. other issues that they talked about is that he had been, mueller had been at the law firm for one of the lawyers for jared kushner in his pre-special counsel days, and the last one was that mueller had been a candidate interviewing to come back as an interim fbi director
9:44 pm
to replace comey. the last two were discussed on background by advisers to the president who were in the white house at the time. and this was, this was, this was something that they were clearly hearing from him, and they were expressing, as to why mueller was problematic. but it was clearly not in the context of oh, well, you know, the president also wanted him to be fired. >> and just, the golf fees, which is the one that was not discussed back then, it was that mueller had, there was a dispute over golf fees at some trump resort and mueller had canceled his membership or his firm? >> caller: something, i'm not exactly clear what ended up happening as far as the golf fees, to me, it didn't matter that much, it was just very much the type of thing i could see occurring. >> michael zelden, we haven't heard from you, how big of an impact would this have had had the president been able to
9:45 pm
follow his instincts and do what he wanted which according to the "new york times" and maggie was fire mueller? >> from a political standpoint, i think it would have been his own saturday night massacre, and carl can tell us how that worked out for the last firing of special counsel. from a legal standpoint, i think it would have added a great deal of emphasis on the effort to charge the president with obstruction of justice and/or file an article of impeachment, you know, a recommendation. article of impeachment with the house, because this would be obstructionist behavior. he has no legal basis to fire mueller. there are specific regulations that govern mueller's conduct. the good cause that maggie reports on would not have cut it and rosenstein would have quit. had the president not been sort of well-served by mcgann, he would be facing either respective indictment for
9:46 pm
obstruction of justice. a sitting president can be indicted or a referral for article of impeachment. i think this would have been a camel-breaking straw for even those republicans who are pretty much lined up in his favor at the moment. >> i just want to play, now that we have this new report from the "new york times," the president's friend, chris ruddy, the ceo of news max talking last june to pbs, the same month the "new york times" now reporting the president ordered mueller to be fired. let's play this. >> suggested, i think i heard you suggesting that there's a question about the purpose of his investigation. i want to ask you about that, because there are some republicans out there saying that robert mueller shouldn't be doing this job. is president trump prepared to let the special counsel pursue
9:47 pm
his investigation? >> well, i think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. i think he's weighing that option. i think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. i think it would be a very significant mistake, even though i don't -- >> interesting now to hear. maggie, it's interesting to hear chris ruddy who clearly talks with the president with some regularity saying that. >> caller: it's striking and i was thinking about this. there is less of a concern that i have heard and colleagues earlier, less of a concern that i have heard about the idea that the president will fire mueller, although obviously, i think that lives on as a concern even if it's an unspoken one, that
9:48 pm
there's been an effort by ty cobb to sort of simmer down the attention on mueller with the president and be less aggressive and say we have nothing to hide, be transparent, but part of that telling the president that this is going to be over very soon, but he really doesn't know, they don't have a lot of great options dealing with the president. what i do hear concern about among his advisers in the white house, and they are pretty blunt about this. they're very worried about when he goes before mueller, he didn't seem to understand this yesterday when i asked him about being under oath, if you lie to the fbi, these are felonies. people are concerned about what he will say in that interview. >> it's also interesting, to that point, in a 15-minute conversation in which you were in with reporters yesterday, which was not on camera, the president's attorneys immediately had to walk back some of the things he had said in that free-wheeling discussion. so the concern that supporters of the president might have about what he would say in front of robert mueller, it's pretty understandable why they would be
9:49 pm
concerned if in a 15-minute chat, the president's lawyers have to come out and walk back, it's going to be up to us, not going to be what the president just said. >> caller: sure, one of the things we have soon with this president over three years now, the number of times i will say something and his aides will say, that's just how he talks, that's just how he talks, that's just how he talks. and a special counsel is not going to care if that's just how he talks. that's not going to cut it in an investigation, so i think to your point, yes, you have the president, he is prone to saying things that then have to be cleaned up about any number of issues. and yesterday was a, a very specific and potentially flawed example. >> dana bash, michael zelden was
9:50 pm
talking about, this could be the president's saturday night massacre, referring to president nixon and there would have been perhaps even a move for there's no question about it. the comey firing was almost the last straw. this would have been the last straw. even for republicans who have been biting their tongues much to the shi grin of the president obama poents. absolutely. i think that the context that glor ya mentioned is so important. the fact it was right around this time that marc kasowitz the president's lawyer who was dealing with this, from his business days. helped find ty cobb and john doud and the people running this
9:51 pm
now. and the fact of the matter is this is why those two individuals and don mcgahn as well for the past six, seven months. their number one goal in addition to defending the president with regard to mueller is managing the president. it is why they have are petedly said no president it will be over at thanksgiving, christmas by the end of the year. and they want to keep him calm. and that is exhibit a. of why that happened. >> i want to hear more from the panel. we have to take a kwi quick break. much more ahead. the president ordered mueller to be fired last june. backed down after federal counsel threatened to quit.
9:52 pm
hey ron! they're finally taking down that schwab billboard. oh, not so fast, carl. ♪ oh no. schwab, again? index investing for that low? that's three times less than fidelity... ...and four times less than vanguard. what's next, no minimums? minimums. schwab has lowered the cost of investing again. introducing the lowest cost index funds in the industry with no minimums. i bet they're calling about the schwab news. schwab. a modern approach to wealth management.
9:53 pm
...that is, until you taste our new menu. discover more ways to enjoy seafood with new tasting plates small plates, with big flavor- like yucatan shrimp in chili-lime butter and caramelized pineapple. and if you like hot, buttery maine lobster, check out this petite red lobster roll. for new entrees, explore globally-inspired dishes like spicy dragon shrimp. and now, when you order any two new or classic entrees, you get a free tasting plate. so get your coupon at and join us today!
9:54 pm
9:55 pm
so get your coupon at we can now simulate the exact anatomyh care, of a patient's brain before surgery. if we can do that, imagine what we can do for seizures. and if we can fix damaged heart valves without open heart surgery, imagine what we can do for an irregular heartbeat, even high blood pressure. if we can use analyze each patient's breast cancer to personalize their treatment, imagine what we can do for the conditions that affect us all. imagine what we can do for you. breaking news tonight from the "new york times." president trump ordered robert mueller to be fired. don mcgahn threatened to quit if he did. so he backed down. citing four people with knowledge of the matter. let's listen to what sarah
9:56 pm
sanders said two days ago when asked about mueller. >> we'll be fully cooperative. and continue to do that throughout the process. but we're not going to comment on who may or may not or who could be interviewed. >> is it a witch hunt as the president said and other members of the administration has said? why doesn't the president just get rid of bob mull r. fire him. it's wasting taxpayers money. why doesn't he end the investigation because it's wasting taxpayers money? >> we want to see this come to a complete and full conclusion. we know what everybody in the room would do in the president did that. it's not helpful to the process. >> back now with karl bernstein. it is i'm looking over the president's tweets from june. at this time. according to to the "new york
9:57 pm
times" he wanted to fire and tried to fire robert mueller. it's a lot of tweets. june 15. phony collusion of the russia story. witch hunt. june 16th saying there's no collusion. nobody has been able to show any proof, sad. again june 16th phony witch hunt. and june 16th i'm being investigating for firing the fbi director by the man who told me to fire the fbi director. witch hunt. >> it goes dormant and won't say anything. lately he's willing to cooperate and i'm not considering firing him. back then when he was asking him to fire him what happened. something else is that the "new york times" is reporting that the president asked don mcgahn to fire bob mueller and he declined. what the "new york times" reported in the past the president asked mcgahn to lobby jeff sessions to not recuse himself from the russia investigation. and as we're well aware the efforts failed.
9:58 pm
jeff sessions did recuse himself. the president fired the fbi director. mueller was appointed. we see why the president has been so frustrated with the investigation and his attorney general. who he pressured publicly to step down. and wouldn't have picked him -- >> the central role don mcgahn layed through the this sfwl restraining the president of the united states. what an extraordinary discussion we're having here. talking about the seen your leadership of a presidency. which is spending its type trying to restrain the basic instincts of the president of the united states day after day. trying to restrain involve breaking the law. that's what this investigation, that's what the last year has been about. she talked earlier about trump being trump. in this instance. part of what the whole mueller investigation is about is trump being trump. the way he conducts his
9:59 pm
business. the way that he conducted his campaign. the way he has responded to these investigations. we have never had anything quite like this. where the white house staff, those who are in daily kalkt with the president of the united states see the primary function as trying to keep the president of the united states from doing terrible things. >> we made the point earlier. the impact on capitol hill had this happened would have been quick and severe. >> right. the president is hearing don mcgahn would quit. this was a public public of conversation at the time. in our crack research team here came up with a bunch of statements. the president made last summer of 2017. august 10 the president was asked in when he was in bed minister. would you consider firing bob mueller. in august he said i quote i haven't given it any thought.
10:00 pm
i have been reading about it from you people. you say i'm going to dismiss him. i'm not dismissing anybody. i have haven't given it any thought. we learn from maggie indeed he had. >> i want to thank the panelists. that's it for us. obviously this is a major story tonight. time to hand it over to chris cuomo. for "prime time." >> i appreciate it. we're going to be able to get beyond this headline. the president trying to fire the special counsel. is no long r a hypothetical. the "new york times" is reporting it almost happened. last summer. we now though more about the concerted effort that the president had under taken to under mine the special counsel. what it means for a potential prosecution against him. and for what may happen going forward. let's get