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Trump Lashes Out on Robert Mueller and the Russia Probe; Florida Senate Race Heads into Hand Recount; Roger Stone Releases Text Messages with Alleged Link to WikiLeaks; Interview with Representative Mike Quigley; Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 15, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:00] TAPPER: CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Russia probe rants. After days of going over Special Counsel Robert Mueller's written questions about collusion, President Trump explodes calling the Russia investigation a total mess and illegal, and describes Mueller's team as thugs.
Hand recount. The deadline passes for Florida counties to re-tabulate votes in the still undecided races for senator and governor with one of the state's largest counties unable to do it in time.
The missing. A grim search underway for fire victims in northern California where hundreds of people are unaccounted for, even as the flames continue to ravage the region.
And not on Speaker's terms. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi faces growing opposition to taking back the speaker's gavel with 17 members of her own party signing a pledge not to vote for her.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight CNN has learned that President Trump and his lawyers have huddled for three consecutive days reviewing written questions from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller about possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign. And Mr. Trump's anger at the probe is boiling over right now with the president lashing out in a tweet at Mueller, his team and the investigation itself.
I'll talk about that and much more with Congressman Mike Quigley of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents, analysts and specialists are also standing by.
First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown.
Pamela, the Russia investigation is clearly very much on the president's mind.
PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's right, Wolf. The president seemed particularly fired up today about it taking to Twitter to go after Robert Mueller and his team in a series of tweets. This coming in the wake of the president meeting with his legal team the past three days to go over Robert Mueller's questions. Now, tonight it's unclear if there was a particular trigger for this
Twitter tirade, but what is clear is that his anger over the probe is boiling over.
BROWN (voice-over): President Trump staying on message in front of the cameras today, working to quell criticism after skipping Veterans Day events in Paris and at home over the long weekend.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's my honor to be with you, and God bless America. Keep up the great work.
BROWN: But lashing out off camera. Following three days of going over the special counsel's questions with his legal team, Trump spent his morning tweeting, calling the Russia investigation, quote, "a disgrace to our nation" and once again claiming it's a total witch hunt like no other in American history, saying "These are angry people, including the highly conflicted Bob Mueller who worked for Obama for eight years."
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It's my honor to nominate Robert S. Mueller of California to become the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
BROWN: Trump, however, failing to mention that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was first appointed by President George W. Bush as FBI director. And then continued serving under President Obama. He's also a registered Republican.
The president's attacks on the Mueller investigation today come during a week of White House dysfunction. After losing power in the House of Representatives, the first lady forced the president's hand in reassigning the deputy National Security adviser with more potential firings on the horizon.
Still, the president defended his administration, tweeting today, "The White House is running very smoothly," and instead called the Mueller investigation a total mess, tweeting, "They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people. Horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want."
But sources say it's the president that is growing more furious by the day. A White House official telling CNN, quote, "Yes, he's pissed at damn near everyone."
Already nine Cabinet officials have left the Trump administration. Tensions continue to rise with his Chief of Staff John Kelly and the fate of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is still uncertain, a day after Trump said he would be making a decision on her post shortly.
The Special Counsel Robert Mueller is one person some lawmakers are trying to protect from being fired.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The president now has this investigation in his sights, and we all know it.
BROWN: But despite efforts by retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake to force a Senate vote on a bill to protect the investigation, other Republicans say that's not necessary despite the president's attacks.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: If you did do that bill, all you'd do is get into a big hassle. So --
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A hassle with the president?
HATCH: With him and with a lot of others.
BROWN: And, Wolf, the president met with Senate Republicans this afternoon here at the White House to discuss a range of issues, including the farm bill, government appropriations for border security, as well as nominations and prison reform, but a centerpiece of the discussion between the president and these Senate Republicans, of course, is how to avert a government shutdown next month.
[17:05:06] BLITZER: All right. Pamela, thank you very much. Pamela Brown reporting.
We've got some breaking news right now in Florida where the results of a machine recount throughout the state have just come out, and the Senate race is still too close to be headed toward -- so close it has to be headed toward now a manual recount.
CNN's Jessica Dean is in Florida for us, in Palm Beach County.
Jessica, so one county missed the deadline, but they still have the results.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. There are a lot of moving pieces here. Let's start first with that big piece of news we just got, that you just talked about. We are headed for a hand recount in the U.S. Senate race here. The margin that they have to look for there was .25 to trigger that hand recount. The margin is .15 so clearly within that margin for a hand recount of all votes -- of under votes and over votes, we're going to get to that in just a second, throughout the state of Florida.
Now, also, you mentioned that we are in the Palm Beach area. We are at the Supervisor of Elections Office for Palm Beach County, and if you look over to my side, they have set up here for that hand recount. In anticipation of that, of all the volunteers coming in here to Palm Beach. They also missed the deadline for the machine recount, so what does that mean? Well, they were tasked with putting all the ballots through the machines again to check their numbers against the original numbers that they put in on Saturday.
Well, the machines here are quite old and they gave them a lot of problems. They overheated. They broke down. They were not able to make that deadline, as you mentioned, which meant that by law they had to submit their results from Saturday, so those first unofficial rounds of results. Now we also learned that Hillsboro County had to do the same thing because they had a power outage there, two power outages actually, and they simply didn't trust those numbers, so it ended up being the two counties put in for their original results.
A third thing that you want to keep an eye on just recently. Bill Nelson's attorneys have gone back in and filed a lawsuit asking for a full hand recount here in Palm Beach County of all votes, not just those over and under votes.
So, Wolf, a lot of pieces that are kind of starting to come together, but the big news out of Florida right now is that we are headed for a hand recount in that Senate race.
BLITZER: In the Senate race, but it doesn't look like there's going to be a hand recount in the governor's race. That looks like that's wrapping up. And I just did the math. Based on the difference between what the original vote was as opposed to what the vote for Senate in Florida is right now, looks like Scott, the Republican, his lead actually increased by 41 votes. Originally he was ahead by 12,562 votes. Now he's ahead by 12,603 votes. Statewide.
So he's gone up by 41 votes, but they are still going to go ahead, Jessica, with a manual -- a manual hand held recount.
DEAN: That's right. So let's talk about those -- that manual recount and what that actually is. I mentioned that we're looking at over ballots and under ballots. They are exactly what they sound like. An over ballot, and I believe we have an image we want to show you that's an example of an over ballot. That's where the machine looks like reads it -- so let me tell you what it looks like. It's when the machine counts -- doesn't know what to do because let's say someone bubbled in next to Bill Nelson and then kind of had a scratch next to Rick Scott or vice versa. It can't read that. That's what's been known as an over vote.
An under vote is when they voted in all the other races but didn't vote in that one particular race so that's why by law all of these volunteers are going to go through and start looking at them, and you can you bet, Wolf, that there are going to be representatives from both sides, attorneys from both sides. There are going to be a lot of people in this room watching as they go through those over and unders, and then asterisk to the side, remember, there's also this pending lawsuit that the Democrats have asked for a full hand recount, specifically here in Palm Beach.
BLITZER: And so Palm Beach County didn't make it on time and a couple of the smaller counties, I take it, didn't make it either.
BLITZER: And I'm just getting the information, Jessica, about the governor's race. It doesn't look like there's going to be a hand -- a manual recount there. Ron DeSantis, the Republican, was leading, and he's still leading, he's leading now by 33,683 votes over Andrew Gillum, the Democrat. That margin changed as a result of the -- of the machine recount by only one vote. Only one vote. So it doesn't look like there's significant changes, but we're still waiting for Palm Beach County and one or two smaller counties, right?
DEAN: That's right, and so we're going to wait on Palm Beach County to see what happens here and then as I mentioned to you before, Hillsboro County was the other county that said we need to revert back to those original unofficial results that we turned in on Saturday because they had some power outages there.
[17:10:09] They simply didn't trust those numbers. There was a difference of .16 percent I believe between the original number of votes they had and what they ended up with after that recount with those power outages, and they said we just simply don't feel confident enough to be able to use those numbers so it's Hillsboro County and Palm Beach County that both went back and said we're just going to give you our original unofficial results.
BLITZER: All right, Jessica. I know you're working your sources. Stand by.
I just want to show our viewers where the Senate stands, where the numbers stand right now. There you can see Rick Scott, the Republican, the governor, he's slightly ahead of Bill Nelson. He's ahead by 12,603 votes, so that's after the machine -- the machine recount and now they're going to do a handheld recount. We'll see what happens, we'll see what these other counties, Palm Beach County, included show there.
Jessica, before I let go, you're getting some more information?
DEAN: Yes. I wanted to show you this image that we were talking about just to give people an idea because over vote and under vote can kind of be a confusing term. We want to give people an idea of what they're going to be looking at right here behind me when these volunteers come in.
The image you're looking at that's what is called an over vote so you'll see that a bubble is filled completely in in one case and then at the top there's like a bubble that has almost just a mark in it, and it's hard for these machines to read those. They don't really always know what to do with that, so that's when it takes a human eye to look at that and in some cases, you know, they have to kind of take voter intent into consideration there as well, but they look at things like this.
Those are the ones that as they went through this -- not manual recount but with the machine recount that they were pulling out and say, OK, let's go ahead and pull this one to the side. If we go to this hand recount we know we're going to have to look at these again. So that's what the counties have been doing and it's that sort of image like with the one you just saw, that's what they're going to be looking at and pouring over in the next few days with human eyes and trying to understand what the machines put in -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll see if there's any significant changes as a result of all of that. Jessica Dean on the scene for us. Thank you very much.
There's other important news we're following including important developments in the Russia investigation. President Trump after spending three days reviewing questions from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller taking to Twitter today to lash out at the entire investigation.
Want to bring in our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.
Evan, you've been following the investigation for us. First of all, what are you hearing?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think it's more than just the nasty winter weather here that has the president in a foul mood. Clearly he spent some time with his lawyers before the midterms working on some of the answers to these questions, but now that the midterms are out of the way and he's done with that campaign he is fully focused on answering these questions.
And I think, you know, all of that time focusing on the Mueller investigation really has reminded him of how much he hates this and the fact that it is overshadowing his administration. We do not know what specifically is on his mind and what's really upsetting him, but I'm sure that this is something that is -- that is weighing on the president, Wolf.
BLITZER: I suspect you're absolutely right.
From our reporting, also from reporting from the "New York Times," we know Mueller was planning to ask some very specific questions such as when did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting, for example, in the course of his questions to the president? Do you think the president is realizing what information Mueller may have based on the specific questions that were submitted in writing?
PEREZ: Right. I think that is part of the issue here.
Look, that question in particular, the one you just said, Wolf, is one that has to do with his son and whether or not his son told him ahead of time about this June 2016 meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower. We do not know whether the president is going to stick with the answer, whether the answer remains the same or whether Don Jr. maybe told him anything.
We know from public comments they say that they did not, and so now that he's going to have to swear that this is his right answer, I think that is, you know, basically now in front of him, but, look, I think part of the issue here for the president is that he knows -- I think he knows what the documents say, he knows what some of the witnesses have said, he doesn't know what other information Mueller has including perhaps intelligence that may have been gained from overseas from other countries, so I think that's part of the issue for the president as he tries to answer these questions -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Just as he's dealing with these written questions, his longtime ally, Roger Stone, released text messages discussing WikiLeaks' plans to release information harmful to Hillary Clinton's campaign. How damaging potentially is this for the Trump team?
PEREZ: Well, I think we don't know quite yet. I think some of the questions that the Mueller team has been asking of some of the witnesses indicate that they know more here than they have led on and certainly we've known publicly.
[17:15:07] Let's put up some of these text messages that Roger Stone has released with his -- with his friend Randy Credico. You'll see in August of 2016, this is days before -- days after Credico interviewed Assange, Julian Assange, for his radio show. Randy Credico said to Roger Stone, "Julian Assange has kryptonite on Hillary," and Credico repeatedly tells Stone that he doesn't want Stone to out him as his source and so September 18th of 2016, Credico says, "Just remember do not name me as your connection to Assange."
And in six days before WikiLeaks released the first batch of these e- mails that were hacked from John Podesta's e-mails, Wolf, on October 1st, Randy Credico says, "Big news on Wednesday. Now pretend you do not know me." Roger Stone responds, "You died five years ago." Randy Credico responds, "Great. Hillary's campaign will die this week."
Obviously, Wolf, we know that a few days later those e-mails started coming out. And so the question is why did Roger Stone release these e-mails? Well, one of the problems for Roger Stone is that according to our reporting, some of the witnesses who have been going before -- before the Mueller team say that the -- the questions seemed to indicate that they believe that there was someone else other than Credico that was serving as a back channel to get information from Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
If that's the case, that's a big problem for Roger Stone and potentially for people inside the Trump campaign if that is the case, so here's Roger Stone discussing this very issue, Wolf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, TRUMP ALLY: I do know that you could take e-mails and text messages out of context to try to create a false impression that would show that we had advanced notice of the content or source of either John Podesta's e-mails or the e-mails published by WikiLeaks that were allegedly hacked, but that is not the case.
There is no Russian collusion. There is no WikiLeaks collaboration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: Wolf, I think you can see this -- definitely Roger Stone knows that he is a focus of this investigation. He doesn't know whether he's going to be indicted. He keeps saying that he believes he is, and he's trying to put all of this information out there before prosecutors get their chance to tell their story -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's not forget the U.S. intelligence community, including Mike Pompeo when he was CIA director during the Trump administration, he's now the secretary of state, they have all concluded that the Russians were the one -- the Russian military intelligence that hacked these e-mails and provided them to WikiLeaks to distribute publicly. That's what the U.S. intelligence community has concluded so that's a very significant development.
PEREZ: That's right.
BLITZER: Evan Perez doing excellent reporting for us as he always does. Thank you.
Let's get some more on all of this, Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois is joining us. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
BLITZER: So the president is lashing out at the Mueller probe and is saying things in these tweets this morning, and you've seen them. He says it's a total mess. He's gone absolutely nuts, Mueller. They are screaming and shouting behind the scenes. These are angry people. They are highly conflicted. A disgrace to our nation. He was not Senate-approved, Mueller. He was not confirmed by the Senate in this interview with the "Daily Caller." He says, "As far as I'm concerned this is an investigation that should never have been brought. It should never have been had. It's something that should never have been brought. It's an illegal investigation, he says. And it's very interesting that Mueller was never confirmed by the Senate. Your reaction?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: He doesn't need to be, and Mr. Mueller had extraordinary bipartisan credentials coming in. When he was appointed I heard many prominent Republicans say there couldn't be a better choice than Mr. Mueller, he's a war hero, who's done nothing but run a very tight investigation.
In fact, I think he's probably bent over backwards to not antagonize the president of the United States. We've heard that he's sent questions for the White House to respond to. I believe he's well within his bounds to have called the president in on subpoena and require the president of the United States to answer these questions, so obviously the president has had a bad week and he doesn't like these questions, so he's lashing out because he's afraid to take responsibility frankly for anything.
BLITZER: Do you expect more indictments in the coming days?
QUIGLEY: I'm not sure what Mr. Mueller is going to do. I think he took this time off out of respect for the election process. We all remember how people reacted to Director Comey's statements just days before that election and how many people I think justifiably felt it had an impact on that election. So I think out of respect for that process, the Mueller probe has been quiet. If they are going to do something, I suspect it will be rather soon. [17:20:04] BLITZER: How incriminating -- you just heard some of those
texts from the longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. How incriminating are they involving WikiLeaks, when the WikiLeaks hacked texts would be released?
QUIGLEY: Sure, and I saw what Mr. Stone said that you could take text out of context. I completely agree. So let's just forget that the texts ever existed. The fact is prior to their release, it was Mr. Stone who bragged about his relationship with Julian Assange and his communications with WikiLeaks, and he said, and I think his words were that Mr. Podesta was next in the barrel. So he can't have it both ways.
Now that he's -- you know, first he was bragging about it. Now he's feeling the heat about that, and he's backing away as quickly as he can.
BLITZER: As you know, the Democrats will be in the majority in the House of Representatives after January 3rd. It looks like Adam Schiff, your ranking member, will become the chairman, replacing Devin Nunes who really didn't want to do much on this full investigation. What are going to be your committee's key priorities looking ahead when you're in the majority?
QUIGLEY: Yes, I think it's appropriate for us to get back on a bipartisan track, working with our Republican colleagues to face our national security.
BLITZER: Can you do that, though, given the bad blood that exists? The Senate Intelligence Commit, the Democrats and Republicans are working pretty nicely together, but in the House it's been awful.
QUIGLEY: I think we have to try because those national security threats that we face aren't partisan in nature. I think we have to protect the Mueller probe and assist them. All those transcripts that people have heard about, I think the first thing we should do is turn over everything we have to the Mueller probe and then see where his gaps are, what we have left to do and move forward appropriately.
BLITZER: Do you believe the Republicans will have Devin Nunes as the ranking member, the top Republican on your committee?
QUIGLEY: I'm hearing that Mr. Nunes wants to return as ranking member. That will be a choice he' has to make.
BLITZER: Because there's a lot of friction between Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff, between the Democrats and the Republicans, right?
QUIGLEY: I think every two years it's incumbent upon us. I think we owe it to the American public to put aside the last two years and start afresh because the challenges are still there, and we simply have to work together.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the future of the overall House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi, do you support her as the next speaker of the House? QUIGLEY: I do. An extraordinary position. I think it's getting
tougher in our polarized climate. Let's just look at what happened. Republicans were in control. They had more seats in their -- under their control since the Hoover administration, and what did they do? In a close period of time they virtually ran two speakers out of town. No one wanted to ever not be speaker of the House until we've had this current climate.
I think Nancy Pelosi did an extraordinary job getting the healthcare law passed, but beyond all that, I don't think the American public elected a Democratic majority in the House based on who was going to be the speaker. I think the focus after this, and it will get sorted out, will be on these issues.
BLITZER: But you know there are at least 17 new Democrats now say they're not going to vote for her, and if you do the math, she can't get 218.
QUIGLEY: Well, I think a lot of things have to be sorted out in the next couple of weeks. I'm certain that they will, and I think -- I would remind my colleagues that we're going to focus on the issues, not necessarily who is the leader.
BLITZER: Because there's 17 plus another five, and there's going to be some more Democrats, another three Democrats just won in very close contests in Republican-held districts.
QUIGLEY: Processes like this have a give and take and an ebb and flow. I'd like to think it will be decided well before the time we come back.
BLITZER: So you think some of those Democrats who signed this letter saying they wouldn't vote for her will flip and actually vote for her?
QUIGLEY: I'm not sure exactly how it's going to work out but I'm sure the process will sort itself out. And we will appoint the next speaker. I frankly think it will be Nancy Pelosi. No one knows how to count votes better than our leader.
BLITZER: OK. Mike Quigley, thanks so much for coming in.
QUIGLEY: Thank you.
BLITZER: There's more news we're following. More on the just released numbers from Florida's machine recount.
Also is President Trump's rant against Robert Mueller a sign the special counsel is about to make his next move?
[17:28:42] BLITZER: There's more breaking news. The "Washington Post" just now publishing comments for President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani who says some of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's questions, quote, "create more issues for us legally than others." Let's get some more with our experts, our analysts and contributors.
And Laura Coates, I'm just reading some of the quotes from Giuliani in this "Washington Post" article. He said there were two dozen questions all of which relate to activities before Donald Trump became president. There are some create more issues for us legally than others. Some were unnecessary, some were possible traps. We might consider some as irrelevant.
He said the president spent four hours on Monday with his attorneys going over the answers, the questions and answers, 90 minutes Wednesday night. He said there's no firm deadline that Mueller has imposed but he added that Trump's answers, quote, "could be tomorrow."
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, my initial reaction, of course, is that he is alluding that he has the leverage to say which questions are irrelevant and which actually are relevant. Every single question that was asked obviously has some importance to Robert Mueller and his team.
The timeframe for the questions should not be surprising anyone. The directive of Robert Mueller is actually to focus on things during the campaign, before he was the president of the United States. That would make sense to everyone, but the one part that maybe is odd is that if that includes everything that Mueller is interested in, it excludes the obstruction of justice questions, wouldn't it?
Everything about the firing of James Comey and afterward would not have been part of the focus of Robert Mueller. That's a little bit strange given the evolution of this case, but not so strange if you consider that that relies on the mens rea, the actual intent of Donald Trump. Can you get that from a written answer? Absolutely not. Could you have a heavily-vetted (INAUDIBLE) lawyer saying he meant what he said or did not mean that, sure. So, I'm sure that Mueller thinks I will get the most fruitful and comprehensive responses about things before the obstruction issue.
And finally, thinking about in the context of when it will come out, I am surprised there is no deadline on which to respond. Normally, there'd be a period of time if it was civil discovery, about the number of times or number of days you'd have to respond. So, it seems as though there is more of an open-ended deadline to at least the President's involvement in this campaign collusion aspect.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Our Pamela Brown, our White House Correspondent says that the President met three days, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Giuliani was there last night.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, that explains what he's been doing because we've sort of gotten these reports he's seething, he's angry, he's sour. We know he's considering it because he said it an interview with The Daily Caller, he's considering changes, homeland security and other places. One thing I wanted to add context to Laura's point is, remember that the -- what we reported out, the clash point between the President's lawyers and Mueller was Giuliani and others, but mostly Giuliani, Giuliani said we're not answering any questions about obstruction. Like that's off the table. But we'll engage in some of this stuff. And remember, Trump has talked about no collusion a lot.
So this -- these questions which Laura exactly nails, seems to suggest that obstruction wasn't part of the questions. I don't know. Do we count that as a win for the President's team, or was it just Mueller saying, look, I'm going to get what I can get out of the President of the United States because otherwise we get no cooperation and that obviously sheds some light.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Because the White House said they were only going to answer questions on stuff that happened before Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States.
CILLIZZA: During the campaign, right.
BLITZER: Not going to answer questions on what happened afterwards. And obstruction allegedly occurred after he was President of the United States.
CILLIZZA: And one other thing, remember, that we know Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, the WikiLeaks, all of that stuff is during the campaign as well. So, this -- what we have learned of late suggests that there is a focus. So I've learned from listening to Laura, you know, we're looking through a tiny hole here. We don't know the full picture, but it would suggest a focus is the campaign as opposed to the firing of Mueller and what came -- excuse me, firing of Comey and what came after that.
COATES: And just to put a fine button on this, if I was a prosecutor in this case, I would never allow a defendant to talk their way out of what could be a potential charge against them. If I already have what I need to prove obstruction or have your intent laid out for me in writing in -- on Twitter or other mediums or you had interviews with Lester Holt, for example, or other things, then I would not allow you the opportunity to explain it away if I already had evidence against you. So, I don't think (INAUDIBLE) a real win for the team, but I do note that it somehow showing that the Mueller team is flexible enough to present to a court later on, we've tried what we can.
BLITZER: Yes, Bianna, I just want to point out that Giuliani told The Washington Post some of these questions submitted in writing by Mueller and his team to the President were, quote, possible traps and we might consider some as irrelevant. What does that say to you?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, you go back to what many of his lawyers, both current and past, have been concerned about and that is the President perjuring himself in answering these questions in person, and why they were so against him doing as such. And you think about the dilemma at hand, remember that even the acting attorney general Whitaker had said in previous interviews and papers that he's written, that anything beyond the scope of just Russia specifically was off limits.
Well, that's not necessarily how this investigation has been interpreted. Obviously, the mandate is much wider in scope in the sense that whatever may come up, they are entitled to look into and investigate. So, you get a sense of what this could possibly entail, the timing, and maybe it's just a coincident that Michael Cohen was seen in Washington as well, meeting with the prosecutors, and also the fact that the President, as he's been characterized over the past few weeks seems to get more and more irate and apparently nervous about what in fact may come of this investigation. Remember that tomorrow is Friday. Historically, the past times we have seen indictments come out of the Mueller camp have been on Fridays.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: It's also important to recall that there are several officials from the Trump campaign who are now cooperating with the special counsel, and that includes the former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his deputy Rick Gates, it includes the former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen as we know met with investigators this week. And so --
BLITZER: For hours on Monday.
[17:34:58] SIDDIQUI: For hours on Monday. And so, this -- the President and his legal team don't know what the special counsel and his team have uncovered through these conversations. And you kind of have to take Rudy Giuliani with a grain of salt because he kind of came in to redirect the P.R. strategies so to speak for the President and his legal team. First, suggesting that they were being very cooperative but then very much heading this much more aggressive strategy to try and discredit the special counsel and his work. And if you look at the President's conduct today, certainly it's going to be a big development when we do in fact have these written answers from the President, but make no mistake, nothing about the President's posture towards the special counsel has changed. He very much is trying to muddy the waters and to try and shape public opinion before Mueller is even able to --
BLITZER: Well, let's not forget -- let's not forget that if they -- if they do submit the written answers to Mueller tomorrow, that's not being made public. That just goes to Mueller and part of his investigation.
CILLIZZA: I just -- I think it's really important. And Sabrina reminded me this, every time that we talked about this investigation, and we do it in the context of this news or Donald Trump's tweet this morning attacking Bob Mueller, I think it's really important to note this, and we have a great part -- thing on this on our Web -- on the CNN Web site. 191 criminal counts, 35 people or entities charged, six guilty pleas, one person found guilty in court. You can't -- there's no fact basis to say that this is a witch hunt or a hoax. Again, as Sabrina points out, you have a lot of senior Trump officials, Paul Manafort pleading guilty or being found guilty.
This has -- this is a wide-ranging investigation that has already produced a lot of fruit and evidence. And every time he comes out and says false, 17 angry Democrats, it's important to remind people 191 criminal counts, 35 people or entities, six people have pled guilty. This is not -- this is not a fly-by-night operation that has produced zero results.
BLITZER: And Bianna, I just want to read to you from this tweet, he spent the last three days reviewing with his lawyers, hours and hours his written answers to Mueller's written questions, and then he writes this morning on Twitter. This is the President of the United States, "The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want. They are a disgrace to our nation." That's the President of the United States, speaking about this Justice Department investigation.
GOLODRYGA: And this comes as it's reported that his advisers and those close to him, including his attorneys, have been pressing him not to tweet about Robert Mueller, not to the talk about the investigation. He's been tight-lipped for a few days, but it seems like today he could not contain himself. And look, this is all speculative when it comes to Robert Mueller. They have been very closed off and nothing has leaked out of this investigation, but we keep hearing time and time again that this investigation appears to be closer to a conclusion than anywhere else throughout the process. So, if the President is anticipating that we may be getting a report soon, that may explain his behavior.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the breaking news. We'll take a quick break, we'll be right back.
[17:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're seeing reports of new wildfires in California. The death toll is approaching 60 and expected to go even higher as searchers go house to house in burned-out areas. Here's CNN's Scott McLean.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, hundreds of searchers and more than 20 dogs digging through what's left of Paradise, California, and there isn't much. They're looking for human remains amidst heaps of twisted metal and piles of ash. Officials say many of the now 56 bodies recovered so far, have been burned beyond recognition, so burned it's difficult to tell if they're even human.
SGT. STEVE COLLINS, BUTTE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: We're trying to determine the difference between human remains and non-human remains because it's going to be extremely difficult in these fires to make that differentiation for those of us that are untrained.
MCLEAN: The sheriff's office is keeping a list of those unaccounted for. It has more than 300 names on it. They're hoping to find them alive but expect the death toll to rise. Now, some are already assigning blame. 22 residents who lost their homes in the fire are suing the local power company, Pacific Gas & Electric, saying the company was aware of problems with sparks in their transmission lines in the area of the origin of the campfire. Cal Fire has not determined the cause of the campfire, and it could be months before it's known. Earlier this year, Cal Fire determined the PG&E was responsible for the 12 wildfires across six counties in California. For Butte County, some positive news.
SHERIFF KORY HONEA, BUTTE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Through our ongoing efforts, we have been able to locate or determine that over 200 people that we thought were missing or unaccounted for are not.
MCLEAN: But a week after the mass exodus of more than 20,000 people from Paradise, there are only so many places to go. Some shelters are full, for others, they just don't want to go there.
[17:45:01] Jennifer Fitzgerald and her 7-year-old daughter lost their home in the fire. Jennifer's job doing home care is gone too. The pair has spent the night sleeping inside of a friend's car in a Wal- Mart parking lot. She's not the only one suddenly calling this refugee camp, home.
JENNIFER FITZGERALD, SURVIVOR: It could be worse. We could be sleeping under -- out here where it's way freezing with nothing like a lot of people have been.
MCLEAN: That's exactly what Laura Whitaker is doing, sleeping outside in a tent with her grandson, Eli.
ELI: Very cold. It's been like 30 degrees at night here.
LAURA WHITAKER: Didn't sleep, not last night. It was so cold, and I just kept myself completely wrapped around him.
MCLEAN: 9-year-old Eli is putting on a brave face. He'll be homeless until his parents can save enough money to buy a trailer.
ELI: It's hard.
MCLEAN: Yes, I bet. You're only 9 years old.
MCLEAN: What do you miss most?
ELI: Just being in a bed.
MCLEAN: You just miss your bed? It's warm.
ELI: Being under a ceiling and actually having a real bathroom. Just hard.
MCLEAN: Pretty hard for a 9-year-old kid there, and, Wolf, tonight, the camp fire has now torched 140,000 acres, it is 40 percent contained, but the winds have died down, that is giving firefighters a really good chance to make some serious progress on this fire over the next couple of days. Wolf?
BLITZER: Let's hope for the best. Scott McLean on the scene for us, thank you. Coming up, more on the breaking news, President Trump's personal
attorney Rudy Giuliani telling The Washington Post, some of the special counsel's questions were, quote, create more issues for us legally than others. We'll have details. Stay with us.
[17:51:23] BLITZER: Our breaking news, President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani telling The Washington Post, some of the special counsel's written questions to the President, quote, create more issues for us legally than others. This comes after the President lashed out at the entire investigation that experts say his angry tweets today fit a specific pattern. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now. Brian, tell us more.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, CNN sources are indicating that the President has after several recent setbacks increasingly felt backed into a corner, and the pattern, according to his biographers is that when that happens to him, Donald Trump lashes out.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me speak, please.
TODD: The President's foul mood showing no signs of abating tonight. From a torrent of angry tweets to his eruptions at his aides over recent setbacks, he is reportedly in a bad place, emotionally, and those who know him well, including the biographers who have studied him for years, say when Donald Trump is in a bad place, watch out.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR: When he is backed into a corner, he really has only one move, and that's to lash out.
TODD: CNN's sources say that's exactly what's happening. The President's outbursts are becoming more common, following the Republican loss of the House of Representatives in the Midterm elections. Frustration with his staff and criticism that he didn't visit an American cemetery outside Paris while commemorating World War I.
D'ANTONIO: He's seeing chaos all around him. And even for a man who is the king of chaos, I think it's a little bit too much.
TODD: Biographers say Trump's penchant for lashing out when backed into a corner, for blaming others when the chips are down, goes back to his childhood, a time when receiving credit and deflecting trouble were currencies in his life, as was a proclivity for thuggish behavior.
MICHAEL KRANISH, AUTHOR: That's what he is basically ingrained with. He has basically boasted even as a child that he liked to bully other people.
TODD: Two ruthless mentors biographers say sharpened those traits. One was his unyielding father, Fred. GWENDA BLAIR, AUTHOR: He told his sons to be killers, go for it,
never let up, you know, get the other guy in a room, negotiate him down, get the biggest, best deal you can for yourself.
TODD: The other influence, legendary New York attorney Roy Cohn, known for representing mobsters and for being the unapologetic chief counsel during the McCarthy hearings. Trump befriended Cohn at a Manhattan nightclub in the early 70s. The wisdom imparted by the street brawling lawyer to the brash young businessman?
KRANISH: When your hit, hit back 100 times harder.
BLAIR: Never apologize, push back, fight back, double down, blame somebody else. The only thing that matters is what you can get away with. And I believe that has been the North Star for Donald Trump ever since.
TODD: Trump's biographers agree, what makes this time different was that Trump felt cornered not only by his enemies, but by his wife, whose call for the firing of a top national security aide sources say without telling him first showed that she could have the instincts to throw the President off his game.
D'ANTONIO: She has all the advantage. He would be best served by simply accepting this loss. And believe me, he thinks of this as a loss, everything is about winning and losing to the President.
TODD: Now, what Michael D'Antonio and other Trump biographers are concerned about tonight is that the President's anger over these setbacks could make his behavior deteriorate further in the coming weeks and months. Could make him more reckless, maybe move against Robert Mueller and create a Nixonian constitutional crisis. Wolf?
[17:54:53] BLITZER: That's very, very serious stuff. All right, Brian, thank you very much. There's breaking news coming up, the President's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, quoted in The Washington Post, talking about possible traps in Robert Mueller's written questions for the President. We have details. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Possible traps, after days of reviewing questions from Robert Mueller, the President's lawyers reportedly see potential legal landmines for Mr. Trump. What did they learn about the direction of the Russia investigation?