tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN August 31, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT
out and she was part of his inaugural ceremonies as she was for three presidents over a 30-year pan. jim, there are more eulogiys and performancing including jennifer hudson and stevie wonder. >> thanks so much frederica. our coverage continues now on cnn with my colleague wolf blitzer in the situation room. happening now, breaking news, over a barrel. a top u.s. justice department lawyer says a former british spy told him russian intelligence thought they had donald trump, quote, over a barrel. is that why the president has been targeting the lawyer who learn the explosives information? guilty plea. a u.s. lobbyist with ties to an alleged russian intelligence agent admits to illegally steering foreign money to the trump inaugural committee and agrees to cooperate with the special counsel. that comes as cnn learns the president's lawyers are already preparing a rebuttal to any
conclusions drawn by robert mueller. disapproval. with his former campaign chairman and former lawyer now convicted felons, a new poll finds president trump's disapproval rating at a new high. and nearly half of americans say they want congress to begin impeachment proceedings that could lead to his removal from office. and lying in state. after his final return to washington, senator john mccain lies in state at the u.s. capitol where political leaders from both sides of the aisle salute his leadership and service to the nation. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in the situation room. >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. we have multiple breaking news stories. president trump's legal team is preparing a report to rebut potential conclusions from the special counsel robert mueller. the document will push back on any findings of collusion and
obstruction of justice. and that comes as a washington lobbyist with links to an alleged russian intelligence agent pleads guilty to channelling foreign money to the trump inauguration and pledges to cooperate with mueller and federal prosecutors. i'll speak with congressman ted lue of the judiciary and foreign air force committees and correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage. first to the breaking news. our cnn justice correspondent evan perez and cnn political correspondent sara murray, they are here. evan first to you. cnn has now learned that rudy giuliani is preparing a report to counter mueller's findings what's the latest. >> that's right, wolf. we know that special counsel robert mueller is working on his investigation, still talking to witnesses. but the president's legal team are team is not wasting time. they say they are working on a report, rudy giuliani in particular says that he is here in washington right now working on that report as we speak. now, what this report will be is essentially a rebuttal or a
prebuttal of what we expect to be the findings of robert mueller. and the report that rudy giuliani says his legal team is working on will attack the issues of collusion, collusion between the allegations of collusion between people connected with the trump campaign, and russia. michael flynn -- the michael flynn firing and the obstruction of justice allegations which the special counsel we know is still investigating. wolf, at this point we still don't know how much longer the special counsel has in his investigation. but clearly the -- the trump legal team believes that they need to tri to get ahead of the allegations that they are expecting to be in this report. one last thing, we do know that they are still waiting to hear from the special counsel as to whether or not they are going to sit down for an interview with -- the have the president sit down for an interview with the special counsel team. they said they've been waiting for several weeks for an answer to that proposal.
>> it seems to me, sarah as of giuliani legal team suspects the mueller too many team might be getting close to issues a report. so they are preparing the report right now. >> that might be part of it. rudy giuliani was on the hill a few few minutes ago talking to colleagues saying he has no idea when mueller wraps it up. but he thinks it should be soon. this is what we have seen from giuliani. he is itching to get this over in any way possible. there has been the longstanding practice at the justice department that when you are 60 days out from the election midterm elections that the prosecutors aren't making big public announcements about elections. they don't want to influence the way that could be perceived for one candidate or another the way it may impact the outcome of an election. but this isn't a hard and fast rule. there is discretion for u.s. attorneys. and so there is no guarantee that mueller is going to be completely dark from now through the mid-terms. and there is certainly nothing that says that mueller has to wrapping things up, finish his report and put that out in the next couple of weeks, even though that teams to be what
rudy giuliani would prefer. >> that's a good point. evan tell us about the case of the american lobbyist who pleaded guilty today to funneling- dsh illegally funneling money from a foreign source to the trump inaugural campaign, and also not registering a a foreign agent. >> his name is it samuel patton. hess a longtime political operative in wrkt. he pleaded guilty to plead failing to register as a foreign agent here in court in wrkt. one fortunate things interesting about in case, kohl o wolf, was it was referred by special counsel robert mueller to the u.s. attorney here in washington to investigate. as part of his guilty plea today he admitted not only to -- to lying to senate investigators when he appeared there in january but he also said that he essentially helped a couple of oligarchs from ukrainian and russian oligarchs attend the
inauguration of donald trump by essentially buying tickets for them to hide the fact that they were foreigners. which is illegal for them to be able to donate to the president's inaugural. so he had this scheme essentially where he had someone else buy the tickets in order to -- for them to be able to attend. keep in mind, donald trump's inaugural raised $107 million, twice as much as any of the previous presidents have raised for their inauguration. it's something we know that the special counsel has been investigating in particular their connections with oligarchs asked about this. >> these are pro russian oligarchs. >> pro russian. >> ukrainian. this is potentially consequential. first of all, pleading guilty to not registering as a foreign agent. that's a felony. could go to jail abhalf a million dollar fine for that. but illegally funneling money to the inauguration that's sfift. >> this is the first proof we
have of a missing piece of the you seal. we had the conversation for months whether there was foreign mona flowed into donald trump's campaign or inauguration. we know robert mueller's team stopped russianology oligarchs asking about whether or not their money could have made it into the campaign or inauguration. now we have someone admitting, yes, i did help a foreigner funnel money through an american, in sort of strawman, into donald trump's inauguration. the other part of in that's really interesting is remember that robert mueller has another important cooperator still. and that's rick gates, the man under paul manafort on the campaign. well rick gates was one of the top people running the inauguration. when prosecutors began talking to him they said, look, we don't necessarily need your cooperation on paul manafort. we want your cooperation on other things, things that go to the broader mandate. it's possible that rick gates is also playing a role in helping to flesh out what went on with the inauguration. you know, we know now that this one person has admitted to buying a couple of tickets
essentially with foreign money. but we don't know if there could be a number of other instances like that. i think that that's what we are looking for clues for zbloots mueller, the special counsel, interesting, that he referred the michael cohen case to the u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york and now he has referred this case to the u.s. attorney here in the district of columbia process. as you know, evan they are on the same team, the justice department team. they are working together hand in glove i'm sure. tell us about this other -- the new information we're learning now about this justice department lawyer who has testified before congress, before the -- what the house judiciary -- was it the judiciary committee. >> correct. >> and he is providing new information as well about what he learned this bruce ohr what he learned from christopher steele, the author of the so-called dossier. >> bruce ohr has been a flash point for the president. he mentioned him at rally,
talked about him said he is looking into removing his security clearance and has openly questioned as to why he still works at the justice department. well browse ohr now we learn has deeper ties to christopher steele. apparently they had breakfast. and during this breakfast christopher steele said that he had information that the russian intelligence agencies believed they had donald trump over a barrel. that's the phrase that he used >> what does that mean, over a barrel? >> so it appears to be a similar allegation that steele has made in the dossier. that you know this breakfast occurred in july of 2016. and a few months later the fbi was able to get ahold of the memos that christopher steele had prepared. which makes the same allegation by the way, the allegation is that -- that the russian intelligence agencies believed that they had compromising information about the president of the united states. the candidate for president of the united states, donald trump.
so the fact that they had this breakfast is something that i think will of course reawaken this controversy for republicans and for the president. >> and the allegations of compromising material. they're throughout the so-called dossier. only some of it has been confirmed. a lot of it is still unconfirmed. thanks guys for that report. president trump meanwhile heads back to the white house shortly from a fund raiser in north carolina to brief pause in the almost non-stop attack on the mueller investigation and this continuing attack on his own attorney general. let's go to the senior white house correspondent jeff zeleny. so, jeff what's the latest. >> wolf, there is certainly going into the labor day weekend at the white house as much uncertainty as ever about the real status of the russia investigation. but the president is saying he is going to leave the attorney general jeff sessions in place through the mid-terms elections. but he is saying something else. he says he will get involved if he needs to in the justice department. >> why not commit the jeff
sessions past november somebody which are. >> president trump flashing a thumbs up but no answer today on why he offers his favorite punching bag attorney general jeff sessions a bit of a reprefer. consumed with anger over the russia investigation the president has berated and badgered and all but blast listed his attorney general. but in the interview he says his session's job is is a safe. through the mid-terms. after that he wouldn't say. >> i'd like to have jeff sessions do his job and if he did i'd be happy. but the job entails two sides, not one side. >> yet that didn't stop the president from railing against the justice department at a ral dwr last night in indiana. for what he perceived at unfair treatment. >> our justice department and our fbi have to start doing their job and doing it right. and doing it now. because people are angry. people are angry. >> once again, he suggested he
could intervene in an investigation. which would be highly unorthodox and politically explosives for a sitting president. >> i wanted to stay out. but at some point if it doesn't straighten out properly -- i want them to do their job -- i will get involved and i will get in there if i have to. >> it's unclear whether he is blowing off steam. >> disgraceful. >> or seriously threaten to stop the probe hanging over the white house. he told bloomberg i view it as an illegal investigation. yet that's not how a majority of americans see it. a new "washington post" abc news poll today finds 63% of americaning support robert mueller's investigation of donald trump and his associates. while 29% oppose it. beyond his loyal base of supporters the president's standing is taking a hit with 60% saying they disapprove of the job he is doing. while only 36% say they approve. the country is far more split on the question of impeachment. with 49% saying proceed proceedings issue should begin
and 46% saying they should not. it's one of the reasons the president and republicans are bracing for the midterm elections. >> very, very big vote. it's very close. people say we have the majority. by how much? like by almost nothing. somebody has a cold we no longer have the majority. >> all this as the president is searching for a replacement for top white house lawyer don mcgahn soon to leave the west wing. the president ha has been in talks with a washington lawyer. a veteran of the george w. bush administration who has been informally advises advising team trup on the mueller probe. so even as the president decides who his next white house counsel will be there there are so many questions here hanging over this investigation hanging over the midterm elections. there had been a bit of anxiety here at thes house. would something happen before the close of business on friday before labor day. we have moved beyond that. it doesn't seem like that will happen. but the president as you said
wolf speaking at a fund raiser in north carolina he will spend the weekend here and perhaps on the golf course. but again now two months before the mid-terms elections the investigation hang over the white house a lot of uncertainty here. >> there is tp joining us now exactic congressman ted lue of california. a member of the judiciary and foreign affairs committees. thanks for joining us. let's get to the news and the testimony before your committee, the justice department official bruce ohr said that the author of the russia dossier, christopher steele told him become in july 2016 that russian intelligence believed they then had the then candidate donald trump quote, over a barrel. what's your reaction to that? >> thank you, wolf for that question. two things. first, that's a very alarming statement which means we need to to have the transcript released to the american public and we should have an open hearing with bruce ohr, the american people needs to hear his story pan.
and i urged the judiciary committee to have a hearing and subpoena bruce ohr to teach publicly. >> do you know what he meant by over a barrel when he appeared before the judiciary committee behind closed doors? i know there were republican lawmakers there. democratic staffers there as well. have you received a full briefing? >> i have talked to my staff. and what bruce ohr meant and see the russians had information that would compromise donald trump, that they could leverage donald trump and we absolutely need to get this information to have bruce ohr explain himself publicly to the american people. i call on my republican colleagues on the house judiciary committee to have a full and open hearing with bruce o had. r testifying publicly. >> how does this assessment from christopher steele line up with the conclusions of the american intelligence agencies? >> we know that with the fisa application, the relevant parts of christopher steele's dossier were corroborated. that was in the exactic memo
about the fisa application. we also know that as time goes on more and more parts of the steele dossier get corroborated. and even the very partisan gop nunes memo does not say the steele dossier was false. and all the president is doing in terms of highlighting bruce ohr and his crazy conspiracy theory about bruce ohr shows me and the american public that he is scared of what's in the dossier. >> congressman, i want to you stand by a moment. there is other developments i want to show our viewers throughout the day. cnn has been showing viewers the funeral of the queen of soul, the singer receipting aif franklin. jennifer hudson is now ♪
♪ that it was your grace that leads ♪ ♪ that leads ♪ me home ♪ ♪ >> what a beautiful musical tribute to receipting aire franklin by jennifer hudson. she is simply amazing, so, so powerful to a truly wonderful woman aretha franklin. we are standing by. stevie wonder is doing his own musical tribute. we'll have much more on this. all the day's important news. we'll take a quick break. we'll be right back.
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we're following multiple breaking stories right now process. including the revelation that a justice department official told house lawmakers of a conversation he had with christopher steele back in 2016. ohr says in the conversation that steele said russian intelligence thought it had the president candidate trump over a barrel. let's bring back the congressman lue. yesterday, congressman, the president called the entire russia investigation an illegal investigation. do you think he will use this news to continuous efforts to basically undermine as much as possible the entire mueller
probe? >> i think donald trump will try to do that. but it's not working. a new "washington post" poll today said not only is donald trump's disapproval at a 60% high, but also nearly two thirds of americans want the investigation to continue. when you look at the president's tweets and statements. it's clear the president is not acting as someone who is innocent. he is showing consciousness of guilt and it's highly disturbing for president to act in this manner >> two days ago the president tweeted this. i'll put it up on the screen. how the hell is bruce ohr still employed at the justice department. disgraceful. that's his tweet. does the new information we're learning today explain why the president specifically targeted bruce ohr, the justice department official, so aggressively? >> let's talk about what bruce ohr did. bruce ohr in a relationship with christopher telebecause mr. steele had previously provided reliable information to the fbi.
bruce ohr was an expert in the mafia as well as organized crime. and bruce ohr passed along information from christopher steele to other fbi officials. that's what he did. that's what you expect a law enforcement agent to do. for the president to go ar mr. ohr shows that he is scared of the information he passed along to other fbi officials. >> i want to get your thoughts on the other story developing today. the associate of paul manafort, the convicted former trump campaign chairman, the associate named samuel pat isn't now cooperating with the special counsel robert mueller. and this was referred to initially by the senate intelligence committee to mueller who then referred this entire case to the u.s. attorney here in the district of columbia. what does that tell but this investigation? >> all right. today was another good day for the rule of law. we see the dominos around those close to donald trump keep falling. people get keeping indicted, convicted or plead guilty. and in this case mr. patton's
guilty plea is significant for at least two reasons. first, he pled guilty to illegally funneling foreign money to trump inaugural committee. that's a big deal. at least as the 50,000 worth. and second he is agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. we are finding out more about what mr. patton knows who else in the white house or the trump campaign few about the illegal foreign payments. >> and he also is pleading guilty to not registering as a foreign agent which you got to do if you represent foreigners. how concerning is it, congressman, that patton also acted as a strawman to buy the tickets to the president's inauguration for the pro russian ukrainian oligarchs. cnn reported in the past that mueller stopped russian oligarchs on planes to ask about money going to the trump investigation. >> you begin to see a pattern here where you have foreign countries trying to funnel money into the united states. we have this case here with
foreign money going into the trump inaugural committee. we also have russian money flowing into the nra. and the nra still has not explained what they did with the russian money. i think it's really porn to understand how much money flowed into the united states illegally through foreign countries. that's why we need to change and congress to have hearings in the important subjects. >> what do you make of rudy giuliani's efforts to discredit robert mueller with his own report, a rebuttal or prebuttal. whatever he is doing. we are told he is representing preparing a report now. >> it would not surprise me for rudy giuliani to pri a rebuttal to the report. but to do it before hand seems ridiculous because he doesn't have any idea what kind of evidence robert mueller has. i think rudy giuliani needs to wait until the report comes out and then he can try to rebut it. but right now the special counsel has a lot of information and the american people will see that it when the report comes
out. >> congressman thanks for joining us. >> thank you, wol zbloof coming up more breaking news, a top justice department lawyer says a former british spy told him that russian intelligence thought they had donald trump, quote, over a barrel. and the president's lawyer rudy giuliani telling cnn he is already preparing that rebuttal to whatever robert mueller comes up with. but how can he refute something he hasn't seen? stay with us. you're in the situation room. >> thank you very much. come away with me barnabas! but i am a simple farmer. my life is here... [telephone ring]
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we're following multiple breaking stories, including the revelation that justice department official bruce ohr told house lawmakers of a conversation he had with the dossier author christopher steele back in july of 2016. ohr says in the conversation steele said russian intelligence thought it had then candidate donald trump quote, over a barrel. let's talk about this with our political and legal experts. mark preston, over a barrel, how concerning is this. >> i think it's very concerning. what is -- what's particularly concerning is that ohr is basically saying what was written in the steele dossier. he hasn't moved off that. this wasn't bruce ohr's dossier. he acted as a conduit to move information back to the fbi. you know nobody in america knows who bruce ohr is. nobody knows who he is. it's interesting how donald trump goes in and reach into the
andles of the justice department and troy to talk about collusion or the dark state or how everyone is against him. it's not a very winning strategy. >>s a justice reporter, as mark says not well-known outside of the justice department. based on all of your reporting has he done anything to warrant the president's repeated criticism of him and does that strategy work? >> wolf bruce ohr as sole sin at least based off everything we know now and see he had all of the contacts with christopher steele, the author of the infamous trump russia dossier that obviously agrievous the president so much. but as mark noted he reported the contacts to the fbi which is what you would hope and expect he would do. and trump's allies on capitol hill pointed to the fact that his wife worked for fusion gps which commissioned the work and he contacts with the fbi amp the fbi had cut off their own
relationship with steele. but that's a problem for the fbi, not a problem for bruce ohr, if it's a problem at all. it appears to be at most his sole issue is that he acted outside of the chain of command and didn't dell the deputy attorney general at the time sally yates he was doing this. but he didn't do anything illegal we know of. >> he is still working at the justice department and still has security clearances as far as we nop reboundway o ka, the president as you know often attempts to discredit anyone who may have some compromising information about him or his supporters. are his attacks against bruce ohr right now an example of that? and does the strategy work. >> absolutely we have seen this tactic by the president, wolf, time and again, even since before the mueller investigation. but it's not about any one of these people that the president necessarily tries to target. it's not about bruce ohr. it's not about strzok, who we've talked about recently as well. it's about the president trying
to sow doubt about the broader investigation, to try to sow confusion about what is important versus what is not, and just to create this totally separate narrative for his sporters to latch onto, sort of an alternate reality from what is actually transpiring. it's almost like a magician slight of hand. on the one hand he is over here creating this distracten. but what's important is the mueller investigation, it takes away your attention from that. that's what the president is trying to do. and if you look at mueller's approval ratings how they've roded over time that seems to suggest the president is having some success. >> it does. and jackie kucinich in another win for mueller and prosecutors a d.c. lobbyist with ties to manafort, convicted on eight counts not that long ago, this associate, the washington. lobbyist samuel patton pleaded
guilty today to various counts. he is now cooping with robert mueller. how significant is this. >> it's significant one of the things did he he allowed a russian political operative and ukrainian oligarchs -- he helped them purchase inauguration tickets. foreign money, you are not allowed to do that. the fact -- so that in and of itself sort of shows the -- the lengths they go to to get close to the president. in addition he is cooperating with prosecutors as a part of his plea agreement. so we don't know what he is saying. but he could -- he- mueller will be able to ask him about the -- about what he might know, what some of the inner workings are, were there contacts with people in the trump orbit and russian -- and russians and the ukrainian og arcs. it is significant. >> and what's significant, also laura jarrett is we know the trump inauguration committee they raised a record $106
million twice with what the predecessors raised. that's significant. but what does samuel patton who pleaded guilty today to felony counts? what is his involvement in all of this? tell us where the mueller investigation is heading right now. >> well what's really interesting about some of the revelations that we saw in today's court filings is that mueller has been sort of going through this. but then referred it to the d.c. u.s. attorney's office. and now as jackie said patton has to cooperate. which the timing of course is really noteworthy considering paul manafort is about to go to trial within a couple of weeks. and he has ties to manafort and konstantin clem nick who the prosecutors say have connections with the russian intelligence agency agent agency. we to not have he evidence that the trump's gnawing raurl committee knew about the payments. he appears to have used another american straw purchaser who is
unnamed but we may learn more about that person. and because of the cooperation agreement patton may may have to be involved in what happens in manafort's upcoming trial. >> i suspect he will be. mark preston it's interesting because mueller referred the case, the patton case to the u.s. attorney for the district of columbia. but originally the information came from the senate intelligence committee on a bipartisan basis. they referred this information to mueller. and i think that's significant. >> sounds like it's the deep state to me, wolf. i'm kidding. that's what we hear from those supporting president trump. you know, an interesting nugget that came out of this court hearing today is that mueller's team -- this is from our reporting on the ground -- mueller's team was sitting in the front row of the sentencing hearing and spoke to the defendant's lawyers afterwards for some time. when we talk about whether or not he is cooping with mueller's team, you know as we have learned seems to be cooperating with mueller's team. >> they are all part of the justice department team whether working for the special counsel, the u.s. attorney for the
district of columnyia or for the southern district of new york they are part of the same team working on different cases but cooperating. no doubt about that guys. stand by. there is more news we are following including john mccain's family members, including his 106-year-old mother roberta, they join with dignity areas in the rotunda. as they say the final goodbye to the late senator. >> i remember thinking more than once, yeah, he really does talk like a sailor. but, you see, with john, it was never feigned disagreement. the man didn't feign anything. he just relished the fight. ♪ it is such a good time to kiss ♪
throughout the afternoon here in washington, members of the public have been passing by senator john mccain's casket as it lies in state in the u.s. capitol rotunda. you're looking at live pictures right now. the senator's family, including his 106-year-old mother, roberta, they took part in a very moving ceremony earlier in the day. cnn's ryan nobles is up on capitol hill. ryan, tell us more about this extraordinary day. >> reporter: it really was incredible, wolf. you know, senator mccain is said to have planned every second of this event today. it seemed with every moment, there was another poignant reminder of his remarkable life. and more importantly, how he hopes his country will remember
him. members of congress bidding farewell to one of their own. >> on behalf of the senate and the entire nation, thank you. thank you for lending him to us longer than we had a right. >> reporter: senator john mccain returned one last time to a place he loved so much. his arrival marked by a flash rainstorm centered over the capitol, where he was honored by colleagues that reflected on his contribution, his service, and his singular ability to communicate. >> i, myself, from time to time found myself on the receiving end of john's distinct brand of candor. >> reporter: senator mccain himself meticulously planned each stage of his final good-bye to his fellow americans, and he made sure to include symbols of themes important to him. today, bipartisanship was on
display as leaders of both parties from both congressional chambers laid wreaths near his coffin. while president trump has been kept at a distance from these memorials, today vice president pence was in attendance. >> the president asked me to be here. >> reporter: he had a warm relationship with senator mccain and spoke of his resilience as a prisoner. >> then as now, americans marvelled at the iron will of john mccain. but captivity did not diminish john's sense of calling. >> reporter: mccain became the 31st person to lie in state in the capitol rotunda. his 106-year-old mother there to see the outpouring of admiration and love. services continuing tomorrow at the national cathedral. the two men who beat mccain in his bid for the white house, former president george w. bush and barack obama will eulogize him, a request mccain made before his passing. then a private burial at the u.s. naval academy next to his
classmate and best friend, admiral chuck larsen. his wife telling cnn that her husband has his wingman back now. and to go back to that moment when the senator's casket was carried up the steps into the capitol, it's important to keep in mind today was a very hot and sunny day in washington for almost the entire day. but that moment when the cass debt made its way out of the hearse, it seemed as though the skies opened and the rain started falling. wolf, that was certainly something that senator mccain couldn't have planned, but it fits into this narrative of the life of a remarkable man and this last good-bye to john mccain. >> it really was amazing, ryan, because it all of a sudden started pouring around the capitol. but elsewhere in the washington, d.c. area, no rain. it really was amazing. ryan nobles, thank you very much for that report. an important note to our viewers, cnn will provide live coverage tomorrow morning as the senator's casket will be taken from the u.s. capitol to the
washington national cath reed ral for a service that will include eulogies by former presidents george w. bush and barack obama. our special coverage will begin tomorrow morning, 8:00 a.m. eastern. ♪ and coming up, there's breaking news. rudy giuliani tells cnn he's preparing a report to rebut potential conclusions from the special counsel, robert mueller. the document will aim to push back on any findings of collusion and obstruction of justice.
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happening now, breaking news. compromise? russian intelligence officials believe they have donald trump over a barrel. according to a top justice department official. we're going to tell you what we're learning right now about bruce ohr testimony to congress about that infamous trump/russia dossier. cooperation deal. a russian lobbyist with russian ties strikes a plea agreement and admits to arranging an illegal foreign donation to the trump inauguration. what else is he telling prosecutors as they investigate a potential money trail from moscow? mueller's support. two-thirds of americans say they back the special counsel's probe in the first poll taken since the paul manafort and michael cohen convictions. this as the