Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Texas Congressman Will Hurd; Interview With Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti; Nashville Shooting Suspect Arrested; Van Plows Into Pedestrians in Toronto; Former President George H.W. Bush Hospitalized After Contracting Infection that Spread to His Blood. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 23, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A van plows into a crowd of pedestrians on a busy street, killing at least nine people. Toronto police now have the driver in custody, as we await details about the motive. Was this an act of terror?

Flipping out? After the president defends Michael Cohen in a new Twitter rant, the White House is trying to play down speculation that Mr. Trump's lawyer may be pardoned to prevent him from turning on the president.

This hour, I will talk about the Cohen criminal probe and the land mines ahead with Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti.

Captured. Police track down the Waffle House shooting suspect after an urgent manhunt for the accused killer last seen by eyewitness who say he was armed, naked and opening fire. We will have a live report.

And the presidents club. We will talk about the photo that went viral showing Melania Trump happily hobnobbing with former presidents and former first ladies. Did it send a message to President Trump?

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: Breaking tonight.

A white van turned into a killing machine on a street packed with pedestrians. Witnesses describe a scene of panic and horror as a driver rammed into a crowd in Toronto. Police say at least nine people were killed, 16 injured.

The driver is now in custody after an apparent standoff with police.

I will get reaction from the House Homeland Security Committee embassy Will Hurd. He's standing by now.

I will also talk about President Trump's legal troubles with Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti. He's standing by live as well. And our correspondents and experts, they will also report all the late-breaking developments.

First, let's go to our national correspondent, Jason Carroll, with more on the van attack in Toronto.

Jason, what do we know right now about what happened?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are getting some new details this evening.

A law enforcement source telling CNN that the suspect in question was known to authorities there in Toronto. That same law enforcement source also indicating that this was an intentional act. This all unfolding some time around 1:30.

That's when eyewitnesses who were really pulling together much of the horrifying details of what happened around 1:30 this afternoon, that's when the rental van jumped the curb and began mowing down pedestrians who were on the sidewalk.

One eyewitness described it as pandemonium. Another says he saw four bodies on the sidewalk while others who were injured were being treated by paramedics. One eyewitness who was there on the ground, his name is Ali, listen to how he described what he saw.


ALI, WITNESS: Everybody, all these people on the streets getting hit one by one, post office box getting crumpled up on people, and one person got dragged on. And their blood is all over Yonge and Empress. It's really bad out there, man.

I'm so shaky, I'm still dying from this. I can't believe this is happening. This is like unbelievable. This is so unbelievable.

QUESTION: Was he swerving towards people?

ALI: He just went on the sidewalk. He just started hitting everybody, man. He hit every single person on the sidewalk. Anybody in his way, he would hit, the bus stop. Everything else shattered.

There was a lady in there I saw. I just stopped and I looked and I just went after it again. All I see is it's crumbling up. One by one, one by one. Holy God. I have never seen a scene like this in my life, I swear.


CARROLL: And, Wolf, one witness says he saw two cars actually tried to block the van, but the van was able to get around them and kept going down the sidewalk. Again, nine dead, 16 injured.

One local hospital there, Sunnybrook Hospital, says they have five people in critical condition, two in serious, one in fair condition -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Didn't take long for Toronto police to find the suspect and take him into custody, right?

CARROLL: Certainly didn't. When you consider what happened here, the van was able to travel about a half-mile to a mile before it finally came to a stop.

And then in a dramatic moment, the driver had a confrontation with a police officer. All of it was caught on tape. Let's just watch and listen to what happened during those final moments.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down! Get down! Get down! Get down!



CARROLL: Again, you can see there the driver, wearing all black, repeatedly taunts the officer at one point, repeatedly tries to draw -- simulates drawing from his waist there.

The officer using incredible restraint as he's able to handcuff him and bring him into custody. That suspect now being questioned by police. Once again, this is a suspect who was known to police -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very important development, indeed. Jason Carroll, thanks very much.

I want to bring in our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, and our law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell.

Shimon, are there any indications that we know so far this could be terrorism?


But certainly there are indications. This is right out of what we have seen in other attacks, certainly right out of the playbook of ISIS-inspired attacks. You have the van, it jumping the curb, what appears to be going at pedestrians intentionally.

All of that certainly has law enforcement at least considering that this is a terrorism -- an act of terrorism. I know that authorities there are still talking to the driver, so they're trying to learn motivation, whether or not this is motivated by some ideology. We don't know.

But that is certainly part of the investigation right now.

BLITZER: When you saw and see this dramatic video, Josh, of the actual apprehension of this suspect, what goes through your mind?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, two things, first of all, stand out to me, the first of which being, as Jason mentioned, the incredible restraint on the part of that officer to take the subject into custody without firing a shot.

Obviously, from our vantage point, as we're looking at that video, it's tough to tell exactly what the subject has in his hand. It appears as though from the law enforcement officer stepping away from the cover of the vehicle that possibly he positively identified the object in the subject's hand as not being a weapon. So we see him taken into custody.

But, secondly, I want to point out something that is also -- causes great concern. And that is if you look behind the subject behind the van, you see pedestrians walking casually. I think this shows those -- and again, we're always, those in law enforcement, trying to tell people you need to pay attention to your surroundings.

You really need to focus on what's going on, because it could save your life. In this instance, we see three people walking there that appear to just be clueless about what's going on around them. It's very troubling.

BLITZER: We just heard Jason Carroll report that this individual, the suspect, was known to local law enforcement in Toronto. What does say that to you?

PROKUPECZ: Yes. I have been asking law enforcement here that question. They're not right now getting into that.

We don't know exactly what the nature of the relationship was between law enforcement and this suspect. But we do know, as you said, Wolf, that he was known to police. I'm told it may have to do with more of local matters.

So we're looking into that. But we don't exactly know what he's known for. I mean, it gives police an incredible amount of information that they know of him. How they know of him, we will learn at some point. But that's certainly a very good clue.

In a lot of these situations, sometimes, the suspect dies. So they will be able to talk to him. And they are talking to him, I'm told. That will give them a lot of information. But, Wolf, this certainly appears to be right out of the ISIS playbook. We have seen these types of attacks often.

I was talking with a law enforcement source who said, quite frankly, his impression was this just happens so often now that the assumption right away is that it's terrorism.

CAMPBELL: And that is always a question that law enforcement will be asking themselves. Is this someone that's known to us?

And not just the law enforcement in the immediate jurisdiction, but that information about the name, the identifiers will be just spread out, disseminated to law enforcement officers around the country, indeed around the world, to determine do they have information that can assist local officials in determining why the subject did what he did, what the possible motive is, and then obviously any associates. PROKUPECZ: And I think, Wolf, just importantly, this appears to be

right now an isolated incident. I think that's important for people to understand. This doesn't right now appear to be part of any larger nexus.


BLITZER: But you see that white rental vehicle, that van. Unfortunately, we have seen similar kind of rental vehicles in the past.

PROKUPECZ: That's exactly right.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we will stay on top of this. We're not going to leave this story.

But there's other important news we're following right now, including news involving President Trump. He's showing the president of France the D.C. sights tonight, the start of an official state visit, a first for the administration.

Looking at live pictures coming in from Mount Vernon, Virginia, not far from president, the president, President Trump, President Macron of France, and the first ladies, Brigitte Macron and the first lady, Melania Trump. They're getting off of Marine One right now.

They took a very, very brief helicopter flight from the White House over to Mount Vernon. They're going to be touring Mount Vernon. And then they're going to have dinner there as well before returning to the White House.

Jim Acosta is our chief White House correspondent.

A lot of focus on this first official state visit, Jim.


And part of the reason why is because Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, they have a pretty good working relationship. We have seen that on display. We have seen the president have some frosty relations with other world leaders.


That has not been the case with Emmanuel Macron. We just saw them on the South Lawn of the White House a few moments ago, Wolf. They were talking to reporters just very briefly.

And during that moment there, they planted a tree on the South Lawn. And at one point, the president was asked about Kentucky Senator Rand Paul changing his mind on the fate of the president's pick for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. The president telling reporters at that moment there that he appreciates what Rand Paul is doing, that he's a good man, he hasn't let us down.

And so the president making a few brief remarks on the South Lawn of the White House before they boarded Marine One en route to Mount Vernon.

But, yes, you're right, Wolf, they are going to have dinner there tonight. The state dinner is here tomorrow night. And obviously all this pomp and circumstance here in Washington is something that the Trump administration is really trying to pull off for the first time, because, you know, this is the first state dinner and always the details matter when that sort of thing happens over here at the White House.

Now, the president, besides the pomp and circumstance of this state visit, he's going to be dealing on some weighty foreign affairs issues with the French president, from the Iran nuclear deal, to whether or not the president should have this face-to-face encounter with Kim Jong-un.

He's also focusing on some pretty pressing domestic matters as well, Wolf, from these inflammatory comments that the president keeps making on immigration, to the fate of his personal attorney Michael Cohen.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House claims it's not worried the president's personal attorney Michael Cohen will turn against Mr. Trump and start working with federal prosecutors.

The president even tweeted about it, saying: "Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that despite the horrible witch-hunt and the dishonest media."

But the White House won't close the door on a potential pardon for Cohen. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders wouldn't rule it out.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's hard to close the door on something that hasn't taken place. I don't like to discuss or comment on hypothetical situations that may or may not ever happen.

ACOSTA: A source familiar with discussions inside the president's legal team says Mr. Trump's lawyers aren't worried yet about Cohen flipping, but adds: "They're preparing for all possibilities."

Another possibility, the White House can't seem to rule out is firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: We have no intention of firing the special counsel. We have been beyond cooperative with them. We're continuing to cooperate with them.

ACOSTA: That's despite this tweet from the president, asking: "James Comey illegally leaked documents to the press in order to generate a special counsel? Therefore, the special counsel was established based on an illegal act?"

Mr. Trump will have his chance to turn his attention elsewhere this week with the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron. EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: This is a great honor and I think

a very important state visit, given the moment of our current environment.

ACOSTA: Upon arriving at the Blair House across from the White House, Macron and his wife decided to go for a stroll down to the National Mall, before sitting down with the president to discuss the Iran nuclear deal and Mr. Trump's plan to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Asked whether the president would insist on fully denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, the White House was evasive on that subject too.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Certainly, the goal is denuclearization of the peninsula.

ACOSTA: Back at home, the president is still fixated on so-called sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that decline to share information with federal authorities in the removal of some undocumented immigrants.

The president has fired off a number of tweets, including this one from last week. "There's a revolution going on in California. So many sanctuary areas want out of this ridiculous ,crime-infested and breeding concept."

The White House was asked about the use of the word breeding.

(on camera): When he used the word breeding, was he making a derogatory term about Latinos in California, that they breed a lot or that they're prone to breeding?


HUCKABEE SANDERS: No, he's talking about the problem itself growing and getting bigger.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What does breeding mean to this president? Because, when you think of breeding, you think of animals breeding, populating.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm not going to begin what you think. Certainly, I think that it can mean a lot of things to a lot of people.


ACOSTA: Now, Wolf, we never got a clear answer as to what Sarah Sanders was talking there in reference to the president's tweet about immigrants breeding out in California.

But, meanwhile, the White House continues to insist the president has nothing to worry about when it comes to Michael Cohen because officials say over here the president hasn't done anything wrong.

Asked whether the president's loyal personal attorney could ever turn against the president, one source close to the White House put it this way, in one word -- quote -- "Never." As for other contacts the president is having, they're getting concerned about the president's increased use of his personal cell phone. My colleague Pamela Brown reporting that that use has been on the rise in recent weeks and that it has apparently been an attempt to work around Chief of Staff John Kelly, Wolf, who, as you know, has been trying to put a clamp on some of the president's conversations with people outside the White House. Hasn't been very successful, obviously, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly not.

All right, thanks very much, Jim Acosta at the White House.

Joining us now, Congressman Will Hurd. He's a Republican from Texas.

He serves on the Intelligence Committee and Homeland Security Committees.


Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Always a pleasure to be on with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, so this car ramming -- this van ramming, I should say, in Toronto appears to be a deliberate attack, we're told. What stands out to you from this incident and what's the risk of this type of attack on U.S. soil?

HURD: Well, first and foremost, it's hard for me to imagine waking up and kissing your wife or your husband goodbye or kissing your children goodbye and getting a phone call later in the day saying that they have been run over by a van or that they're in a hospital.

And so my heart goes out to those families and goes out to the families that are in the hospitals right now. But, unfortunately, this is a tactic that we're going to see continue to be used and continue to grow not just in the U.S., but in the rest of the world.

The fact that this killer is in custody, we're going to be able to learn more about their motivations. Was it connected to something else? Was it inspired by something else? Can we glean information from that to maybe stop this in other places?

Or were there issues with this individual that we should have picked up in other cases? And so I think law enforcement in the U.S. and Canada are going to learn a lot from having this killer in custody.

But it also proves that we need to make sure that our walkways are secure. There's a program that Homeland Security has through FEMA called UASI. It's the Urban Areas Security Initiative. This helps cities in order to deal with major events like this.

I'm from San Antonio. We're in the middle of our Fiesta, which is one of our biggest festivals. And our local law enforcement are trying to prepare for just this type of activity. And there is a connection between local law enforcement and federal

funds to ensure that we're protecting our citizens.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a real problem that we have seen elsewhere. We have seen it here in the United States, and we have also seen it overseas, especially in Europe as well.

Let's turn to some other issues, Congressman, while I have you. Our own Pamela Brown, as you just heard, is reporting that President Trump is now using his personal cell phone a lot more often in order to get around his White House Chief of staff, John Kelly.

Does that put him at risk -- unfortunately, that's a real problem -- of being spied on by adversaries?

HURD: Yes, I'm sure a lot of people have that cell phone number. I wouldn't be using that in order to make sure those conversations are protected from people snooping.

This is something that we know all of our adversaries are trying to understand what's going on and what the president may be thinking.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a real problem.

On another sensitive issue, the president tweeted that North Korea has, in his words, agreed to denuclearization.

Are you worried that the president is ahead of himself, mischaracterizing what exactly North Korea's position is right now? They clearly haven't agreed to it, although they're freezing some tests.

HURD: Well, I don't think that's an agreement, but the good thing is, is, we're talking. If we're talking, we're not fighting.

The important thing that we need to continue to do is make sure the sanctions stay strong, make sure that we continue to work with China to keep sanctions on North Korea, making sure we're still moving our Seventh Fleet to that region in the event that we have to use physical power.

So all of those tools that have gotten us to this point where we could have a conversation, we must continue those. And the goal of these conversations should be denuclearization. And I'm sure those are the conversations that Director Pompeo had.

Those are the conversations that we're probably going to see later this week when the South Korean president meets with the North Korean president. Our goal should be denuclearization.

We shouldn't get ahead of ourselves, but the fact we're moving in that direction, I think everybody should be cautiously optimistic. There are little things that have happened that haven't happened in the past, like saying that joint exercises between the U.S. and South Korea should continue. This is something that Kim Jong-un has said needed to stop before

there were any future conversations. So we shouldn't get excited yet. A lot needs to happen between now and a meeting. And a lot needs to happen after a meeting. But, again, if we're talking, we're not fighting.

BLITZER: The president says he's anxious to meet with Kim Jong-un and the meeting could take place later in May, early June.

He also says, if the meeting isn't going well, he's going to walk out of that meeting. Would that put Americans, American allies in the region in danger, if it ends in a disaster like that, simple rupture in their discussion?


HURD: I think so both sides have a lot to lose.

I learned in my 9.5 years as an undercover officer in the CIA be nice with nice guys and tough with tough guys. I think being tough in this case with Kim Jong-un is important.

But this is why you have meetings before the two principals get in the room to ensure what you know what the likely outcome is going to be. And if a likely outcome is going to be moving away from the table and argument, then that meeting probably shouldn't happen.

So I'm pretty confident that the pre-work will be done to prevent that from happening if an actual meeting actually goes forward.

BLITZER: We do know that Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state nominee, actually went about three weeks ago to Pyongyang, had a sit-down meeting with Kim Jong-un, presumably to discuss a whole range of issues.

Congressman Will Hurd, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

HURD: Always a pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: There's a lot more breaking news we're following, why President Trump is increasingly using his personal cell phone, despite serious security concerns. We're getting new information from our sources.

And up next, I will speak live with a lawyer for Stormy Daniels. Did he help Michael Cohen's attorney make his case for delay in their trial?

Stand by.



BLITZER: Multiple sources tell CNN tonight that President Trump is using his personal cell phone more to consult with outside advisers and friends, bypassing his White House chief of staff, John Kelly, as he wrestles with legal and political troubles.

Joining us now, a key player in some of the president's legal problems, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti.

Michael, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: All right, so you heard CNN's reporting that President Trump has been making more phone calls on his personal cell phone.

We know he called Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and friend, and that Cohen actually was well-known for recording some phone calls that he would have. What does that say, if anything, to you?

AVENATTI: Well, Wolf, it's not very smart at all, I mean, for him to be keeping these or making these recordings to begin with, especially if the person on the other side isn't aware of the fact.

And we have reason to believe that a lot of these recordings were made without the person not being aware of the fact. And I also understand that these recordings were maintained and kept. And then I have heard the reporting -- I don't know this for a fact, but I have heard the reporting that some of that may be -- may have been seized by the FBI, which could pose serious, serious problems for Michael Cohen, if he recorded, for instance, his communications with either my client's counsel or other lawyers or, in fact, with the president.

That could be incredibly damaging evidence, if, in fact, it's true.

BLITZER: Yes. We had reported that the FBI, in the raid, they went through Michael Cohen's laptop, his computers, his cell phone, and they took off all of those conversations, a lot of other information as well, part of the FBI raid.

Over the weekend, Michael, the president, he obviously weighed in on all the speculation that Michael Cohen potentially could flip, saying -- and let me read to you a part of what he tweeted -- "Most people will flip if the government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don't see Michael Cohen doing that, despite the horrible witch-hunt and the dishonest media."

What's your reaction to that?

AVENATTI: Well, I have a couple reactions, Wolf.

Number one, I think that the tweets are most important for what they don't state. And what they don't state is: I haven't done anything wrong and I have nothing to hide and therefore I don't care if Michael Cohen talks to prosecutors or individuals from the FBI.

It was shocking to me that that's nowhere to be found within those tweets.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: But he did -- let me interrupt, Michael.

He did say that he was concerned Michael Cohen potentially would lie or make up stories if he decided to cooperate, given the enormous pressure on him, his kids, his family, the legal expenses. You think he would make up stories in order to cooperate with law enforcement?

AVENATTI: Well, I don't know if he'd make up stories or not, Wolf, but I think it's clear as to why the president tweeted that. The president is laying a foundation to be able to argue, when Michael Cohen does flip -- and I have been firm for weeks about this.

I called it first. I firmly believe he is going to flip. I firmly believe he is going to tell prosecutors and investigators a lot of damaging information about the president. And what the president did by way of these tweets is, he laid the foundation to argue later that somehow Michael Cohen has fabricated all of this and it's not true.

I think it's clear as day what the intent of these tweets were. It was that, coupled with trying to send a message to Michael Cohen that he's got his back, despite the fact that for 18 months he effectively kicked him to the curb and blew him off.

BLITZER: What will it mean for your client, for Stormy Daniels, if, in fact, Michael Cohen were to flip?

AVENATTI: Well, if he comes clean with investigators, and, in fact, states that the president knew about the agreement, and that there was purposeful steps to withhold information relating to the payment and the cover-up of the payment, we would effectively win our case.

The NDA would be thrown out. And, in addition, it would show that Michael Cohen lied to the American people when he called my client a liar and effectively stated that the affair didn't happen. So, we would win our defamation claim as well. We would win going away, Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Michael Cohen has until Wednesday of this week to explain to a judge out in California part of your case why he needs a stay in all of this to delay it for down the road. His lawyer used your words to make his case, saying that you had predicted he'll soon be charged in a federal crime. Did you help them, the Cohen lawyer, for example, the lawyers, make their case?

[18:30:23] MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: No, I don't think so at all, Wolf. In fact, anyone that was at that hearing on Friday, I think came away with a clear understanding of who had the better argument, and it was our side. The court, Judge Otero, specifically told Michael Cohen's lawyer and Mr. Trump's lawyer that their motion, their attempt to stay, had "gaping holes in it," quote unquote. That's about the last thing you want to hear from a federal judge when you have a pending motion, is that it has gaping holes in it.

BLITZER: What's going to happen, do you think, on Wednesday? AVENATTI: Well, I think Michael Cohen's going to go ahead and file a

declaration admitting now that it's his intention to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, which I think is going to be a stunning revelation. This is the right hand of the president of the United States. The right-hand lawyer.

And then we're going to file a response, and I think the judge is going to make a determination as to whether the case gets stayed. I do not think the case ultimately will be stayed. I think the court may make some accommodations for Michael Cohen's intention to plead the Fifth. But I think we're going to march forward in this case at godspeed [SIC].

BLITZER: It's been about a week since you released the sketch of the man you say threatened Stormy Daniels in that parking lot. Have you positively identified him yet?

AVENATTI: We are getting very close, Wolf. We're going to be really careful before we announce who the positive identification is or whether we've actually done that. We're going to cross every "T" and dot every "I." It's a very serious matter. But I think we are getting very, very close. With each passing day, I think we're getting closer.

BLITZER: And you're cooperating with law enforcement on this?

AVENATTI: Yes, I'm not at liberty to answer that. It's the same answer I provided last week, unfortunately.

BLITZER: All right. Let me ask you about another issue, another client of Cohen's, the FOX News host Sean Hannity. "The Guardian" newspaper has reported about Hannity using a web of shell companies to buy millions and millions of dollars in real estate, apartments, through a Housing and Urban Development program.

Does this help shed light on their relationship? Because as you know, Sean Hannity himself said he used Michael Cohen for real-estate purposes.

AVENATTI: Well, it may or it may not, Wolf. And what I mean by that is we don't know if there's any nefarious conduct that occurred in connection with Mr. Hannity's real-estate investments or not.

But what we do know is, if you compare what was said in court relating to that relationship with what Mr. Hannity said by way of his Twitter account after the hearing, you just simply can't reconcile those two positions. It appears that this was not just a minor attorney-client relationship. We know for a fact, because of the context in which that disclosure was made, that there are documents that exist between Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity, communications. I find it very hard to believe that there would be documents relating to that relationship if it was as minor as the American people have been led to believe.

BLITZER: Michael Avenatti, we'll stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much for joining us.

AVENATTI: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, is President Trump making himself vulnerable to eavesdropping by using his personal cell phone more often? We're going to talk about the security risks.

And we'll also have a live report on the arrest of the Waffle House shooting suspect. Is there any word on a motive for his deadly and rather bizarre rampage?

Hey, Michael, our usual thank you.


[18:38:26] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories. A source telling CNN tonight that members of the president's legal team aren't worried that Michael Cohen will flip, but they are preparing for all possibilities including a scenario where the president's personal lawyer might turn against him. This as we're also told Mr. Trump is increasingly relying on his personal cell phone to contact outside advisers and friends.

Let's bring in our analysts and experts to assess.

Phil Mudd, what concerns does it raise to you that the president is using that personal cell phone more and more?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, let's name names here, Wolf. That's the Russians and the Chinese.

Any security service worth its salt would try to target the cell phone of the leader of a potential adversary. That is the president of the United States.

Look, the president can use his personal cell phone. Here's the question we need an answer to. Please tell me that's a secure cell phone. When you become president of the United States and you move in the Oval Office, there's a million people around to support you, including the National Security Agency. They can give him a secure phone, and I hope they have.

If they haven't, what that tells me is the president is more concerned about taking a secure phone from the U.S. government than he is about his phone calls being monitored and recorded by the Chinese or the Russians.

I hope it's a secure phone. If it is, he can use it. If it's not, we've got a series of other questions to answer.

BLITZER: And Gloria, what does this say to you that, apparently, he's making these personal phone calls on that cell phone to skirt around John Kelly, his White House chief of staff, who had been monitoring his communications?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I've been told the president was really frustrated by that, because he wasn't allowed to call his friends. And his friends could not get through to him. So his friends, who he is used to talking to every day, would have to go through Kelly's personal assistant, leave messages. Sometimes the messages would get to the president. Sometimes the messages wouldn't get to the president. And they wouldn't get called back.

[18:40:21] I was also told that there were moments when the president would actually make phone calls from the situation room, and he would go hide so he could -- so he could actually talk to the people he wants to talk to.

This means, of course, that Kelly's influence is receding, because he's not able to keep the president on sort of the straight and narrow as he would -- as he would like. And the president is freelancing and wants to reach out to the people he's reached out to for decades. And he kind of feels isolated.

BLITZER: And it follows what we reported, Gloria, last week.


BLITZER: That Larry Kudlow, the top economic adviser, John Bolton, the new national security advisor, they report directly to the president right now, not through John Kelly.

BORGER: Right. Back to the future. You know, this is the way it started, and this is the way it is right now.

BLITZER: Sort of a slam on Kelly.

Let's talk a little about the law, Jeffrey Toobin. The president spent the weekend, as you know, on a tweet storm. A couple dozen tweets, weighing in on Michael Cohen, his longtime friend and lawyer, saying that, you know, he's not going to flip, although they put enormous pressure on these individuals. The feds, they could cause him to flip and even lie in order to get a better deal.

What message is the president sending right now on all of this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's practically cliche at this point. But just imagine if Hillary Clinton were president and one of her aides was under investigation, and she was cheering him on and saying, you know, "Don't flip. Stay strong." I mean, you know, you would have to spatula the House Republicans off the ceiling. They would be so outraged by this.

But you know, we've -- this is just an example of how, you know, Trump has normalized behavior that, you know, would have been unacceptable in earlier presidents. I mean, it does look like, you know, he is -- he is offering some sort of support, whether it's ultimately a pardon down the line. It's just wildly inappropriate, but it's how he behaves.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. We have some major, major breaking news right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's go to our special correspondent Jamie Gangel. Jamie, what are you learning?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Wolf, we have just learned that former president George H.W. Bush 41, who just buried his wife, first lady Barbara Bush, on Saturday, has been hospitalized.

We have been told that, unfortunately, Sunday morning, yesterday, he was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital and that he is in intensive care. We expect more details to come out soon, but here's what we've learned.

We have been told that he was suffering from an infection that led to sepsis, which can be life-threatening. That he was admitted to the ICU at Houston Methodist yesterday and that, unfortunately, he has been struggling. We were told that he was in very serious condition. I assume if he's in the ICU, that it was critical condition.

We were told that his blood pressure kept dropping and that a couple of times there was serious, serious concern about whether he was going to pull through. I'm told he's still being treated, is in the ICU. That he has been stabilized. But we're really waiting for an official report.

Obviously, Wolf, at his age and his health concerns -- he suffers from Parkinson' Parkinson's -- with this infection, with the sepsis, this is very, very serious. And of course, all the more upsetting for his family, his friends, his staff, because it follows so closely on the death of his wife and the burial on Saturday.

We were, you know, doing the coverage on Saturday. And as I said to you on Saturday, everybody in his family is understandably worried about how he was going to deal with the loss after 73 years of marriage and such an emotional week. Of course, nobody expected this news this quickly. So we're waiting for more details, but he has been hospitalized.

BLITZER: You were in Houston at that funeral, Jamie, and you saw President Bush. You saw him up close. And we're showing our viewers some pictures of his son, the former president, pushing him along in that wheelchair.

What did he seem like to you then?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): You know, obviously, it was heartbreaking. I mean, when his son, former President George W. Bush, pushed him in his wheelchair into the church, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. And when his son Jeb read as part of the eulogy a love letter that he had written to Barbara, one of their anniversaries, you could see he was heartbroken. It was awful. Just so, so hard to watch.

But I'm told that actually Saturday night, he went after the burial in College Station and had dinner with his family and everybody thought that he was doing OK. And then Sunday morning, when he woke up, there was this crisis and they took him straight to the hospital. BLITZER: Jamie, you know the Bush family very well. And I know

you're speaking with some members, you're speaking with others close to the Bush family. How are they dealing with this fact that the former president, President George H.W. Bush, has been in intensive care at the Houston Methodist Hospital, suffering from his infection that has led to sepsis which certainly can be life threatening?

GANGEL: You know, I think the best way to describe it is that everyone is reeling. The family is -- I haven't spoken to anyone in the family today, but identify spoken to people close to the family and friends and they're -- they still haven't recovered from the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush and are just coming to terms with that. So, to have this crisis and bad news so quickly is very hard on everyone.

BLITZER: We all saw that picture which is now iconic of the four former presidents, three former first ladies, the current first lady as well Melania Trump there. You saw the big smiles on their faces. When you look closely at President George H.W. Bush sitting there in that wheelchair, Jamie, and this was as we know on Saturday, he looked OK, right?

GANGEL: He did. And let's not forget, Wolf, that on Friday, he on his own said, I want to go to the church when Barbara Bush, when the public was coming to pay their respects. He on his own said I want to go to the church and welcome the public and thank them and greet them for coming, which was such a classic George Bush thing to do.

It's -- it was the right thing to do and even though his health has been very fragile and he's been in and out of the hospital a lot, he sat there at the church for quite some time greeting the public. So, this -- this was really unexpected except for the fact that he's 93 years old. He's been in and out of the hospital. He has Parkinson's. When he gets an infection, I think that it is much more dangerous than for most people.

BLITZER: We've just received a statement from the office of President George H.W. Bush, Jamie. Let me read it to you and to our viewers. The statement coming out of Houston.

Quote, President Bush was admitted to the Houston Methodist Hospital yesterday morning -- that would be Sunday morning -- after contracting an infection that spread to his blood. He is responding to treatments and appears to be recovering. We will issue additional updates as events warrant.

Well, that's somewhat of -- a little bit encouraging, Jamie. He appears to be recovering. I assume he's going through major antibiotics to treat this infection, this sepsis that could be life- threatening, indeed. But they are saying he's responding to treatments and appears to be recovering.

[18:50:00] And, of course, we wish him only the best. We hope he recovers completely. And they will be issuing further updates as events warrant.

What's your reaction to that, Jamie?

GANGEL: I think that that is, you know, very encouraging news. I think that -- look, I'm not a doctor, but my understanding is that sepsis can be very dangerous for someone of his age and health, when you get an infection. Obviously, he's in the ICU. He's getting the best care he could possibly get. I think that in addition to the antibiotics and whatever fluids they're able to give him I.V., that's, you know, hopefully what's been stabilizing him.

My understanding is, the real concern yesterday was that his blood pressure kept dropping. And that seems, from the statement now, to not be -- such a problem that they have that stable, but I think we're just going to have to wait for more reports to come in over the next couple of days.

BLITZER: Are the Bush family members still in Houston, as far as you know? Jamie, they were all there Saturday clearly for the funeral.

GANGEL: Right. So, some of them live there. Neil Bush and Maria Bush live actually right across the street from former president Bush. So, they're there. I understand that their daughter, Doro Bush, is still there. But I think some members of the family had already gone home. So there is family around him.

BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent, is joining us right now.

Sanjay, I know you're very familiar with this infection that led to what's called sepsis and the statement from the office of President Bush, saying it has spread, the infection has spread to his blood.

Tell us about sepsis and how serious a problem this is, the president in intensive care at the Houston Methodist Hospital.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, it's very concerning, obviously, and Jamie outlined it pretty well there. We know he's had these infections in the past. We know that he's obviously dealt with them, underlying illnesses in the hospital last year as well.

What sepsis is, typically, is an infection that has spread more widely, typically into the blood stream. And what happens as a result of that, is that the body reacts by trying to fight the infection. And that can cause someone's blood pressure to drop, their heart rate to become unstable, and that's typically what leads to the -- not only the need for hospitalization, but need for intensive care, being in the ICU.

At times, it can also interfere with one's ability to breathe well on their own, necessitating the need for a breathing machine. So, that happens real time, and pretty quickly, those assessments being made in the intensive care unit, obviously compounded by his age and other underlying medical problems.

BLITZER: Yes, I was going to say, sepsis is awful, and I'm not a physician, but I've heard enough about it for any age, even if you're young or middle aged. But when you're 93 years old and you have Parkinson's, it could be really, really bad.

GUPTA: Yes, that's exactly right. You count on your body to have enough reserve to both fight the infection, and in some ways, deal with your own body's response to infection, meaning that your -- again, your blood pressure may start to drop. Your heart rate may start to become erratic.

And if you're otherwise healthy, your body can sort of, if you will, accommodate these changes, keep up with these changes. But as you get older, it does become harder if you have underlying illness, it becomes harder. You have to decide how aggressively you want to treat this infection. It's a bacterial infection, what types of antibiotics, what are the side effects of those types of medications, and what effect might they have on the inner workings of the body, the heart and lungs specifically.

BLITZER: He's in intensive care right now at the Houston Methodist Hospital. The timing is so, so sad, coming so quickly after the funeral. The office of President George H.W. Bush saying he contracted this infection that spreads to the blood. Is there any way of finding out how someone contracts an infection like this that spreads to the blood that results in sepsis?

GUPTA: You know, it's interesting, I think there's two points. One is the contracting of the infection. And, you know, people can get infections in all sorts of different ways. Someone who is not as mobile, can get infections just from pressure ulcerations, for example.

But the other part of it, and I think the part that is you're alluding to, Wolf, is that, you know, then your body sort of tries to fight that infection, and why does an infection that might otherwise not as serious turn into something serious because your body hasn't been able to fight it as well. Your immunity is compromised. You know, I mean, right after a big loss, certainly like he's had, there's some data to show that people can develop problems with immunity, become more susceptible to infections, have otherwise infections that they would have otherwise been able to fight, become more serious. So, it could be a combination of these factors, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, clearly, he was heart broken by the death of his wife Barbara Bush, of 73 years. We could see that on his face. But you make an important point that the combination of the heartbreak, plus the infection, they're dealing with it right now. And they're dealing with it, with heavy doses of antibiotics, intravenously injected, right?

GUPTA: That's typically the course. So, what you have to do, you are suspicious that it's sepsis because someone is having trouble with their blood pressure, heart rate, whatever the clues are, and then typically you'll take some blood to try and figure out what is causing the infection, what is the pathogen, if you will, and then based on that, you select the appropriate antibiotics.

It's a balance, because, again, you want to give strong enough antibiotics to fight the infection, but not so strong that it somehow will harm other organ systems or make it harder for him to maintain his blood pressure. So there are several different factors at play. And again an intensive care unit, a place like Methodist, one of the best in the world, is those are probably the real-time decisions that are going on right now.

BLITZER: And we, of course, wish him only the best.

You know, Gloria Borger is with us. Gloria and I covered George H.W. Bush when he was president for four years, when he was vice president for eight years. We got to know him, a very, very impressive individual.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Impressive, a decent man, as we saw at the funeral over the weekend, a family man. And you know, I'm watching the pictures that we've been showing of him shaking everyone's hand as they walked by Barbara Bush's casket. And that isn't easy for anyone, much less somebody with Parkinson's, who's worried about being compromised.

His immune system being compromised, who's also got a broken heart, who is somebody who wanted to do the right thing and greet every single person who came to pay their respects to his wife, and I think that, you know, the family was clearly worried about him, as Jamie Gangel was saying earlier.

And, you know, this is a man that I think if you could just sort of think about him as a human being, he was classy and gracious in any job that he had, and a true public servant. He is somebody who spent most of his life, as we know, he was in the oil business at one point, wasn't he? I believe. But spent his life in public service as did his wife, Barbara Bush. And that is why he wanted to thank everybody the other day.

BLITZER: And that 73-year marriage, the love affair going back even a few years earlier, before they were married, that was so, so powerful.

BORGER: What a lucky couple to be married for 73 years. I'll sign on the dotted line for that.

BLITZER: Seventy-three years.


BLITZER: And you could see the heartbreak in his face. On Saturday, I anchored our coverage for those four hours during the funeral. And every time we saw him there, you know, his son, the former President Bush, was trying to reassure him, moving along in that wheelchair, but you could see the pain he was going through losing Barbara.

BORGER: Absolutely. And the pain the rest of the family was feeling as well, but of course more so for the spouse of 73 years.

BLITZER: He's in intensive care right now. I'll lead the statement again from the office of President George H.W. Bush.

Quote, President Bush was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital yesterday morning, Sunday morning, after contracting an infection that spread to his blood. He's responding to treatments and appears to be recovering. We'll issue additional updates as events warrant.

And once again, we wish him and his family only the best.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

Our breaking news coverage continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".