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Trump Calls Ex-FBI Acting Director "Deranged," "Illegal and Treasonous"; Roger Stone Takes Down Controversial Social Media Post; Interview with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Oversight Committee (D-IL); U.S. President Reportedly Disappointed with DNI Dan Coats. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 18, 2019 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now: breaking news, not sugar coating it. Tonight a close ally of the president reveals what he calls a general disappointment at the White House with the nation's top intelligence official and suggests it may be time for a major change. Is the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, now on his way out?

Attacking McCabe: the president unleashing a ferocious response and saying former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe is "deranged" and calling his actions "illegal and treasonous." McCabe told interviewers he opened a counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Trump because he feared the president could be a Russian agent.

Tonight McCabe says he has memos detailing conversations and he's giving them to special counsel.

Throwing stones: Trump ally Roger Stone trying to back away from a social media post going after the federal judge that put him under a gag order. Stone posted and then removed a picture of the judge next to what appears to be crosshairs. Stone says it is just a show trial but will the judge throw Stone in jail?

And running to the Senate: at a CNN presidential town hall tonight Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar will make her pitch to answer voters and to the country. Is appealing to the center instead of the party's liberal left wing a viable path to the nomination?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. This is THE SITUATION ROOM special report.


BLITZER: We are following breaking news. A close ally of the president pointing to White House sources is now hinting at more significant changes in the Trump administration.

Chris Ruddy tells CNN there's a growing sense of disappointment by Trump's Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats. Also breaking, a social media attack by Trump ally Roger Stone,

targeting a federal judge in his upcoming trial. After first posting a picture of the judge with what appeared to be crosshairs in the background, Stone deleted the post and now claims any inference that it was meant to threaten the judge or disrespect the court is categorically false and all this comes amid new questions being raised by fired acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.

He is repeating claims the president ignores when he's told the intelligence community, preferring instead to take the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Illinois Democratic congressman, Raja Krishnamoorthi, who's on the House Oversight Committee and House Intelligence Committee, is standing by to take our questions.

We'll have full coverage of today's top stories. Let's begin with Abby Phillip and the new pressure on the Director of National Intelligence.

What's the latest, Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one of the president's closest confidants, Chris Ruddy, is now saying the president may be souring on his Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats.

Ruddy's comments come to CNN after the president -- after Coats testified on Capitol Hill several weeks ago and contradicted President Trump saying North Korea was unlikely to give up their nuclear weapons. These comments come just days before President Trump is to go to Hanoi to meet with the North Korean leader.


TRUMP: Hello, Miami.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Tonight the president may be considering firing his top intelligence official as he fires back at the former acting FBI director. Chris Ruddy, one of president's Trump's closest confidants and the CEO of Newsmax telling CNN's Christiane Amanpour the president may get rid of his director of national intelligence.


CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: The intelligence chiefs, including the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, just went before an open session of Congress and they openly said they believe the president's policies and efforts in North Korea are going to fail based on the intelligence.

Christiane, I'm hearing from sources around the White House there's general disappointment of the president with Director Coats. There's a feeling that maybe there needs to be a change of leadership in that position.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP (voice-over): Tonight's revelations come as the president is lashing out at former FBI director McCabe. Following McCabe's explosive interview with "60 Minutes."

Trump tweeting, "He was fired for lying. And now his story gets even more deranged. He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions, another beauty --


PHILLIP (voice-over): -- looked like they were planning a very illegal act and got caught. There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who had just elected a president who they really like.

This was an illegal and treasonous insurance policy in full action."

In the interview, McCabe described in detail discussions with deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein about using the 25th Amendment to potentially oust Trump from office.

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS ANCHOR: Rosenstein was actually openly talking about whether there was a majority of the cabinet who would vote to remove the president.


PHILLIP (voice-over): And possibly wearing a wire inside the White House to record conversations with the president.

MCCABE: He said, "I never get searched when I go into the White House. I could easily wear a recording device. They wouldn't know it was there."

Now, he was not joking. He was absolutely serious.

PHILLIP (voice-over): The Justice Department firing back, calling McCabe's account inaccurate but not specifically denying the claim that the conversations occurred. The deputy attorney general never authorized any recordings that Mr. McCabe references.

As the deputy attorney general previously has stated, based on his personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment nor was the dag in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment.

All this prompting Trump to retweet one FOX commentator who called McCabe's account "an illegal coup attempt on the president of the United States," Trump adding, "true."

McCabe says Trump's public comments after firing Comey were cause for investigating obstruction of justice as well as Trump's private pressure on deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to include the word "Russia" in a memo justifying Comey's firing.

MCCABE: That concerned Rod in the same way that it concerned me and the FBI investigators on the Russia case.

PHILLIP (voice-over): All this as activists converge on the White House to protest Trump's national emergency declaration to build a wall along the southern border. One senior White House adviser not ruling out that the president might use his first veto of his presidency to override congressional attempts to stop the wall.

PHILLIP: And the Trump administration's trouble with personnel continued over the weekend. The president's pick for U.N. ambassador Heather Nauert withdrew her name from consideration after some concerns about her background were raised in the vetting.


PHILLIP: Nauert's nomination was announced before the White House had fully completed her vet and sources tell CNN the White House is returning to the drawing board as they look for a permanent pick to lead that ambassador post -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, lots going on, Abby Phillip at the White House, thank you.

Let's get more on the fallout from Andrew McCabe's bombshell revelations. Our Laura Jarrett has been working her sources over at the Justice Department.

Laura, it certainly sounds like McCabe was in a hurry to get something started, suspecting maybe he would be removed. But he wanted the investigation to move along against the president.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's no question that McCabe felt strongly and wanted to put the investigation on what he called solid footing just in case he was ever reassigned or fired, as he eventually was.

He describes in candid detail exactly what officials were thinking at the time about why they decided to open those investigations in to the president for obstruction of justice as well as a counterintelligence probe, wondering if the president was an asset of Russia.

Let's take a listen to what McCabe detailed here about all the reasons and evidence they were looking at.


MCCABE: The president had gone to Jim Comey and specifically asked him to discontinue the investigation of Mike Flynn, which was a part of our Russia case. The president then fired the director. In the firing of the director, the president specifically asked Rod Rosenstein to write a memo justifying the firing.

And told Rod to include Russia in the memo. Rod, of course, did not do that. But that was on the president's mind.

Then the president made those public comments that you've referenced, both on NBC and to the Russians, which was captured in the Oval Office. Put together these circumstances, were articulable facts that indicated that the crime may have been committed. The president may have been engaged obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey.


JARRETT: Now of course the president has reacted swiftly to all this, calling McCabe a disgrace, his allies suggesting there was some sort of coup going on between the FBI and the Justice Department to remove Trump from office, giving those controversial and disputed statements about Rosenstein talking about wearing a wire and raising the idea of the 25th Amendment. But of course Rosenstein denies ever actively pursuing any of those types of actions.

BLITZER: It's interesting; he took a lot of contemporaneous notes, the acting FBI director. Apparently now all of those notes are in the hands of special counsel, Robert Mueller.

Let's talk a little bit about Roger Stone. He has gotten himself into a lot more trouble. He posted an Instagram of the federal judge that was --


BLITZER: -- pretty awful.

JARRETT: Yes, he's found himself in more hot water today. We are showing this picture of Amy Berman Jackson but we're blurring her face there so we don't become part of the story. He originally posted it and then took it down. I want to read a statement about how he explains all of this.

"A photo of Judge Jackson posted on my Instagram has been misinterpreted. This was a random photo taken from the Internet. Any inference that this was meant to somehow threaten judge or disrespect the court is categorically false."

Obviously he was criticized because of the crosshairs that appeared in this photo that was taken down. There is a gag order that is supposed to bar both sides from doing anything that would sort of taint the waters. Anything that could affect the case.

The question is whether putting that photo up, suggesting that Judge Jackson, an Obama appointee, is somehow discredited, that she can't be fair, could run afoul of that gag order. But it is not a good idea to post a picture of a judge in any way that could be misinterpreted as a threat.

BLITZER: She could throw him in jail for this.

JARRETT: Sure. She can do that. We'll see what she says. She's pretty tough.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that. See if he decides to stay quiet, which will be very difficult for him. We'll see if he does. All right, Laura. Thank you very much. With us now, Democratic representative Raja Krishnamoorthi of

Illinois. He is a key member of both the Oversight and Intelligence Committees. He's a very busy guy.

Congressman, thanks for joining me.


BLITZER: Chris Ruddy, a very close friend of the president, spending the weekend with the president in Mar-a-lago in Palm Beach says the president is seriously thinking of replacing the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats.

What concerns does that raise to you, if any?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: It raises serious concerns. Dan Coats came on Capitol Hill with other members of the international community and basically said things such as thousands of ISIS fighters still roam Syria. So there is still a threat.

Iran will not give up its nuclear weapons and climate change is a grave national security threat. The president didn't like the conclusions. That's why he was so upset with them.

Andy McCabe just last night said when the intelligence community disagreed with the president's report that Vladimir Putin says that North Korea doesn't possess ballistic missiles that could reach America, the president then responded by saying I don't care, I believe Putin.

Well, today, I think people on Capitol Hill are saying regardless of what the president is tweeting, we don't care; we believe the international community.

BLITZER: It sounds like Dan Coats' testimony the other day before Congress on global threats facing the United States might have influenced things. I want you to listen and what watch what Ruddy had to say. Watch this.


RUDDY: There's a deep concern that on the eve of the North Korea, to have your director of national intelligence in open hearings undercutting your position, was very bad form.


BLITZER: The Director of National Intelligence at that hearing testifying that North Korea was unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons.

How is that undercutting the president?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think the president believes that each member of his administration should pledge their political loyalty to him and they should tell the truth in such a way that supports whatever position he takes.

But in fact, these people have pledged an oath to the Constitution and defending our Constitution and they have to tell the truth in front of Congress and that's what Director Coats did along with the other intelligence community chiefs. And that's what they do every day.

BLITZER: Andrew McCabe, the fired acting director of the FBI, also laid out his reasoning for opening up a series of investigations into President Trump in the aftermath of James Comey's firing.

Do you think that decision was justified?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Absolutely. At the time when James Comey was fired, Republicans and Democrats were shocked on chills, not to mention the law enforcement officials at the DOJ and FBI.

So understandably they appointed special counsel Mueller and now we have to allow his investigation to proceed unimpeded and the results have to be shared with Congress and the American people.

BLITZER: The fired acting FBI director also says that the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein was completely serious in his discussion of possibly removing President Trump through the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and his proposal also to wear a wire to record President Trump secretly in the Oval Office.

Does that concern you?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, it concerns me whenever someone talks about wearing a wire and collecting evidence without any judicial safeguards. There have to be judicial safeguards.


KRISHNAMOORTHI: A judge should authorize that type of thing. But with regard to the discussion about the president, I think a lot of people were wondering whether the president was able to discharge his duties, in light of firing James Comey, in light of pressuring him or asking him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn and then later on saying the firing of James Comey was because of the Russia investigation.

BLITZER: In addition to being on the Intelligence Committee, you also serve on the House Oversight Committee.


BLITZER: The chairman, Elijah Cummings, now says attorneys representing President Trump might have actually given your committee false information about those hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.

Will your committee move to subpoena the Trump Organization to see the documents behind that payment?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Possibly. I think Chairman Cummings has made it very clear that we have to bring transparency and sunlight to the dealings of the Trump Organization. You may already be aware but we have asked numerous times for information for instance about the Trump Organization's dealings with the foreign governments through the Trump Hotel and so forth.

So I would not be surprised if we end up subpoenaing such documents.

BLITZER: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: Up next, Trump lashes out at the former ex-FBI acting director Andrew McCabe.

Will McCabe's allegations lead to brand new investigations up on Capitol Hill?





BLITZER: There's breaking news. The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats may be on thin ice tonight after a close confidant of President Trump revealed a sense of general disappointment in Coats, the nation's top intelligence official. Our experts are here with more analysis.

Chris Cillizza, the president's friend, Chris Ruddy, was at this dinner and now he's suggesting Dan Coats may be out.

What do you make of this?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, first God bless Chris Ruddy because, unlike most people that are affiliated with Trump, he actually talks on the record openly about stuff, which is helpful to give us some insight.

I don't know how the ice can get any thinner for Dan Coats. I feel like multiple times CNN has reported that Trump was unhappy when he -- Coats, as part of national assessment of threat Trump was watching on TV, maybe not listening to all of it but watching the chirons and seeing how the chirons suggested he was disagreeing.

Coats is an old lion. He has been a senator twice. He was a senator from Indiana; he retired, he came back and is now serving.


BLITZER: -- was ambassador to Germany.

CILLIZZA: Right, very old lion, establishment Republican. I always thought sort of a weird fit and candidly, it is hard for me to imagine how these people in the senior levels of the international community, who have had long runs in Washington, stay in their jobs because Donald Trump undermines them literally at every opportunity he can.

He says I don't believe them. Or Putin told me this. It would be a hard job to keep under any circumstances.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: But this isn't just an intel story. I look at it as a former intel guy, through that optic. But you also say we thought people around the table with a lot of experience, Tillerson, Mattis, Coats, Sessions, people with experience --


MUDD: -- would sit around the table, particularly the generals. The president seemed to rely on a lot. So it's not only a question of whether the president wants intel changed to meet his policy, it's a question of all of these people who came to Washington, saying I'll be the pro team to help the new president coming from Manhattan. They are all gone.

BLITZER: What do you think of the flow of information that Chris Ruddy has dinner at Mar-a-lago with the president and a few others. Then he goes on television with our own Christiane Amanpour and he says he is hearing from his sources that Dan Coats may be vulnerable and may be on thin ice, may be gone.

From a national security perspective, what do you make of this flow of information?

MUDD: I look at it -- thinking about an intel guy who is now Dan Coats, watching what happened with Jeff Sessions, I get hammered in public, presuming because the president's is hoping he doesn't have to fire me. He doesn't like to do that. He wants me to quit.

I think the real message and the real danger is if Coats goes, the follow-on individual as DNI has to come in and say when I do public testimonies, am I supposed to say what I think or am I supposed to say what the president wants me to say?

I think I know what the answer is.

BLITZER: Yes. When he and the other intelligence chiefs testified at that hearing on global threats there was no mention of the border with Mexico and the threat coming up.


CILLIZZA: -- on North Korea, on Syria --


CILLIZZA: -- on Russia --

BLITZER: And there were major disagreements with what the president believes right now. Let's talk about the Justice Department.

How serious -- if you believe Andrew McCabe, the fired acting director of the FBI, how serious were those considerations that the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, would wear a wire and go into that Oval Office and record the president or maybe consider some sort of 25th Amendment to the Constitution plot to see how many cabinet members including the vice president might want to remove the president from office?

JARRETT: If you believe McCabe, they were dead serious. He takes pains to say, despite everything Rosenstein has said pushing back on this, he was not joking. He mentioned it more than once. I was there in the room and it was taken quite seriously.

now I have spoken to a source who was in the room for at least the wire comment that said look, Rosenstein was being sarcastic. It is clear he had no designed to actually wear a wire. That's his humor. That's the way he described that conversation to me.

You can question whether --


JARRETT: -- that was a good idea for the deputy attorney general to be joking about it or not. But it appears to be.

BLITZER: But McCabe took it seriously.

JARRETT: He took it seriously and he went back to the FBI. He told the FBI general counsel, James Baker about it, who McCabe says almost had a heart attack there on the floor, saying we cannot do this. We're not there yet.

And so Rosenstein's point is this was never actually carried out, whether or not we have a discrepancy in what was said and what the tone was, they actually never did record the president. But even the fact that it was discussed is extraordinary.

BLITZER: And the fact that McCabe is suggest that in one conversation the president said, I know the U.S. intelligence community believes that North Korea has intercontinental ballistic capability, potentially to launch a nuclear bomb against the United States. But Putin told the president North Korea doesn't have that capability. And he said those who were with him, I believe Putin.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, six important words there, according to McCabe. He says, "I don't care. I believe Putin."

Those six words so stinging the international community, another slap in the fact in a long string of patterns so to speak, from President Trump really downplaying the significance of their work and again speaks to what we're talking about with Dan Coats, just another hit on the international community, the fact also that President Trump is believing Putin here, speaking in the way that he always seem to give.

CILLIZZA: By the way, not the first time. Let's remember, Donald Trump, podium one; Vladimir Putin, podium two in Helsinki.

Do you think Russia meddled into the election?

Well, he denies it very strongly and our intelligence people say no. But you know, who am I?

I mean you don't get in a bigger world stage than that.


CILLIZZA: -- to say something here, to repeatedly say, well, Vladimir says X and my international community says Y so it's basically a 50- 50. Or in Trump's imagine, really in truth, he seems to trust Putin more than the international community. We shouldn't be surprised. We can be shocked but we shouldn't be surprised.

MUDD: He did call the leader of North Korea "little rocket man," which I presume means the president thought he had rockets. So I don't know whether he characterized those rockets as intercontinental or not. But he acknowledged before the U.N. that we were concerned about proliferation in North Korea.

Now because it's not very convenient, the North Koreans haven't been very sort of committal to trying to step back, he's got to say, well, I'm not so sure anymore.

JARRETT: Wolf, I think part of the reason McCabe includes this little tidbit is they are trying to piece together all of this confounding information about why the president is taking actions that seem to continually side with Putin.

He lays out a series of different events that all were kind of on their minds before they actually opened the investigations into the president. But it looms over all of them, we saw in plain sight, where they were the president's own words or when he went on NBC and said that he had the Russia investigation on his mind when he fired James Comey.

Those were the things that the FBI were so troubled by. I think that's why the Putin anecdote comes up here.

BLITZER: You think McCabe's thoughts were accurate and precise when he wanted to open up these kinds of internal investigations at the FBI and the Justice Department against the president?

MUDD: No. I don't. Let's make sure we draw a clear line here. Line one, you come back from conversation at the White House, as James Comey did, and say that was an inappropriate conversation. I want to memorialize this in a memo. I think that's perfectly --

BLITZER: Which he did.


BLITZER: -- wrote everything down. MUDD: Because you're saying I don't know how it will roll out in the future but if there's a further mountain of evidence I don't want to try to remember this three weeks down the road.

Stepping from that to say whether it's a joke or not, we think we might want to wear a wire to the Oval Office and let's talk about which cabinet members might support the 25th Amendment, that's over the line.

So let's make sure we distinguish between collecting potential evidence and talking about whether the FBI is the center of a conversation about the 25th Amendment.

CILLIZZA: What's interesting about it is -- I took something from McCabe when Laura was talking, I was thinking about it, is that period between Comey being fired and the special counsel being appointed.

BLITZER: Nine days.

CILLIZZA: McCabe never uses this word and doesn't use this word about Rosenstein, though he comes close. It sounds a little bit like they either were panicked or running around like chickens with their heads cut off.


CILLIZZA: He says the stress was getting to Rosenstein, which is about as close as you can get. So some of this stuff, in hindsight, it sounds a little crazy. But it is clear they were quite taken aback by this and really didn't now what the future holds day-to-day until the special counsel.

BLITZER: Everybody stick around. We have much more on breaking news right after this.


[17:34:13] WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: We're back with our reporters and our analysts. You know, Sunlen, we'll play a couple of clips. This is the Vice President speaking in the European National Security International Affairs Conference, So Vice President Mike Pence, some awkward, very awkward moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.

The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and the Iranian people, to stand with our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people the region and the world the peace, security and freedom they deserve.



Some painful silence there when he's speaking about the President of the United States, he's speaking about Iran. He didn't get - beyond the awkward silence, it does underscore some major differences right now between the Trump administration and the European allies.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does. Definitely an awkward, but definitely speaks to this moment for specifically President Trump, how he's not very well liked right now and certainly speaks to the deterioration of the relationships specifically between President Trump and our European allies. All that moment where Vice President Pence kind of gave the President a shout out there and said, he brings his thanks from the president that kind of paused in the room that was deafening silence.

And it should be noted that Senator Graham, the republican room, he mentioned him, and he did get applause there. So this speaks to specifically how much President Trump has let that relationship go downhill. We've heard a little bit from Angela Merkel there this week.

I also want to say it kind of speaks to the White House not reading the room. And, certainly, the tone at the conference this weekend was difficult. That was described by many people there. That - really, the under current [ph] of all this.

So the white house leaving an applause line in his written transcript, the fact that Pence broke to hear applause and didn't hear it, and he was kind of a little ruffled by it. You know, it speaks they're not reading the relationship fundamentally.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS AT LARGE: My gosh, the whole watching that, listening to it, just reminded me, with apologies to Jeb Bush, but of the Jeb Bush, please clap moment, where it's like, and this is the part where you guys applaud for me, you know. The thing about Sunlen's - exactly, everything Sunlen says exactly about the reading [ph] room.

If you think about Pence's, Pence's entire political now and political future is tied to Donald Trump's. And Mike Pence doesn't care really, beyond the awkwardness, if they applaud him. Because you know who liked all of that? Donald Trump. And that's his only path, Mike Pence's only path.

BLITZER: But Donald Trump - President Trump likes to get applause when he makes those kinds of statements. Pence was waiting for the applause. He got silence.

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, why? Why is this a surprise? 16 years after we go into Iraq, let's replace names here. We'd like you to stand with us on a WMD issue or related to a big eye country in the Middle East. And we have to sit there and say, after we brought the Europeans into Iraq, they might say, well, asking us to stand behind you on Iran on WMD, maybe not so much. And by the way, you should say, thanks for us being in Iraq because we lost a lot of our people. So I think if you've spent ten seconds reading your speech, you'd say, they're going to be reminded of Iraq and nobody is going to say this is a good idea.

BLITZER: Yes. Sunlen, I want to play a clip. This is Saturday Night Live. Once again, they're having a little fun at the President's expense.


ALEC BALDWIN: I'm basically taking military money so I can have this wall. So I'm going to sign these papers for emergency and then I'll immediately be sued, and the ruling will not go in my favor, and then I I'll end up in the Supreme Court, and then I'll call my buddy, Kavanaugh, and I'll say, how do we pay the Donnie [ph], and they'll say, new phone, who this?


BLITZER: Now, the President clearly was watching, he hated what he saw. He Tweeted this, nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC. Question is how do the networks get away with these total republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for any other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into This is the real collusion.

Now, as far as I remember, SNL has been making fun of all of the presidents over the years. But this is a President who is now saying they have got to investigate NBC for making fun of it.

SERFATY: Yes. That word, retribution, really struck out to a lot of people here, the fact that this is a comedy show and that for like, you said, for years, presidents have been made speaks to the sensitivity of the thin skin of the President sometime. But Hollywood, for him, is essentially an easy target. He knows this kind of back and forth between Stephen Baldwin and him, that is - we're going many, many more chapters in that relationship.

BLITZER: And it also awfully continues as he did on Sunday to go after the news media. The rigged and corrupt media is the enemy of the people.

All right, everybody stick around. We're going to have a lot more on all of this, including the growing democratic field, including Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota hoping to capture the political center as her party tags to the left. We're going to have details on tonight's exclusive CNN Town Hall with Senator Klobuchar right after this break.



[17:44:00] BLITZER: Tonight, CNN is hosting an exclusive Town Hall with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, as she ramps up her bid for the democratic presidential nomination. Our Political Director, David Chalian, is joining us from Manchester, New Hampshire right now. David, so where does Senator Klobuchar fit into the democratic field at least so far? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You know, it's a great question, Wolf, because she fits slightly differently than some of her competitors that we've seen get in this race, so many folks that are in this race already come from the Coast and are embracing the more liberal progressive wing of the party. What Klobuchar is selling, Wolf, is something different, her mid western values. She was talking about campaigning in Wisconsin, which was left behind by Hillary Clinton in 2016, because she's the Senator from next door. And she's touting her ability to reach across the aisle, campaigning on a bipartisanship.

This is not the kind of red meat for the liberal activist base that has been driving so much of the energy we have seen in the democratic nomination race so far. This is the first candidate trying to carve out a path, perhaps a moderate in the middle.


And, you know, it could be a potentially smart move if so many candidates on the left split up that progressive vote, Wolf.

[17:45:00] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: -- path, perhaps a more moderate path in the middle. And, you know, it could be a potentially smart move if so many candidates on the left split up that progressive vote, Wolf.

CHALIAN: That's a good question. We're waiting on some big names, Bernie Sanders one of them. Joe Biden. Beto O'Rourke.

But there were reports over the weekend that said Sanders had already shot a video that could be potentially part of an announcement. And there was a report that they're scoping out a location in Brooklyn -- his hometown, Brooklyn, New York -- for a possible part of a rollout.

So I don't exactly when Bernie Sanders is going to announce, but there's no doubt that the field is already getting quite crowded. And if he is looking to get into this race, make a second run, try to capture that magic again that he had in 2016, it's getting awfully crowded. He may want to get in sooner rather than later.

BLITZER: I suspect he will. All right, David, thank you. David Chalian in New Hampshire for us.

Be sure to watch the CNN town hall later tonight with Senator Amy Klobuchar. It will be anchored by our own Don Lemon. It all begins tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Up next, there's more news we're following including a closer look at one of the former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe's most shocking claims.


[17:50:54] BLITZER: In his latest interviews as well as in his new book, the former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe recounts a time President Trump refused to believe information from top U.S. intelligence officials, preferred, instead, to take the word of Russia's Vladimir Putin.

CNN's Brian Todd has found other instances of the President's belittling the U.S. intelligence community. Brian, this is the President in his own words.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. And we get word of this tonight as we also hear from the President's ally, Chris Ruddy, who told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that President Trump is thinking about firing his top intelligence official, Dan Coats, because, Ruddy says, there's a belief that Coats implied the President's efforts with North Korea are going to fail.

These, plus the Andrew McCabe revelations, are leading to a lot of concern tonight over the President's battles with his own spy agencies.


TODD (voice-over): Andrew McCabe describes it as a head-spinning moment, an Oval Office meeting with President Trump in 2017, when McCabe, then-Acting FBI Director, had sent a senior FBI official to brief the President. According to McCabe, the official came back and told him the briefing had gone, quote, off the rails.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: The President said he did not believe that North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States, and he did not believe that because President Putin had told him they did not. President Putin had told him that the North Koreans don't actually have those missiles.

TODD (voice-over): McCabe says intelligence officials in the room told the President that was inconsistent with everything they knew about Kim Jong-un's missile capability.

MCCABE: To which the President replied, I don't care, I believe Putin.

TODD (voice-over): For veteran intelligence professionals, it is yet another alarming example of the President not trusting his intelligence experts.

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Now we have a president that thinks he's established a personal relationship with an adversary like Putin, and he's going to take his word over the intelligence community. There is no precedent in American history for this, ever.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say previous presidents' trust in their intelligence briefers has been almost absolute because they've known just how well scrubbed each piece of intelligence delivered to the President is and that it's above politics.

JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Each assessment is highly scrutinized. These experts look at this and obviously want to bring their boss, the Commander-in- Chief, only the best available intelligence.

TODD (voice-over): But President Trump seems to think differently. In Helsinki, he took Putin's word over his own intelligence leaders on Russia's attack on U.S. elections.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

TODD (voice-over): On Twitter, Trump has attacked the intelligence community, writing on January 30th, quote, perhaps intelligence should go back to school. A few days later, another attack.

TRUMP: And Iraq had nuclear weapons, had all sorts of weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? Those intel people didn't know what the hell they were doing, and they got us tied up in a war that we should have never been in.

TODD (voice-over): And he has been publicly contradicted by his own Director of National Intelligence on matters like the war against ISIS.

TRUMP: We have won against ISIS. We've beaten them and we've beaten them badly.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, intelligence veterans worry about what the mistrust between the President and his intelligence agencies will lead to.

BAER: What I'm really worried about is a Pearl Harbor could be on its way, and you're going to have a president that's going to reject it. We may be faced with an attack, and this president is going to say, I don't believe you.


TODD: Now, the White House has pushed back on Andrew McCabe's book. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is saying McCabe, quote, has no credibility and is an embarrassment to the men and women of the FBI.

But we're getting other warnings from former CIA and FBI officials about the fallout from all of this. They say because of the mistrust between the President and his spy agencies, U.S. intelligence officials, going forward, will likely be reluctant to give President Trump sensitive secrets about Russia, fearing that he may tell Vladimir Putin.

[17:55:02] And they say American spies will have a harder time getting their counterparts overseas to believe their intelligence, knowing the President often doesn't believe them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed. Significant. Brian Todd, thank you very much. Coming up, President Trump hits back at the fired FBI Acting Director

Andrew McCabe, calling McCabe's allegations deranged.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Removing Coats? A Trump confidant suggests the President may be on the brink of firing his Director of National Intelligence. Will Dan Coats be shown the door for publicly contradicting the Commander-in-Chief?

[18:00:01] Stone cold attack.