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Explosive Charges Filed in Trump-Russia Probe; Interview With Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey; Russian Linked Pages on Facebook Served to 126 Million Americans During and After Campaign; Former Trump Campaign Chair Manafort Indicted, Under House Arrest. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 30, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The plea by George Papadopoulos reveals critical new information about Moscow's election meddling and its outreach to the Trump camp.
Trump team indictment. Ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort surrenders to authorities, facing multiple criminal charges, along with her former deputy, including conspiracy against the United States. Who might special counsel Robert Mueller target next?
Proactive cooperator. We're digging deeper into how and when the feds flipped George Papadopoulos and what he may be telling investigators about Russia and the Trump campaign. Why was his role kept secret for months?
And going the distance. The White House insists the indictment of the president's former aides has nothing to do with Mr. Trump. Are Americans buying an attempt to downplay the most dramatic twist yet in the Russia investigation?
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: We're following breaking news on the newly unsealed criminal charges against three former Trump campaign officials, including the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Tonight, special counsel Robert Mueller is moving very aggressively into the next phase of his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump team and Russia. The most significant development, former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts, including a discussion of "dirt" related to Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
Details provided in court documents draw the clearest connection yet between the Trump camp and Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 election. Papadopoulos has been cooperating with the FBI and may be providing information against other Trump campaign insiders. Also breaking, Paul Manafort under house arrest after his arrangement
on a 12-count indictment. The government is asking for his bail to be set at $10 million. The former Trump campaign chair is accused of conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money and other charges separate from his work for the Trump campaign.
His former deputy Rick Gates also charged in the indictment. Both men pleaded not guilty just a little while ago. The Trump administration is trying to downplay all of this, with the president insisting there's no evidence of collusion. His tweet was posted before disclosure of the Papadopoulos plea deal.
We're covering all of this, the breaking news, with our guests, including Senator Ed Markey. He's a Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents and specialists, they are also standing by.
First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown.
Pamela, with these new charges, we certainly got a lot of critical new information about the Russia investigation.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
Today, Wolf, we learned that charges showed the Mueller investigation is still very much focusing on possible collusion as well as crimes committed even before the campaign. As the special counsel probe enters this new phase, it could be just the beginning, with the possibility of more charges against Manafort and Gates and a third associate charged with lying to the FBI now cooperating with authorities.
BROWN (voice-over): It's the first signs special counsel Robert Mueller is zeroing in on collusion with Russia in the 2016 campaign.
George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, seen here meeting with Trump as part of his campaign's national security team last year, pleaded guilty for making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.
According to records unsealed today, the FBI alleges Papadopoulos falsely described his interactions with a certain foreign contact who discussed dirt-related e-mails concerning Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton.
One of the court documents describes an e-mail sent by Papadopoulos to a high-ranking campaign official who a source says is former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The e-mail had the subject line "Request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump." It went on to allegedly say Russia was eager to meet with the candidate and had been reaching out.
The documents allege the campaign official forward that had e-mail to another official, saying -- quote -- "We need someone to communicate that D.T. is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal."
In another e-mail, a campaign supervisor allegedly tells Papadopoulos -- quote -- "I would encourage you" and another policy adviser to the campaign to "make the trip if it is feasible." That trip to Russia never happened, according to officials.
Despite the court documents indicating Papadopoulos was acting with campaign approval, the White House today attempted to minimize his role in the campaign.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It was extremely limited. It was a volunteer position, and, again, no activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign.
BROWN: Also today, surrendering at the FBI in Washington former campaign manager Paul Manafort and campaign official Rick Gates. The two were business associates prior to the work on the Trump campaign.
The 12-count indictment against the two men focus on their years as political consultants and lobbyists working in Ukraine. The counts include conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
Manafort and Gates were in U.S. district court today and pleaded not guilty. Both men have previously denied financial wrongdoing.
And Manafort's lawyer spoke on behalf to reporters gathered outside.
KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY FOR PAUL MANAFORT: There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.
BROWN: The indictment alleges Manafort and Gates received tens of millions of dollars for their Ukraine work and to hide that income they laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts and include details about their lavish lifestyle, that they used money from offshore accounts to pay for mortgages, luxury cars and clothing, children's tuition and home decorating, activities that federal officials say were ongoing while both Manafort and Gates were working on behalf of the Trump campaign.
In July, at Manafort's Alexandria, Virginia, home, the FBI executed a so-called no-knock search warrant with guns drawn, seizing financial and tax documents.
BROWN: And, today, the government asked for bail set at $10 million for Manafort and $5 million for Gates, with both men put on house arrest after surrendering their passports.
The government argued today that they pose a flight risk -- Wolf. BLITZER: Great reporting.
Pamela and our entire team broke this story Friday night. We're very proud of you guys. Thanks very much for that.
BROWN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Now to the White House and the administration's reaction to the new charges in the Russia probe.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, we heard a familiar take today, that this is all much ado about really nothing, but there are some very, very significant developments.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf and the White House was clearly back on its heels today after these indictments came down naming former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his top aide, Rick Gates.
The president appeared to be completely blindsided, though, by perhaps the biggest bombshell of the day that Pam just talked about, this plea deal with former George Papadopoulos. Behind the scenes at the White House here, I'm told Papadopoulos is being described as an overzealous volunteer.
ACOSTA (voice-over): With the Russia investigation heading to court, the White House trotted out a stack of misleading talking points to downplay the first big move from special counsel Robert Mueller.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: He responded the same way the rest of us in the White House have, and that's without a lot of reaction. We're not worried about it distracting because it doesn't have anything do with us, because this is something that is action that took place outside of the campaign or campaign activity.
ACOSTA: That certainly echoes what the president tweeted about the indictments of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates.
"Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't crooked Hillary and the Dems the focus? Also, there is no collusion."
But the White House spin doesn't work for George Papadopoulos, the former Trump foreign policy adviser seen in this March 2016 campaign photo, who pleaded guilty to making statements to the FBI about his efforts to funnel dirt from Russian sources to top Trump campaign officials.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders portrayed Papadopoulos as having a limited role with the campaign. But then candidate Trump described Papadopoulos as one of his foreign policy advisers in an interview with "The Washington Post" in March last year.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George Papadopoulos, he's an oil and energy consultant, excellent guy.
It's a group of some of the people we're dealing with. We have many other people in different aspects of what we do, but that's a pretty representative group.
ANNOUNCER (on camera): How can you describe Mr. Papadopoulos as having a limited role when there's a photograph of Mr. Papadopoulos sitting at a table with candidate Trump.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The campaign had thousands of photographs with millions of people.
QUESTION: How is it not collusion when George Papadopoulos is in contact with various people who are promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, a series of events that closely mirrors what occurred with the president's own son? How is all that not collusion?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, this individual was the member of a voluntary advisory counsel that met one time over the course of a year. And he was part of a list that was read out in "The Washington Post." I would hardly call that some sort of regular adviser or, as you want to push, that he's like a senior member of the staff. He was not paid by the campaign.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Sanders also mischaracterized the extent of Papadopoulos' actions, failing to mention that federal investigators say he made repeated attempts to obtain information from the Russians and that his efforts were discussed in detail by campaign officials.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: He reached out and nothing happened beyond that.
ACOSTA: As for Manafort, Sanders minimized his role with the campaign.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Paul Manafort was brought in to lead the delegate process, which he did, and was dismissed not too long after that.
ACOSTA: The fact is, Manafort served as campaign chairman for three months, at one point denying contacts with the Russians during last year's conventions.
QUESTION: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No, there are not. It's absurd.
ACOSTA: The White House is still making the case that it's the Clinton campaign that is guilty of collusion.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The big difference here is you have a meeting that took place vs. millions of dollars being sent to create fake information to actually influence the election. You compare those two, those are apples and oranges.
What the Clinton campaign did, what the DNC did was actually exchange money.
ACOSTA: Now, the White House was also asked whether the president is considering the possibility of issuing pardons in the Russia investigation.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said it's too early to consider that as an option. But as for the prospect of firing special counsel Robert Mueller, Sanders wasn't offering any ironclad commitments either, saying the president has no intention or plan to make any changes.
So, Wolf, as you were saying, the White House making this case that this is much ado about nothing, but, if it is much ado about nothing, why are they preserving those options? That's a hard circle to square at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a good question.
In the Papadopoulos plea hearing, the transcript was released, and Aaron Zelinsky, one of the prosecutors working with the special counsel Robert Mueller's team, he said that this whole Papadopoulos case, he says there's a large-scale ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part. A small part.
I assume officials over at the White House, they're nervous about what could come next.
ACOSTA: I think some of them are, Wolf, but I'm also sensing a good deal of defiance.
I talked to a source just in the last few minutes who was in touch with White House officials, is very aware of the messaging and talking points over here. And this source was saying that they view what happened today as a distraction.
It's sort of an incredible takeaway on all of this. It may be delusional to view all of this as a distraction. As we can tell as of this evening, Wolf, the distraction is only getting bigger and bigger by the moment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta over at the White House, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Senator Ed Markey is joining us. He's a Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Of course.
BLITZER: Is there evidence now? Do you think this is hard evidence of collusion?
MARKEY: Well, I think, in the Papadopoulos case, it's clear that he was trying to, through an intermediary, get information that Russian officials may have had on Hillary Clinton.
And if that's the case, then what we have here is some contact between someone inside of the Trump campaign with a Russian who said that he had information on Hillary.
So, that is evidence that collusion was being attempted, at least by Papadopoulos. And I think that his lying about it is clearly the center of attention, which Mueller and others are now focusing upon.
BLITZER: You know, he -- Papadopoulos was first told about Russia and so-called dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of e-mails. That was in April of 2016, long before most Americans knew of any hacked e-mails or the Russian effort to undermine Hillary Clinton and help the Trump campaign. So how concerning is that?
MARKEY: Well, I think it's very concerning.
And, again, I believe it's the reason why we have to ensure that we protect Robert Mueller and his investigation from having him be fired by the Trump White House or that there be any pardons that are issued out of this White House with any of these individuals, including Manafort and gates to make sure that the American people ultimately find out what happened during our presidential election last year.
What was the extent to which there was an attempt to have Russians come in and to influence that most sacred of all of our institutions?
BLITZER: Papadopoulos repeatedly tried to set up an in-person meeting between President Trump and Kremlin officials, and high-level campaign officials were aware of that effort.
So, Senator, what does that tell you?
MARKEY: Well, again, it says that there definitely was a thread that was seeking to be connected.
And I think there's a lot more that has to be known about what was taking place. And it's clear that this is just the first step, but it is something that ultimately must be protected legally within our own country to make sure that all of the facts ultimately become known to the American people. They have a right to know what happened.
BLITZER: We now know, Senator, that after Papadopoulos sent an e-mail entitled "Request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump," Paul Manafort actually forwarded that e-mail to his deputy, Rick Gates, who wrote -- and I will read it to you -- "Let's discuss. We need someone to communicate that D.T., " Donald Trump, "is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal." [18:15:08]
How do you read that comment from Manafort?
MARKEY: Well, again, I think that that is probably going to be a subject of conversation between Robert Mueller and Manafort and Gates in order to determine what exactly was the intent.
Was it to hide the fact that there was a connection that was being opened with the Russians? All of that is yet to be explored. It's key -- again, I keep returning to this point. It's key that this investigation remain completely protected and that, on a bipartisan basis, Democrats and Republicans insist that all of these facts are disclosed.
BLITZER: Senator, there's more we need to discuss. I have to take a quick break.
We're going to resume our special breaking news coverage right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with Senator Ed Markey and the breaking news on the first criminal charges in the special counsel's Russia investigation and the possible implications for the president, with one of his former campaign advisers now cooperating with the FBI.
In that motion to seal the filings involving George Papadopoulos, Senator, it said this. And let me read it specifically, because it could be very significant.
"Defendant has indicated that he is willing to cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Public disclosure of the defendant's initial appearance, however, would significantly undermine his ability to serve as a proactive cooperator."
Proactive cooperator, clear words, Senator. What sort of information could Papadopoulos help provide to the FBI in this investigation?
MARKEY: Well, clearly what is of most interest is any collusion that did exist in actuality between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
That's all to be determined in the days, weeks, months ahead. But this is the beginning of it. And Mr. Papadopoulos is someone who clearly has relevant information, which should be made available, not only to Mr. Mueller, but also to the United States Congress, because we're investigating as well simultaneously what the influence is that the Russians sought to and perhaps successfully had on our election.
But, again, just to make it clear that if there's any attempt to remove Robert Mueller or to give a pardon to any of these witnesses, it would cause a constitutional crisis in our country, because I think there would be a bipartisan response that would be volcanic from Capitol Hill in objection to what the White House might attempt.
BLITZER: Senator, before I let you go, your committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, heard testimony today from Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a new authorization for the use of military force.
What can you tell us about this latest effort?
MARKEY: Well, again, under the United States Constitution, the Congress has the sole and exclusive right to declare war.
And since 2001 and the authorization for the use of military force in Afghanistan, it's been used like an elastic band to take the United States into country after country after country without a further vote by the United States Congress.
So, that is what we're debating. And, in fact, if the president is accurate in what he is saying and has the full intent to do so, he's also talking about taking a preemptive strike potentially against North Korea and its nuclear weapons program. That should be something that comes before the United States Congress before the president is allowed to potentially use nuclear weapons against another country, where that other country has not attacked us.
And it is something that should be solely within the province of the United States Congress. So, this whole question of the authorization for the use of military force by our country is something that increasingly has to be reclaimed by the Congress.
BLITZER: Senator Markey, thanks for joining us.
MARKEY: No, you're welcome. Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more breaking news: the White House now rocked by a surprise guilty plea from a former Trump campaign adviser now cooperating with the FBI.
And, at the same time, two former Trump campaign officials indicted on multiple charges, which include conspiracy against the United States.
BLITZER: We're following major breaking news in the special counsel's Russia investigation.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is now under house arrest after being charged with money laundering and tax evasion, along with his former business partner Rick Gates.
In addition to their indictment, there was another big reveal today. We learned that former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts.
Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.
Manu, tell us more about George Papadopoulos and the details in his plea agreement.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, prosecutors laid out in extensive detail today in documents that were just unsealed about George Papadopoulos and this extensive effort that he undertook to try to set up a meeting between senior officials at the Kremlin and Trump officials.
Now, the White House downplaying Papadopoulos's role in the campaign.
But, tonight, Wolf, there are a lot of questions about the efforts that he undertook and questions about why he lied to investigators.
RAJU (voice-over): Soon after joining the Trump campaign in March 2016, George Papadopoulos had a meeting with a London-based professor.
Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, in the form of thousands of e-mails obtained by the Russians, around the time that Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, was hacked.
[18:30:22] According to court documents today, Papadopoulos add admitted lying to federal authorities when he said that those contacts occurred before joining the Trump campaign. He also falsely told authorities that the professor was, quote, "just a guy talking up connections or something." When, in fact, Papadopoulos knew the professor had substantial connections to the Kremlin and had repeatedly sought to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIR: Papadopoulos is direct evidence that someone with the campaign was being contacted by Russians with information that they had lots of so- called dirt that included e-mails on Hillary Clinton.
RAJU: Papadopoulos also downplayed contacts he had with a female Russian national when, in fact, she also had ties to the Russian government, that Papadopoulos pitched to the Trump campaign campaign as an effort to have Trump meet with Vladimir Putin in Russia. Papadopoulos even described the woman to campaign officials as Putin's niece.
A campaign supervisor praised Papadopoulos for, quote, "great work." As Papadopoulos persisted to set up a meeting, the discussion reached the highest levels of the Trump campaign, with then-chairman Paul Manafort and senior aide Rick Gates e-mailing to say, quote, "We need someone to communicate that D.T. is not doing these trips. It should be someone low-level in the campaign so as not to send any signal."
But in July 2016, Papadopoulos said that a meeting between senior Trump officials with Putin aids, quote, "had been approved from our side."
Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27 and later pled guilty for knowingly and willfully making materially false statements.
Today, White House officials are downplaying Papadopoulos's work with the campaign.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It was extremely limited. It was a volunteer position. He reached out and nothing happened beyond that.
RAJU: But Trump himself told "The Washington Post" in March 2016 that Papadopoulos, seen in this photo with Trump, was on his foreign policy team.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George Papadopoulos, he's an oil and energy consultant, excellent guy.
RAJU: According to his LinkedIn account, Papadopoulos graduated from DePaul University in 2009 before receiving a master's degree from a university in London. After graduating, he worked from 2011 to 2015 as a research associate at the Washington think tank the Hudson Institute.
DR. BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much.
RAJU: In 2016, he worked as an advisor to the campaign of Dr. Ben Carson before switching to the Trump team.
RAJU: Now, Wolf, George Papadopoulos had been of interest to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, but I'm told by sources on those panels that no, in fact, he has not been interviewed by those committees as he came under focus by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but tonight, Wolf, some more reaction coming in from Capitol Hill. Senator Lindsey Graham said that it's OK to have conversations with the Russians, but he told me it's not OK to accept any help from the Russians.
And also some pushback from the Republicans, any suggestion about firing Robert Mueller, including from the Senate Judiciary chairman, Wolf, who tells me that the president should not interfere with the special counsel, should let him do his job -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The president is getting a lot of recommendations exactly like that. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.
Let's brings in our specialist to discuss. You know, Gloria, how momentous are these charges, especially the guilty plea by Papadopoulos?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's very, very important, Wolf. And again, we're only at the beginning of this, I believe. And we're going to see just how important it was. But when you consider what Papadopoulos is saying, and the fact that
he has been with investigators for months, we don't know what else he's been telling them.
And we also know that he is the person, so far at this point, who has made the link between the Russians and the campaign. And he provide -- he himself seemed to be an intermediary. And when Sarah Sanders said today, "You know, none of this involves the campaign" and -- perhaps she was talking about Paul Manafort and Rick Gates and the question of financial improprieties. I think you have to look at this and you look at the e-mails that went back and forth, particularly the e-mail from a campaign official which said, "We need someone to communicate that Donald Trump is not doing these trips and that someone low level in the campaign should go so as not to send any signal."
I think then you have to start, you know, unspooling all of this and trying to figure out who these people were, what they were doing, what they intended to get from the Russians, and what the Russians intended to provide.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And whether they actually got anything.
BORGER: Exactly. And whether they -- and whether they got anything. Because we know early on...
BASH: That's really the key.
BORGER: Yes. And we know, you know, that this spring when "The Washington Post" was doing some reporting, they were saying, you know, Manafort never wanted anything, and we didn't pay any attention to Papadopoulos. So I think this has to be played out.
BLITZER: But Dana, what does it tell you that Papadopoulos was made aware of the Russian's so-called dirt on Hillary Clinton in April of 2016, in the form of thousands of e-mails?
BASH: Well, we don't know what that means, whether it was...
BLITZER: This was long before we knew there were hacked e-mails.
BASH: No question. So we don't know if it was the Russians dangling, you know, sort of potential dirt in front of them to lure them into the -- these Trump officials into having a meeting, having a consultation, whether they actually had these e-mails that they were talking about, whether they produced them. We don't know the answer to that.
But just the fact that this is in there, you're right, before it became public that -- that Hillary's e-mails were, and more importantly the DNC e-mails were hacked. We don't know exactly how the correlation is there, but the fact that the word "dirt" is used, which is the same word that was used during the e-mail exchange with Donald Trump Jr. and a different -- or a Russian national, is very noteworthy. BLITZER: That was the meeting leading up to the Trump Tower...
BASH: In June 2016.
BLITZER: ... in July of 2016.
Shimon, you were part of the team that broke all this news Friday night. Good work. What do today's revelations tell us about where the special counsel, Robert Mueller, stands right now and where it's all heading?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, the Papadopoulos revelation was huge. And that came out of nowhere and took all of us by surprise. So it tells us that -- where this direction -- the direction of this investigation is still on collusion, what people in the campaign were doing, who they were communicating with, because when you read through the affidavit that the government unsealed today as it relates to Papadopoulos, they talk about all these different campaign officials that Papadopoulos was talking to.
E-mails he was sending, supervisors, campaign supervisor, senior foreign policy advisors that he was talking to, telling them he's having these meetings with Russians. And so basically, now the FBI has a good road map into who Papadopoulos was talking to; and they may want to talk to these other people that Papadopoulos was talking to, getting information -- sending information about his meetings...
BASH: If they haven't already.
PROKUPECZ: If they haven't already.
BLITZER: You know, Phil Mudd, you used to work at the CIA. How does all this look, all these dramatic developments that we learned about today? How does that look to the U.S. intelligence community, the Russian involvement, for example?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This is Intelligence 101, Wolf. You've got -- the first thing the Russians are doing is what we call in the business a vulnerability assessment. They're looking at a potential target -- for them the Trump team is a target -- and determining what the vulnerability is.
In this case it's easy. As Dana was saying just a moment ago, the vulnerability is dirt on Hillary Clinton, whether it's an approach to Donald Jr. or an approach in this case to another advisor.
The approach, again, Intelligence 101, they are not going to send somebody in from the Russian embassy to spook the Trump team. They going to say, "Hey, why don't you meet with an academic? Why don't you meet with, as we know, an attorney who spoke with Don Jr.
And then at the back end of this, there's a simple end of the story going to the departure of Mike Flynn early in the administration.
There's a cost to that kind of cooperation with the Russians. And they're going to say, "We'll give you stuff. One of the things we want is relief of sanctions. We know the reason Mike Flynn left was an inappropriate conversation with the Russian ambassador, potentially about sanctions relief. So this is a classic. They assessed our vulnerabilities, determined how to exploit them, and then determined what they could get in return. Intelligence 101.
BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, the -- Papadopoulos is pleading guilty to making a false statement to the FBI. We saw these documents, read them all today. He's cooperating after pleading guilty, and he's being described as a proactive cooperator. So you're a former U.S. attorney. explain what that means, a proactive cooperator.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, The only thing it can mean to me is that, especially given the timing here, he was arrested in July, but he didn't plead guilty until the beginning of October. It certainly suggests that during those months of July, August, September, in the beginning of October, he may have been wearing a wire. He may have been talking to his former colleagues. That is what proactive cooperation means to me.
And if he is, or if he did do that, you know, the mind reels at the possibilities. Now, I don't know if he did that and I don't know if -- who he spoke to, if he did. But you know, that is the kind of gold prosecutors look for, which is admissions from their targets; and there is no better way to get admissions than to have someone who they trust wearing a wire.
[18:40:10] BLITZER: Let me ask Phil, who used to work -- in addition to the CIA, at the FBI. Do you think he might have been wearing a wire over these past few weeks or maybe months in order to ingratiate himself with the prosecutors?
MUDD: Heck, yes. There's two ways that you build an intelligence case. The first way is through sources -- that is informants, human beings. And the second way is through wires. That is intercepting people's communications.
A communications picture, Wolf, can give you a snapshot of things like financial transactions. It cannot get inside somebody's head to talk to them about things like intent.
So this guy, for the past 60 days, can fill in significant pieces of the puzzle, when he's talking to people about why they're doing what they are doing. You can't get an entire picture from financial records and e-mails. I agree with Jeffrey. His comments would be critical.
TOOBIN: And if I could just elaborate on that. He was in these conversations with the Trump officials about Russia, about the contacts with Russia. Obviously, they were not very cautious on e- mail. The e-mails are very explicit. Presumably they were not very cautious in their conversations either.
The Mueller team now has an insider who was cooperating with them. True, he was not the most important person in the campaign, but if you read those e-mails, he was obviously taken seriously; and his testimony is certainly going to be very important.
PROKUPECZ: And just to Jeffrey's point, that is a big get for the FBI, to have who was someone working on the campaign, had eyes into these meetings.
Also just to go back to also kind of what Jeffrey was saying. Today the plea hearing where Papadopoulos pleaded guilty was also unsealed. And in that, it lays out some of Papadopoulos's cooperation, and the government said that he had been providing what they called a roadmap into the investigation. They specifically called it a roadmap, and interestingly enough, they called it sort of a smaller piece of this larger investigation.
BLITZER: Yes, and I'll just read, Aaron Zelinsky, one of the prosecutors working for Mueller, he said there's a large-scale ongoing investigation which this case, the Papadopoulos case, is a small part.
BLITZER: Everyone -- very quickly.
BASH: Quickly, despite what you heard from Sarah Huckabee Sanders today, you can bet that the people who worked on that campaign are scrambling to try to figure out who -- if they weren't those people, who were the people who went unnamed in the affidavit and the indictment, who were involved in getting these e-mails and e-mailing one another about Russia.
BORGER: You know, and he fills in all the blanks for him. I mean, they already had an idea. They go to him. He cooperates with them. They give him some information. He fills in the blanks, and then they move up the chain.
BLITZER: Everybody stick around. Don't go too far away. There's more breaking news. We'll be right back.
[18:47:38] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We have breaking news just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
Facebook is now revealing how many people may have seen Russia-linked pages during and after the 2016 campaign.
Let's bring in CNN senior media and politics reporter Dylan Byers.
Dylan, tell our viewers what you're learning.
DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA AND POLITICS REPORTER: Wolf, CNN has obtained a copy of Facebook's written testimony, this is the testimony that they will present to lawmakers in a series of public hearings this week. It includes a very significant detail -- content generated by the Russia troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency that was seeking to meddle in American politics through social media. That content was served to 126 million Facebook users in the United States, according to Facebook estimates. That is more than half the total U.S. voting population. That is a significant number.
Now, of course, one ad, one story promoted and created and generated into somebody's time line doesn't necessarily mean that they saw it, it doesn't necessarily mean it influenced the way they voted in the 2016 campaign or the way they felt about American politics. But that is an extraordinary number and it is so much higher, Wolf, than the reach that Facebook had previously disclosed.
You remember, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially said it was crazy to think that Russia meddling had any influence in the 2016 election. Then they said ads bought by the Internet Research Agency may have reached 10 million voters. We're now looking at a number of 126 million Americans who may have been exposed to content generated by this troll farm, which is backed by the Kremlin.
BLITZER: Yes, it's pretty amazing. Dylan Byers, thanks very much for that.
Phil Mudd, what does that say to you when you hear those kinds of numbers and the success of this Russian troll farm?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I can't overestimate the significance of this. Let me tell you why. The Congress of the United States is focused on questions like, what did Trump advisers do. What's happening now in terms of these revelations about Facebook, have to twist government on its head.
When we go forward two years, the questions Congress should be asking is, how do we ensure the U.S. intelligence community, which is going to be very nervous about cooperating with a bunch of techies out in Silicon Valley is passing information about Russian activities on the Internet so Facebook real-time -- I'm not talking about 30 days, I'm talking about real-time -- can take stuff off the Internet?
[18:50:12] What I'm saying, Wolf, is we need a war room where the National Security Agency and the CIA and the FBI are together with Facebook, given Facebook top secret information to react to. The government just doesn't work that way today. They've got to get this stuff off the Internet.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, it does raise all sorts of legal questions, right?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, it's -- you know, this is a real brave new world, and, you know, we often talk about media bias, and, you know, what does Fox do, what does NBC do, the real news source for so many Americans is their Facebook feed. And there is almost no quality control into what goes into Facebook feed.
Facebook doesn't tell us what the algorithm is that chooses what stories we get. They don't tell us -- now, they say they're going to start telling us -- is like who's paying for everything people see in their Facebook feed. So, it goes to the whole idea of how voters are persuaded of their views now. And, you know, Facebook is making a very slow and very cautious start. But they have a big responsibility for how American politics works now, and they really haven't stepped up so far.
BLITZER: Congressional hearings later this week.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. And I think -- you know, with this Facebook news that Dylan is reporting, we get a sense of the enormity of what the Russians were trying to do here. Not only were they trying to infiltrate the campaign, and we'll see if it was done successfully or not successfully, but through social media, of course. So, they were pulling every strand they possibly could to try to figure out a way to influence this election, including going to very senior advisers in Donald Trump's campaign.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
BLITZER: Everybody, hold -- stand by for a moment. There is more breaking news we're following right now in the Russia probe, including the indictment against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. We're going live to Ukraine as we follow Manafort's enormous money trail.
[18:56:46] BLITZER: Tonight, one of the most prominent targets in the Russia investigation is formally under indictment. The charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, stem from his work on behalf of a key Vladimir Putin ally in Ukraine.
CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward is joining us now live from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
Clarissa, the indictment details the close working relationship between Manafort and the former Ukrainian president. So, tell our viewers why that is so critically important?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, to put it simply, you don't get much closer to the Kremlin than former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. This was a man who was always seen as the Kremlin candidate. And when political protests broke out here in 2014, and he was forced to abscond reportedly with millions and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money that he embezzled, he absconded, Wolf, to Russia. He even told a TV interviewer that he owed his life to Vladimir Putin because Putin had offered him shelter as it were in Russia. So, very close ties to Russia. Very close ties to the Kremlin.
Beyond that, though, this is a man who stands accused of rampant corruption. There is, of course, a lot of corruption that's endemic in the Ukrainian political culture, but even by Ukrainian standards, Yanukovych stood out for having stolen hundreds of millions of dollars potentially from this country. He also stands accused of potentially having called on riot police to fire bullets on those pro-Western demonstrators who took to the Maidan Square back in 2014. He's also accused of imprisoning his political opponents.
So, clearly, by any measure, a highly controversial figure with very close ties to President Vladimir Putin, to the Kremlin, raising the question of why anyone involved in U.S. politics would want to be so deeply and intimately involved with someone who was so close to Yanukovych, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, Paul Manafort was very, very well-paid, in the millions and millions of dollars. Has there been any reaction in Ukraine yet to the news of these indictments?
WARD: Well, this is kind of interesting, Wolf. We've seen some sporadic comment coming from mostly activists who were staunchly opposed to Viktor Yanukovych and the sort of kleptocracy that he really presided over.
But what we haven't heard from yet is the government, is Petro Poroshenko, the country's president. And one reason that analysts are suggesting we haven't heard something from the Ukrainian government yet is because the Ukrainian government is perhaps upset or -- sorry, concerned or anxious about upsetting the White House. They rely very heavily on all different number of various forms of USA, they can't afford to get into some protracted political battle with the Trump administration.
And so, there has been speculation from various quarters that that may be contributing to their absence in making some kind of a statement against Manafort, Wolf.
BLITZER: Clarissa Ward, reporting from Kiev, in Ukraine, thanks very much.
That's it for me.
A special breaking news coverage continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".