tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN August 9, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT
one more thing, the medical examiner says the body found somewhere on the property is badly decomposed and tough to identify. it still may be weeks before we know for sure. >> thanks so much. you can follow me on facebook or twitter at jake tapper. our coverage begins now with wolf blitzer in the situation room. happening now, fear of perjury. president trump again calls the russia investigation a witch hunt, a term he has tweeted more than 100 times. now he is hinting at action stating stay tuned as the lawyer seemingly worked to thwart an interview with the special counsel. secret recording. the g.o.p. chairman of the house intelligence committee is caught on tape saying the house needs to keep its republican majority. silent treatment. russia responds to the latest
u.s. sanctions calling the move blatant hypocrisy. as the russians worry about the punishment why has president trump been so silent on this topic? and securing the vote bill nelson claims russians have penetrated florida's voter registration roles. are election systems across the country prepared to defend against more cyber attacks. i'm wolf blitzer. you are in the situation room. president trump is spending his vacation keeping everyone guessing about whether he will agree to an interview about robert mueller. the president delivers another very angry rant about the russia investigation and adds cryptically perhaps ominously stay tuned. what is he threatening?
i'll speak with congressman of the armed services committee. and our correspondents and specialists are all standing by with full coverage. let's begin with jim acosta covering the president in new jersey. the president still hasn't made up his mind apparently about talking to mueller. what is the latest? >> reporter: that's right. it doesn't sound like it. he just wrapped up a round table discussion on the issue of prison reform over at his golf club in new jersey. he didn't take questions from reporters about subjects like the mueller investigation. so what we have now here is the latest reality tv cliff hanger from president trump. the president is keeping the country in response. will he or won't he sit down with robert mueller in the russia investigation? it's the question of the moment for president trump. the president isn't signaling to reporters which way he is leaning on whether to tell what he knows about the russia probe to special counsel robert
mueller. instead he is letting the response build tweeting this is an illegally brought rigged witch hunt. stay tuned. >> i think the tweets are ad nauseam. he obviously likes to suck all the oxygen out of the room. >> reporter: rudy giuliani says an answer to the mueller question is coming soon but he is dropping hints that the legal team is worried a trap is being set. >> he knows the answers to every question that he wants to ask. he is going to ask them. did you tell comey to go easy on flynn? the president will say no i didn't. why do you want to get him under oath? you want to trap him into perjury. we are not going to let you do that. >> reporter: giuliani told fox mueller shouldn't --
>> the reality is he doesn't need to ask a single question on obstruction. he has all the answers. they are not going to change, the president is not going to change his testimony. stop the nonsense. you trying to trap him into perjury because you don't have a case. >> are you going to talk to mueller? >> i'm looking forward to it, actually. >> reporter: the president has been all over the place on whether to talk to mueller, sounding eager at times about sitting down with the special counsel. >> would you like to testify to special counsel robert mueller? >> i would like to. >> reporter: he has indicated he sees peril in cooperating. >> i have to find out if we are treated fairly. everybody sees it now as it is a pure witch hunt. right now it is a pure witch hunt. >> reporter: top g.o.p. leaders have their concerns, as well. devon nunez suggested the g.o.p. majority in congress is needed
to protect the president. >> it's like a classic catch 22 situation where we are -- the process is such a tough spot. we have to keep the majority. if we do not keep the majority all of this goes away. >> reporter: cnn has learned the president is expected to have dinner with his outside attorney rudy giuliani at his golf club later on this evening, another sign the trump legal team is closing in on a decision whether to give mueller one of the final pieces he needs. it seems the president and his legal team are trying to have it both ways both complaining that the investigation is taking too long. one thing he needs to wrap up the investigation is an
interview with the president. >> jim acosta in new jersey. let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent. it's not unusual that congressman devon nunez would pitch donors on keeping a majority. the reason why is pretty stunning. >> and it confirms a lot of criticisms and concerns that have been raised about the way devon nunez has run this committee ever since last year. you will recall in march of last year 2017 he came across some concerns about what he viewed in secret intelligence reports. he rushed to the white house and briefed the president about what happened. he is handling classified intelligence about that. he had to step aside from running the russia investigation. at that time he wielded considerable influence which squashed subpoena efforts by democrats. he would not let them schedule witnesses. it all cull miinated in the
february release of the nunez memo that called into question how the warrant to surveill carter page was obtained. democrats contended the memo was totally misleading and did not characterize the facts. nunez has gone after the justice department. he has put his focus on the investigators themselves all of which say he is trying to under cut the mueller investigation and protect the president. here we have nunez on tape essentially saying that. >> he is now revealing a political strategy he has in mind for impeaching the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, the man overseeing the mueller probe. >> he talks about the timing of this. this came up right before the house left for its august rec s recess. they put off that fight in large part because of the divisions within the house republican conference. nunez said one reason is the
timing being that if they were to pass something out of the house the senate would have to act and they could scuttle efforts to try to confirm the supreme court nominee brett kavanagh. he says it is all about timing. i've said publically rosenstein deserves to be impeached. >> so that passing congress very unlikely. house republicans are divided over whether to impeach rod rosenstein. the house speaker said he is opposed to the idea. in light of the controversy reached out to the speaker's office for comment, no comment from the speaker's office or from kathie mcmorris rogers. she is in a tough race herself. no comment whether she aligns herself with nunes' remarks.
>> thanks very much helping us better appreciate what is going on. let's get more from a member of the armed services committee. do you think it is the job of lawmakers, members of the house of representatives to, quote, protect presidents from their own party? that's the suggestion that we heard from devon nunez. >> absolutely not. when we swore our oath it was not to protect the president. it was rather to protect america, the constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. nowhere did it say protect the president. that is not our job. we are equal and opposite an opposing branch of government. our job is to make sure that we are protecting america from enemies within and without. that is not to say the president is an enemy. it is simply to say that is not our job. we do have some very, very serious issues.
devon nunez is a major problem in trying to find out what happened, where russia operated so that we can understand how to protect our democratic process in an election which is less than 90 days away. you just heard about bill nelson being concerned about the voter registration roles being hacked by russia. we are concerned about that all across this nation. our task is to protect this nation, not to protect the president. >> should congressman nunes be removed from chairmanship of the house intelligence committee? >> absolutely. he should have been removed a year ago when it was clear he was not working in the interest of congress and not working in the interest of trying to find out what had actually happened with russia's involvement in the election, not only in the presidential campaign and perhaps with the trump campaign but in the broader scope of influencing the men and women of america that were going to go and vote as well as breaking the
law, hacking into and stealing information not only from the democratic national committee, but also from the democratic congressional campaign committee as well as john podesta. those are crimes that russians have been indicted for taking part in. >> let's turn to rudy giuliani's latest comments to our own dana bash. he says he doesn't mind dragging out this russia investigation because it might actually help fire up the republican base before the mid term elections in november. is the president's legal team negotiating in good or bad faith? >> bad faith. rudy giuliani throughout this entire process that he has come back as the personal attorney to the president has been dissimilating, changing his story every other day and putting up false flags for one thing or another.
frankly, i don't believe for a moment that he is telling the truth about anything that he says. he is about as disreputable as the president when it comes to truth telling. >> should robert mueller take the timing of the mid term elections into consideration as far as his decisions are concerned in the coming weeks? >> we have already seen what happens when the fbi tries to play it politically. that happened in the hillary campaign and it was a major problem for her campaign when mr. comey tried to take into account the political import of what was going on with regard to the investigation of her e-mails and her computer systems. the result of that was a very bad thing. the answer to your question is no, he should not play politics. he should be straight up and down on the issue of the investigation and let it go
where it may go. would it influence the election? perhaps it would. his job is to investigate what happened. cephallet cephallet's -- let's turn to the devastating wildfires. give us the latest on efforts to contain the blazes and how the people of your district are coping with this disaster. >> first of all, the largest fire which is in my district, the ranch fire together with the adjacent fire is huge. when they get to be that big we do not have enough equipment and personnel to surround that fire. so it continues to burn into the federal forest and into area fortunately that is not much habitation. there are few people living in that area. about 115 homes presently burned in those fires. they are just two of the many,
many fires that are now burning in california. the carr fire has about 1,000 homes, seven deaths already there. we are short of personnel and equipment. fortunately the mutual aid coming from other states and from australia and new zealand much appreciated, much needed. we do need a presidential disaster declaration for the ranch in river fire. you can merge that with the fires in carr and down in ferguson in the yosemite area. we are under attack in california. when the president says the problem is we are letting water flow out to the ocean, that is just foolishness. let's just say it is foolish. what we do need is federal assistance in the presidential disaster declaration and we also need over time to manage our wild lands, our forests better than we have in the past.
that will take federal money. so we will need that help from the president, as well. >> have you been in contact with the white house to try to get a clear answer on exactly what the president means, what he is proposing when he says your environmental laws in california are preventing water from being used by the firefighters to end this? >> i wouldn't try to understand what the president is thinking. it looked to me like he wasn't thinking. the president really ought to ask a few people what is going on before he starts his finger on his tweet. the reality is it was just foolishness. the reality is we need federal help and water policy in california. that is one thing they can help with. in the area where the fire is burning we must build an offstream storage reservoir.
we need federal help on that. specifically we need $35 million right now so that the bureau of reclamation can do its part of the environmental and engineering work for that reservoir. if that reservoir was in place it wouldn't have much to do with the fire except you certainly wouldn't have it burning where the reservoir is. it would be of enormous help in providing environmental water for our fish and into the delta as well as for our communities and for our agriculture. so mr. president there is a water issue and there is something you can do, help us with the reservoir. >> thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> good luck to all the folks in your district elsewhere in california, as well. this is a true disaster. moscow is furious at new sanctions after a nerve agent attack in britain. will the kremlin retaliate? and president trump's lawyers seem to be out to thwart an interview with special counsel
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a day after the trump administration announced new sanctions against russia for a nerve agent attack in britain the kremlin is talking about retaliation. let's go live to moscow on the scene for us. how is russia reacting to u.s. sanctions? >> today there was a water fall of criticism coming from the russians pretty much from all levels of the russian government. you start with the spokesman calling the sanctions unacceptable and then totally illegal. some went further. one politician called the u.s. a police state and another said
this is what he called theater of the absurd. the russians went further than that. they are threatening to retaliate against the united states, some pretty strong words for the spokesperson. >> translator: russia will be working on retaliatory measures in response to another unfriendly act by washington. the assurances of the u.s. administration to increase efforts to improve relations with russia look quite peculiar. this is blatant hypocrisy. >> reporter: the russians saying they are not sure what exactly president trump's policy is. does he want better relations or not? >> sounds like russia is complaining about mixed messages from president trump. but then these sanctions, what is your sense on that? >> i think the russians are
absolutely confused. it is quite interesting to see how they are sort of trying to come to grips with this. one of the things we have to keep in mind is that these sanctions were announced on the same day that rand paul announced he had carried a letter from president trump to vladimir putin apparently offering some sort of negotiations or better relations on certain issues. the russians say those are pretty mixed messages there. one person on state tv came out and said he believes in the u.s. the left-hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. at the same time it seems as though especially on russian state tv that there are still people who seem to believe that there might be some sort of master plan that president trump has to maybe shame his critics in washington into supporting better relations with russia. let's listen to what happened on russian state tv tonight. >> translator: if president trump wants to have cooperation with russia this turmoil is
beneficial because he can say look what the washington swamp led us to. we are almost fighting with a nuclear armed country. >> reporter: that is russian state tv there. that was quite interesting to hear from the kremlin spokesperson because they weren't willing to go as far as to completely criticize the united states. saying despite new sanctions announced vladimir putin still very much committed to trying to improve relations between the u.s. and russia. he says that policy is nowhere near changing at this point. >> the sanctions go forward from the u.s. the president remains pretty much silent on these sensitive issues as far as russia is concerned. the top aides are not silent but he is. thank you very much. coming up, are the president's lawyers trying to foil an interview with special counsel by imposing tough conditions on robert mueller? and do they fear their client is simply unable to tell the truth?
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candidates in the mid term elections could benefit if negotiations drag on over a presidential interview with the special counsel's team. let's discuss this and more with our political and legal experts. give us details of the most recent conversations you have had with giuliani on this. where do you see this moving. >> we are awaiting a legal team to see what they come back with after the counteroffer was sent yesterday. we have seen and heard various things from rudy giuliani. he has done a media blitz over the past 24 hours. sometimes he has said this is going to be probably our final offer. other times he said differently. to me he seemed to suggest that he hopes that they are getting close but admitted they have no idea. they have no idea how robert mueller is going to react. the suspicion and hope inside
the president's legal team is that a subpoena is not something that robert mueller will do because it will make a court battle last for months and months. >> we don't know what is in it. we suspect based on things that giuliani and other members of the president's legal team and the president has said that there is going to be not much on the table from the president's point of view that has to deal with possible obstruction of justice and it is hard to imagine that robert mueller will be okay with that. >> is it appropriate for the attorney for the president of the united states to be making this kind of political calculation suggesting if there is no deal it might be good for republicans in the mid term
elections? >> i think appropriate is in the rear view mirror for rudy giuliani. he is the personal attorney for the president of the united states which makes people think -- he has a very different role. his role is to protect donald trump exclusively and to playoff of the court of public opinion in a way that he recognizes could be a battle of impeachment and not in a court of law. for him to suggest that he has some ability to have leverage over the special counsel over a probe into collusion between a foreign government 90 days out from a mid term election when we are aware that there are further evidence and further attempts by russia to infiltrate is really inappropriate, arrogant and overly ambitious. >> does he have a point that this will rile up the republican base, giuliani, going into the mid terms? >> yes, he is right but it won't rile up necessarily the republican base but the 30% to 37% of people who are die hard
donald trump supporters. when we talk about polling right now we see donald trump has an approval rating of 85, 88, 90 among republicans. that is different than having the same republicans willing to vote for a candidate that donald trump says is a good candidate. >> the president tweeted today once again as usual this is illegally brought rigged witch hunt run by people who are totally corrupt and/or corrup-- don't know what he is threatening. >> it is basically magnetic poetry at this point. it is same things in different terms. we don't know. the president does love these cliff hangers. he wants to keep people on his side and riled up before the
election. and they are making these accusations like mueller is going to do this and that. it's the iceberg effect. we can see there is a lot more under the surface. >> if you take a step back and we don't know what robert mueller has. the person in the driver seat is robert mueller. it is not donald trump and it isn't rudy giuliani who keeps changing his story to try to spin his way out of this. >> clearly the president is deeply concerned about what is going on. he would like to know what mueller has, as well. let's turn to another sensitive issue, devon nunes told republican donors that the republicans have to keep the majority in the house of
representatives in order to protect the president from mueller. listen to this. we have to keep all of these seats. we have to keep the majority. if we do not keep the majority all of this goes away. >> did he just say out loud something that members of congress are not supposed to say? >> yeah. absolutely. look, he went into that fundraiser for a political reason which is okay, completely legal. and he is making a political argument. also okay in the broad sense. but the fact of the matter is devon nunes, the argument he is making is members of congress don't work for the constituents that sent them. they work to protect the
president. that's not democracy. that flies in the face complete ly with how the constitution is written. the congress isn't supposed to to whatever it takes to prop up the executive. and i get politically all the reasons why republicans want to have someone like donald trump in there, a lot of policy issues, fine. but to articulate it the way he did as if he and other republicans are the president's protector is really, really not okay. >> the thing that can hurt them in certain districts where they are looking at the republican agenda of voters saying i like that. i like what you are doing. their job is just to protect the president that undermineathize republicundermineathize -- under mines the republicans in the districts struggling to
survive. >> and the memo and the probe that said they were investigating the matter as collusion on the parallel investigation along with robert mueller. so to have this be the incentive, not only for him to articulate it and voice it calls into question the basis of the memo and justifies the credibility of the other side saying you were never about trying to help the american people, just protecting one person. >> congress is supposed to be a co-equal branch of government and is not supposed to be part of the executive branch. they have a separate oversight role that they are supposed to engage in. >> as our colleagues are saying here, the investigators are not supposed to be sidled up with the investigates. are we surprised? he went down to the white house to talk to him about what was being investigated on capitol
hill. there will be winners and losers in history when we look back on this. it's sad to say i think devon nunes will be a loser in this. there is more news we are following. an alarming claim by a united states senator that russians already have penetrated the states elections systems. are other states at risk? and the alzheimer's association is going to make it happen by funding scientific breakthroughs, advancing public policy, and providing local support to those living with the disease and their caregivers. but we won't get there without you. join the fight with the alzheimer's association.
deporting immigrants while fighting for the right to stay here in the united states, an order that means two are being brought back to the united states. tell us more, laura. >> reporter: a dramatic scene unfolding today in the case of a mother and her young daughter from elsal vudoor wvadoelsalvad it all started in federal court here in washington, d.c. when the aclu was trying to fight the deportation order and they found out that the family was already gone on a plane back, something which apparently came as a surprise to the justice department as well as to the court. he ordered the family immediately returned to the u.s. we are trying to find out why the family is at the moment. officials told us that the family would not get off that
plane but they were certainly sent scrambling. and just a short time ago i was told that the plane is now in route back to houston, texas and should be landing shortly if it has not already. clearly an extraordinary turn of events reaching almost to the level of contempt where judge sullivan threatened the attorney general jeff sessions if they did not comply with his order. >> the president and supporters are not going to be happy about this. we will continue to follow the story. thanks for the update at the justice department. new concerns about elections after u.s. senator's alarming claim that the russians already penetrated some voting systems here in the united states. also ahead a live update on the california wild fires which are threatening more homes right now.
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breaking news in california where what they're calling the holy fire is now burning near the border between orange and riverside counties and now threatening homes in several neighborhoods. stay with us. we'll have a live update from california's top fire official. also tonight, we're following up on senator bill nelson's astonishing claim that
russian operatives have penetrated the voting systems of some florida counties. brian todd is working the story for us. how significant is this threat not just in florida but elsewhere? >> we're told this threat is very significant. cyber security experts have given us a disturbing picture of just how easy it is for russian hackers to get into voting systems. less than 90 days from the midterms, an ominous warning from an influential senator who says russian hackers have successfully breached florida's voter registration systems. bill nelson spoke to the tampa bay times. >> they have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about.
>> reporter: when cnn asked senator nelson for specifics about what the russians had c e done, he didn't elaborate, saying that's classified. the florida department of state and the department of home hand security say they've seen no evidence to support nelson's claims. u.s. intelligence officials recently said the russians don't appear to be as aggressive as they were in 2016. >> relative to what we have seen for the midterm elections, it is not the kind of robust campaign that we assessed in 2016 election. >> reporter: still, dan coats says the warning lights are blinking red on america's digital infrastructure. how could russian hackers get into florida's voter registration system? >> it's using a phishing e-mail. this piece of malware would do things like record passwords and user names to log into the voter registration system and then
they would be able to use those credentials as their own. >> reporter: then experts say they can inflict chaos at the polls. what kind of damage can they do? >> they can effect voter rolls and they can insert people, they can modify, they can deplelete, they can change information and make it more difficult for voters who come in and actually cast ballots. >> reporter: something senator nelson says he's worried about. >> you can imagine the chaos that would occur on election day when the voters get to the polls and they say, i'm sorry, mr. smith, you're not registered. >> reporter: cyber security experts say some of those problems can be worked out at the polls, but the russian hackers could still create chaos by planting doubt in the minds of american voters. >> certainly a big part of elections is how we trust the election process. and if they're able to dedprad
that tru -- degrade that trust, that can affect things like voter turnout. >> can russian hackers affect the vote counts? experts say that's tougher to do because offend protections in place and paper ballots. state election officials in florida tell cnn they're taking this threat seriously. >> you're also hearing in a recent investigation florida didn't fare very well when it comes to election security. >> that's right. the center for american progress investigated all 50 states for election security. that firm gave florida a grade of f. the center said that florida officials didn't give them enough information on what they were doing to prevent and detect hacking and that their auditing systems to determine whether the votes were accurate aren't good enough. >> thank you very much. coming up, while his lawyers work to thwart an interview with
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t the. caught on tape, the house republican majority is necessary to protect president trump from robert mueller. culture of corruption, democrats are seizing on the indictment of republican congressman chris collins, charged with insider trading and lying to the fbi. a new talking point democrats appear ready to use in an attempt to win back control of the how is this fall. and space force. president trump's reelection campaign launches a new fund-raising drive selling space force merchandise hours after vice president pence lays out a plan for the new branch of the united states military. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." ♪ president trump and his lawyer rudy giuliani continue to send mixed messages tonight on whether the president should sit for an interview with the
special counsel robert mueller for his russia investigation. giuliani is speaking openly about the perils and possibly political advantages, while the president tweeted just a little while ago these ominous words, stay tuned. we'll talk about that much more. our correspondents and analysts are standing by. first, let's go to jim acosta. he's near the president's new jersey golf club where mr. trump is spending the week. the president and his lawyer seem to be all over the place when it comes to a possible mueller interview. >> reporter: that's right. one place that the president was in earlier today was a very quiet place. he was asked about the mueller investigation by reporters earlier this afternoon as he was holding a round table with some of the nation's governors and attorneys general about the issue of prison