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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  May 17, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT

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i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room". we have breaking news. let's go right to pamela brown. this is huge, pamela. >> this is significant. we are learning that rod rosenstein appointed former fbi director bob mueller to now look at possible connections between trump campaign associates and russia. this announcement coming on the heels of the news that president trump asked director comey back in february if he would stop the flynn probe according to our sources. in this statement just released from the department of justice, rob rosenstein says considering
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the unique circumstances of this matter i've determined a sperm council necessary in order for the american people to have full confidence in the outcome. our nation is grounded on the rule of law and the public must be assured that officials administer the law fairly. secretary fueler will have the resources to be able to conduct an investigation. he adds that mueller resigned from his position at his law firm so now this is his full-time job overseeing the russian job. we have previously reported, wolf, that rod rosenstein didn't feel the need to appoint a special council shortly after firing james comey last tuesday. after that there were revelations that president trump asked james comey over dinner at the white house if he was under investigation. we found out the latest news about the memo, james comey's memos where he documented the president asking him to end the flynn probe. that appears to be a tipping
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point now the news coming out of the department of justice that council taking over the prob and department of justice now removed. also worth mentioning, we have learned through sources that bob mueller was at the department of justice last week. there meeting with rosenstein a day after the comey firing. but rosenstein was not ready to have special council. clearly that changed with all of the developments, wolf. >> and significant that it was the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein who made this decision. attorney general jeff sessions recused himself so it was left up to him. >> left up to him because of that. we want to point out what it means to have outside special council. this happens when the department of justice feels there is a possible conflict of interest or extraordinary circumstances and it is in the best interest of public to appoint outside special counsel. it appears given the news out of department of justice just now that the department feels that
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way and that therefore it is important to appoint the former fbi director, bob mueller. he was appointed by president bush in july 2001 just before 9/11 and now he will be overseeing this yau overseeing th overseeing this russia probe. >> now to evan perez. he is working the story as well. this comes as a surprise but it is a very, very significant. >> very significant, wolf. and as pamela just mentioned, mueller has been at the justice department, visiting with them for the past week. apparently this has been under the discussion we're told. i just talked to someone familiar with the decision making here. i'm told this is in the works. mueller is the first special council, first special prosecutors brought in, in a justice department case since 2003, when james comey was then deputy attorney general. he brought in patrick fitzgerald it handle the valarie plame case. you may remember that case.
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there was a lot of criticism about that case. there is always a lot of criticism about these appointments. as simply put, the criticism is that the justice department would have a better handle on being able to do the cases that special prosecutors often feel pressure to bring charges. in this document that rod rosenstein signed today, appointing bob mueller, he said that this special prosecutor will look at any links that shows coordination between the russian government and individuals connected to the trump campaign. it says that any matters directed and he may charge how he so chooses. bob mueller, who has a strong reputation, o obviously serving as fbi direct for for 12 years.
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he has been doing special investigations, including one into the nfl and one into takata air bags. so he has been doing a lot of these similar tiech work but for the private sector. >> very quickly, evan, in the press release at the department of justice put out. they say that this special counsel, robert mueller, former fbi director, will be involved in the investigation of russian government efforts to influence the to 20th 2016 presidential e and related matters. did they define related mat sners. >> no. that's one of the special appointments. he will go wherever he decides this case will go. anything that comes up, any new discoveries made, he is able to pursue that. he makes that decision alone without any input from the deputy attorney general. that's why there is so much resistance inside the department to make clearly this is not
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something that rosenstein or the department leadership really wanted to do but i think we can tell that they felt they really needed to do this to sort of help quell concerns about interference in light of the recent news coming from the white house. >> so the fbi investigation which james comey, former fbi director, testified, actually started last july. what happens to that formal fbi investigation? >> that fbi reports to robert mueller. he is now in charge of that investigation. leadership of the justice department has now been removed completely from handling any part of this. they won't be able to know what is going on and mueller will be able to appoint people under him, to help manage the investigation. they don't know where this will go. >> former fbi director robert mueller, new special counsel, investigating. let me read another sentence from the deputy attorney
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general, rod rosenstein. quote. i determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint -- [ inaudible ] i'm going to laura jared at the justice department. laurie, you are there inside this briefing. give us more explanation on why this extraordinary decision was made. >> yeah, wolf, we were gathered very swiftly. here at department of justice with department staff, rod rosenstein, here i should mention, but they put out this briefing but they also tried to walk us through the history here
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explaining the exceptional circumstances, unique circumstances, highlighted frequently. also highlighted was the fact this is not a finding of any crime but rather something that the deputy attorney general has on regulations of special counsel when a conflict may be present. i will read a little bit to you from the deputy attorney general's statement. he says our nation is grounded on the rule of law. and the public must be assured that the government officials administer the law fairly. he goes on to state special counsel mueller will have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation and i am confident that he will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result. it was also highlighted for us, wolf, that deputy, now deputy attorney, mueller will have the power to add staff and his own budget. he also has the power, if he wishes, to continue using the staff that have already been working on the russia
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investigation for continuity, wolf. >> the new special counsel investigating russia involvement in the u.s. presidential election and related matters, robert mueller, who spent 12 years as fbi director, i want to get white house reaction. jim acosta is our senior white house correspondent, what do they say there at the latest development? >> nothing yet, wolf. we should report that sean spicer is not even in his office right now. it is possible that top officials are huddling behind closed doors to sort of craft a response to this news that bob mueller, former fbi director is a special prosecutor in this case but we can tell what you they have been doing all afternoon here wolf is really toning down the rhetoric, toning down optics that we have been seeing coming out of this white house over the last week. instead of tweets from the president and statements from the briefing room with sean spicer, what we have been seeing all afternoon is this white house parading candidates for the position of fbi director in
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front of the cameras, going in and out of the door to the west wing to meet with the president throughout this process. i can tell you right now, wolf, we are waiting for former leader on the ticket, he has been meeting with the president this afternoon about that job for fbi director as well as andrew mccabe, acting fbi director, frank keating, former governor of oklahoma. we are now waiting to see that process wrap up over here at the white house and it seems to be, wolf, sort after just position that this white house wants to put forward and this is about law and order over here and they are committed to the process and see that this investigation is handled properly but as of this moment, and when it comes to this appointment bob mueller as special prosecutor in this very sensitive case that very much could determine the future of
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this presidency, wolf. >> it certainly could. and jim acosta in the press release, justice department put out, they said that the special counsel, new special counsel, bob mueller, will oversee the previously confirmed fbi investigation of russian government efforts to inflew enthe 2016 presidential election and related matters. here is the question, jim acosta, the president repeatedly said this whole issue is a hoax, a charade, it simply designed to give the democrats and excuse why they lost the election. presumably the president won't be very happy that there is now a special counsel for this investigation. >> that's right, wolf. and we will have to watch whether the president can show restraint. does he go after bob mueller if there is a day in the news he doesn't like? it was just in the last couple of weeks that he went after former fbi director that he fired, james comey, when he made the comment, that white house
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still hasn't really commented on at this much, that much at this point, that there may be tapes of these conversations that have occurred at the white house. kwet becomes, and i think it is an important one, if there is a day in the news when it comes to this investigation now that bob mueller has been handling it, outside of the justice department. does the president show restraint and not comment on it. speaking of tweets, the chair of the house oversight committee, announcing his retirement, has been noticed he has been more flexible on his comments about all of this. tweeting about four minutes ago, mueller is a great selection. impeccable credentials. should be widely accepted. there will be bipartisan welcoming of this news of bob mueller named special counsel in all of this. but the question becomes at this hour, wolf, how does the white house respond to all of this. my sense is with press secretary sean spicer not in his office, they are busy crafting response
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as we speak. it is surprising given that it wasn't exactly a state secret that this announcement was going to be made, that the white house wasn't ready with the statement ready to go. that is a bit surprising, wolf. >> stand by. i want to go to jeffrey toobin, senior legal analyst to get your reaction. jeffrey toobin is with us. what is your reaction, jeffrey? >> this is an absolutely brilliant choice. there is no more respected figure in american law enforcement than bob mueller. fbi director. u.s. attorney in both massachusetts and san francisco. head of the criminal division in the justice department. someone who has been appointed to positions mostly by republicans but also by bill clinton when he was u.s. attorney in san francisco. someone of what unquestioned integrity. extreme confidence. just someone who has been respected his entire career, just recently judge chuck prior
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in san francisco named bob mueller to super advise the settlements in the volkswagen stand yell. this is someone who is respected in all quarters and i can't imagine any criticism of this appointment from democrats or from republicans or from anyone. when he was nominated to run the fbi by president george w. bush, in 2001, he was confirmed 98-0, which i think gives you some sense of the kind of esteem he has been held in throughout his long career. >> normally fbi director stays for ten years. he stayed for 12 years because the president obama wanted him to spend another couple years there. the former u.s. attorney in new york let go by president trump tweeted just this right now, and hopefully we can put it up on the screen. there it is, having known him for years, i believe special counsel mueller is a very good thing. one of the best, independent and
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no nonsense. that is his reputation. here is a question, jeffrey, i don't know if you know the answer, but deputy attorney general rod rosenstein who made this decision, who made this announcement, would he normally consult with the white house in advance or does this come as a surprise to the president and officials at the white house? >> there is no law on this. but i would be very surprised if rod rosenstein consulted with the white house on this. i suspect he nefd the white house. probably gave them a heads-up. there is a long and complicated history about outside counsel, supervising investigations. archbald cox was the special prosecutor in the watergate case. he was fired by richard nixon. the nixon department in the saturday night massacre. then congress passed ethics in government act. where it passed responsibility
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for former prosecutors called independent counsel to a three-judge panel. that panel appointed wash, the iran contracounsel. i was a member on walsh's staff. then kenneth star to be watergate independent counsel. that was a lengthy and controversial investigation. that law lapsed. there is no more ethics in government act. this responsibility has now passed back to the justice department. sessions refused himself so the responsibility for who should appoint and whether to appoint a special counsel as a position is now known went to rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general and today he exercised that by naming robert mueller. >> bob mueller, very special
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counsel. quickly, jeffrey, when they say he would investigate not just russian meddling in the u.s. presidential elections but related matters, i assume that also it would involve the behavior of michael flynn, the former national security adviser. and looking into the supposed effort to influence former fbi director to drop that investigation? >> absolutely. there is no question those two qualify as related matters. but the key fact to know what a person defines as a related matter is robert mueller. he will decide how far his jurisdiction extends. but certainly, michael flynn, anything related to michael flynn, which certainly includes the now famous conversation between james comey and president trump about michael flynn would certainly be within
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his jurisdiction. and so he will be the person, he will perhaps probably impanel a grand jury where he will subpoena witnesses, obtain document. undoubtedly obtain cooperation from the current prosecutors who have been supervising this investigation to date. rod rosenstein will certainly make sure there is a smooth transition there. but there should be no doubt the person deciding all these questions in the future will be mueller. not anyone who is currently in the justice department. >> and if he wants to get the president's tax returns, robert mueller as new special counsel, i assume he would be able to get them. ? if he subpoenas them, absolutely he will be able to get them. he could attempt, again, you
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want to go one step at a time. he will want to interview the president. whether that interview is sworn testimony like bill clinton gave in the monica lewinski investigation under kenneth star, that's one approach. it could be an office interview. could be both. there are so many areas here that mueller will have responsibility for. but certainly an interview of some kind, of some circumstances, of president trump will be on the agenda eventually. but certainly he will want to get all the other facts that he can possibly get before he takes the step of interviewing president trump. we know this investigation would conclude without some sort of interview, grand jury, office interview, of the president of the united states. >> once these investigations begin, you don't know how long they will last. we are told by the justice
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department that mueller agreed to resign from his private law firm quote in order to avoid any conflicts of interest with firm clients or attorneys. this is a full-time job for new special counsel. stand by for a moment. phil lud is joining us. phil, i understand you know robert mueller. you've worked with him. what do you think? >> four and half years sitting down the hall from him, i saw him one, two, three times a day. meetings. anyone whether they like the president or not should breath easy tonight. robert mueller is solid ground. i saw kings, prime ministers, secretaries of state, cia directors, former attorney general in new york said he is one of the best. he is not one of the best, robert mueller. he is the best i ever saw. leadership, judgment, decision making he would hate me to say this, the man has heart and sense of humor.
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there is nobody better at doggedly pursuing a target without being subjective to any pressure from congress, president, media, anybody in the fbi. attorney general, deputy attorney general. there is nobody better, wolf. i can't say it any clearer. >> rod rosenstein, deputy attorney general, who made this decision. >> you have to applaud the decision. let's point out the scenario of anyone who want to argue against mueller but against a special counsel. if the fbi walked four in three months, four months, six months and said we decided no charges are appropriate in this case who would have believed them? i didn't think they had an option because the scenario you play out over time, particularly a scenario where no charges are brought would not be cred nibble america. >> stand by. pamela brown is with us. pamela, you've been doing extensive reporting. how big is this decision?
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>> it's a big deal and rare for the justice department to take itself out of the equation and it hand the reigns to special counsel, to outside counsel. in fact the last time this happened was 2003 with attorney general john ashcroft who disqualified himself over the investigation into the bush administration whether there were any leaks into the identities of cia officers. it doesn't happen that often. you see attorney generals, attorneys general, i should say, recuse themselves, as we see jeff sessions did. deputy attorney general took over. for the deputy attorney general to say i'm also going to take myself out of the equation and let someone else who is outside of doj oversee in probe, it is significant. what it means is the department of justice and particularly rod rosenstein felt like it was in the public's best interest and these are extraordinary circumstances given all of the developments about the russian probe and interactions between james comey and president trump. it is significant.
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it is a big deal for the justice department to remove itself from the occasion especially on such a high profile investigation lining this. >> bob mueller will take oest fbi investigation. he can use anyone from the fbi investigation he wants but he can bring in new people as well and have a flu staff new staff . >> yes. he will have raflt sourcall of resources he needs. he will look at key issues of was there any coordination between russians and people associated with the trump campaign and other matters that may arise within the scope and any other matters that may directly arise from the investigation. so this is a wide swath here wolf that bob mueller will be looking at not just the russia probe but anything that may arise beyond that. he can use resources and for the work he has done and more people
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to be part of this probe. >> stand by and reaction from capitol hill. a key member of the house committee, jackie spear of california. your reaction to this decision, there is now a special counsel, robert mueller who went to the fbi director for a dozen years. he is taking charge of this entire investigation. congresswoman, your reaction? >> a daily surprise around here. as many of us have be-- the dec rod rosenstein to identify a special counsel and name robert muler is remarkable. lots of profiles encouraged among some of the attorney general, sally yates and now rod rosenstein. i wasn't keen about his memo that he drafted just last week, but it took a lot of guts for him to make this decision and place someone with sterling credentials to take over this position.
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everyone in this country should breath a sigh of relief. >> you are encouraged by the special choice of robert mueller? >> i am, indeed. the necessity to have special counsel is something i've been harping on for weeks. we needed to have this role be identified. and i think now we've got to make sure that whoever is selected as new director of fbi is above politics and not someone who held a political position before. >> so a press release from the department of justice said he will oversee and i'm reading now specifically the previously confirmed fbi investigation of russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters. does it bother you there is no specific reference to allegations of possible collusion between trump campaign officials and russia? was that necessary?
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>> i don't know that that was necessary. that statement is very broad. if you read further in that description, it actually is much broad broader and referencees a code section. i think that the special counsel can take this case wherever the facts lead him. >> so we know that robert mueller will now be special council, take over that entire fbi criminal investigation that's been going on since july. what happens to the separate investigations where you are up on capitol hill. house intelligence committee, senate intelligence committee, judiciary committees, how does that impact those investigations. >> what is important to note here is that special council has the power and authority to bring criminal action. we certainly don't in congress. so our role is to dig deep, make our findings and conclusions and recommendations. but we are not in a position to bring anyone to justice. that's something within the ag's
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operation. >> what does this mean as far as democrats are concerned? pressure, does it take pressure off democrats in congress to move full speed ahead with their separate investigations? >> i think our interest is wanting to make sure we have a comprehensive and independent investigation. the extent to which two intelligence committees can work in a coordinated fashion i think will take us down a road that will give us the confidence in knowing we are doing the people's work. the extent to which there is a divergence of where the two committees want to go, where the two sides of each committee that the democrats and republicans, but that's not anything that we know at this point in time. >> congresswoman jackie spear of california, thanks for giving us your reaction. >> thank you, wolf. >> quickly back to evan perez. give us con tekt now on this decision, breaking news, robert mueller, former fbi director, taking charge of the entire
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investigation into allegations of russian meddling in the u.s. presidential election and as justice department says, related matters. >> wolf, this is a signal from rod rosenstein, deputy attorney general who has been under a lot of criticism for the way the firing of james comey was handled just over a week ago now. bob mueller, the person he has now appointed to run this investigation played a big part in that incident in 2004 where comey and other officials of the justice department including mueller threatened to shut down, if you remember the bedside of john ashcroft was in the hospital there, and mueller and comey stood up to people from the white house including gonzalez, then the white house counsel. they were trying to get ashcroft to sign off on the surveillance program. mueller sided with comey. so the signal you are seeing from rosenstein is that this is
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a serious investigation. this will remain independent serious investigation. it'll lead wherever it leads. there has been a lot of criticism and a lot of concern inside the fbi that what the -- what the recent events from the white house and firing of james comey could effect the independence of this investigation, wolf? >> major development indeed, robert mueller now special counsel investigating allegations. i want to get more reaction from capitol hill. senator richard blumenthal of connecticut is joining us. senator, react to the news about robert mueller's appointment of special counsel. >> wolf, very solid and significant step. now clarity on details of his mandate, scope of his mission here needs to be clarified. also the resources and independence that he will have. but bob mueller is someone with
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expertise and experience. the guts and backbone to stand up and speak out against any kind of political influence. i think it is a very, very significant and serious step toward reaffirming the rule of law and independence of investigation and there has to be clarity he can follow that evidence wherever it leads. i think he will insist on it. obviously obstruction of justice is within the realm he has to pursue. >> correct me if i'm wrong, this gives you great confidence in the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. he was confirmed by the senate 94-6. correct me if i'm wrong, you were one of the six that didn't vote in confirmation. >> i was own thely member in judiciary committee that vetted against confirmation. ways one of the six who voted against him on the floor of the senate because he would not commit to naming a special prosecutor. richardson did commit to do it
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in 1973 and who did appoint archbald cox. i think bob mueller is of the same kind of grain and determination and independence of mind that archbald cox was and i think it sends a resounding signal that department of justice is going to be the department of justice and is going to pursue this investigation with grit and independence and determination which it needs and deserves and it sends a message to the american people as well. >> so you now have, i take it, great confidence in rod rosenstein, deputy attorney general. you applaud his decision? >> i welcome and i do applaud this decision. i think that bob mueller is the kind of prosecutor and investigator we need here. he is not only former director of fbi, he is also an experienced prosecutor and distinguished veteran, marine, who has fought for our nation.
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i would make this final point. i have known him for many, many years. i've talked to him privately as well as publicly in the judiciary committee. and i think he is about as good as we could have hoped to get. i'm hoping tomorrow we will have a conversation with rod rosenstein and he will continue to demonstrate the kind of independence that deputy general must do. >> a move applauded by not just you to name robert mueller special counsel. while i have you, you're from connecticut, former senator from connecticut, one of your predecessors joe lieberman is being interviewed by president potentially as next fbi director. what do you think? would you support joe lieberman as fbi director? >> i think the first step for supporting anyone as fbi director is to make sure that we
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have a special prosecutor, which i've urged for months and months, and make sure the special prosecutors has theorese answe s and mandate. i've known lieberman for years. and i think they have to be above politics. joe lieberman has been an attorney general in the state of connecticut which i was for some 20 years. he has that law enforcement experience. he has an expertise and clearly dedication to our nation. but i want to make sure that the next fbi director is completely immune and above politics. >> all right. senator rosen all th senator rosen that will, thank you for your reaction. >> thank you. >> more reaction, what are you learning, joe? >> that's right, wolf.
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we are finding out the white house did not receive much notice when bob mueller was named special counsel in the russia probe. white house counsel's office, don mcgann was notified right when the order was sign bid rod rosenstein naming bob mueller special prosecutor and that the notice given to the white house was less than one hour. they were not given any more after heads-up than that. it appears as you were talking about this with others earlier that the department of justice did this by the book. this administration official telling me that no, not much of heads-up was given to the white house. that is likely the explanation, very likely the explanation why we have not received any kind of statement from the white house at this point. from what we understand from our colleagues from the white house press secretary's office, there is not much activity of sean
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spicer's office, it is very likely they are huddled behind closed doors crafting a statement. i should point out, we did hear from a spokesperson in house speaker paul ryan's office that the speaker did not receive any advanced notice. did not receive any heads-up that this order was coming down. so it appears, wolf, just talking to a couple of officials on both ends of pennsylvania avenue that the justice department did not give much of heads-up or advanced notice this was coming. >> so basically the president, and i sort of repeat this, president has repeatedly said this whole rush grab investigatiian /* russian investigation is a hoax, and the democrats need an excuse why they lost the election. now they have one of the most rerespected law enforcement officials in history taking charge of this investigation.
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i suspect the president is not very excited about this. >> this is can not be good news to president trump. keep in mind president trump is someone who likes to shoot from the hip. we saw it on the campaign trail. we have seen it at press conferencees. seen it on twitter. he is now going to be dealing with the drip drip drip coming out after special prosecutors's office, something this scity hasn't seen in some time. it will be led by someone respected by both parties. bob mueller was fbi director under george w. bush and under a portion of barack obama's -- >> hold on. former u.s. senator from connecticut just leaving the white house, just walked out of the west wing, he was meeting for a while i take it with the president and other aides as well. he is apparently on the short list to be nominated as new fbi director. finish your thought. >> the president is, i don't
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want to say up against bob mueller, that is overdramatizing things, but he pairs to be without yes, without any kind of second-guessing in this city, and my suspicious wolf is you are going to see, and you know we have said this before, only to be surprised, i think you're going to be a very toned down reaction from the white house. given the fact that it was taken by surprise by this announcement. by this order signed by the rod rosenstein, naming bob mueller to this position. this would be a terrible time for the white house to go off half docked as they did when the travel ban was tied up and you saw statements later deemed very ill advised and you saw the president tweeting about justices and judges. i think just about any political operative in washington who has
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any sense tuinstitutional notic keep quiet, wolf. >> and why there is no official statement from the white house because notification from rod rosenstein was very, very late and clearly no advanced consultations with the white house either. that's the way it was supposed to be done. rod rosenstein did it according to the book. stand by, i want to get more reaction from capitol hill republican reaction this time senator james longford of oklahoma is joining us. a member of the intelligence committee. give us your reaction, senator, to this news. >> it is positive. conversations about a special investigator is typically an outside group. they hire separately. they have to set up. that drags down the investigation. nonpartisan career officials to continue on with their investigation until it's done. this allows for robert muler to step in to be able to lead an
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investigation. they are using assets to the fbi to conduct that and so the investigation can continue. and try to get to a conclusion. everyone wants to get to an answer. if you go back to iran can contra, six years. no one wants to see it drag on like that. ken star was three years. they can continue to move this in a methodical and professional way. >> but he has an open-ended investigation now, new special counsel. he is not only investigating russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election here in the united states but related matters and related matters, that's an -- that's whatever he wants it to be. if he want to investigation, anything involving anything of the trump campaign associates, connectiones with russia, he can go on and on, right? >> quite frankly, wolf, that's
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where we already were. the lead of the fbi can look at anything anywhere they want go. that doesn't change the investigation. they already had an open window to look at anything that smells wrong. he will be able to continue to be able to do that. >>. >> he absolutely could and in fact that's one of the areas that on the senate tin el genera intelligence we reached out to james comey. weren't able to reach him. we tried again today. we have reach toitd andrew mcgabe and said we want the document that now the fbi has in their possession. notes j james comey. we want to see those. we are reaching out to those issues as well. this is entirely reasonable for
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whoever is special counsel to look at all these things. we have to settle these issues one way or the other. american people expect us to look at issue answers resolve it. cha whichever way the facts go, we should go. >> he can call the president if he wants. subpoena any documents including the president's tax returns if he wants. this could go on and on. >> i hope it doesn't go on and on but i hope they do chase every lead necessary to help resolve it. you go back to previous special counsels, gone on six years, three years, two years. some of them that should be very straight forward stretched a long time. we want the resolution but don't want to hurry through an investigation. you have to look at all of the documents, listen to witnesses. we have looked through thousands of pages of dockments, went through multiple interviews and have many more to do. >> rod rosenstein, said his
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decision, is not is a finding that any crime is committed or any prosecution is warranted. why was it decided a day after the reports surfaced that the fbi director james comey wrote in a memo that president trump asked him to end the investigation of the former national security adviser niek al flynn. do you think that led to this very, very important decision by the deputy attorney general? >> i don't know that but i doubt that. you don't pull together a special counsel, contact mueller, pull everything together in a 24-hour period. i assume this is something considered already. after firing of james comey, i'm sure there are many folks talking through issues there. rosen stein in the mix on james comey. he is new director. would you have new director of the fbi. andrew mccabe, jeff sessions, everyone nooeds seems to be a part of the story or around the story. if you bring someone in separate that brings fwragreater credibi that american people can take a breath and say great. someone from the outside that
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knows thousand lead this. we can press forward. at the end of the day they know, we know that this has to be a credible investigation. you have to get good answers and be able to resolve the issue. >> one final question before i let you go, you're from oklahoma. former governor, governor keating, among the finalist to become the fbi director. what do you think? >> i'm not surprised. excellent individual. t tremendous leader. not a surprise at all to me he would be on the short list anded himself to be a nonpartian fair person. and tenacious in prosecutions. we have watched the governor walk through all that happened on the investigation of the 1995 bombing of the oklahoma city federal building we have seen the issues and have seen him work across the aisle. wouldn't be surprised if is on the short list and glad he is in consideration.
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>> one final question. do you think the announcement, would delay james comey testifying in front of congress? >> we hope to. we tried to meet with him yesterday and that didn't come through. we will try again. that should be uneffective. he is a private citizen and should be disconnected to what is happening in the fbi. >> thanks for joining us. >> thank. >> are you getting more information, pamela? what are you learning? >> that's right. evan perez and i are learning that the rod rosenstein started considering the idea after special counsel after firing james comey last tuesday. sources tell us bob mueller came to visit him in his office the day after comey's firing. that time we were told and we wondered what could be the reason. is he consulting with doj about possible replacement or could it be for special counsel? we are finding out with this revolution, news from ut justice department that he will now oversee russian probe and that it had to do with that.
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what is interesting is that as of late friday, rod rosenstein was telling those close to him he didn't see a need for special counsel. he was telling people he didn't see a need unless the fbi investigation was in peril. this is coming on the heels of revolution yesterday about former director comey's memo where he claims the president can asked him to end the flynn probe np. >> do we know if rosenstein saw those memos. >>. >> the justice department is declining to comment. we don't know the answer to that. >> gloria borger is with us. gloria, bob muler is highly respected. >> highly respected. both sides of the aisle. this takes the heat off the republicans in congress. they can say we have a well respected special counsel now investigating this and they can kind of, you know, they have use
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that as something to go back to their constituent with. it is very legitimate. i also would have to say a couple of things. one, the white house wasn't given much haefds-of a heads-up. it is a sign that this is special counsel that will be independent and isn't working in tandem with the white house with quite frankly wp with the congressional committee. we are also not informed. that's wait it should be. this counsel has to be independent. other thing i would say to what you were saying, pamela, is that when this story came out that the president actually asked comey about laying off of michael flynn, if you will, i think that probably today trigger something with rosenstein. what is the difference between friday where he was telling people as you report that, no, he didn't think it was necessary. and this week. and the difference is that story and comey memorializing his
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notes and knowing he had to testify before congress, not only comey but rosenstein himself has to go before congress. you look at this and say, gee, this is a little bit of self sabotage by donald trump. can which he has done time and time again. because just his actions are what has actually inspired all of this to occur. >> dana bash, most of the republicans, they didn't want a special counsel. now there is special counsel that and they are getting a lot of praise and you heard senator lankford, republican, he praised this decision as well. what are you hearing? >> republicans didn't want to be the ones who call for a special counsel. not necessarily that they didn't want a special counsel. that is born out to be true. the real surprise they are receiving this news with, not heads-up, just a short one at
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the white house, and on capitol hill. having said that my top calls with republicans, it is a sigh of relief. especially given what happened yesterday with this news of the comey memo and so forth. there was much, much more pressure on congressional republicans to take their investigation further. even to appoint a th9/11 type commission. select committee. ala watergate. they don't have to coudo that, because it is just a special prosecutor but someone who democrats even on this program. coming on one after another. telling our team in the hallways and capitol hill one after another how pleased they are with bob mueller. that doesn't happen much in this current washington climate. and that there is consensus about the idea of the special prosecutor and more importantly bob mueller. as much as they are breathing a sigh of relief there are gasps
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probably sin side the white house. i just hung up with someone who is a trump ally who said uh-oh, this guy, bob mueller, is very thorough which is good for the investigation, maybe not so much for president trump. >> who as we point out has called in russian meddling issue a hoax and charade. i'm sure he won't be happy that robert mueller is taking charge of this investigation. broad the powers of this new special counsel, how broad are those powers? >> right. sew will have the powers of the united states attorney. issue subpoenas. get access to documents. interview the president himself. >> he can depose the president if he wants. >> right. he will be incredibly empowered. bob mueller has a remarkable and impeccable reputation. this is one piece of the puzzle. the existing ones and
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intelligence commit eesz in addition to now some kind of select committee or independent commission, congressional investigations are different than the executive branch investigations. they serve a different purpose. we shouldn't ignore those. we also need to see the appointment after credible independence fbi director who is going to have the stature, integrity and experience to actually repair some of the real really substantial significant breach we've seen over the past week. >> i think there is no need for a special counsel. the fbi is conducting their own review and i think if you even look at what acting director mcgabe had, they have what they
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need and the work office right now that bob mueller spent a dozen years as fbi director is taking charge of this investigation? >> major gulps, i would say, would be one reaction. the one thing to keep in mind about these independent investigations, whether -- whatever you call them, special counsel, which is the term currently in use, special prosecutor, independent counsel. historically they have all taken listening times. not -- their tenure not measured in months but in years. three years, four years, six years for the iran contra special prosecutor. so this is something that is going -- this investigation is going to be around, it would seem to me for at least a year.
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that's certainly bad news. there's one piece of good news, i think, for the white house in this is that bob mueller is known as someone who does not leak. and this is not a congressional investigation where, you know, everything leaks. so whatever goes on in this discretion and whenever conclusions are being reached by mueller and his investigators, i don't think we'll be able to find that out until it's all over. and that could be well down the road. now, it is also true that these congressional investigations will also continue and they will leak like sieves to be sheer -- sure. but the investigation department as run by mueller, i am sure, despite the best efforts of me and everyone else, we're not going to find out much. >> he's a solid professional. everybody stand by.
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what do you think congressman? react to the news that the former fbi director, robert mueller will now be the special counsel in charge of this entire investigation of russian med alg in h matters. >> it's very, very good news but frankly, it's not the end of the news. there's a whole other piece of the puzzle that has to be brought in. the election was medaled by the russians. they actively engaged. they actively hacked. we're less than a year away from the next primary elections that are going to affect the nature of american democracy going forward. how can we protected our democracy? that's a different thing. this is a criminal investigation under way by the special prosecutor. that's good. but we also have to look at how we protect our democracy, how we protect oir elections. that requires a different
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investigation. i have little confidence in the house of representatives process through the intelligence committee. not only does it leak like a sieve but it has been highly political. we need an independent investigatory body outside to do just that. 12 people, three appointed by the leaders of the house and the senate, so we can fully explore, not the criminal activity but fully h explore how we protect our democracy from the kind of medaling we found russia doing. >> but you don't think that did oversight committees, the intelligence committees, the judiciary committees on the senate side and the house side can do their b responsibility, work in a bipartisan way and tell the american public what has happened and learn some lessons from this? >> no, i do not believe they can. we're a political body. if you look at the last senate
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hearing, the republicans are talking about it's all about leaks. the democrats were talk about it's all about russia. so that's a divide that's so very, very obvious. i don't need to comment on the house except to say it has been totally dysfunction a.m., highly political. will it get better? we don't know. the american public needs to have all of this out in the public and open. now, we understand the criminal investigation is going to be secret, as it should be. and that may go on for some months or even maybe for some years. and the american public's going to be in the dark. i don't want that to happen. i want us to know as much as we possibly can how can we protect our democracy. we know that it was seriously jep dieszed in this last year's election. going forward, we know that the russians continue to do this and quite possibly others. hacking into the actual voter counting systems, how do we
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protect ourselves in that area? what is going on with this entire array o issues? it's critical. it is our democracy. it is the very foundation of how we govern our election. it needs to be done in anticipation of the next year's elections and of course the presidential election coming up in just about three years from now. less than that. they're going to be campaigning in two years. so we really need to get at the understanding, not just the criminal, but also all of this political issues that have gone on and have so seriously compromised our democracy. >> i just want to be precise, congressman. you have high confidence in robert pluler that he will do the job. i assume you're praising the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein for this appointment. >> thanks for putting those words into my mouth. that's absolutely true. mueller is highly competent.
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rosenstein made the decision. they've got a great leader and it's going to be independent. that's why. that's exactly what should have happened and it did. now we have to look at the rest of the story which is how do we protect our democracy from interference by russia or anybody else. >> when someone said this whole thing is a hoax to help the democrats have an excuse why they lost the election, he can't be happy about mueller taking charge. >> he certainly can't be happy and he can't blame the press. his speech at the coast guard graduation was a pretty good example of oh, woe is me. i'm so picked on. wait, man. u you are picked on because you totally screwed up. he's made some terrible decisions. there's not only smoke, but
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there's fire going on here. that's why we have a competent special prosecutor looking at the issues of criminal justice. good. we have the issue of how do we protect american democracy and that's in a different venue. much of the information will be the same, but it's not a criminal investigation. it's an investigation about how we protect our democracy from influence by other nations, by other people that want to do us harm. >> congressman ger mendy, thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> dana bash, this is as huge moment. >> it absolutely is. we should reiterate what our fantastic reporters were saying as they broke the story, that this has not happened in more than a decade, this meaning the justice department appoints a special counsel, a special prosecutor. and the fact that this justice department felt the need to do it for whatever reason, whether it was the optics, whether it was the way the probe was going or the combination of both,
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likely, is incredibly significant and just on that -- on the investigation, again, on the politics of it, more and more republicans i'm communicatesing with are very glad that this is happening. they feel it takes pressure off of them and they are more and more concerned about special elections coming unand holding the house in two years. >> jeffrey tubin, where is this heading? >> i think we'll see justice. if crimes were committed, we'll find that out. if no crimes were committed, we'll find out about that, too. s that's all you can ask of the criminal system. >> how long will this take? >> well do 2018 at a bayer minimum and likely past that. >> this is a moment in history. we've seen things unfold on an almost daily basis. >> i'm kind of exhausting, aren't you?
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no. it's been an amazing news period. you're right, it's been a daily series of astonishments. >> jeffrey toobin will be with us every step of the way. thanks for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." breaking coverage continues right now with erin burnett "out front." >>s this is cnn breaking news. >> good evening. i'm erin burnett. we are following the breaking news at this hour. the justice department tonight naming the forger fbi director robert mueller special counsel to take over the investigation into russia's medaling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the trump campaign and the russians. it is a major development, raising the stakes for president trump. it comes just a day after a memo written by former fbi director


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