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"Infuriated" Trump Nixes Eagles Visit Expecting Low Turnout, White House Now Accuses Team of "Political Stunt"; Manafort Accused of Witness Tampering; Judge Says Trump Can Be Deposed; Interview With Congressman Adam Schiff. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 5, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president may now be forced to answer questions under oath.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the president picking new fights with some of his favorite targets.

The Trump team is accusing the Philadelphia Eagles of a political stunt after many players declined an invitation to the White House.

But critics say it's the president who pulled a stunt by disinviting the Eagles and trying to revive the NFL national anthem controversy, this as Mr. Trump goes even further in blaming the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for the Russia investigation.

I will talk with the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president put on a show once again this afternoon.


President Trump staged a celebration of America event here at the White House after disinviting the Philadelphia Eagles from their own event dedicated to the Super Bowl championship that they won.

For the president, though, this is a continuation of his culture wars, accusing pro athletes of not passing his own patriotism test. This time, the bright shiny object at the White House was the NFL's Lombardi Trophy itself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA (voice-over): Somewhat singing along to "God Bless America," President Trump dubbed it a celebration of America. But it felt more like a celebration of -- you guessed it -- him.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's even bigger than we had anticipated.

ACOSTA: The White House held this tribute to the nation after pulling the plug on an event honoring the Philadelphia Eagles for winning the Super Bowl.

Mr. Trump was furious once he learned at the number of Eagles players attending. And he tweeted about it: "Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event."

The White House accused the Eagles of attempting a stunt.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If this wasn't a political stunt by the Eagles franchise, then they wouldn't have planned to attend the event, and then backed out at the last minute.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump also accused the Eagles of not being sufficiently patriotic, lumping the team in with other NFL players who have kneeled during the national anthem at games, in protest of police brutality, an issue he's talked about at rallies.

TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of bitch off the field right now? Out. He's fired.


TRUMP: He's fired!

ACOSTA: But here's the problem. No Eagles players ever took a knee during the regular or postseason.

Philadelphia's mayor lashed back in a statement: "Disinviting them from the White House only proves that our president is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New tonight, the president announcing the Philadelphia Eagles will not be visiting the White House tomorrow.

ACOSTA: FOX News ran with the president's false assertions, showing photos of Eagles players kneeling. But these players were praying, not protesting, and FOX later apologized.

Back at the celebration for America event, the president had to fly. He left roughly 10 minutes after it began and refused to answer our questions.

(on camera): Are you saying that the football players are not patriotic, sir? (voice-over): The president has been busy on Twitter, once again beating up on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, tweeting: "The Russian witch-hunt hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself. I would have quickly picked someone else."

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president has made his position on this extremely clear, and I don't have anything to add beyond that.

ACOSTA: One fellow Republican told CNN's Manu Raju he thinks he knows what's going on.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: He definitely is trying to discredit it, and he's certainly pushing every edge to see where members of Congress will go, if they will support him on this or not. I think it's important that we stand up and say there are limits.

ACOSTA: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was again pressed on her false statement to reporters last year that the president did not dictate a memo to "The New York Times" explaining why his son met with a Russian attorney for dirt on Hillary Clinton at Trump Tower during the campaign.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm not going to get into a back and forth with you on that. And I would refer you to outside counsel.

ACOSTA: Was it accurate or not? That's all we want to know.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: Again, I work day in, day out. And believe, frankly with the majority of you here in the room, I think you all know I'm an honest person who works extremely hard to provide you with accurate information at all times. I'm going to continue to do that.

But I'm not going to engage on matters that deal with a outside counsel. Frankly, I think my credibility is probably higher than the media's.


ACOSTA: And, Wolf, we should point out the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, she never answered that question.

Now we have some late-breaking staffing news over here at the White House. Kelly Sadler, who is the White House aide who said in a closed-door meeting that John McCain was dying anyway in reference to Senator McCain's opposition of the new CIA director, Gina Haspel, during her confirmation process, Kelly Sadler is out.


Today was her last day at the White House, we're told.

Wolf, just in the last several minutes, I tried to ask President Trump about Sadler's departure. He was hosting an event, a bill signing actually on childhood cancer legislation. And because Senator McCain obviously is suffering from cancer right now, I thought it was an appropriate venue to try to ask about Kelly Sadler's departure. The president responded he did not want to comment on her situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

We're going to have much more on the controversy between the president and the Philadelphia Eagles coming up.

But, first, there's more on the Russia investigation unfolding right now and a very serious new allegation against the president's former campaign chairman.

Paul Manafort now accused by the special counsel of witness tampering and he faces a Friday deadline to respond. He could lose his bond, wind up being thrown in jail pending the trial.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is here.

Jim, Manafort is trying to get witnesses to lie, allegedly, for him.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And it's not clear what combination of nerve or ignorance allowed the president's former campaign chairman to attempt to contact these witnesses, to attempt to get them, allegedly, to change their testimony in an ongoing case, to compel him to do this while he was under monitoring and knew he was under monitoring by authorities.

But, allegedly, the special counsel said he did, and Paul Manafort is someone who has spent a lot of time, a lot of time in court trying to get some freedom to see his family, to travel out while this proceeding is under way. It is possible now he will be going to jail.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort accused by the special counsel of tampering with witnesses, encouraging them to lie for him in court.

In a new filing, prosecutors claim that Manafort repeatedly contacted two people who worked for him, identified only as persons D-1 and D-2. Manafort and a confidant asked them to make the -- quote -- "materially false claim" that he had lobbied on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians only in Europe, when, investigators say, in fact, he had lobbied the U.S. Congress for those Ukrainian politicians from 2011 to 2013.

Manafort allegedly made the contacts in February, just days after prosecutors unveiled new criminal charges against him. Using encrypted text messages, Manafort wrote to the person known as D-1 -- quote -- "We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe."

In another encrypted text, Manafort's confidant outlined Manafort's -- quote -- "quick summary" that -- quote -- "our friends never lobbied in the U.S."

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: The Mueller team is very thorough and they're doing their jobs very well. So they are speaking to all of the witnesses. And if someone has attempted to tamper with a witness, the Mueller team is likely to learn about that and follow up on it. And that is why we may be looking at revoked bail or additional charges for Paul Manafort.

SCIUTTO: Paul Manafort's spokesperson told CNN -- quote -- "Mr. Manafort is innocent and nothing about this latest allegation changes our defense. We will do our talking in court."

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges related to his failure to disclose his U.S. lobbying work for a foreign government and to bank fraud and other financial crimes. Investigators continue to probe the possibility that Manafort coordinated with Russians during the 2016 presidential election.

Another Trump campaign associate, George Papadopoulos, is seemingly looking for a pardon from the president after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI last year about his contacts with Russians during the campaign, his wife going on FOX News and appealing for the president's health.

SIMONA MANGIANTE PAPADOPOULOS, WIFE OF GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: And because of this incident, his freedom is challenged. And so I trust and hope and ask to President Trump to pardon him. I hope he will.

SCIUTTO: Days after Trump's lawyer admitted that Trump himself dictated the original explanation of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians, a misleading explanation, the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN the changing stories were not lies, but a mistake on the part of Mr. Trump's original lawyer.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I don't think anybody was lying. I think a mistake was made in the very early stages of an investigation. I don't mean an investigation. Very early stages of a representation by a lawyer, which happens all the time.


SCIUTTO: The president's role in dictating that misleading statement relevant, not only because the White House has repeatedly changed its story, but also because we know, Wolf, that witnesses have been asked about the president's role by the special counsel as part of his inquiry into whether the president or there is evidence that the president obstructed justice in the ongoing Russian destination.

BLITZER: Yes, lots going on right now.

Jim Sciutto, thank you for that report.

Joining us now, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: You bet. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, what does this development with Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, tell you about how Robert Mueller and his team are working?

SCHIFF: Well, they're working as I would expect.

And that is, they're keeping a very close eye on the case, on the witnesses. There's not much that's going to get past him. And the fact that Manafort would go to this length, that he would potentially be risking a revocation of his bail, additional charges, this evidence can also be used during the trial against him if he is trying to get witnesses to make false statements, tells you just how desperate Paul Manafort is.


So, I have to think he is merely digging the hole deeper, and quite naive to think that Bob Mueller is not going to be on top of this.

BLITZER: You speak also as a former federal prosecutor.

Could this pressure by Mueller lead Manafort to actually flip, plead guilty, cooperate and hope for a reduced sentence?

SCHIFF: It could. It's certainly additional pressure. If Manafort is remanded into custody, he may have more time to think about whether he wants to cooperate, if Manafort faces potential new charges.

It's also potentially a signal to Manafort that these witnesses who are referred to in these court pleadings are cooperating with Mueller. And he may not have been aware of that until there was this effort to revoke his conditions of bail.

BLITZER: Yes, Mueller sends a very powerful message in that document.

Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, told our Chris Cuomo that Jay Sekulow, another personal lawyer for the president, simply made a mistake by repeatedly denying that President Trump dictated that first statement by Donald Trump Jr. about that 2016 meeting with Russians at the Trump Tower in New York.

What's your reaction to that?

SCHIFF: Well, my reaction is, it's only a mistake if you consider deliberate lying to be a mistake.

Here, you have the president engaging in a cover-up of what took place in the Trump Tower meeting. The president was obviously aware of what happened. He knew that it wasn't about adoptions. But he dictated this statement. We now know that he was so directly involved in putting forward this patently false representation, and then sent his people out, Sarah Sanders, among others, Jay Sekulow, to lie and mislead the public about it. So, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the president was an active

participant in covering up what took place in Trump Tower. And, again, that's an indication that the president has a consciousness of wrongdoing.

If there was no collusion, then why lie about what took place in Trump Tower?

BLITZER: Hope Hicks, who was the communications director for the president at the White House, she was there when the president dictated that statement.

When she gave an interview to your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, on February 27, was she honest?

SCHIFF: Well, we couldn't get her to answer questions about the production of that statement, nor could we get Corey Lewandowski.

And this is, of course, the very same interaction in which Don Jr. erroneously claimed that he was protected by attorney-client privilege. If this statement was dictated by his father, as it appears to be the case, there's no privilege that protects that.

But, nonetheless, we couldn't get the GOP to insist on answers to it. They simply didn't want to know. And now we can tell why they didn't want to know, because the truth is the president was complicit in the production of that false statement.

BLITZER: You think Hope Hicks was more forthcoming in her testimony, in her question-and-answer session with Robert Mueller and his team?

SCHIFF: I'm sure these witnesses were forced to be more forthcoming before Bob Mueller, because they had to know that they didn't have the same home court advantage when they had Republican members of our committee acting as surrogate lawyers for the president.

So, yes, they would have had to answer these questions. You could see in the memo, that 22 pages of released documents, that they concede the president dictated it. They're not going to give that up unless they know it's already been shown to Bob Mueller, if that information was already known to Bob Mueller.

So, yes, I have to imagine that they told Bob Mueller about this, and this is why they concede the point in that legal argument.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect you are right.

We also now know, Congressman, the president's team lied or misled the American people about his role in the drafting, the dictating of that statement.

Should they now clarify when President Trump first learned of that meeting at Trump Tower and the Russian offer of so-called dirt on Hillary Clinton?

SCHIFF: Of course they should. And I think that this is all the more reason why Bob Mueller needs to interview the president.

And if they continue to stonewall, he is going to have to subpoena the president. And it looks like they're trying to use every excuse now not to have him testify. They're trying to obtain materials that they have no business getting. The president has not been indicted that we know of. They have no right to investigate materials.

But now they are using this claim, well, we're not going to submit to an interview without having access to investigative files.

That's not the process. And they know it.

I would say, in terms of Sarah Sanders, the reason that she keeps refusing to answer these questions, I think, is probably very apparent. And that is, she doesn't want to say publicly that the president told her something that wasn't true, because Sarah Sanders either knew it wasn't true or the president told her falsely about the circumstances in the production of the statement.


Either way, Sarah Sanders doesn't want to answer that question.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point.

The president, hard to believe as it is, once again today attacked the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, tweeting this.

And I will read it to you. "The Russian witch-hunt hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself. I would have quickly picked someone else."

Could he still pick someone else, Congressman? Do you think it would be difficult for him to replace Jeff Sessions even now?

SCHIFF: Yes, I do.

And I'm glad that the Republican senators are at least defending their own. And I think Senator Grassley is saying he won't schedule a hearing for a replacement.

But what is really telling to me, Wolf, about that tweet is the president continues to provide evidence to special counsel Bob Mueller. Here he is basically telling us about this corrupt intent of his, that if he had known that Sessions would not be there to run interference on the Russia investigation, to curtail the Russia investigation before it was over, he would have never appointed him.

So, this is yet further evidence of what the president is thinking in terms of trying to get Sessions to un-recuse himself, in terms of what he wanted an attorney general, of his expectation that he has a right to interfere and obstruct the investigation.

So, I have to think, if I were one of the president's lawyers, I would cringe in seeing the president saying these things publicly. It's just more evidence for the special counsel. BLITZER: Certainly appears to be the case.

Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you so much for joining us.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we are learning about why the president was so eager to disinvite the Philadelphia Eagles and play up the national anthem controversy.

Here is a hint: politics at play.

And will a former "Apprentice" contestant now force the president to testify under oath, even as the special counsel tries to lock up an interview of his own?



BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, President Trump back at war with the NFL, with the White House accusing the championship Philadelphia Eagles of a political stunt.

A furious President Trump canceled the team's invitation to the executive mansion after many players simply declined the invitation.

Let's dig deeper.

And, Don Lemon, I'm glad you are with us because I want to get your thoughts on this.

In a statement that the White House put out last night, the president said the Eagles' players -- quote -- "disagree with their president because he insists that they probably stand for the national anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country."

No Eagles player, as you know, Don, took a knee during the regular season or the postseason. Go ahead.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that's right.

And he is trying to pin this on people who are taking the knee. And then he came back and changed his statement, saying, well, staying in the locker room.

Well, they didn't do that either. And according to our very own Jake Tapper, who spoke with a player, the player said, listen, not many wanted to go, because this president has demonized so many NFL players by calling them SOBs and what have you and trying to change the narrative of what this was really about.

They said that they had a meeting. The meeting was not contentious. The players, they said they simply didn't want to go because of how the president has handled this and that he is trying to reshape the narrative.

And, again, as you said, no Eagles knelt down during the full season. Preseason, there was one player who knelt down. But he was released, but that was for an unrelated reason. Some of them did raise their fists. one of them raised their fist, but again stopped doing it after the NFL donated $100 million, pledged to donate $100 million to various charities in November.

So, the president and the folks at the podium, Sarah Sanders, they have it all wrong. Sarah Sanders said today, Wolf, and April was there -- she heard it -- saying, that's what makes this country great is because we stand during the national anthem.

What makes this country great is that we have the choice to stand or not to stand during the national anthem. This is not a dictatorship. We don't have to do anything in this country.

BLITZER: And you were there, April. You are with us right now.

April Ryan was at the White House briefing.

And you had a chance to ask Sarah Sanders a question, if the president understands why some of the players actually take a knee.

Let me play the exchange you had with the White House press secretary.


APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Is the president aware...


HUCKABEE SANDERS: Sorry. Steven, go ahead.

RYAN: ... that this is about police-involved shootings, and not about disrespecting the flag?


RYAN: But I'm asking, is -- there's an underlying issue. And it just keeps going about disrespect of the flag and soldiers.

There are black and brown shoulders that fight in the military as well who feel that taking a knee, bringing attention to police-involved shootings is something that this White House should deal with.

Is the president aware that taking the knee is about police-involved shootings?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president made his position crystal clear.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: I let you rudely interrupt me and your colleague.

(CROSSTALK) HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm going to ask that you allow me to finish my question.

I would be happy to answer it, if you would stop talking long enough to let me do that.

The president has made his position crystal clear on this topic. He feels strongly that standing for our national anthem is something that we should do, something that matters to what makes our country special and unique and what sets us apart.



LEMON: Amen, April.


LEMON: More of that in the Briefing Room, April, following up and getting an answer.

I absolutely applaud you. And I think all of the folks in the Briefing Room should do exactly what April did today, challenge this -- the podium and White House more, because they go from one reporter to the other.

When they don't like the answer, they cut them off and they move on to the next person. And, April, you didn't allow it. So, thank you for doing that.

I'm sorry to interrupt.

RYAN: Thank you, Don.

Well, Wolf, you know, it was an interesting exchange. First of all, we have been in that Briefing Room for many, many years, for decades.

And, strategically, Sarah did not want to call on me today. And I listened to her ask -- call on people all around me and in the back and the front.

But the issue was, the underlying issue, they never dealt with the issue of police-involved shootings, the reason why the NFL players, the reason why Colin Kaepernick began to take the knee during the Obama years.

And the reason why it ramped up is because this president found it to be something that his base would like. So, the bottom line, I asked this question of the president in October in the Rose Garden when he was standing next to Mitch McConnell.

He said the same thing. It's disrespect. He never answered the underlying issue about police-involved shootings. Now that the NFL is telling the players to stand, they have to stand, now what are you going to do with the underlying issue of police-involved shootings that has -- the issue of the black community and police has been going on since slavery, since blacks or Africans were enslaved in this nation, brought in the bottom of ships.

And now what are you going to do? Because it is now in the forefront. You have it on your -- we see it on cell phones with the accountability piece.

So how do you turn a blind eye to the underlying issue, when the groundswell is happening, and when you are actually causing more of a groundswell to talk about this? And you talk about all of America.

And that's the impetus for the question, because everybody was dancing around it and not hitting the issue.

BLITZER: And, David Swerdlick, you know the -- CNN has learned from a source that the president and his political team, they think this a winning issue for him, especially going into the midterm elections.


You have CNN's source. Last week, "The Wall Street Journal" reported that in a phone call between the president and Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, the president said, this is a winning issue for me. There's no way that you, meaning the NFL, is going to win on this.

Two polls have come out since the NFL announced their new kneeling, staying in the locker room policy, the Yahoo News poll and The Huffington Post poll. Both of them, a plurality of those surveyed said they thought that it was inappropriate for players to kneel during the anthem. That's something the White House is going off of.

And in that Huffington Post poll, of the people who said that kneeling was inappropriate, they found 92 percent of those who voted for Trump thought it was inappropriate, which suggests that they are playing directly to their base.

BLITZER: I'm anxious, Don, where is this heading?

LEMON: I think it's heading into November.

And I think the president realizes his base, this is something that exercises his -- that animates his base. And he is going to continue on with it.

He cannot be a unifier. He cannot be the unifier in chief. I don't know what it is about him that he can't do it. It seems that this is an issue where he could actually bring the country together, bring the team and talk to team owners and players, and try to get them to come to some sort of consensus about this.

But, again, if the president cares about Americans' First Amendment rights and his own First Amendment rights, and the rights of his -- his -- the people who support him, then he should care about the First Amendment rights of those people who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem. And this isn't about some fake patriotism, about standing or some

pageantry. Real patriotism is understanding what the Constitution means for all Americans and abiding by the Constitution, not doing some false presentation that you pretend to be a patriot while other people are around you going to the concession stands, getting beer, or fights in the stands or talking to each other with their baseball caps on.

That is not real patriotism. Real patriotism is understanding that all of us are created equal and we have the choice to stand, kneel or sit, or even attend a football game if we choose to.

BLITZER: All right, guys, there's a lot more we need to assess on this and other issues. Stick around.

Don, by the way, of course, is going to have more on all of this later tonight on his program, "CNN TONIGHT," 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Don will clearly have a lot more on this subject and all the day's important news.

Just ahead, will Paul Manafort be locked up in a matter of days? We are going to talk more about the former Trump campaign chairman, already under indictment, now facing serious allegations of witness tampering.

And a judge rules that the president can be deposed in a defamation case filed by former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos. What might he reveal under oath?


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A judge rules that the president can be deposed in a defamation case filed by former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos.

[18:30:07] What might he reveal under oath?


BLITZER: Special counsel Robert Mueller is lobbing a new accusation at the indicted former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Mueller now alleges Manafort tried to get witnesses to lie for him in court, and he's asking the judge overseeing Manafort's case to send him to jail as he awaits trial.

[18:35:06] Let's dig deeper with our specialists and our analysts. And Gloria Borger, how significant is this development involving Paul Manafort?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you are Paul Manafort, it is very significant, because you're looking at revoked bail. You're looking at jail time, suddenly. And you are discovering, maybe for the first time, that some people you thought were your friends are now cooperating with the special counsel. And that may come as a great surprise to him, and I'm sure he's very worried about it. I think it also puts a lot of pressure on Paul Manafort right now.

This is somebody who doesn't want to go to jail, particularly, you know, if his bail is revoked. And I think he's got to think about what his next moves are. It's clear that the special counsel is putting all this pressure on him for a reason. And the reason may be to get him to flip.

BLITZER: And also to send a message to others out there, as well.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, is Paul Manafort headed to jail in the coming days?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I was struck by two things. One is that Paul Manafort must be an incredibly arrogant fool to think he could get away with trying to -- you know, trying to arrange what witnesses say in advance of his trial, notwithstanding the instructions to the contrary.

But the other thing, I thought the Mueller office was pretty wimpy in their -- they said, "Well, you know, he should be -- the bail should be revoked or the issue should be re-visited." I mean, there are prosecutors and there are judges who would say, "Lock him up today." I mean, you know, this is America. People get locked up for a hell of a lot worse [SIC] than what Paul Manafort is accused of.

And the judge in the case is sort of taking this at a kind of stately pace. Said, "Well, I'll take briefs from Manafort on Monday. And then I'll hear -- I'll hear an argument next Friday." I mean, come on. This guy, like, flagrantly, it seemed, violated the terms of his release. And the Mueller office is like, "Well, you know, maybe, Judge, do you think you should maybe do something about it?"

BORGER: But doesn't he have to defend -- have a chance to defend himself or not in this kind of a case?

TOOBIN: You know what? Lots of people defend themselves from jail.


TOOBIN: That's, like, America. You know? I mean, so that's -- I mean, I just think, you know, this was such a flagrant violation.


TOOBIN: Why not demand that he be locked up forth worth -- forthwith?

BLITZER: You know, Jamie, amidst all of this, the president once again implying that this Russia probe is the fault of his attorney general. This is what he tweeted earlier in the day: "The Russian witch hunt hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself. I would have quickly picked someone else."

What does this say about how he views the Justice Department? JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think he's scared, and

he's frustrated. And every time -- if it's Tuesday morning and Donald Trump wakes up worried about the Russia investigation, Jeff Sessions is going to get a tweet about him.

And I don't see any evidence that he's going to fire him. But sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, we see these. I'm told that there would be too much political fallout, that the Republicans in the Senate have told him that Sessions would be hard to replace.

And for his part, it seems that Jeff Sessions has learned to live with this. But until this investigation is over -- I think someday a therapist is going to have a field day with Trump and his tweets about Jeff Sessions.

BLITZER: It's so -- it's so -- the only thing I can say, Sabrina Siddiqui, it's so humiliating.

The president also tweeted this. He previewed the Department of Justice inspector general's report that's supposed to be coming out soon. Quote, "What is taking so long with the inspector general's report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey? Numerous delays. Hope report is not changed and made weaker. There are so many horrible things to tell. The public has a right to know. Transparency!"

What is the president implying here?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, I think that the president is trying to perpetuate this notion of political bias within the Justice Department. He is trying to suggest -- and he has repeatedly done so on Twitter -- that it's Democrats who have engaged in acts of corruption, and Hillary Clinton was let off easily while he continues to be under investigation.

We've seen this campaign by the president and his allies to discredit the Justice Department and its work. And so this kind of reinforces that narrative from his end.

I also want to add one more quick thing about Jeff Sessions. Chuck Grassley, it's notable and worth saying, the Senate judiciary chairman, has said that if Trump were to fire Sessions, he would not hold a hearing on a replacement for attorney general. So there is certainly a sense with this president that Republicans on Capitol Hill would absolutely be opposed if he were to take that step and actually fire Sessions.

BORGER: And by the way, one of the great ironies is that so would Democrats be opposed. I mean, not one of them voted for Jeff Sessions, but they understand that, if Jeff Sessions were fired and the president -- you know, it would be kind of along the road the president would be trying to get rid of to get rid of Mueller.

[18:40:15] And also on this -- on this Trump tweet on the DOJ inspector general, what he is saying, directly, is that he believes it's corrupt. His own Justice Department, he thinks, is corrupt. An inspector general's report of his Justice Department, he believes could be -- what was the word he used? "Changed and made weaker" because of political interference.

And I think we need to remind everybody that this is his attorney general. This is his Justice Department. This is his FBI director. And he is accusing those people in his own administration, in his government, of actually being corrupt. It's stunning.

BLITZER: It is amazing, Jamie. When you see it -- you covered the story for a long time -- it truly is amazing.

GANGEL: It is. And the other thing that you have to wonder here is, we've been hearing about pardons all day long. Donald Trump is obsessed with pardons. And this is nothing new.

First of all, it's someplace where he has power unchecked. He can do it.

But the other thing is, we know that he's asked lawyers, "Can I pardon myself?" This week he tweeted, "I can pardon myself."

And also it sends a message, perhaps, to those out there in the ether, "Don't cooperate, don't talk. I pardon a lot of people." That's also called obstruction of justice. But it is clear he's obsessed with it.

BLITZER: Yes, it's an important development indeed.

Everybody stick around. There's more breaking news we're following. We're going to have more on the president's latest battle with the NFL. And the White House accusing the Philadelphia Eagles of a political stunt.

And the first lady, Melania Trump, resurfaces after weeks out of the public eye. Now we're learning new details of the role she played in making Mike Pence vice-president of the United States.


[18:46:56] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: There are very revealing new details about the relationship between President Trump and Vice President Pence in a just released new book, "First in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents and the Pursuit of Power".

The author, CNN contributor Kate Andersen Brower, is joining us right now to talk about it.

Congratulations, Kate, on this excellent new book.

Let's get to some of the new information. How does the president view the Vice President, Mike Pence, and vice versa?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR, "FIRST IN LINE": Well, I think that they have a very interesting dynamic where Vice President Pence views President Trump as almost a father figure. He told his brother Greg that the president reminds him of their father, who is a bit of a bully. And so, it's an interesting dynamic, where Pence is very loyal to the president at all cost, sometimes too deferential.

And I think that's because of his time growing up with a father would, you know, demand that the children not speak unless spoken to and things like that. So, for him, serving somebody who is -- can be labeled a bit of a bully, I think it's easier for him having grown up in that situation.

BLITZER: Yes, very interesting.

How influential was Melania Trump in choosing the vice president?

BROWER: Well, I was really surprised by this. Melania was at this final decisive meeting at the Bedminster, New Jersey golf club that the Trumps owned.

And during the meeting, she spoke up and said he must pick a clean VP, is how she put it. So, someone who had no messy financial entanglement or any rumors of affairs. And so, you know, you had Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie on the list, Michael Flynn was on the list for a while, even though people told the president not to -- Donald Trump, not to have him on the list.

So, I think that shows her political savvy. People don't really give her credit for that. But she is savvy. And she saw things that her husband didn't necessarily see. So, she wanted to push for Pence.

BLITZER: You also learned something really interesting about Vice President Pence and his predecessor, former Vice President Joe Biden. What does their relationship look like?

BROWER: Well, Joe Biden told me that he talked to Mike Pence at least once a month and that he kind of is a conduit between the Trump administration and foreign leaders, because, of course, Biden was in the Senate for almost four decades, great relationships with people around the world. And so, he will call Vice President Pence before he has a meeting with a foreign leader, like the Greek prime minister or the king of Jordan, and give them a readout after the meeting.

And he says, you know, there are a lot of world leaders who are somewhat diffident, he put it, concerned about Donald trump. He told me that Trump doesn't have the bandwidth to deal with foreign affairs. So, that is why he goes to Mike Pence who is easier to deal with.

MATTHEWS: How did Joe Biden view the -- view President Obama and view his evolution, how he evolved as they worked together?

BROWER: Well, I interviewed all six living former vice-presidents for the book. And one thing that I noticed again and again is these relationships tend to disintegrate over time.

[18:50:01] And between Joe Biden and Barack Obama, it's one of the few that actually grew stronger during their eight years together, and it was difficult at first. I was surprised by that. It wasn't this bromance from the very beginning.

Biden didn't like having a boss. He had never had one before. But over time, especially the experience of Biden's son Beau and his cancer diagnosis, it brought them much closer.

And Biden told me, in fact, that at these weekly launches, he stopped bringing up Beau's name so much because President Obama at the time was so upset about it and he would start tearing up at these lunches, because it was so emotional for them. But it brought them closer together.

But I do think it's interesting that at the beginning, it was very difficult for Biden to kind of fit in Obama's world.

BLITZER: Excellent new book. Once again, let me show our viewers, "First in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents and the Pursuit of Power". The author, Kate Andersen Brower.

Kate, congratulations. Everybody who reads this book is going to learn a lot, I recommend it highly. Thanks for joining us.

BROWER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, Rudy Giuliani dismisses a false statement as a simple mistake. Chris Cuomo, he's standing by live to discuss his explosive interview with the president's lawyer.


[18:55:55] BLITZER: The breaking news this hour. White House accusing the Philadelphia Eagles of a political stunt after a number of players declined an invitation to meet with the president who responded by canceling the event at the White House.

Let's get some more with the host of CNN's newest show, "CUOMO PRIME TIME". That would be Chris Cuomo.

Chris, how are you taking on this NFL controversy with the president on your show later tonight?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": Well, I'm going to echo your intentionality in this, Wolf.

Thank you for having me on the show. It's always good to be with the team captain.

We have to take it on is the answer to the question because it's about more than football. It's about more than one team. This is a culture war that is going on. I mean, that's what it is. It's not hyperbolic.

The president is very good at getting in front of situations. He ended this before there could be potential embarrassment for him, even though it was at the last second. But that's just about the method.

The madness here is the president's obvious intention to use what's happening with the flag and the National Anthem to divide the country. That's what it is. It's been clear from the beginning. And this is the latest manifestation of it. But it's something that just has to stop. No matter what your

partisan stripe, you cannot be in favor of seeing this country divided along these lines.

BLITZER: Absolutely right. You had a very strong, hard-hitting interview with Rudy Giuliani last night.

The lawyer for the president of the United States, can he really say he and Jay Sekulow simply made some mistakes?

CUOMO: Yes, he absolutely can. And in fact, even in the Holy Land, Wolf, in Jerusalem, he can swear to god that this was only a mistake.

And look, this is Rudy Giuliani being an attorney for his client. He sees this as zealous representation as they teach us in ethics class in law school. But I have to tell you, it is hard to swallow that the president's lawyer didn't know what his role was in something that was so central to the investigation that's going on.

I mean, come on. What is the chance of that? Statistically zero, and it's not something that Sekulow just said once and it's not something that they corrected as soon as they knew it not to be true. And that's very important, Wolf.

Not until the Trump Jr. e-mails came out, not until they could secrete it into this letter. They never came to Wolf Blitzer and said we want to come on and correct this. Sarah Sanders never corrected it, although I don't blame her the way I do Jay Sekulow and the lawyer and anybody else who was in that room and part of that dynamic.

But come on, he didn't know? And it went from him having nothing to do with it to him dictating the damn response? It's just -- it's strange credulity as we say when we're being polite.

BLITZER: A White House official told "The Washington Post," Chris, that President Trump is, quote, obsessed with pardons. The source says there has been favorite thing to talk about. He may sign a dozen or more in the next two months.

What does that tell you?

CUOMO: It tells me that it's just the latest thing that the media has made relevant, that the president will use to play to advantage. He'll talk about self-pardoning and experts telling him he has an absolute right to do it.

You know that's not true. You know that that's not what the legal community believes. You know that's probably not even what the president believes. It's a device to keep this about how he is more powerful than those he opposes.

He is president of the United States and that what is being done to him is victimization and wrong and rotten. That's what it is. And everything that he does is some type of extension of that argument and Rudy Giuliani, I don't know what it means for his own legacy, but there's a reason that the president is shining so bright when Rudy Giuliani's name is mentioned.

He's done a good job, Wolf, of getting the media to talk about this entire situation and the terms that they want, that the president should have limited exposure when you could make an equal argument he should have greater exposure.

BLITZER: You've got Anthony Scaramucci tonight. We're all looking forward to that interview. "CUOMO PRIME TIME", 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Chris, excellent new work. Congratulations on the new show.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.