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Interview With Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez; Congressional Crash; Trump's Loyalty Tests; Train Carrying GOP Lawmakers Hits Truck, One Person Dead; Kim Jong Un's Brother Met with American Before His Murder. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 31, 2018 - 18:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Team sport. CNN has learned that Mr. Trump appeared to test the loyalty of his deputy attorney general as he fished for information about the special counsel's investigation. Stand by for our exclusive reporting on that.

Congressional crash. A train carrying dozens of GOP lawmakers slams into a truck, killing the driver. We are going to have the latest on the accident and tell you how Congress, how members of Congress are doing tonight.

And deadly contact? New information this hour about they mysterious murder of Kim Jong-un's half-brother. Did his cloak and dagger meeting with an American have something to do with his death?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: Breaking tonight, the FBI director publicly defying the president who appointed him.

The bureau expressing grave concerns about a controversial Republican memo that Mr. Trump says he is 100 percent certain to release perhaps at any moment. Christopher Wray appearing to argue with Democrats (sic) who say the memo alleging FBI misconduct is misleading and a blatant attempt to discredit the Russia investigation.

I will get reaction from former U.S. attorney general Preet Bharara and our correspondent and analysts are also standing by.

First, I want to go to CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, this was a stunning statement from the FBI.


This is a very public and very high-profile pushback by the FBI director against president and the president's chief of staff, who have made it clear they intend to release this memo alleging abuse by the FBI.

So, the FBI now isn't holding back to reiterate the dangers the release of this memo might pose.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, in a stunning move, President Trump's handpicked FBI Director Christopher Wray openly clashing with the White House, warning, do not release the memo, the FBI issuing this stark statement, despite concerns from some Justice Department officials about publicly opposing the White House.

"The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo. We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

Chief of Staff John Kelly implied this morning the decision to release has been made.

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It will be released here pretty quick, I think, and the whole world can see it.

This president, again, it's so unique, Brian, that he wants everything out so that the American people can make up their own minds. And if there's people to be held accountable, then so be it.

SCHNEIDER: The comments come after a hot mic moment between South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan and the president post-State of the Union.

REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Let's release the memo.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, yes. Don't worry, 100 percent. Can you imagine it?

SCHNEIDER: But Press Secretary Sarah Sanders seemed to walk back the president's 100 percent promise.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have said all along, from day one, we want full transparency in this process. We haven't hidden that. But at the same time we're still going to complete the legal and national security review that has to take place before putting something out publicly.

QUESTION: Is there any chance that the president does not release the memo?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think there's always a chance.

SCHNEIDER: The president's apparent promise came after days of discussions. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray urged Chief of Staff John Kelly to delay Monday's House vote on releasing the memo.

And when the committee voted anyway, officials from DOJ and FBI went to the White House Tuesday to make a renewed effort to explain certain inaccuracies contained in the memo.

The 3.5.-page memo spearheaded by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was approved by the committee for public release along party lines and couriered to the White House Monday night, kicking off a five-day window for the president to review the memo and decide whether or not to release it.

Sources say the memo alleges that the FBI did not disclose to the judge who signed off on a secret surveillance warrant for foreign Trump campaign adviser Carter Page that the dossier the FBI relied on, in part, was partially paid for by Democrats.

The imminent release of the memo has sparked concern within the intelligence community that sources and methods could be compromised, according to multiple sources.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The president says, hey, 100 percent, I'm doing it. I haven't even read it. We haven't even vetted it, but I can tell you 100 percent I'm going to do it.

Now, the sad reality of this is, this doesn't surprise anyone about this president, because no one has any doubt that the priority here is not our national security, it's not the country, it's not the interest of justice. It's just the naked personal interest of the president.


SCHNEIDER: And tonight Republican Devin Nunes is issuing a terse response and even challenging the FBI and DOJ.


Nunes says law enforcement has stonewalled Congress by withholding documents over the past year. And he says if they want the record straight, the FBI should release all the information they have on these alleged abuses.

But, of course, the intelligence community has already said any release of information could compromise sources and methods and endanger national security -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Jessica Schneider, thank you so much for that report.

Now to a CNN exclusive on the president appearing to question the loyalty of another top official overseeing the Russia investigation. It happened first to FBI Director James Comey before he was fired. Now we're learning that the current deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, faced similar questions from President Trump just last month.

We're joined now by CNN senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown and CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett.

Pamela, tell us what you and your team have learned here.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went to the White House this past December, seeking President Trump's help to block document demands from House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes.

But sources familiar with that meeting tell us the president had other things on his mind ahead of Rosenstein's upcoming testimony before a House committee. The president asked Rosenstein where he thought the investigation of links between Russians and his campaign was headed, and he went on to ask whether Rosenstein was -- quote -- "on my team."

As a reminder, Rosenstein is the person overseeing Mueller's Russia investigation. And this is only the latest episode to come to light between a president who asks questions that sometimes cross a line that presidents traditionally have tried to avoid when dealing with the Justice Department.

But this exchange could raise further questions about whether Trump was seeking to interfere in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into potential collusion by the Trump campaign, and obstruction of justice by the White House, Brianna.

KEILAR: And, Laura Jarrett, the former FBI director, Jim Comey, testified about this kind of thing before Congress. He said that the president had asked him for a loyalty pledge. Is there a sense that Rosenstein thought this was the same thing?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we're told that Rosenstein appeared surprised by the president's questions.

He didn't provide any details on the direction of the Russia investigation and he responded somewhat awkwardly to the president's team request, saying, of course, we're all on your team, Mr. President.

At that hearing before congressional investigators in December, shortly after this White House meeting in question, Rosenstein was asked about loyalty pledges. Here is what he had to say.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Is it ever appropriate for the president of the United States to demand an Department of Justice official or FBI director or take a loyalty pledge?

ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't have any opinion about that, Congressman. Nobody has asked me to take a loyalty pledge, other than oath of office.


JARRETT: At that hearing, Rosenstein also told lawmakers -- quote -- "As long as you're following your oath of office, you can also be faithful to the administration of justice."

Now, the Justice Department declined to comment on this story. And the White House has not gotten back to us with comment.

KEILAR: Pamela, your reporting shows the president was particularly focused on that December hearing.

BROWN: That's right.

A source familiar with the matter tells me he was very focused. In fact, Brianna, he brought up the upcoming meeting during that White House meeting with Rosenstein. One source told us that Trump went on as far as to suggest questions to members of Congress that they could possibly ask Rosenstein during that hearing.

One line of inquiry, we're told, Trump proposed to lawmakers was about whether Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election because Mueller was not selected as FBI director.

Now, CNN has previously reported that President Trump has been venting to his aides about Rosenstein in recent weeks. He's even raised the possibility of firing him. But sources tell us that President Trump believes Rosenstein was upset Mueller wasn't selected as FBI director and responded to that by making Mueller special counsel.

It does appear that the questions the president tried to plant with members of Congress were actually asked at that hearing, Brianna.

KEILAR: Interesting.

Pamela Brown, Laura Jarrett, great exclusive reporting. Thank you so much for that report.

Tonight, we clearly have many questions, some new questions for the White House about the president's conversations with his deputy attorney general, as well as the stunning public pushback he's getting from his handpicked FBI director.

I want to bring in CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta on this.

Jim, what, if anything, are you hearing from the White House tonight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you saw a few moments ago, the White House has been all over the place, from the president to the chief of staff to Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, as to what is going to happen with this Nunes memo.

One thing I can tell you, Brianna, is when that statement came down from the FBI earlier today essentially saying there are grave concerns about the potential release of this memo, this White House has gone radio silent and they have clamped down on questions about this.

Watch what happened earlier today when I tried to ask the president about all of this in the Oval Office earlier today.



ACOSTA: Mr. President, any response to the FBI saying in that statement that the Nunes memo should not be released?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're leaving. Let's go.




ACOSTA: So, as you can there, Brianna, it was difficult to even get the question out, because almost as soon as I started asking the question, officials there in the Oval Office were shouting over top of me and even pulling on my suit jacket at one point there toward the end of it.

So, they clearly don't want the president to answer the question at this point.

I did talk to a source close to the White House just a short while ago, who said that one of the conversations that may be going on behind the scenes is whether or not there are going to be some redactions made to this memo before it's released.

Now, that obviously would conflict somewhat with what General Kelly said earlier this morning in that radio interview when he said the president wants everything released. Obviously, if there were redactions, that would not be everything. And that would also fall short of what the president said last night after the State of the Union speech when he said 100 percent, 100 percent.

At this point, that is something that is still being talked about It appears behind close doors. But one thing is very clear, according to a source of the White House. That is, they have stepped all over the State of the Union message from last night -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And I will say, Jim, you always get your question out. You were undeterred there, as always. Thank you, sir, so much for that report from the White House, our chief correspondent at the White House, Jim Acosta.

Joining me now is CNN senior legal analyst Preet Bharara. He's a former U.S. attorney who was fired by President Trump.

Preet, thank you for being on with us.


KEILAR: The FBI says it has grave concerns. That's a quote, grave concerns, about the release of this Nunes memo.

I wonder how damaging it is for the president to have the FBI come out publicly against him like this when it goes to the veracity, the very truthfulness of this memo.

BHARARA: I don't know how damaging it is for the president.

There have been lots of things that have been going on in the last year that have been damaging to the president politically and potentially legally.

What I think is extraordinary is not that the FBI has grave concerns. There's a back and forth always in the intelligence community where people outside of the intelligence community or the law enforcement community want to release something. Even if you wanted to use something that was classified in court, you go through a process and there's a back and forth.

And everyone is supposed to respect very deeply for obvious reasons the reasoning for the FBI thinking that some material, they have concerns about. And here, not only do they have those concerns, but they're stating them publicly in I guess a manner of defiance of the president.

It's not something that I have ever seen before, but I think it's something that is good to see, because it shows that the FBI director, at least in this instance, is asserting himself, is asserting his independence and is putting his job before, you know, what some people have been expecting, at least in the White House, before loyalty to the president.

KEILAR: That's right.

He was appointed by President Trump, the FBI director. And he went to the White House as well. He tried to stop this memo from being made public. This is a long effort that's been going on by the FBI and the DOJ. What do you think about the president breaking with his own handpicked people?

BHARARA: That's a tradition in the last year. He loves you on Monday. He hates you on Wednesday and he fires you on Friday, or he lets you dangle for a while and maybe fires you, maybe doesn't fire you.

He has done that with members of his inner circle at the White House. He has done that with the sitting attorney general, who he has not fired yet. But we have information that makes us believe that there are various times he wanted to fire him. He went back and forth on whether or not he wanted to fire Jim Comey before he ultimately did.

We have information that at one point he told Don McGahn, his White House counsel, to fire Bob Mueller. His views, the president's stated views, based on his track record from the past year, of what he thinks about a particular official doesn't necessarily last long and suggests what he cares about most is not for people to be doing their independent jobs and paying attention to their oath of office and to their legal and constitutional duty, but rather, when it conflicts with his own personal interests or legal jeopardy, he prefers people to be loyal to him.

KEILAR: The White House line on this Nunes memo is that President Trump is carefully weighing the release of it, they're just trying to be transparent.

But then listen to what he said last night. It's key to note this was before the president had even read the memo.


DUNCAN: Let's release the memo.

TRUMP: Oh, yes. Don't worry, 100 percent. Can you imagine it?


KEILAR: It almost in a way proves that the whole goal of releasing this is a purely political one. Because of that, I wonder if you're worried about the precedent that this sets if the Nunes memo is released.

BHARARA: Yes, I think we should all be worried about the precedent that it sets.

And I think Republicans should be worried about it. The president should be worried about it ultimately and citizens of America should be worried about it.


Look, there's a process by which information becomes public. If there were untoward conduct or bad behavior at the FBI, at some point, in the proper way, and in a method that doesn't affect confidential information or classified information or undermines national security, it should come out.

And people should be held accountable for it. I was involved in congressional investigations when I worked as a staffer in the United States. And usually the way you go about doing these kinds of things is by consensus. You did it in a bipartisan way.

That's the way the accountability can be head in way that is going to be credible to the public, in a way that is going to be appropriate for law enforcement and for public safety. The other thing people have to remember, I'm not in politics, although I worked for a senator for a period of time, what comes around goes around.

On this occasion, when you have a person who is the chair of the Intel Committee in the House, who, by the way, himself may have a conflict of interest and supposedly was supposed to recuse himself from various matters, and worked on the transition of President Trump, purporting to put out a memo that in some ways is going to allege, we're told, some bias on the part of folks the FBI is in some ways the height of irony.

But you know what? At some point, the other party may take control of the House and may take control of the control of the chairmanships of this committee and other committees, and they can use this rule as well, even though it's not been used before. So I think what ends up happening when people play these kinds games

that are based on politics, it seems, that you get into a back and forth year after year. That's not good for the public because the FBI director, I think, is a good person and is trying to do his job and is maintaining the principles that are important to the FBI. Public safety, national security.

And I think the whole thing is unfortunate. I think I'm not alone in that conclusion.

KEILAR: No, it's interesting. As you say, they're essentially opening Pandora's box, because it could be something that is wielded by both parties.

I wonder, because CNN has also learned that President Trump asked the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, where the Russia investigation was headed, how is it going, and he also asked Rosenstein if he was on the president's team. Explain why that's not just conversational and why that is something that raises red flags.

BHARARA: In isolation, a simple remark about being on the team I don't think is necessarily problematic. People talk about being on teams.

Obviously, if you're appointed by the president, in some way, you're on the team. You're on team America, you're on team law enforcement, you're on team public safety.

The problem with what is being reported about what the president said there is it's the 10th or 11th or 12th time you have evidence that the president of the United States, who is supposed to be at arm's length with law enforcement, and allow them to do their job independently, without fear of favor, without partisanship and treating everyone equally before the eyes of the law, it shows that that's not how he thinks about things.

We have evidence that he asked Jim Comey for his loyalty, personal loyalty. We have evidence that he told Jim Comey maybe to lay off a political ally, an employee in the White House, Michael Flynn.

We have evidence that he asked Jeff Sessions about what he might do to prevent the case from going forward against Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And now you have this evidence that he had some kind of conversation with Rod Rosenstein.

In my own personal case, although nothing untoward was ever said, he engaged in an odd telephone relationship with me, I think, to cultivate something beyond what the normal relationship should be between a sitting United States attorney, a sitting independent law enforcement officer, and a political official in the White House who has a vested interest in the kinds of things and the kinds of investigations that are going on.

Ordinary conversation, building of morale, camaraderie in some sense is OK. But when you have a president who again and again and again makes it clear that he wants a criminal investigation to go away and, among other things, has told that to folks and has fired someone over it, thought about firing another person over it, and is now telling the new person, who he handpicked for the job, the same thing, I think it's self-evident why it's problematic.

KEILAR: Problematic, but what about legally problematic? Is this obstruction of justice?

BHARARA: Everyone loves to ask the question, is one conversation that we don't have a transcript of, we don't have a recording of, that is reported sort of in passing in a newspaper article, is that obstruction of justice?

I don't think so.

KEILAR: But is a pattern which you have described.


BHARARA: Sure. It tells us a story.

To prove obstruction of justice, you have to show, among other things, the intent that was in the person's mind. If we're talking about the hypothetical with the president of the United States, is, was the intent in his mind for corrupt reasons to put to an end to an investigation that might land on his doorstep?

Every time you have a story that can be corroborated and that's credible that the president of the United States was trying to stop something or was trying to steer an investigation in some way, impede an ongoing proceeding, that's helpful evidence in support of obstruction.


KEILAR: Preet Bharara, thank you so much for being with us tonight. We appreciate it.

BHARARA: Thank you.

KEILAR: And just ahead, more direct reaction the FBI chief's direct challenge to the president and what will happen if President Trump goes ahead and makes that disputed memo public.

And we will get an update on dozens of Republican members of Congress who survived a deadly train crash.


KEILAR: We're following multiple breaking stories involving the president and the Russia investigation.


Tonight, President Trump's handpicked FBI director is challenging his plans to release a controversial memo declaring the bureau has grave concerns about its accuracy. We're joined now by Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez. He's a

member of the Judiciary Committee.

Sir, thanks so much for being with us.

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Pleasure to be with you this evening.

KEILAR: So, last night, the president was overheard after the State of the Union saying that he would 100 percent release the Nunes memo. That was before he had read it, as we understand it.

Then today, the FBI comes out with a statement and it says that they have grave concerns about this memo, grave concerns about the accuracy of it and it becoming public.

What do you think about this strong objection from the FBI?


Let me try to follow up on your conversation with the former U.S. attorney from New York.


GUTIERREZ: I served several terms as a member of the Intelligence Committee.

And the reason most of the public doesn't know I served on the Intelligence Committee, because that's OK the way we operated, right? We operated as members of the Intelligence Committee not to put findings out, not to release information, but to safeguard the American public from any abuses of the intelligence community and to safeguard the methods and the secrets of our nation.

And so I find this just unprecedented, because I have never seen it before. There's one committee that is truly bipartisan and that always works behind the scenes both in the Senate and in the House, and that's the Intelligence Committee.

But now you see this openness. The Republicans, under Chairman Nunes, want to share this information. That just didn't happen the six years I was there.

Look, we fought on the House floor about Obamacare. We fought about a woman's right to choose. We fought about gay marriage. We fought about a lot of things. We never fought in the committee and externally.

And so it just seems to be that, several months ago, a group of colleagues and I authored articles of impeachment. And I think this is all evidence of a continuing pattern of obstruction of justice.

Let's remember that the current FBI director, as you have stated so clearly, chosen by the president of the United States, he is having trouble. But the former one was fired by the president. KEILAR: Yes.

GUTIERREZ: And if you remember the circumstances, the attorney general was there, the vice president was there, and the president turned around and said to the attorney general, skedaddle, get out of here.

And he said vice president -- and then he asked Comey to stop the investigation into Flynn. That's happened. That's the testimony.


KEILAR: We have reported on that.

But I do want to ask you about something new that we have, reporting that in December...


KEILAR: ... the president asked the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, where the special counsel's Russia investigation was headed.


KEILAR: And he asked Rosenstein if he was on his team.

What do you think about when you hear that?


Here's what I hear. So, if you run a company, right, and you get to put your name on everything, whether it's cigars, or the wine or the buildings that you build and you put your name on it, you kind of get to act like a dictator, right? It's yours.

But that's not the presidency of the United States. The presidency of the United States is the head of our government and should be safeguarding our most democratic institutions. And one of them is our justice system.

And when the Justice Department and FBI really come forward, look, do you remember this whole anger, right, of the Republicans around Hillary Clinton and the e-mails was about what? Classified information.

And yet they're going to release classified information that the head of the FBI and in the Justice Department say don't release it because it could be dangerous to the health of our nation, to the methods and to the personnel that are gathering that information.

It's unprecedented. But this president will do anything in order to stop the investigation into collusion between his campaign and Russia. He's going to do whatever it is he's got to do.

KEILAR: This meeting with Rosenstein, this happened the day before the deputy A.G. testified in front of your committee.

CNN has learned that President Trump actually suggested questions for Rosenstein to answer to members of Congress. He apparently thought that Rosenstein might have appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel because he was upset that Mueller wasn't chosen as FBI director.

Do you know anything about that?

GUTIERREZ: No, but I was there when the question was asked, right, of the deputy attorney general. He stated that he had never been asked of loyalty.


KEILAR: Has your staff ever -- whether it's even in an informal way -- received input from a White House when it comes to -- I mean, it's not that unusual, right, to get talking points.

But is this something that may be different to you?

GUTIERREZ: Yes, never. Never, never, never, never.

Look, there's got to be real clear lines. Right? There's the judiciary. There's the legislative, and there's the executive branch.

You know what this reminds me of, and I know I'm going to get a little anger from my former Chicago city council members, but this is the kind of thing that happens in the Chicago city council, when the mayor might call his favorite city council members and say, "At the budget hearing, I want you to ask these questions," and that happens. But that's not the Congress of the United States.

And so, look, we have to safeguard our institutions. And we already know -- what do we know? We know that Chairman Nunes -- right? -- went to the White House, got information from the White House, and then told the world as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, "I have found out some spectacular information that can confirm, possibly, that president of the United States actually interfered with the communication of then-candidate Trump. That Barack Obama actually did that."

And what do we know? He got all the talking points from the White House. So does it surprise us that now they want to put out other talking point, but it's kind of in a memo that they want to put out?

I have absolutely -- there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that members -- that there are members of Congress that have worked hand in glove with this administration to draft that memo. President Trump says he hasn't read it. He may not have read it, because he doesn't have to. Because his staff probably put it together.

KEILAR: All right. We do not know that. There are other Democrats who say that, as well. And that is an outstanding question out there, if they did help with that.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez, thank you so much. We appreciate you being with us.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you.

KEILAR: And just ahead, more on our exclusive new reporting on the president asking the deputy A.G. if he's on his team. Is this evidence of obstruction?


[18:36:44] KEILAR: We're following a lot of breaking news this hour, including a stunning show of defiance by the president's FBI director, Christopher Wray, the bureau issuing a rare public statement, expressing grave concerns about a controversial memo that the president has said he's 100 percent certain to release.

We also have an exclusive new CNN report that President Trump asked the deputy attorney general if he was on his team just last December as he pressed him for information about the Russia investigation.

We're joined now about our reporters and analysts to talk about this. And I want to start with you, Gloria Borger. You know, looking at -- having covered Washington for some time, how incredible is it to see the FBI and the president of the United States at odds like this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's just stunning. I mean, I think you have to go back to Richard Nixon to -- to find anything that is at all similar.

When you look at this, you have the Department of Justice saying that any release of this memo would be reckless. You have the FBI saying that, essentially, if this -- if this is released, that it is inaccurate, that it is a lie and that it is misleading.

So you put those two things together, and you have a president of the United States who, offhandedly, before reading it, tells a member of Congress, "A hundred percent, 100 percent I'm going to release this."

So the president now is at loggerheads with the Justice Department, with his newly-appointed head of the FBI. I mean, if he releases this, what does Chris Wray do? Does he resign? Does he get fired, like James Comey got fired? I mean, we don't know the answers to these questions.

KEILAR: Jeffrey Toobin, he is the president's hand-picked FBI director. You had some Republicans alleging that there is this deep state of Obama administration hold-overs, that they are anti-Trump. Well, this is no one of those. This is someone that President Trump picked who's trying to stop the release of the memo. What does that tell you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it tells you that the Republicans in Congress are getting most of their information from tin foil hats. I mean, that this is just -- this is political partisanship dressed up as attacks on -- as attacks on the FBI.

And let's just pause for a second and ask ourselves, what are the chances that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is a nest of liberal activists? Has anyone here been in the United States before? This is the FBI. This is not how the FBI has ever worked. It has been a conservative law enforcement institution. That's what the FBI was; that's what the FBI is. This is insanity.

KEILAR: Shimon, you've been in the United States before, as Jeffrey said. And you know a thing or two about the FBI. What -- I mean, what are folks there saying about this conflict that's spilled out so publicly?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So I think today's a proud moment for some of them. Because it's nice to be able to put out a statement and defend the organization, have a say.

KEILAR: Because they felt a little battered without being able to say?

PROKUPECZ: Of course. Yes. And look at the headlines that this statement has made. I mean, it's been the lead story all day now. So I think there is some feeling that, "You know what? At least we're fighting."

[18:40:06] There is a ton of concern over this, more for the inaccuracies than anything else in that how is the FBI going to be portrayed? And I think it's quite clear where Devin Nunes stands and how he feels about the FBI and where his intent stands.

And there's a feeling, really, that he's doing this for the White House, that he's doing this for political reasons, and that's basically it. There's nothing good that could come of what this memo, of releasing this memo. Because it just goes to the credibility of the FBI and the work that they've been doing on the Russia investigation and on other investigations.

KEILAR: And...

TOOBIN: By the way, whatever happened to Devin Nunes being recused from the Russia investigation? I mean, you know, it's just like do the rules apply here at all?

KEILAR: To be clear on that, he did remove himself. He was facing an ethics inquiry. He was cleared of that, and, clearly he's...

BORGER: And he's close to the speaker.

KEILAR: ... injected -- he's injected himself back into this.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But that leads to another question, Gloria. I mean, where is the speaker asserting control in the situation?

KEILAR: He's not...

SWERDLICK: These chairs have a lot of power, but it still should be in the speaker's hands to guide this, if there's something legitimate going on. KEILAR: And you hear the -- but you hear the speaker saying in a way -- he's trying to make a distinction, which I wonder if it's lost on some people. But he's just trying to say, you know, when you're dealing with all of this memo stuff, keep it separate from the Russia investigation. I mean, hello, the cat is out of the bag.

BORGER: The president isn't doing that. The president knows that this is very much aligned with the Russian investigation.

KEILAR: Sabrina, the -- we have some exclusive reporting. The president asked the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, where -- this was back in December. You know, where is this investigation going? Back in December. That's not that long ago, to be clear. That's just last month. Right? So this is after there have been many times where the president is aware, hey, you don't do this kind of thing. But he asks him, you know, where is the investigation headed. He asks if he's on his team.

This is the kind of thing that we go, "Oh, my gosh." Explain why that's so out there.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": And this is not just one incident in isolation. The president asked then-FBI Director James Comey for his loyalty. He urged him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn.

He tried to prevent Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

He asked Andrew McCabe who he voted for.

So taken into totality, you have a pattern of behavior where it's very clear that the president does not actually respect the historic independence of the FBI, and he thinks, ultimately, that the nation's top law enforcement agency is there to serve him.

KEILAR: He know -- he knows, right, because he's been told over and over. But maybe -- it seems, Sabrina, like he doesn't...

SIDDIQUI: Well, he is impulsive and he is fixated on this investigation, because he thinks it undermines his legitimacy as president.

I think the real question will be, though, whether Republicans on Capitol Hill are going to line up behind these attacks on the FBI. There is -- there is certainly a split between House Republicans and those in the Senate. Where I've heard...

TOOBIN: I have -- I have...

KEILAR: Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: I have a different idea. I have a different idea of what the real question is. The real question is whether the president is engaged in a continuing crime in the Oval Office.

KEILAR: Which is obstruction.

TOOBIN: Which is obstruction of justice.


TOOBIN: I mean, you know, how many times...

KEILAR: What do you think?

TOOBIN: Well, there's certainly plenty of evidence to that effect. I mean, how many times do we have to have him use law enforcement for his own personal political advantage?

That's why there was an impeachment investigation of Richard Nixon. That's why Bill Clinton was impeached, for obstruction of justice. And, you know, how many times do we have to see this from the president before we acknowledge that that's what's going on?

PROKUPECZ: And there's no indication...

TOOBIN: There's a difference. There's a difference between going to the secretary of the treasury and say, "You know, I want you to be loyal to my tax proposal. I want you to be on the team."

KEILAR: Shimon, quick final word.

TOOBIN: Law enforcement is different.

PROKUPECZ: In terms of the obstruction investigation, you know, we have -- there's no indication that is anywhere near complete. We know that someone else who was on the president's legal team, a spokesperson is going before the special counsel. That has to do, potentially, with an obstruction case.

And who knows what this will bring, our reporting today. This would probably be something that Rod Rosenstein would have had to tell Mueller about. So perhaps this is something that Mueller is already looking into, for all we know. We just don't know.

BORGER: You know, and a lack of knowledge about the way the government works and the separation of powers, I don't think is an excuse that would fly with the special counsel.

We know that the president has complained that the Justice Department doesn't want -- doesn't do what he wants. He said that, I believe, in a radio interview. So a lack of knowledge about this doesn't mean that you can't also obstruct justice.

KEILAR: Thank you so much to all of you. Five of my favorite people here with me this evening. I appreciate it.

And still ahead, an update on that deadly train crash. Dozens of Republican members of Congress were on board when this happened. We're going to tell you how they're doing. We're going to tell you what they're also doing tonight.


[18:49:41] KEILAR: More breaking news right now. A train carrying hundreds of Republican members of Congress, their staffers and their families to a retreat in West Virginia, hit a truck that was straddling the trucks in rural Virginia. The driver was killed.

I want to go now live to CNN's Ryan Nobles. He's in West Virginia, at the GOP retreat that was going on as it was planned.

[18:50:01] Ryan, tell us the latest.

BRIAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, dozens of lawmakers arrived here to the Greenbrier Resort about an hour and a half ago. This after that train that they were onboard collided with a garbage truck in Crozet, Virginia, which is just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. As you mentioned, Brianna, that crash led to the death of the driver.

Six other people were taken to a nearby hospital and treated and evaluated after what happened at that crash. Among them, a member of Congress, Representative Jason Lewis of Minnesota. He was treated for concussion and released. He's expected to end up here at the Greenbrier to take part of in this resort.

And even though most members of Congress are going to be OK after this clash, it's clear that they were rattled what took place. Many of them traveling with spouses, some traveling with their children. They were tweeting pictures of the scene, of the accident sending out notes to their constituents and family and members to make sure they ne knew they were OK, and also offering up prayers and condolences for the victims here.

Now, there was some deliberation among Republican lawmakers that they should continue on with this retreat after what happened. But they have a lot planned here over the next three days, including a visit from the president of the United States tomorrow and, of course, vice president is expected to speak here tonight.

Meanwhile, Brianna, the investigation continues at the scene of the accident, both the NTSB and Amtrak continuing their investigation. They say, at this point, it is too early to tell exactly what went wrong -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Ryan Nobles in West Virginia for us, thank you so much.

Now, just ahead, much more ahead more breaking news on Russia investigation as president is now locked in show down with his handpicked FBI director.

Plus, Kim Jong-un brother had a mysterious meeting with an American just days before his sudden, gruesome and very public murder. Is there a connection?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:56:29] KEILAR: New tonight, CNN has learned that a test of U.S. missile defenses against North Korea failed. It's a potentially troubling set back as Kim Jong-un's regime threatens to attack the United States.

We are also learning more this hour about the mysterious murder of Kim's half brother and our Brian Todd has been digging into that.

What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we have new information tonight on a strange meeting that Kim's half brother, Kim Jong Nam, had with an American man just a few days before Kim Jong Nam was killed at the Kuala Lumpur airport. There are reports that the American man was a spy. And there are serious questions being raised tonight whether that meeting had anything to do with the murder.


TODD (voice-over): A choreographed murder, Kim Jong-un's half mother is smeared in the face with VX nerve agent in a middle of crowded airport in Kuala Lumpur. He dies within minutes. Now, a top Malaysian police investigator says just a few days before he was killed in February of last year, Kim Jong Nam met with mysterious American man on a Malaysian island.

ERIC O'NEILL, NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGIST, CARBON BLACK: It's possible he was American intelligence. We don't know, but it's quite possible and it makes sense if you think about Kim Jong Nam's background.

TODD: A Japanese newspaper previously reported that the man who Kim Jong Nam met with was an intelligence agent and was, quote, Korean- American. The CIA would not comment.

(on camera): If he was an intelligence handler, what could he want to know from Kim Jong-un?

O'NEILL: Right. So, an intelligence handler, whether it's Chinese intelligence or American intelligence, and here we think it's American, would want to know information about the inner workings of the intelligence services, which Kim Jong Nam helped to run at one point, when he was being groomed to take over for his father. They would want to know about the workings of the government, maybe about succession.

TODD (voice-over): The latest information from the Malaysian police investigator came in the investigator's testimony this week at the trial of the two women accused of killing Kim Jong Nam. Kim Jong-un's regime has denied that the North Korean dictator ordered hit the on his half brother. The Malaysian investigator previously told the court Kim Jong Nam was carrying at least $100,000 in his backup at the time of his murder.

O'NEILL: These are hundred dollar bills in denominational bricks which suggest it could have come from agent paying him for information.

TODD: Ji Seong-ho is a North Korean defector who claims to have been tortured by the regime before his escape in 2006. President Trump paid tribute to Ji during his State of the Union Address.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all.

TODD: In an interview with the White House, Ji spoke to CNN about the Kim Jong Nam killing and how much danger North Korean defectors face in other countries.

JI SEONG-HO, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR (through translated): I personally believe North Korean defectors are being active target by the North Korean regime. Even if they are not engaged in public activity, I think North Korea is trying to identify their location, and then they will try to threaten the families.


TODD: Now, former FBI agent Eric O'Neill says he doesn't think Kim Jong Nam's meeting with the mysterious American was necessarily connected to his murder a few days later. O'Neill points out that operation at the Kuala Lumpur airport involving those two women appeared to have been planned for weeks, if not months, before Kim's murder -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Brianna Todd, thank you so much for that. I'm Brianna Keilar. Thank you so much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.