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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  November 7, 2018 1:00pm-2:00pm PST

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lost. we could also have hearings, we could also conduct our own investigation. we could build upon what the special counsel has done and then continue it in the house judiciary committee. there are a lot of ways we can hold donald trump and his administration accountable. >> can you do that right now, or do you have to wait for the democrats to take power in january? >> if republicans put country over party, we could do it next week. if they don't, we are going to have to wait until january. >> okay. so it will happen in january. the chief of staff to jeff sessions, matt whitaker, will be the new acting attorney general. matt whitaker told cnn he could envision a scenario where the new attorney general would reduce mueller's budget so low, make it so small that the mueller investigation would grind to a halt, essentially. do you fear that matt whitaker as acting attorney general will have that happen? >> he is exactly the wrong person to oversee the mueller probe. the whole reason there was a special counsel investigation is because there was a conflict of
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interest for the president to oversee the investigation through the white house. to have matt whitaker there is exactly the same problem. and i also note that under the vacatio vacancies act, it's unclear if he could be in that position. he is not senate confirmed. and there is an issue about what position he has, would it qualify to be under the vacancy act. >> do you expect mueller to act quickly with any possible announcements, now that the mid terms are over and the attorney general has been fired? >> i believe robert mueller is a very smart man, and that he has contingencies in place. will be sending letters to both the special counsel to say if there has been any change in the scope of the investigation, they need to inform members of the congress and specifically the judiciary committee. >> do you think that mueller's job is in jeopardy until democrats take over the house of representatives, presumably in
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january? >> i do not believe robert mueller's job is in jeopardy right now. i think the president does see that as a red line. i do believe putting matt whitaker in is probably a red line, as well. but we'll see what matt whitaker has to say. and in terms of firing robert mueller under department of justice regulations, he could still only be fired for good cause. he can't just be fired just because matt whitaker doesn't like him or what he's doing. >> you think that president trump is not willing to cross the line to fire robert mueller or have robert mueller fired? did i get that right? >> i do believe that. and also, if the president believes that the only way to clear his name is for the mueller investigation to clear his name, then he would not fire him. because otherwise there's no way donald trump gets his name cleared. >> do you actually believe that? or are you just trying to convey that to president trump, trying to convince him psychologically, some sort of vulcan mind melt here, that don't do this,
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president trump, because you want to clear your name. do you actually think that he has this red line? >> i do. because i think he would have actually, in fact, executed a firing of robert mueller. i think he does think in his mind that the majority of the american people would rise up against him and that the judiciary committee and now the democratic control of the house would be a check in balance on his ability to do that. >> congressman ted lieu, thank you so much. and presumably, congratulations on your re-election. i'm assuming if you're talking to me, you won re-election last night. >> yes, thank you, jake. >> okay. the resignation of jeff sessions as attorney general has frankly been a long time coming. and as cnn's laura jarrett reports, the frustration and tension between sessions and president trump goes both ways. >> reporter: at president trump's request, jeff sessions is out as attorney general. submitting his resignation letter to the president, quote, i have been honored to serve as attorney general and have worked to implement the law enforcement
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agenda based on the rule of law, wrote sessions. trump has made no secret of his disdain for his attorney general. >> i'm disappointed in the attorney general for numerous reasons. but we have an attorney general. i'm dispointed in the attorney general for many reasons. and you understand that. >> come here, jeff. >> reporter: the long-expected departure of one of president trump's earliest supporters, attorney general jeff sessions, coming after months of blistering attacks. >> i said on department of justice, i would stay uninvolved. now, i may get involved at some point, if it gets worse. >> reporter: at one low point, trump even going so far as to declare, quote, i don't have an attorney general. >> it's good to be with you. >> reporter: all because sessions stepped aside from overseeing the russia investigation. something that overshadowed nearly all of his 20 months at the justice department. >> he took the job, and then he said, i'm going to recuse myself. and i said, what kind of a man is this? >> reporter: and despite all the tweets and withering critiques
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from his boss -- >> i put an attorney general that never took control of the justice department. jeff sessions. never took control of the justice department. and it's a -- sort of an incredible thing. >> reporter: sessions rarely pushed back. >> the president speaks his mind. he says what's on his mind at the time, and he's been frustrated about my recusal and other matters. but we have been so pleased and honored to be given the responsibility to execute his agenda at the department of justice. part of that is just this kind of case. and so i am pleased and honored to have that responsibility, and will do so as long as it's appropriate for me to do so. >> reporter: picking his moments carefully, and vowing in august that the justice department will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. publicly, he advanced the president's most controversial immigration policies. privately, a source close to sessions tells cnn, he too has
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been frustrated that mueller's investigation is not yet completed. and the attorney general hopes he will be remembered for never undermining the integrity of the department. with sessions now gone, his chief of staff, matt whitaker, will take over the department in the interim. matt whitaker, a former u.s. attorney from iowa and former cnn contributor, has served as sessions' right-hand man since september 2017. but with sessions now gone, the question is, who will replace him? republican senator lindsey graham has reportedly been asked about the job and has repeatedly said he is not interested. others said to be in the running include former federal prosecutor and current republican congressman, john radcliffe, boeing general counsel michael lewdig and federal appeals court judge edith jones who sits on the fifth circuit. and janice rogers brown who used to sit on the d.c. circuit.
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though a source tells cnn she is likely not interested. laura jarrett, cnn, washington. >> and our thanks to laura jarrett for that piece. this just in. current democratic minority leader incoming likely house speaker nancy pelosi just tweeted, quote, it is impossible to read attorney general sessions firing as anything other than a blatant attempt to undermine and end special counsel mueller's investigation. pelosi weighing in on the appointment of the acting attorney general, adding quote, given his record of threats to undermine and weaken the russia investigation, matthew whitacre should recuse himself from any involvement in mueller's investigation. congress must take immediate action to protect the rule of law and integrity of the investigation. unquote. and our panel is here with us to discuss this. and david urban, let me start with you. as somebody who is closely allied with the white house. are you surprised by this? do you think it's wise? >> sure. slow news at a day.
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yeah, completely surprising. just for that fact, right? the president had a news conference today, where he's out there touting, look, we did great things. we moved the needle. look at our great agenda. and then you come to this and step all over the message and you're on to another story and another kind of crisis here. so to speak. and do i -- did i see it coming? i saw it coming. we all knew the attorney general was living on borrowed time. but today the timing is bad in terms of timing. >> i think timing is the question inside the white house too. also matt whitaker being named is also a question. i asked several white house officials why not name the deputy attorney general as the acting attorney general? that's typically the process for something like this. and a lot of them didn't know or couldn't say. they know that president trump likes matt whitaker. he has clearly we reported a few weeks ago on that plan to -- when the deputy attorney general thought he was going to resign, be fired, whatever term you want to use, matt whitaker was going to take over for that spot. i don't think a lot of people saw matt whitaker taking over as the acting attorney general.
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>> and let me -- do you see this as nancy pelosi does, this is all just about ending the mueller investigation? >> this is about ending the mueller investigation. and i think there's a lot of angst in the white house. and there are three quick points. to david's point, if everyone else saw this coming, we know robert mueller saw this coming. and so i do think that there is a high probability of some high-profile targets. we hear these stories about donald jr. all of the time having sealed indictments, just waiting. and i think mueller has done a great job of protecting his investigation. but i disagree with nancy pelosi, because if she thinks that matt whitaker is going to recuse himself, i think those chances are between statistically zero and zero, right? that's not happening. and so the last thing that i would challenge -- while we still have this senate in house, i do think that -- i know there is a bill in the house and a bill on the floor of the senate to protect mueller. i think the american people probably will have some say in that and try to get them to do that when they come back
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november 13th. >> i think mueller is not going anywhere. i think that's a bridge too far. even the president recognizes that. i think you would see a hue and cry from the republican side of the aisle in mueller were dismissed. i think it's going to be wrapped up sometime soon. there is a great deal of frustration lingering on. i think now the election is over, you're going to see some resolution quickly. >> jen? >> i think the democrats are probably calling for the wrong thing right now. there is legislation that worked its way through the senate judiciary committee and approved that mcconnell just did not bring to the floor that would protect mueller. the house can certainly do the same thing. if they're putting the right pressure points right now, they would be pushing to protect mueller. i don't think we should sit here and take trump or even trump supporters at their word that trump is not going to go there and fire mueller. he put matt whitaker in place, because matt whitaker is more sympathetic to his views on mueller than rosenstein. and that's an important piece of this. >> do you agree, mary kathryn, that it's a bridge too far for president trump? >> i think it's likely it is,
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but things can change every 15 minutes. look, the improbably successful campaign to make jeff sessions sympathetic to basically everyone continues apace. that is something i've been surprised about here and i'm going to make a political point because we've got the moral and legal points covered, as well. but today was actually a decent day for republicans. like, last night was decent. the senate news was decent. they could talk about it and -- >> republicans put one senate seat during the midterm election. >> and this is indicative of what the next two years will look like just on a bare political level of trying to control messaging for them. serenity now. he cannot give us even one day of post election for people to pick their narratives and talk about them. this is where we go. it's going to happen for two years. >> laura, we were talking about this in the previous hour. which is president trump went out there this morning at the press conference and told republicans, if you defy me, i will shame you, as he did with the republicans who distance
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themselvesed, attack the media. and told democrats if you investigate me, i will investigate you. and he did that knowing that this would happen. >> of course. and i suspect that even jeff sessions can't write this resignation letter in the amount of time it took from the press conference to the amount of time he was told to resign. you think about this issue, and the wrong word is being circulated. fired is not the only issue for robert mueller. he could remain in place and have his legs cut out from underneath him. if you have somebody who is overseeing his probe, who is curtailing his efforts at subpoena power, who is curtailing his efforts in the budgetary concerns, or maybe trying to guide or stymie the investigation other ways. but there actually exists legislation that would help him. one thing that lou was talking about, the notion of a four-cause clause in his actual protective language which says that mueller can only be fired for cause or dereliction of duty. so far you've heard from rod rosenstein about less than a month ago telling everyone there is no reason to think there is any dereliction of duty or any
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reason to undermine it as a witch hunt. unless something changed from the midterm elections last night to right now, mueller should theoretically be safe under existing legislation. >> i don't think it's that far gone to picture the president firing the special counsel, because a., he's tried to do it before. it's not like it's some area he hasn't come close to. he's tried to do it before. and b., what was one of the things he was tweeting about this morning when he was talking about the rash of election results from last night? he was citing a poll believing americans did not find the mueller investigation to be worthy of continuing to go on. so the president can use that mentality or he clearly has that mentality. he thinks his supporters and he's been surrounded by them for two weeks now, saying witch hunt and having the crowd cheer, agree with him. this is a waste of time and he should end it. that is how the president reasons things. not by being worried about what people on capitol hill -- >> everyone stick around. a quick break. another man fired by president trump just tweeted, quote, it's danger time. and i'll talk to him next. stay with us. (burke) fender-biter.
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and we're back with the major breaking news. president trump fired attorney general jeff sessions, going from trump loyalist to embattled attorney general after sessions recused himself from the russia investigation. now the ex attorney general in his place, at least temporarily, matthew whitacre. let's go to evan perez. what can you tell us about the now acting attorney general, matthew whitacre? >> well, jake, you know, he's
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been a skeptic of the investigation. he has written an op-ed for in which he talked about his thoughts that mueller had gone too far in the investigation, and needed to be hemmed in. and here he was discussing on don lemon's show just last year a way that a few future acting attorney general could come in and limit what mueller was doing. take a listen to what he had to say. >> you can see a scenario where jeff sessions is replaced with a recess appointment, and that attorney general doesn't fire bob mueller. but he just reduces the budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt. >> and jake, obviously now this is a big thing for matt whitaker to deal with. certainly the justice department's ethics officials will have a say as to whether or not they believe this constitutes an appearance of conflict and whether it means matt whitaker needs to recuse himself from this investigation. obviously, this is something that is simply an advice they would get from people at the
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justice department. he doesn't necessarily have to follow it. jake? >> and shimon, we saw senate minority leader chuck schumer and incoming likely speaker nancy pelosi call on matt whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation. i don't imagine that's going to happen. but is there any indication that it's even being considered? >> no, there isn't. and really, you know, his opinions of where this investigation was certainly when he was on cnn and when he wrote the op-ed, he was in a very different place when he gave that opinion. we don't think that he's been briefed on any aspects of this investigation. it will be now his job to get briefed by robert mueller and his team, certainly, special counsel team, on where things stabbe stand. and the other thing that's important to keep in mind, rod rosenstein was overseeing the investigation. would give robert mueller certainly permission, mueller would have to go to him and say hey, i want to subpoena this one, do this at the grand jury. and then the big question is, remember, whether or not, if the president has refused to answer questions by this special counsel team, would robert
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mueller and his team subpoena the president? that now ultimately lies with matt whitaker. he would have to ultimately tell the special counsel, okay, go ahead, since the president is refusing to answer your questions, you can go ahead and subpoena him. that's obviously unlikely to happen now. and that is where i think issues can come up in this investigation. because this is the guy now that could tell robert mueller, you need to speed this up. you can't do this, you can't do that. let's go, let's go. we're done here. that could happen in this case. and, you know, one other point i want to make, jake, we know certainly evan and i and from people we've talked to that there were contingency plans in place for something like this. the justice department has been prepared for something like this and most importantly, the fbi. where all of this evidence lives, intelligence lives, where all of the witnesses live. all of that information you can be rest assured and i think the public needs to know this, that that is going to be preserved by people at the fbi. >> evan, your sources signal a possible end to the mueller
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investigation after the mid terms. what could an end in the investigation under matt whitaker mean? >> right. i think a lot of people are focusing on whether matt whitaker might try to end the investigation. the probe is coming to a close, probably perhaps as soon as the end of the year or early next year. but what happens to robert mueller's report is now in the hands of matt whitaker. whether any of it becomes public. whether it even -- the report goes to congress. all of that now lies in the hands of matt whitaker. and so that's i think an even bigger and perhaps even more important question. because, you know, probably the investigation is almost complete anyway. so the question now is, what happens to robert mueller's report? >> all right. thank you so much. shimon and evan. joining me now is former u.s. attorney in the southern district of new york, also dismissed by president trump. preet, many speculated attorney general sessions would be out after the election. what does this mean for you for
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the mueller investigation? >> it's a time of great concern. we've been treated to over time taunts by the president with respect to his attorney general, taunts by the president with respect to the deputy attorney general, both of whom were hand-picked by president trump. because he's angry about the russia investigation. and so for a long time, i think people have had confidence on both sides of the aisle that rod rosenstein was acting in a professional way with respect to the mueller investigation. he, in fact, himself is the person who appointed robert mueller. and has said repeatedly in public statements and in congressional testimony that the special counsel's investigation is not a witch hunt. he hasn't seen anything inappropriate go on. that it should be supported, not interfered with. and so i think people felt comfortable that that investigation would see its way to a proper conclusion in an orderly fashion. so long as rod rosenstein was in charge of that investigation. so now you have a new person coming in, as has been pointed out by the reporters on just before me. you have someone who looks like he's prejudged the mueller
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investigation, has talked about a reduction in the budget for the mueller investigation, has talked about a narrowing of the scope of the mueller investigation. all of which are things that are on the record that he said when he was on cnn and else where. and so you have a concern that there might be an undo restricting of that investigation, and that it's not going to be allowed to complete its course. the other thing you have to be concerned about, given what president trump has said over and over again about jeff sessions. the one thing about jeff sessions we know for a fact did ethically was consult with people in the justice department and recuse himself. and that's the one thing that president trump has hated about jeff sessions' conduct. so you've got to believe that the president got a different kind of understanding in a conversation with mr. matt whitaker. it may be the justice department has cleared it and the ethics people think it's okay for him not to recuse himself. but given the statements he's made and the rejudgment that it sounds like he's engaged in, i think you have cause for great concern that he is not going to view that investigation in the way he might otherwise. and making those statements, by the way, before knowing anything at all about what the special
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counsel was considering. >> let's talk about matt whitaker for a second. he's going to serve as the acting attorney general. he will now be overseeing the russia investigation, not deputy attorney general rosenstein. and he does seem, as you note, to align with the president's view of the mueller investigation. he wrote in a cnn op-ed last week, quote, it does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating donald trump's finances or his family's finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the russian government or anyone else. that goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel. so that's just one example of many of the things that matt whitaker has said publicly about limiting the mueller probe one way or the other. you mentioned already that he had talked, high apologet hypot acting attorney general could starve the mueller investigation in terms of budgetary support. does that, however, constitute a conflict of interest?
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and a need to recuse? is he not allowed to have opinions and then come in and serve as attorney general? >> yeah, look, i don't know all the facts. i don't know all of the things he said. i don't know exactly what the internal folks at the doj would say about it. i do think it raises a concern. i had issues from time to time as u.s. attorney where it seemed like the best thing to do was to recuse myself. and there were times where the internal ethics folks said specifically, you don't have to recuse yourself. and then sometimes given the nature of the issue, and given what people might think about it, sometimes even if your ethics people tell you and any lawyer worth his salt would say the same thing, it's still better to step away from the case or step away from the investigation so that people have full confidence. and given the stakes involved here, and how much people are watching, and how long it's been going on, the things he said are going to cause people to have a question about what he does if he decides to restrict the investigation. by the way, the other thing that seems odd and wrong about this statement you read from that
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op-ed by mr. matt whitaker is, he doesn't know the basis on which the mueller investigation may have been looking at the finances of the president. right? the appointment letter by rod rosenstein makes very clear that the scope of the investigation was supposed to be relating to the campaign and possible collusion. but then also says, and also any matters that arise from this investigation. so, for example, if there were things that happened in the course of the mueller investigation that brought to light other kinds of crimes that were taking place and came to their information, and came to their knowledge and attention directly because of the investigation, that's covered in the scope of what rosenstein said. so he was speaking a little bit out of school when he said those things. >> preet, if matt whitaker comes in and decides to limit the mueller investigation one way or the other, would we ever know? >> i think in modern america, and given the subpoena power that has just been handed to the house democrats, i think we will know. we may not know in real-time, but we will know eventually, yes. >> the president did make the argument today that if he wanted
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mueller fired, he would have fired him already. >> yeah, but, look, the president is a little more shrewd than people give him credit for. he does some things out in the open to make it seem like he's got nothing to hide. but they also made the evidence of criminal conductor abuse of power and the house may consider that at some point. so, you know, just because the president has not fired someone yet doesn't mean he won't do it in the future. and doesn't mean he doesn't want to minimize the damage to him and the political backlash to him. look, he was very smart in some ways, depending on your perspective, on how he dealt with jeff sessions. he could have said, look, you know, if i want to fire jeff sessions, i could have done it. but he waited. what, he waited until hours after the midterm elections so he wouldn't screw up his political chances in various races around the country. so i imagine some similar kind of, you know -- strategizing is going on in his head with respect to mueller, as well. it is very clear he wants mueller to close up shop and stop. and from his perspective, the question is always, what's the best way to do it with the least amount of fallout? >> all right. preet bharara, a man who knows
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about being fired by president trump, thanks so much. i appreciate it. a republican on the senate judiciary committee just weighed in on whether the new acting attorney general needs to recuse himself. what did he or she say? that's next. oprah: 1 out of 8 americans struggles with hunger. this season you can help. now through december 29th for every o, that's good!™ pizza, soup or side you purchase we'll donate a meal to feeding america®. because o, that's good!™ i can do more to lower my a1c. because my body can still make its own insulin. i take trulicity once a week to activate my body to release its own insulin, like it's supposed to. trulicity is not insulin. it works 24/7. it comes in an easy-to-use pen. and i may even lose a little weight. trulicity is an injection to improve blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes when used with diet and exercise. don't use it as the first medicine to treat diabetes, or if you have type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis. don't take trulicity if you or your family
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i talked to the president this morning. we've got to find somebody who the president trusts that can get confirmed. a lot of good choices. i'm looking forward, not backward. we've got a new chapter at the department of justice and i'm excited about the opportunity. >> gosh, he's a positive person. that's an optimistic republican senator, lindsey graham, moments ago, reacting to the news that attorney general jeff sessions has been fired. and because sessions had recused himself from overseeing the russia investigation, his dismissal means his replacement, matt whitaker, not only becomes attorney general, but robert mueller's boss. let me start with you, bakari, because lindsey graham, at one point said there could be holy hell to pay if president trump ever fired jeff sessions. he revised that a little bit a couple months ago as it became clearer that this relationship
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was not going to last. what do you make of what he just said? >> i don't know who lindsey graham is any more. >> you've known him for a long time. >> i served in the south carolina general assembly for eight years and run statewide before in south carolina. know lindsey graham very, very well. you know, he's always been afraid of his shadow somewhat. and always in campaign mode. he's always afraid of that challenge from the right. and people used to look at lindsey graham as being the sane senator we have from south carolina when we had jim demint there, someone you could go to to get things done. i think he's the prime example of when donald trump breaks an individual. now lindsey graham is very weak-kneed, no longer putting the country first, putting his party first. and there are a lot of us who have known lindsey graham for a long time, even republican friends you talk to who say i have no idea who this man is. >> on the other hand, you know matt whitaker, the acting attorney general. what can you tell us about him? he's got a whole trail of tweets expressing a lot of skepticism about how bob mueller has been
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doing his job. >> matt is a conservative guy, believes in god and country kind of guy, right? the president likes him, has a lot of faith in him. and, look, i think he's very intelligent, obviously. political, ran for senate in the open seat there. matt is a bright guy, u.s. attorney for the southern district in iowa. look i don't think he's going to go out and do anything rash and get rid of mueller here. i think he's a really bright guy who will stay the course. but i do believe he does believe there are certain limits, as he expressed in this article, about what can and can't be investigated, the scope of the special counsel. >> jen, minority leader chuck schumer released this statement, quote, given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the mueller investigation, mr. matt whitaker should recuse himself for the duration of his time as acting attorney general. do you think there is any chance of that happening, and is this even a battle democrats should be waging? >> he should. there doesn't seem to be any appetite. you need republicans as well to
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partner to push him to do that. and there doesn't seem to be any appetite to do that. you know, i think there's a very interesting time line right now, because we have about seven weeks, six weeks, until the end of the year. matt whitaker can't serve indefinitely as acting attorney general. he could recess appoint him, but it only lasts through that congress, which there isn't a lot more time for. i think the timing of this is very calculated by trump. and perhaps a smart, wicked political way. in that he saw he has more space on the senate, maybe he wants to get his attorney general confirmed. but he would have to probably think about that starting january. at that point, democrats have the house. so democrats are calling for a lot of things right now. they don't have a lot of power. they will have a lot of power in january that will allow them to do a number of things. >> and mary kathryn, obviously matt whitaker has been a skeptic of the mueller investigation. before he took on this role. as jeff sessions chief of staff, wrote an op-ed for cnn last year, on the topic of whether
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mueller could investigate his finances. he said it's time for rosenstein to order mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel. if he doesn't, then mueller's investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition. do you have any concerns about whether or not he can supervise the investigation? >> i think in cases like this, it's best practices to -- if you've opined on this specific subject, to make sure that it -- people have confidence by not putting yourself in that position. >> so you think he should recuse. >> i think that's probably the right thing. i think jeff sessions did the right thing, and it has ticked off trump as we have seen ever since then. i don't want to dismiss the idea that special prosecutors should have limits on them. that's a long time and fair concern about these types of investigations. >> sure. >> but he's specifically commented on this. and i will say, it's going to be difficult for both republicans who went after peter strzok to
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say having opinions did not allow him to do his job properly. and democrats who said strzok is fine, a great public servant. everybody is going to switch teams, once again and saying having a political opinion makes you unqualified now. >> what happens if he refuses to recuse himself which i think we can all bet money is going to happen? >> he will continue to serve as acting ag. he's not required to recuse himself. this tension between himself and jeff sessions is that jeff sessions was a part of the campaign, and in fact, a noted surrogate. and the campaign itself was being investigated. that was the basis in which the people eternal in doj said you should recuse yourself. i will say, however, the idea is best practices. that's absolutely the case. but the thing about this particular individual is that he has not only done what people do not want a justice department to do, which is to show that lady justice is not blind. he has preconceived notions on the individual case and i want to hold him to his actual words. he's absolutely right. rod rosenstein and robert mueller should be held to the four corners of the
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investigation which includes whatever follows from the collusion investigation, including finances. that's part of it. and if he wants to be held to his word, then he should welcome any opportunity to venture past the initial. >> i was going to say, remember, we used to have this independent counsel statute that both sides got rid of it. it was a license to fish. very narrow. this is supposed to be much more narrow. we didn't want those things. we shouldn't have it here. the new togethering attorney general has not been shy about his feelings about the mueller probe. even tweeting about it. what did he tweet? that's next.
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breaking news. the united states now has a new acting attorney general. that man, matthew whitacre, will oversee the russia investigation, and has made his feelings pretty clear about the mueller probe on twitter. in august 2017, matt whitaker responded to an article head lined, one thought is trying to
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catch mueller to exert pressure being day after interview with staffers. if another comment, matt whitaker tweeted in response to this npr headline, those depending on robert mueller to shake up the trump presidency may be in for disappointment, stating the article is correct. it will be very difficult to ever see evidence discovered by mueller grand jury investigation. matt whitaker also shared an opinion piece. note to trump's lawyer, do not cooperate with mueller lynch mob, adding, worth a read. responding to the breaking news of trump firing attorney general jeff sessions. sunlen serfaty is on the hill. what are you hearing? >> reporter: certainly, jake, specifically, a lot of concern about acting ag, matt whitaker. a lot of those words you read, the top senate democrat, top house democrat, calling for matt whitaker to recuse himself in the russia investigation and across the board, a lot of top democrats expressing concern about what this means for the
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special counsel, robert mueller's investigation. here's senate minority leader, chu chuck schumer, earlier today. >> protecting mueller and his investigation is paramount. it would create a constitutional crisis if this were a prelude to ending or greatly limiting the mueller investigation. and i hope president trump and those he listens to will refrain from that. >> reporter: and we are also hearing from key house democrats as well. jerry nadler who stands to take over the house judiciary committee, he raised obstruction concerns earlier today and says that he could potentially investigate this decision to fire sessions. meantime, similar sentiments coming from elijah cummings who will take over the house oversight committee. top democrats in their new found majority in the house emboldened
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by this news and their reaction tonight. jake? >> i want to bring in josh campbell, former special assistant to former fbi director, james comey. josh, the president has been pretty transparent about his frustration with now former attorney general sessions. what do you make of this decision, what do you make of the timing? >> so i don't think any of us are surprised. in fact, i've been talking to some former colleagues inside the fbi. and one person described it as the media prepares obituaries to have on the shelf, this is what they were expecting with attorney general jeff sessions. they knew his time was limited based on all of the back and forth going on with the president. one person, though, described this as a very dangerous time, potentially because of the person that they're now bringing in. mr. matt whitaker. and the fact he's already been on record criticizing the mueller investigation. obviously, there's a conflict of interest there. and one thing that's interesting, in any case, jake, it is inappropriate for the white house to be even perceived as influencing an investigation, doubly so wihen that investigation pertains to the president himself. i don't think we can overstate the gravity of what's going on here. >> i want to show you some video
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now of deputy attorney general rod rosenstein leaving the white house. we just saw him. he was at the white house. we're not exactly sure why he was there. we're told it was for a previously arranged meeting. although, obviously, eyebrows being raised at his presence at the white house right now. josh, knowing what you know about bob mueller, would this change anything from his focus on the russia investigation? >> so it's not going to change bob mueller's focus. but he may not be the person making the decisions here. up to this point, the conventional wisdom has been that bob mueller was protected as long as rod rosenstein was there. that has gone out the window. we can shuffle the deck on that conventional wisdom. now rosenstein is not that barrier. it appears matt whitaker will be supervising the investigation. so, again, someone on record criticizing, being put in by the president, can lead in only one direction. it's very troubling. i will say, jake, one thing we know based on the president's history with department of justice is every major personnel
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change he's made at doj has involved seemingly some type of ulterior motive. sally yates defend the immigration ban and was trying to sound the alarm on michael flynn. pret preet, and james comey and trying to influence the investigation. each of those instances we have seen some kind of motive at play here. with sessions, it appears to be the same case. recused himself, angered the president. it may be now the president is putting someone in place who would be loyal to him based on some of the past statements that matt whitaker has been on record saying. >> josh, how is this going over with rank and file and doj, justice department and fbi? >> as i mentioned, the fact that sessions left would surprise no one. everyone assumed that was going to be the case. and the fact of the matter is, on any given day, the attorney general doesn't directly impact the work of an fbi agent or analyst out in the field. it's not something that they think about. but again, when you have someone who is now being put in place
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who could potentially influence a very major investigation in a significant way, that is something that is giving people that ei've been talking to grea pause. they look at the facts and can't draw a line through it. but it appears as though the president is clearing out obstacles to some possibly getting rid of bob mueller or significantly limiting his work. >> all right, josh campbell, thanks so much. do republicans on the senate judiciary committee need to speak out publicly offer jeff sessions' firing or are they better off staying silent? stay with us. fidelity is redefining value for investors. introducing zero account fees for brokerage accounts. and zero minimums to open an account. we have fidelity mutual funds with zero minimum investment. and now only fidelity offers four zero expense ratio index funds directly to investors. because when you invest with fidelity, all those zeros really add up. ♪ so maybe i'll win ♪ saved by zero ♪ so maybe i'll win we really pride ourselves >> ton making it easyautoglass,
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welcome back to breaking news coverage of president trump's firing of his attorney general, jeff sessions. the two men had been at odds over sessions' decision to listen to the ethics lawyers at the department of justice and recuse himself from the russia investigation. joining me on the phone is mazie hirono of highwawaii, re-electe last night with i think just 70, 71% of the vote. senator, congratulations. your reaction -- >> thank you very much. >> your reaction to today's developments? >> didn't take long for the president to act immediately to protect himself, because it's always about him, all of the
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time, every time. so first he fires jeff sessions, and then he names matthew whitacre whit kerr as acting attorney general. very troubling knowing mr. whitaker's views. it raises a conflict of interest with regard to whitaker, and it certainly goes to the obstruction of justice by the president. why congress has to pass legislation to protect the mueller investigation. >> so you and your colleagues on the senate judiciary committee already passed out of the committee legislation to protect mueller. senator mitch mcconnell, majority leader, did not bring it up. i think he said he didn't feel there was any need to do so. do you believe that there will be any appetite by republicans to do so, and will there be perhaps a push by somebody like you or others to do so before the end of this congress when you lose even more seats in january? >> we passed the mueller
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investigation basically to protect any special counsel out of the judiciary committee in a bipartisan way. and the only reason that mcconnell didn't bring it on the floor, he says, we don't need to do that because nothing is going to happen to mueller. and i don't know what it's going to take. maybe a ton of bricks has to fall on mcconnell's head before he realizes or recognizes what is actually going on. so certainly i expect that the democrats in the senate, as well as the democrats in the house, will push to protect the mueller investigation, because that has to go on. and the president's actions are so blatantly political to protect himself that, as i said, it didn't take long for him to do it. >> obviously, your power as being part of the party, the minority party in the senate are limited, compared to your democratic colleagues in the house, who are going to soon have the majority. what do you want them to do that
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you are not able to do? >> certainly, they'll be able to investigate what's going on with the president. and my friend, jerry nadler, with whom i served for six years in the u.s. house, i know that he has already said he wants to know what the president's motives are. i think we can pretty much conclude what his motives are. that is to protect himself. so i expect jerry nadler to be chairing the judiciary committee in the house. and then to proceed with what he needs to do to get to the bottom of this. and to protect the mueller investigation. >> do you think that this is where it ends? that he appoints matthew whitacre as acting attorney general and whitaker maybe, you know, tries to keep -- tries to shrink or contract the bounds of the mueller investigation? or do you fear more is going to happen? >> i think as long as the mueller investigation continues that this is yet more actions by the president that goes to obstruction of justice.
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>> doesn't president trump have the right to have as attorney general whoever he sees fit, as long as that person is ultimately confirmed by the senate? >> i think motives matter. and this is why the obstruction of justice is such a big issue for mueller. and obstruction of justice is a pattern, a cumulative effect of all of the actions that the president takes. the motives behind those actions. and if he were just doing this as one-off, then maybe so. but it's not. if it's a pattern of obstruction. there's no question that he's been wanting to in the mueller investigation from the very beginning, calling it a witch hunt. so in spite of the fact that the russians interfered not only with the 2016 elections, but that this election 2018 elections, the president is totally motivated by the desire to protect himself. i hope everybody gets that. >> so your leader, the senate
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minority leader, democrat chuck schumer, says the interim attorney general, acting attorney general, matt whitaker, should recuse himself from the russia investigation. because he has said things about how he thinks the russia investigation could theoretically be starved of funding or needs to be limited in scope. if -- first of all, why would he need to recuse himself? i understand why you don't trust him to lead the investigation. but is there actually like a legal or ethical reason why he would need to do so? >> there were some parameters to when a recusal is required. which is what led to jeff sessions' recusal. so -- whitaker made statements such as they would be out of bounds for the mueller investigation to go into trump's family and his own finances. and that it wasn't a problem for the trump people to take the trump tower meeting. so these are all matters of
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interest. and -- >> but certainly he's allowed to have an opinion on these matters. and does his expression of those opinions mean he needs to -- i'm not an attorney. you are. so i'm just -- is there some sort of legal reason why somebody who expresses an opinion could therefore not supervise an investigation about, you know, the opinion of which he talked about? >> well, you express an opinion, that's fine. but when you put it the in the context he is actually going to be the person making decisions, and overseeing the mueller investigation, that is an entirely different proposition all together. so it's a free country. anybody can express themselves. but he's going to be making decisions that will ultimately impact the mueller investigation. and i think that -- if this isn't a basis for recusal, i don't know what recusal means, frankly. >> senator, i just want to ask one more question about the results last night. i know you're upset that many of your friends, democratic senators, were not re-elected.
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what do you make of those who say that democrats overreached when it came to the kavanaugh hearings, and that hurt people such as heidi heitkamp in north dakota, joe donnelly in indiana and claire mccaskill in missouri? >> i said that there are battles worth fighting. and definitely judge kavanaugh, even before dr. ford came over, had a record of being against a woman's right to choose, reproductive rights, environmental protections. there were any number of reasons to not be for him. and, of course, when dr. ford came forward in how she was treated by the judiciary committee, that should have been a total red flag. and as i said, it's bad enough that we have one person on the supreme court with this kind of clout. and now we have another. the supreme court should be above reproach. and now i believe that you have two people on the supreme court who are not above reproach. and that does not do the court any good. so, you know, my friends who
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lost took principle positions. and i totally respect their courage for them. i wish other people would do the same thing, and note that john tester, who the president went after tooth and nail in a very personal way, has been re-elected. >> has been re-elected, yeah. >> i'm glad for that. >> senator mazie hirono, thank you so much. our coverage on cnn continues right now. thank you for watching. this is cnn breaking news. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." we're following breaking news. president trump sudden see fires the attorney general, jeff sessions for the impardonable sin of recusing himself from the russia investigation. he'll be replaced now by chief of staff, matthew whitacre, who has been critical of robert mueller's russia investigation and may go ahead and supervise it. the surprise announcement came after the president claimed victory in