tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN January 14, 2019 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
president trump denies he ever followed the directions of russia, as transcripts confirm that possibility was debated within the fbi. tonight, mr. trump is lashing out amid sensational new reports on his kremlin connections. the interpreter. house democrats are deciding whether to subpoena the president's translator after mr. trump reportedly has gone to great lengths to keep his talks with vladimir putin secret. what might he have been trying to hide? leaving mueller alone. mr. trump's pick for attorney general says the special counsel should finish his investigation and then the results should be made public. is that giving the president second thoughts about william barr's nomination? and rejected. president trump says no to a proposal by a senate ally, lindsey graham, aimed at re-opening the government. mr. trump refusing to budge even as our poll shows that most americans blame him for the longest shutdown in u.s. history. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around
the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." tonight, president trump is hitting back against fresh allegations that he's a puppet of vladimir putin. declaring that he, quote, never worked for russia. that extraordinary pronouncement by a u.s. president prompted by blockbuster reports related to the russia investigation. cnn has obtained transcripts showing that fbi officials say the bureau debating and investigated whether mr. trump had acted on directions from the kremlin. also tonight, a former state department official confirms to cnn that president trump took his interpreter's notes on his 2017 talks with vladimir putin in hamburg, germany, and instructed the translator not to discuss the meeting with any administration officials. i'll get reaction from the senate judiciary committee member, richard blumenthal and our correspondents and analysts
are also standing by. first, let's go to our chief white house correspondent, 1yji acosta. jim, a truly remarkable denial by the president as fears about his connections to russia clearly are ratcheting higher. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. it's stunning to think that a president could ever be asked this qu president trump responded to a series of bombshell reports on the russia investigation, insisting he has never worked on behalf of the kremlin. the president is facing new questions in the russia probe, just as he's refusing to budge as we've seen for days from his demand he have a border wall in order to re-open the government. president trump's response to the question as to whether he has been working on behalf of russia can be summed up in one word. yet. >> i never worked for russia. not only did i never work for russia, i think it's a disgrace that you even ask that question because it's a whole big fat hoax. it's just a hoax. >> reporter: president pushed back on a series of hair-raising reports on the russia investigation. both "the new york times" and
cnn reported that fbi agents launch the an inquiry into the president's decision to fire the bureau's director, james comey, in 2017. to find out whether mr. trump had done so to directly benefit the russian government. president still defends that decision. >> i guess they started it because i fired comey, which was a great thing i did for our country. so, the people doing that investigation were people that had been caught that are known scoundrels. i guess you could say they're dirty cops. >> reporter: the president initially justified the comey firing by saying he had an ax to ground with the russia probe. >> when i decided to just do it, i said to myself, i said, you know, this russia thing with trump and russia is a madeup story. >> reporter: over this past weekend the president didn't give a direct answer when he was asked whether he was working on behalf of the russians. >> are you now or have you ever worked for russia, mr. president? >> i think it's the most insulting thing i've ever been asked. i think it's the most insulting
article i've ever had written, and if you read the article, you'd see that they found absolutely nothing. >> reporter: white house is also scrambling for answers after the "washington post" reported mr. trump tried to conceal his private meetings with russian president vladimir putin by taking notes from an interpreter and instructing that person to stay quiet after one face-to-face encounter at a summit in germany in 2017. aides to the president say he was just worried about leaks. >> the president at that time in 2017 was suffering from a great number of leaks. we're always concerned about leaks, obviously, particularly national security leaks. >> reporter: democrats are seizing on the new revelations saying they may explain why the president seems eager to accept putin's denials that moscow interfered in the 2016 election. like he did in helsinki last year. >> i have great confidence in my intelligence people, but i will tell you that president putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
i have president putin, he just said it's not russia. i will say this, i don't see any reason why it would be. >> reporter: hillary clinton, democrats say, may have been on to something after all. >> well, that's because he'd rather have a puppet president. >> no puppet. >> of the united states. >> no puppet. >> it's pretty clear -- >> you're the puppet. >> it's pretty clear you won't admit -- >> no, you're the puppet. >> reporter: the president is digging in on his heels on whether to re-open the government still insisting on his border wall though he seemed to rule out declaring a national emergency to force the military to build it. >> i'm not looking to call a national emergency. this is so simple, you shovuldnt have to. >> reporter: new polls show the public blames the president more so than the democrats for the shutdown. that's not the way the president laid it out when he spoke to a group of farmers in new orleans. >> the government remains shut down for one reason, one reason only, the democrats will not fund border security. >> reporter: now, getting back to russia, the president brushed off any worries he was trying to hide his interactions with put
insisting his encounters with the russian leader have have been, as he described it, successful. that's exactly what concerns democrats who also say the president's meetings with putin are successful but for the russians. wolf? >> yeah, these are really disturbing developments, indeed. jim acosta, thank you very much. let's dig deeper now. the new trump/russia reporting, what it could mean for the president. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto is here. along with our crime and justice reporter shimon prokupecz. the fact the president, jim, took possession of the interpret interpreter's notes, that's pretty extraordinary, isn't it? >> listen, i asked a former senior u.s. intelligence official whether, in his experience, he had ever seen this with a u.s. official at any level of government. at the top levels, middle levels, low levels. in his recollection, someone who worked decades in intelligence, he couldn't think of a single one. now, that by itself is not damning. a president could have reason to keep the contents of a meeting with a foreign leader secret, but the question here becomes then the pattern. right? because this hamburg meeting, he
takes the notes. later, when he meets with the russian president in helsinki, it was a private meeting with no one else present, right? at least according to the -- to keep the contents of that meeting from getting not just public but other members of his own administration. that pattern, taking in conjunction with the president's other positions regarding russia, raised reasonable questions as to why he did that. and so much of intelligence, when you speak to intelligence officials, is about looking at patterns, and establishing the reasons behind patterns here. and this is one that raises reasonable questions about why the president did this. >> yeah, certainly does, shimon. i can understand trying to keep the meetings in private from the american public for sensitive reasons but also from his top advisers, his national security advisers, who have top-secret security clearances? >> yeah, that just goes to show there are trust issues with this president and the people around him and, perhaps, that's what it is in the end.
maybe. you know, and the best-case scenario, it's that. worst-case scenario is similar to what concerns national security folks have, there's these conversations that he's having with vladimir putin that could potentially hurt us. you know, because there's only one person in the room really who knows what was going on and what these conversations are about, and that's vladimir putin. and that is always bad. this is the one thing that consistently has concerned national security people, whether it's formers or current people, certainly rex tillerson was concerned about this, other folks were concerned about this, but he consistently does thisde spite the issues that people have with it. >> yeah, it's pretty amazing when you think about it, jim, russian officials, the kremlin, they know what happened in those meetings with the president but his own advisers, many of them, they don't have a clue. i don't know, for example, did the u.s. ambassador to russia, jon huntsman, did he get fully briefed on what happened? he deals with those russians everybo every day. >> we don't have information that he did. that is by itself own right
leverage leverage, right? remember sally yates and michael flynn, they knew michael flynn lied about his conversations with the russian ambassador. one reason that's a concern, they knew the russians knew what took place in those conversations and they could then use that as leverage against michael flynn who was then the national security adviser. if the russian leader, russian intelligence knows what took place in those meetings and the president and putin discussed things or made promises to each other or so on, did they know and members of the president's own administration or lawmakers on capitol hill or you and i don't know. that, by itself, could leverage. if the president were to mislead the public on what he said or what assurance he's made or assurances he was given. so that by itself is concerning. >> what's also very concerning, i never thought we'd see this, after the president fired comey, the fbi actually began to investigate whether the president was acting on behalf of the russians wittingly or unwittingly. >> yeah, it's pretty remarkable.
i know shimon's reporting discovered some of the transcripts behind those conversations and, granted, it was discussed as a matter of extremes. at one end, one extreme, it was an innocent explanation. the president was, who knows, seeking a better relationship with russia. but at extreme that they considered, and as you say, that's significant that they consider this extreme, was that behavior, plus the president's other public statements and his other entanglements with russia, did that mean that the president was acting in some instances with russia's interest or his own interests over the own -- you know, america's own national security interests? the fact that senior officials in the fbi trying to do their job from a counterintelligence prospective raised that question is pretty remarkable. now, that's in mueller's hands. did he then determine, has he then determined in the year and a half since then, that there's no there, there? that's very possible. that said, robert mueller has a lot of tools. he talked to a lot of witnesses. did he corroborate that? that's also a possibility. >> tomorrow, william barr, attorney general nominee, begins his confirmation hearings before
the senate judiciary committee. what are you hearing right now about the message he's standing by to deliver? >> yeah, you know, william barr and his people certainly want to get ahead of tomorrow and released parts of his testimony, what he's going to say tomorrow. essentially, he's saying he's standing be i mueller, that it's vitally, quote, vitally important that mueller should complete his work. he also feels that eventually the findings from the mueller investigation, the report, should be made public. obviously, a lot of concerns from the democrats and other members on the senate whether or not william barr will try to somehow prevent mueller from finishing the work and even the report, i think today certainly should alleviate some concerns but there's going to be other issues and we'll probably hear a lot more, obviously, tomorrow. >> yeah. it's going to go on for hours. i know that -- standby, guys. i want to go to our justice correspondent jessica schneider. jessica, i understand you have new information on what the attorney general nominee, william barr, will say.
>> reporter: yeah, that's exactly right, wolf. the president's pick for attorney general really continuing to come clean here in advance of his confirmation hearings. we just received this letter that william barr has sent to the senate judiciary committee chairman, lindsey graham, and in it, some new revelations from the president's pick for attorney general. william barr telling senator graham that that 19-page memo that he wrote about obstruction of justice that we initially knew that he sent to the department of justice, to deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, as well as another official, well, he also distributed it this past summer to a number of the president's attorneys. that includes current white house counsel pat sebloni. he wasn't white house counsel then but he was in the circle of the president's lawyers. also william barr giving this memo to emmet flood. he's on the president's legal team. in addition to marty and jane raskin as well as jay sekulow. so william barr disclosing this in a letter today to lindsey graham, but no doubt, this
letter will give broad ammunition to democrats. they are all ready to bounce on william barr at this hearing tomorrow and likely ask how impartial can william barr be given the fact he distributed this letter to lawyers very close to the president? was he trying to win favor for the president from the president, himself? we know that william barr has discussed the fact that he wrote this memo with the president, preparing him for the fact it would come up in these confirmation hearings. no doubt with this recent revelation just in a few minutes that he sent this to a rash of the president's lawyers, democrats will probably pounce on it. also in this letter, as william barr has been stressing, he says that his conclusion that the president couldn't be put into an obstruction of justice probe, he said that that was narrow in scope. that he didn't mean that the president could never be inquired upon for obstruction of justice. so, again, wolf, the president's pick for attorney general really
coming clean here and revealing more details about who exactly he distributed this memo to, and it was a rash of the president's lawyers, no doubt, democrats will be pouncing on that. wolf? >> will be a rather lively hearing tomorrow. jessica, thanks. s shimon, jim, thanks to you guys as well. let's go to capitol hill for more on possible subpoenas for the president's interpreter and others. i want to go to our congressional correspondent, manu raju. house intelligence and foreign affairs committees are discussing whether to subpoena the president's interpreters, records, possibly even the former secretary of state rex tillerson. what's the latest? >> reporter: yeah, i just actually spoke with the house foreign affairs committee chairman eliot engel who told me no decisions have been made about a subpoena. they're still trying to get their committees in order but they're trying to figure out the best way to get information about the trump/putin meetings. he wants to have hearings about the trump/putin relationship and raising serious questions about why those records of those meetings are not available and the president has apparently
gone to lengths to conceal details of that meeting, of those meetings. now, wolf, i also had a chance to talk to some senate republicans about the president's unusual efforts to hide information about his interactions with vladimir putin, including senator mitt romney who's now a member of the senate foreign relations committee who raised some serious concerns about the president's efforts to apparently conceal those details. >> i think it is inappropriate for the president of our country to communicate with the president of another global power without having people there who are keeping careful records to make sure what is said by both parties is followed up on. that's an enormous mistake and should not be repeated. >> reporter: so i tried to reach out to other republicans, too, that are not willing to go as far on the senate side. we'll see whether house republicans say it. pressures will come from the house democrats who don't want to let this go, want to look further into the putin/trump relationship and why the president apparently took some of those notes away from an interpreter. at least one of those meetings.
and why, whether they can actually talk to the interpreter is the actual big question here on capitol hill. they expect there will be some significant resistance from the white house, to assert executive privilege and try to do other -- try to take other efforts to prevent democrats from getting their hands on that material. it that standoff and that fight will take shape in the coming days and weeks. wolf. >> these are strootruly extraordinary, extraordinary developments. manu raju on capitol hill. let's talk about all of this with democratic senator richard blumenthal, serves on the judiciary and armed services committee. senator, thanks so much for coming in. >> thank you. >> i want to get your reaction first to "the new york times" reporting that the fbi actually opened up an investigation after the president fired comey, whether or not the president of the united states was working on behalf of russia. then the "washington post" revealed that the president went to these truly unusual steps of trying to confiscate the notes of the interpreter. preventing the interpreter from speaking with other american officials. what's your reaction to this? >> these revelations are
absolutely stomach churning. i'm almost at a loss for words when you think of how extraordinary it is that the fbi was investigating the president of the united states for a possible threat to our national security in working for the russians, and remember, wolf, as you know, the fbi can't simply open an investigation on the president of the united states regarding possible harm, ongoing threats generated by the president, himself, without multiple layers of review, a high bar and exacting standard of actionable and ar titiculatee facts. we probably have no idea what the evidence is that justified the investigation, but we know there's a pattern here. >> the -- >> and that pattern is -- >> they were looking at a criminal investigation as far as obstruction of justice. but also counterintelligence investigation, whether the president, hard to believe, could potentially be aiding the
russians. >> and the harm here is not only obstruction of justice or collusion and conspiracy during the campaign, it is an ongoing future threat to our national security. >> when did you first learn about this fbi investigation? >> i first learned about the fbi investigation regarding counterintelligence violations from the revelations in the public press. >> in "the new york times" on friday. >> exactly. >> friday night -- you had no idea that the fbi was actually investigating the president of the united states for supposedly trying to help the russians. >> there were rumors and some indications of it, but really, no reliable reports of it before "the new york times." >> did the fbi, from everything you know, follow the appropriate protocol? because as you know, the president today was all over fbi officials saying these are simply bad cops. >> there are all of these claims
and allegations in some of the far-right press about the fbi. rogue cops and whatever they want to call them. but the fbi, as an institution, would not begin this investigation without clear evidence to justify it. i've been in this kind of position at a lower level when i was united states attorney. the chief federal prosecutor in connecticut. when the fbi came to me with a claim about a public official, a very high-ranking official, possibly violating law. the bar and the standard is a high one. >> should the democrats, specifically in the house of representatives, the majority now go ahead and subpoena the notes of the translator who was there when the president met with putin in 2017 at the g20 in hamburg, germany? >> i think there is an obligation to subpoena the notes and, if necessary, the interpreter, because we are talking here about a possible
threat to our national security. it is more than just a vague and unascertainable kind of indication. we're talking here about a real and present threat to our national security and the american people have a right to know. >> let me get your reaction to the new reporting that cnn now has, and you're a member of the judiciary committee. you'll be there tomorrow when william barr, the attorney general nominee, is called to testify, his confirmation hearings. there's new information that he actually sent that controversial memo that he wrote in which he suggested the parts of mueller's case was, quote, fatally misconceived. he sent it out privately to a whole broad collection of the president's lawyers and other lawyers involved in the mueller investigation in june of last year. what's your reaction? >> that distribution list for that memo is extremely distu disturbing and probably damaging. >> why? >> to this nomination. because the memo, itself, in
effect says that the president can not be held accountable for obstructing justice. should not be interrogated for possibly intimidating witnesses or firing james comey or destroying evidence. he is above the law. that distribution list to the president's closest advisers and his lawyers indicates clearly that william barr is auditioning for the job. he's sending a signal. >> it wasn't that he was just sending out that 19-page memo to various lawyers representing the president, but he actually had some formal conversations with these lawyers. >> and we're going to be asking tough questions about those conversations, about this memo, about his commitment to the rule of law and his independence as a law enforcer. that is the critical question because the attorney general of the united states is more than just another lawyer in the department of justice, and he is not the president's lawyer. he has to represent the american people and uphold the rule of law and for william barr to be, in effect, the president's lap
dog or lackey, would be a violation of that trust and clearly those conversations and the distribution of that memo that says in effect the president's above the law, is profoundly disturbing and damaging. >> have you already decided how you'll vote on this confirmation? >> i have not. i want to know whether william barr is going to provide ironclad, specific, strong commitments to protect the special counsel and to make public his report. even if the president orders him otherwise. he's provided these vague assurances, but what if the president orders him to conceal the report or stop an indictment or to uphold a pardon or to squelch and -- >> has he given you any cover th comfort that he and mueller go way back, very close friends, their wives are friends, that they worked together for many years? >> it's not personal. it has to be a specific commitment under oath.
i am not reassured by personal relationships here because each of them has a job to do. i want to know whether william barr is going to k do his job, the president says to him you need to end this investigation or stop these indictments or prove my pardon of a witness who would testify against the president of the united states. william barr has to be able and willing and ready to stand up and defy the president, even to the point of resigning. >> senator blumenthal, thanks for coming in. >> thank you. >> appreciate it. just ahead, as the president denies working for russia, is robert mueller finding evidence to prove otherwise? what makes this simple salad the best simple salad ever? great tasting, heart-healthy california walnuts. so simple, so good. get the recipes at walnuts.org. need a change of scenery? kayak searches hundreds of travel sites and lets you filter by take-off time, layovers and more, so you can be confident you're getting the right flight at the best price.
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a truly extraordinary declaration by president trump, denying he worked for russia after revelations the fbi investigated whether mr. trump was acting on behalf of the kremlin when he fired the fbi director james comey. let's dig deeper with our correspondents and our analysts. david swerdlick, what led the fbi to launch this truly extraordinary probe? >> so, wolf, we know from reporting in the "washington post" and other outlets all the way back to december of 2016 that the cia and other intelligence officials knew about russian efforts to help president trump win the 2016 election, if it turned out, though, that there was information available to either the cia, fbi, or other intelligence agencies later on, either between the campaign, early stages of the administration, that, let's say, they knew that, perhaps, president trump was cooperating with these efforts, or knew
about these efforts, that might have been a reason to open a counterintelligence investigation as opposed to a criminal investigation, but i think the reporting is still somewhat unclear over exactly how this came to be. >> it's still an extraordinary -- cnn has obta obtained transcripts of fbi officials' congressional interviews behind closed doors. what are these conversations reveal? >> wolf, these officials told congressional lawmakers that fbi officials, senior fbi officials, considered the possibility that president trump was working at the behest of vladimir putin and russia. now, these transcripts also say that they were considering a spectrum of possibilities. so that being one end. the other end being that president trump was working within the constraints of the presidency by firing james comey, that he was simply doing his executive duty. but on the other end of the spectrum, this really incredible suggestion that the president of
the united states the could havd and discussed by senior officials at the fbi. >> you heard, phil mudd, the critici criticism from the fbi, the president and his supporters were all politically motivated to launch this kind of probe. you at one point in your career worked at the fbi. when you hear that kind of talk, for example, by the president, a bunch of bad cops who are responsible for this over at the fbi, what's your reaction? >> i'm afraid they might give him some ammo here. look, i think the right question was raised here earlier by david. that is we don't know exactly the intelligence they're looking at. so i've got to put a huge asterisk by what i'm about to say. but if you're going to investigate the president of the united states because some of his decisionmaking and judgment is erratic, first, that's donald trump for 72 years. he's taken u-turns on other foreign policy, north korea, iran, would be two examples. sort of china. i want to see evidence that tells me why something as profound as an investigation of the president of the united states for having an agent of a foreign power should take place.
final thing i'd say, quickly, is i was just re-reading what the inspector general of the fbi said about mr. comey's judgment during the hillary clinton investigation, and it is scathing. so i think you look at a parallel and say there will be equal questions about his judgment on this process. >> the scathing criticism was the way comey behaved toward hillary clinton, not necessarily toward donald trump. >> no, what i'm saying is the judgment he exercised during that investigation -- >> of hillary clinton. >> -- of hillary clinton including violating department norms. so now you have another politically charged investigation and i think there might be equal questions about the judgment he exercised during this investigation. >> you know, jeffrey, listen to this exchange that hillary clinton and donald trump had during the campaign at one of their presidential debates in 2016. >> 1,800 nuclear warheads and she's playing chicken. lo look, puttenin from everything see has no respect for this person. >> well, that's because he'd
rather have a puppet as president of the united states. >> no puppet. no puppet. >> and it's pretty clear -- >> you're the puppet. >> you know, they don't give silver medals in elections, but that was -- that was pretty preshent what she was saying there. this is why this is so significant because it's not just one thing that led the fbi to open this investigation. every single piece of evidence that came out during the campaign and certainly agreat deal after the campaign, is this incredible solicitude for donald trump toward vladimir putin and russia. why was he doing all of this stuff? why -- was it because he had financial interests there? was it because they had some sort of incriminating information? his behavior toward russia going into the presidency, including the extraordinary comments in helsinki, all point toward some sort of bizarre relationship with russia. was it an actual illicit
relationship as this investigation suggests? i don't know at this point, but hillary clinton was on to something. >> the "washington post," newspaper you work for, david, reports that the interpreter who was there during the trump meeting with putin in hamburg at the g20 back in 2017, that the president took that interpreter's notes because he didn't want it to be known what was actually going on during that meeting. it's a pretty extreme step. >> it is an extreme step. we've had several people over the weekend come out who know, who've been in these types of meetings saying essentially this is not normal, this is not how foreign policy is conducted. i think this is, again, a case where we still need to know more reporting, but at a minimum, you know, the white house has this narrative they put out in the last day or so where they're saying, essentially, look, this is because we were trying to protect against leaks, but that explanation, again, flies in the face of some of the other behavior we've seen from the white house and also it doesn't make sense why the president wouldn't share some of this information as has been reported
with top aides who he picked to help him do foreign policy. >> and the whole point of heads of state talking to each other is they make commitments to each other about their policy, but if no one else knows the commitments that donald trump makes, why have the meeting at all unless there is something he doesn't want anyone else to know, which is a pretty extraordinary -- >> or that he doesn't trust his own advisers. >> right. >> on russia. his national security advisers. all of whom have top-secret security clearances. the russians know everything that happened in that meeting, but u.s. officials are kept in the dark. that's pretty extraordinary. much more right after this. ♪ ♪ and everywhere i go
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on the eve of his confirmation hearing, the attorney general nominee, william barr, is now revealing he sent or discussed with trump lawyers a controversial memo concluding part of special counsel bob mueller's case could be, quote, fatally misconceived. it was a 19-page memo. david swerdlick, what do you think? is it appropriate that months ago he was circulating this letter and actually discussing it with the president's lawyers? >> well, it was probably appropriate at the time. no one was considering mr. barr to become the attorney general again. now that he's being considered again as attorney general, i do think it's fair game for senators to ask him when he comes before them. look, you're essentially
providing legal advice to the president's team, but the attorney general's not the president's lawyer, he's the lawyer for the united states. how do you respond to that? >> what do you think, rebecca? >> this and the mueller investigation are obviously going to be one of the main focus for these senators as they're questioning barr. everyone is going to want to know will he protect the mueller investigation? and what happens when a report is issued? could he potentially go after the president for obstruction of justice? and so this is going to be at the center of their attention, but agree with you, david, this was done in a completely different context. this them mmemo was sent in a completely different context and tail have a chance to explain the context to the senators. it will be interesting, though, to see how he does. >> people who are attorneys general are public figures who have views on lots of different issues. there's nothing -- john ashcroft was attorney general. he was a united states senator. he had views on all sorts of things. the fact that he had this view i don't think is disqualifying at
all. what it tells you is that this is someone who has at least some skepticism of the mueller investigation, and the senators will certainly want assurance that as he has said before his hearing that he will allow mueller to proceed and even more importantly, at this point, allow his report to be made public. but the fact that he expressed this opinion i don't think is a problem in -- >> he previously was attorney general and he emerged with a pretty good reputation as a result of his earlier term as attorney general. he worked closely with mueller then. he worked closely with pat sipalone, one of the president's lawyers right now. he's pretty well known. >> i think that's an advantage here. in a city of turbulence where you have a celebration of partisanship on the hill, you have sort of a lack of judgment, i think a lack of character at the white house. you have three guys, that is the incoming attorney general, the white house counsel and the special counsel robert mueller who "a," know each other and i think that's a good thing. there's got to be a level of
trust there. "b," regardless of what you think of their politics, if you look at their credibility and their histories are really respected in this town. this is going to be a tough year and i think that combination of skills and the fact they know ooch other is a real positive. >> he's been very friendly with mueller over the years. their wives are good friends. that's presumably going to help him in the confirmation process. >> perhaps. you know, remember, donald trump thought jeff sessions did a terrible job as attorney general because he did the right thing in recusing himself from the russia investigation. so donald trump has no understanding that the attorney general is supposed to work for the people, not as his personal lawyer. barr's unctioning of that distinctidi that distinction, he's done it before. his insistence that he'll preserve that distinction is critical to this fros. >> the hearings start tomorrow before the senate judiciary committee. what do you anticipate?
>> this is going to be a focal point of these hearings. i defer to jeffrey. you worked as lawyer for the department of justice. i do think if i were someone on that committee asking the question, my first thing would be, why did you want to provide legal advice to the president's team? even if it was narrow, perfectly reasonable, legal advice? i'd also want to know why someone who's already been attorney general wants this job right now. >> because the argument that you've heard it from some of the critics is he was auditioning for the job knowing sessions' tenure was very, very weak. >> that's right. and so we'll have, perhaps, as a result of this memo, a higher bar to clear, especially with the democrats on this committee, and don't forget, wolf, there are multiple democrats on the judiciary committee who we expect to run for president in 2020. so this will be a moment for them to try and grab the spotlight with their questioning of barr. and that could make this a little more fiery than what we would ordinarily expect. >> he was auditioning. he was showing ambition in washington, d.c. i don't know -- it's like i'm so shocked to hear that. >> this is interesting, though, i'm going to go down in "the
situation room" book in just a moment, the president remembers, called this a hoax, and to prepare for this hearing, his incoming attorney general, presumably, i presume will get confirmed, is already saying it's not a hoax, i'll let it continue. i'll say within 12 months the president is trashing him on twitter. >> the president may not have been fully aware of all of his record on these sensitive issues. guys, stick around. there's more news we're following. republican congressman steve king under growing fire for racist remarks. what gop leaders are now saying about this congressman. toyota ? yeah - yup would you be surprised to hear that honda is the most reliable car company? honda's reliable. well actually, it's not honda. really? what!? - toyota! it's not toyota either. chevy! based on a nationwide survey, chevy is more reliable than toyota and honda. wow! get $4,500 total cash allowance on select equinox vehicles in stock when you finance with gm financial. that's 16% below msrp on this chevy equinox. find new roads at your local chevy dealer.
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all right. just into cnn, sharp new condemnation of racist remarks by republican congressman steve king of iowa. our congressional correspondent, sunlen serfaty is joining us from capitol hill. sunlen, king met just a little while with the house republican leader. what are you learning? >> he did just meet with a top republican in the house, leader kevin mccarthy. the two met for about an hour, privately, and leaving that meeting, congressman steve king was stone faced, as he left. he was peppered with questions from reporters and he did not answer any of them, at all. and of course, this meeting follows mccarthy over the weekend, vowing that action will be taken to reprimand him and we await word whether that reprimand will be in the form of potentially a resolution of
approval, potentially stripping him of his committee assignments, or as some democrats have opposed, to censure him on the house floor. a significant statement, though, coming tonight from the leader over here in the senate, mitch mcconnell. he stopped just short of calling for him to resign. he says in a statement, in part, quote, rep king's statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. if he doesn't understand why white supremacy is offensive, he should find another line of work. and also, much stronger comments coming from new senator, mitch mcconnell -- excuse me, mitt romney, who tonight told my colleague, manu raju, thinks that it's time for steve king to go. >> i think there's room for steve king's comments in polite company or in the republican party, or if that matter, in congress. i think he ought to step aside, and i think congress ought to make it very clear, he has no place there. >> and the last time we have officially heard from steve king was on friday, when he took to the house floor, and he says that his comments were taken out
of context. he's regretful for the heartburn that this has all caused congress, but, wolf, he has not apologized for his statements. >> sunlen serfaty up on capitol hill, thanks very much. there's much more news right after this. what makes this simple salad the best simple salad ever? great tasting, heart-healthy california walnuts. so simple, so good. get the recipes at walnuts.org. this is a very difficult job. failure is not an option.a. more than half of employees across the country bring financial stress to work. if you're stressed out financially at home, you're going to be too worried to be able to do a good job. i want to be able to offer all of the benefits that keep them satisfied. it is the people that is really the only asset that you have. put your employees on a path to financial wellness with prudential. bring your challenges.
will attack syrian kurds, who fought alongside the united states against isis, but who turkey considers to be terrorists. mr. trump has threatened to, quote, devastate turkey's economy if that country attacks the kurds. our chief international correspondent, clarissa ward is joining us. she's on the ground in northern syria for us tonight. clarissa, the kurds there apparently feel almost totally abandoned by their american allies. >> reporter: there are certainly very deep concerns here, wolf, about what comes next for the syrian kurds. they have been some of the u.s.' most steadfast allies on the ground, in the fight against isis. and while they were certainly reassured to see president trump's tweets, talking about dealing a real economic blow to turkey, if they impinge on kurdish security here, they still have a lot of questions about what the future will look like for them after america is
gon gone. in kobani, the graves of kurdish fighters are still fresh. 27-year-old mahmoud rasual was killed less than two weeks ago in an isis ambush near the town of dar azor. get up, get up, my son, i beg you, his mother neshma weeps. these are the people left behind to mourn. now they are bracing for the moment they will be left behind again, as the u.s. begins to withdraw its forces from syria. they got what they wanted. they used the kurds to get rid of isis, and now they're leaving us, nesh ma says. america was supposed to have our back. >> almost every family in this town has lost someone in this war. and the very real fear here now is that when the americans leave, there will be war here
once again. >> just across the border is turkey, which views the syrian kurds as terrorists. to the west is the brutal regime of bashar al assad and its russian and iranian backers. kurdish military commander sharfan darwesh tells us the americans provided the kurds with a buffer. in return, the kurds took the fight to isis. after all of those years that we fought terrorism together, he says, it's their minimum duty to help guarantee our security. he takes us to the town of irima, where the intricate patchwork of different powers can be seen close up. so the regime and the russians are just over there. and the turks are over there. the americans? we drive closer to the joint
russian regime base. it's too dangerous to stop. less than five minutes away, the americans are still flying their flag, but it won't be there for long. u.s. military hardware is already beginning to move out. >> no one knows what comes next for the kurds. on the road back to kobani, we happen on a funeral. two kurdish security officers killed by a roadside bomb, a reminder of the daily dangers faced here. after an exhausting battle against isis, the kurds may now have to defend themselves against more powerful enemies alone. people here are now waiting to see exactly what president trump meant by something else he wrote in his tweet. he talked about a 20-mile safe zone. some kind of buffer zone along the border.
they want to know who would implement it, who would patrol it. wolf? >> clarissa ward doing amazing reporting for us in northern syria. thanks very much. and to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. "erin burnett outfront" starts right now. >> "outfront" next, trump forced to say he's not working for russia, but does anyone take him at his word? plus, breaking news, trump's pick for attorney general, just revealing that he has shared a controversial memo with trump's legal team, one that supports the president. this on the eve of his confirmation hearing. plus more breaking news. the house voting on a resolution to disapprove of congressman steve king after he supported white supremacists. is that enough? the chairwoman of the congressional black caucus speaks out. let's go "outfront." and good evening, i'm erin burnett. "outfront" tonight, not a russian agent. trump forced today to deny that he works for