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Trump Org CFO Given Immunity by Prosecutors; Sen. John McCain to Discontinue Cancer Treatment; GOP Lawmaker Blames His Wife In Corruption Case. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 24, 2018 - 17:00   ET


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: -- at 12 p.m. Eastern. Of course, knows John McCain well and congressman Adam Schiff. All starts at 9 a.m. on Sunday. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:00:10] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Money man talks. The president's inner circle is looking more like a semicircle as one ally after another pulls out. Now, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, the man who knows the secrets of every deal, is granted immunity.

(AUDIO GAP) pulls the plug. Citing a lack of progress on denuclearization. So why is the president sending warmest regards and respect to Kim Jong-un?

Battling Sessions. As the president privately grumbles about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and mocks him publicly in a series of tweets, Sessions is finally hitting back. Do the president's attacks only make him look weak?

And discontinuing treatment. Senator John McCain's family says he's decided to halt treatment in his tough fight against brain cancer as politicians across the political spectrum praise his service, his heroism and his friendship.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. Another huge crack in the crumbling wall of loyalty around Donald Trump. The chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, has been granted immunity by federal prosecutors. The source tells CNN the deal focuses in on the investigation of hush-money payments by former Trump fixer Michael Cohen to two women who alleged affairs with Trump. A former Trump Organization insider says Weisselberg knows where all the financial bodies are buried.

I'll speak with Congressman Ruben Gallego of the Armed Services Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are standing by with full coverage. Let's begin our breaking news coverage and CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is standing by.

Jim, as close confidants turn against the president, he certainly must be feeling a lot of pressure.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The pressure is on, Wolf. And it's another legal blow for President Trump in a week that has been critical in the Russia investigation. And the president is continuing to take out his frustrations on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

My colleagues here at the White House and I are told that the president has been fuming about firing his attorney general as recently as the last few weeks, but so far, he's been talked off the ledge.


ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump remains silent as he left with the first lady for a speech in Ohio with a growing list of legal worries hot on his tail.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.

ACOSTA: The latest concern, federal prosecutors have granted immunity to Allen Weisselberg, who once appeared on Mr. Trump's TV show, "The Apprentice." But more critically, he's the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, the president's private company whose finances are cloaked in secrecy.

A source on the president's legal team downplayed Weisselberg's cooperation, which could be crucial as prosecutors unravel the plot helmed by Mr. Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to funnel hush money to women alleging affairs with the president. The attorney for one of those women, porn star Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, believes more may be at stake.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS (via phone): The only reason, then, that they would give immunity to Mr. Weisselberg is they were looking beyond Michael Cohen. They would need, potentially, his testimony and cooperation to look at someone else higher up the food chain, if you will. There's only one person that that is likely to be, and that is Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you a hero? Do you think you're a hero now?


ACOSTA: Cohen can be heard on an audio tape obtained by CNN, talking to Mr. Trump about Weisselberg. The apparent subject, making payments to cover up the president's past behavior.

COHEN: I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --


COHEN: With funding. Yes. And it's all the stuff. ACOSTA: A big question is how the president decides to respond. He

once told "The New York Times" an investigation that crept into his family's finances would cross a red line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Mueller's looking at your finances and your family's finances unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTER/CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Would that be a breach of the actual -- I would say yes.

TRUMP: I would say yes.

ACOSTA: Sources tell CNN the president has fumed for months and even in the last several weeks, that he'd like to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

One day after Sessions insisted the Justice Department would remain independent, Mr. Trump appeared to mock that notion, tweeting, "Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. Jeff, this is great. What everyone wants. So look into all the corruption on the other side." Adding, "Come on, Jeff. You can do it. The country is waiting."

[17:05:04] ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president's had the executive branch and he decides who serves in his cabinet and to continue to criticize the attorney general, I think, makes the president appear weak.

ACOSTA: One person keeping a safe distance from all the drama, Vice President Pence, who steered clear of Mr. Trump's legal turmoil at a speech in Washington. Instead, Pence advised the crowd to get their news from word of mouth, not the media.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hold the view that the most powerful media in America is not television news. It's not the Internet or social media. I've always believed and still believed that the most powerful media in America has always been and will always be word of mouth.


ACOSTA: Now, the president declined to speak to reporters before leaving for Ohio this afternoon, but the image of his departure did speak volumes, even amidst all the questions of porn stars and payoffs this week, Wolf. The president was joined by the first lady. She was right at his side -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you.

Jim Acosta over at the White House. More now on truly stunning news that the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization in New York, Allen Weisselberg, has been given immunity in the investigation of hush-money payments to women.

Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, how significant is this for President Trump for Weisselberg to be granted immunity? KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when Weisselberg was

subpoenaed last month for testimony in the investigation of Michael Cohen, a former Trump Organization employee told CNN that this was the ultimate nightmare scenario for Trump, because what Weisselberg knows anything and everything about the Trump Organization's finances.

And, Wolf, that's because Weisselberg is the Trump Organization's chief financial officer. He's been with the company for decades. He's even worked with Trump's father before he joined Trump's organization. He -- when Trump became the president, he put Weisselberg in control of the company, along with his two sons.

And his knowledge is not just at the Trump Organization. He's helped prepare Donald Trump's taxes, and he's the treasurer of the Trump Foundation. So his ties with Donald Trump are very deep, Wolf.

BLITZER: Know, Kara, about the specifics of the immunity deal?

SCANNELL: Right, Wolf. So a source tells us that -- that Weisselberg was given immunity for his testimony. He went in and testified about several weeks ago.

The questions were focused on Michael Cohen and the payments that surrounding those hush-money payments to women and that Weisselberg was not called back to testify. So it appears as though as though it is limited, but of course, we can't rule out that there could be other things or other areas that the prosecutors would want to talk to him about.

BLITZER: You know, one other thing, Kara. Weisselberg may not be the only legal concern for the Trump Organization right now. Talk about that.

SCANNELL: So Wolf, last night "The New York Times" reported that the Manhattan district attorney's office led by Cyrus Vance was considering pursuing a criminal investigation of the Trump Organization related to these hush-money payments as he saw in the criminal information that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to earlier this week.

The Trump Organization facilitated those payments. Some of them came from a trust, according to the court filings. And so now that is an area that, according to "The New York Times," the Manhattan district attorney's office is considering pursuing.

They have not returned a call for comment. We do know from the Trump -- we know from a source that the Trump Organization has not been contacted yet by the Manhattan district attorney's office, and the lawyer for the organization has declined to comment, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kara Scannell reporting for us. Kara, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee. He's also an Iraq War veteran.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: How significant is this immunity deal for the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg?

GALLEGO: Wolf, No. 1, you could probably get some information that the Trump -- Donald Trump and the administration, in general, has been avoiding. You know, where are Donald Trump's taxes? Where has his money been coming from? Who does he owe debts to? Who does -- who are the people he's having -- contracts with?

All these things that, you know, the Trump administration and Donald Trump still have refused to answer for many years. This may actually come up. We could actually see who is having the influence on Donald Trump that the American public has not had a chance to ask.

And No. 2, it also goes back to the fact that the Republicans themselves in Congress have not done any type of oversight. So this is a good opportunity for us to actually hold this president accountable. Unfortunately, had to be done this way instead of through the normal means of Congress.

BLITZER: Do you think, Congressman, that this is a sign that prosecutors are looking beyond the Cohen, the Michael Cohen case, to potential criminal violations by other people in the president's orbit?

GALLEGO: I think -- obviously, I think, you know, we're dealing with professionals here. If they see some serious crimes that are done or have been done in the past, they're going to go and prosecute them in the commission, obviously, of investigating what's happening with the president and his past dealings.

I do think, also, this is, you know, going to potentially start drilling deeper into the amount of influence that Russian oligarchs had in terms of buying property.

[17:10:07] Look, Donald Trump and the Donald Trump Association was not very run -- was not run well for many years. They relied on a lot of foreign LLCs to buy their properties for many years, sometimes at losses. You know? And many of them were coming from Russia.

So how much of that was actually done to, you know, genuinely actually put money overseas. Some of that was actually done money laundering. And then the question is how many of that -- how much of that came overseas during the election to help the president, potentially, win the 2016 presidential election? These are the questions that potentially could be answered by that CFO.

BLITZER: Based on the Michael Cohen plea deal earlier this week, based on that deal alone, Congressman, is there enough evidence to begin impeachment proceedings against the president in the House of Representatives?

GALLEGO: I think it's actually important that we let Mueller actually finish the investigation. What we know so far is that he has run a very good, tight operation that he's been able to turn over enough information to continue the legitimacy of this investigation. I think we as politicians shouldn't jump into the middle of this before the final report would end up in the end, I think, diminishing the power of the final report.

And I think we still have time to -- you know, to bite that apple, should it come to it. But I don't think it's actually in the best interests of justice should we just jump the gun right now.

BLITZER: So if the Democrats were to take control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections in November, do you think the leadership in your party will push for impeachment or not?

GALLEGO: I think we'd have to -- honestly, I think we have to wait to see what the investigation comes back, and we show some definitive crimes that this president has conducted, we should not be afraid of going down that road.

But it is, I think, a little premature for us to just assume right now that we could impeach this president until this investigation is done and you're talking about it, I think, potentially discredits the investigation that Mueller's doing currently.

BLITZER: The president and his attorneys say they won't consider pardons until after the Mueller probe is over. Is that a signal to you, Congressman, is it a signal to Manafort that a pardon could be coming?

GALLEGO: Well, they could but, you know, if they start moving in that direction, for me that's a clear red line. You're essentially engaging in obstruction of justice, and though it may be legal for him to issue a pardon, I would consider that obstruction of justice. And that itself is an impeachable offense and, you know, I think the president has to tread very carefully if he wants to play that game. But right now, the deck is really stacked against him, and he should consider carefully every word he says and everything he tweets out.

BLITZER: The president, as you know, has renewed his attacks, public attacks, on the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions. And some of Sessions's most ardent defenders, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham seem open to replacing the attorney general after the midterm elections.

Do you think Republicans in Congress will give the president cover if he decides to fire Sessions?

GALLEGO: Absolutely. The Republicans in Congress have shown that they are quite cowards when it comes to standing up to the president and upholding the Constitution of the United States. And given the opportunity should the president fire Sessions, you would see almost zero acts of courage coming from the Republican caucus, Senate or House.

They don't -- they just don't have it in them. Maybe they'll tweet something out. They'll say that, you know, they are very worried or they're, you know, concerned. But in the end they all fold. They folded every time. I wouldn't be surprised if they fold again if the president does this.

BLITZER: Congressman Gallego, thanks so much for joining us.

GALLEGO: Thank you.

BLITZER: More breaking news right now. The family of Senator John McCain says he's decided to discontinue treatment in his long and very difficult fight against an aggressive form of brain cancer. That's produced an outpouring of tributes from lawmakers and politicians across the political spectrum, praising him as a hero, a great public servant, and a friend.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is with us right now. So Dana, that's the latest? What are you learning?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's grim. It's not good. I mean, Wolf, the idea that John McCain, somebody who -- for whom fight is basically part of his name, part of his being, part of his soul has decided that treatment is not going to work and that he wants to give it up at this point tells you a lot.

Look, when the senator was diagnosed a year ago July, so it's been about 13 months, Sanjay Gupta and others who are experts in this horrible form of brain cancer said that the life expectancy is about 14 months.

But you and I and everybody else around the world, frankly, who have gotten to know the story of John McCain, and we're lucky we've actually gotten to know the man John McCain know that rules don't usually apply to him when you're talking about his mortality. But now it looks like they are.

I mean, look, he's almost -- he's in his 80s. His birthday is next week. And as the statement from his family made clear, that obviously has taken a toll. His age and this horrible, horrible brain cancer he's been suffering from.

BLITZER: Yes, we both covered him for a long time. We've both been blessed to interview him on many occasions. We've gotten to know him over these many, many years. What do you think he hopes his legacy will be?

BASH: Well, what's so remarkable about John McCain is that we don't have to guess, because he has written speeches. He has written books with his long-time collaborator and very, very close confidant Mark Salter about this very thing, about leadership, about America's place in the world and about his place in the world.

And one of the final big speeches that McCain gave was in October of last year. He was in Philadelphia getting an award, and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's not been perfect service, to be sure, and there were probably times when the country might have benefited a little less of my help.

But I've tried to deserve the privilege as best I can, and I've been repaid 1,000 times over with adventures, with good company, with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself. Of being a bit player in the extraordinary story of America. And I am so grateful.


BASH: And that was also part of a book that he most recently wrote with Mark Salter called "The Restless Wave." And, you know, I've been reading and re-reading parts of it, particularly the parts where he quotes his love, Ernest Hemingway. He's a great lover of fiction, particularly Ernest Hemingway and his main character and "For Whom the Bell Tolls," Robert Jordan, talking about how much he has loved life and he has fought good fights. And "please don't be sad for me, because I've had a great run."

And that's what he says and, you know, certainly that is what he and his family want people to think. It's hard to not be sad when you think about his life but also about the voice that is John McCain that has already been very much missing in this turbulent environment.

BLITZER: Yes. Great American patriot. A wonderful man and at this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with him ad his very, very loving family.

Dana, thanks so much.

BASH: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. The Trump Organization's top money man is granted immunity by prosecutors investigating hush-money payments. Could their probe expand to the president himself?

And as federal investigators start looking into the president's finances, would that mean crossing a red line once drawn by President Trump?


[17:22:15] BLITZER: Our breaking news, federal prosecutors have now granted immunity to the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. The source tells CNN the deal focuses in on the hush-money case against former presidential fixer Michael Cohen.

Joining us now, CNN political correspondent Sara Murray, along with our legal analyst, Michael Zeldin. He's a former special assistant to Robert Mueller. Could Weisselberg's immunity deal, Michael, mean a lot of trouble for the president?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It could be. If this is just the beginning of his cooperation with prosecutors, that is, he testifies against Cohen and the Federal Election Commission, payment to Stormy Daniels, as part one, and part two is a continuing investigation into the Trump Organization financial dealings. Then this could be a very big deal, yes.

BLITZER: What do we know, Sara? You've been doing a lot of reporting on this, on the nature of this immunity deal.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The interesting thing that, you know, as some of my colleagues on the Russia team in particular have found out, is that so far the questioning the immunity deal when it came to Weisselberg has to deal with Michael Cohen and particularly with these hush-money payments, and that Weisselberg has not been called back. So it seems like, at least right now, it's been pretty narrow in scope, but as Michael pointed out, you know, just because this isn't where it starts doesn't mean it's where it ends. And we don't have an indication of what could come after this.

BLITZER: How likely is it -- Michael, you're an expert in this area -- that the federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are cooperating, working very closely with the special counsel, Robert Mueller about giving, for example, immunity to Weisselberg?

ZELDIN: I would think that, if Weisselberg is part of a broader financial crimes investigation as to which Mueller has a work stream and the Southern District of New York has a work stream, they're sharing grand jury information. They're allowed to share there's exceptions to the grand jury rules that allowing sharing between prosecutors. So I expect that they would be coordinating if they both have work streams that touch on Trump Organization and financial crimes.

BLITZER: Because they're both part of the Justice Department. They both report up the chain of command at the Justice Department, so presumably, they're working pretty much in tandem.

And let's not forget the justice -- the Mueller special investigator. He referred all of the Michael Cohen stuff to the Southern District of New York.

ZELDIN: And that's right. And what we don't know is what was Mueller looking at when he came across Cohen that he made the referral? So he may -- that may be an indication that he actually was looking at financial crimes for Trump, and this was incidental to that, so he passed it off.

BLITZER; I know you handled money-laundering cases you worked as a special assistant to Robert Mueller over at the Justice Department. Could Mueller be investigating the Trump Organization finances in connection with the broader Russia probe?

ZELDIN: So the mandate that Mueller has is counterintelligence, coordination with the counterintelligence effort and other crimes that he comes across that may arise out of that investigation.

[17:25:05] I would think that, if he felt that there was a connection between Russia and the coordination and the Trump Organization, just as we saw in the Manafort case when he moved to dismiss the indictment, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said it makes logical sense that you would look at Manafort because of his ties to Russia and the Ukraine.

You could make the same argument with respect to the Trump Organization, and that would fall within Mueller's mandate.

BLITZER: You've done a lot of reporting, Sarah, on the Russia investigation. As you remember, more than a year ago, the president drew a red line in that interview with "The New York Times" when he was asked if it would be a red line if they started investigating his personal family business, his business ties, all of that, the Trump Organization, for example, which clearly, federal prosecutors are now doing the business dealings.

You think this is something that Mueller specifically is looking into the Trump business, the Trump Organization?

MURRAY: We know he's been looking into corners of this, because we know that in the past he's asked witnesses about this Trump Tower deal in Moscow that never really came to fruition and what they knew about that and the timing of that in relation to the campaign.

You know, the thing we don't know, because we only have the sort of small window into what Mueller is up to is how far that went, how deep that went. Did he decide to dig deeper into the Trump Organization finances or into Donald Trump's personal finances? We just don't have a good indication of that.

But I think, as Michael pointed out, it's really too soon to say, and we know too little about, you know, what Mueller has to say that anything could be off the table. He could know much more about the inner workings of the Trump Organization. He could have many more documents than we're aware of at this point.

ZELDIN: If Mueller came across, for example, an indication that Trump was indebted to Russian oligarchs similar to Manafort, and that that informed the way he behaved in the campaign, I don't think -- I don't think there's a way that Mueller can avoid looking at that. There's no evidence that we know of that in the public record, but if he saw it, he'd have to look at it.

BLITZER: Guys, thank you very, very much. We're going to stay on top of this story.

There's more breaking news. The long-time chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, the man who knows about all of the president's business deals, has immunity now by -- granted by federal prosecutors. So what did he tell them? And could the immunity granted to his company's money man mean big trouble for the president?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:32:03] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We are following multiple breaking stories including the revelation that the Trump organization's chief financial officer, there you see him, Allen Weisselberg, was granted immunity by the U.S. Attorney's Office investigating the president's former Personal Attorney Michael Cohen. Our political and legal specialists, they are here to talk about this very important development. Mark Preston, for decades he's been part of the Trump organization, worked his way up to becoming the chief financial officer. How much does Weisselberg know about what's going on within Trump's business?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He knows enough that he decided he was going to go and ask for immunity from the federal prosecutors. So, clearly, he knows something. You know, we often talk about a one-two punch in politics, you know, that will take out a candidate. What we saw this week is Donald Trump got a one-two-three punch in politics. He had Michael Cohen, his "fixer", flip. David Pecker, his good friend, who was doing catch and kill stories flip. And then, of course, now Weisselberg as you said has decided to work. This is why it's so important to try to work with prosecutors. A couple of things. One, he did Trump's taxes, so he knows where his money is; he oversaw the charity. We know all the problems he had with the charity. He's also the only family member that is a trustee of the president's trust. Talk about where all the bodies are buried and where all the money is, he knows.

BLITZER: If Pecker knows this much and if Michael Cohen knows this much, Allen Weisselberg knows a whole lot more.

PRESTON: I'd like to say so much of what you can fit in here.

BLITZER: Not only business dealings, the personal life of the president, as well. Joey Jackson, what goes into a decision by a U.S. Attorney to grant someone immunity? How difficult is this? What do they hope to get in return? Talk a little bit about that.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, one thing, Wolf. Then, it comes down to we talk about the "Is," right? We talk about investigations, we talk about impeachment, we talk about indictment. You know, this is something that's very significant and the other "I" is information. At the end of the day, what happens is prosecutors have to make a decision and that decision is who do you want? Who is more important? Who do we really want to focus our attention on? And in the event that someone has critical information that leads to the target of that investigation, prosecutors will protect you -- it's a deal made to get to who they want.

So, what do they need? They need information relative to what they're looking for. This is all about finance. You follow the money. You get the money trail and you get to where you need. He knows everything. Deals that were cut. Taxes that were done. Bank loans. Bank information. Assets. Liabilities. Balance sheets. So, this is significant. And apparently, he does know enough, to Mark's point, that prosecutors said, hey, let's make a deal. Final point, Wolf, and that's this: Not only should we be talking about this but we should also be talking about the Manhattan district attorney's office investigation.

I'll tell you why briefly, my former office. Number one, in the event they investigate to the extent that Trump has no part and power over state crimes, what would be of interest to me is to know how people would crack under knowing that, look, tell me what you want, we won't prosecute you. If they know the president doesn't have their back, no matter what you want to do, as it relates to pardons. And so, therefore that investigation is going to be critical in terms of gathering intel and prosecutors saying you want to make a deal or you want to go to jail? Trump with no authority to protect them.

BLITZER: Yes, it's interesting, Jamie Gangel. Allen Weisselberg, certainly not a household name but we do know from that audio tape that Michael Cohen secretly recorded the president when they're discussing that $150,000 payoff payment to Karen McDougall, the former playmate. Michael Cohen said I'm going to work out the reimbursement, all the money with Allen Weisselberg. This is a very significant player right now. How worried should the president be?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: I think we should all be watching, what else? Donald Trump's Twitter feed. I think in the next 24 hours, look, this is -- we keep hearing it over and over again. The nightmare scenario for Trump. It is. I was looking -- look at Trump's own words about Weisselberg. He wrote, "think like a billionaire," Mr. Trump writes: "Allen has been with me for 30 years, and knows how to get things done." That says it all. And to Mark's point and Joey's point, let's remember the other thing of an immunity deal. Donald Trump has nothing to offer him. There is no pardon. He doesn't need a pardon. So, there is absolutely no incentive not to completely cooperate.

BLITZER: Rachael, you remember last year, the president said if they start investigating his business, his personal life, family business, that's a red line. They cross that, he didn't say what he would do but he said that was certainly a red line. But as you know whether it's tax fraud, bank fraud or other potential financial related crimes, you have to follow the money and that clearly is what these prosecutors are doing right now.

[17:37:05] RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: That's right, Wolf. We're starting to see why Trump officials were more concerned for a long time about what's going on in New York with these hush money payments than they were about Russian collusion story which was really dominating the headlines for most of the past year. This is escalating very quickly and clearly this is why he said, you know, my Trump organization's financial information red line, don't go there. But guess what, Trump's not a king. He can't tell these prosecutors not to go after his own organization. The person who perhaps can, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions who's on the outs with the president right now. It will be interesting to see, you know, if he tries to move against Sessions and put someone in place to be more favorable to him, perhaps real people in New York and that would be a huge obviously controversy.

BLITZER: I think trying to get somebody to replace Sessions that's going to go through a lengthy confirmation process in the Senate. Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, would be attorney general acting attorney general.

BADE: Who wouldn't like that?

BLITZER: Meantime, and as I keep saying, the president is no great fan of Rod Rosenstein either. Stick around. There's more news. I want to get everyone's thoughts about Senator John McCain. His family announced he's stopping treatment for brain cancer.


BLITZER: We're back with our political and legal experts. Very sad news about John McCain. He told the family he wants to stop medical treatment. You know, I put together some clips. This is the president of the United States speaking about John McCain over these past several months, even while Senator McCain was fighting brain cancer.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Early in the morning, a man walked in and he said, thumbs down. Thumbs down. That was not good.

John McCain came in and he went down thumbs down at 3:00 in the morning.

We had Obamacare beat, then one senator decided to go thumbs down.

We had a gentleman late into the morning hours go thumbs down.

That was not a good thing he did. That was not a good thing for our people, for our country.

I mean you, you look at McCain, what McCain has done is a tremendous slap in the face of the Republican Party. Tremendous.

Senator McCain who voted against us getting good health care.

You all remember that evening. Somebody came in with a thumbs down.

I had Obamacare done except one guy at 2:00 in the morning went in and said, he went thumbs down.

We had Obamacare repealed and replaced. And a man, I won't mention his name, but a man at 2:00 in the morning went thumbs down.

One man very early in the morning went thumbs down, so that was that day, that was a very sad day for the Republican Party. That was a very sad for the country when that vote was cast, that final vote was cast. Thumbs down.


BLITZER: All of that, Jamie, said while Senator McCain was fighting for his life after he was diagnosed with this aggressive brain tumor. GANGEL: It is unimaginable that Donald Trump would go out there time

and time again while John McCain is battling cancer. John McCain's daughter Megan called it gross and I think that's -- that word is correct. But what was very interesting about the tape you put together there is how often Donald Trump won't even use his name. He is obsessed with John McCain. And John McCain has really been the standard bearer for the anti-Trump part of the Republican Party, and he cannot stand it. I will say and there's been some mention of this before that Senator McCain has said that he does not want President Trump at his funeral. Although, it's been reported that he is inviting both President Obama and President George W. Bush and wants them to give eulogies. So, it is going to be quite a moment. We're walking up to where Donald Trump is going to be very alone that day.

BLITZER: Mark Preston, what are you hearing?

PRESTON: Well, one thing we didn't show in there, just very quickly, was in Iowa when he described John McCain as not a hero basically for being a POW. And I was there that day and I remember Donald Trump saying it in Iowa. And I thought this was the end of Donald Trump's presidency. Look where we are right now or at least this campaign. This, like I say about John McCain, volunteered for Vietnam, did a mission over Hanoi. Crashed. Served five and a half years as a POW, was bayonetted, had a rifle that crushed his shoulder and he refused to get out early. That's what you had to say about John McCain.

BLITZER: He was a true hero. Rachael?

BADE: You know, that clip where we played, you know, the president coming saying thumbs down, bringing up that moment where he killed the health care repeal bill over and over again. I'm willing to bet that that's one of John McCain's proudest moments even though the president is slamming and has slammed him for that moment over and over again.

Look, John McCain is one of the few senators, one of the few members of Congress who truly to this day values bipartisan cooperation. These days, bipartisanship is seen as this dirty word. You know, you have Republicans retreating to the right. Democrats retreating to the left and he's one of the people that actually reached across the aisle. One other thing he'll always be remembered for is standing to the president. It takes a lot of courage to sink the thing your party has been working on and campaigning on for more than a decade because you feel like it needed democratic input and he's not going to be always be remembered for that.

BLITZER: We've covered Senator McCain for 30 years, I'm guessing. Interviewed him many dozens of times over these many years. Always a gentleman. Always so responsible. He worked really, really hard to get the job done. A great American patriot. And once again, all of us wish only the best for him and his family during these difficult days right now.

[17:15:36] There's more news we're following. A political career and marriage in trouble as a Republican congressman and his wife go to court to face corruption charges and guess what. He's blaming her.


[17:20:28] BLITZER: Tonight, we have new details about the corruption allegations against California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife. Both are charged with raiding campaign funds to pay for truly extravagant personal expenses. Let's bring CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, what have you found out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we're getting more detail on the shameless spending this congressman and his wife allegedly engaged in. And new accounts of his ugly behavior in bars and restaurants. But what could be the most jarring development is that the congressman now seems willing to completely hang his wife of 20 years out to dry.


TODD: Never a good sign for a marriage when a congressman and his wife accused together of grossly abusing campaign money enter a courthouse separately, with separate legal teams and sit four seats apart from each other. And it's never a good sign when your husband of 20 years, the congressman, says it was all your fault.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: She handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when we got to Congress. She was also the campaign manager. So, whatever she did, that would be looked at too, I'm sure.

TODD: Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter's turn on his wife, Margaret, is surprising even in Washington.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You might see this in a mob case or some kind of gang case where sometimes prosecutors get family members playing off each other, but for a sitting member of a congress to be accused of such serious crimes and just blame it all on his spouse is even in the crazy era we're living in with this news is just unprecedented.

TODD: Margaret Hunter's attorney did not respond to CNN's request for comments about her husband's accusations against her. Duncan and Margaret Hunter pleaded not guilty to federal charges that they stole more than a quarter of a million-dollars in campaign money for extravagant living expenses, while their personal bank accounts were allegedly way overdrawn.

HUNTER: There's nothing illegal about being poor. I don't think there's anything illegal about not having money in your bank account.

TODD: But Hunter's claim that it was all his wife's doing doesn't square with passages in the charging document, saying he was warned repeatedly by his staff about Margaret Hunter's alleged misuse of campaign money. And that he ignored the warnings, kept her on the payroll, and kept allowing her access to the money.

LIZZA: They were very clear in the indictments that these crimes, allegedly -- these alleged crimes were committed without -- you know, it was the two of them, not just her. TODD: The Hunters, according to the charging document were unbridled

and unrepentant in grabbing campaign money for things like a $14,000 vacation to Italy, golf outings, clothes, meals, the congressman even paid airfare for a pet rabbit. And this is a tale of the hubris of power: Duncan Hunter allegedly spent $462 in campaign money for 30 shots of tequila at a bachelor party at this Washington restaurant. Then, there's the account of a server at the Jack Rose bar around the corner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said that he was rowdy, often would drink a lot.

TODD: That server didn't want to go on camera, but the journalist, Daniel Neuhauser, who interviewed her said she told him about one instance where Hunter left his drink at the bar to get a pizza and then came back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tossed his beer, as you do. When he came back, pizza in hand, he asked for the beer, it was gone. They thought he had left. And then he demanded another, so it was just, you know, another in the pattern of behavior that he seemed to show here that was didn't ingratiate himself to the servers.


TODD: Congressman Hunter's attorney did not respond to the accounts of allegedly boorish behavior by the congressman at some of the establish that he's been associated with here in Washington and elsewhere. And neither the congressman's lawyer nor his wife's attorney have responded to our inquiries about how much they might actually cooperate with prosecutors against each other in this case. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian, one of the most disturbing things about this indictment is that this couple is alleged to have used wounded veterans, wounded veterans as an excuse for their extravagant spending.

TODD: It's incredible, Wolf. The indictment says in one instance when Duncan Hunter told his wife he was planning to buy a pair of shorts, but had run out of money to buy him, she allegedly told him to buy the shorts at a golf pro shop, so that they could falsely claim later that they were buying golf balls for Wounded Warriors. Pretty revolting.

[17:24:54] BLITZER: Certainly is. All right, Brian, thanks very much for that report. Coming up, breaking news, federal prosecutors grant immunity to the longtime financial chief of the Trump organization. The man who knows about all the president's deals. What did he tell them? And could their probe expand to the president himself?


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, talking to prosecutors. We're learning that the president's longtime financial chief got a promise of immunity before he testified about payoffs to women and potentially much more. What did federal investigators learn as they followed Mr. Trump's money?

[17:59:56] Immunity, community. There's a growing list of people in the president's orbit who are telling what they know and trying to protect themselves, as others face jail time who might turn on Mr. Trump next?

Cancelling on Kim. The president orders his secretary of state to call a new trip to North Korea as evidence --