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Trump: Admits "Tapes" Charade Meant To Influence Comey; Trump: Mueller's Friendship With Comey "Bothersome"; White House: Trump Has No Intention Of Firing Mueller; Wash Post: Intel Captured Putin's Orders To Help Trump; Post: Ex-Obama Official Says "We Sort Of Choked" On Russia; Handful Of Dems Call On Pelosi To Give Up Leadership. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 23, 2017 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:02] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Now I bring you to Wolf Blitzer, he's in "The Situation Room."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. No intention. The President again criticizes special counsel Robert Mueller saying, we're going to have to see, when asked about Mueller's future. But the White House press secretary said the President has no intention of firing Mueller. Are they on the same page?

On Putin's orders, an explosive new report says the CIA provided President Obama with direct evidence that Russia's Vladimir Putin personally ordered the campaign to influence the U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump.

To tell the truth. President Trump now admits his 41-day charade about secret White House tapes was meant to influence fired FBI Director James Comey to tell the truth in testimony. But did the President's deception backfire?

And Dennis' diplomacy. Just off a play from North Korea, NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman says, President Trump should follow his example and go meet with Kim Jong-un. Rodman did not see his dictator on this trip but says in the past they rode horses and sang car karaoke.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're "The Situation Room.'

Breaking news, the White House says the President has no intention of firing special counsel Robert Mueller even though the President is once again criticizing Mueller, calling his friendship with the fired FBI Director James Comey bothersome. Saying his staffers are Hillary Clinton supporters and suggesting his future is up in the air.

The day after finally admitting he has no tapes of his talks with fired FBI Director James Comey, President Trump now admits that his whole six-week deception was an attempt to influence Comey saying that he's -- they have raid (ph) Comey to tell the truth. The White House denies that the President sought to intimidate Comey.

And there are stunning new details today about Russia's effort to tilt the U.S. election. The Washington Post reports U.S. Intelligence gave President Obama direct evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered the campaign to influence the vote in favor of Trump. The post reports President Obama authorize the planning of cyber weapons, digital bombs inside Russia's infrastructure and left office before the potential retaliation could be implemented.

And speaking of the Obama administration and otherwise moderate response of former senior official tells the post, and I'm quoting now, we sort of choked. I'll talk to Democratic Congressman Andre Carson of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondent special guests, they are standing by with full coverage of today's top stories.

Let's begin with breaking news. President Trump today boasting that his six-week deception of a possible secret tapes was a move to influence testimony by the fired FBI Director James Comey. The President also raising new questions about special counsel Robert Mueller.

First, let's go to our White House Correspondent Sarah Murray, she has the very latest. Sarah?

SARAH MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, of all the Russia-related issues, this White House has had to deal with, one of the ones that the President's own making. This discussion about the tapes, Trump is making it clear he doesn't regret it, standing by his decision to send out that initial tweet suggesting there might be tapes of his conversations with Comey.


MURRAY (voice-over): President Trump may have come clean about the existence of tapes from his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So you never know what's out there, but I didn't tape. And I don't have any tape.

MURRAY (voice-over): But he's showing no sign of regret over his original message.

TRUMP: My story didn't change. My story was always a straight story. My story was always the truth. But you'll have to determine for yourself whether or not his story changed. But, I did not tape.

AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX AND FRIENDS FIRST CO-HOST: That was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in those hearings.

TRUMP: Well, it wasn't very stupid, I can tell you that

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth.

MURRAY (voice-over): Comey testified earlier this month. The President's tweet prompted him to share memos detailing their conversation, in hopes of spurring a special counsel investigation.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I needed to get that out into the public square.

MURRAY (voice-over): The Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller special counsel for the Russia probe last month, a move that came after the President's dismissal of Comey. Now the President is raising questions about Mueller's tie to Comey.

TRUMP: Well, he's very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome. But he's also -- we're going to have to see. I mean, we're going to have to see in terms. Look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey.

MURRAY (voice-over): The President also accused Mueller of hiring partisan to staff the investigation.

[17:05:03] TRUMP: I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters.

MURRAY (voice-over): Despite those concerns, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that today's briefing, where cameras were again band, that the President has no plans to remove Mueller from his post.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Nothing has changed on that in terms of his position on it. While he retains the authority, and he want to serves at him I believe. Steve and I had a healthy exchange with -- but that he has no intention of doing that.

MURRAY (voice-over): And after earlier this week saying he didn't know if the President believes Russia interfered in the election. Spicer today said Trump quote, think it was Russia.

SPICER: He's concerned about any country or any actor that wants to interfere in elections. I confirm that he stands by that.

MURRAY (voice-over): And the Russia cloud hangs over his presidency, Trump is trying to turn the focus (ph) to his agenda. Today, signing of bipartisan reform to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

TRUMP: We've done a lot. This is a big one. We have a lot of good ones coming.

MURRAY (voice-over): The President is also praising the GOP push to appeal and replace Obamacare underway in the Senate, talking up prospects for the draft proposal just like early opposition from at least five Republican senators.

TRUMP: It's a very complicated situation from the standpoint. You do something that's good for one group but bad for another. It's a very, very narrow path. But I think we're going to get there.


MURRAY: Now, next week, of course, is going to be a critical week on health care for this administration for Republicans on the Hill to fulfill a key campaign promise. A senior administration official said they expect it to be a rocky week with lots of ups and downs as they trying to get the votes they need to pass that bill in the Senate, Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Sarah, thanks very much. Sarah Murray over the White House. None of them exclusively report that the CIA gave President Obama direct evidence with Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered the campaign to sway the outcome of the U.S. election.

Let's go to our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica, walk us through this.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, we're learning more about the drawn out deliberations inside the White House as President Obama and his senior aides trying to figure out how to react to solid U.S. Intelligence that Russia was responsible for those cyber attacks and that President Putin was directing the operations. Now, some inside the decision making process now admit they weren't tough enough to tackle the Russian attacks, even though President Obama approved so-called digital bombs to battle back.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): A new report reveals Russian President Vladimir Putin gave direct orders to defeat Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump as president. According to a bombshell report by the Washington Post, the Obama administration, new Putin was directing cyber attacks during the 2016 campaign three months before the election. Intelligence obtain from deep inside the Russian government is couriered by the CIA to the White House in August and it detailed Putin's direct involvement in the hacking, meant to disrupt and discredit the presidential race.

TONY BLINKEN, FORMER OBAMA DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: When we go back, this was a moving picture. It's not like we have the immediate clear snapshot of what the Russians were up to. It evolved overtime. At first, we thought they were simply trying to do it. They always do which was pull information, see if they could get something that they'd used later down the road. Then it looked like they were trying to basically interfere in the election mostly by creating doubt about our institutions.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Former deputy national security adviser to President Obama, Tony Blinken, defended the administration strategy to keep the information quiet.

BLINKEN: As we were deliberating this, we thought, the more we play this out in public, the more we play their game. We actually creating further doubt by making this into a big public matter.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): But a former senior Obama official felt differently telling the Post, "It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked.

President Obama reportedly issued a stern warning to Putin at the G20 summit in China in September. In the Post details, Obama's authorization to plant cyber weapon so called digital bombs in Russia's infrastructure that could be used to retaliate. But Obama left office before the planning was complete. Lawmakers are questioning why more wasn't done to stop the Russians or alert Americans.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I greatly admire President Obama. I wish that he and the administration would have acted differently here.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Meanwhile, the Russia probes are moving forward on Capitol Hill. Hillary Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta will meet behind closed doors with the members of House Intelligence Committee next week. Podesta's e-mails were hacked and distributed by WikiLeaks at the height of the campaign.

Members acknowledge today hey might not receive fired FBI Director James Comey's memos despite the deadline by the end of the day. The panel's Ranking Democrat said he expects to eventually get the memos.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Our committee continues to be interested in obtaining the memoranda, and it's my expectation that we will but I can't get go into particulars details about the how or the when or the where.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expanding its investigation to look into political interference by both the Obama and Trump administrations.

[17:10:05] he committee send a letter to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch Friday demanding she disclosed any conversations with the Clinton campaign or the Democratic National Committee about the FBI's investigation into Clinton's private e-mail server.


SCHNEIDER: And tonight, we are still waiting on word from the House Intelligence Committee about those James Comey memos. Today is the deadline to turn them over. But since they could fail to materialize, the panel has already somewhat shifted focused to its closed meeting next week to John Podesta. And sources say the committee sent out request to six other witnesses this week seeking interviews with all of them. Wolf?

BLITZER: They're going to be busy clearly. Jessica Schneider thanks very much.

Joining us now, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman, Andre Carson of Indiana. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: Let's get to a couple of the deadlines -- one of the deadlines today was for the White House to inform your committee whether or not there are tapes, tapes of the conversations that the President had with James Comey, the fired FBI Director. Has that deadline been met? Have you received official notification, not the President's tweet yesterday, but notifications from the White House about those tapes?

CARSON: We're still waiting that. I think what's more problematic is the kind of intimidation that's taking place with a sitting U.S. president. I think it's a formal bullying. I think it's embarrassing to our country and I think it jeopardizes our national security ultimately.

BLITZER: So you haven't received -- because yesterday Adam Schiff, the Ranking Democratic on your committee was here and he told me that the tweet isn't good enough --


BLITZER: -- that was a legal tweet, if you will, that didn't exactly answer the question about tapes. So you have not received that yet.

CARSON: We're still waiting about the memoranda and we'll go from there.

BLITZER: What about the memorandum -- the memoranda that Comey says he prepared about his conversations with the President. The deadline for your committee to receive those memorandum that was also today?

CARSON: It's also today but, you know, I think what's taking place is that President Trump has always acted in a way that's kind of off the handle. He's improvisational. And I think we have to be more disciplined than he's fan. I'm wondering about who are his handlers. Who is allowing him to do these kinds of reckless statements, not only disruptor's legacy, it jeopardizes the moral of our country.

And I think if you look at the employees in the federal government right, they're worried, they're concerned. Folks in the Intelligence Committee are concerned because this President is out of control.

BLITZER: But it sounds so far at least then now it's -- after 5:00 p.m. here on the East Coast, at the end of the business day --


BLITZER: -- it sounds like that deadline you imposed on the memoranda --


BLITZER: -- as well as the tapes certification of the existence of tapes are non-existence, that hasn't been that.

CARSON: The intelligence (ph) says a lot. It says a lot. I mean, you can't tweet your way to this presidency. You have to deal with facts, you have to allow the people that you appointed to protect you and to serve our country, allow them to do their jobs. Someone has to take his cellphone and work with him on being discipline in becoming presidential.

BLITZER: The Comey memoranda, Comey said that he didn't have those memoranda anymore, he handed them over to the FBI.


BLITZER: So, yesterday when I spoke to Congressman Schiff, he didn't want to be precise in saying how they're going to get these memoranda, do you know?

CARSON: I don't.

BLITZER: You're just waiting to get -- because those memorandum -- especially if there are no audio tapes of the conversations could be very significant as part of an overall investigation into allegations of obstruction or witness tampering intimidation along those lines.

CARSON: His bluff has been called, Wolf.

BLITZER: Whose bluff?

CARSON: The President Trump's.

BLITZER: So explain what you mean by that.

CARSON: I think that he obviously tried to intimidate Mr. Comey. It did not work. It has not worked. He's tried to immediate the media. He's tried to imitate the Intel Community. And his bluff has been called. I think we're looking at the (INAUDIBLE) without close and unfortunately historians will not be kind to this President.

BLITZER: Well, is that witness tampering, is that intimidation, is that obstruction? How do you see it?

CARSON: I'm not a legal expert but it sure looks like it.

BLITZER: So you're moving forward but at least the investigation on that. Do you assume special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into that as well?

CARSON: I can't say what director or Mr. Mueller will do. I know that on the House Intel Committee and the Senate Intel Committee, we have our job to do. And I think his function is quite different. He'll be started from scratch essentially. But I think it needs a multi-pronged approach honestly on earth what's taking place with this Trump administration. From Russia to campaign misappropriations to all these things that were under scrutiny right now.

BLITZER: So, as far as filing formal charges, criminal charges, against the President, that's questionable whether that even can be done legally. The only thing really that can be done is for the House of Representatives to take up impeachment procedures if you believe that. Is that it all within the works down the road?

CARSON: Well, I understand this is fair. I think impeachment talks are premature right now. I think the investigation has to take this course and we'll go from there.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. You've seen this bombshell report in the Washington Post now that President Obama was informed three months before the November election that Putin personally ordered the interference in the U.S. presidential election to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign and to help Donald Trump's campaign.

[17:15:12] What's your reaction? Did you know about all of that in advance?

CARSON: What I will say is that I'm not surprise and the American people should be surprised. Vladimir Putin, former KGB and the Russian government have tried to compromise our leaders. They've tried to blackmail our leaders. They've tried infiltrate our cyber infrastructure for years, arguably decades. And I think what has to place is that the Intelligence Community has to be given the resources and the supported needs to do its function after they feature attacks in infiltration.

BLITZER: Because yesterday, the President, President Trump, he was tweeting, it's all a big Democratic scam used in one tweet. Another tweet, he said it's all a big Dem hoax. It sounds like he doesn't take these allegations of Russian meddling in the elections all that seriously.

CARSON: Well, why would he? I mean, he benefited from it. So, of course he's going to tweet things that are acts of distractions. I mean, President Trump has lost most of his credibility at this point. I think what needs to happen is that we need to allow Mr. Mueller and the Intel Committees and other committees of the jurisdictions to do their jobs so we can unearth necessary true so we can move forward.

BLITZER: All right, former Obama administration official in Washington Post article is quoted in saying this, "It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked." He is referring to the lack of reaction from President Obama and his advisors immediately to take action against the Russians. Wednesday confirmed that Putin personally authorized the hacking and the intervention in the election. You agree that the Obama administration should have taken more decisive action, retaliatory action against the Russians.

CARSON: Hindsight is always 20-20. I think what we have to focus on now is moving forward and making sure these mistakes don't happen again.

BLITZER: So you're not ready to criticize the -- even with hindsight criticize the administration saying, you know, what specially looking back in July, August, September they should have taken more direct --

CARSON: I think the Obama administration is what was more preemptive Dem in terms of protecting our country from cyber attacks, for other attacks than that the current Trump administration is.

BLITZER: Well, why do you say that? Could it be because the Russian is clearly hacked a lot sensitive information --

CARSON: Look --

BLITZER: -- during the time of the Obama administration.

CARSON: Almost stayed -- mistakes have been made with administration before President Obama's administration. I think what is clear is that we have a president who is too cozy, questionably cozy with Vladimir Putin. We have a President who minimizes the efforts of the Intelligence Community. We also have a President who minimizes and trivializes all that has been done before him that he wants to unearth not only Obamacare but he wants to unearth all the great work that has been done by State Department in the I.C.

BLITZER: Well, very quickly. Are you suggesting that what foreign entities including the Russians are doing now as far as intervening hacking is worse than was done during the Obama administration?

CARSON: I'm not suggesting anything, Wolf. What I am saying is that the method in which President Obama has attempted to undermine President Trump -- pardon me -- has undermined President Obama I think is unacceptable and unpresidential. I think it goes against all that is great about this country. For someone who claims to love this country so much, why is he so protective of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government?

BLITZER: He doesn't criticize them, as we all know.

All right, stand by, congressman. There is more developments unfolding as we speak. We'll take a quick break, we'll be right back.


[17:22:54] BLITZER: All right. Breaking news, President Trump once again criticizing the special counsel Robert Mueller calling his friendship with the fired FBI Director James Comey bothersome, and he's suggesting his future is up in the air. But the White House Press Secretary says the President has no intention of firing Mueller.

We're back with the Democratic Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. There's a report in Time Magazine that says thousands of voter records were stolen from state and local election databases last year. Time says it's unclear if Russian hackers were responsible, but a lot of those stolen data included the last four digits of voters' social security numbers, driver's licenses, very sensitive information. Time is also saying that congressional investigators looking right now to see if that stolen data was shared with the Trump campaign. Is that something your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, is looking at as well?

CARSON: I can't comment on it at this time, but I'm sure in the very near future you'll hear more about it coming from the committee.

BLITZER: It's a worrisome development if it's true clearly.

CARSON: It's very worrisome. I think for those folks who argued for keeping paper ballots and paper files and microfilm, I think they have a point. But we live in some a digitalized society that it's very difficult to do, because I think in terms of keeping huge amounts of data, and we're talking about cloud storage, we also present ourselves with greater vulnerabilities.

BLITZER: We certainly do. But President Trump complained in an interview with Fox News this morning about Mueller, the special counsel, especially his relationship, his friendship with the fired FBI Director James Comey, and he said Mueller has hired, quote, all Hillary Clinton supporters. Is Mueller safe on the job right now? What do you think?

CARSON: Mueller is a pro. He's respected in the Justice Department. I think he's very objective when it comes to investigations. I think he's the right man for the job, and I think to get to the bottom of what we need to get to the bottom of, I think he's the man to do it and I think in the next few months hopefully we will unearth some necessary truths to get us past this fiasco.

[17:25:04] BLITZER: Let's talk a little about politics. You're the first vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Why did the Congressional Black Caucus decline an invitation from the President to have a second meeting at the White House?

CARSON: Well, as my good friend Congressman Cedric Richmond noted --

BLITZER: He's the chairman.

CARSON: He's the chairman, that the White House failed to address the concerns in our original proposal to deal with criminal justice reform, education, investments in infrastructure and mostly minority businesses. They have yet to address those issues to us clearly, so we're not interested in a photo app. We're interested in tangible results that improve the condition of Americans particularly the African-American community.

BLITZER: Should Nancy Pelosi stay as the Democratic leader in the House?

CARSON: I think Nancy Pelosi is a phenomenal leader. I think that she's a visionary leader. I think that she's been very inclusive. I think that the argument of changing the dynamic of how we do things within the Democratic Caucus is very valid. But what we don't want to do is push aside a great leader like Nancy Pelosi and bring in a younger, refined and more polished good 'ol boys club. That's the --

BLITZER: So you wanted her to stay at least for now.

CARSON: I think she's a great leader. I mean, I think that she is a giant. I think that she has brought in younger people. I think she's brought in minorities. I think she's been more enclosed of the LGBT community. She's brought in Muslims. There are only two of us -- I mean, Keith Ellison, and I think she's kind of visionary.

I don't know that another leader would have been that bold in meeting the requests that I had for several years to be on the Intel Committee. She was bold enough to do it. I'm suspicious that another leader wouldn't have done it. I mean, we don't need another leader who goes to Ramadan iftars or siderous (ph). Says Shalom (ph). She's awesome on the (INAUDIBLE). Goes to the black church. And then once they stay in office they vote against the interest of the very people they claim to protect.

Nancy Pelosi has gone none above and beyond the job, and I think she should stay. However, some of the critics coming from the dissenting crowd need to be listened to. They need to be heard. They should be respected.

BLITZER: Congressman Andre Carson, thanks for joining us.

CARSON: Well an honor, thank you Wolf.

BLITZER: I appreciate it very much.

Coming up, a bombshell. Report says the CIA gave President Trump direct evidence that Russia's Vladimir Putin personally ordered the campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.


[17:30:00] BLITZER: A stunning report from the Washington Post today claims the U.S. Intelligence Community handed former President Obama direct evidence of Vladimir Putin's personal involvement in Russia's effort to meddle in the 2016 Presidential Election. Now the President, President Obama now facing some rather tough new criticism for her response -- his response to the Russian hacking even from some former members of his own administration. Let's dig deeper with our experts and specialists. Phil Mudd, what's your reaction? Clearly, the President, President Obama, struggled for appropriate reaction, but some people now, especially with hindsight, saying he could have done more.

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: What's he supposed to do? When they first go down to the Hill to talk to Mitch McConnell, he's skeptical. Why? Pretty straight forward. The Intel guys didn't speak publicly until early October. When they spoke publicly they didn't even name Vladimir Putin. If the President had been more prominent -- we're talking six weeks before the American Election -- if the President had been more prominent going into October, November of last year, I can guarantee you what people would have said in this is the same thing Mitch McConnel said. I'm skeptical of the Intel because this suggests to me that the President of the United States is trying to make this campaign more about Hillary Clinton as the victim of Russian attacks and favor Donald Trump. The White House had a difficult choice. Talk about it and look like they're favoring Hillary, or not talk about it and you see what they get now. They're too soft.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But we knew they were favoring Hillary. I mean, we already --

MUDD: Sure, but this is -- this is using Intel as a hammer against the Republicans. I think that (INAUDIBLE)

BLITZER: Because the President was informed in July by the CIA that they had the evidence, super-secret, that Putin personally ordered this intervention, and it wasn't until, what, October 7th when that statement from the administration was put out basically saying, yes, high-level officials in Russia. They didn't name Putin were engaged in this. And the sanctions weren't imposed until December after the election.

MUDD: But you got the information. A couple of steps you got to go through. One is what we called the Intel Business Validation. Single source of information, especially this volatile, needs to be confirmed. How confident are we that the source knows what they're talking about and can we get another source to confirm it? The second problem we got, and we -- we're going to see this related to this related to this leak today. If this is a human source who has direct access to Vladimir Putin, how do you protect him so he's not shot by the former KGB? That's what I'd be worried about.

BLITZER: Protecting sources. There was the other issue that came up and the article mentions it that there were political reasons the President, President Obama, like everyone else, almost, assumed that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and they would be able to deal with this better.

BORGER: I think that was obviously in the back of their minds, and that's why you had somebody who was in the Obama administration telling the Washington Post that this source said that they feel really badly about this and that looking back on it, they feel like they kind of choked. And I think maybe it was because they thought Hillary was going to win. And also, don't forget, Jeh Johnson testified the other day, the Former Head of Homeland Security, he testified the other day that, you know, we had a candidate out there saying that the election was rigged. He was obviously referring to Donald Trump, and that that played into their calculation, too, because what did they want to do, come out there and say, wait a minute, the election is rigged? But it's -- but it's against Hillary Clinton and so that -- I think they did have a very difficult choice, but when they did say something, don't forget, Jeh Johnson also said the press didn't pay that much -- as much attention to it because it was the same day that the Access Hollywood tape was released.

[17:35:19] BLITZER: Yes, that was another problem. What would have happened, let's say, in July or August or September, President Obama would have said the Russians are intervening to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. How would -- what would the reaction and the campaign have been, the Trump campaign, you know, it would have lashed out at the politicization of the intelligence community.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It probably would have done a lot to enthuse Donald Trump supporters. I mean, it would have driven up excitement and enthusiasm.

BLITZER: He kept saying the election was rigged, to begin with.

BORGER: Exactly. Right.

CHALIAN: And so, you know, this would probably play into the Trump playbook in many ways. You know, talking to some Obama administration folks, I don't think they were -- I think politics hampered them. But I don't think they were not doing something because it might have been advantageous to Donald Trump politically, I think that they were slow in responding because they did not feel comfortable inserting themselves with a national security matter in the middle of a campaign. Dennis McDonough, the Chief of Staff at the time told the Washington Post as part of this that their first order of principle that they needed to deal with was making sure that the vote itself kept -- was -- had integrity and not infiltrated.

BLITZER: Yes, all right, stand by. We got a lot more to discuss. Will President Trump fire the man now investigating potential ties featuring his campaign in Russia? The White House says that President has no intention of pushing out Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but President Trump has called Mueller's relationship with former FBI Director James Comey, quote, "bothersome."


[17:40:00] BLITZER: We're back with our Analysts. And David Chalian, the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, he was -- you know, I think it's fair to say he was criticized by the President today in that interview saying that you know, that Mueller has brought on all these Hillary Clinton supporters as part of his investigative team. The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says he has no intention of firing Mueller, but this has certainly complicated this whole situation with the President said and what the White House said.

CHALIAN: Well, it's pretty clear to me that Donald Trump is now really trying to build a frame around Robert Mueller as a political opponent of his, right? I mean, the labeling of what he's doing as a witch hunt, he's trying to say he's hiring partisan lawyers, and he has this close relationship to my number one nemesis, Jim Comey. I don't know that that would be as successful as the Clintonites were able to do with Ken Starr who had a history in Republican party politics before he was the independent counsel. This may be a little trickier for Mueller because he has such bipartisan support in this town, but make no bones about it, Donald Trump is trying to frame him as a political opponent.

BLITZER: A bunch of Trump supporters are really going further in slamming Mueller.

BORGER: Yes, they are. And, you know, again, they are going to say he is political and that this is political. And I was talking to somebody today who's close to the President who says that the President believes that this is political, that he's appointed a bunch of Clinton people and that there's nothing there against him. And, you know, today Sean Spicer said, look, the President has no intention of firing Mr. Mueller, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's still going through the President's head.

BLITZER: He didn't -- he didn't rule that out in the interview with Fox News.

BORGER: He didn't -- he didn't rule it out, and you know, we don't know what he's going to do in the -- in the weeks to come.

BLITZER: You know Mueller, Phil. How is he reacting to all of this, you think?

MUDD: He could care less. I mean, he dealt with 9/11 two weeks after he got there. I saw him for four and a half years of threat briefings that were a lot worse than a softball from the President of the United States. I say softball because what the heck is the President going to do? Yes, potentially you could fire him, otherwise, Director Mueller is going to -- and I have to refer to him as Director Mueller, I can't call him Bob -- Director Mueller is going to say I will follow the facts wherever they go. That's what I'm hired to do. He's hired some terrific lawyers, he could care less. Give him some spaghetti and meatballs on Friday night, the dude's happy. That's about it.

BORGER: Me, too.

BLITZER: The Senate -- the Senate Judiciary Committee, they want to expand their probe and look into the former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for some of the things she did as far as trying to influence the investigation of Hillary Clinton during the campaign, the e-mail server and all of that. What's your reaction to that?

CHALIAN: Well, you and I were talking about this when -- in the last couple of weeks. It was clear, Chuck Grassley really wants to drive home this political point. We learned some information about Loretta Lynch that deserves further examination, no doubt. What is clear to me, though, remember that Bob Mueller went to go meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee and part of that we were told was to deconflict between his investigation there. The fact they're going forward with this look into Loretta Lynch suggest to me that may not be perhaps part of Bob Mueller's investigation, that they sort of got a green light maybe in that meeting --

BORGER: Well, and also maybe there's a political agreement here, which is that Republicans can look at Loretta Lynch and the Democrats can look at obstruction. And I think that's what's going on here. You know, you have Diane Feinstein, you have Chuck Grassley, both want to look at different things and I ink they reached some kind of agreement.

BLITZER: Yes. They want to look at the fact that she met with Bill Clinton on that plane, on the tarmac, and also that according to Comey's testimony, she told him, don't call it an investigation, call it a matter.

[17:45:09] MUDD: He threw that one out there. That was an immediate. Put her in front of the bus and see how fast it hits her. I mean, this is a political diversion, but it's her fault. You meet the spouse of the most significant investigation you have on the tarmac in the airport and then you have the former FBI Director who's supposed to be, I suppose, hammering the President of the United States. By the way, she told me, as a former FBI guy, we don't do matters. We do preliminary investigations and full investigations. She says, don't call it an investigation. She did this to herself. It's a diversion but it's her fault for doing it.

BLITZER: Very quickly, is it over, the health -- Republican health care? Dean Heller now is the fifth Republican to go out and say as it stands right now, he can't vote for it.

BORGER: Nothing is over till it's over. There are some of those Republicans you put up on the screen who, I think, want to get to yes, perhaps. Dean Heller is not one of them. And I think, you know, the pro-Trump Super-PAC is taking this very seriously. There's word tonight that they're going to take on Heller who is their most endangered incumbent, I would think, on this particular issue and they're taking this seriously. It's a warning to those other Senators, be wary, because we're going to spend a lot of money against you.

BLITZER: Mitch McConnell can only lose two Republicans. If he loses three, it's over.

MUDD: That's right. And somebody like Dean Heller, it's the kind of person McConnell would normally say, I'm OK with you voting no, but you got to work with your politics, but that -- he doesn't have much room to play with there. Rand Paul is a no, and Dean Heller is a no, he can't lose anyone else.

BORGER: You have the moderates too.

BLITZER: Standby, for whole other issue.

Coming up, the latest on the President's 41-day deception. He now admits that he never secretly recorded the fired FBI Director James Comey and claims he was simply trying to pressure Comey to tell the truth during his testimony on Capitol Hill.

Plus, we have new details of Dennis Rodman's rather bizarre trip to North Korea. What advice does the former NBA star have for President Trump?


[17:50:00] BLITZER: Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is raising lots of eyebrows after his latest trip to North Korea. The provocative basketball star calls the Dictator Kim Jong-un a friend and even has some advice for President Trump. Brian Todd has details from Rodman's rather bizarre trip. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bizarre indeed, Wolf. Dennis Rodman claims he is an important reason why Otto Warmbier was released. And he indicates he's got the solution to the boiling tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.


TODD: Fresh off the plane from Pyongyang, former NBA star Dennis Rodman tells ABC President Trump should follow his lead and go meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un.

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: If Donald Trump had a chance, had a chance, he will get on the damn plane and go over to shake his hand and try to make peace. I'm asking right now. Donald, come talk to me. Let's try to work this out. TODD: The White House won't comment on Rodman's visit for the interview. The Trump administration this week downplayed the chances of a Trump visit and experts say it would be counterproductive.

MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: If he goes to Pyongyang which is where they insist on doing this, North Korea will own the narrative and it will be all about the American President paying tribute to Kim Jong-un.

TODD: Rodman said he did not meet with Kim Jong-un on this trip, but described the dictator and human rights violation as a friend who is misunderstood.

RODMAN: People don't see him as a friendly guy, but if you actually talk to him -- we always talk, right, we sing karaoke, it was actually fun, we ride horses, everything.

TODD: Rodman said he was thrilled to hear that on the day he arrived, North Korea released detained American student Otto Warmbier, but it turned out to be bittersweet.

RODMAN: Later that day, as we found out he was ill, no one knew that. I was just so happy he got released. I was like jumping up and down. All right, man, all right. (INAUDIBLE)

TODD: North Korea today denied the suggestion that Warmbier had died because of beatings or torture and said his death soon after his release was a mystery. Rodman's agent insisted their visit had something to do with the release that three times before the trip he had asked more to Korean officials about it.

They're suggesting they're at least partially responsible for his release. What do you make of it?

JAE KU, JOHN HOPKINS U.S.-KOREA INSTITUTE: I don't believe Dennis Rodman had anything to do with Warmbier's release. However, North Korea had 15 months to calculate how to release this young man and having Dennis Rodman in Pyongyang might have helped their viewing of getting this news out.

TODD: The State Department says Rodman had nothing to do with Warmbier's release. Rodman's North Korea trip was sponsored by Potcoin, a marijuana currency vendor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dennis Rodman in travel news.

TODD: And in another bizarre turn, Rodman tweeted this video commissioned by his backers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This diplomatic mission is funded by pot heads, Potcoin. Sent Rodman to the (INAUDIBLE) Potcoin diplomacy, I call that green peace.

TODD: Does the circus around the Rodman's freelance diplomacy make a mockery of the North Korean threat? KU: The way we see North Korea is not really tainted by the closeness

between Dennis Rodman and this country. If he wants to appear in American media as a stooge of North Korea, that's his choice.


TODD: Now, what about the other three Americans still being detained in North Korea? Neither Rodman nor his agent said he lobbied for their releases. When asked if they would ask Kim's regime to free them, Rodman and the agent said if they can arrange more trips to North Korea anything is possible. And Wolf, they indicate they may be going back soon.

BLITZER: All right, we'll continue to watch and monitor. Thanks so much Brian Todd. Coming up, President Trump is again critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller saying we're going to have to see when asked about Mueller's future about the White House says the President has no intention of firing Mueller. are they on the same page?


[17:55:00] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, disclosure deadline. Some House Intelligence Committee members aren't satisfied with the President's tweet that he doesn't have any tapes of his talks with James Comey. We're standing by for any official response from the White House to Russia investigator's demands.

Damage or defeat? New evidence tonight that Vladimir Putin personally ordered efforts to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign, a bombshell report revealing Putin's specific instructions to Russian hackers were captured and given to the CIA.