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AT THIS HOUR
Russian Interference Investigation. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired December 25, 2017 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...personal erroneous information at all coming from the President of the United States tells you what?
MOORE: You know, let me -- let me say first in complete disclosure that I signed a letter encouraging Chris Wray's confirmation as FBI director and I think he constant (ph) professional. But I also know that he knows sort of the -- the truth that you cannot respond to everything that the school yard bully says.
And my guess is that he's probably laying back, knowing when you look at the history of Trump and his tweets and -- and the fact that he can't control his either twitter thumbs or his mouth a lot, he's giving him enough rope to hang himself.
I wouldn't read anything in the fact that the FBI Director has not responded to this. I think is another diversion that the Trump team is trying to pull and the president is trying to pull. He's sort of using the classic organized crime playbook for a criminal defendant. He's acting like any other crime boss or gang leader who is under investigation.
And that is you attack the investigators, you attack the prosecutors, you attack the legitimacy of the investigation, when all else fails, you just throw out a punch of red herrings and hope you can get people off the trail. The FBI and Chris Wray is not going to fall for that.
You know, and he's done the same thing with Bob Mueller. I mean, if we think about it, this is just sort of his pattern. I think what he's forgotten is that he's -- he's not investigated by Barney Fife in Mayberry. I mean, it's more like he's got Wyatt (ph) Erp (ph) on his tail.
And these are -- these aren't novices. These are -- these are consummate professionals, these are -- these are good investigators, good lawyers, outstanding prosecutors who are going to be the case forward and just to be deterred by -- by -- by the president's ramblings.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I -- I have to follow up on something you just said. You think that -- and you're a former U.S. attorney, you think the President of the United States is acting like a mob boss?
MOORE: Absolutely. Absolutely. He's basically just -- he's attacking everything around him, he's willing to sacrifice a few lieutenants, we've seen that. Where we've got Mike Flynn out there, where we've got Manafort out there, you know. I'm sure there've been to some discussion about whether not he's going to step in and save him at the end of the day.
But as of right now, he's got them dangling out there and I figure he's kind of giving them a wink and a nod about whether or not he'll use a presidential pardon. But he's doing the classic things you do when you're -- you're feeling the pressure of an organized crime investigation.
And that is from the top down, you start attacking everything you can, throwing out as many hand grenades, putting out as many land mines as you can just hoping that you can move people away from the facts the investigation is beginning to reveal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's get to the underlying reason that the president was tweeting about Andrew McCabe, the Deputy FBI Director, it's because CNN reported that he is going to leave his post in -- in a couple of months.
The president was suggesting and others are suggesting in a not so subtle way that the Republicans drove him out. But the reality as far as I understand it, our justice team here at CNN, Evan (ph) Perez (ph), is saying that this is just the way that the FBI works. That this is the normal way that a job like that and the person in that job runs its course.
MOORE: That's right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your thought?
MOORE: Well the latter is true. And that is that the FBI is just like any other federal agency and that there are certain retirement ages, there can be places where you cap out or max out at the level that you may be. In this case, I mean, McCabe served as the active director of the FBI.
There's really no place for him to go. He's not going to be the director. He's got plenty of years of service in, he's built his retirement up to where he probably make about the same when he leaves the bureau as if he stayed. And so there's really nothing new about a transition happening.
And somebody deciding at that point that they're going to go ahead and retire and move out. Again, I mean, they're looking for things to sort of say look, we forced him out, there must be something nepharious here. He was tainted in his investigation.
And so the quick thing for them to say is look, you can't believe anything he said or anything that happened while he was the acting director of the FBI. There's just nothing new here and there's nothing particularly troublesome about him leaving at all. I just think that's normal.
And I hate to be the Grinch that leaves a lump of coal in the boarst (ph) that's brewing down in Mar-a-Lago, but let me tell you, this investigation is not over. And you don't really have to look any further than the Flynn plea agreement, you don't have to look any further than the request for additional documents.
You don't have to look any further of the fact that there's this letter that was crafted on air force one. That there's the firing of Jim Comey under certain circumstances where the president's putting pressure on him to act a certain way in an investigation.
This investigation is not shutting down and they can talk about people leaving, I just don't think it means much at the end of the day. I think that they probably ought to keep looking over their shoulder.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Moore, it doesn't feel like it's winding down. Thank you so much for your time and your insights on this Christmas Day, appreciate it.
MOORE: Great to be with you. Hope you have a great holiday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You too. And a deal today between Ukraine and pro-Russian seprodus (ph) for a prisoner swap. Russian state media says the Ukraine government will release 306 people in exchange for 74 prisoners being held by the separatists.
The deal comes just a few days after the U.S. agreed to send anti-tank weapons to the Ukrainian government. CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr joins me now. And Barbara, it seems to me that this is pretty significant that under the Trump administration, they are sending weapons to the Ukrainians, considering the fact that we haven't seen the president do very much that would potentially make Vladimir Putin and Russia angry.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Dana. I mean, this has been an issue that's been going on for several years now. The Obama administration had looked at it and rejected the idea of sending weapons to Ukraine to fight the Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country, because there was concern that this would simply accelerate the situation, raise aggression and tensions by those Russian-backed separatists.
The Trump administration now agreeing to send some of these light weapons, including anti-tank weapons, that's very key because those separatists have had some serious armor supplied to them by the Russians, by all account.
A key detail here, as the administration will tell you, they're not doing direct sales, they're allowing exports to go forward. That's still a very significant step, and so what's the reason?
The White House is saying this is to support the territorial integrity, the sovereignty of Ukraine. In Eastern Europe, Ukraine is a very significant U.S. ally, it is that hedge in Eastern Europe against further Russian expansionism. But it's really interesting because this may be one of the first steps where the U.S. is showing it's hand and saying to Putin, enough.
Enough with backing these separatists and don't try, you know, any more aggression in the east. But everyone will be watching very carefully to see if the Russians move in again, as they did in 2014 when they moved into Crimea. Dana?
BASH: No question, Barbara Starr, thank you so much for those insights and your reporting. And joining me now is CNN National Security Analyst, Samantha Vinograd, and she served on President Obama's National Security Counsel. Thank you so much for joining. Let's pick up where Barbara left off on this notion on the U.S. allowing weapons to go into the Ukraine to help them protect sovereignty against - basically against Russian aggression, let's be honest.
What does that tell you about where the administration, where the president is right now vis a vi that potential conflict and that area, and especially Vladimir Putin.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: It tells me that for the first time since he took office, President Trump is willing to take actual action, not just words, to try to change Russian behavior.
We haven't seen a president follow through on any of his threats against Russia in the past, and in this case I think his National Security Counsel probably advised him that putting pressure on Putin and imposing some costs could lead to some kind of behavioral change on the ground in Ukraine.
Now, we know that since March 2014, nothing that we've done has had any kind of material impact. We've implemented sanctions dating back to March 2014, there have been countless statements, there's been the Minsk Agreement, there have been cease fires, but Crimea is still occupied by Russia and Russia is still supporting these violent seperatists in Eastern Ukraine.
So, this could be a move in the right direction. There is a risk though, Dana, and that is that this turns into another kind of proxy war between the United States and Russia. The United States and Russia have a long history of proxy wars, everywhere from Afghanistan and Korea to Vietnam, and while this is an initial step to provide defensive capabilities to the Ukrainians, we could see a devolve into a situation where the United States is backing one side and Russia's backing the other.
BASH: Well, on that note, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said that the U.S. decision to sell anti-missile weapons to Ukraine crossed the line and will cause new bloodshed. Is there concern that the Russians will sort of use that - use the fact that the U.S. sanctioned weapons to go over to Ukraine as an excuse to be more aggressive militarily?
VINOGRAD: That's an excellent question, I laugh a little bit because they're saying that the United States crossed a line providing defensive weapons to the Ukrainians when they illegally invaded a sovereign country, annexed Crimea and are illegally supporting seperatists in Eastern Ukraine.
So they are the ones who actually crossed a line. I do think that the Russians will uyse this step as an excuse for other kinds of aggressive behavior, we have seen them do this in the past, and they're not the only ones.
Many countries try to put the blame on the United States to cover up their own illegal behavior, I mean we had North Korea, I think it was earlier today or yesterday say that, you know, the U.N. Security Counsel resolution against North Korea was an act of war, when in fact, North Korea's legal activity and ballistic missile and nuclear program is itself the illegal activity.
So I think it's just another excuse.
BASH: Samantha Vinograd, thank you so much...
VINOGRAD: Thank you.
BASH: ...for your time, and for coming in on this Christmas, Merry Christmas.
BASH: And still ahead with 2017 is coming to a close, we will take a look back at the major moments in the first year of Donald Trump's presidency. Stay tuned.
BASH: Let's be honest, the first year of the Trump presidency feels more like a decade because of the relentless stream of news. Here's a look at some of the key moments of President Trump's first year in office.
(VIDEO CLIP BEGINS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Candidate Trump, large campaign crowds were the norm, but at his inauguration, this was a sore subject. The new president grew angry watching reports, his inaugural crowd size was smaller than President Obama's.
One of his first presidential acts was to order his press secretary to do this.
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's something the president himself amplified while standing in front of a CIA memorial to fallen heroes.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a mass
BASH: his press secretary to do this.
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. (END VIDEO)
BASH: That's something the President himself amplified while standing in front of a CIA memorial to fallen heroes.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed. I looked out and the field was -- it
looked like a million, a million and a half people.
BASH: But the numbers didn't lie and the episode set an early Trump Administration tone. Government regulation. It sure doesn't sound exciting so it's no surprise the Trump Administration effort was not splashy 2017 news.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One, two, three.
BASH (voice over): But the President withdrew hundreds of regulations. A dull term with a real world impact from the safety of the products you use to the air you breathe.
TRUMP: We have reduced unnecessary regulations to a point that this country hasn't seen in years.
BASH (voice over): It was a promise kept to Republicans who is argue excess regulation hurts business and economic growth. The most lasting Trump 2017 accomplishment is
arguably the nomination and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
NEIL GORSUCH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will do all my powers to permit to be a faithful servant of the constitution and laws of this great nation.
BASH (voice over): The seat was open for a year since the death of Antonin Scalia and Senate Republicans's refusal to consider president Obama's pick Judge Merrick Garland.
TRUMP: You will go down as one of the truly great justices in the history of the United States Supreme Court.
GORSUCH: Judges can disagree without being disagreeable.
BASH (voice over) Getting Gorsuch was noteworthy not just for the Trump legacy but the process.
TRUMP: It is an extraordinary resume.
BASH (voice over): From announcement to confirmation, this success was the most conventional Trump undertaking of the year.
After months of back and forth between Donald Trump and north Korea's dictator, words like Rocket Man and fire and fury, the President took his insults to the world stage. His first speech at the United Nations.
TRUMP: If it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.
BASH (voice over): The rhetorical crossfire continued on twitter and through regime statements.
TRUMP: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.
BASH (voice over): By year's end, the escalation reached new heights. North Korea tested its most powerful missile yet with the capacity to reach the U.S. mainland.
BASH: No discussion about Donald Trump's first year in the White House would be complete without talking about his favorite little birdie. He sent more than 2,000 tweets in 2017 alone from the mystery of kovfefe to a series of really consequential posts like unprecented attacks on his own party's leadership and some head-scratching re- tweets. This anti-Muslim video sent by a Brit convicted of hate crimes caused a diplomatic rift with the British Prime Minister plus his claim that President Obama wire tapped Trump Tower. Yet the one that may come back to haunt him most is taunting fired FBI Director Jame Comey. Better hope there are no tapes of our conversations.
BASH (voice over): The hands down biggest 2017 Trump defeat is failure to repeal and replace Obamacare.
John McCain's dramatic no vote sealed its fate, but Republicans were split on how to fulfill their Obamacare repeal promise, one that helped them win the control of government. That loss made President Trump and hill Republicans quest for tax reform a political life or death mission--must pass legislation.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tax cuts and jobs as amended has passed.
BASH: And it worked.
TRUMP: People are going to be very, very happy. They're going to get tremendous, tremendous tax cuts.
BASH: Whether most Americans, especially working class Trump voters will see that as a win to be determined.
BASH: And finally the most important Trump moment of 2017 -- firing FBI director James Comey.
BASH (voice over): Sacking Comey while he was investigating potential 2016 Trump-Russia collusion caused a political earthquake with aftershocks still rattling the President.
TRUMP: Let's see what happens.
BASH (voice over): Not the least of which Comey's revelation that he kept detailed memos documenting meetings with the President which Comey asked a friend to leak to the press.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.
BASH (voice over): That's exactly what happened. And Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's Russia investigation was a cloud over the first year of the Trump presidency which so far produced indictments of two former Trump campaign officials and the guilty plea of Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI. What a year. What will 2018 bring? Buckle up.