Return to Transcripts main page


Republicans in Congress End Trump-Russia Probe; Interview With Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley; U.K. Blames Russia for Poisoning. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 12, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is it the end of the committee's contentious investigation?

Stormy tease. A lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels says she's willing to pay back President Trump's hush money so that she can talk freely about the affair she said they had more than a decade ago. Does she have text messages, pictures or even videos to back up her claim?

Russian nerve agent. Britain's prime minister lays blame on Russia for the poisoning of a spy and his daughter on English soil. The White House condemns the attack, but refuses to blame Russia. Why is it standing with Moscow, instead of America's closest ally?

And deadly Texas bombings. Two package bombs explode, killing one person in Austin 10 days after a similar deadly attack. Police are warning residents to beware of unexpected parcels. Who is terrorizing the Texas capital?

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.

The House Intelligence Committee's contentious investigation into Russian election interference coming to an abrupt end, amid the same partisan infighting that has plagued it from the beginning. CNN has learned that the panel's Republicans are now ending witness interviews, over sharp Democratic objections, and that they're announcing there's no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

We will talk about the breaking news and more with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Senator Jeff Merkley of the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents and analysts, they are standing by.

First, let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. He has the latest from Capitol Hill.

Manu, you had a chance to speak with a congressman, the Republican congressman leading the investigation, Mike Conaway.


Mike Conaway made very clear that the Republicans have finished the witness portion of this investigation. They're done with all their witness interviews, roughly 73 over the past year. They reached a number of findings that are bound to cause some division with the Democrats on the committee.

Among some of the key findings the Republicans have made as part of the Russian investigation, they're going to assert there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Conaway said any contacts that occurred between Trump officials and Russian were inadvertent, that it was not an effort, explicit effort by anyone in the Trump campaign to coordinate knowingly with Russian officials to meddle in the elections.

The Republicans are also going to make this very key finding. They're going to disagree with a January 2017 intelligence community assessment that Vladimir Putin directed a cyber-campaign to help Donald Trump win the presidency. They're going to disagree with that notion that Putin tried to help Trump.

They're going to say they agree with roughly 98 percent of the intelligence community's assessment, but not the 2 percent of Trump being the beneficiary of the effort by Vladimir Putin. Instead, they're going to say it is an effort to sow some discord in the U.S. elections, but not specifically to help President Trump.

Now, in addition to that, they made a number of other key findings here, Wolf. They're going to make very clear that they see no real reason to go forward on some other areas that Democrats are demanding, including holding Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist, in contempt of Congress for not answering a number of key questions.

They're not going to issue a number of subpoenas demanded by Democrats, including bringing forward people like Donald Trump Jr. to answer more questions about conversations he had with his father that he initially said were off-limits. They're not going to issue subpoenas for Trump family finances because Mike Conaway says there's no link between Russian officials, Russian activity and the Trump Organization.

They say that Democrats instead are pursuing a fishing expedition. Instead, they are going to say they believe there was Russian meddling in this election, but not an explicit effort to work with the Trump campaign. And they believe that this means this investigation on the witness side is coming to a conclusion and they want to move forward what they believe is the drafting of the report.

The report will be presented to Democrats tomorrow at a meeting, but Democrats have yet to see the report. As of late this afternoon, Mike Conaway had yet to speak to Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee who believes the investigation should keep going on. So, Wolf, this is an effort to give the Republican point of view of

exactly what happened here in 2016, but, of course, much different than what the Democrats are ultimately going to conclude as part of this investigation, Wolf.

BLITZER: How unusual, Manu, is it for the committee, for the Republicans to do this, about to release the report and the investigation with absolutely no cooperation from the Democrats? The split is very, very austere.


RAJU: Yes. And the partisanship on this committee has just engulfed this investigation for roughly a year.

Democrats blame in large part Devin Nunes, the chairman of the committee, who had to temporarily step aside, Wolf, after he briefed the president on findings that he believed was nefarious activity in unmasking of Trump individuals by Obama administration officials, and the intelligence reports.

Democrats said that that was a step too far, an effort to protect Trump. They believe Nunes has interfered with this investigation almost every step of the way. But Republicans say that the Democrats are just simply on an effort, a fishing expedition, they don't have real hard evidence on things.

They say that witnesses have made very clear there was no collusion, there is evidence of collusion, and Democrats are just simply trying to find something that isn't there. That's the reason they believe it is time to pull the plug on the investigation. Very unusual.

Different than the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation. But, Wolf, I just spoke with Senator Richard Burr, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, and he just told me just moments ago he has seen no evidence yet himself of any collusion between Trump officials and Russians and he doesn't see anything yet to substantiate that January 2017 finding that Vladimir Putin was trying to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

And that's different than what the Democrats on that committee believe. So, ultimately, we may see a breakdown on the Senate Intelligence Committee as well if that's the ultimate finding that the Republicans pursue, because the Democrats believe there was something there, there was collusion. They believe it is clear the Russians were trying to help Donald Trump become the president.

We're seeing a breakdown certainly on the House side, but potentially also on the Senate side here as that investigation moves forward. We will see what ultimately happens when they wrap up their side of the investigation, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, complete, total split between the Republicans and the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. Manu, thanks very much.

Let's get some analysis of the breaking news right now.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is with us, our justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

Gloria, I guess maybe we shouldn't be all that surprised, but usually there's a history of some bipartisan cooperation on the House Intelligence Committee.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, first of all, there's no history of any kind of cooperation on this committee. It is broken down on partisan lines.

What you see coming out of the Republicans is a partisan report that could have been written from Donald Trump's tweets, period. No evidence of collusion. They do agree with the intelligence community's assessment, most of it, except for the part that said that Russia intended to just help Trump.

They're saying, you know, that Russia intended just to confuse people and mess up the election, effectively, but didn't put his thumb on side of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

What's kind of stunning to me is that they are not interested in delving further into the Trump Tower meeting, into subpoenaing people who refused to testify before them and answer their questions, because they say they're not going to get the information they want anyway, so they have decided not to waste their time anymore.

And the notion that the Trump Tower meeting was nothing more than ill- advised. I think the point here is that the Republicans have come to a conclusion, it is very clear to me, I don't know if you agree, Evan, that the Democrats will come to a different conclusion, and none of this will get settled in Congress. The answers to these questions and others will have to be settled by the special counsel.

BLITZER: Will this Republican analysis have any effect on Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and his totally separate investigation?


There's absolutely nothing to do with what Robert Mueller is doing. And let's be clear. You shouldn't have had very high hopes for the House investigation or frankly even the Senate investigation. These are public politicians. They're going to be partisan in what they see.

What I think has been the problem from the beginning, Wolf, is this question of whether or not, of collusion, the question of whether or not there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, because there's no crime called collusion.

There's a series of other crimes that Robert Mueller can bring if he finds evidence of it, but there's no such thing called collusion that he could bring charges on. So that's always been the problem in asking the question, whether or not you saw collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. Now, it may well be that there was coordination between people in the

Trump campaign trying to get information, things of value that would violent campaign finance laws. There's a charge for defrauding the United States which we have seen in some of these other cases, conspiracy.

Those things are still on the table. And, again, the final answer will come from the special counsel. He has a lot more information than even these committees have been able to get their hands on.

BLITZER: That's an important point.

Joining us on the phone right now, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.


General, thanks very much for joining us.

There's a lot we need to discuss. But let me get your immediate reaction to news, this conclusion from the Republican majority in the House Intelligence Committee.


I guess I'm not surprised. And, of course, this is not bipartisan by any stretch. I was -- just by way of review about how the report was put together, we assembled a couple dozen of the best experts across the three agencies, CIA and FBI, to put together this report.

And we have very high confidence level in our three principal findings, which were that the objective of the Russians was to sow discord and discontent and to hurt Hillary Clinton and to help now President Trump.

And I stand on those findings, and I think the I.C., the intelligence community, today stands on those findings.

BLITZER: Well, the House Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee disagree with the last part of it. Let me read what your conclusion came to, after saying that the Russians wanted to sow dissent at the orders of Putin, they wanted to hurt Hillary Clinton. They didn't like Hillary Clinton.

Then you concluded this in the January 26, 2017 analysis. "We also assessed Putin and the Russian government aspired to help president- elect Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment. NSA, the National Security Agency, has moderate confidence."

The House Intelligence Committee's Republican majority, they say you're wrong. Tell us why you disagree with their conclusion.

CLAPPER: Well, unfortunately, I can't go into detail at risk of exposing very sensitive sources and methods and tradecraft and access.

And I hope that it doesn't happen that that all gets spilled out publicly, which would be very damaging. So I will just say that, given the evidence that we had, which was quite compelling, we had a very high confidence level in those findings.

And Admiral Rogers himself, director of the NSA still, had a lesser degree of confidence, but that was more -- that was his own view, not necessarily that of his analysts.

BLITZER: Does the House Intelligence Committee, General, have the same access to the same information and evidence that the U.S. intelligence community had, that you and your colleagues had when you prepared this January 2017 report?

CLAPPER: Yes, they did. Both the Oversight Committees got the report, classified version, as well as supporting footnotes, the sources for the derivation of that report.

It has taken I guess now 15 months. And the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have decided they don't agree with it. I guess that's their prerogative. But as I said, I stand on what our findings were.

BLITZER: Would they also have had the same access to the evidence that you and your colleagues saw that convinced you that Vladimir Putin personally ordered this election interference?


As I said, they had access, as far as I know, because I know they undoubtedly scrutinized the original assessment and the supporting documents and the supporting sources for it, to include that. And now, 15 months later, they have apparently drawn a different conclusion.

BLITZER: Let me press you a little bit, General. Is there any chance that the Russians' goal was simply to sow discord here in the United States and to weaken Hillary Clinton, but not necessarily to try to get Trump elected?

CLAPPER: No, I don't agree.

I think their objectives evolved over time. And certainly, to start with, they were interested in sowing as much doubt and discord as they possibly could, and because personal -- starting with personal animus that Putin had for Hillary Clinton, they want to everything they could to hurt her.

Then, when things got serious with then candidate Trump, particularly when he became the nominee, they were attracted to him because they thought that he would be much better for them because he is a deal- maker, a negotiator, had been to Russia, and importantly would probably not beat them up about human rights abuses. So, they clearly favored him. BLITZER: Do you believe that this House Republican majority, the

House Intelligence Committee majority, is in position to definitively say there was no collusion by the Trump campaign with the Russians?


CLAPPER: Well, they have had access to a lot of witnesses and documentation since we did our assessment.

And as I said before, at the time I left, I didn't see any direct evidence of collusion, whatever that is. I could argue that candidate Trump's exhortation to the Russians to find Hillary Clinton's 30,000 e-mails or praising WikiLeaks, which Director -- current CIA Director Pompeo has characterized -- and I think aptly so -- as a non-nation state hostile intelligence service, I could argue that that's a form of collusion.

BLITZER: Just elaborate on that, because, as you know, the president, he says all the time there was absolutely no collusion whatsoever. He calls this whole investigation a hoax, a witch-hunt. He says it was Hillary Clinton who actually colluded with Russia.

He is clearly going to use this Republican majority report to bolster his position.

CLAPPER: Well, absolutely.

This is about partisan politics. It is certainly not about objective bipartisan oversight on the part of the House Intelligence Committee.

BLITZER: James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, thanks for joining us.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's bring in our White House reporter Kaitlan Collins. She's working her sources as well.

Kaitlan, what are you learning? What's the reaction you're getting?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're not getting a lot of reaction yet, because this just broke.

But this is essentially a dream come true for this White House, and the House Intelligence Committee just handed President Trump a very convenient talking point, because as you and I both know, for the better part of a year now, the president has consistently argued that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians and that in fact it was the Democrats who colluded with Russia in the Hillary Clinton campaign.

And he had been on this so much for the past year. Even just in January, the president was very insistent that there was no collusion as he was constantly being criticized for not needling Vladimir Putin enough for Russian meddling in the election.

But listen to just how much this was on the president's mind just in January.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, again, John, there's been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians or Trump and Russians. No collusion. Bottom line, they all say there's no collusion. And there is no collusion.

I can only say this. There was absolutely no collusion. But it has been determined that there's no collusion. When they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion at any level.


COLLINS: There are two things to watch for now, Wolf. And that is the president's reaction to this, because just in November, the president begrudgingly said that he sided with our intelligence agencies that Russia did interfere in the election.

It will be interesting to see now if he sides with the House Intelligence Committee here or our intelligence community who has decided Russians did meddle in the election. And the second thing is how the president will use this to determine what he does going forward with special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling in the election, and if he tries to use this as a way to justify firing the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by.

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, he's a Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. He is with us.

Senator, I have got to take a quick break. We're getting new information. I need your reaction and your insight right after this.



BLITZER: We're following breaking news.

The Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee, they have concluded their investigation into Russian election interference here in the United States, coming to an end amid the same partisan infighting that has plagued it pretty much from the beginning.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon is joining us. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

The report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on January 6, 2017, concluded with these words. "We also assess Putin and the Russian government aspired to help president- elect Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment. NSA, the National Security Agency, has moderate confidence."

What does it say that the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are now rejecting that specific conclusion?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Wolf, this is the moment that the term House intelligence becomes an oxymoron, because, clearly, the Russians weighed in with their thumb on the scale.

Everything we know in the public realm about who they hacked, what types of information they released, how they doubled down to accentuate the divisions that Trump was promoting in his campaign, how they disliked Hillary, how they liked Trump, all of that paints a very clear picture.

And for the House to say there's no evidence that there was any weight put on one side or the other just discredits them completely.

BLITZER: Is the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee, their investigation effectively exonerating Vladimir Putin by arguing he didn't order the election interference to actually help President Trump?


MERKLEY: Well, I don't think it really helps Trump that much. It is what Trump wants to hear. It's what Trump will recite.

But the Intelligence Committee in the House has so little credibility to begin with. Remember, the chair, Nunes, was part of the -- one year ago, the bogus Deep Throat episode, where he went to the White House to get information, came back over to Congress, and said, oh, I have got this, outsider gave me information, isn't that great, goes back to the White House, presents the information to the very people he got it from, as if it was an outside party.

He has been a partisan player from the beginning. We have had absolutely no productive engagement in the issue of getting to the bottom of the issues that the committee should be addressing.

BLITZER: Based on all of the evidence you have seen, Senator, do you think any of the contacts between Russians and Trump campaign officials were simply inadvertent or ill-advised, as the House Republican majority on the Intelligence Committee conclude?

MERKLEY: Well, I think as James Clapper just said on your program, that it depends on how you define collaboration or collusion.

But, certainly, there was a lot of contact, and contact in the context of trying to get information and influence the election. So we are looking forward now. It all turns, goes to -- now goes to special prosecutor to get to the real bottom of the information. His report is going to be the one that really directs where we go from here. BLITZER: Clearly, the House Intelligence Committee is deeply divided

between the Republican majority and the Democratic minority.

Do you have confidence that the Senate Intelligence Committee will come up with a more bipartisan conclusion?

MERKLEY: Well, Senator Warner and Senator Burr, they are working very closely together. They both believe that this is an issue of national security, that this is an issue of patriotism that we get to the bottom of this, that they work together.

So, their attitude has been very, very different from the House. And I commend them for it.

BLITZER: Senator Merkley, thanks for joining us.

MERKLEY: You're welcome.

BLITZER: All right, we have a lot to report, a lot to assess. Our panel is here.

We will be right back.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this hour. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee announcing they found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and that they're now shutting down the yearlong investigation. All of this without consulting the panel's Democrats.

[18:32:09] Let's bring in our analysts and our experts. Phil Mudd, they -- they say they accept most of what the U.S. intelligence community concluded January last year, but they don't accept the conclusion that Putin actually was trying to help Trump win the election.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Can you tell me why? Why they say that? They just told us that they conducted an investigation, including interviews, where the interviewees chose not to answer questions. How the heck can they say they got to the bottom of this when they didn't interview people, because people came to the table and said, "We're not answering"?

Second question. Two parts of any investigation: interviews and technical information. Is there any evidence that they had the capability to look at phone, e-mail, text, financial records, the same stuff Robert Mueller is looking at? I saw no evidence of that.

Third question. Their primary responsibility was not to determine any culpability for wrongdoing in the last election. That's Robert Mueller. Their responsibility was not to represent party, Democrat or Republican, but to represent people. How do we protect the next election?

The last 30 minutes, Wolf, you give me one sentence where somebody spoke about how they're going to protect us instead of saying this is why the other party did something wrong. If this report were written on toilet paper, I wouldn't stoop to wipe my ass with it. These people owe us more, and they gave us less. That's what I see, Wolf. That's it.

BLITZER: Gloria, how do you see it?


Look, I think that this is a committee that decided it wanted to stop. The leadership of the committee decided it was done. It did not interview Manafort. It did not interview Gates. It did not interview Flynn. It did not interview Papadopoulos. It did not subpoena bank records. It did not get documents, as Phil is talking about.

We haven't heard anything here about obstruction, because maybe that wasn't part of their purview.

So I think that what they did was they came out and said, "Yes, the Russians were bad guys, but they weren't putting their thumb on the scale for Donald Trump."

That is an answer to a political question, and they have answered it in a political way. And they live in an alternate universe from the Democrats, who will answer it in a different way, which is why, as we were talking about before, this isn't going to be resolved in Congress. Congress is incapable, incapable at this point of resolving anything the way a serious investigator with the FBI like Bob Mueller can do, and that's why he's there.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly the House is. I mean, let's just remember: this investigation in the House Intelligence Committee has been partisan, has been broken from the start, ever since, as Senator Merkley said to you in the last segment, the chairman went running with his hair on fire to the White House to tell them something that they already knew, which turned out to be very, very political, which is part of the reason why he had to take a step back.

This is a shame, because as you said, this is supposed to be the committee that does oversight to find out what went wrong, to fix it in the future. And this is -- just the fact, the underlying fact that Republicans have decided to present the findings on their own without consultation is evidence of how broken it is.

[17:35:24] And let's just be honest. The -- the summary of what Manu was told and what we now have in front of us, is partisan. And it -- wouldn't go as far as to say what you said, Phil, but in a family friendly way, it's just -- it's not in keeping with the facts that we have seen from the intelligence community, and it is not in keeping with everything else we have seen, even from their sister investigation over in the Senate, which is bipartisan so far.

BLITZER: And it's pretty extraordinary. They didn't even inform and consult with the Democratic minority in the House Intelligence Committee, let them know that this was coming up. DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And they had a dry

run for this with the whole dossier memo controversy of a few weeks ago. The Republicans on the House committee clearly found that there was no major penalty for pushing ahead without reaching consensus with their Democratic counterparts on a committee that normally, the Intelligence Committee, is seen to be less partisan than other committees.

Wolf, I think that among other things I agree with everything everybody else has said, is that this is a rush job, right? President Trump has been in office for 13, 14 months. Special Counsel Mueller has only been on the job for less than a year. He was only appointed last May, and they're sort of trying to gallop to a conclusion on something where there's still a lot of questions.

BASH: I would go even further than rush and I would say whitewash. I mean, really. I mean, the fact that they not only made these conclusions, but more importantly, made the conclusions without being able to interview some key players or forcing the issue through subpoena, which they have the power to do on the Republican side. They're not doing it.

BLITZER: So the Russians are watching. Putin is watching. How is he going to react to this Republican majority report?

MUDD: He's going to react in a way he already has. If you have an interaction with the president where the president turns the American people, who have been told by their intelligence community that the Russians intervened, the president says, "I talked to him, and I sort of believe what he said." What do you do if you were the Russians? The same people who just attempted to murder a former Russian spy in the U.K. They're going to say what's the down side to proceeding?

One quick final point. The tragedy is not that the Republicans and Democrats differ on what happened in the last election about Donald Trump. The tragedy is that you have two sides that have an opportunity to say, "We have differing opinions about whether the Russians were favoring Donald Trump, but we have a unified set of assessments on what we do going forward to protect ourselves." That's the tragedy here.

BORGER: And also, I just want to point out here that over the months as we've been talking about this, there have been lots of conversations about whether, in fact, there was collusion. Collusion is not a crime, as Evan Perez was pointing out before.

But this report says there was no coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians, which actually takes it a step further, if you ask me. And I think it's actually up to Bob Mueller to try and figure out the rest of that.

And this committee, without doing these other interviews, these -- one part of the committee, without doing these interviews, without getting documents, without talking to some of the key players, who may or may not have been available to them without a subpoena, and maybe Mueller didn't want them to interview them -- to make these sweeping sort of statements is stunning to me and, I think, beyond what they should do.

BASH: And Gloria makes a good point. Look, this is a political document. Just the way it is. But everybody should keep their eye on the Bob Mueller ball, because that is a real investigation, real probe with real interviews and with power that these Republicans in the House had, to some extent, and chose not to use.

BLITZER: We're just hearing now from Bob Mueller's boss, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. We're going to share what we're hearing right after a quick break.


[18:43:51] BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news. The House Intelligence Committee, the Republican majority members of that committee, concluding there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Also concluding that the Russians did not -- repeat, not -- try to help Donald Trump win the election, going against the U.S. intelligence community's assessment.

Rod Rosenstein who's the deputy attorney general who oversees Robert Mueller's investigation, he told -- he said this just a little while ago. He said, "The special counsel, Robert Mueller, is not an unguided missile. I don't believe there's any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel."

Should there be any concern right now, Phil Mudd, that because of this House Intelligence Committee conclusion, there will be an effort to get rid of Mueller?

MUDD: Absolutely. I mean, you look at what's happened over, let's say, the past -- let me give you a time frame -- four to eight weeks. We had a lot of attacks on Mueller before he came out with those incredibly compelling indictments on 13 Russians.

When you read that report, it was as much an indictment as an intelligence report about the activity of 13 Russians and other Russian entities. You saw quiet about Mueller in the aftermath of those indictments.

I believe, for the people that don't like Mueller, including the president, within the next hours, you're going to see a tweet storm, maybe from the president himself that uses this as evidence to say not only is this all a hoax, but the man who's responsible for the investigation -- that is Robert Mueller, needs to go.

[18:45:14] I think this will reignite those that want to take out Mueller after they were undercut in the wake of those Russian indictments.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Well, let me play for you, Gloria, this is Raj Shah, the deputy White House press secretary, yesterday speaking about this. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's been zero evidence after a year of investigation we've seen of actual collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. The president who would be aware of any types of efforts has been pretty clear, understands and knows there's no collusion.


BLITZER: So, go ahead and react to that, because clearly, they're going to use the Republican majority report as evidence, it's over, let's move on.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You know, the president's lawyers up until this moment, I don't know if they're going to continue, have been very successful in getting the president not to tweet about Bob Mueller because they understand it is counterproductive. So, he hasn't done that. Now, he's clearly going to tweet about -- we expect -- he'll tweet about the house committee and what they said and this proves there's no collusion, Mueller ought to shut down his investigation.

But he might feel embolden then. He might feel like I don't need to take any action against Mueller because I'm going to have a congressional committee, maybe another one, who knows, on my side in all this. And so, as far as the PR war, as far as facing any kind of punishment in Congress or whatever else, he's going to feel like he has the wind in his back now.

BLITZER: Because the House Intelligence Committee's Republican majority, they're going to make the point right now that whatever context there were between Trump campaign officials and Russians were either inadvertent or ill-advised, low level.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, that's what they say here. I mean, we all will be interested to see what the meat is attached to the bones that we have right now once they actually brief the Democrats, number one, then give the public the full report. You know what? Collusion has always been something that we don't know the answer to truthfully. I mean, there's evidence of contact, no question, but taking that from there to collusion is a whole different story.

The thing to me that just seems totally not plausible is the notion that in these top lines that they put out, House Republicans, that there was no thumb on the scale. That Russia didn't try to flip the election for Donald Trump. I mean, even based on what we know vis-a- vis the bots on Facebook, we know what was done because we've seen some of the ads and some of posts that are done. I haven't seen any evidence that they did things to interfere with the election that helped Hillary Clinton. I would be interested to see if they have anything even remotely illustrative of that to back up the claim that the Russians --


BLITZER: Interesting, David, that the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, said he also so far has seen no evidence of collusion. He said this. He said, quote, it's collusion on part of the Russians I guess but not the Trump campaign.

That's chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, he's walking that line. On one hand, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have worked together better on this than in the House, but he at the same time sort of the statement doing a lean towards what the House Republicans are finding. The level of credibility for all of the committees is least credibility the House, then Senate, then the house special investigation.

But now, as everyone is saying, this gives the president a place to sort of plant his foot and say, well, it doesn't matter what the other committee or special counsel says, this House committee found that there was no collusion, et cetera.

If I can go back to what Dana said for one second, if the Russians were trying to undermine Secretary Clinton, then de facto they were helping President Trump. They may not have thought he would win the election, but it's helping her opponent undermine her, even if they ultimately thought she would win and be a weakened president in the future.

BORGER: You know, this is a piece of the puzzle, this collusion part, which again is not a crime, et cetera. It's a piece of it. There's a lot of other things that the special counsel is looking at that go to conspiracy to defraud the United States government, perhaps, which is what we saw in the indictments against the Russians.

BLITZER: Thirteen Russians indicated.

BORGER: That's right. So, there are lots of other things that they are looking at. They're looking at the analytics of the campaign. They're doing forensic examinations, I am sure, of money. So I think that this is a Republican view of a tiny slice of one piece of the investigation.

[18:50:04] And it will be blown up, of course, as you would expect, and you can't blame Donald Trump for doing it, it will be blown up by Donald Trump as saying, OK, I'm vindicated, period, end of story.

BLITZER: Let's see what that first tweet comes from the president of the United States.

All right. Everybody, stick around. There's more breaking news.

Does Daniels have text messages, picture, even videos to back up her claim she had an affair with Donald Trump. Details of her offer to pay back the $130,000 hush money. We'll be right back.


[18:55:16] BLITZER: There's also breaking news tonight in the Stormy Daniels saga. The porn star is now offering to pay back the $130,000 in hush money she received from President Trump's personal lawyer.

Our senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin is working the story for us.

Drew, in addition to all of this, Stormy Daniels is now asking for a new judge to oversee her case. What's the latest?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just breaking now, Wolf, Stormy Daniels attorney asking for a different judge in the lawsuit filed against Donald Trump and his attorney, Michael Cohen, out in Los Angeles.

L.A. Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Feffer was assigned of the case last week. She was appointed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007. Daniels' attorney files a challenge claiming that that Feffer is prejudiced against Daniels or her attorney. And Daniels believes she can't get a fair trial or an impartial or a hearing. They want a new judge.

Wolf, this all comes as Daniels' attorney has given the president and his legal team until noon tomorrow to accept this new deal which could keep them all out of court. Take the money back, $130,000 if they will just let her talk.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): The letter sent this morning seeks to resolve the pending disputes by returning the money to the president and ending the nondisclosure agreement. Stormy Daniels will pay $130,000 to President Trump by Friday. Upon receipt, the nondisclosure agreement would be deemed null and void. That would allow Daniels, who's real name is Stephanie Clifford, to speak publicly about her allegations of an affair with Trump. And according to the letter, use and publish any text messages, photos and/or videos relating to the president that she may have in her possession.

What's interesting is Stormy Daniels attorney, Michael Avenatti, is seeking to return the money directly to President Trump by wire transfer. Not to Michael Cohn who claims he is the one who made the payment. Further evidence Avenatti is trying to out-lawyer the president's attorney and keep the pressure on the president himself.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: I don't understand why the president cannot come out and state unequivocally, did he know about the agreement? Did he have anything to do with the payment being made? Three very simple questions. You don't need 140 characters on Twitter in order to answer those three questions.

GRIFFIN: Last month, Trump Attorney Michael Cohen released statement saying he facilitated the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels and that neither the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction. Cohen later stated the money came from his home equity account. Records show Cohen took out a $500,000 line of credit in February of 2016.

The one person who has remained quiet is the president himself. White House aides have struggled to answer the most basic question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the president reimburse Michael Cohen, his attorney, for making that payment?

SHAH: Yes, not to my knowledge. Again, Michael Cohen has addressed this matter extensively and the underlying allegation --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you asked the president that question? Did you know --

SHAH: I haven't asked the president about that question.


GRIFFIN: No response to any of this today from Michael Cohen, he's attorney or the White House -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Drew. Thanks for that.

Stormy Daniels has been cashing in on all publicity, stepping up her live performances at strip clubs.

Let's bring in CNN's Hadas Gold.

You had chance over the weekend, Hadas, to speak with her. How did that go?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I spent with weekend with Stormy Daniels at her various shows in Pompano Beach, Florida. She wasn't able to address the president directly or the lawsuit that they are dealing with right now, she did want to talk about how this has affected her. And to make clear that she's not roped (ph). And while she is taking advantage of the situation, she's not doing it necessarily only for money.

Let's take a listen to part of that interview.


STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: Like I just said, that I'm doing what I've always done. I'm writing, directing, performing, dancing, like none of that is changed, and people are under this huge misconception that I just started stripping. And I've actually been doing this for like 18 years.

GOLD: Like they think you take advantage of the situation.

DANIELS: Right, and that's not true. I was already -- now, yes, I'm more in demand and like I said in the "Rolling Stone" interview, if somebody came up to you and said, hey, you know that job you've been doing forever, how about next week, I pay you quadruple? Show me one person who's going to say no.


GOLD: And she's definitely getting a lot more attention. The club was very busy on Saturday night. What was most interesting is number of women who were there to see her and she seemed to really revel in that fact, grabbing their hands and thanking them for coming.

BLITZER: So, she's really taking advantage of the publicity she's getting right now. We'll stay on top of this story. Clearly, it is not going away.

Hadas, thanks for your reporting. Good report indeed.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.