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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  April 11, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT

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and twitter at jake tapper. tweet the show at the lead at cnn. and woif is right next door in "the situation room." thanks for watching. happening now, breaking news, "access hollywood" records, we have new reporting tonight that the feds who raided the president's lawyer were looking for information about the notorious and lewd tape. what might prosecutors be hoping to prove. stand by for new details. bad blood. the president opens a new front in the war with robert mueller blaming the russia investigation for souring relations with moscow and the president is looking to fire the special counsel. get ready russia, the commander-in-chief taunts the kremlin, warning that u.s. missiles will rain down on syria soon. how does his jaw-dropping tweet settle with his vow never to
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reveal battle plans in advance. and house speaker paul ryan reveals this is his last year in congress even as republicans head into a potentially bruising midterm election. how will ryan's departure impact the party of trump? i'm wolf blitzer and you're in "the situation room." >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. >> breaking tonight, the infamous "access hollywood" video tape is coming back to haunt president trump in a surprising new way that could put him and his attorney in legal jeopardy. sources tell cnn that fbi agents who raided the president's personal lawyer michael cohen were looking for communications between him and mr. trump related to the "access hollywood" video that rocked the trump campaign only a month before the presidential election. i'll get reaction to the breaking news from congressman adam schiff, the top democrat in the house intelligence committee. and our correspondents and
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analysts are all standing by. first, let's go to cnn chief political analysis gloria borger and crime and justice reporter shemma and you have new reporting on the fbi raid. why is it significant that agents were looking at information on the "access hollywood" tape. >> wolf, the warrant specific reference to donald trump is the first known direct mention of the president in a search warrant and it appeared in connection with the now infamous "access hollywood" tape. our sources said that the search warrant -- and it also saw communications between then candidate trump and his associates regarding efforts to prevent disclosure of the tape according to our sources. and i have to tell you, wolf, that the warrant is really the first indication that investigators suspect there was any effort to accept press this tape before it came out. and we don't know if there was one, we don't know if michael
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cohen was involved in any way or if then candidate donald trump was in any way involved. but it is clear from our reporting that that is what they are looking at. >> and you've been doing reporting on this as well. why would investigators be looking at these communications? >> well based on our conversations, i think it is fair to say based on the people we've talked to, everybody is puzzled. the fact that the fbi or the department of justice would be seeking this kind of information, i think it has puzzled everyone. a couple of things that could be going on here is that the warrant specifically -- there is some information that we've been told relates to this notion that perhaps someone was trying to suppress something that was going on here, but what that accept appreciation may have involved or who that may have involved we don't know. but think about this. this is an extraordinary move by the u.s. attorneys in new york, by the fbi, to mention the president who is then a candidate -- a political
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candidate in this search warrant to then go ahead and ask his lawyer to go and raid his lawyer to get this information. these are communications that everyone close to the president and michael cohen are saying these are privileged communications but something has happened here where perhaps bob mueller during -- his investigation uncovered something here and to put this in the warrant, they would need strong evidence to get approval to do something like that. >> you are absolutely right. >> the -- the warrant talks about wire fraud and bank fraud and investigators want records of any communication concerning what they consider to be negative information about the candidate that may have been -- the people may have tried to hide. so it seems to me that they believe that somebody was trying to hide something. we don't know -- we don't know what that is. we do know of course as we've reported earlier this week and others have reported and i should say "the new york times" reported the existence of this in the warrant first.
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we do know there was specific references to stormy daniels -- >> daniels. >> and karen mcdougal. but we did not know about -- about "access hollywood." and so i think the president's attorneys believe this is all a subterfuge. >> they believe this is all an effort to get at donald trump. >> and some of what -- the way this would fall in terms of the fbi and we've been asking this question is extortion, was there any kind of intimidation and then the other thing -- the obvious thing is campaign finance laws. we don't know what the fbi is looking for. >> but it is intriguing they are looking at this. brian stelter is with us. and you're going -- you're doing reporting on this. what are you learning? >> nbc universal which produces "access hollywood" has not been contacted by investigators and not subpoenaed. but i think it is worth going back in time to that famous day when the tape was leaked. well if this tape did not come out through nbc, it did not come out through "access hollywood,"
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it came out through "the washington post." someone leaked it to the washington post. maybe because they suspected nbc wasn't going to broadcast it. but the story has always been it sat on a shelf at nbc for many years, as if forgotten and then in the late stage of the election somebody in nbc remembered and found it and according to nbc they were about to broadcast it that way but it didn't get around at the time "the washington post" published -- and the whole world heard what was on the tape. so it makes you wonder when now president trump learned the tape was about to come out when cohen knew about the tape. one of the big mysteries about the tape is how many people at nbc knew about it? how many people knew it exists and what did they do about it. and one other mystery and that might prove crucial here, about an hour after the tape was published by the washington post, wikileaks began dumping damaging information about the clinton campaign. this was the leak of the podesta e-mails and the stolen e-mails from john podesta.
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those e-mails were leaked on the internet half an hour after. it is a mystery whether that was a coincidence or coordinated. >> let me put the time line -- and walk us through. this is the time line, october 7th, 2016, a month before the election at 3:30 p.m. the united states blames russia for the dnc leaks and the joints statement from jeh johnson, and james clapper, the director of national intelligence put out a joint statement blaming russia. at 4:03 p.m. "access hollywood" video is released and then 4:30 p.m. wikileaks releases the first of the john podesta e-mails. co incident or not and is this something the fbi agents and the prosecutors and the u.s. attorney in the southern district of new york are looking at? >> i think they potentially are
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and i think bra-- i think brian raises the right questions. from the trump attorney point of view they believe this is a phishing expedition to see if the president was involved in any kind of a way to suppress information and any kind of payoffs or any of this -- any of this stuff. and of course don't forget, the president has denied he knew any of the women, just as he -- just as he denied the stormy case. so i think that they think that -- that this is another way to try to get at trump in an extra-ordinary way through his personal attorney and it does explain to us why the president went so ballist. >> abo-- about all of this. >> because if he knew he was mentioned in the warrant and the "access hollywood" tape was mentioned, you could only imagine he was saying this crosses my red >> the whole notion of collusion
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between trump campaign, trump and team trump and the russians through wikileaks, that comes now if you like at time line, whether there was any collusion, we don't know. if there was any specific collusion on the release of the podesta e-mails, but it is something that is clearly intriguing. other thing they might look at is campaign finance laws if this was a in-kind campaign contribution which potentially could have been illegal. >> that is exactly right. anything to do with wikileaks and russia collusion i don't think would have gone to the southern district in new york. that would have stayed with bob mueller thauz -- the wikileaks investigation is where that stays. in terms of the russia collusion. but something here has happened during bob mueller's investigation and that then has now been forwarded to the new york prosecutors and fbi agents. what role wikileaks had in this, this may still lie with the special counsel because that is who they are looking at. and you are right, there is
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campaign finance laws that perhaps could be what they are looking at here. remember everyone keeps saying follow the money and follow the money and this seems to be about money and whether money was used to try and suppress any of this information. and remember, it is the public corruption folks that the fbi and the new york field office that are looking at this. which is what they do. this is exactly what they look at. >> and we've been told that -- there wasn't a subpoena for this information. they may not have been able to get through a subpoena because any attorney would claim attorney/client privilege. so instead what michael cohen had was three dozen fbi agents at sorted locations knocking on his door confiscating this information. >> very interesting. and brian, you remember at time there were reports that various media organizations were looking into interview some women who may have had some sort of relationship with then candidate donald trump at the time. >> that is right. abc is pursuing an interview
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with one of the women that we now know about. we've heard all about stormy daniels at this point. karen mcdougal and remember the "access hollywood" tape. this series of events toward election day in 2016 makes you wonder if michael cohen know about other women or other stories or other tapes or other embarrassments that he was able to suppress. that is one of the great unknowns, one of the great mysteries of the story. >> and quickly, brian, i know you've done reporting on this, before "the washington post" at 4:03 p.m. or whatever time released the "access hollywood" video, i'm sure they first contacted the trump campaign to get reaction. do we know when before, a hour or day before or a few days before. because that would have told presumably not only donald trump but michael cohen and others, his fixer and long-term attorney and close friend that the washington post had this very disturbing video tape. >> well within nbc, we know there was at least a few days -- a minimum of a few days where
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people at company were aware of the tape and lawyers were looking at the tape and figuring how and went wh to release it. that was a conversation in "access hollywood" and nbc news. at the washington post it was a tighter tame frame. the reporter received the tape from an anonymous source and welcome back a few hours he published the tape on the washington post website. so the post only gave the trump's personal campaign a few hours to comment. but within nbc, there was a longer period of time where this tape was a hot commodity. people were talking about it and discussion about when and how to release it and then "the washington post" went ahead and published it first. one of the great mysteries here is who inside of nbc knew about it and this report about the warrant makes you wonder did michael cohen -- did he somehow know that someone at nbc was working on this. was he in touch with anyone at nbc. those are some of the questions we don't have the answers to. >> very significant questions. everybody stick around. good reporting. also breaking tonight, the white
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house insists all options are still very much on the table to respond to the apparent chemical weapons attack in syria. this despite a new tweet by president trump warning russia that it should, quote, get ready for a u.s. missile strike. now our chief white house correspondent jim acosta. the white house is trying to play down the prize -- the president's aides and u.s. allies by surprise. >> james mattis and joe dunford were spotted at the white house as president trump is telegraphing an upcoming military strike on syria something he swore during the campaign he would never do but the president has other topics on his mind. you just talked about one, the mueller investigation. and the prospect of his party losing control of congress in the fall as house speaker paul ryan says good-bye. >> mr. president, will you take a few questions? >> avoiding questions from the president, president trump all be declared war on twitter. previewing air-strikes aimed at
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syria while tweeting a warning to russia. russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at syria, get ready because they are coming and nice and new and smart. you shouldn't be partners with a gas killing animal who kills his people and enjoys it. the president's vow to take action in response to the suspected gas attack allegedly carried out by syria also violates his past pledges to never telegraph his next -- next move. >> the president said get ready russia, the missiles are coming, how is that anything but an announcement of a pending air strike? >> that is one option. but that doesn't mean it is the only option or the only thing that the president may or may not do. just because he does one thing doesn't mean he can't do a number of other actions as well and he certainly hasn't laid out the timetable which -- which would be broadcasting his intentions. >> when former president barack obama faced the question of striking syria mr. trump tweeted, i would not go into
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syria but if i did it would be by surprise and not blurt it all over the media like fools. something he promised again during the campaign. >> i have a substantial chance of winning. if i win, i don't want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plans are -- >> the president is blaming the bad blood with the russia investigation. the latest twist the investigators who raided the office of michael cohen are interested in finding any information about his comments to "access hollywood" that nearly cost him the election. cnn learned the president and his legal team are re evalute ating whether he will sit down with the investigators but mueller has defenders out with a new ad. >> robert mueller rescued fallen marines and awarded a bronze star for valor. as a prosecutor, he spent decades going after corruption, financial fraud and terrorism. as the head of the fbi under george w. bush, mueller has been trusted by republicans to put
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america first. the white house still insists the president has the power to fire mueller and a move that could lead to a shake up at the special council office. >> the president is clear that he has a very deep concern about the direction that the special counsel and other investigations have taken. this investigation started off as russia collusion of which there was none that has been very clear that nothing has come up over the last year -- >> the question about the mueller probe come as republicans are in search of a new speaker in the house as paul ryan announced he is retiring, a departure fuelling fears of a democratic wave in the midterms. >> i gave it some consideration but i really do not believe whether i stay or go in 2019 is going to affect a person's individual race for congress. >> now as for the upcoming midterms, there are growing worries minute white house and among top gop officials that democrats will immediately seek to impeach the president should
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republicans lose control of the house this november. multiple officials tell us, wolf, that the president is aware of this concern among his advisers as one white house source described it to us today, there is a quote, anticipation of death about the november election. wolf. >> jim acosta at the white house. thank you. joining us now, congressman adam schiff from the house intelligence committee. congressman i want to get your quick reaction to the breaking news, federal agents seeking access to records related to the infamous "access hollywood" video tape in the raid yesterday against michael cohen, the president's long time attorney. what is your reaction. >> my reaction is a couple of things. first i think they're doing their job and if there is any issue with an execution of a warrant, the president knows you go to court and you don't fire the prosecutors. that is an on obstruction of justice. but i think there are
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possibilities that you outlined. this could be about whether or not michael cohen was suppressing that tape much like trying to pay hush money for the other people, stormy daniels among others to keep their stories out of the press during the president's campaign and whether that was a violation of the campaign finance laws, not to report it. that is one possibility. also possible that they are looking at whether the trump campaign and michael cohen had any role in the timing of the wikileaks dump of the russia stolen podesta e-mails. i tend to think it is more likely the foreman likely -- the former because this was referred to the southern district of new york and that indicates it had more to do with the issue of stormy daniels and campaign finance law violations than it did on the issue of potential collusion. >> but it could be a culmination of both. >> you and your colleagues on the house intelligence committee have been looking into these things for about a year plus.
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were aa -- were you aware of the late breaking developments. >> we rnt certainly weren't given a heads up this warrant would be executed. that took everybody by surprise in congress and clearly within the white house. but i'm not surprised that once again the president is contemplating firing rod rosenstein or bob mueller. both of those would be acts of obstruction of justice and to see him float in his tweet and otherwise the idea that he could somehow give a justification for it by pointing to rod rosenstein signing a fisa application or bizarrely claim that because rod rosenstein wrote a memo that the president used as a pretext to fire james comey, that gives him a pretempt to fire rod rosenstein. it is bizarre. plainly either of those actions are designed to interfere with an investigation that may implicate the president. that is obstruction of justice. and if the president goes forward with either one of these firings, he is only making the
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case against himself for obstruction of justice. but it deeply worries because because it would throw this country into complete crisis. >> it certainly would. you are a former federal prosecutor, how difficult would it be to get this kind of search warrant for the home, the hotel room, the office of the president's long-term personal lawyer? >> it certainly be very difficult and rise to the highest levels of approvals within the justice department because there is such attention paid to the attorney/client privilege. but there are two reasons why they may have concluded that they could go forward here and with good reason. the first is that both the president and the lawyer michael cohen seem to be denying that if he made these payments as hush money that they were doing it with the knowledge of the other and clearly there is no attorney/client relationship in that act if there is no communication and it is not done under those -- those auspices
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and this is about a crime of evading campaign finance laws and intimidation and there is a crime fraud exception that would more than justify this very unusual step. can i make one other point on rod rosenstein which i think really concerns me because firing him, the president may conclude is a more sur ept tishs way to get at robert mueller. there are two reasons americans should be concerned. the first is that he could secretly -- any replacement of rod rosenstein could secretly cripple the mueller investigation by telling mueller you can't follow the money and can't investigate this or you need to wrap up that. but second and this is really lost, rod rosenstein will make the decision whether a report from bob mueller ever sees the light of day. whether it is ever submitted to congress for consideration of whether the president's conduct violated the law and might rise to level of impeachable offense or whether it is even presented to the congress. that is a very important --
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maybe the most important decision and the president if he tries to fire rod rosenstein is going to try to take away that decision and give it to someone who will simply do what he says. and that would be in my view another series act of obstruction of justice. >> do you believe congress should investigate these allegations against michael cohen? >> well, look, i think -- we have michael cohen testify before our committee and there were a lot of unanswered questions. if there are issues that have come up and further reason to believe that eerm he wasn't fully truthful for us or may have been involved in othcrimin activity it should be investigated by the congress. it may not be if it is involving violation of the campaign finance laws. that may not be an issue for the intelligence committee. it may be an issue for the oversight committee or one of the committees that is looking at elections. but nonetheless, clearly the congress would have an interest if any of the top officials of
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our government or those affiliated with the president are engaged in criminal activity. >> so just to be precise on the issue of shelving or holding a report that robert mueller might -- may come up with and not letting it go to congress, not letting it be made public for example, your fear is that if rod rosenstein is fired by the president, someone new coming in could do what the president wants and just kill the whole thing and never know what the conclusions are? is that your fear. >> that is my fear. people need to understand it is not bob mueller's job to tell the country what happens. it is his job to decide who should be prosecuted and who has violated the law. but if the special counsel decides that the president has violated the law, and that it is not appropriate for him to seek an indictment of a sitting president, bob mueller would make a report to rod rosenstein and rod rosenstein would decide what to do with it. is that report made public? is that report provided to congress? you get rid of rod rosenstein and who knows what happens to
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that report. so that is a deep concern to me. and i would view the firing of rosenstein as every bit as much an act of obstruction as anything else the president could do. >> congressman adam schiff, thank you for joining us. up next, more on the breaking news of the fbi raid on michael cohen and why the feds are interested in that notorious "access hollywood" video tape. will this enrage the president even more as his anger toward the special counsel robert mueller reaches a new boiling point. >> "the situation room" with wolf blitzer brought to you by dell technologies. changing the game of digital transformation. a family of seven technology leaders working behind the scenes to make the impossible... reality. we're helping to give cars the power to read your mind from anywhere...
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breaking news, cnn has learned important details about what investigators were booking for during the week search targeting the president's attorney michael cohen and including the first direct mention of the president's name in a search warrant and it comes in connection with that notorious "access hollywood" video tape. let's bring in all of our experts to assess. gloria, great reporting on this. what is the significance, bottom line, of this report. >> as you point out, the president's name is mentioned in it. and i think this gives us a real clue to the fact that perhaps -- and again, we don't know, but perhaps investigators suspect that there was some kind of an effort to suppress the tape. we know there was an effort to suppress stormy daniels and karen mcdougal and this may be one more thing in what they believe could be a pattern. was there money exchanged and et
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cetera. the other thing interesting to me that i think is significant, it sought communications between candidate trump and his associates in any effort to prevent disclosure of negative things of the tape and other negative things. so what they want to know is, were these people communicating with each other to try and stop this stuff very close to the election. >> it was a month before the election, joey. joey jackson when t-- when the video tape was aired after the postbroke that story. so what laws potentially could have been violated? >> let's talk about this first. first a general and then the specific. if you get michael cohen and it is determined there is any law tea violated, now you have someone close to the president, the closest of all, who can perhaps now be flipped because he knows significant information. so this imperils trump in a significant way. and this is exactly what prosecutors do. they go after people close to
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you. they squeeze those people. they say -- and they ask what they know and whatever they know they turn against you. now let's get more specific into the laws. if it is campaign finance, which is the most obvious one, let's look at what happened. karen mcdougal, close to the election, whose fingerprints are all over that. michael cohen's. let's move closer. "access hollywood," a month before the election, that comes out. what are they looking for? the "access hollywood" tape as it relates to michael cohen and his involvement. 11 days before the election stormy -- stormy -- that issue comes out. and so to what extent if any was this directed and related to the campaign and done and designed to protect trump and in other words the entire force of this goes to the motivation of circumventing campaign finance laws. so you want a law that could potentially be broken, it is that one. the motivation for doing it, it is to protect the candidate and if you get all of that together, then you have your violation of law and then you have michael cohen and then, wolf, you get to trump. >> and it is interesting, jamie,
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that the rage in new york on michael cohen -- the raid in new york on michael cohen office it was referred to the u.s. attorney in the southern district of new york in manhattan. so how does this fit into the broader investigation? >> well if you ask donald trump, he thinks it does fit in. he sees a conspiracy here. but the reality is that robert mueller referred this for a reason. it didn't fall within his purview. that said, depending on what they find out here about what the unofficial role of michael cohen was in the campaign, and i think even more, let's remember that michael cohen is not an ordinary lawyer. ordinary lawyers don't do the things that he does. so maybe there will be other things that do go back, but not yet. >> should -- david, should the
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president be worried that federal prosecutors might try to do what joey was just suggesting, flip michael cohen to cooperate with this investigation, potentially against the president himself? >> well, yes. i -- i think the president should be worried about this pursuit of michael cohen because of how close michael cohen is to him, far be it for me to say it and the president is expressing to us on twitter and in the cabinet room the other evening, he is quite concerned about this. you could read it all over his face and his body language. read it in his words. this -- michael cohen has made clear in plain language that he perceives his role in life to protect donald trump. he has made that clear. he made it clear about why he was paying stormy daniels, to protect donald trump. and that -- this pursuit, this entire avenue seems to be well what exactly does that mean and what length did you go to and
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was everything on the up and up in every way you chose to protect donald trump. >> we did a piece recently and described him -- one of his colleagues, his former colleague described him as ray donovan. and michael cohen thinks this is a huge compliment. because he sees himself and he has said it in the past, that he will do anything for trump. the loyalty is more than anything i have really ever witnessed. and aside from maybe a spouse, this is somebody who will do anything that donald trump wants at any time and people who worked alongside cohen in the trump organization said to me, look, we never knew what he did but he got it done. >> probably safe to say that loyalty is getting the most stern test it ever received. >> and also the reason they were able to get the warrants. it is not just typical lawyer-client confident siality
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and it goes so far beyond that is why the second district was able to get something unusual to get. >> and the time line of that day when the "access hollywood" video tape came out and we put it on the screen, and at 3:30 p.m. the u.s. government officially blames russia for the democratic national committee hacks and at 4:03 the "access hollywood" tape is released and then at 4:30 wikileaks releases the john podesta e-mails. what -- when you see that time line, what is your legal conclusion? >> i mean, listen, if you think about the law, what does the president do, what would his public relations people do and his lawyers do. what they want to do is deflect and they want to distract and they want to distort. and so obviously if you have information, which is compelling and information which demonstrates that someone close to you may have been breaking laws and they may have been -- don't know -- at your behest breaking the laws, then of
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course the issue is not about an "access hollywood" tape or stormy daniels, the issue is about other things relevant in the world so everyone would focus away. similar to what the president does as it re lates to tweets. by going back to michael cohen briefly, that relationship, as was mentioned, you want to say he's loyal. you want to say you're the ray donovan or the guy that protects me. we'll see how loyal he is because i have to tell you, and this is from a personal practice perspective, practicing in the south district, yes, me, what they will do with clients is they will tell you -- prosecutors if they want information things they could do to your client and once clients learn how imperilled they are people flip. and look at michael flynn and what they said could happen to his son and we saw what happened with him. and so okay, ray donovan he may be but let's test how much ray donovan is once the stakes are
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raised and gather the information and tell what they have on him. >> i do know that michael cohen is concerned about the impact this is having on his kids and on his wife and we also know that the president has brought michael cohen to mar-a-largo, publicly had dinner with him, stated he is my personal attorney and it is a question of if michael cohen is loyal, his family is at stake, and b., will the president be loyal back to michael cohen. >> it is interesting, jamie, that last night the president had dinner with allen der sh show witz, the law professor defending him on television. >> we've been watching this for a couple of weeks and we'll start by saying that allen der show witz said he doesn't want to be on the trump legal team. that said, however, he did go and have dinner, he did meet with him. allen has been on cnn today saying that he does not think
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that donald trump should sit down with robert mueller. that's where we're hearing that donald trump is leaning these days. and if -- it was up to allen he might turn this into a constitutional case, take it to the courts and fight it for a couple of -- >> and i don't think he is alone in that. and particularly given after the -- after michael cohen raid, we reported yesterday there was a conversation between the mueller team previously scheduled conversation between the mueller team and the president's attorneys. can you imagine that? and i think if trump or any one of his attorneys had any inclination that the president ought to testify, i think that is probably over and done with. >> we'll see what happens on that. he, like bill clinton, may not have choice if he is under court order to testify. unless he pleads the fif th and will not testify. >> and then you take it to the
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supreme court. >> this is a constitutional crisis. and stick around. more breaking news. the investigation by the special counsel robert mueller, also breaking today, the house speaker paul ryan shocking announcement about his political future.
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to run for president or any other office. the wisconsin republican heading for the exit as his party faces a tough fight in the fall mid-term elections. let's bring in our correspondent manu raju, tell us about ryan's decision and what this may mean for his party? >> reporter: it was a surprise decision on capitol hill because he had been so actively involved in raising money for house republicans this year. no member has been more active in helping with his superpac raising millions of dollars criss-crossing the country and raising money for his own re-election campaign in his district in wisconsin. so the decision today came as a bit of a surprise but what paul ryan said, this was a family decision. he said it was something that he had been considering for some time and he did not want to give up -- not run for re-election and thin win and then decide to resign. he could not do that to the voters of his district. this is more of what he had to say earlier today. >> what i realize is if i'm here
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for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad. i just can't let that happen. so i will be setting new priorities in my life. but i'll also be leaving incredibly proud of what we've accomplished. some of you know my story, my dad died when i was 16. the daughter -- the age my daughter is. and i just don't want to be one of those people looking back at my life and thinking i spent more time with my kids when i know if i spend another term they will only know me as a weekend father. >> reporter: now paul ryan said that the political landscape had nothing to do with his decision. but this is very clearly a blow for the republican canvas to  take back the majority. right now there are 41 republican retirements compared for 19 for democrats and they need to pick up seats to take back the house majority and roughly about the same number of districts in republican held seats that hillary clinton won
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back in 2016 and you look at the poll numbers for this party for the president trump and how the first midterm of a new president always becomes -- historically is very difficult for a new president, all of which points to the very likelihood scenario of paul ryan, if he were ho run and win, he could be minority leader in a congress and that is a different environment and circumstances and maybe not have support to maintain that leadership position. and the factors that ultimately led to him probably making the decision, even though he cited it as a family decision, no doubt the political -- the environment here as well as just having to deal with all of the questions about president trump that constantly come up and the difficulty of working with him as a governing partner have worn down not just him but other republicans on capitol hill. but denied the president played any role. he had high praise for the president saying he had a good
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governing partner with the president. and no question, you talked to paul ryan day in and day out and a number of things they want to push forward on undermined by the president and the distractions coming out of the white house. >> good point. manu raju up on capitol hill. thank you. coming up, the breaking news, first known direct mention of president trump in a search warrant. and defense secretary james mattis visits hours after the president warns russia to get ready for a missile strike on syria. how close is a u.s. attack? from the very beginning ...
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breaking news. defense secretary james bhmatti and top u.s. officials were at the white house this afternoon. sarah sanders says all options remain on the table for military action against syria. let's go to barbara starr. what are your sources telling you? >> everybody is watching social media because this time president trump going far beyond his usual twitter words. this time he's making it real. president trump using twitter to promise an active war tweeting russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at syria. get ready because they will be coming nice and new and smart. this is the president who repeatedly said he would never telegraph military moves in advance. >> america's enemies must never know our plans.
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i will not say when we're going to attack. we know longer tell our enemies our plans. >> the president startling tweet catching allies and the pentagon by surprise. a spokesman told cnn the department does not comment on potential future military actions. defense secretary james mattis said the military is on stand by. >> we stand ready to provide military options. >> reporter: u.s. intelligence agencies are locking down a final assessment of what chemical agents syrian forces used. >> we're still assessing the intelligence. >> reporter: the next key decision, what targets o hit. airfields, helicopters, chemical storage sites or escalate and hit assad's regime. satellites and other u.s. intelligence aircraft are now watching closely for signs that assad as well as russian units are using the advance notice to
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move aircraft, weapons and personnel out of way of a potential attack. russia has a key military move it will likely play. >> the russians have the air defense capability employed in syria that they could be a threat. >> reporter: moscow now knows to aim its radars and anti-air missiles towards air space over the mediterranean. european aviation authorities are warning commercial airliners of possible missile strikes in the eastern mediterranean in the coming hours. the u.s. hopes to get french and british aircraft in ships to be part of the strikes. the u.s. has two surface ships and unacknowledged submarines off syria ready to fire s satellite guided tamahawk cruise missil missiles. the russian foreign ministry keen in on the president's use of the phrase smart missiles with a warning and a question.
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smart missiles will destroy all evidence of chemical weapons used on the ground. the russians perhaps not so subtly suggesting that evidence could disappear. the official word from washington tonight, no final decision has been ahead. >> we're waiting to see when it is made. thank you very much. we're going to take a quick break. we're coming back with breaking news. we have some shocking new details about the raid targeting president trump's personal lawyer michael cohen. our reporters have that coming in right now. you're going to see it right here on cnn. your paycheck. your family depends on it. but if something happened to you... you need life insurance! and chances are selectquote can get it for you for under a dollar a day! selectquote found michael, 38, a $500,000 policy for under $23 a month. selectquote found anna, 37, a $750,000 policy for under $22 a month.
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happening now, breaking news. seeking access. we're learning the fbi raid on the president's lawyer sought communications between donald trump and michael cohen about the infamous access hollywood video tape in which trump boasted of assaulting women. did they try to cover it up on the eve of the election? other than he fights back as he attacks everyone tied to the russia investigation. is the president openly admitting to obstructing the mueller probe. they will be coming. pentagon chiefs hud l at the white house after president trump via twitter warns russia to get ready for a


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