tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN February 28, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PST
>> that's it for "the lead." happening now, hope-less. hope hicks is stepping down one day after being grilled. acknowledging she's sometimes told white lies while serving the president. reversal on guns. president trump meets with a bipartisan group, telling them not to be intimidated by the nra. >> fighting back. president trump shames his attorney general calling his handling of the investigation
disgraceful. but this time, jeff sessions is biting back saying he'll act with integrity and honor and his department will be fair and impartial. and examining trump's past. a paul manafort please not guilty and gets a trial date, robert mueller is digging deep entire the president's own past, including his business dealings in russia before launching his campaign. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com >> breaking news, white house communications director hope hicks is resigning. the announcement coming a day after she refuses to anxious some questions in the russia probe while conceding she at some times told white lies in her job. as the special counsel closes in on the inner circle, cnn learns robert mueller is looking at the
president's business dealings in russia before his 2016 campaign. and a source says son-in-law jared kushner feels everyone is out to get him after being stripped of his top secret security clearance. he is calling the performance disgraceful. jeff sessions is pushing back saying he'll do his job according to the law and the constitution. and our correspondents and specialists, they are all standing by with full coverage. first, is hope hicks' departure a major surprise? >> this is a huge surprise and one of the biggest departures for this administration. a close confidante and aide of president trump even before he was president of the united
states, announcing she is stepping down and putting up multiple statements. we can put it up on the screen and explain more. she is as smart and thoughtful as they come. she is a truly great person. and statement goes on, i will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, i totally understood. i'll sure we'll work together in the future. that may mean she will have a role in his upcoming 2020 campaign. i just spoke with a white house official in the last several minutes who caution that had there is nothing nefarious about hope hicks leaving the white house. this official went on to say, it is been rob port he.
the relationship she had with the staff secretary here at the white house who stepped down amid allegations of domestic abuse, this official went on to say it was not about yesterday's hearing on capitol hill. telling lawmakers that she had to, from time to time, tell little white lies. this white house official said it was not about that as well. in terms of a replacement, they said they're not there yet. another person has been filling the role from time to time. she's been dealing with so many issues, dealing with the rob porter scandal, talking with the special counsel's office. and hope hicks is not leaving in the near future. not by the end of the week.
she'll be here for a period of weeks and during that period, they'll be working a replacement for hope hicks. it goes without saying that hope hicks is perhaps the closest white house aide who is not part of the president's family. she is often at the president's side talking about various issues. not just issues of the day here but his dealings with the news media. he counts her as a very close and trusted confidante. i don't think you can overstate how big of a departure this is. this is like losing a member of the family for the president. >> yes, it's huge. i want to get more. >> it has certainly stunned a
lot of people. she only told a small group of people that she would depart. she had known she was considering it. she first started seriously considering it after the fallout from that rob porter scandal. that was one of the times we saw trump get frustrated with her. that she let her relationship with rob porter cloud her judgment. certainly the first time we saw them but not the only reason that hope hicks is now departing. she's been in the spotlight a lot more recently. her own role has been in the spotlight. what is significant about this is not about hope but what it means for president trump. she is one of the very few people the 11 in his inner circle that was here in the west wing. other staffers know that though
she was the communications director, she wore a lot of hats and didn't often leave the white house to go to lunch or meet people. the president would yell to her from the oval office. hope, get in here. he would go back and forth where about how significant his campaign was. certainly a very big person. hope shiks leaving, his two children, ivanka trump and his son-in-law, jared kushner, their status in the west swing highly questionable and people don't believe they'll be there long term. scan is the only person in the inner circle that has been around for several years that is left in the west wing hope hicks' departure. >> she was also involved in that statement in new york the president's son and others, paul manafort, had with russians.
>> there were so many questions. hope hicks knows so much. she's been there with the president. she has helped him draft zpamts she's certainly played a big role. it is very significant that she is leaving but also significant that she did not answer the questions surrounding the drafting of that statement which initially said the meeting was about adoption. not about getting dirt on hillary clinton. she's been there from day one. >> the timing of this announcement is amazing. coming the day after she spent nine hours behind closed doors, answering questions. refusing to answer some questions about her time in the white house before members of the house intelligence committee. it is awkward. >> i can't overstate how surprising this is.
so the white house was ready to go. this is certainly stunning to a lot of people in the west wing. >> and that she told some white lies. we don't know what those white lies are but all the serious journal. is are looking to find out what those white lies were. the president focusing on gun control. i want to bring back our chief white house to bring us up to date. what's the latest? >> we thought this would be it. lawmakers if both parties inside the white house. at one point, he said, you're afraid of the nra. but the lawmakers were dishing
back saying unless he stands up to the nra, nothing will get done. >> he pro foesed his lawmakers to both parties. >> i see some folks who don't say nice things about me. that's okay. if you turn this into energy, i'll love you. i don't care. >> he said action is coming. first on bump stocks. >> i'll going to write it out and we'll have it done pretty quickly. >> he then reaffirmed his position after purchasing firearms. >> i think it is something you have to think about. i'll give it a lot of consideration. >> dianne feinstein showed how the assault weapons ban cut down on deaths.
>> also the influence of the national rifle association. the powerful gun lobby closely tied to the president. >> i'm the biggest fan of the second amendment. i had lunch with the nra, with wayne and chris and david on sunday. and said, it's time. we have to stop this nonsense. >> the reason nothing has gotten done is because of the veto power. >> you're afraid of the nra. >> the president made the stunning comment that people with mental health issues should have their firearms confiscated. >> a lot of times, by the time you go to court torsion get due process procedures.
i like taking guns early. take guns first. go through due process second? have the president staged it as they are trying on get a handle on why so many top aides lack top secret security clearance. cnn has learned that white house staffers were bumped down as well as jared kushner. despite the promises of the froze properly handle classified material. >> this was not just extreme carelessness with classified material, which is still totally disqualifying. this is calculated, deliberate, premeditated misconduct. if elected, hillary clinton would become first president of the united states who wouldn't be able to pass a background check. >> another headaches for the president appears to be attorney general jeff sessions.
the president tweeted, why is a.g. sessions asking to investigate? why not use justice department lawyers? disgraceful. >> we believe the department of justice must adhere to the high standard in the face onna court. yes. it will be investigated. i think that's the appropriate thing. the inspector general will take as one of the matters he'll deal with. >> today he fired back. as long as i'm the attorney general, i will continue to discharge my duties in a fair and impartial manner. >> we should also point out the president at times in that meeting steamed show he didn't have much of a command over the gun issue. at one point, he didn't know
what the manchin-toomey bill entailed, and most people this washington know it is about expanding background checks. at one point he went on to say that barack obama did not do enough to advance that legislation. that's not the case. president obama, as we know, after the sandy hook massacre, advocated strongly for the passage of that bill. it did not garner enough votes in the senate including some red states. and adding to the discussion, the president seemed to say that had there been an armed person, that would have resulted in perhaps few lives being lost. you can go back and look at the details. they're on the scene and certainly could have been somebody who made a difference.
he tried exchange gunfire with that gunman at that time. but it was not enough. the president seemed to be a little bit off in terms of of his information that. we should point out, it was in january, early january when the president had a discussion with lawmakers if both parties about the issue of daca for those who came in as children. the president said that he could take heat. that he wanted to have lawmakers give him a bill. no legislation was passed and the president has blamed the democrats for failing to take action. more breaking news we're following. president trump's former chain chairman paul manafort pleaded not guilty today to the latest charges special counsel.
including money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements. he faces a trial date in september. let's go to jim shoot dloflt they may that looking into it. >> we were told by a number of sources close to it that he is asking about business activities in 20 zpleen 2014 before he formally noumsed for president. and they are asking about 2013. the pageant as well as banning, moscow extending lines of inquiry to prior to the campaign actually started. keep in mind the special
counsel counsel's, but ties between trump associates. anything that may come up during course of the investigation and that's where he's going now. wunlt of key questions is, due to the numbers, it was the same time when the -- whether russia was retaliating to exert any influence. >> there are some questions that have touched on the possibility of what is described as compromising information that the russians may have, or claimed to have, about president trump. >> that's right. i was told with the information russia claims to have, it doesn't mean it is corroborated or confirmed but questions being
asked there. i should mention, of course, the first we ahead about a, it was known as the steel dossier of memos put together by a former british intelligence agent. and we should mention the money behind that dossier was basically opposition research. and it was at the time paid for by the democratic national committee. and others supporting the candidacy of hillary clinton. >> thanks very much. congressman, thank you for coming in. >> let me get back to the breaking news, hope hicks resigning. do you believe this was related to the overall investigation? >> absolutely. another day, another scandal, another resignation. what else is new? what we've seen from the very zbing nothing but chaos, crisis
and confusion. and of course her resignation is related to, just yesterday, she was before the intelligence committee and acknowledged telling lies on behalf of the trump administration. >> she called them white lies. >> but they're still lies. to the american people. that is disqualifying. >> you think that in and of itself? >> i think she was one of donald trump's closest associates throughout the campaign and into the administration. the evidence continues to mount. that there was an apparent conspiracy between some members of the trump campaign and russian spies to sell out our democracy and then engage in a possible cover-up. and hope hicks appears to be connected to all of those particular elements. that ultimately may be why she is out of 1600 pennsylvania avenue. >> apparently she's been thinking about it for a while
but it follows nine hours of testifying. let's get to some other issues. is digging into president trump's business dealings prior to running for president fair game for robert mueller? >> you have the money laundering to the campaign.ken place prior- you have the possible criminal conspiracy that took place during the campaign. then the obstruction of justice. you have to understand motive and intent. a possible motor sgrif intent was a pre-existing relationship with people closely associated with russia. possibly engaged in money laundering, which would be a criminal violation. if that in fact did occur, that may provide a link to the actual collusion that consequently took place during the campaign. >> he's said in that interview
in the "new york times," that any investigation by mueller of his personal financial business dealings, long before he became a candidate. that would cross a red line. i want to get to some other issues. you're on the judiciary committee. this is the follow presidential statement. why is the attorney general jeff sessions asking the inspector general to investigate potentially massive fisa abuse? will take forever. has to prosecutorial power and already late with reports on comey, et cetera. isn't the i.g. an obama guy? why not use justice department lawyers? disgraceful. what do you make of this public humiliation of his attorney general? >> well, first of all, president trump clearly doesn't understand the role of the attorney general. he is the people's attorney, not
the president's personal attorney. so this is all part of the dysfunction we've seen in the trump white house. sessions is fighting with trump. trump is fighting with bannon. bannon is fighting with kushner. kushner is fighting with kelly. he's fighting with scaramucci. do you know who is losing? the american people. >> he's fighting back. he says inan appropriate process and the inspector general, he could come up with conclusions and recommend prosecution if he feels that's appropriate. that's the normal way things are done. >> at the end of the day, here's what is really disgraceful. donald trump continues to release his attaches to the american people. he fired the head of the fbi. he refuses to do anything about
the continuing russian attacks on our democracy in advance of the mid-term elections. that's disgraceful. when donald trump tweets things like did he this morning, it is all designed to be a distraction. >> but can he really do his job, the president was angry at him when he recused himself as far as the russia probe is concerned. >> it would be difficult. but i think senator grassley, the chairperson, has previously gone on record to say that if sessions is forced out, a lot of things we have to do and he has no intention of holding a hearing to confirm a new attorney general. so donald trump may be trapped. >> i want to put up on the screen some of the criticisms trump has lashed. idiot, beleaguered, very weak, very disappointed with him, he
did a terrible thing, and now disgracef disgraceful, all caps with an exclamation point. yet sessions continues on the job. some are suggesting that the president has done that. he wants him out so he can name someone else who would be more supportive. >> this may be part of a continuing pattern to obstruct justice and to shape. what i find problematic is that donald trump is attack his own attorney general, one of his best friends, closest allies, on the campaign trail, his earliest endorser from the united states senate. he's attacked our allies in this country. attacked great britain. attacked canada, france, germany, australia, he can't say a single negative word about vladimir putin of the that fundamentally is the problem. and it is back and forthwith
jeff sessions illustrates the double standards. >> thank you for coming in. we appreciate it. there's breaking news we're following. the white house communications director hope hicks is stepping down after testifying. and president trump stuns lawmakers by seeming to embrace some strict gun control measures. >> it will have to be you. right now the gun lobby would stop it in its tracks. >> i like that. it is time that a president stepped up. ♪ if you have moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, little things can be a big deal. that's why there's otezla. otezla is not an injection or a cream. it's a pill that treats psoriasis differently.
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we're following breaking news that hope hicks will be resigning in the coming weeks. let's bring in our political and legal experts. you've been reporting on this. it is a stunning announcement that took a lot of us by surprise. it took a lot of people in the white house by surprise too. hicks had contemplated leaving before and she really considered it after the rob porter scandal. she was very involved in with the crafting. the white house standing by him. but we are told that hope hicks did not tell president trump of her final decision to leave the white house until today. they met this morning, i'll
told, by sources inside the white house after president trump returned from capitol hill for the late reverend billy graham is that's when she told the president she was leaving the white house. it comes after she acknowledged in the course of her work, she told little white lies. so the timing of this is very, very suspicious. >> it raised the eyebrows of a lot of people. to hear home hicks admit it, particularly under this investigation about russia, was very stunning. she said she never lied about anything substantive. she's supposed to be the person all of cuss trust to hear from
the white house what their stance is and that cast a lot of doubt on the messages she's bringing to the public and the journal the i haves. just think if nicole wallace had come out and said from time to time i tell a white lie. it speaks to the characterization that she may have been over her head from day one. this was someone very loyal to the president. she had also been involved in almost all the controversial dealings. you just think back to steve bannon as this russia investigation was growing, reportedly saying, listen. you don't understand how spheev this is. she's 29 years old no, political experience prior to this. this may have been the time when she said enough is enough. i'm cutting the cord. >> she was involved in drafting
the statement about the trump tower meeting that some, paul manafort among others, had with russians in june of 2016. >> i think that's the key point. the whole thing will come down to that. did he have corrupt intent? if she can speak to his mindset, that's where she could shed some light. >> that would not be seen from mueller's perspective as little white lie. >> and she was questioned at great length long before yesterday. >> and we have to remember "the new york times" talked about the drafting of that statement. marshall, who used to be the spokesman for the legal team,
said during calls about what to say in that statement, hope, he says, he claims and alleges, that hope hicks said that the e-mails would quote, never get out. hicks has denied that she said that. i'm sure they'll want to talk to her about that. we have to look at what pressure she's come under. she's really been in the spotlight. also her personal life. she was romantically involved with that staff secretary. she actually stood by after the very detailed accounts came out. she was in large part, the reason the chief of staff john kelly stood by him as well. it was a very sore subject. a subject of controversy that he issued that statement, standing by him more than 12 hours after the statement came out.
home hicks drafted that state. that caused a lot of tension. not just her come eegss but the president himself. a lot of that contributing. >> one of the criticisms was because she was involved, she should have recused herself of the. >> the ten 1 rule of the white house. her relationship not just with the staff secretary but also her role in the center of that meeting on air force one. what did hope hicks know and when did she know it? it is led by a president who doesn't want anything to cast a bad light on him and a reminder, we don't know what she told bob mueller. we know aside from the white lie, we don't know what she said. >> we've got a graphic of high profile departures. you can see all those individuals, for one reason or
another, i think it is highly unusual. >> everything is unusual. >> it will be interesting to see, after she has left. even his closest past aides, he turns against them as well. it will be curious to see if she says anything. >> you've covered this justice department. the hit against jeff sessions, the tweet, why is jeff sessions asking the attorney general asking to investigate potentially massive fisa abuse. at the end, he says disgraceful. all caps. he keeps slamming his own
attorney general. >> he's called him every name under the sun. i think it was different because he went after the inspector general. i spoke to a source familiar with sessions and i think he was so in the weeds, the president was on there one. that i bringing up that others were supposed to investigate this. almost dictating this. i think enough was enough. >> everybody, stick around. more breaking news we're following. cnn is learning the trump administration is weighing military action with north korea if they develop a nuclear missile capable of receiving the u.s.
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probe. that comes after trump calls sessions disgraceful. only to have sessions push back today. why does the department of justice, why is it so important to keep the process independent? >> well, the role of the ig is sacrosanct. an independent party that can look over your shoulder and ensure those enforcing the law are following the law. they know as they're doing their job that you will have this independent party. if we start interfering with the process and inject politics, i think we do a disservice. for many years, it has done its
job and ensuring that. >> the attorney general is pushing back. he released a statement saying it is the appropriate process and the department of justice will continue to do its work a fair and impartial manner, according to the law and the constitution. so is he calling it unlawful? >> i think a lot of it was platitudes. it is when the statement provided. you have an attorney general who remains quiet when it was political attacks but yet chooses to speak out whenever he himself back's victim of those attacks. >> let's turn quickly to the controversy surrounding jared kushner.
can kushner do his job effectively without the top secret security clearance? >> i don't think. so it does a disservice to the men and women in the intelligence community. if your job is to brief the president and his staff, you're going to be wondering, what can i say? do i have to parse words? do i have to hold back in the presence of this person whose security clearance isn't at the level of others in the room? one of the things question talked about, i want to focus on the naivety aspect. that you would have someone who lack that's experience. i was in college, i went to work as a state legislate you are and got promoted to legislative director. i was in over my head. noticed idea what i was doing. fortunately they came in and solved the problem.
they all wanted to meet with me. it was a revolving door. was that because i was a brilliant scholar? no. it was because i was naive and malleable. if you're a foreign government and wanting to shape foreign policy, you don't want a richard hold brooke, you want a jared kushner. >> thanks for joining us. up next, the startling revelation. last years' ad campaign was a success for choicehotels.com badda book. badda boom. this year, we're taking it up a notch. so in this commercial we see two travelers at a comfort inn with a glow around them, so people watching will be like, "wow, maybe i'll glow too if i book direct at choicehotels.com". who glows? just say, badda book. badda boom. nobody glows. he gets it. always the lowest price,
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tonight we're looking into an intriguing new mystery involving kim jong-un. we'll go to brian todd. the north korean leader once had, what, a brazilian passport? >> reporter: he did, wolf. and the likely reasons why he had the fake passport only add to the intrigue. there are times we say hollywood screenwriters couldn't think of some of the plots and plans the north koreans have come up with. this is one of those times. the name is puagg, joseph puagg. the name kim jong-un went by on this fake passport when he was in his early teens according to a report by reuters which has seen and published photocopies of what it says are passports fraudulently obtained in 1996. >> we know that kim jong-un has had fake passports in the past. he traveled to japan, we believe, in the early 1990s on a fake brazilian passport.
so it's not unheard of. >> reporter: reuters citing western european security sources reports kim's father, king jong il, also got a fake brazil -- kim jong-il, also got a fake brazilian passport. it would have been about two years after kim jong-il became supreme leader. why would a hard-line communist dictator and his teenage son need fake passports? >> the fake passports were meant for an underground escape. they're meant to enable the kims to escape danger in case the regime is on the brink of collapse, they're meant to enable the kims to escape accountability and responsibility for the egregious human rights violations and crimes against humidianity this regime has committed. >> reporter: kim's family has a colorful history with fake passports. his older half-brother was caught in 2001 entering japan
under a fake dominican passportment he was trying to visit tokyo disneyland. analysts say the episode was a huge embarrassment to his father. >> he was absolutely furious. he banished his son. >> reporter: kim jong-nam was murdered last year at the airport when two women attacked him with vx encourage agent. a hit which malaysian authorities say kim jong-un ordered, but which kim denies. experts say kim jong-un himself not only visited tokyo disneyland in the early '90s under a fake passport, but he also lived under a fake name and passport while studying at a private school in switzerland, pretending to be the son of a north korean embassy employee. >> primarily for security reasons. they did not want him to be a known person in switzerland, where allied intelligence agencies could potentially get at him or at least identify him and start building a file on him. >> reporter: outstanding
questions remain for brazilian officials -- just how did the north koreans reportedly obtain these fake passports? possibly through bribery? and were these passports ever used? a brazilian official tells us his country's ministry of foreign affairs is investigating every aspect of these reported passports. wolf? >> you know, brian, could kim jong-un and his sister have fake passports now? >> analysts say they very well could and could use them if the regime collapses and they need to get out of there in a hurry. even though kim jong-un and his sister are so widely recognizable, experts say kim has a lot of body doubles, and the north koreans are very good at disguise and deception. they could get kim jong-un out and use a fake passport to do so if they had to in an emergency. >> pretty amazing stuff indeed. brian todd, good report. thank you very much. coming up, the breaking news. the white house communications director, hope hicks, stepping down one day after being grilled by lawmakers in the russia probe. stonewalling when question good her time in -- questioned about her time in the white house.
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happening now, breaking news, losing hope. a bombshell exit from the white house. hope hicks is stepping down as one of the president's closest and longest serving advisers. is there any connection to her admission that she's told white lies on mr. trump's behalf? stunning shift. the president accuses a fellow republican of being afraid of the nra as he meets with lawmakers on gun violence and seems to side with democrats on some key issues. will he follow through or revert to the gop script? battle sessions. the attorney general of the united states refuses to stay silent as the president escalates his public smear of his own cabinet member. tonight, jeff sessions is defending his launch of an independent investigation that mr. trump calls disgraceful. and expanding russia probe. cnn has learned that the special counsel is looking into the president's business dealings in russia before the 2016 campaign. is he looking for links between the kremlin