Return to Transcripts main page


White House Defends Congratulatory Trump Call to Putin; White House: Trump Not Considering Firing Mueller; Reports Expose Secrets of Data Firm Used by Trump Campaign; Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell; Interview with Rep. Mike McCaul. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 20, 2018 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Congrats to the Kremlin. The White House scrambles to explain President Trump's phone call congratulating Russia's Vladimir Putin on his re-election as Republican leaders finally rally around the Russia probe special counsel, Robert Mueller.

[17:00:26] Winning secrets? An undercover investigation of the data firm tied to the Trump campaign reveals executives boasting that they were responsible for the president's election win. The firm's CEO has now been suspended. Was there a violation of election law?

Texas explosion. A package explodes in Texas, this time at a FedEx sorting facility, and another suspicious parcel is being examined. Are they linked to the deadly series of bombing that have terrified Austin?

Plus, the porn star and the Playmate. Could their lawsuits and the polygraph test keep the president preoccupied? And what about litigation by a reality show contestant?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. President Trump is taking heat for his call congratulating Russia's President Putin on his re-election win, and with Republican leaders now openly defending Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the White House insists it's not planning to fire Mueller.

The president is also facing risks relating to legal action by a former Playmate, a former reality star and a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who's now released the results of a polygraph test.

I'll speak with Congressman Eric Swalwell of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and specialists, they are all standing by with full coverage.

The White House clearly on the defensive tonight as President Trump congratulates Russia's President Putin on his re-election win. Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown. She has the latest -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Today, Wolf, the president said he had a very good call with Vladimir Putin saying that the two will meet soon to discuss the arms race.

But despite escalating tension over Russian election meddling and the poisoning in the U.K., the White House said today neither of those issues were brought up on the call.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everybody.

MURRAY: President Trump announcing today that he called Russian president Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his recent re- election.

TRUMP: I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory. The call had to do, also, with the fact that we will probably get together in the not too distant future so that we can discuss arms. We can discuss the arms race.

BROWN: After a scathing statement from Senator John McCain critical of the president and calling Putin a dictator who won a sham election, the White House wouldn't say whether it believed Russia's election was free and fair.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't get to dictate how other countries operate. What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that's not something that we can dictate to them how they operate. We disagree with the fact that we shouldn't have conversations with Russia.

BROWN: The president maintains he has been tougher on Russia than his predecessor. But today the White House said the president didn't bring up the recent poisoning of a Russian in the U.K. during his conversation with Putin or Russia's election meddling ahead of the 2018 elections.

This as the Senate Intelligence Committee reiterated some of its key findings that Russia meddled in 2016.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Let me say this with a great deal of confidence. It is clear the Russian government was looking for the vulnerabilities in our election system, highlighted -- and highlighted some of the key gaps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director, if you would please rise.

BROWN: Meanwhile, the White House is insisting there are no plans to fire the man conducting the independent Russia investigation.

SANDERS: The White House yet again confirms that the president is not considering or discussing the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why doesn't he push for the firing of Robert Mueller if he thinks the probe shouldn't have begun in the first place? If he thinks the whole thing is a witch hunt, why doesn't he fire him?

SANDERS: Look, we're going to continue to be cooperative, and we would like this to wrap up soon. We don't feel like that's the most productive step forward, but we would like to see this come to a conclusion.

BROWN: Democrats aren't buying what the president's surrogates to have say, pointing to what the president himself has been saying on Twitter. That the probe should never have been started and suggesting Mueller's investigative steam is politically biased.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I trust the tweets that the president puts out when he's unsupervised. And I think what we have seen over and over again is his intention to obstruct justice.

BROWN: And some Republicans believe a Mueller firing could spell the end for the Trump administration.

[17:05:05] HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: If the president fired Robert Mueller, do you think that would be an impeachable offense?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Probably so, if he did it without cause, yes.

I can't think of a more upsetting moment in the rule of law to have an investigator looking at a president's campaign as to whether or not they colluded with a foreign government, what kind of crimes may have been committed. I've seen no evidence of collusion, but to stop the investigation without cause I think would be a constitutional crisis.

RUMP: Thank you very much.

BROWN: But even if Donald Trump himself categorically denies any intention to fire Mueller, his credibility on such issues is highly suspect. Just last week, Trump flatly denied a "New York Times" report saying he was unhappy with his legal team and intended to add another attorney. But then did exactly that on Monday, adding Joe diGenova, who for months had peddled a conspiracy theory about the FBI and Russia election meddling.

JOSEPH DIGENOVA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Make no mistake about it. A group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.


BROWN: And the president's lawyers also reached out to former solicitor general Ted Olson about joining the team. He declined the offer for a second time. He was also approached early last year.

And Wolf, despite the president's lawyers saying for months now that the Russia probe is going to wrap up soon, it appears they are preparing for something different -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. Pamela, thank you very much. The Republican leaders of the House and the Senate today finally spoke

out forcefully on behalf of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. And another key Republican warned that firing Mueller could be an impeachable offense.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. Manu, what's the latest? What are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans are making it very clear that they would not be happy with any effort by the president to dismiss Robert Mueller. They are expressing growing frustration and concern about its escalating attacks.

However, they're stopping short of doing anything legislatively to protect Robert Mueller in this position.

Now, earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been silent about President Trump's escalating attacks on Mueller, got a chance to weigh in after I asked him about those attacks and his views on what the president has been saying.


RAJU: Over the weekend, the president launched a series of attacks against the special counsel. Are you comfortable with the president going after the special counsel in such a direct way?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, look, I agree with the president's lawyers that Bob Mueller should be allowed to finish his job. I think it was an excellent appointment. I think he will lead -- he will go wherever the facts lead him. And I think he will have great credibility with the American people when he reaches the conclusion of this investigation. So I have a lot of confidence in him.


RAJU: The top Democratic leader afterwards, Chuck Schumer, praised Mitch McConnell and said this was a shot across the bow at President Trump by defending Mueller, as fortunately, the majority leader did.

Wolf, he was also asked whether he would support any of those bills, those two bills that are pending in the Senate. That would actually ensure that Robert Mueller would have some recourse to protect him in case the president took steps to fire him. He said it's, quote, "not necessary."

And that is something that's been echoed by Republican after Republican today. That they would not support any legislative effort to protect Robert Mueller. And one reason why: they don't want to antagonize the president. At least right now, as the president suggests, he's not going to fire Robert Mueller -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Manu. Thanks to you, as well.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He's a member of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me back, Wolf.

BLITZER: So the White House says firing Robert Mueller wouldn't be the most productive step forward, but the president is attacking Mueller by name now; hiring a lawyer who says that officials at the Justice Department and the FBI, quote, "framed the president."

Is the president gearing up, do you believe, to go on the offensive right now?

SWALWELL: I believe he is, Wolf. And I believe he has a number of allies in Congress who will allow him to do that. We should take people at their word. And we'll be sorry if we don't.

I think the best thing we can do is to pass the bipartisan legislation in the House and the Senate that would cement Bob Mueller's role and ensure that he can just follow the evidence so the American people can once and for all know what the president's culpability was in the 2016 interference campaign.

BLITZER: After the president called the firing of the FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe over the weekend. A great day for democracy, his words. You tweeted this: "Gloat now, but you will be fired soon, and it's not going to be done cowardly, as you've done to so many who've served you. There's a storm gathering, Mr. President, and it's going to wipe out you and your corrupt organization all the way down to the studs."

When you say, Congressman, the president will be fired soon, what exactly are you suggesting?

[17:10:04] SWALWELL: Well, I hope it's at the ballot box this midterm election and then in 2020 by the voters.

But I think by his own conduct he's inviting articles of impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee, if he were to fire Mueller, or if Mueller were to refer any charges. Then of course there are the pending criminal investigations that are taking place.

My point, Wolf, is that there's going to be a reckoning for this president. My hope for the country is that it comes at the ballot box by the voters.

BLITZER: Well, do you support impeachment?

SWALWELL: I support investigations that are thorough, and right now, we saw the House investigation shut down. I think the only way we can get a thorough investigation is if the Democrats win the Congress.

And an investigation should first tell the American people what we're going to do to harden the ballot boxes and then hold the president accountable. Whether it's on hiring his family, making money off the office, any work that he did with the Russians during the campaign. But we should be, I think, more faithful to the facts and the truth than he is and not just jump to conclusions.

BLITZER: As the Republican and Democratic leadership in the Senate Intelligence Committee today was issuing a very stern warning about vulnerabilities in the upcoming November mid-term elections, President Trump was actually congratulating Vladimir Putin on his own election. He didn't press Putin on the nerve agent attack in the U.K. or the ongoing election meddling by Russia. What does that tell you?

SWALWELL: It tells me, Wolf, that he identifies more closely with Putin than he does with our friends.

It's also like congratulating the Harlem Globetrotters. It was a sham election. Putin had thrown out his chief opponent. But this is a pattern we're seen, where after President Erdogan extended his ability to serve in Turkey, the president immediately reached out to him. When President Xi in China announced that he would also be able to serve much longer, President Trump praised that and suggested that we should do that in the United States.

And if you remember, Wolf, when Angela Merkel was reelected, it took over two days for the president to reach out to one of our closest allies. I think he needs to reach closer and bring us closer to our allies and speak more firmly toward those who wish to harm America.

BLITZER: In undercover video recorded by ITN Channel 4 News in Britain, the suspended Cambridge Analytica CEO, Alexander Nix, spoke about his testimony before your committee, the House Intelligence Committee. Watch what he said.


ALEXANDER NIX, SUSPENDED CEO, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: I went to speak to them, and the Republicans asked three questions. Five minutes, done. The Democrats asked two hours of questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you had to answer everything?

NIX: No, it's voluntary, but I did because I'm trying to help them. We have no secrets. They're politicians; they're not technical.


NIX: They don't understand how it works. They didn't understand, because the candidate never -- is never involved. He's told what to do by the campaign team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the candidate is the puppet?

NIX: Always.


BLITZER: Nix appeared before your committee last December. What's your reaction to that?

SWALWELL: Nix was not the only witness who the Republicans went easy on, Wolf. This was a pattern that we saw throughout the investigation. Witnesses would literally be asked, "Hey, did you see any collusion with the Russians? Nope? OK. Go on your way. We're not going to subpoena any records to verify whether that was true or not, or probe you any further."

That's why, you know, we owe it to the American people to tell them who was responsible for the interference campaign, whether the government response was adequate, and what reforms we'll put in place in a unified way so this doesn't happen again. We should reopen our investigation and make sure we fully understand what happened.

BLITZER: Congressman Swalwell, thanks for joining us.

SWALWELL: Yes, my pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: More breaking news coming up. A package explodes at a Texas shipping facility, and another suspicious parcel is being checked. Are they linked to the deadly series of bombings that have terrified Austin? I'll speak with House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Congressman Mike McCaul.

And porn star Stormy Daniels releases the results of a polygraph test about her affair with Donald Trump. What will be the impact on the president?


[17:18:28] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories here in Washington, as well as in Texas, where a package exploded at a FedEx facility near San Antonio and a second suspicious package has been found intact near Austin. We're going to have a full report on the serial bombing investigation that's going on in Texas in just a little while.

But joining us right now is Republican Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas. He's the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. His district includes Austin, Texas. I want to get to what's happening in Austin. It's pretty frightening, as you well know.


BLITZER: In a moment. A couple of news questions. I want to get your thoughts on this Cambridge Analytica. This scandal that's going on right now. You've heard these executives claim --

MCCAUL: Right.

BLITZER: -- they were the ones responsible, because they had access to all these Facebook profiles, of getting Donald Trump elected president of the United States. There's questions of legality, and there's questions of even homeland security, as far as our elections are concerned. Your reaction?

MCCAUL: Well, I think there's a question of privacy. I think it impacted 50 million Facebook accounts. I think the app itself from Cambridge Analytica impacted about 275,000 users. So I think -- I know Senator Thune sent a letter to Facebook asking

about the privacy implications. I do see hearings on this issue to see what happened here, how were these --

BLITZER: You want to hold hearings?

MCCAUL: I think it will take the lead. They sent a letter to find out, is privacy violated in this case? So I'm not sure if the campaign knew that they were getting 50 million users. But, you know, that's something that will come out.

BLITZER: Yes. Because a lot of people want Mark Zuckerberg to come up to Capitol Hill, not just some executives or some lawyers, but to personally go up there and answer questions. Would you support that?

[06:20:10] MCCAUL: I would. And look, I got the briefing in October. Gang of Eight before the 2016 elections. It was clear to me Russia was meddling in the election. Been very consistent. We should call them out for what they're doing and there should be consequences. And those are the sanctions.

BLITZER: And today the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee said they're doing it now. They're getting ready for the midterm elections.

MCCAUL: And they are. They are.

BLITZER: Which raises the question. The president today, he congratulated Vladimir Putin on his election. Let me read to you what Senator John McCain said when he heard that.

"An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine country's future including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin's regime."

Your reaction to that?

MCCAUL: Well, look, I think the president is trying to be diplomatic. Let's make no mistake: Putin is not our friend. He never has been. He's been very aggressive in Crimea, the Ukraine, the Baltic region. He wants to regain the glory of the old Soviet empire. He did meddle in our elections. He is actively, from my briefings, is trying to influence the 2018 elections.

So I think we need to stand up firm like we have with Kim Jong-un. Let's stand up firm to Putin in Russia, Xi in China and also, Iran. Those are the main foreign adversaries.

BLITZER: Because there's concern that they're also potentially going to hack the nation's power grid. The electrical, the water system, as well. You're the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. Are they attempting to do that? MCCAUL: They already have. And the question is, do they have

fingerprints in our SCATA systems? Are they in our, you know, critical infrastructures, currently? We know that they have capability to shut things down. So does China with espionage, as well. China stole 20 million security clearances, including my own.

This is all going on in cyberspace, and that's something my committee has been very vocal about.

BLITZER: Here's the problem. Is the president personally -- I know some of his cabinet members are involved, but is the president personally speaking out enough about this? Doing enough about it? Because you rarely, if ever, hear him say a critical word about Putin.

MCCAUL: I think he finally has acknowledge that they meddled in our elections.

BLITZER: Barely.

MCCAUL: And I think, you know, when you look at it from his CIA director, maybe his State Department, the secretary, I think they've all come out. The NSC has also.

BLITZER: They have. But the president doesn't. The president never says anything, you know, that's even remotely critical of Putin.

MCCAUL: And I think he --

BLITZER: Today he congratulated him on his win.

MCCAUL: I think he would be well advised to condemn and criticize.

BLITZER: You would want him to speak out?

MCCAUL: I would.

BLITZER: Yes. Are you -- are you confident that our elections, our mid-term elections are going to be safe, secure, free and fair? The Russians won't be able to change votes, if you will?

MCCAUL: That's something that they can't -- in terms of the voting machines themselves that are unplugged from the Internet, what we are worried about is the campaign disinformation warfare that they -- we know they're trying to attack.

We're also worried about members of Congress being hacked into with these phishing e-mails. That, you know, I get probably ten of those a day. And I think they have begun a very active campaign to influence the 2018 elections.

BLITZER: Let's talk about what's going on in Texas right now, in your hometown of Austin. This looks like a serial bomber may be on the loose.

MCCAUL: It's frightening. And for me it's personal. I talk a lot about terror events across the world. This one is in my home town of Austin. There were four bombings. Last night, the fifth one, it looks like -- I talked to the head of the FBI down there and the ATF, and my police chief. It looks like they're all interrelated.

BLITZER: Is there one individual, you suspect, behind it, or are there multiple?

MCCAUL: We don't know at this point in time. We know the devices are very similar.

BLITZER: The one including the trip wire is similar to the other two?

MCCAUL: The trip wire and the one that went off at the FedEx. Now remember, that package was going from Austin -- went through Schertz. The sender was to Austin, Texas.

BLITZER: What does the sophistication of the bombs tell you?

MCCAUL: I think it is fairly sophisticated. The trim wire shows a high level of sophistication. I'm concerned about -- this is almost like the sniper incident you had on the East Coast. You don't know where and when the next sniper is going to hit.

And that's the anxiety in my home town right now. But I will tell you, we've deployed 500 agents down there: 400 FBI, 100 ATF. We have our Department of Public Safety, APD, and all the other police departments surveilling Austin. I think with the evidence we may get from this latest bomb, there was a package also found at the airport that we think may be linked to him as well. That can provide, because it didn't explode. That could provide information, because it didn't explode, it could provide information about fingerprints, DNA, that sort of thing.

Is this domestic terrorism?


MCCAUL: Well, I defer to the FBI on that. If they open the case up as domestic terrorism, then that's their call.

I was the chief of counterterrorism and national security down in Austin, Texas, for many years in the U.S. attorney's office. So they open the case as domestic terrorism or international terrorism. We still haven't ruled out ISIS. Although I would say if it was ISIS, I think they would have claimed credit for it at this point in time.


BLITZER: If ISIS were involved in the bombings?

MCCAUL: But we do know that ISIS does -- they do want to send bombs in packages. And that's what concerns me about this. That this looks more like an anarchist if you ask me.

BLITZER: Yes, well, let's hope for the best, and hope you find this guy, or these people who were involved in this. People are terrified right now. MCCAUL: You have to be really careful. A package on the front door

and you don't know what it is. Don't open it up.

BLITZER: Yes. Just call 911.

MCCAUL: I agree.

Not just in Austin but in that whole area, digging elsewhere, as well. Just be cautious.

Mike McCaul, thanks so much for joining us.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Stay with us. There's more breaking news. New information about a polygraph test taken by the porn star who says she had an affair with President Trump.



BLITZER: There's lots of breaking news right now, including a tweet that just came in from Stormy Daniels, the former porn star. Let's bring in our experts and discuss. And Gloria, let me read to you this tweet from Stormy Daniels. She's not going away by any means. We'll put it up on the screen right now. "Technically I didn't sleep with the POTUS 12 years ago. There was no sleeping. Ha ha. And he was just a goofy reality TV star. But I digress. People do care that he lied about it, had me bullied, broke laws to cover it up, etc. And P.S. I'm not going anywhere. X-O-X-O-X-O"

[17:31:23] She isn't going anywhere, and two other women are legally challenging the president right now, as well.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: So I think the president has met his match in Stormy Daniels. They're pretty similar. They know how to use the media. They're not afraid to do it. She's got a -- she's got a new lawyer who's all about the publicity, getting on television. They're promoting this interview that she's doing on "60 Minutes." And they are -- they are trying to coax the president out on this. And giving the other women that you're talking about now, Karen McDougal, et cetera, they're giving them some running room here, some oxygen.

And so I know we've been talking about Russia and everything else. But this is a story that has been sort of bubbling up. And I think it's going to continue to place the president in a situation where he's going to have to address it. Not just in court.

BLITZER: Yes, there's three women --


BLITZER: -- with legal challenges, Sabrina, to the president. Stormy Daniels, former porn star; Karen McDougal, the former "Playboy" model; Summer Zervos, a reality TV star from "The Apprentice." All of them are making major legal challenges to the president. You see their pictures on the screen right now.

BORGER: Zervos just won in court today.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": I think this is one of the few stories in the Trump era that has actually stuck for several weeks now. And in part, because Stormy Daniels and her lawyer have been very savvy in the way that they've kept it alive by offering these little bread crumbs but not giving up too much detail.

And you have two parallel issues here. You have someone like Stormy Daniels who was paid this hush money by Michael Cohen. The story hasn't added up. He said he paid it out of his own pocket, but there are links to the Trump Organization in the correspondence there. Then you have some other women who have come forward with allegations of sexual assault against the president. I think as these continue to mount, as you have more and more people who are coming forward, especially with these lawsuits, it's hard to imagine the president will be forced to address this directly. The White House has tried to ignore it. But you can see at least potentially Trump tweeting about it. So far he's been surprisingly restrained.

BLITZER: It's a political nightmare right now for the president potentially, isn't it?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It actually is. And we should just stop for a second and think about what we're talking about. We're talking about hush money paid to a pornographic actress.

We're talking about intimidation to try prevent a pornographic actress from actually going out and talking about her relationship with the president. We're talking about other women right now who are saying that actions were taken to prevent them from telling their story about their relationship with the president. If this was any other president, they would be gone. They would be thrown out of the White House right now.

My question is right now, is what are the American people thinking? And I understand that there's a fire hose out of Washington right now with Russia news, with President Trump tweeting, with the Stormy Daniels stuff. But the fact that government could shut down in a couple days. What are they thinking?

BLITZER: Well, let's ask Phil Mudd what he's thinking. Go ahead, Phil.

PRESTON: Go on, Phil.

BORGER: What are you thinking?

PRESTON: Speak to America.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, first of all, I'm glad you referred to Stormy Daniels as a porn actress and not a porn star. I want to know what awards she's won that determine whether she's a porn star?

But seriously, this story -- his story is transitioning. And I think we need to focus on that transition. A few weeks ago, a month ago, I would have said, look, this is a problem for Melania. If somebody wants to sleep with people who are porn stars, it's an issue in the marriage bedroom. That's transitioned recently. So let's be clear about why.

We have a judge just in the past day or two who has agreed that a suit should go forward. That suit includes allegations of assault by the president. So we're transitioning from a vaguely humorous story about what the president did ten years ago to an ongoing lawsuit, including allegations of illegal activity, assault against a woman. I think we need to focus on that transition. That's the story. Porn star or porn actress was funny a month ago. It's not funny anymore.

[17:35:14] BLITZER: Yes, and it comes at a time, Gloria, when the president seems to be shifting his public attitude towards the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

BORGER: Right. Look, the president is in a punching mood. We'll tell you that. He believes that he was misled by his attorneys, who told him this was going to be over, this is going to be over, this is going to be over. It's not over.

Mueller has indicated to them that he wants to know a lot about things that Trump really doesn't want to talk about. Say the Trump Organization, Jeff Sessions' role in the firing of Comey, what Trump knew about Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador's investigation with -- with General Flynn, all kinds of things, and there's more.

And so he knows it's not going to be over. So he's changing horses. He's adding horses, let me put it that way. His legal team is in complete disarray. Some have threatened to quit privately. And now he's running the show, and it's going to be a show in which he fights back.

BLITZER: And Republican leaders in this House and Senate, they're finally basically telling the president, "Don't even think about firing Mueller."

PRESTON: They are. Because if he does fire Mueller, the problems are really going to rest on the shoulders then of the members of Congress and especially heading into this election year.

That's why, I mean, we only heard Mitch McConnell for the first time today in several months actually speak Mueller's name, and in doing so, he said, "Don't touch him."

We saw Paul Ryan say today about as much as we're going to hear Paul Ryan say when he walked up to the line and said, "I've been told he's going to let him do his job." Well, we hope that's true. But with President Trump, who knows? He could fire him. I think that he's more likely to fire him today he was yesterday.

BORGER: Or fire Rosenstein. PRESTON: Or Rosenstein, accuse me. Thanks.

SIDDIQUI: I think in some ways the president has been given a great deal of latitude by Republicans on Capitol Hill. And so he's been emboldened, I think, to test the waters a little bit, put out these trial balloons about considering firing Mueller to see if Republicans would actually take any kind of action.

It's notable even as Mitch McConnell was very forceful and expressing the integrity of the special counsel. He also said there's no need yet for any legislation to protect the special counsel. There is bipartisan legislation.

BLITZER: Both leaders, the Republican leader Paul Ryan and the speaker in the House, Mitch McConnell in the Senate, they only speak about it when they're asked. They don't go out and aggressively make a statement.

Phil, before I let you go, let me talk a little bit about the president congratulating Putin on his win, John McCain coming out with a strong statement, Mr. President, basically saying why are you congratulating? This was a sham election. What are your thoughts?

MUDD: One quick thought. We had five weeks ago, the Department of Justice indict 13 Russians. Two weeks ago, the Brits say, our closest ally, say the Russians tried to murder someone in the U.K. And the president can't stand to mention it. I don't get it, Wolf. It doesn't make any sense to me.

BLITZER: Why is the president so reluctant to criticize Putin?

MUDD: I think because as soon as he criticizes them, it suggests that the Russians did interfere and people start once again getting to that Achilles' heel that he worries about. Is your election legitimate or did the Russians influence it?

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everybody stick around. There's more breaking news we're following. Rapidly changing developments in the hunt for a serial bomber in Texas. Has an important clue just turned up?

And an update on the investigation into another school shooting where a school resource officer confronted a student gunman.


[17:43:03] BLITZER: There's breaking news in the investigation into the Texas serial bombing. A package exploded overnight at a FedEx facility near San Antonio. And authorities now say a second suspicious package turned up intact near Austin where four other package bombs have exploded this month.

CNN correspondent Nick Watt is joining us right now. He's got the latest on the investigation.

Nick, what are you learning? NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this investigation is

fluid, fast moving and growing. There are now hundreds of federal agents plus local law enforcement across two Texan cities on the trail of a bomber who started out dropping bombs on people's doorsteps, moved onto a trip wire, and now appears to be sending explosive packages via FedEx.


WATT (voice-over): A little after midnight, another alarming escalation. A package exploded on a conveyor belt here at this FedEx sorting facility 60 miles southwest of Austin.

CHIEF MICHAEL HANSEN, SCHERTZ, TEXAS, POLICE: One employee that was standing near the explosion later complained -- complained of ringing in the ears. She was treated and released.

WATT: ATF, FBI and local law enforcement swarmed the scene.

JAMES SMITH, FBI ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Well, that's what we're working on right now. We're trying to understand what actually happened. We're trying to surf through the evidence and let the evidence take us to where we need to go.

WATT: The FBI says law enforcement is now looking at two packages from Tuesday. The one that exploded in Schertz and the second suspicious package found earlier this morning at another FedEx facility near the Austin airport.

Federal Express says the company turned over to law enforcement extensive evidence related to these packages and the individual that shipped them. Collected from our advanced technology security systems.

The FBI now telling CNN they suspect these devices are linked to their investigation into the 18-day bombing spree in the Texas capital that has left two men dead, killed by packages left on their porches, an elderly woman badly injured by a similar device, and two young men injured by a device triggered by a trip wire across a sidewalk in a quiet neighborhood Sunday night.


JEANNETTE PETEN, RESIDENT, AUSTIN, TEXAS: Before, we had to look for a package. Now, you have to look for everywhere. I mean, it's harder to see a wire than it is a package.

DESTINY WINSTON, SENIOR POLICE OFFICER, AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT: If you are not expecting a package, if it's something that has an official label on it, or, really, just -- not just a package itself, if there is anything out of the ordinary, we are asking the community to please call 911.

WATT (voice-over): This afternoon, Sarah Sanders tweeting from the White House, there is no apparent nexus to terrorism at this time. And the President making his first comments on the situation.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This obviously a very, very sick individuals, or maybe individuals. These are sick people, and we will get to the bottom of it.

WATT (voice-over): Authorities have appealed to the bomber to contact them. The individual has not. A motive remains unclear.


WATT: Investigators are now pouring over surveillance camera footage from that tripwire attack in Austin Sunday night as well as examining those two devices from today.

And they're also appealing to the public for help. The reward for any information leading to an arrest, Wolf, is now at $115,000.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's hope they get this guy and get him quickly. Nick Watt, thanks very much.

Coming up, an update on today's deadly events at a Maryland school where a teenage student brought a gun and opened fire.


[17:51:11] BLITZER: Another bloody school shooting today, this time in southern Maryland where a high school gunman opened fire before he was engaged by an armed school resource officer.

Two students were wounded. The shooter is dead.

Let's go live to Brian Todd. He is in Great Mills, Maryland for us.

What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one of those students, a 16- year-old female student from this high school has life-threatening injuries tonight. We're also getting more information on the possible motive of the shooter and of the decisive heroic actions of the school resource officer here that are being credited with saving lives.


TODD (voice-over): It's believed to have lasted for less than a minute. A 17-year-old student opened fire in the hallway of the school just before 8:00 a.m.

SHERIFF TIMOTHY CAMERON, ST. MARY'S COUNTY, MARYLAND: Today, at approximately 7:55 a.m., Great Mills High School student Austin Wyatt Rollins, age 17, produced a handgun while in Hallway F in Great Mills High School and shot a Great Mills High School student, a female who was 16, and a Great Mills High School student, a male who was 14.

TODD (voice-over): Authorities say Austin Rollins shot the female student before engaging in a round of gunfire with the school resource officer, Blaine Gaskill. Officials say it's not clear whether Rollins was killed by Gaskill's shot or if he committed suicide.

CAMERON: DFC Blaine Gaskill fired at the shooter in what was described to me as almost simultaneously the shooter fired.

TODD (voice-over): The Sheriff's Office tells CNN that Gaskill, a current SWAT officer, was just assigned to Great Mills High School last August. Tonight, investigators are looking into the relationship between the shooter and the female victim as a possible motive.

CAMERON: There is an indication that a prior relationship existed between the shooter and the female victim. We are working, as we speak, to determine if that was, and if so, the extent of that, and if it was part of the motive for this shooting.

TODD (voice-over): Toni Foreman has lived across the street from Austin Rollins for years. He would often play sports with her son.

TODD (on camera): No signs of any previous behavioral issues?

TONI FOREMAN, NEIGHBOR OF AUSTIN WYATT ROLLINS: Nothing. Great family, great kid. I just think it was just a bad situation that he couldn't process.

TODD (voice-over): The incident marks the third shooting at a high school since the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month where 17 were killed.

The school resource officer at Stoneman Douglas, Scott Peterson, resigned his position after footage emerged showing that Peterson never went into the building while the shooting was happening.

This edited surveillance video released last week appears to show Peterson standing outside the building while the shooting unfolded.

SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of Building 12, take up a position, and he never went in.

TODD (voice-over): The shooting in Parkland sparked a national outcry for gun control legislation. Last week, students at Great Mills High School walked out of class as part of a nationwide student-led protest against school violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just had a walkout just a week ago about gun violence. We're just trying to, like, make sure that we don't have to deal with this, and we deal with this a week later.


TODD: Tonight, investigators say that, so far, they have not discovered any warning signs on the part of the shooter. No instances of previously disturbing behavior and nothing indicating that on his social media accounts, on his cell phone, on his computer, or in his car.

But officials tell us they are combing through all of that evidence. We are told that the shooter's family is cooperating with investigators, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd in Great Mills, Maryland. Thanks for that report.

[17:54:58] Coming up, the White House now scrambling to explain President Trump's phone call congratulating Russia's Vladimir Putin on his reelection as Republican leaders finally rally around the Russia probe Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

And the President facing risks relating to new legal action by a former Playmate, a former reality star, and by porn star Stormy Daniels who has now also released the results of a polygraph test.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Election secrets exposed. Stunning new claims tonight in an undercover investigation of a controversial data firm that worked for the Trump campaign. Did Cambridge Analytica win the election for the President and were laws broken along the way?