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THE SITUATION ROOM
William Barr Confirmed as Attorney General; Interview With Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX); Trump Set to Sign Budget Deal, Declare National Emergency to Fund Border Wall; Barr Sworn In as Attorney General As Ex-FBI Acting Director Publicly Confirms Justice Department Held Talks About Removing Trump; Awaiting House Vote On Averting Shutdown As Trump Agrees To Sign Bill And Declare National Emergency To Fund Wall. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 14, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: emergency declaration. The White House says the president will take executive action to build his border wall, as he agrees to sign a bill to avoid a government shutdown. He's creating new controversy, even as he averts a crisis.
Outplayed by Democrats? We're told Mr. Trump has been privately griping about the bipartisan compromise, complaining that Republican negotiators got a raw deal. Did Nancy Pelosi trump the president?
Mueller's new boss. William Barr is now the attorney general of the United States, with oversight power over the Russia investigation. Could that sway the special counsel to release his final report?
And talks on ousting Trump. The former FBI acting director is publicly confirming that top Justice Department officials discussed the possibility that the 25th Amendment to the Constitution would be invoked.
Tonight, the administration is pushing back, as Andrew McCabe is speaking out.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the 11th-hour drama, as the host is preparing to vote on a bill to prevent another government shutdown.
President Trump waited until the last minute to confirm that he will sign the legislation that cleared the U.S. Senate a short while ago. He's also planning to declare a controversial national emergency to secure border wall funding that was not in the bill.
Another breaking story, William Barr was just sworn in as the attorney general and overseer of the Russia probe, this as former FBI acting Director Andrew McCabe is speaking out about the investigation and his concerns about the president.
McCabe now publicly confirming that there were high-level discussions in the Justice Department about potentially removing Mr. Trump from office.
I will get reaction from Republican Congressman Will Hurd. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, after a lot of suspense, it looks like there won't be a shutdown.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It looks that way at this point, Wolf.
But the high drama came earlier today, as President Trump was taking the prospect of another government shutdown down to the wire. First, aides were hopeful the president would sign the bill earlier this week. Then the White House was starting to sound less certain. Then you saw the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, come out on the Senate floor and announce that, yes, the president would sign the bill.
The president is now saying, though, he will take executive action to build his wall, but that plan could hit another kind of barrier, as in a court challenge.
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump's latest cliffhanger, whether he would plunge the nation into another costly government shutdown, came to a climax.
But after days of hand-wringing at the White House, it was not the president who made the big reveal. It was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I have just had an opportunity to speak with President Trump, and he, I would say to all my colleagues, has indicated he's prepared to sign the bill. He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time.
And I have indicated to him that I'm going to prepare -- I'm going to support the national emergency declaration. So, for all of my colleagues, the president will sign the bill. We will be voting on it shortly.
ACOSTA: Minutes after McConnell made the announcement, the White House finally revealed what the president was planning to do, saying in a statement: "President Trump will sign the government funding bill and, as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action, including a national emergency, to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the president of trying to pull a fast one.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's not an emergency, what's happening at the border. It's a humanitarian challenge to us. The president has tried to sell a bill of goods to the American people, but putting that aside, just in terms of the president making an end-run around Congress.
ACOSTA: With little more than a day before the government runs out of money, some in Mr. Trump's own party were starting to worry.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: We have got to pass it. And then we all pray that the president will sign it.
ACOSTA: As Republican lawmakers were praying the president would sign the bipartisan spending deal.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Let's all pray that the president will have wisdom to sign the bill, so the government doesn't shut down.
ACOSTA: Part of the reason for the high drama, the president's allies on conservative media were pleading with Mr. Trump to reject the deal, as it fell well short of his promise to build a wall on the border.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain.
ACOSTA: As one FOX News personality tweeted: "This bill must not be signed."
But as the president was dragging his feet, he was once again making it all about him, despite his wish to blame down Democrats should there be another shutdown.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think you're going to see a shutdown. I wouldn't want to go to it, no. If you did have it, it's the Democrats' fault.
ACOSTA: Democrats say there's a reason why Republicans were pulling away from the president.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: On the funding of the government, I don't think Republicans want another shutdown. It was disastrous for them and their brand and it really hurt this president. They don't want to repeat that.
ACOSTA: But after the president signs this bill, or is expected to sign this bill, and go after a national emergency to get his wall built on the border, he is simply setting up another legal fight in the courts.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is taking a hard look as to whether to mount a legal challenge to block the president from using a national emergency to move funds around inside the administration to build his wall on the border.
The White House press secretary just told reporters a short while ago they are ready for that fight in the courts. But, Wolf, any kind of legal challenge at this point could add another delay to the president's promise to build that wall on the border, something he talked about a lot during the campaign.
Something else he's talked about in the past, he's actually criticized the use of executive action on immigration. Let's show you this tweet from 2014. This is when former President Obama took executive action on immigration.
Then, at the time, Donald J. Trump tweeted: "Republicans must not allow President Obama to subvert the Constitution of the U.S. for his own benefit and because he is unable to negotiate with Congress."
Wolf, that is exactly what the president is trying to do right now, go around the Congress and take executive action on his own. He will have a new person on his team to offer any kind of legal advice he might need as he takes these next steps.
His new attorney general, William Barr, was sworn in over here at the White House just a short while ago -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the legal battle will intensify, no doubt.
Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Now, as we stand by for the House to vote on avoiding a government shutdown, let's go to Capitol Hill.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on the scene for us.
So, Manu, what is the very latest now?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the House is expected to pass this bill to avoid a government shutdown.
But the fight is only just beginning. Democrats and Republicans are pushing back at the president's call to declare a national emergency. And the president, in order to succeed here on Capitol Hill to get his national emergency declaration approved, will have to convince skeptical Republicans to go along.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: That the president has chosen to go this route, I continue to believe that this is not what the National Emergencies Act was intended to be used for it. It was contemplated as a means for responding to a catastrophic event, like an attack on our country or a major natural disaster.
My major concern is for the president to unilaterally repurpose billions of dollars that have been designated for specific projects undermines the appropriations process and really is of dubious constitutionality.
SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: The concern that we have got is, is that we not set new precedent. If it's a matter of the president exercising the types of emergency powers that have been exercised by other presidents, then we think he has every prerogative to do that. And there's not a problem there.
If it's expanded upon, then the question is, is, what about if somebody else thinks that climate change is the national emergency, and then what will they do and how far will they go?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Wolf, lawmakers will get a chance to vote on this because there's going to be an effort to move forward a resolution of disapproval to block this from going forward.
Already, there's going to be action among the House Democrats to bring this up. It's very likely it would pass that Democratic majority in the House. What will happen in the Senate is the big question, because, as you can see there, major concerns among Republicans.
And will they get enough for a veto-proof majority, another question, but all of this really boils down to, what are the details of this plan to declare a national emergency? The president hasn't spelled out what that is or where he's going to get that pot of money to build that border wall, Wolf.
BLITZER: You're also learning, Manu, about the behind-the-scenes negotiating that the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, had to engage in order to ensure that the president would in fact sign the legislation. What are you hearing?
RAJU: Yes, Mitch McConnell has made it very clear he was leery about going this route of declaring a national emergency, worried about the fact that this vote is going to come up eventually, maybe he wouldn't be able to hold his members back.
Even at a closed-door lunch today, I'm told that Republican senators weren't clear what the president would do even coming out of that lunch, saying they were going to wait until the president makes his intentions known about how he will sign the deal.
Well, Mitch McConnell got on the phone with the president. The president said he would sign the deal and declare a national emergency. Mitch McConnell then offered his support for declaring a national emergency, something he did not want to do.
And, Wolf, when I caught Mitch McConnell off the Senate floor just moments ago, I asked him, what about this move to declare a national emergency? Are you supportive of this idea? Do you still have concerns?
[18:10:01] He did not want to broach that subject at all, sidestepped it, and said, it is all about keeping the government open. We will give the president his -- some money for the border barriers, but we got a signature on a funding bill. That's the most important thing right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Manu, thank you very much, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Joining us now, Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He's a Republican. He is a key member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Wolf, always a pleasure to be on with you, my friend.
BLITZER: So, you represent a district with the most border with Mexico, more than 800 miles.
Do you see the need for the president of the United States to declare a national emergency?
HURD: Let me start by saying the problem that we're dealing with on the border, $67 billion worth of drugs, over 400,000 illegal immigrants trying to come into our country last year, this is absolutely a problem.
It is a problem that has existed through multiple administrations. However, I do not think the tool that the president should be using on this is a declaration of a national emergency.
Now, let me be clear. It's very -- he can do this, right? This was a bill that was passed and signed into law back in the '70s, before I was born, where I think Congress gave up a little bit of their -- too much of their authority to the executive branch. So he's able to declare that.
The question is going to be, which pot of money does he think he can pull from? A lot of the conversation is around military construction. Over the last four years that I have been in Congress, we have been rebuilding our military, the facilities that we need to build that can make sure that the men and women and that are serving our country, that they have the proper training, that they have the proper resources.
That could be impacted. And also we have to remember there's only like five, six months left in this fiscal year. So what additional things can be built in this short period of time?
There's already 55 miles of new physical barriers. We're going to be allowed to have technology, which I know, Wolf, you and I have talked a lot, the only way we secure our border, get operational control. And when I use that term operational control, I mean knowing everything that's coming back and forth across our border. You got to have technology and you got to be looking at all 2,000 miles at the same time. So that's where I think where we should be. It's a positive thing that we're going to make sure that the government stays open and that we're not going to impact the lives and the families of over 800,000 government employees who are involved in keeping our country safe.
BLITZER: So, you're going to vote, I take it, in favor of this bill that comes up fairly soon on the floor of the House of Representatives?
HURD: I have voted to keep the government open every time I have had the opportunity. This could potentially change.
I don't think it will. But it's likely that I'm going to continue to support this piece of legislation that 17 of my colleagues, in a bipartisan, bicameral way, has been introduced.
I'm here in the Capitol right now. The bells are ringing, which means we're having our vote on the rule before we take this up a little bit later tonight. And the fact that the Senate voted by this -- I think it was 83 or 84, 87 votes, is a pretty good sign that this is going to pass the House in an overwhelming fashion.
BLITZER: It was 83-16 in the U.S. Senate, overwhelming support, a lot more than the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto, if he were to veto this legislation. You only need 67, two-thirds majority, in the Senate.
Big picture, Congressman, the president rejected previous deals that would have actually given him more money for his border wall with Mexico. He almost pulled the rug out from under Republicans by refusing to sign this bill. And, privately, he says Republicans were outplayed and questioned your Republican colleagues' dealmaking skills.
How are Republicans feeling about their relationship, do you believe, with the president right now?
HURD: Well, we just got through an election where we lost 40 votes.
So our negotiating position is in a worse position than it was had we done all of this prior to the election. We have to remember that this bill we're voting on tonight, DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, border security funding is just one piece.
There are several other agencies that we haven't funded. Those bills were already negotiated conference, meaning the House in the Senate came to a bipartisan agreement on this back before the election. And so we could have had a victory back then. We should have taken the -- made the decision to finish our appropriations process before the election.
And because of the loss of 40 votes, our negotiating position was more difficult. I think my Republican colleagues that were involved in this negotiation, the fact that this wasn't being done and negotiated in the public, that they were thoughtful and deliberate, and made sure we're doing things like have the innovative tower initiative, this is what I have been describing as a smart wall.
We're going to be able to lay fiberoptic cable and sensing tool. We're going to be able to make sure we're funding the State Department, so State Department and USAID can address root causes of illegal immigration. And that's violence and lack of the economic opportunities in Central America.
All of those things are included in this bill. And that's a good negotiation by my colleagues.
BLITZER: Did the 35-day government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, accomplish anything?
HURD: Absolutely not.
I have been very clear that I don't think shutdowns make sense, trying to negotiate on the backs of 800,000 people, especially people that were involved in protecting this country.
We had people in Coast Guard go without pay for 35 days. Coast Guard is involved in stopping drugs from coming in our country. TSA agents were having to protect our airports without getting paid.
And I would still say -- and, Wolf, you know this -- I spent almost a decade as an undercover officer in the CIA. And one of the more likely things that could happen to our homeland is that a terrorist goes and gets a fake European passport and comes in through one of our airports.
But that's why TSA is so important. And the fact that for 35 days, with the amount of travel during the holiday season, they went without pay makes absolutely no sense. And we shouldn't be negotiating on the backs of these men and women that are trying to keep us safe.
And so I'm glad we're not going to another one. Shutdowns actually always cost more money, because of when you have to restart things. This is -- I'm glad we're not getting down there. We shouldn't have been there in the first place. And, again, we should have done all this negotiation before the elections last November.
BLITZER: Yes. The estimates are that it cost the U.S. economy maybe $8 billion or $10 billion, which is a lot more than the president wanted.
Have you expressed these concerns directly to the president, Congressman?
HURD: My opinions are pretty well known.
I have -- I have forwarded this up the chain to a number of folks. I am always trying to be involved in articulating a sensible solution to this. Ultimately, this deal that you see is, in essence, a completion of the Secure Fence Act, a doubling down on technology within our ports of entry and at our ports of entry, making sure we have more immigration judges, and ensuring we're addressing the root causes through support to the State Department and the USAID.
And so this is what I have been talking about since my time in Congress. So I'm glad that this final bill is getting ready to be voted on, and probably in overwhelming fashion.
BLITZER: And we're all glad that 800,000 federal employees will continue to get their paychecks. They and their families deserve it.
Thanks so much, Congressman Hurd, for joining us.
HURD: Always a pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's bring in our political and legal experts to discuss all the breaking news.
And, Kaitlan, you have been doing a lot of reporting on this. A few hours ago, it looked like it was touch and go.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was not sure at all.
And that's why White House aides went from saying earlier this week that the president was definitely going to -- or he was likely to sign this bill. They weren't saying it publicly. But they were telling reporters that privately.
But this morning they were not so sure. They felt the president was actually leaning towards not signing that. And a lot of it had to do with the president's comments, but also the fact that he was calling Republican allies up on Capitol Hill and saying, I'm not sure if I'm going to sign this bill anymore.
Then there was some intense lobbying on behalf of not only Republicans that wanted the president to sign this, but also some of his own aides, including his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the legislative affairs director, Shahira Knight, and the DHS secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, who were meeting with the president in the Oval Office this afternoon trying to go over the positive aspects of this bill to convince the president that he needed to sign it to avoid a shutdown.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, I'm going to play for you some clips. These are Republicans expressing their deep concerns about the president declaring a national emergency in order to get the money to build his wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: The national emergencies that have been issued in the past have not been contentious. I'm pretty sure that this one would be.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: If today the national emergency is border security, and it entitles him to go out and do something, we all support that. Tomorrow, the national security emergency might be climate change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would just be another erosion of congressional authority in this particular area.
S. COLLINS: I think it's of dubious constitutionality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you think it's worth backing the president on this issue of a national emergency if it avoids another government shutdown?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I look, I think the key fact here to remember is, to quote John Boehner, there's no such thing as a Republican Party anymore. There's just the Trump party.
And all those senators who are clearing their throats and muttering concerns, they're all going to fall into line. They're all going to sanction this serious erosion of the separation of powers.
I mean, if there is one principle that has been enshrined in the Constitution since the 18th century, it's that Congress has the power of the purse. And the single exception is this National Emergencies Act of 1976, where every president since then, in a handful of uncontroversial cases, has reallocated money without explicit congressional authorization.
That is nothing like what's going on here. This is a wildly dramatic expansion of presidential power. And the Republicans are going to clear their throats and fall into line, like they always do.
BLITZER: It's interesting, David Swerdlick, because the president when he was a private citizen he used to rail against President Obama when he would move money around. Didn't declare a national emergency, necessarily.
In 2014, the president, as a private citizen, tweeted this: "Republicans must not allow President Obama to subvert the Constitution of the U.S. for his own benefit and because he is unable to negotiate with Congress."
What do you make of that?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right.
And you can imagine that if it was President Obama now doing the action that President Trump is proposing to do, Republicans would be howling. President Obama, it's well known that he executive ordered the DAPA program, not DACA, but DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, that would have provided legal protections for millions of undocumented immigrants.
Ultimately, the Obama administration lost in appeals court. There was a 4-4 Supreme Court tie that kept it as a loss for the Obama administration, and it was a clear signal that he had overreached his power as the executive branch.
I think you have a situation here where Republicans who were critical then are, as Jeffrey said, going to probably fall in line with an executive overreach, in this case by President Trump.
BLITZER: Laura, we don't know how the president -- specifically how the president is going to divert potentially billions of dollars from existing appropriated funds to go ahead, use that money to build his wall.
But, legally, what do you anticipate happening?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of different steps.
I think we will probably see a slew of lawsuits from different interest groups right away, questionable whether they have standing or not, and then it seems likely we might see a resolution of disapproval from the House. Chairman Jerry Nadler has sort of hinted at this already.
And if that happens, then it turns to the Senate for a vote, and that's where things could get dicey. Given all the Republicans -- you played all that sound from them -- do they hold farm on that, or do they back the president?
McConnell has signaled that he would back the president, but will the rest of them fall in line?
TOOBIN: I have a guess.
BLITZER: Hold on, Jeffrey. Go ahead.
Go ahead, Kaitlan.
K. COLLINS: McConnell backing the president on that is so stunning, because he is someone who's been staunchly opposed to the president declaring a national emergency.
So it really indicates just how much and how seriously McConnell thought the president was going to oppose this bill for him to come out, because, otherwise, he could have gotten a group of senators to block the president from doing so.
But by announcing his support for it today, it shows just how much the Senate Republicans who are opposed to a national emergency declaration didn't want another shutdown.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: Well, it's just -- they're all -- Jeff Flake is gone from the Senate, but his spirit lives on.
All these senators are like, oh, I'm so concerned about what the president is going to do. And you know they're all going to fall in line. You know they're all going to follow the FOX News line that the president needs this power.
And we will see what happens down the road with other presidents. I mean, who knows how -- that's likely to be a long time away. But, I mean, this is a Republican Party that has absolutely no principles, except supporting Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Kaitlan, I'm going to play a clip. That is about a year or so ago, when the president was also forced to sign an omnibus spending bill that he hated. But he did it. He made this promise to the American people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I'm not going to do it again. Nobody read it. It's only hours' old. Some people don't even know what -- what is it, $1.3 trillion. It's the second largest ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So that -- he made that promise.
Now, let's talk about what he's doing now. This is -- that was an 800-page bill. This is, what, an 1,100-page bill that only a few experts, legislative assistants up on Capitol Hill have had a chance to read it. Most members have not been able to go through 1,100 pages.
And it may be $1.375 billion in this legislation for a border wall. But it's part of a $330 billion overall spending bill to keep the government going, a big chunk of it going.
So how does the White House, how do White House officials explain the commitment he made to the American people a year ago, and now once again repeating what he did then?
K. COLLINS: Well, the ones who were there a year ago are having flashbacks basically right now, especially after the president was so on the fence today about signing this, coming close to not signing it.
As of this afternoon, before McConnell interrupted Grassley to go out there and speak, White House aides were saying that they thought the president was leaning towards no.
So that -- when President Trump made that remark there, that was when he was going to sign that bill. He thought it didn't have enough money for the wall, but it was Defense Secretary James Mattis who convinced the president to sign it, because it had all this money for the military. And he went to the president, he said, this is worth it.
But it was a lot of intense lobbying in the White House. It was a day pretty much like what today has unfolded like. And the only reason the president signed it in the end was because of Mattis. So this case, they had to bring in the DHS secretary, convincing the
president this didn't give amnesty to people, talking about the ICE detention beds, talking about the over billion dollars for the border wall. It was a very intense lobbying effort to get the president under way
And I want to note that a lot of this -- what White House aides look out for when something like this happens is what the coverage is going to be, because a lot of that can deter the president from making a certain decision.
And that's why over the last 48 hours, there were a lot of calls from the White House to some of the president's favorite news hosts, telling them how this bill could be a win for the president, because they know the coverage can sometimes affect the president's decision.
Yes, Wolf, to Kaitlan's point, the president wants a win that looks like he ethered Democrats, that he silenced his critics and put them all back on their heels.
And what he's learned both last year in that clip you played and this year is that legislation usually doesn't work out like that. People have to somehow meet in the middle and move on. And I think that's why you're seeing him declare this emergency, because it signals to his base, I'm still fighting, even though I sort of caved in on the wall.
BLITZER: This legislation, Jeffrey -- and you have got a little smile on your face, I see. It's about 1,100 pages' long. It was finally approved, completed last night, what, around midnight, and then they voted earlier tonight.
They didn't even have 24 four hours to go through this legislation.
TOOBIN: Yes, I mean, look, it's an open secret that no one reads most of the legislation, especially the budget, the budget legislation.
But I don't think that's the real issue here. The real issue here is the substance, and this incredible miscalculation that the president made about his beloved wall, that each time he has thrown a fit about it, instead of getting more money, he's getting less money.
I mean, he could have had $25 billion. Then he could have had $6 billion. He could have had $1.6 billion. Now he's getting $1.3 billion. And somehow they're trying to convince the folks at FOX News that this was all a brilliant legislative strategy.
I mean, they can try. And I'm sure that's what they will say on FOX, but, I mean, these facts exist in the world.
K. COLLINS: So, and a lot of what changed since that text came out around midnight last night was the president was growing worried this morning that there were going to be things in this bill that caught him off guard.
That was his concern when you showed that clip of him signing that 800-page bill. That was the concern here, because the White House knew the top lines after Monday night when they emerged, but they were going through all of this.
They weren't sure what the certain restrictions would be on the money that they do have for the wall in here, what kind of wall they could build. And you have seen disagreement between the Democrats and Republicans, like Shelley Moore Capito, on what exactly they would be able to do.
So that was a concern of the president. You heard him say that when he said, I'm worried there could be land mines in here. So I think that was a big concern for them. But, obviously, this lobbying from his own staffers helped push him over the line.
BLITZER: Because originally after we got the report that the appropriators have come up with some sort of compromise, Sean Hannity on FOX News said it was a garbage compromise. But then the next day, he changed his mind, saying, if the president declares a national emergency, maybe it's OK.
And that's exactly what the president did.
K. COLLINS: And that's what the White House was telling those hosts when they were trying to convince them to spin it more positively, that this could be a win for the president.
They said two things. One, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking a loss here because she said the president wouldn't get more than $1 for his wall and he's getting over a billion in this for fencing. And, two, they said that the president was going to declare a national emergency or take some kind of executive action, both of which was included in Sarah Sanders' statement today, to get more money for that wall.
So that's how they were trying to frame it better for people like Sean Hannity that the president watches almost every night.
BLITZER: Does the Justice Department, Laura, need to go ahead and provide a legal opinion to the president and the White House right now what he can do and what he can't do as far as reallocating money?
JARRETT: I think it's safe to assume the Justice Department has probably had that in the works for a long time. We don't have any specific reporting on that.
But in a situation like this, any executive order is supposed to -- supposed to -- I say that because we remember what happened with the travel ban -- but supposed to go through the Office of Legal Counsel, which essentially serves as the law firm for the federal government.
It's supposed to go through that. It's supposed to be vetted by DOJ. White House Counsel's Office, I'm sure, has been working hand in glove with them many, many nights to try to make sure that, if he goes through with this, they're prepared and they're not caught off guard, the way they were with some of the others.
K. COLLINS: And they have been preparing for that.
It's not like he decided today to do a national emergency. He's been talking about it since the night he agreed to sign this three-week short-term spending bill, telling allies, I will sign a national emergency.
So aides have been working behind the scenes trying to make sure they are going through all the legal loopholes, because they don't want to face a lot of challenges. So they are -- they have been preparing for that. I do think they have had a lot of lawyers looking at this.
TOOBIN: And if I can add one point of preparation, Brett Kavanaugh, his great cause as an appeals court judge was expanded presidential power.
So the issue of whether the president is allowed to use the National Emergencies Act in this way, it seems to me is very likely to wind up before the Supreme Court. And the fact that Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are both believers in expansive presidential powers is likely to be very important in the ultimate resolution of this case.
And, if I had to guess, I would think the president is going to win.
BLITZER: Yes, elections do have consequences, especially two new members, two new justices on the Supreme Court.
Everybody standby, the House of Representatives now back in session. They're getting ready to vote on this legislation as well. We're going to have breaking news coverage of that.
Also ahead, as the new Attorney General gets broad control of the Russia investigation, there is new confirmation the top Justice Department officials discuss the possibility of removing the President from office.
[18:35:00] BLITZER: All right. You're looking at live pictures of the House of Representatives. We're standing by for lawmakers to vote on a bill to prevent another government shutdown. The White House says the President will sign it. But he will also declare a national emergency to fund his border wall.
Also breaking, there's a new boss for the Mueller investigation, as the former FBI acting Director is speaking out about the Russia probe.
Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown. Pamela, William Barr, he was just sworn in as the Attorney General in the midst of new drama over at the Justice Department.
PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, quite a day to be sworn in. The former FBI Director, Andy McCabe, revealing for the first time, Wolf, how seriously he took conversations about Rod Rosenstein wearing a wire with the President and how much invoking the 25th amendment was considered among top DOJ officials in the chaotic aftermath of James Comey's firing.
BROWN: For the first time, former acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe, the man who took over after President Trump fired James Comey, talking publicly about his former boss, the President.
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency and won the election for the presidency, and who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage. And that was something that troubled me greatly.
BROWN: In an interview with CBS, McCabe detailing the lengths he went to to secure the Russia investigation in the immediate in the days after Comey's firing.
MCCABE: I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion that were I removed quickly or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.
BROWN: In clips not released, McCabe also revealing extraordinary discussions among senior justice officials about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the President from office, this according to CBS Anchor, Scott Pelley.
SCOTT PELLEY, ANCHOR, CBS: There at the Justice Department were meetings in which it was discussed whether the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet could be brought together to remove the President of the United States under the 25th Amendment.
BROWN: The New York Times has reported that McCabe wrote in a memo that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had looked into the 25th Amendment issue and determined he would need a 'majority' or eight of the 15 cabinet officials. CNN has reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed wearing a wire to record conversations with Trump.
The Justice Department slamming McCabe's assertions and a statement as inaccurate, the response reading, "As the Deputy Attorney General previously has stated, based on his personal dealings with the President, there was no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment nor was Rosenstein in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment.
Rosenstein has long denied he thinks there's a basis to remove the President from office but has yet to deny those discussions ever occurred.
The discussions of the 25th Amendment, sources say, came at a time of confusion and concern inside the FBI. The President had just fired James Comey, something the FBI Director learned about from cable TV. And McCabe had become the acting Director. The next tday, McCabe began working with agents to launch a criminal and counterintelligence probe, concerned about why Trump was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia.
At the same time, Trump was hosting Russia's Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the United States in the Oval Office, reportedly telling his guests, "I just fired the Head of the FBI." the President. The next day, May 11th, Trump admitted to NBC that he fired Comey in part because of the Russia Investigation.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.
BROWN: And we should note that McCabe does have a credibility issue. He is accused of lying to investigators in an internal DOJ investigation. And that's now being looked at by the D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office.
However, he did keep contemporaneous notes detailing several of the interactions referenced in his book. Wolf?
BLITZER: What a story. Thanks very much, Pamela Brown, reporting.
Let's bring CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, Josh Campbell. He's a former FBI Special Assistant to both Andrew McCabe and James Comey.
Josh, there were, what, eight days between when Comey was fired, Robert Mueller was appointed, the Special Counsel. You worked for Comey and then McCabe. Set the scene for us on what was happening during those seemingly rather chaotic days.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think the most illustrative thing to say is that - is described what wasn't happening.
Now, I've heard since the sort of reporting that the FBI had opened this investigation into the President, people describing it as perhaps an overreaction on the part of the FBI, that there was some type chaos and they were just responding to that.
I can tell you, having been inside the FBI at that time on the seventh floor, there in the executive corridor, it wasn't chaotic. People were obviously stunned and shocked that the President just removed the person who was leading the investigation into him.
But, you know, for those who still might question whether or not that this was an overreaction, don't take my word for it. Just ask yourself one simple question, where do we live? What country do we live in? This is the United States.
And as I've said, whether you are a dog catcher or the President of the United States, if you run a fallible law [ph] or if there's an allegation that you are possibly violating federal law, the FBI will investigate. This isn't overreaction. I think had the FBI not acted, you and I would sitting here talking right now about why they were derelict in their duty, Wolf.
BLITZER: The FBI, Josh, was investigating multiple Trump associates who had contacts with the Russians. And the President also admitted, as we heard to NBC, that the Russia investigation played a role in his decision to go ahead and fire Comey. Was there a concern at that time that Donald Trump was compromised by Russia?
CAMPBELL: So we look at some of the recent reporting. Obviously, Wolf, you know, as a former employee, there were certain non- disclosure agreements that I have to be bound by.
But just looking at what Andy McCabe said in his book, which is cleared by the FBI and a lot of the great reporting from CNN, this notion that perhaps the Bureau was concerned that there was a national security threat, maybe not directly by the President, but that his actions were benefitting a foreign government. That was obviously something that would have come into mind.
But then also, if you go back in time and look to the National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, this was some who was in contact with the Russians and then lied about it. And then fast forward, you have the President asking James Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn. And when that didn't happen, he fired him.
So there will be bells going off inside the minds of these investigators why, is the President acting in this way? And I think that that's the direction that we actually see based on some of this reporting, the FBI trying to find out, is there a threat here?
And the last thing I will say, Wolf, is that, obviously, we're - this is a big development here. We have Andy McCabe, the former Director, he has been embattled. He's had his own issues. He is now out with a book. The reason T would suggest that this is such a major development is because up until now, it's been silenced from people that have been in senior level positions inside the FBI and inside the Department of Justice. Think of all the slings and arrows that Andy McCabe has taken. And this is the first time that we are hearing from him, responding, telling his story.
Obviously, the same thing happened with James Comey. He had his book. He was able to describe what happened. But I think what this goes back to, and, again, I would just ask the viewers if you think about the FBI right now and the Department of Justice, and the view that has been able to - to this corrosive narrative that, somehow, they were corrupt, this is because there has been silence inside the Justice Department. You haven't heard Jeff Sessions, you haven't heard Rod Rosenstein stepping up to defend against these attacks from the President of the United States. And so you have this built-in narrative. And now, you have people like Andy McCabe trying to counter that and say, look, here is our side of the story.
So this book, Wolf, is going to be very is fascinating to see what stories he tells. BLITZER: Josh Campbell helping us appreciate the enormity of what's going on. Thank you very much.
We're back with our correspondents and our analysts.
And, Laura Jarrett, McCabe, he tells some incredible stories about how concerned he was about protecting the whole Russia investigation in case he was removed for some reason, and almost an unprecedented situation. Did he do the right thing?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: I think that's a really, really hard question. On the one hand, we have the former General Counsel, James Baker, who we've described in his closed door testimony with Congress explaining that they were really troubled by some of the behavior that they saw from the President, especially after the firing of James Comey, because they're trying to figure out his motivations.
And Baker said, on the one hand, he could have been completely innocent and there was nothing to it, or on the other hand, worst case scenario, he was working at the behest of the Russian government. And that's what they had to try to get to. And so when you think about it from that perspective, there's nothing more serious.
On the other hand, they are going after the President of the United States alone. They are not doing this with the gang of eight. They are really not doing this even with the Justice Department. Andrew McCabe is opening this on his own.
And so in many ways, the FBI has faced so much criticism for going it alone. We think about James Comey not informing the Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, about what he was doing. This would be the Clinton email investigation. And so I think that's sort of the tension you see here. On the one hand, it's a big deal, but you're going to be doing it when these kinds of consequences come up.
BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, Andrew McCabe also told Scott Pelley of 60 minutes that it was no joke. He said it was no joke when conversations came up about removing the President of the United States through the 25th Amendment to the Constitution or having Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, wear a wire to go into the Oval Office and tape the President. What do you make of that?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, we have heard the outlines of this story for more than a year now. And I think just by sheer repetition, we have become inured to just how unbelievable and how serious this story is. The fact the leadership of the FBI thought the President was so compromised by Russia, his own Cabinet might have to force him out of office, that he was obstructing justice to such an extent that they had to hire a special prosecutor.
[18:45:03] I mean, this is not normal behavior, either on the part of a president or on the part of law enforcement. This was an unprecedented crisis in American government, and the passage of time shouldn't dull its impact on us.
BLITZER: It's a good point. Very important point.
And, Kaitlan, the president didn't take much time, but he tweeted very quickly that in his words, McCabe is a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our country. This is someone that spent decades working his way up through the FBI. It sounds like he will simply brush aside McCabe's accusations.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And not only did he tweet that pretty quickly after that interview, he had the press secretary put out a statement saying he was an embarrassment, that he had no credibility, going after him and pointing back to the inspector general investigation that showed that he was misleading. And I think that is what the White House is going to continue to do as Andrew McCabe is coming out there, and especially this interview airs on Sunday.
And that's what White House officials are worried about, that this is going to be something that infuriates the president, distracts him once again, because you see clearly this morning, it didn't take him long. But the White House's plan is to brush this off and say this guy has no credibility.
So, when he makes comments like potentially invoking the 25th Amendment, the White House is trying to brush that off.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's an Achilles heel. But what incentive does he have to lie back in 2017? He hasn't been fired. He is writing it all down contemporaneously. So, I think that's a really hard thing for both the White House and Rosenstein to get around. At that point, he had no intensive to lie.
Of course, now, he's lost his pension. He has been disgraced. He's under the gun for President Trump for so long. But back then, he had no reason to lie.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And Rosenstein's statement that there was no basis for invoking the 25th Amendment does not mean it wasn't kicked around in a conference room at some point. It doesn't mean that it was. But it also doesn't mean that it wasn't. It's opaque language.
BLITZER: But, you know, Jeffrey, the president's supporters will say there's a deep state bias, hatred of Donald Trump inside the FBI, inside the Justice Department. This whole thing is a witch hunt. It's a hoax. Don't take any of this seriously.
TOOBIN: Well, you know, I know that, you know, on Fox News there's going to be every wackadoodle theory about how the FBI is a nest of leftists. But, I mean, you know, come on. It's just so ridiculous.
I mean, the idea that the FBI, which is a law enforcement organization, populated by, in effect, the best cops in the country, that that is some nest of left wing activists is just absurd on its face. But this is what you will hear from -- you know, on Fox. And, you know, 35 percent of the country is going to believe it. No one changes their opinion about Donald Trump. Nothing changes. I mean, the polls are always the same no matter what you ask, 35 percent to 40 percent like him, 55 percent don't. And, you know, that's just how it's going to be.
COLLINS: Yes. But the White House says this makes their argument for them that the FBI is biased, that the DOJ is biased against the president, because you got someone -- before this, we had "The New York Times" and CNN reporting that this conversation had had happened with Rosenstein and McCabe. But now, we have someone on the record for the first time confirming that this happened. That's stunning in and of itself.
And the White House is going to be able to point to this and say they debated wearing a wire around the president and they say it proves their theory exactly that there are officials in upper echelons of the DOJ, of the FBI, that are against the president.
SWERDLICK: Yes, Kaitlan's right, that the White House's line has been and will continue to be this idea that this was a witch hunt, that this was some -- that the FBI was out to get the president. And because McCabe had that finding from the I.G.'s office of lack of candor, that does make him a target for the president's tweets and attacks.
But what ultimately matters is what the special counsel finds. This is why you have a special counsel. To take it out of the hands of the regular line, FBI and DOJ, and to put in the hands -- yes, go ahead.
TOOBIN: Well, no, I mean, I don't think Robert Mueller is the arbiter of truth in America. I mean, we can make our own judgment based on what has come out so far. Yes, of course, the Mueller report is going to be important. The idea that we're in some perfect equilibrium between thinking, well, the FBI is a nest of corrupt leftists and the FBI was trying to do their job, no, I don't think those two theories --
SWERDLICK: No, he is not --
TOOBIN: -- are equally plausible.
SWERDLICK: No, and you are right. He's not an arbiter of truth. What he was was appointed in 2017 because you had a situation where the White House and DOJ and FBI were all at odds.
So, you bring in someone with a sterling reputation at the time. Republicans even sung his praises, who is just in charge of this one case out of the chain of command. And that way -- we don't know what's in his report, but this is why you have a special counsel.
BLITZER: And, Laura, this is happening as this new attorney general has been sworn in, Bill Barr, who is close with Robert Mueller. They've got a long-standing relationship.
[18:50:02] They are friends and they have worked together over the years.
JARRETT: They are personal friends. They have gone to each other's kids' wedding.
BLITZER: By the way, this is a White House photo that was just released. You see Bill Barr being sworn in by the chief justice, John Roberts, and the president of the United States standing right next to him.
JARRETT: Yes, he has a long past with Mueller. You know, he was Mueller's boss at the Justice Department where Mueller was head of the criminal division and Bill Barr was there. He's now in his second time around. And I think he's going to have some tough decisions on his plate.
Everyone is so hyped up for the Mueller report and all the expectations that go into them. You know, the fact that Andy McCabe has sort of ripped the Band-Aid off of what happened in 2017 really highlights what Barr wants to avoid. He wants to avoid sort of this airing of all that was going on. He hates the idea of derogatory information coming out about people who are uncharged.
So, I think we'll see him try to clamp down on that, whether it works or not.
SWERDLICK: Good luck, Mr. Attorney General.
BLITZER: What's the mood there at the White House right now? You're close to a lot of those folks. You've done great reporting.
COLLINS: The president actually really liked Matt Whitaker. He really they have a close relationship. Obviously, that was something that was a point of contention and scrutiny, but the president liked Matt Whitaker a lot. But I do think he likes Bill Barr.
But, of course, we did report that when Bill Barr was undergoing his testimony, the president was surprised to see just how close they are because the president's famous line was that Comey and Mueller were good friends. And Comey testified that he didn't even have Robert Mueller's cell phone number, anything like that, but the fact that his new attorney general and Mueller are actually very close. So close that they talk about going the each other's children's weddings and whatnot.
I think that was a surprise to the president. And the thing is that White House officials will tell you, it really doesn't matter who's in that job. It doesn't matter who's in the White House counsel's job. It doesn't matter who's in chief of staff job.
The president gets frustrated with a lot of people around him, oftentimes blaming them for something that may be their fault, may not be their fault. And so, I don't think people have faith that Bill Barr is going to go unscathed during his tenure just because they see the history of what's happened there.
BLITZER: What do you see the impact being, Jeffrey?
TOOBIN: Of Barr?
TOOBIN: I think Barr is going to try to approach this in good faith. I mean, he's a person that's imminently qualified to be in the job that he has. He's done it before. He has a lot of respect in all communities. Even among people who don't agree with him politically.
But, you know, his legacy is going to be determined by what he does with this report. I don't think there's any doubt about that and, you know, the public interest here is intense and if he keeps anything but classified information secret, I think there, you know there's going to be a big reaction, but his reaction may be so what.
I mean, what can the Democrats do? They can try to subpoena. It's going to be a very interesting tough call for him.
BLITZER: It certainly will be. Everybody stand by. There's more news we're following tonight.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee speaking out about the ruling that Paul Manafort lied.
Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju.
Manu, what are you hearing? What are you seeing?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee reacted to the news of a federal judge saying that Paul Manafort e breached his plea deal with his efforts to cooperate with prosecutors because of him not being truthful of his content in part with the Russians, somewhat suspected to have ties to Russian intelligence, Konstantin Kilimnik. When I asked Mark Warner about that, he said it showed why the president is concerned about the Mueller probe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Your reaction to the federal judge saying that Manafort lied about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), INTELLIGENCE VICE CHAIRMAN: Again, this is one of the reasons why the president is terrified about the results of the Mueller investigation, and the Senate Intelligence investigation. The number of data points between folks related to the Trump campaign and Trump Organization with Russians is unprecedented and I think there will be some interesting conclusions when we get to that stage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, another story line that's been playing out all through the course of the week was what's actually been happening on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Mark Warner has split with the Republican chairman of that committee, Richard Burr, who said he's not certain, doesn't believe the facts that they have looked at so far an point to any real evidence of collusion.
When I talked to Warner today, he pushed back rather strongly. He said there are a number of data points showing there were efforts to coordinate, efforts to talk. Whether that means conspiracy, that's a question he believes that needs to be probed further, including those contacts with Paul Manafort, along with Konstantin Kilimnik in which now we do know that according to court filings that were inadvertently released that Paul Manafort shared polling data back in 2016 with Konstantin Kilimnik.
[18:55:00] All those he says need to be investigated further, even as Republicans say really at this point there's no signs of any collusion between Trump campaign and the Russians, but this revelation from the federal judge last night that Paul Manafort lied about those interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik adding more fodder to Mark Warner as they push forward on the Russia probe.
BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right.
And, David Swerdlick, it looks like this division on Capitol Hill over this in intensifying.
SWERDLICK: It's intensifying and I think one of the reasons we see is clearly because now there's more focus on the Senate because the House is in Democratic hands, the chairmanships are in Democratic hands. There's more pressure on Senator Burr as a Republican ranking member of the intelligence committee, to hold some kind of a line for Republicans. Whether how that plays out though and how that affects his relationship with Senator Warner, we'll see.
BLITZER: How do you see it, Jeffrey?
SWERDLICK: Well, you know, all this underlines it seems to me the need for facts. You know, Warner and Burr, they're arguing about facts that are not available to us. You know, what did the interview, what did the evidence show? I haven't seen that evidence. No one in the public has.
I mean, that's why you know, usual way of the Congress does investigations is they hold hearings. They subpoena documents. You know, maybe the Senate Judiciary Committee should decide to release that evidence and let us all decide which one of them is telling the truth. I don't mean lying. Just in terms of who was accurately characterizing the evidence out there.
BLITZER: This is a tense moment right now in U.S. history.
JARRETT: Part of the issue is that we don't have what we think of as like the 9/11 commission to air all of this out. So the public really wants and understandably so, a full account of what has gone on with Russian interference. But yet, not one of the different investigations is seemingly poised to answer that question for us. Not Mueller, not the House Intelligence Committee, not the Senate Intelligence Committee.
We get drips and drabs of information, but there's no one really putting it together for anyone and American people in a digestible way. TOOBIN: And that's not a coincidence. I mean, when this all happen,
there was the Republican control of the House and Senate, and they didn't want a public investigation of this. So, I mean, you're absolutely right that there was no public investigation, but that was a political choice by the Republicans who were running Congress.
BLITZER: What are they bracing for over at the White House?
COLLINS: Well, really, they know that they are focusing on this investigation. That's why you were seeing the president tout what Richard Burr said, not just on Twitter, but even at his first campaign rally of the year in El Paso. He was talking about that.
They got a huge cheer from the crowd, and that's why when you saw Warner come out and make that statement, because he saw that the president was running with what Richard Burr had said. I think the White House is preparing not only for this, but they note there's an onslaught of investigations coming for them. They've already gotten dozens of letters as they noted, and they know it's not just going to be looking at, you know, collusion in the campaign, but also the president's finances and his national security decisions, and it's going to be so much scrutiny on this.
But they've been preparing for this since the midterm elections, but it's going to start to hit them and it's going to affect the trajectory of the next two years but they could potentially use it I've heard from people as tool and the reelection to say look what the Democrats are doing to the president. The president calls it presidential harassment so much, and I think they'll try to use it to their advantage.
BLITZER: There's a widespread assumption now that Bill Barr as a new attorney general replacing the acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, that maybe that would be an indication that Mueller's getting ready to finalize his report and give it to the attorney.
JARRETT: We certainly look for clues everywhere we can, right? So, obviously, our reporting had been that the deputy attorney general who's been overseeing the investigation the entire time will depart as soon as --
BLITZER: Rod Rosenstein.
JARRETT: Rod Rosenstein would depart after Barr got confirmed. Barr is now confirmed, so I think there's a safe assumption to make there that the Mueller will come in the coming weeks. So, we don't have a date certain, but obviously, as soon as we do, we'll tell you first, Wolf.
BLITZER: Will you promise?
BLITZER: You'll tell me first, is that what you're saying?
JARRETT: Yes. BLITZER: She promised.
All right. Everybody, stick around.
There's little bit more and finally tonight, very important. We want to join people in Parkland, Florida, and across the nation in honoring the victims of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. On this day one year ago, 17 students and staff members were killed when the gunman walked into the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire.
The massacre has been at the forefront of the debate that's going on all over the country over guns and mental health. But for so many of the survivors, this is a day about remembering and healing. The community dedicated this Valentine's Day to public service and acts of love, a memorial service is being held in Parkland later tonight.
All the students, the parents, the faculty who lost so much, our thoughts are with you on this day.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUFRONT" starts right now.