tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN July 23, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT
you not know immediately and stop it? >> easy to say that in retrospect. pretty good makeup. i didn't recognize him. >> he's good at ad libbing through it. mixture of politeness and pushing and before they know it, the trap is set. >> thanks. follow me on facebook and twitter. our coverage continues now with wolf blitzer in "the situation room." happening now. breaking news, revoking clearance. in what would be an unprecedented move, president trump is considering stripping former national security and intelligence chiefs of their clearances. what's behind the threat? is it pay back for their criticism? twitter tirade. the white house
tries to explain away the twitter tirade in which he calls russia's election attacks a hoax and the president himself makes clear he has no regrets for the dire threat at iran. granted immunity. paul manafort appears in court
in a green jail jump suit as a federal judge gives fiver witnesses immunity ahead of the testimony against the former trump campaign chairman. and from russia with cash. an alleged russian spy accused of offering sex to gain influence in washington with financial backing of a russian billionaire. i'm wonderful gilf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." breaking news. president trump considers revoking the security clearances of half a dozen former national security officials including ex-fbi director james comey, former cia director john brennan, former director
of national intelligence james clapper and others. some don't have clearances any longer. the unprecedented move comes as the president surrounded by scandals is attacking an all directions. is he blindly retaliating for
their criticism? i'll speak with james clapper and our correspondents and specialists standing by with full coverage. let's begin at the white house. correspondent kaitlan collins is standing by. kaitlan, an extraordinary and unprecedented threat from the white house and doesn't seem grounded in reality. >> reporter: wolf, extraordinary is a good way to put it. unheard that the white house is making this request targeting the former national security and intelligence officials, most who worked in the obama administration and they made it quite clear today, wolf, why exactly they're going after these people specifically. sarah sanders asked at the briefing today of a request by senator rand paul of kentucky, republican senator, i should note, publicly called on president trump to revoke john brennan's security clearance. when asked if the president would consider that, she surprised the room announcing not only considering getting rid
of that and stripping him of that but five other officials, as well. this is what sarah sanders had to say. >> making baseless accusations of improper contact with russia, or being influenced by russia against the president, is extremely inappropriate and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence. >> reporter: now, sarah sanders didn't give a firm deadline of when the president decides they should lose the clearances or not but she did say she feels because they have politicized the positions. asked if president trump politicized the agencies instead, she rejected that idea and said this. >> president's not making baseless accusations of improper contact with a foreign government. and accusing the president of the united states of treasonous activity. when you have the highest level of security clearance, the
person that holds the deepest, sacred secrets and you go out and make false accusations against the president of the united states he thinks that is a -- something to be very concerned with. >> reporter: now, these officials that have these high level security clearances typically maintain them leaving the post, wolf, to consult with the successors and offer advise. things of that matter. very normal to keep and retain the high level security clearances and michael flynn, the former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators kept the clearance in the obama administration when he was attending trump political rallies leading chants of lock her up regarding hillary clinton. just to keep that in mind. wolf, this was just announced a few hours ago and raising questions here in washington about whether the president is using the power to retaliate against those that criticize him publicly and several officials on the list have criticized the
president in recent days, most recently over his summit, his sit down with vladimir putin in helsinki. now, that is what the white house is going to face questions about this but, wolf, this is essentially unheard of. >> certainly is. i'm sure the current intelligence and national security chief serving president trump are not very happy about this threat. kaitlan collins at the white house, thank you. the former trump campaign chairman paul manafort appeared in a federal courtroom today here in washington as a judge granted immunity to witnesses planning to testify against him. let's go to the crime and justice reporter shimon prokupecz outside the court right outside washington. so what do we know about the five people receiving immunity? >> reporter: well, wolf, these five people just receiving this immunity this morning after a request from the special counsel's office, the judge here signed off on it and ordered that the names against the objection of the special counsel
of the prosecutors ordering that the names of these five individuals be released. and since then, we have learned their identities. it's donna duggan, connor o'brien, cindy laporta, representatives for her put out a statement that her company kwc, an accounting firm in virginia, they had done some tax return work for paul manafort for his business and personal tax returns. and then the other two individuals are james brennan and dennis raico and they're believed according to internet records online records that they work for a bank in chicago. now, prosecutors are intending to present evidence that manafort was seeking loans in exchange for possible positions for a bank executive in the trump administration. and that could be as to why one of these people is being called
here to testify, wolf. also clear that the people that the prosecutors have now identified have done or were doing some sort of financial, personnel financial work for paul manafort, his bank work and also his mortgage work for him. >> why is the trial now been delayed another week? >> reporter: well, what happened today, wolf, was that the defense attorneys for paul manafort came in and say they needed more time to review records of rick gates and as we know rick gates has been cooperating with the special counsel. he's expected to be a big witness here once the trial gets under way which was supposed to start on wednesday and now delayed to july 31st for jury selection. the defense saying that they had received some new information, new documents from an ipad, other electronic devices that belonged to rick gates that they needed more time to review.
and court right now, wolf, still in session. the attorneys are up there arguing other motions, other things they had been seeking. the judge also ruled today that neither the prosecution nor the defense can ask jurors who they voted for, what party they're affiliated with in the presidential election. >> shimon prokupecz outside the federal courthouse in virginia, thank you. joining us is democratic congressman jerry connelly of virginia. congressman, thanks so much for joining us. >> great to be with you, wolf. >> let's begin with your reaction to the breaking news, the white house said president trump is considering revoking a security clearances for several former top intelligence and national security officials. you see the six of them up on the screen right now. do you believe this is a dangerous move? >> i do. i think it's a terrible precedent. it's mean spirited. it's petulent. maybe more ominously it's political retribution for an
assessment or an opinion that's been shared by somebody, you know, who's informed to try to silence that is obviously designed to have a chilling affect. that's not how american democracy works. and if we're going to get into that and the republicans remain silent, they're invitding this retribution should the tables get turned. i think it's just the wrong road do go down. i think it's dangerous because these are men and women that served their country for decades, great skills and expertise and knowledge and history. we don't want do lose it over political pettiness because trump doesn't like a particular critique. >> yeah, no. as somebody that covered the intelligence community for a long time, the potential ramifications as far as national security are very significant because the current director
consults with past directors. >> of course. >> what was it like meeting with a foreign intelligence chief, meeting with predecessors, director of the dia or nsa, they all like to speak with predecessors. potentially, how much of an impact could this have on national security? >> well, let's keep in mind that the trump administration is already pretty thin in the talent pool. there are a lot of positions they haven't filled. there's a lot of talent that frankly doesn't want to work for trump. so to actually now lose this kadri of former officials and often called in to consult with current officials in the trump administration i think is just a huge loss for america. and just a very unwise and foolish move by very petty and petulent president. >> doesn't appear that the white house did the homework before making the announcement.
two of the six officials that were listed by sarah sanders at the white house briefing don't even have current security clearances. we're talking about james comey and andrew mccabe. so what does it tell you about the way the president is approaching this decision? >> it tells you that he's operating out of personal peak not out of a strategy or thought through policy. and, you know, in his case, i guess the consequences be damned. just not a good way to gomvern. >> the president's threatening tweet today, as far as iran is concerned. i'll put it up on the screen and read it. he tweeted, never, ever threaten the united states again. or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. we are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence and death.
be cautious. do you believe, congressman, that the president is bluffing or a real threat? >> well, if the president is prologue we know that he had -- engaged in this kind of bluff, this kind of threat with north korea. and it meant very little. and in fact, we went from threatening fire and fury to calling kim jong-un an honorable man. that's quite a leap. so i don't know that on the international stage he has a lot of credibility even when he caps everything. but i think more importantly, wolf, this is a classic trump strategy at distraction. he wants to get the topic off the catastrophic meeting he had in helsinki and the two bad meetings before that in the united kingdom with may and allies at nato. and so, but russia just dominated the conversation for the whole week and he was hurting so let's distract with a
new topic and in this case it's iran. let's find a new foil that maybe all of us to focus on and forget there was a summit in helsinki last week. >> you think he's just doing this as a diversion? >> this is wag the dog time in washington, d.c. and it's kind of a crude attempt, frankly. >> as you know, as far as north korea's concerned, the president made the threats, fire and fury, the likes of which we have never seen. >> that's right. kim jong-un in singapore as you know. should he consider sitting down with the iranian leaders, as well? >> well, we have a little different history here. we had a nuclear agreement worked without the allies, with iran, with russia and china. it was working in all respects. every metric set namet and now in the soup.
there's the risk 0 iran sliding back. having no incentive to cooperate. he's alienated us from the allies and nothing left but belligerence as a policy. he's significantly weakened our interests and i think jeopardized the security of the world if iran in fact returns to the nuclear development program. >> thank you so much for joining us. >> my pleasure. up next, the breaking news, the president considers the unprecedented move of stripping top former national security officials of their clearances. is he lashing out because of their criticism? one of those on the list is former director of national intelligence general james clapper, a sharp critic of the president. i'll ask him about this and more when we come back. i wondered if she could do the stuff she does for us which is kinda, a lot.
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breaking news in what would be an unprecedented move, the white house now says that president trump is considering revoking the security clearances of former national security officials including former fbi director james comey, former cia director john brennan, former director of national intelligence james clapper and others. general clapper is joining us right now on the phone. general, thanks so much for joining us. first of all, what do you think that the fact that you're being targeted along with some of your former colleagues by the white house? >> well, it's pretty obvious, wolf, what the reason, you know, why we were singled out for this contemplated action is because of, you know, the criticism that we have expressed about and reservations we expressed about
the president. >> what's to stop the president from revoking security clearances for anyone that criticized him? i take it he has the right to do so. >> well, he does and that's a key question. if now when someone applies for security clearance are they going to add to the standard form 86 a pledge of allegiance to president trump? unswerving, complete loyalty to the president. as a new criteria for a clearance? that's a pretty chilling thing. >> have you ever seen anything like this? >> absolutely not. never seen anything like it. i was amazed. i was watching the white house press conference today. and that's the first i'd heard of it. yeah. i was taken aback to say the least.
>> you served in both -- under democratic and republican administrations. democratic presidents, republican administrations. you worked your way up to become a four-star general. i think you spent 35 or 40 years in the u.s. military. would you have ever considered advising a president to revoke the security clearances of former intelligence officials for simply being critical of the current -- then current administration? >> absolutely not. and i think the arch recent example is mike flynn, his criticism of hillary clinton. and the obama administration. and never crossed my mind to even raise the issue about revoking his security clearance. >> why would someone who no longer works in the government like you right now, you're retired, need a security clearance in the first place? >> it's more to take advantage
of the experience and corporate memory of people, particularly those that spent a long time in the business. and i've had occasion to consult over the last year and a half with trump administration officials who will remain nameless to protect them to take advantage of the history and the background that i have. and the same is true of the others on our -- on the bad boy list. >> well, i know for a fact that current officials in the trump administration whether mike pompeo as cia director spoke with the pred sos, dan coats is director of national intelligence, i assume he's consulted with you on several occasions over the past year and a half. i wonder if you could confirm that. >> i'm not going to go into who i have or haven't consulted with. again, to protect the confidentiality of those conversations and, frankly, to protect them.
>> because it's very, very common for current officials to speak with their predecessors, to get some sense if they're having a sensitive meeting, for example, with a foreign intelligence official, they may want to call in a predecessor, maybe of a different party, maybe somebody with a different experience just to get a sense of what it was like. that's why i've been told you still need some security clearances. >> well, yes. and i did that in the positions, senior positions i occupied. as director of defense intelligence community, as certainly dni, i called upon formers, mainly to get smart on history of certain issues and things that i was -- i had under consideration at time. it is a useful resource to draw on. >> certainly is. what do you think? will this have a chilling affect on former government officials
to express their unpolitical opinions once they leave office? >> well, i think it does. it's a very sad and disturbing thing for the first amendment. >> and one quick question. tell us, general clapper, how many years did you serve in the active u.s. military and how personally irritated are you right now that someone with your background in the military, 30, 40 years, whatever it was, is being treated like this? >> well, obviously, i think it's pretty shabby. and i'm not -- just not me. i served 34 years in the military altogether. counting my marine corps, reserve time, and then 32 years in the air force and then another 16 years in 3 different civilian capacities in the government. two of which were political appointee positions in republican and democratic administrations and i think it's -- this is terrible.
you know? the substantive importance of it for me is minimal. i don't get classified briefings anymore. none of us do. and per my cadence tweet earlier, has no impact on what i say or do. it could for some people, particularly if they are under employment with a defense contractor where a security clearance is required. well, it could have real impact. in my particular case it doesn't. >> general clapper, thanks so much for joining us and thanks for all of your service to our country. we're appreciative. >> thanks, wolf. thank you for having me. coming up, more on the breaks new. i'll speak with republican senator rubio. and as president trump weighing stripping chiefs of their clearances, we'll have a lot more on the breaking news. stay with us. you're in "the situation room." i'm beating this. my main focus was to find a team of doctors.
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security clearance and looking into the clearances of comey, clapper, hayden, rice and mccabe. the president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they've politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances. >> all right. let's bring in the political and legal experts. laura coats, what is your reaction to the stunning announcement at the white house? >> it's a punishment for those that criticized the president of the united states which is not at all what we think about democracy. that's more of somebody who is a tyrannical situation. it's just symbolic gesture. it's counter productive. they'll still retain the information they had on the job and so if you remove it symbolically they can comment from the observations and their own institutional knowledge and proper for national security as barbara starr pointed out earlier on cnn this afternoon the idea of there's a reason to have institutional knowledge, call upon people to get them up
to speed. if you lose, that where's it leave the nation? >> it is unprecedented, isn't it? >> absolutely. the explanation that sarah sanders gave is a little bit odd which is, well, they're profiting off of it. i mean, lots of people who are former national security intelligence officials go into consulting. many of them get television contracts. this is not -- jim clapper is not the first or michael hayden and anyone else they named so it is odd and i do think it has that enemy's list feel to it even if that isn't the intent, wolf. when you say something like, these six people who have been -- what's common there? they have been critical of the president of the united states. when you do that, you draw that line. you're clearly sending a message it's not about disclosing, no allegation of classified information disclosed but saying things the president doesn't like. sarah sanders essentially said
that. they have been saying things about russia that aren't true. well -- >> well john brennan suggests the president was treasonous in the helsinki summit with putin. >> you can criticize. i think that given what we know and i saw that's over the line in terms of what's provable. at the same time, john brennan is former cia director speaking from his own experiences and expertise. okay. he's entitled to that opinion and to explain that opinion. you get to criticize public officials in this democracy. that's how it works. >> sabrina, two of the six people mentioned by the white house, james comey and andrew mccabe, formerly of the fbi, don't have security clearances any longer. >> i think that reinforces the fact that this is basically a politically motivated move by the president. that it's part of the broader
efforts he has made to portray himself as the victim when it comes to the broader issue of russian interference in the u.s. election and the investigation that is related to that -- that it is a striking use of presidential power or even if it is within his authority because as others have pointed out it's essentially saying if you criticize me, this is a reasonable step for me to take, certainly retaliatory when none of the criticism is necessarily fictitious as sarah sanders suggested. these are officials speaking about the ways in which rodrigurussia interfered in the election and the contacts they were aware of and also stunning that after that week in helsinki of criticism of vladimir putin that he's more focused, the president, on settling personal scores than he is focused on preventing future attacks on u.s. democracy. >> and it also underscores that, you know, the white house clearly didn't do the homework if two of the six don't have
security clearances anymore and what does it say to you that the president if he's going to do it, do it. why bother threatening to do it? what's the point? >> we are talking about it and not talking about russia and before talking about iran. because he can dictate what we are talking about. i think he's subsequently made the job more difficult and didn't know what was said in the helsinki meeting with vladimir putin. dan coats didn't know what would be said prior to going into the meeting and that vladimir putin coming to washington. now he's got deal with this, as well. you know, it is kind of rich to hear sarah sanders say that, oh, the reason this is happening is because they lobbed the baseless accusations. it appears the only person who really had baseless accusations thus far was president trump. he accused his predecessor of wiretapping him. he said he wasn't born in america and you hear things like this and you have serious people
really start questioning how he has a security clearance. remember, the only one who mishandled classified information we know of publicly is president trump when he told the russians in the oval office classified information that came from the israelis so it's a bit of a head scratcher. i think there's a reason we're talking about it now. that's what he wants us to be talking about and accepting intelligence, it's always baffling that how can you cherry pick it? few f you're told by the intelligence agencies that russia is doing x and you don't believe it, why should you believe anything else they're telling you? that's the dangerous area. >> there's a seat of the pants quality to it, as well, in addition to bianna said in that this is clearly the idea of rand paul, the kentucky senator, who tweeted about it. >> about john brenen in. >> right. who tweeted about that idea. because of the comments you reference about treason.
with that helsinki summit. and then all of a sudden sander who is clearly is ready for the question and wants to announce -- she immediately goes into it. reading from something. that's prepared. this is clearly a direction they want to go and doing it and explains that some level why the "i"s weren't dotted and comb my said i don't have it either way. >> it doesn't make sense that the argument is going to profit off of it and president trump when hopes hicks left, not from the intelligence community and said i hope you make a lot of money. this is something that he's promoted for people who worked around him and now to use it as a negative is, you know, that's not necessarily the best route to take. >> this is also a white house that for more than a year had multiple staffers operating
without a clearance, the staff secretary, so clearly we learned earlier this year they don't really have a very diligent process in place for how a security clearance is administered and the criticism they had today with respect to who gets to keep them and doesn't you have to consider the messenger. >> by the way, he just bolstered probably james comey's comments about having to pledge allegiance to the president of the united states to have the position of notoriety he held as the head of the fbi. i guess there's credence to that after all. >> at the end of the day this is not america. it happens in turkey and venezuela. not in america. >> all right, guys. stick around. more news to follow. one of the newest attack on special counsel robert mueller's probe. also new details about where an alleged russian spy got at least some of her money.
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president trump's threat to revoke the security clearances for half a dozen former intelligence agency leaders who were publicly criticized him. the white house also tried to justify the president's latest attacks on the special counsel robert mueller's russia investigation. but some newly declassified documents appear to undercut the arguments we're hearing from both the president and some congressional republicans. let's go to is senior correspondent manu raju. what are you learning? >>. >> reporter: wolf, this move to
release this court documents detailing the fbi's effort it is try to surveil that trump foreign policy adviser carter page came after the president agreed to allow the release of that very controversial memo authored by chairman new necessary and alleged abuse in the process to monitor carter page and stacking up the warrant application with the new necessary memo, it shows some claims made by the new necessary memo are misleading or not included at all. tonight documents detailed the fbi's suspicion that former trump campaign adviser page was an agent of the russian government. undercutting house intelligence chairman new necessary's claim that the intelligence used to b obtain a secret warrant is biassed. >> this is outrageous. >> reporter: he armed president trump with ammunition to attack the russia probe released a controversial memo faulting the
fbi's tactics to surveil page. in the memo, new necessary fails to disclose that the fbi sought to monitor page because it believes he was the target of recruitment by the russian government and for allegedly collaborating and conspireing with the kremlin. instead, new necessary claimed the fbi used dossier compiled by former spy steele as the justification for the warrant. and the gop memo faulted the fbi for not disclosing that the dossier was funded by a law firm representing the democratic national committee and the clinton campaign. in february, new necessary charged the democrats lied when they said that the fbi did disclose a political motivation behind the steele dossier. >> these guys tell so many lies you can't keep track of them. >> that's not true. >> no. the court was not made aware. >> reporter: but the fbi does make clear in the newly declassified and highly redacted
documents that the information steele was gathering is likely going to be used to credit the campaign. referring to the trump campaign. the new necessary memo suggests the fbi used a 2016 yahoo! news article to corroborate the steele dossier but it shows the fbi cited that article to allege that page had falsely denied having meetings in moscows in july 2016. page on sunday insisted he did nothing wrong. >> jake, this is so ridiculous it is just beyond words. >> reporter: now, one other thing that the memo did not disclose the fact that the fbi warrant was approved by four different judges who are actually appointed by republican presidents. that was not included in the initial new necessary memo. new necessary did tweet about it after the release of that carter page warrant application saying that those heavily redacted documents should be unredacting
and asking the office for comment they did not respond on the substance and instead attacked the question and us for asking the question and not engaging about exactly why they said what they said. >> the document, 412 pages and heavily redacted and a lot of information we don't know. manu, thank you very much for that report. coming up, we are getting new details right now about the russian woman arrested just as she was getting ready to leave the united states. just one free he aring test at
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tonight we're learning new details about the russian woman who is under arrest and accused of being a spy for the russians. cnn's sara murray is joiqning u with more on where her money came from. >> we're learning about constantine nikolai, close ties to russian president vladimir putin, and who allegedly helped foot the bill for butinas efforts. constantine nikolai, her financial backer, a source tells cnn. she launched a gun rights group in moscow. >> it's very important. gaining freedom is, of course, gun rights. >> reporter: and used it to build ties into u.s. politics.
the national rifle association. she even tried, along with associates, to arrange back-channel communications between candidate donald trump and russian president, vladimir putin, surrounding nra events. nikolai's office acknowledged he invested in butina from 2012 to 2014 but says he hasn't been in touch since 2014. the funding was to support their efforts in russia to raise public awareness around certain domestic issues, according to the statement from his office. court filings describe butina's funder as a russian businessman with deep ties to the russian presidential administration. but don't explicitly name nikolai. according to forbes, he is worth just over $1 billion, investing in russian ports and railways. he served on the board of american ethane, which recently removed his image and bio from their website. retired cia chief of russia
operations, steven hall, says vladimir putin often taps local billionaires to back his operations, which the russian president claimed he wasn't involved in the scheme. >> all of these people can say, look, we're not members of the russian intelligence services. we're not members of the russian government. and to the western ear, that sounds right. but in truth, that's not really what's going on. you still have kremlin control over this very wide net that putin has cast. >> reporter: butina's lawyer has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent in the u.s. but she landed powerful introductions in u.s. political and financial spheres. alongside her mentor, kremlin-linked banker, alexander torshin, attended meetings with stanley fisher, and nathan sheets, the treasury undersecretary for international affairs under the obama administration. the center for national interest think tank arranged the
meetings. we facilitated meetings for toreshin, the executive director said. it was his decision that maria butina would accompany him as an interpreter. >> they said there was a technical error over the weekend that led to his biography, as well as his photo disappearing from the website. all the rest of those directors, though, still listed prominently. >> technical error. >> very interesting. sara, thank you for that report. breaking news, president trump is considering stripping former national security and intelligence chiefs of their security clearances. i'll speak to republican senator marco rubio on the senate intelligence committee and also speak with stormy daniels' attorney, michael avenatti.
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