tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN June 16, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
the president goes after his dwep uty attorney general suggesting he's to blame for a witch hunt. leaving mr. trump personally under investigation. tonight a new warning that the president may be getting ready to fire rod rosenstein or special counsel he appointed. >> terrorists killed. russia claims he may have scored a critical hit with one the air strikes in syria killing the illusive leader of isis. but tonight the u.s. military is not convinced. the president goes to miami to unveil new restrictions on u.s. dealings with cuba and to slam his predecessor again. did he oversell his attempt to
role back obama era policies. stand by for new details of scalise's condition right now. we want too to welcome our viewers from the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." trump is blaming troubles on his deputy attorney general rod ros rosenstein and the president clans he is being investigated for firing the fbi direct by the man who told him to fire the fbi director. that remark is raising urgent
new questions about the fate of rosenstein who wrote a memo used to justify comey's firing and later launched special counsel investigation. also tonight, democratic dianne feinstein says she is worried that the president might troo fire rosenstein and mueller. also breaking, fbi just denied cnn's request for cop eves james comey's memos detailing his private conversationes with the president. the bureau arguing that releasing memos could interfere with the work of law enforcement. suing the fbi for access to the notes which which comey quoted public testimony saying they were not, repeat, not classified. also tonight, u.s. military is skeptical about returna's new claim of that the leader of isis may be ded. investigating reports that abu and killed by an air strike in syria last month. u.s. officials say they have no evidence to confirm that.
this hour, i'll talk about all those stories and more with congressman ruben gallago, democrat on the armed services committee. correspondents and specialists are also standing by. first, let's go to our senior white house correspondent jim acosta. he traveled with the president to miami today. jim, as the russian investigation widens, the president seems to be determined to fight back his way. >> that's right. >> that's right, wolf. president came here to miami fod to unveil a new get tough policy and canceling obama's administration policy when in fact he is preserving much of it. but carefully planned message is completely overshadowed by a tweet he posted earlier this morning on the russian investigation. the president admitted he is under investigation in the russia probe for possible obstruction of justice. the president tweeted, we can put this up on screen. i'm investigated for firing the fbi director by the man who told me to fire the fbi director. witch hunt. we are told by the sources of
mr. trump's outside counsel that the president was venting frustration with illegal leaks coming out of the administration. but rod rosenstein wrote that memo that the white house used to justify firing james comey. the president is receiving advice from key supporters urging him to fire special counsel robert mueller. one former adviser, roger stone, we can put it on the screen, i'd fire mueller and rose spenstein for wasting the taxpayers' money. >> that's why i'm very worried about mueller. than mueller is a bad person but he is surrounding himself with a collective group of people who are going to be on the witch hunt and i'm telling everybody this is not like new york real estate law. this is criminal law. these people are coming after
you to put new prison. >> within the last several minutes we confirmed that the president fired another major legal heavy hitter and team john doud who has legal team we confirmed that in the last several minutes and i would point out it is one week ago and the president told reporters he would let us all know shortly whether he has recordings of conversations and we did not receive an answer all week long. we should make that very clear and source inside council's office today told us wolf there is still no updates for this question where are the tapes. >> earlier this morning, they are referring us to outside council and we get the run around and something the
president raised himself. the one who said there may be tapes with conversations with comey inside the white house and he is refusing to answer that question and so is his legal team. >> jim acosta in miami, thanks very much. also tonight, president's tweet is let's go to justice correspondent jessica snyder.
robert mueller's telling cnn if there comes a point when adding that as of now, quote, nothing has changed. >> going to have a full degree of independence that he needs conduct the investigation appropriately. >> under skrut skrcrutiny to ap president's firing of and whether that was obstruction of justice,. >> in fact, when i decided to did and this russia thing --
>> asking rosenstein about his decision to write that memo and as i said, councilmember, i'm not at liberty to talk about that now. >> good morning mr. general. >> in a press release deputy attorney general suggested reporters may be relying on sources outside of the united states. writing in part, americans should exercise cautions and any stories attributed to anonymous officials particularly and did not identify the country let alone branch or agency of government adding americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. >> and in an even more bizarre twist and lashing out on twitter writing, i'm being investigated for firing fbi director by the man who told me to fire the fbi director. witch hunt.
the man he appointed to be deputy attorney general infuriated congress. dianne feinstein, member of intelligence and judiciary committee said the message the president is sending through tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn't apply to him and that anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired. that's undemocratic on its face and a blatant violation of the president's oath of office. despite controversy tonight there are more signs it is moving forward. "the washington post" reports that the special counsel is investigating the finances and business dealings of jared kushner. plez t plus the general counsel sent a message to all campaign officials to preserve all documents and materials related to the russia investigation. and both vice president pence and trump's p erpersonal attorn michael cohen hired attorneys if needed in the probe.
they are told not to read too much into it. vice president pence isn't the only one lawyering up. president trump's personal attorney and former campaign aide michael kaputo, they have both hired private attorneys. >> lots of lawyers getting assignments right now. thanks very much, jessica, for that. jez ka snyder reporting. reaction to all of this. ruben gallago, a member of the armed services committee, thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> let me put that tweet up from the president that is causing all the stir right now. he says i am being investigated for firing the the fbi director by the man who told me to fire the fbi director, witch hunt. i would like you to respond to that. was that tweet a statement from the president of the united states appropriate? >> it's not appropriate. first of all, i guess thank you for confirming. none of us knew this was actually occurring at this time. we don't get that type of notification. second of all, i think it is an
attempt of intimidation on the deputy attorney general as well as potentially the special counsel, which is entirely inappropriate by the president. and i think that he needs to maybe head advice of lawyers to stay off twitter at this point. >> dianne feinstein is concerned the president will attempt to fire special counsel and deputy attorney general. what is your reaction to that? >> i would say that president should look at history that did not go very well last time a president tried do that with saturday night massacre. there is a lot of open questions director mueller is -- sorry, special counsel mueller is very well regarded within the d.c. community as well as the legal community. he is a war veteran, patriot with a v, and for the president to fire him would indicate there is a lot more going on here and
i think would cause a stronger reaction from congress, potentially, least in my opinion, would be grounds for starting impeachment procedures. >> really, would you go that far? some would suggest if you fire rosenstein, for example, they would see that as potential violation of his oath of office. you agree, you would see that far, right? >> absolutely. really essentially saving democracy and uphold the rule of law. nobody is above the rule of law and the president making overt efforts out of obstruction of justice cannot stand for that. so if he makes an attempt at a, you know, saturday night massacre, it is incumbent upon us as we also swore to protect the constitution of the united states to start impeachment proceedings. >> should the deputy attorney general recuse himself from overseeing special counsel
mueller's investigation? >> i don't know the details of it. clearly, if he is in the investigation as it comes to obstruction of justice and he has to testify or give some form of testimony about what occurred, then you know, i think at that point that would be appropriate. as long as the investigations are going strong and do not have the interference or pressure put on by deputy attorney general, i don't have enough information to really say one way or the other. but again, most important thing is that we have access to the truth. we follow the evidence. and the evidence takes us to a place that we don't want to go but could end up being obstruction of justice or prove obstruction of justice. that's when congress has to step in and do constitution of duties. >> rosenstein saying if necessary he would recuse himself. as you just heard in our report, officials who work for the trump transition team have been directed to preserve all records
that might be relevant to the investigations and to russian interference in the 2016 campaign. how important, congressman, do you think that could be to the investigation? >> well, obviously, i think the genesis of all of this is there was collusion from the russian spy service or under direction of putin with members of the trump transition and or election. so preserving all those types of documents are important for evidence. but clearly, wolf, there is something going on here. i don't want to jump to too many conclusions but clear lay lot of smoke right now which means there is definitely fire there. if you look at it, lawyers for trump administration are also lawyering up. so when lawyers are lawyering up, that means something is not right. something is amiss. and i think we, as members of congress, and the public, should be quite aware of this and you know, be on guard that there aren't any attempts to fire the special counsel. >> i want you to stand by,
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just ask your doctor about taltz. back with ruben gallago, following breaking news on president trump. publicly admitting he is under investigation for firing director james comey. congressman, i need to you stand by. there is another story unfolding. russia's claim it may have killed the leader of isis. our pentagon correspondent barbara starr has been digging into that. what are you learning? >> russia may be claiming this wolf. but i have to tell you, here in washington, pentagon, intelligence community, they're not so sure.
russia reports that al-baghdadi, founder and leader of isis, might have been killed in one of its air strikes in syria circulated across moscow and washington with little proof that the terror leader is actually dead. >> translator: i do not have 100% of elimination of al-baghdadi. >> defense minister saying he was investigating reports he was killed in air strikes last month, a claim the u.s. military has not seen evidence of. >> we cannot confirm these reports. >> there is no victory banner just yet. >> if in fact they did kill baghdady, if they were there, that would give them tremendous propaganda victory. >> both sides do agree russian warplanes on may 28 carried out air strikes here in raqqa,
isis's self-declared capital. there were 300 militants, including al-baghdadi, may have been present. but in the aftermath on the right, there is little sight of a bomb blast. buildings are destroyed very precisely. close-by structures, untouched. >> the bomb site looks very clean. doesn't look like it was subject to the bombing we normally expect from russian, where syrian air forces. >> u.s. officials are adamant they don't know for certain if al-baghdadi is still alive or where he's fighting. as u.s. fighters got closer to raqqa in recent weeks, fighters and leaders have been pushed out of the city, u.s. officials say, many fleeing south. u.s. air strikes and special operations are picking up in that area. but al-baghdadi several months ago is reported west of mosul near the city of baa.
days ago, syrian media reported him dead. >> many times these claims have been brought up. baghdady is someone who is extremely careful about his personal security. and u.s. officials say right now they are doubtful he would be at a meeting of 300 people. wolf? >> barbara, you're also following breaking news on a u.s. navy destroyer involved in a collision. tell our viewers the latest information. >> wolf, i think we have fresh video to show everyone. this is a very concerning situation at this hour. this is out in japan where it is early morning and the u.s. navy destroyer fitzgerald, couple of hours ago, collided with apparently a merchant vessel. about 60 miles off the coast of the japan. you can see the damage to the navy ship. they are pumping that water. the ship is listing. apparent lit hull has been breeched, we are told.
the ship is taking on water. the navy said it is not in danger of sinking at this hour but they are still trying to stabilize the ship. they are trying to ensure the safety of the crew on board. the coast guard is on scene rendering aid. u.s. navy assets at this hour are also aircraft on their way to the scene of this collision to try and render aid to the crew and to the ship. navy emphasizing tonight the ship is not in danger of sinking at this point but this is major incident when you see this damage. military families, navy families, informed at this hour about the incident. wolf? >> very serious. crew size approximately 330 sailors among others. that's a lot of sailors indeed. all right, barbara, you get more information. you will share it with our viewers. i want to get back to congressman ruben gallago. you're an iraq war veteran. first of all, do you believe the russian reports that they killed
al-baghdadi? >> no, not really. this is russian propaganda. it happens to be coming exactly at a very opportune time where qatar, syria, turkey, are all in the mix. and now they look like somehow they are in the middle east heroes by taking out one of the worst terrorists in the world. and in general just in working that area it is very different to confirm anything. when i was in iraq, tracking down cz down zarqawi, and it was said he was killed and it wasn't the case. if it was the case, that would be great. but russia has been an extreme stabilizer in that region. and not contributed ooze of the last couple of years. and mostly contributing fighting to syrian army and other factions.
you know, hopefully it's true. >> if in fact al-baghdadi is dead, what would that mean as far as war against isis is concerned? >> i think the war against isis continues. isis is starting to transform itself from an organization with control over land and was able to tax, you know, people and actually have somewhat of a functional level of government. and it's going to go down to, what i would say, as classic al qaeda style terrorism. this is just handed off to somebody else. but it would be good, obviously, to get rid of somebody that evil and would hopefully strike a blow against recruitment ability of isis. >> congressman gallago, thank you for joining us. >> thank you. >> just ahead, more breaking news. in a stunning tweet, trump says he is being investigated for firing the fbi director by the man who told him to fire the fbi
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we're back with breaking news. trump's public acknowledgement wh that he is under investigation. the president seeming to blame his deputy attorney general rod rosenstein for troubles fuelling questions about how long ros rosenstein may actually stay in his job. lets ebring in our team of correspondents and analysts and specialists to talk about what is going on. welcome to cnn. you're going to be our newest white house reporter starting monday. this is going to be an exciting new adventure for you. let's talk about breaking news right now. the president, his latest twitter outburst including this. i am being investigated for firing fbi director by the man who told me to fire the fb i director. witch hunt. he was referring to deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, the man he praised only a few weeks ago in that interview with lester holt.
listen. >> monday you met with the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. >> right. >> did you ask for a recommendation? >> what i did is i was going to fire comey. my decision. >> you made the decision before -- >> i was going to fire comey. he made a recommendation. he is very respected. smart guy. democrats like him. republicans like him. he made a recommendation. but regardless of recommendation i was going to fire comey. >> why the change? >> that's a great question. this is a guy who he praised as smart and respectable and now is throwing him under the bus and blaming him for the legal complicated situation he put himself in. that is interesting because we just didn't see this coming for the president to flip-flop on him and throw him under the bus. and -- just kidding, and it'll be interesting to see what happened. i don't think he will be able to shake him like he thinks he can.
>> interesting development. covering the justice department for us. might he at some point, rosenstein, feel compelled to recuse himself. he said publicly would he if necessary. >> i think, look, i think that possibility is very much on his mind. and i think, you know, partly you saw from the tweet today which by the way came as surprise by the president's own legal team. they didn't expect him to be up and tweeting and certainly not the attack on the deputy attorney general. but i think rosenstein's thought is that if it comes to that, and if he becomes a witness, in this investigation, that is now run by robert mueller, special coins e counsel, then that need may arise. today we are are told again by justice officials that that is still the state of play. and obviously inside the justice department there's a lot of tension built around this whole idea, you know, you have a bit of tension between the deputy attorney general on the forth floor and fifth floor of the attorney general, two of them are not really seeing eye to eye
over handling of this russian investigation. >> attorney sessions recused himself from the russia investigation. deputy attorney general presumably in charge, oversees the special counsel in this particular case. when you say there is tension developing, have you been doing additional reporting on it. what else are you hearing? >> one of the things is there is great distress especially on the fifth floor which is where the attorney general sits. they believe that rod rosenstein's handling of the russia matter made things worse. he is the one who decided to hire mueller as special counsel. as a matter of fact, attorney general was completely taken by surprise that this was being done. he was not con dulted. was not told. he learned about it when he was at the white house. he was told about it just about the time that we, in the press, learn bed it. so spread tensions between those two sides there. and look, the president himself is, as you can see, is very,
very angry. both at sessions for himself, for recusing himself and rosenstein for making things worse by robert mueller. they blame all of this on rosenstein. it is interesting that, and abby phillip, i want you to come into this conversation. the president tweeted this morning when he said he is under investigation. the aides suggesting he is washington post story not . necessarily that he has been officially informed by mueller or anyone else that he is under investigation. what do you make of that? >> you know, they are saying that he is just reading the news just like everybody else. watching tv. seeing reports. and is commenting on it. and that is actually, i think, a pretty reasonable belief. i think it is reasonable he won be informed that he was necessarily under investigation unless he needed to have contact with the special prosecutor for that reason. at the same time, why make a
comment or statement that implies that the story is true. when i went to trump's personal attorney's office, asked him about that, they characterize "the washington post" story as based on anonymous illegal leaks. which implies that the story, the foundation of the story, that the president was commenting on was based on leaks, things that are presumptively true and illegal because they are true. the whole situation is a huge mess. the president is clearly commenting on things without regard for what that does for his own legal defense and own political situation. >> he is basing his confirmation on anonymous sources which he says, don't believe it. but he apparently believes those anonymous sources cited. >> i used to be one. >> you used to be one of those anonymous sources, at pentagon and state department. now the official spokesman for the white house, referring any questions regarding the russia
investigation to the president's private attorney. but the president isn't bound by that. >> he should be bound by it. >> rule one as spokesman and dealing with the institution and involved in the situation, you don't talk about it. >> it's incredibly dangerous and certainly not helpful to the investigative process. so it is befuddling to me. they seem to have the right discipline. they are doing the right thing. passing it off to kasso wits. the president keeps undermining their messaging and quite frankly the investigation itself. >> some sources are telling cnn the president right now is more interested in this political fight than helping his legal battle down the road because you know, he is a counter punch, someone goes after him, he likes to counter -- >> they are one in the same though. one in the same. >> is he understanding his legal strategy? >> he is undermining it.
the reason we are here and talking about this is because he made comments to lester holt in that interview. his tweets in which he said that he fired comey because of the russia investigation. if he hadn't said that, by the way, we wouldn't likely be here by the way. >> some supporters like newt gingrich, former speaker of the house, they are supporting the president, defending the president and making very, very strong statements. listen to this. >> president of the united states cannot obstruct justice. president of the united states is the chief executive officer of the united states. if he wants to fire the fbi director, all he has to do is fire him. >> as i remember because i was white house correspondent for cnn. when bill clinton was president of the united states, he was accused of obstruction of justice. speaker of the house was newt gingrich leading the chart. >> exactly. this is not what he heed? 1998. i think we saw from newt that he will defend anything donald trump does or says. he praised bob mueller and said
he is a good choice and now he is saying he needs to be fired. i don't think we can take anything newt gingrich says at face value here. >> his wife has been designated as next u.s. ambassador to the vatican. >> yes. newt has a book out about trump, about trump's political rise. i think that newt gingrich knows what he said is not necessarily accurate. what it is true though, is it is challenging to bring an obstruction case against a president. that becomes a political decision that might end up being in an impeachment proceeding. bob mueller will have a hard time indicting the president of the united states because of enlisting doj rules that prohibit that. >> back in 19 the 8 during impeachment process and all of us remembered that. the president of the united states bill clinton was impeached in the house of
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let's get back to our analyst. evan, how significant is this? >> this is part of a routine part of the process, wolf. this is really, they are required to preserve these records. i mean, you would think by now, however, they would have already gotten that message. you don't want to destroy records when you know that an investigation is ongoing. so you get these letters. i think there are letters sent by the senate and house investigative committees as well. saying essentially preserve records to make sure that when we need them you can turn them over. and it's a routine part of the process. but it does indicate though that they want to look at everything. everything related to what the campaign was doing, transition. this is a methodical process going through everything before they come to a conclusion. >> people are lawyering up. you cover the white house, the vice president now has a well known lawyer that he has retained to deal with all this. michael cohen, one of the president's long time private
lawyers in new york, he has retained an experienced washington lawyer. the president is beefing up his own legal staff right now. it sounds like a siege mentality seems to be developing over at the white house. >> it is not entirely imprinted. we're in a stage now where there are three investigations. at a very minimum, the president has to have a legal team. vice president pence. folks like cohen who has ties to the trump organization and other hangers on. folks like roger stone. have you people on the outer perimeter who need to lawyer up. and i think a lot of people are also expecting the white house staffers will increasingly need to obtain personal lawyers to protect themselves from an ongoing investigation that's going to require every single piece of documentation that's physical, digital, something that you know, i talked to
former bush administration official recently and they told me that even in more of the less sort of intense investigations in that era folks today lawyer up and ended up with six figure legal bills. >> what we are talking about, mueller does expand this to look at obstruction and look at whether the president was interfering. obviously people in the white house are going to be witnesses in all that. so they will need to -- >> it is a nightmare for staffers. i covered earlier investigations by special counsels. for all the staffers, they have to retain attorneys and it is very expensive to retain a good attorney. what are you hearing, kate lin? you cover the white house as well. >> they have taken on this bunker mentality. even the press shop hasn't answered a lot of questions. they are referred to outside counsel who doesn't return phone calls or meet with reporter or anything like that. especially given the president's tweets. they speak for themselves until all of a suz they don't. as the president tweets nonstop about the russia investigation
his press team will not answer questions about the tweets. he can say whatever he wants and they refer to outside counsel who doesn't return reporters' phone calls. the president made this all a bigger problem for himself. this investigation has gone on for near lay year now and now those about russian interference in the election turned into, has the president obstructed justice here. >> yeah. a serious, serious development. other serious development that happened today, the president announced he was quote canceling the obama administration's deal that normalized relations above cuba. that's not exactly what's going on. full diplomatic relations will continue. ambassadors will be in havana and washington. but he is scaling back the opportunity for travel and trade. >> he is rolling back a couple elements of it. he clearly did not cancel. all they did was replace the director that president obama
signed and he is signing a if you one. he is making it harder to travel there on an individual basis. which is unfortunate. he wants to improve the lives of of the cuban people. no better way to do that than being exposed for americans going down there for tourism purposes, business purposes. he will limit business transactions with cuban military, which there is some logic there. there is logic there. but what he didn't do one mentioned one, he didn't suspend or end diplomatic relations. didn't take cuba off the list of -- or excuse me, didn't return them to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. didn't roll back or change wet foot dry foot termination that president obama did. those are three really big parts. >> tell our viewers about the wet foot dry foot-db. >> that's when a cuban -- >> refugee. >> -- refugee steps foot and becomes a parolee -- >> can't be removed. once they step foot on u.s. soil, the only country in the
world that had that -- obama rejected that. . >> right. it puts them in a parolee status which is very difficult. sew didn't reinstate that. which is important. >> there are people in miami who wanted a much tougher policy from the president. they are very disappointed. >> he sounded very tough. in reality, it sort of is more modest. >> a lot more modest. >> on the other side of that you're hearing from the business world. the u.s. chamber of commerce put out a statement. they're usually a strong supporter of trump. but in particular some of the hotel competitors of the trump organization who are trying to establish businesses in cuba and will have a much harder time doing that now that these new rules are in effect. >> among others, what are you hearing? >> i think it has a lot o do with politics.
donald trump didn't win florida. i think that politics in 2008 and 2020 played a major role in this event today where he seemed to take a hard stance against this when you look at the bare bones of it, not much is changing from the obama policy. >> when he says i am canceling the obama deal. >> a little ttle as terrifiteri. he was -- >> right. >> lecturing about -- >> human rights in turkey and egypt. >> saudi arabia and others. >> those are all excellent questions. everybody constitutes. coming up, the verdict in the trial of the police officer who fatally shot orlando castillo. the girlfriend broadcast the shootings's aftermath live on
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bash. we're learning that a list of names including at least one member of congress who was present but unharmed at the scene -- at the sooting i should say was found with the alexandra shooter according to a law enforcement source and congressman mo brooks. the law enforcement source says they're not quite ready to describe this as an designation list and none of the actual victims of the attack were on this list but as we mentioned, congressman mo brooks was among those being informed about the list. his name and his office's phone number was on the list that was found on the shooter, james hodgkinson kinsson. brooks tells cnn that he was contactsed by capital police about this development and he has informed his staff to take extra precautions sarlt. and wolf, this comes on the day that we learned significant new information about just how serious the situation was here for congressman steve scalise. of course he was shot on
wednesday at that baseball field. he was shot in the hip and air lifted here to washington med star hospital. we got a detailed brief today by the head of trauma, dr. jack sava who described the situation. take a listen. >> the congressman's status remains critical. we are encouraged by improvement in his condition over the last 36 hours. we have controlled the internal bleeding and his vital signs have stabilized. he will require additional operations to manage abdominal injuries and other bone injuries, the round fragmented did substantial damage to bones, internal organs and blood vessels. i understand he was awake on scene but by the time he was transported by helicopter to the med star trauma center, he was in shock. i would say that when he arrived he was in critical condition with an imminent risk of death.
>> he is still in critical condition today but dr. saba told us that his prognosis is good. he'll have setbacks and definitely a long road to recovery, but wolf, just to recap again, we are learning now that a list of names was found on the gunman, james hodgkinson kinsson in alexandra. among them congressman mo brooks on that list as if investigation continues. >> a there truly chilling development indeed. all right, ryan. thank you, ryan noebls. the minnesota officer who fatally shot castillo during a traffic stop last year found not guilty of second basesecond-degree. the shooting sparked protest after castillo's girlfriend live
streamed the aftermath on facebook. she says castile was reaching for his back pocket. they thought he was going for a gun. that's it for me. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." erin burnett "out front" starts right now. >> "out front" next. breaking news. president trump lawyering up, adding another high proposal attorney to defend him in the growing russia investigation. and would he recuse himself if called? this news just breaking. the gunman who attacked republicans was found a list of other gop congressman, were they targets. let go "out front." good evening, i'm kate 3w58d win in for elin run. breaking news, cnn is learning that president tru