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Congressional Baseball Game Goes On; Interview With Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal; President Trump Reportedly Now Under Investigation; Congressional Baseball Game About to Begin Despite Shooting. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 15, 2017 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Oval Office obstruction? As President Trump launches a new Twitter rant tonight about the Russia investigation, we're learning more about the special counsel's focus and what it could mean for the commander in chief.

Witch-hunt? The president appears to be going after Robert Mueller personally, blasting leaders of the Russia probe as -- quote -- "very bad and conflicted people." Is Mr. Trump still toying with the idea of firing the special counsel?

In some trouble. That's Mr. Trump's assessment of Congressman Steve Scalise's condition, the Republican undergoing a third surgery hours after he and other lawmakers were targeted in a shooting rampage. This hour, we have new video and new information on the investigation.

And field of unity. We're standing by for the first pitch, as members of Congress play ball, both parties making a statement about bipartisanship, refusing to let a deranged gunman call off their big game.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news this hour, President Trump back on Twitter tonight blasting talk of obstruction, and Vice President Mike Pence now also hiring an outside attorney, as the special counsel's investigation widens and threatens to reach the Oval Office.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that Mueller is investigating the president for possible obstruction of justice.

CNN has learned that Mueller's team soon will interview senior intelligence officials about their conversations with the president and his alleged efforts to get the FBI to stop investigating former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

One of those officials, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, was questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee in closed session today. Coats and the National Security Agency director, Admiral Mike Rogers, refused to answer any key questions during a public hearing last week.

Also breaking, we're standing by for an unusual show of bipartisan unity, as members of Congress compete in their annual charity baseball game despite yesterday's shooting attack on Republicans during their practice. House Republican Whip Steve Scalise still in critical condition, undergoing a third surgery after being seriously wounded.

I will talk about those stories and more with Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee that's also expanding its Russia investigation. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, as the president vents on Twitter once again tonight, this special counsel is ramping up its investigation.


Investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller will soon talk to several key intelligence officials. That marks the clearest sign yet that Mueller may be investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, CNN has learned three top intelligence officials, including one who left the government this spring, will be investigated and interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller's team as early as next week.

Law enforcement sources tell CNN the interviews are part of an effort by Mueller to determine if there's enough evidence to launch a full- scale probe into whether the president obstructed justice by seeking to end the Russia investigation and by firing FBI Director James Comey.

The interviews with National Security Adviser Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats are the strongest and most public indication yet that Mueller is moving to expand his investigation into the Oval Office and come on the heels of contentious testimony by Coats and Rogers before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week in which they denied being pressured by President Trump to help end the Russia investigation.

ADM. MIKE ROGERS, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY DIRECTOR: I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so.

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I have never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship with an ongoing investigation.

SCHNEIDER: While both men issued broad denials, Vice Chairman Mark Warner alluded to a witness who might testify differert. SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: We have facts that there were other individuals that were aware of the call that was made to you, aware of the substance of that call, and that there was a memo prepared because of concerns about that call.


SCHNEIDER: CNN has learned that witness is former NSA deputy Richard Ledgett. Sources say he wrote a memo documenting a conversation in which the president allegedly urged Admiral Rogers to ask the FBI to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No collusion, no obstruction. He's a leaker.

SCHNEIDER: Despite his denials, questions of obstruction have loomed over President Trump since his firing of FBI Director Comey May 9. The next day, he reportedly told Russia's foreign minister inside the Oval office that firing Comey had relieved -- quote -- "great pressure" on him and he admitted to NBC that he fired Comey in part because of the Russia investigation.

TRUMP: In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

SCHNEIDER: Tonight, as Mueller's investigation heats up, Congress is expanding its own inquiries. The chair and vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee now say they will begin looking into Comey's firing and -- quote -- "improper interference" in FBI investigations.

And, today, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee met with Coats behind closed doors. Republican Senator Marco Rubio told CNN today the president should let the investigation take its course.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I think the president would be best served by having this thing fully looked at, so that there's no doubts at the end. He should be very comfortable with that.


SCHNEIDER: And the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee who met with DNI Coats today said they cleared up a number of questions that remained from his testimony last week, but would not say whether Coats invoked executive privilege or might do so in the future.

Meanwhile, CNN sued in federal court today to get the FBI to turn over those memos from former FBI Director James Comey -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, those memos are unclassified. And CNN sued under the Freedom of Information Act.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

BLITZER: Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.

Now the president on the attack once again, as the White House dodges questions about the special counsel investigation.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, the president lashing out at the report that he's under investigation for possible obstruction of justice.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He is, indeed, Wolf, from morning until afternoon, lashing out on social media, as he often does.

But the White House has enacted a policy of not talking about this Russia investigation at all. In fact, during the daily briefing today, which was not held on camera, held off-camera, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, declined eight times to talk about this.

That didn't stop the president, though, at all. Let's take a look at some of what he's saying on social media.

He said this early this morning. He said -- or he said this morning afternoon. Excuse me. "Going after Hillary Clinton. Why is it that Hillary Clinton's family and Dems' dealings with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?"

That came only a couple hours after he said this: "You're witnessing the single greatest witch-hunt in American political history led by some very bad and conflicted people."

So, unclear in that e-mail, in that social media message if he's talking about the special counselor, Robert Mueller, or some of the investigators that have been criticized by some Republicans there, Wolf, clearly showing his frustration with this widening investigation here.

And many people inside the building here, Wolf, and many Republicans indeed on Capitol Hill simply wish the president would stop weighing in on all of this and wish that they would wall this off and talk about issues, but he's simply not following that instruction.

Now, separately, Wolf, we are learning tonight that the vice president has retained his own lawyer as well, his personal lawyer here, to deal with this special counsel investigation and the congressional committees. He's hired Richard Cullen. He's a former Virginia attorney general, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in the George H.W. Bush era, a very respected lawyer.

But we got a statement from the vice president's communications director, Wolf. It says this, said: "The vice president is focused entirely on his duties and promoting the president's agenda and looks forward to a swift conclusion of this matter."

Unlikely that this will be swift at all, Wolf, because the vice president, of course, also has many links to this Russian investigation, particularly, if you will remember, because of Michael Flynn, the fired national security adviser who misled the vice president about his contacts with the Russian ambassador here. So, the vice president hiring his own lawyer here, his office saying that he's not using taxpayer funds for this. He will pay for it himself or potentially out of a political action committee. In fact, he's going to Indianapolis tomorrow to raise money for that.

But, Wolf, a sign here that the vice president hiring his own lawyer, another sign this investigation widening and has no end in sight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly is. The president, the vice president, a whole bunch of Trump associates, they all have retained private outside attorneys.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you for that report.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Judiciary Committee, is with us.

So, you have heard, you have seen the tweets. Is this a witch-hunt?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Very far from a witch-hunt.


In fact, calling it a witch-hunt and these continuing tweets are almost themselves a continuing course of obstruction, because they are transparently an attempt to put pressure on the special prosecutor and the FBI to abandon a lawful investigation that's based on some very, very clear facts, the firing of Comey, the acknowledgement, indeed almost bragging about it afterwards, to the Russians, as well as on the NBC interview, that it was because of the Russian thing, create a prima facie case, a case to go forward with this investigation.

BLITZER: It's not unusual, though, for someone who is being investigated to criticize the special counsel or the independent counsel. Remember, Bill Clinton, he used to criticize the independent counsel, Ken Starr, and his investigations, whether Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, all of the time.

BLUMENTHAL: And criticism is fair and not unprecedented, but has to be seen in the context of the demand for loyalty from Comey, the plea to Comey that he go light on Flynn, and the other statements that were made afterward as the investigation is unfolding now.

So, I think it is evidence, it's not conclusive evidence, but it's more evidence, a thickening cloud of evidence over this administration that I think will be difficult to deny in the long run.

BLITZER: The chairman of your committee, the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, says the committee will pursue investigations into any efforts to influence FBI investigations.

Do you consider that an investigation into possible obstruction of justice? BLUMENTHAL: It is very definitely an investigation into possible


BLITZER: Why won't he say that specifically?

BLUMENTHAL: Because the chairman and we all are concerned, and we have expressed that concern to him, that the integrity of the Department of Justice is directly threatened by this potential obstruction of justice.

And there is a question here of intent as to what the purpose was, but, again, the acknowledgement that it was the Russia thing, that he wanted it to stop because he was concerned about the potential collusion case against him.

And here is the other part of it, Wolf, that I think is very important and sort of the elephant in the room, conspiracy. No accident that the vice president has hired his own lawyer. Others in the administration will do so very, very shortly, if they haven't done so already.

And the president's counsel already is interviewing those White House aides and employees who may have had conversations with the president. So what we're seeing here is a widening investigation, not only as to statements made by the president, but also others who behind the scenes may have heard him make statements.

BLITZER: You're a longtime prosecutor. You were the attorney general of your home state of Connecticut.

When you say conspiracy, what does that mean? Conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, is that what you're saying?

BLUMENTHAL: Conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice or conspiracy to collude in the Russians in interfering with our investigation are two separate points of interest here.

And the conspiracy may well involve statements made by the president or others in furtherance of an illegal goal, such as shutting down the investigation.

BLITZER: And the fact that he is going after this investigation with these tweets, you have seen these tweets today. They're pretty tough. His lawyers probably are not very happy about that.

BLUMENTHAL: His lawyers have got to be very unhappy, if they have any sense of what the reaction will be here.

And knowing special prosecutor Mueller and the FBI, I think they will put aside whatever emotional reaction they may have to these tweets, but it certainly will not discourage them in any way. And they do constitute evidence of a state of mind.

BLITZER: It's interesting. We just got a letter from Dianne Feinstein who is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Let me read to you from that letter. This is a letter that involves James Comey's so far refusal to testify before the Judiciary Committee.

"Second," she says, "we unanimously believe the Director Comey should testify before our committee regarding serious concerns that have been raised about political interference with FBI investigations and possible obstruction of justice. These issues are squarely within the committee's jurisdiction. I'm disappointed that Mr. Comey declined our initial request, declined our original request, and hope he will reconsider. If not, the committee should take steps to compel his attendance. Be assured, my Democratic colleagues are supportive of issuing a subpoena, should it become necessary."

I assume you're part of those Democratic colleagues.

BLUMENTHAL: We had a meeting as recently as yesterday late afternoon, early evening, and we are united that there should be subpoenas to former Director Comey, as well as to the current attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and very likely to Rod Rosenstein, because they all have knowledge.


And Rod Rosenstein may be a witness here, so he will have to recuse himself from any consideration of firing Bob Mueller, as unlikely as I hope that might be, but certainly there will be subpoenas.


BLITZER: There will only be subpoenas, Senator, if the Republican majority, the chairman, for example, Chuck Grassley, the chairman of your committee, wants there to be subpoenas.

BLUMENTHAL: And my belief is -- and I can't speak for the chairman -- that we will be united as a committee in seeking information about the Department of Justice investigation, so far as its integrity and independence may be threatened by an obstruction of justice. And that's really the goal here.

BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, stand by. There's more information coming in. We need to take a quick break. We will resume our coverage right after this.



BLITZER: We're back with Senator Richard Blumenthal. We're talking about the special counsel's Russia investigation, serious questions about whether President Trump tried to obstruct justice.

Senator, I need you to stand by, because, right now, we're going to be getting an update on the investigation into the shooting rampage targeting Republican lawmakers during their baseball practice yesterday morning. Let's go to CNN's Dianne Gallagher.

Dianne, what more are you learning tonight?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the wife of the shooter speaking out today, saying that before he left Illinois he made preparations. He sold off almost everything he owned. He got rid of his businesses.

Wolf, we are also getting surveillance video that shows an angle we haven't seen before. You can see, it's still pretty much under investigation out here, agents around the area. It is an intense scene.


GALLAGHER (voice-over): Surveillance video just obtained by CNN from a coffee shop across the street from the ballpark captures the shooting from another vantage point, a window being blown out, people running and police arriving on scene amid gunfire.

This cell phone video shows House Majority Whip Steve Scalise laying in the infield. Scalise was shot in the hip and is suffering from bone fractures and injuries to his internal organs. He remains in critical condition. He's had three surgeries and could require more.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited Scalise in the hospital last night.

TRUMP: He's in some trouble, but he's a great fighter and he's going to be OK, we hope.

GALLAGHER: Trump also visited with Capitol police officer Crystal Griner, who was shot in the ankle. Another officer, David Bailey, who was injured but not shot, was treated and released Wednesday.

Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika was shot several times in the chest and needs help breathing. He will need more surgeries, but can communicate through notes. And Congressman Roger Williams, briefly hospitalized for an injury to his leg, was back on Capitol Hill with his staffers Zack Barth, who was shot in the leg.

ZACK BARTH, CONGRESSIONAL STAFFER: Yes, there was nowhere for me to go. There was no gate, nothing like that. So I made myself the smallest target possible, laid on the ground. And then I saw him turn his gun towards me. He started firing. Everything around me started to pop. I felt a sharp, burning pain in my leg. Looked down. I had been hit.

And, at that point, adrenaline was pumping through me, and my fight- or-flight reflexes took over.

GALLAGHER: Meantime, the investigation into shooter James Hodgkinson continues. Today, FBI agents are combing the field for clues. So far, they found two weapons, a .9-millimeter handgun and a 7.62- caliber rifle, which the ATF says appear to be legally purpose. The FBI is examining a cell phone, computer and camera found in the

white cargo van where Hodgkinson lived since March. Hodgkinson left behind a long public trail of angry social media activity directed at the Republican Party and President Trump.

Authorities want to know why the 66-year-old from Illinois with a checkered criminal history was in Alexandria. He was often seen sitting on a park bench near the baseball field. And he joined a nearby YMCA on April 4.

But while he canceled his membership the day before the shooting, his dues were paid through July. He checked in there 5:31 on the morning of the shooting.


GALLAGHER: And we are getting an update from the hospital on lobbyist Matt Mika. We're told that his condition has improved. Wolf, he is now in serious condition.

Also, we're just learning from a source that Majority Whip Scalise is out of that third surgery, but he does remain in critical condition -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope for both of them. We're praying certainly for both of them, all of the victims. Dianne Gallagher in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington, thanks very much.

As we stand by for the congressional baseball game over at Nationals Park, despite the shooting, be sure to stay with CNN for an unprecedented joint interview with the House speaker, Paul Ryan, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, by the way. That's coming up in our next hour only here on CNN.

I want to get back to Senator Richard Blumenthal.

What needs to be done to calm things down because the political rhetoric, as you know, has been very vicious?

BLUMENTHAL: One of the silver lines in this cloud, the horrible, horrific attack that we saw just about 24 hours ago, is that there is a greater sense of common purpose and unity.

And there was more than maybe the public realized. But I think that there is a greater sense of community, and I think we need to seize this moment and tone down the rhetoric. I know that's easier said than done


And part of the problem is that the president is continuing the very visceral and vehement attacks, instead of saying, as my colleague Senator Rubio said, that he welcomes a swift result and a fair result to this investigation.

BLITZER: And we're going to see a very positive -- we're looking at live pictures right now, Senator, from Nationals Park, where the Washington Nationals play, but tonight the Democratic lawmakers will play the Republican lawmakers. This will be an emotional moment, especially, of course, after what happened yesterday morning.

BLUMENTHAL: It will be an emotional moment.

And, for example, in the Senate today, we had a bipartisan lunch that brought us together. And I think there is a sense in the Senate and I think in the House as well that we need more common purpose, less partisanship, less partisan bickering and divisions and a focus on policies.

We're going to have disagreements on policy, on health care, tax reform and infrastructure, but we can get results if we simply build on that common purpose.

BLITZER: We see one sign that says "Scalise Strong" out there in the stands.

It's so sad to think that the majority whip, the number three Republican in the House, he's now in critical condition at the MedStar Washington Hospital, Senator, just gone through three surgeries and he may need more. And we always have to ask the question why.

BLUMENTHAL: And our hearts go out to him, common -- our hearts and prayers together. think we have all said it numerous times over the last 24 hours.

BLITZER: We hope he does make a full and speedy recovery, all of the victims.

BLUMENTHAL: Well, he is a fighter.



BLUMENTHAL: He's a fighter and he's tough. And...

BLITZER: He's a very good man.


BLITZER: All right, thank you very much, Senator Blumenthal.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.

Just ahead: President Trump lashes out as the special counsel, Robert Mueller, weighs a wider probe into allegations the president may have obstructed justice.

And the day after a gunman opened fire on a Republican baseball practice, badly wounding a U.S. congressman, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, once again, they're getting ready for their charity game at Nationals Park. We're waiting for the first pitch.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: We're back with breaking news in the Russia investigation. President Trump firing off new tweets tonight blasting talk of obstruction after a "the Washington Post" report that he personally is under investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

[18:32:01] This as the vice president, Mike Pence, hires an outside personal attorney to deal with the Russia probe, as well.

Let's bring in our analysts and specialists and Jeffrey Toobin. How significant are these developments? You've seen "The Washington Post" report that they're investigating -- Mueller's investigating obstruction of justice.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's immensely significant, for several reasons.

First of all, the president of the United States is under criminal investigation. I mean, think about that. That's a monumental fact. I mean, it has not happened all that often in American history.

Second, think about the personal toll that takes on someone. It is very difficult to know there is a group of FBI agents and skilled prosecutors who are investigating you personally. I mean, especially for someone like Donald Trump who is obviously very sensitive on these issues. It's just very, very significant.

As for Mike Pence hiring a lawyer, I don't think that's very significant at all. You know, he is going -- he's a witness in this matter. He's probably going to be interviewed. There's no suggestion he's done anything improper. He has a lawyer to handle these inquiries. I don't think anyone should draw any conclusions.

BLITZER: He's not any regular lawyer. He's a former U.S. attorney. A lot of experience in these matters.

BLITZER: You would expect the vice president to hire some pretty high-powered lawyer. He's done that, but I don't think it suggests anything about his involvement.

BLITZER: Let's talk about another suggestion. You know, Phil, the special counsel, Bob Mueller, Robert Mueller meeting with top intelligence chiefs, including the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, the director of the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers, a former assistant director -- deputy director of the National Security Agency to get some information about their interactions on these sensitive issues with the president, with President Trump. What do you expect them to ask?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I expect something different than what we've seen on TV. I'm not interested, if you're one of those investigators -- and I don't think Director Mueller will be interested along with his investigators -- on what they think or what they felt. That can come later. I want facts.

When did you meet with anybody in the White House? I want dates. I want to see the dates in your ledger that showed when you met. Who else was in the room? Because those people will be potential interviews. I want to see -- if there's discrepancies between what you say about the facts of those meetings and what anybody else in the room says.

And then the most significant conversations, not what did you feel that the president was saying? What did he say and what did you respond? I don't want -- I want to get away from judgements about what you felt and into the facts of what happened in a meeting and when it happened.

BLITZER: During their testimony they said they didn't feel any pressure coming from the president?

TOOBIN: He knows what he's talking about. That's exactly right.

BLITZER: He spent a lot of time with the CIA and the FBI. So I assume he does. That's why -- that's why he's in THE SITUATION ROOM.

David Chalian, the president, though, he's really going after the latest developments in this investigation. Among his tweets today, "They made up a phony collusion with the Russian story. Found zero proof, so now they're -- they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice." Then he tweeted, "You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT" -- all in caps, "witch hunt" -- "in American political history, led by some very bad and conflicted people."

His staffers at the White House, they're saying, "We're not going to have any comment," but he's commenting plenty.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, they say he's not -- they're not going to have any comment, but Sarah Huckabee Sanders did comment today, saying that as far as she knows, she had a specific conversation, but she believes that he has confidence in Mueller.

His attorney general testified under oath, he had confidence in Mueller. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who hired Mueller for the special counsel role, said last week under oath that Mueller's going to have full independence to do what he needs to do and that there's no evidence right now that there would be any cause to get rid of him. That sounds like confidence in Mueller, too.

So Donald Trump is a little torn here between dipping his toe into some of the Republican talking points that somehow Mueller's conflicted out of this investigation, and yet his entire team around him seems to be expressing confidence in Mueller.

BLITZER: Because you worked at the FBI. He's suggesting these FBI agents who are investigating some very bad and conflicted people. You don't want to anger FBI acts, do you? MUDD: Anger? I worked for that guy. I'm about ready to break the

table here. I served 25 years with thousands of federal officers. He's the best I ever saw, the best in terms of integrity, brains. He not only was nominated...

BLITZER: You're talking about Mueller.

MUDD: ... for a ten-year term by President Bush. He was extended by President Obama. This is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who never spoke about his service in my presence. Had -- the guy was the best I saw. And sitting from the White House, if you're in the bureau, to watch his integrity attacked is just remarkable.

CHALIAN: By the way, the day -- sorry, the day before he was made special counsel, apparently he was interviewed for the FBI job.

TOOBIN: But I think it's a measure of Mueller's integrity that he's not going to read those tweets and say, "Oh, I'm going to indict him as a result." No, I mean, I think he is -- that's why I think, ultimately, they're not going to matter very much, those tweets, because Mueller is going to do the investigation he's going to do; and Donald Trump's going to criticize him or not criticize him, but it's going to be the facts and the law not, you know, the atmospherics.

BLITZER: And Mueller, when he served as the FBI director for ten years, he got extended for two more unanimously, confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Some more tweets, Rebecca, from the president today. Now he's going after Hillary Clinton once again. I'll read a couple more. "Why is it that Hillary Clinton's family and Dems dealing with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?"

Then he tweeted, "Crooked H" -- referring to Hillary -- "Clinton destroyed phones with hammer, bleached e-mails, had husband meet with A.G." -- attorney general -- "days before she was cleared, and they talk about obstruction?'

He keeps going back to 2016, even though we're well into 2017.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He does, and it's well- documented that President Trump is sort of obsessed with the 2016 presidential election.

That said, other Republicans have been invoking the 2016 election, invoking this investigation into Hillary Clinton, as well, particularly when they were questioning James Comey and wanting to know why he handled that the way that he did.

So this isn't just sort of angry, empty messaging from the president. There's a purpose behind this, and it's to cast doubt on the investigation into him, make it sound like it is a partisan political witch hunt to use his terminology and also cast doubt on the actions of Comey when he was in charge of the FBI and when he made that decision not to recommend prosecution for Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: But is he undermining his own legal strategy by all these tweets?

TOOBIN: I actually don't think so. You know, I think he is going to be able to raise the defense that he wants, if he comes to that. And he is a politician who is making political points, which he's perfectly entitled to do. And I don't think Director Mueller is going to read those tweets and say, "Well, I'm going to get him now." I mean, I think he's going to lead the facts where they are, and I think the tweets are political messaging, which may or may not have any impact.

CHALIAN: Let's answer -- let's answer the president's question in that tweet: "Why is it that Hillary Clinton's family and Dems dealing with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?" Because you're the president of the United States of America? And she's not. That's why. You're the sitting president of the United States. That's the answer to that question.

TOOBIN: I'm sure she'd happily trade places.

BLITZER: Ever think of the irony? That when Comey was leading the investigation, he told the president on three occasions, according to Comey, "You're not under investigation."

Comey is fired. There's a new chief investigator, the special counsel, Mueller, and all of a sudden, guess who's being investigated?

TOOBIN: And if he'd only just accepted the answer instead of pursuing it and then firing Mueller...

BLITZER: Firing Comey.

TOOBIN: ... firing Comey, he wouldn't be under investigation. So go figure.

BLITZER: Good words. Go figure. All right. Everybody stay with us. Much more right after this.


BLITZER: We're standing by for a very important symbolic event here in the nation's capital, the congressional baseball team about to begin only a day after Republican players were attacked during practice by a heavily-armed gunman. You can see they're getting ready for the game over Nationals Park.

We're also told, by the way, that players on both the Democratic and Republican teams will be wearing gold caps tonight to honor Representative Steve Scalise, thanks to Louisiana State University. He graduated from LSU back in 1989, and the university sent over about 70 hats and two dozen T-shirts to Washington for players from both teams to be wearing tonight. This is going to be an important event.

I'm going to talk more, guys, about the baseball game that's coming up. But let's get back to the investigations underway right now.

As you know, David Chalian, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, he's not ruling out a request from Democrats, Dianne Feinstein, among others, to open a committee investigation into the possibility of obstruction of justice on the part of the president.

That could be very significant.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. We learned today from Manu Raju that the Senate Intel Committee is sort of going to focus on just the Russia part of this, the collusion, potential collusion and not delve into the obstruction of justice.

So, now, over to judiciary, I also just observing Chuck Grassley over the years, wonder if this is going to be an opportunity for him to bring up the Loretta Lynch material that we had learned recently, one would think he's going to want to score some political points for his team there if he opens up talking about obstruction of justice, getting on the record with Loretta Lynch, telling Jim Comey to discuss this as a matter and not an investigation and adopt campaign language, get on Bill Clinton's plane -- that seems like that would be fair game for that kind of oversight as well.

BLITZER: You know, it's also I think significant that the Republican National Committee for all practical purposes, Rebecca, is becoming the war room to deal with all of these allegations against the president and his associates. They've got a pretty active presence. They're sending out a lot of talking points to supporters.

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: They do, Wolf, and that is all by design. I actually interviewed Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the RNC, just a couple weeks ago, and I asked her if she was going to try to do something distinct from the White House with the RNC, put their own stamp on things and she said that they consider themselves to be an arm of the White House for the words that she used and I think what you're seeing from them right now really reflects that philosophy.

Don't forget, obviously, you have some senior members of the White House who are RNC alums, including Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer so there is still a connection between the RNC and the White House in terms of personnel. But this is all very much by design.

And that's when you tend to see when you have the president in the White House, he's the head of the party, the RNC is the political committee for the party he runs the show. Donald Trump runs the show.

BLITZER: Getting back, Jeffrey Toobin, to what we heard from David about the Senate Intelligence Committee basically not going after the investigation into obstruction of justice, maybe leave that for the Judiciary Committee.

How significant is that? They're going to focus in on the allegations that Russia was deeply, deeply meddling in the U.S. elections.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, that certainly is significant, that the intelligence committee is going to do that and I don't think that members of the public knows or cares the difference between the different committees, what's significant is whether any congressional committee will be investigating the obstruction of justice charges, whether it's intelligence or judiciary and if -- if Senator Grassley really is going to pursue it, it would be significant because as we now know, thanks to "The Washington Post", there is an active criminal investigation there, the allegations are very serious and we'll see if there's anything further that happens.

BLITZER: And Mueller is putting together a very strong team to help him in this investigation, men and women with a lot, a lot of experience. You know, you served as I point out in the CIA and the FBI -- the whole nature of this investigation now seems to be now moving to a different level.

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: It is, but the allegations that this is continue to surprise me for a couple reasons. Number one it's not Robert Mueller's decision to look at the obstruction of justice. It's the president of the United States who decided to terminate the man leading the investigation. So, anybody who wants to say, especially from the Republican side, a former Republican nominee who was the FBI Director Mueller is expanding mission with this -- not true. He was almost forced to do this.

By the way, you mentioned the strength of the team -- I served on the junior officers on this team. If the American people want any question about, A, whether this mission will expand widely, and, B, whether they're focused on facts -- don't worry, these guys are really good. The best I saw.

BLITZER: Let's look at some live pictures coming in, David Chalian, from Nationals Park here in Washington. Thank you to those who keep us safe. They're getting ready for not the Nationals and Major League Baseball. They're getting ready for something -- we should call it, is it AAA, minor league. What is it?

It's a bunch of members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats. They're going to be playing baseball. They do it every year, David, as we all know, but this year because of what happened yesterday is so special.

CHALIAN: It is. This is a real moment for the country to sort of come together.

[18:50:01] You heard remarkable words from both the speaker of the House and the minority leader yesterday on the floor of the House, and this is the extension of that.

You mentioned the gold caps that LSU was sending in honor of Scalise as he is recuperating and in critical condition still in the hospital, Jim Himes, the Democrat from Connecticut I saw, tweeted out a photo, getting the gold cap saying, I can't wait to wear my new cap tonight.

So, I think we are going to see a lot of bipartisan notes hit tonight at the ballpark -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What do you think? BERG: It really is an unusual special moment, as David said, because

-- especially at this moment in Washington, you don't see bipartisan moments very often. And members of the past day I've talked to, a number of members of Congress who really did sound so fatigued by the state of things in Washington.

I mean, even before the events yesterday, there were so many lawmakers who wanted a de-escalation on both sides of the aisle, who wanted to be able to work together and actually get something done. They don't come up here because they just want to fight. They want to actually get something done. And so, I think this has been sort of really for a lot of members that they've been able to connect in this way and they haven't.

BLITZER: We're told the first pitch is supposed to happen at 7:05. But I think they're getting ready for the national anthem right now. Congressional Chorus is on the scene. We're going to have extensive live coverage of all this.

Am I too optimistic, Jeffrey Toobin, to believe that maybe not just tonight but at least for a few more days as a result of this horrendous event yesterday, what's about to happen at this game, Republican members, Democrat, they'll be sitting side by side watching their colleagues play baseball. It could have at least a little bit of an impact?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, not to rain on your or the larger parade, but, you know, the Senate is about to deal with the health care bill, which has been produced entirely by the Republicans in secret. The Democrats have not seen it. You know, that's something that affects millions and millions of people.

This is -- this is a wonderful event. I hope everybody has a good time. It's a wonderful tribute to the majority whip. But count me as skeptical that this is going to have any impact at all on health care.

BERG: And --

BLITZER: What about you?

MUDD: What's with the happy pills around the table? We have the president of the United States today taking another shot at crooked Hillary months after he won the election, within less than a day after this and taking a shot at the special counsel who's regarded in Washington as unimpeachable in terms of his integrity. And we're having a conversation about how much hangover we're going to have about courtesy in Washington, D.C., I'm with my colleague here maybe because --

CHALIAN: I agree with you guys. I don't think it will last at all, but I don't think we should just remove ourselves from the uniqueness of this moment because of the events of yesterday. What they are doing, what is being presented to the country tonight is the right note. I just don't think it has anything to do with the way Washington is going to work. TOOBIN: I have to offer a little bit of sympathy for these players,

too. This is usually pretty low key. There are going to be a lot of people there. All these middle aged men playing basketball in front of a big crowd, I'd like to have the Aleve (ph) concession.

BERG: I don't know if you've ever seen a lawmaker and a TV camera in the same room. It could be live.

BLITZER: Two members of the Democratic team actually happen to be women members of Congress.

TOOBIN: See? Shame on me for saying men. I apologize.

BLITZER: There are two women, you know.

By the way, if I look at -- if you can see closely, Ivanka Trump, by the way, is there. We saw her just a little while ago. The speaker is there, Paul Ryan, he is watching what's going on.

And, you know, it's interesting, David. The speaker, Paul Ryan, the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, they are going to actually sit down at the stadium live with our own Jake Tapper in the next hour and have their first-ever joint interview. What does that say?

CHALIAN: Well, it certainly says that they're trying to extend what this baseball game is about a bit further. But, you know, Nancy Pelosi was asked earlier today about the fact that this gunman was indeed -- lots of anti-Trump rhetoric, a Bernie Sanders supporters and that some Republicans are suggesting that the rhetoric on the left has really caused this moment. And she got very aggressive and political in her pushback there. So, even the bipartisanship ship that we saw on the floor of the House yesterday by Pelosi and Ryan sort of started to come apart already today. Perhaps this interview will be an opportunity for them to piece it back together.

BLITZER: I know they take the members of Congress playing from the House and the Senate, they take this, Jeffrey, very, very seriously, this game. They practice and practice and practice.

TOOBIN: Isn't that adorable?

BERG: They actually have been practicing for about seven or eight weeks leading up to this game.


BERG: For one game, this is a little ridiculous, if you think about it --


[18:55:02] BLITZER: But you know what, they do raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity, for young kids who are indeed here in Washington and elsewhere. And unfortunately, what happened yesterday, there's much heightened interest now and I suspect the money they're going to raise Rebecca this year is going to be a record amount for a very good cause.

BERG: Right. The organizers of the game earlier today, Wolf, reported they've already raised more than a million dollars. As of the shooting yesterday, they had raised roughly $600,000. So, donations pouring in, which is always a good thing. More than 20,000 tickets sold for this evening. So, it will be a packed game.

BLITZER: The good news, Phil, for some of the members of Congress is a lot of people are going to be watching. That's also the bad news potentially if we're going to see how they play.

MUDD: Wolf, I don't want to lay too much on the table but I played in the CIA softball league. And if we had to have coverage of the some of the games we had, which included some beer consumption before the game, I think we'd have the same experience as today. I can say that as a middle age guy.

TOOBIN: Yes. When I was a U.S. assistant attorney general in New York, one of the perks of the job is we played the southern district against the eastern district on the field at Shay Stadium, which was then where the Mets played. Being a civilian on a baseball field, a professional baseball field is really thrilling and really intimidating. Those fields are big.


TOOBIN: I mean, you know, it's not a high school baseball field. These are big outfields, to see those guys and two women trying to deal with that, that's a lot.

BLITZER: It's not softball. These guys are going to be playing hard ball right now, with a lot of fans of those seats are going to be filling up fairly soon. And a lot of viewers are going to be watching. It will be streamed I'm sure. People will have a chance. We're going to have extensive coverage here on CNN throughout the night as well.

This is an important event in Washington.

CHALIAN: It is. And I bet you, Wolf, that if you were to ask these members of all of the activities they have to do in this job, is this one of their favorite nights? I would tell you that most of them would say this is one of their favorite nights.

BERG: And they took the rivalries and friendships throughout the course of their practices in this game. When I was interviewing OMB Director Mike Mulvaney, a former member of the House, he played on the congressional baseball team and he and Jeff Duncan, the congressman from South Carolina would mock each other and their play. It really is a fun thing to --

BLITZER: Steve Scalise, who is recuperating now from his third round of surgery, and we wish him only, only the best, all of us are praying for him. He's played on the Republican team for a long time.

Here's an idea that someone wrote to me today and, Jeffrey, let me get your thoughts. If they really want to show some harmony and bipartisanship, why not have two teams, each team consisting of Democrats and Republicans, playing another team consisting of Democrats and Republicans, instead of Republican versus Democrats?

TOOBIN: I think one of the reasons is they've been practicing as Democrats and Republicans. I was speaking actually to Senator Chris Murphy today who's the catcher for the Democrats. And he was saying, you know, they practiced -- or at least they're schedule practices every day that the team -- that the Congress is in session in this -- I mean, that's a lot of practice.

BLITZER: Yes, and I --

TOOBIN: So they don't want to --


BLITZER: I salute -- I salute -- especially salute, Phil, and I know you do as well, the Republicans, because remember only yesterday morning, those guys were all practicing outside in Alexandra, Virginia, and went through a horrific, horrific experience, gun shots from a high powered rifle aimed at them.

MUDD: And this is -- you know, this is America's game. This is America's summer game. I think it's terrific that nobody stepped back and said, for the interest of security, we're going to suspend --

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

MUDD: -- this game, especially given the charitable dimensions here. I think it's great that we all get to witness this tonight. And again, as one who played in games like this at the agency, I do think there is a piece of that this echoes. That is you go back to the office. It's hard to yell at somebody if you're sitting on second base with them last night.

TOOBIN: We know one thing independent of the politics is that, you know, showing that a terrorist cannot stop an American tradition, that's a good message to send.

BLITZER: Very good. Because if they would have canceled this game, David, that would have sent a sign, you know what, this bad guy, this attempted killer --


BLITZER: -- wins.

CHALIAN: Well, you heard Congressman Williams, whose staffer was shot, and who himself was injured, instantaneously he said, they started discussing that this game must go on to send this message that you can't -- he doesn't knock us down.

BLITZER: Very important note. We're standing by for a live joint interview, Nancy Pelosi will be interviewed together with Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, by our own Jake Tapper. That's coming up in the next hour.

We're going to have extensive live coverage of this important night.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. A special edition of "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.