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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Judge Rejects Roy Moore's Election; Challenge Democrat Doug Jones Certified as Winner; President Trump: China Caught "Red Handed" Helping North Korea. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired December 28, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:15] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So when accused child molester loses an election, is the only plausible explanation really voter fraud?
John Berman here, in for Anderson.
Late today, the state of Alabama made it official, certifying that Roy Moore lost the Senate election there. Doug Jones won and he did it by more than 21,000 votes. A judge threw out a last-minute attempt by Moore to block the proceedings.
And there are some late news as well. A new statement from the Moore team, this on top of a claim from Moore that he took and passed a polygraph test on the allegations against him. In all of this, though, the one thing he still hasn't done more than two weeks since election night is concede.
Joining us now from Montgomery, Alabama, CNN's Dianne Gallagher.
First off, Dianne, what's in the new statement from the Moore team?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you what's not in there, John. And that's an official concession. I want to give you just a little bit of a synopsis of what's in there a little bit here. He says, election fraud experts across the country have agreed that this was a fraudulent election.
He then says: I have stood for the truth about God and the Constitution for the people of Alabama. I have no regrets. To God be the glory.
A little bit of a clarification there, in his statement, by election experts across the country, you must assume that he means the three election experts that were quoted in his lawsuit. One of whom is a bit of a notorious conspiracy theorist, someone who peddles JFK assassination theories and the DNC staffer Seth Rich's murder.
Also, you mentioned the polygraph test that Roy Moore says he took after the election about those allegations. Well, Roy Moore signed an affidavit saying that he took a polygraph test and passed, that saying that he did not know those women and never had any sort of inappropriate sexual relationship with three of those accusers.
Well, the polygraph administrator didn't write in any of that and didn't sign any of that in that lawsuit. At least what's included there. So, we all have is Roy Moore signing an affidavit that Roy Moore took a polygraph test and passed it.
So, there's still a lot of discrepancy in what Roy Moore has claimed in these things. But it does appear at least at this point, John, that Roy Moore is going to have to either just accept that he lost the election or look at some of his very small options he has if he wants to continue this.
BERMAN: What are those options, Dianne?
GALLAGHER: So, the one that would probably suit him best right now is also the one that would probably bankrupt him. He has some time, it's 48 hours from the minute that they certified the election results to request a recount.
The thing is, because he isn't within that half percent margin of victory, he would have to pay for this on his own. John, he'd have to put a deposit down and in talking with the secretary of state, he says that they can't really tell you how much it would cost, because of different parts of this. He may want a smaller recount.
But if he needs a full statewide recount, we're talking in the seven figures here. And that doesn't appear to be money that Roy Moore has, at least in any of his fund-raising right now.
BERMAN: All right. Dianne Gallagher, thanks so much.
Let's find out what the Moore team will do. Joining us now is Moore campaign spokeswoman, Janet Porter.
Janet, thank you so much for being with us.
This afternoon, the state of Alabama certified the election result results saying Doug Jones won. Is it over?
JANET PORTER, ROY MOORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: Thanks, John. Good to be with you.
I think that the issue here that we're looking at is the issue of voter fraud and interestingly --
BERMAN: Janet, let's talk about voter fraud in a second. I just want to know what you're doing. Is the election over? Has Roy Moore conceded?
PORTER: I'm talking with you.
No, I think you just read his statement. And there are some options. One of which, you can file in federal court.
I can tell you the option I'm recommending. I think he needs to file and run against Governor Kay Ivey, who certified this fraudulent election. I think we need to find candidates to run against Secretary of State Merrill and Attorney General Marshall who likely joined together to ignore 84 pages of evidence and certify an election which has far too many questions about it to really affirm the wishes of the people of Alabama and their right to a fair and free election.
BERMAN: Will he file for a recount in the next 48 hours?
PORTER: You're going -- I'm going to have to let the judge speak for himself.
But I do say this: that what we're talking about here is far bigger than a United States Senate race. We're talking about whether or not the people of Alabama have the right and the privilege, the duty to be able to have fair and free elections and make sure that they not only can cast their ballot but make sure their ballot is counted and have assurance that it was counted properly. That's what we don't have.
BERMAN: The security certified the election results today.
[20:05:00] The judge threw out the lawsuit, citing those 84 pages that you provided there. Did not think they were worthy to order some kind of halt to the proceedings.
What due process have you not been given at this point?
PORTER: Well, there's a few things that are problematic. One is that they dismissed it without -- I don't even know if the secretary of state read the 84 pages of evidence. And that's what really is screaming from the pages of this complaint.
And what it said -- let me finish, if I may. It's what it says --
BERMAN: It's not evidence, though. It's not evidence. It's an argument citing four election experts, people you call election experts that a lot of people --
PORTER: I know, and you're trying to say, maybe the guy got a C-minus in spelling in the fourth grade. You can discount anybody you want.
BERMAN: No, excuse me, he said the Holocaust. He said the Holocaust. One of them said the Holocaust didn't happen. He said 6 million Jews weren't killed.
PORTER: Not true. By the way, that's not true.
Let me refer to you an Internet blog, Abraham Lincoln's Internet blog, don't believe you read everything on the Internet. That's not true.
BERMAN: Abraham Lincoln was not alive for the holocaust, Janet.
PORTER: He wasn't alive to make a blog as well. It was a joke.
BERMAN: One of your experts, Jim Condit Jr. (ph), tweeted that there's an evil Jewish shadow government in the U.S. He claims it's preposterous to say that Hitler wanted kill all the Jewish people. That is what -- PORTER: Don't believe everything you read.
BERMAN: We have -- there's video. There's video of him saying this.
PORTER: May I respond?
BERMAN: Go ahead.
PORTER: John, did you have me on to talk or just to talk to me?
Here's what we know about John Condit. He has nearly 40 years experience in the election machines. And what he found is this election system software is made up of a secret computer program in Omaha, Nebraska.
And you heard from the secretary of state, I hope you ask him the question that wasn't asked earlier. That is, hey, if you guys don't keep the ballot images, why not? Because that's what federal law requires you to do, to have a record, to maintain that record. And make sure that it is not destroyed.
If that is the case, what's happening is, is that the Democrats in the state of Alabama have said we want to preserve the evidence. We want to preserve the ballot images. And Secretary of State John Merrill said, no, we think we should destroy it. By the way, that's a federal crime --
BERMAN: Janet --
PORTER: -- that brings with it a sentence of $5,000 --
BERMAN: Does it concern you that your election machine expert, Jim Condit Jr., is a man who said there's an evil shadow Jewish government, and claimed it's preposterous to say Hitler killed all Jews because it does --
PORTER: I don't believe that true. I'm just going to say, he didn't say that. He didn't say that. What he knows about, what we have him on the case was submit an affidavit, because the guy's an expert, an undisputed expert in the election software programs.
BERMAN: Janet, he absolutely said there's an evil shadow Jewish government.
PORTER: I don't believe it. Sorry. I don't believe it.
BERMAN: We will post --
PORTER: And I want to say this and I've said it earlier that I don't think you're going to find --
BERMAN: We will post the video of him saying this. PORTER: OK. Well, you know what? I can tell you where I stand on
that. I don't know much about election machines. That's what John Condit knows about. But I can tell you that you would be hard-pressed to find anybody who's more pro-Israel. So, I celebrated when that embassy was moved to Jerusalem --
BERMAN: He tweeted it. Can we put that? Do we have the tweet? Do we have the tweet we can put up?
Here it is: Evil Jews in the Jewish shadow government must be highlighted, even though, of course, Jews -- all Jews are not in that. It is what USA --
PORTER: By the way, John, you know what you're not putting up on the screen?
PORTER: Oddly enough, you're not putting his 39 years experience in election machines.
But let's look at the other three experts who independent of each other said that the votes just in one county, just in Jefferson County, people say, oh, that's racist, pointing to Jefferson County. It was actually the Republican precincts where the votes were moved from Roy Moore to Doug Jones and they can prove it. In fact, one of the experts with all of the degrees of --
BERMAN: Prove what? I'm sorry. Prove what. You say he can prove it. What can he prove?
PORTER: Prove that in one county, 20 precincts in one county, the votes were moved from Roy Moore to Doug Jones --
BERMAN: That's not what he proved. Have you read the 84 pages?
PORTER: I have read -- I have read the argument --
BERMAN: He doesn't even begin -- he doesn't even begin to suggest that he has proven that those votes were moved. What he suggests --
PORTER: What experts said in his affidavit, if you have read it --
BERMAN: -- is it's an anomaly. He says, he doesn't think that that voting pattern in that county, in that district, could possibly happen. He doesn't say that he has proof that those votes were changed.
PORTER: But let me tell you, let me just tell you how much proof there is. It's in the affidavit, if you read it further, what you'll see is that there is a 1 in 15 billion chance that that occurred naturally. In other words, 1 in 15 billion mathematical chance that that was not fraud.
BERMAN: His argument --
PORTER: So, if you don't think that's proof, I think it's proof.
BERMAN: His argument, essentially --
PORTER: Beyond any reasonable doubt.
BERMAN: Well -- again, he does not make the case it's beyond any reasonable doubt.
PORTER: It's in there. I have the case in front of me. Do you want me to quote it for you? I got it here.
BERMAN: His argument -- his argument is that Republicans -- too many Republicans did vote the party line in this district. You don't think Republicans had a reason not to vote the party line in Jefferson County?
PORTER: Well, it's interesting that when you look across the entire state, everybody follows a pattern in virtually every single precinct of every single county except the certain areas that were Republican with high voter turnout for Roy Moore and suddenly, there's the pattern.
[20:10:05] You look at it on the charts. It's all mapped out and you can see it in the affidavit and the research that was submitted, something that the secretary of state, John Merrill, ignored. But what it shows it, they reach a certain point, and boom, everything's off the charts. It does not follow any pattern of any of the rest of the state --
BERMAN: So, we talked to election experts -- again, you cite four election experts. One of whom is a holocaust denier. We talked to two today, at least two, Justin Levitt (ph) --
PORTER: Who's an expert on machines.
BERMAN: You keep saying this man is an expert on machines. It doesn't bother you that he says that there's an evil Jewish shadow government --
PORTER: Of course it bothers me.
BERMAN: That's the only election machine expert you could find is one who says there's an evil shadow Jewish government --
PORTER: Can I tell you, John? If I would have known that -- if I would have known that this was a tweet, if it really happened, I never would have -- I never would have suggested we use him. BERMAN: He also gives speeches and he has said that Hitler didn't
kill -- didn't want to kill all the Jews. It takes a Google search. This is not extensive research.
PORTER: Well, we had -- we worked Christmas to put together all of the facts and 84 pages of them, so that we could make sure that this would be presented and not ignored. But unfortunately, it was ignored by Secretary of State John Merrill.
You know, it's interesting. Y'all have this assassinate the character. Instead of looking at the evidence, you want to go after anybody that might have said something off, off the cuff or something that was inappropriate. And I'll be the first to say, it's completely inappropriate. I completely disagree, if that was, in fact said.
BERMAN: Doesn't it make you want to think about his judgment? Maybe a guy -- maybe a guy who says that Hitler didn't want to kill the Jews, maybe that guy doesn't have all his facts right on a few other things.
PORTER: But maybe, maybe, what I want to tell you, is all right, let's through out John Condit. Let's forget about the voting machines and the secret software program and the fact that they destroy all the evidence. That doesn't seem to bother you, but it bothers the people of Alabama.
And I believe the people of Alabama are going to come out in a primary election against John Merrill, a general election against him. The same with Attorney General Steve Marshall and Governor Kay Ivey. I hope Judge Moore runs against her, personally.
BERMAN: And one of the things you have suggested, you haven't said whether or not he's going to test this election. You said you hope he challenges Kay Ivey. That might be news if that happens, if he doesn't decide to contest this election the next day and a half.
But again, I want to make clear, we have spoken to other election experts. Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School, Charles Stewart at MTI, they both analyzed the returns and they agreed that any claims of fraud are totally unfounded in regards to turnout anomalies, which is the basis of your voter fraud.
Hang on, hang on, Levitt told us, quote, to attribute those anomalies to fraud without any further reliable evidence of actual wrongdoing is nothing more than magical reasoning and conspiracy theory. There's just no there --
PORTER: You know, this is -- this is -- y'all love -- y'all love labels. This is your favorite thing to do. Try to do a character assassination. Try to say that we give somebody that said something off the cuff --
BERMAN: You keep saying denying the Holocaust is off the cuff as --
PORTER: No, it's not off the cuff. It's inappropriate. Let me make clear. BERMAN: Like, oh, I didn't like his hair that day. He's saying the Holocaust didn't happen.
PORTER: Listen to me, that's a bad thing.
But let me just say, let's throw out his 40 years of expertise in election machines. Let's look at the other three experts. Let's look at the experts who have shown independent of each other -- by the way, with one of those experts was a Democrat who said, I got involved in election integrity because he felt that Bernie Sanders was being -- that he was being cheated.
Look, this should matter to everyone. It's not about whether you like Roy Moore or not, or whether you like Doug Jones or not. It's about whether we have fair and free elections. I'm telling you one thing, the Secretary of State John Merrill was on the wrong side, not only today with certifying a fraudulent election, but he's been on the wrong side about destroying evidence of the vote, of the ballot images. This is a bad thing.
BERMAN: We will ask him. Look, it's 21,000 votes. It's 21,000 votes. We are going to talk to him --
PORTER: Which were in one county, by the way.
BERMAN: We'll talk to him after we talk to you. We'll ask him if he destroyed evidence there. We'll ask him what he thinks.
PORTER: He's going to say, I'll tell you what he's going to say. The machines don't really keep those.
Well, actually, we have evidence in Arizona with a lawsuit there that said that they actually can take that evidence. But look, federal law says you're supposed to keep all of the election evidence. He's destroying it. He's not saving it. And he's a guy that should be accountable for that and I think the people of Alabama --
BERMAN: He voted for Roy Moore. He did vote for Roy Moore.
Let me ask you, finally, on the polygraph test. And again, Judge Moore signed an affidavit saying he took the test. Will you provide the name of the polygraph provider? Will you provide the questions?
PORTER: That's the thing, John, if there was a hearing, that's when that would have come out. If we would have -- Judge Hardwick could have had a hearing, if John Merrill would have paid attention to what were submitted in the 84 pages, then they would have said, yes, let's present the evidence, let's look at the polygraph.
By the way, with Judge Moore said not only did I do this polygraph test, not only did I succeed in passing it, which is no shock to me, because I knew --
BERMAN: But we don't know what it is. We don't know what it is, because you won't give us the name --
PORTER: Because there was no hearing. If there was a hearing, you would have all found out and you all could have seen.
BERMAN: What was he asked in the polygraph?
PORTER: What came out of it? I'll tell you the test results is that he did not know any of these women who made against these accusations against him --
BERMAN: Well --
PORTER: -- and did not engage in any sexual misconduct.
BERMAN: He did not know any -- hang on one second because we have an extensive interview --
PORTER: The women who accused him of sexual misconduct. I'm not talking about teenagers he may have been family friends, I'm talking about the ones that made the allegations of sexual misconduct --
BERMAN: We do have a sound bite -- let's just play the sound we have. I think this is the interview with Sean Hannity when he talks about remembering at least one to have the girls. Let's listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROY MOORE (R), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I do recognize, however, the names of two of these young ladies, Debbie Wesson and Gloria Thacker, which they have -- that's their maiden name. I remember her as a good girl. I seem to remember her as a good girl.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BERMAN: So he remembers them --
PORTER: By the way --
BERMAN: Go ahead.
PORTER: Well, they did not accuse him of any sexual misconduct. What Debbie had to say is she said well, he was one of the nicest guys I've ever met. And when I got engaged, Roy Moore bought a gift and congratulatory note for my fiancee.
Let me just say, I've had lots of ex-boyfriends that never gave my husband a wedding gift or a congratulatory note. He was a family friend and that's what shows that bears that out.
BERMAN: -- including the polygraph test, because he passed a polygraph test, you wanted the judge to throw out the election results?
PORTER: John, will let you me finish? I need to say this, because it's important. Y'all act like the forged yearbook was the Holy Grail. That we should look at this woman who forged a yearbook and admit she lied. That's evidence. BERMAN: There was a date --
PORTER: Let me finish. He passed the polygraph test and said, I will go before any polygraph that you as a state organization choose. He will go and he will be tested. But you don't see that from the accusers.
BERMAN: Janet, we're unfortunately running out of time, because I want to talk to the secretary of state after the break. But just finally, will Doug Jones be the next senator from Alabama?
PORTER: Well, I think that that may be the case. But I do know the Secretary of State John Merrill, that his days are limited and that if the people of Alabama want fair and free elections, I know of at least 650,000 people who do not like the fact that he wants to destroy evidence and certify a fraudulent election, according to 84 pages and affidavits of experts from around the country.
BERMAN: Janet Porter, thank you for coming on and making your case. Appreciate it.
PORTER: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, you heard him talked about quite a bit there. He joins us next.
And just ahead, new information about the truck that shielded our view of the president on the golf course. We found one that's identical. Where we found it might surprise you, so will the answer we got when we asked about it.
Also, a new presidential tweet that is sure to spark controversy. Stay with us.
[20:20:40] BERMAN: All right. Before the break, you heard Roy Moore's spokesperson put a lot of accusations out there about election fraud, systemic failure and Alabama secretary state. Our next guest heard the complaints, looked at the facts and today certified that Doug Jones won there.
Joining us now, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.
Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.
Just first off, we just had Janet Porter on from the Moore campaign. She said there was systemic fraud in the election, did you see any?
JOHN MERRILL, ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE: No, John. And we've had a number of allegations that have been introduced to us for us to consider. As of this afternoon, we had 118 had been introduced to our office, 85 of those had been fully adjudicated. That only leaves a remaining 33 to still be considered. Two of those are from out of state and 31 of them are from our state. And we continue to investigate those. BERMAN: She said you have destroyed evidence. Is that the case?
MERRILL: That's absolutely not the case. It's the farthest thing from the case. As a matter of fact, we keep our ballots, the original ballots that our people cast their vote on for a period of up to 22 months, as is required by state and federal law.
As far as the digital images that she continued to rattle on about, the thing that was so interesting to me is, our machines are not even capturing those images. They're not preserved. So, they're not available for someone to review, because they're not even captured. And if they're not captured, they don't exist. And if they don't exist, you can't use them.
So, those are not there for us to review or to use.
BERMAN: Jefferson County, she keeps on saying that there are these anomalies there in voting patterns.
Do you see any anomalies that raise questions to you?
MERRILL: Well, the biggest anomaly to me is that Judge Moore lost by 83,000 votes in Jefferson County. Now, I will tell you that one of the most outstanding efforts that we were aware of that was put together by the Republican Party in the state of Alabama had to do with the Jefferson County Republican Party, who made it an effort to ensure that each and every polling site in the county was properly reviewed and properly noted with watchers and workers at each location to ensure that voter fraud did not occur.
What actually happened, according to them, was historic numbers, as far as turnout was concerned. With Democrats coming out of the woodwork to make sure that that they cast their ballot for their candidate, Doug Jones.
BERMAN: One of the others things that Janet Porter said is that she hopes that maybe Roy Moore runs against Kay Ivey, the governor, and hopes that someone runs and defeats you in upcoming elections, sir. Your response to that?
MERRILL: Right. And I'm sure that she does. And the people of Alabama will determine my political future and they'll determine what kind of candidate, if any, qualifies against me and what kind of support they would provide that candidate.
This is the thing I think that needs to be known. As far as election integrity is concerned, we had one goal in our office when this campaign started. That was to ensure that integrity and credibility were at the forefront of this election. I don't think there's anybody, anywhere in the United States that has looked at this race with an objective eye that can say that anything other than a race with character, integrity, and credibility occurred in the state of Alabama. We're very excited about that.
But when it comes to investigating voter fraud, we've already had six convictions in the area of voter fraud since I've been the secretary of state. It's been more than a decade since one had occurred before we took office. And we've had three elections that have been overturned.
So, we want everybody in our state to vote, but just one time. We want to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat in Alabama.
BERMAN: Mr. Secretary of State, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
MERRILL: Thank you for having me as your guest.
BERMAN: All right, next the president golfs and tweets. Plus, some answers to a mystery surrounding some of the golfing.
[20:27:26] BERMAN: The president made news today tweeting and he played golf for a third straight day since tweeting that it was for time for him to get back to work. This time, we did catch it on camera, unlike yesterday when a big white truck showed up to block our view, moving wherever we did.
You will recall, the Secret Service denied responsibility for it, so did the Palm Beach sheriff's office, which is where we saw a big white truck parked today, identical in every way to this one but parked in a such a way that prevented us from comparing license plates.
When we asked for comment, a spokeswoman told us the truck maneuver was not authorized by management of the detail of the sheriff's office. There's this, as well. The truck yesterday, wherever it was from and whoever did or did not authorize it, was at the golf course in a spot that only sheriff's department vehicles had parked in previously.
But as we said, this was not the only presidential news today.
Ryan Nobles in West Palm Beach, Florida, which is warm, unlike where I am, which is not, which is actually where the president made news, Ryan.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. And I should say that it has cooled off to a very brisk 72 degrees here in West Palm Beach tonight. And that ocean air is a little bit chilly tonight. But we're finding a way to manage.
Meanwhile, the president talking about those cold temperatures in the Northeast, tweeting about an hour ago. Quote, in the east, it could be the coldest New Year's Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old global warming that our country but not other countries is going to pay trillions of dollars to protect against. Bundle up.
Now, the White House not offering us any context to this tweet. We assume it's the president talking about the United States' decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. Not 100 percent sure about the scientific accuracy of the president's tweet here tonight, comparing global warming to those cold temperatures in the Northeast, but this is the president again taking on another controversial issue and doing it through his Twitter feed, John.
BERMAN: Scientists will flat-out tell you that's not how global warming works. But that aside, the president made a lot of other news today, specifically on North Korea. What can you tell us about that?
NOBLES: Yes, that's right, John. He's talking very tough about China's role as it relates to the situation in North Korea and he put out a very strong missive against the Chinese government, saying they've been caught red-handed, handing oil off to the North Korean government. We don't know what prompted this tweet from the president today and the White House offering us no information to that effort.
We do know there have been reports out of South Korea that were unconfirmed where satellite images have picked up North Korean vessels along with Chinese vessels in what appears to be the transfer of oil.
At the very least, John, this shows that this White House is going to continue to make this a very important part of their foreign policy going into the New Year, and that the role China plays is going to be very important, John.
BERMAN: All right. We'll talk more about that in a little bit. Ryan Nobles down in Florida. Thanks so much.
Let's get more now from reporters who cover the White House. With us, , Michael Shear of the "New York Times," Josh Dawsey of the "Washington Post", Annie Karni of "Politico".
Josh, I want to start with you on a shift gears a little bit, because you just posted a story Josh on changes that could be coming to the White House. The long and short and this is the political operation could be changing in face of the midterms. What do you know?
JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Right. So there's a lot of frustration inside the White House about the political operation after, you know, defeats in Virginia and particularly in Alabama, the stinging setback of having a Democrat win in Alabama. And there's a sense that they need more firepower for the election here. The president whose low approval ratings are optimally (ph) low 40%. Republican Party while it just got significant tax reform passed has been flack on accomplishments so much of a year. And, you know, concerns about the landscape. How many seats they could lose.
And over the holidays, you have chief of staff John Kelly, the president and others speaking about both in the operation of (INAUDIBLE) making, some changes ahead of a pretty important and potentially problematic year for the White House.
BERMAN: Andy, you know, everyone knows that there's been a ton of departures from the White House. The "Wall Street Journal" actually had article today saying that was in a historic level of departures from the White House today. You know, are there fault lines within the west wing that you're hearing about that haven't been mended? ANNIE KAMI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: There still a lot of questions about who else will leave other than people who have announced to leave in 2018. People are wondering what Gary Kohn, Trump's economic adviser is going to do. He's actually become pretty popular again. People don't want him to leave and he would take with him probably like a lot of the top people at the NEC that he's brought in. That's a big question mark.
What I'm hearing from the west wing is, people still think Tillerson will leave in February, but that's also a big question mark. No one knows really. And more shake-up will happen as they figure out exactly who's going to man their political shop. What the -- what that's going to look like. So people are bracing themselves for more departures to come.
BERMAN: Bracing themselves for more, Michael. There's a sense that a Chief-of-Staff John Kelly has made things perhaps more calm since the summer a little bit. Is that likely to linger? Is that what is being felt right now down in Florida? Is this the calm over Mar-a-Lago right now?
MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look, I mean I think one of the things that we've all learned over a very long and chaotic year is that while the sort of apparatus around President Trump, the people he surrounds himself with, the structures and the procedures that he puts in place can either be more or less chaotic, at the end of the day -- and today is not a bad example, what drives policy, what really drives politics and this White House is Mr. Trump himself. It's what he says, it's his Twitter feed and its -- this sort of unpredictable nature that he likes to foster both in sort of interpersonal relation inside the White House as well as policy in keeping adversaries and allies alike on edge.
So, I mean as much as I think that there might be a new cast of characters, I'm sort of skeptical as to whether or not see any significant shift or change in the dynamics of the White House next year.
BERMAN: You know, Josh it is interesting, you know, Michael is just talking about sort of the statements that were made today, the most recent is the president statement on Twitter about global warming. After he pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, everyone in the White House press corps pressed and pressed and pressed, you know, Mr. President, do you believe in global warming? They would have to press secretary, do you believe in global warming right now? Well, you know, if your going to read this statement that the president made tonight, he certainly doesn't seem to believe in global warming, at least not as far as I can tell.
DAWSEY: Right and that's what his comments tonight, a pretty incendiary among many, but to, you know, a lot of his supporters, you have to imagine they probably don't believe in global warming either, and there some deep skepticism there, and I think he speaking directly to the tens of millions who probably voted for him and share some of those views. You know, we've seen time and time again the White House tries to manage president Trump. And even, you know, near -- before he went to Mar-a-Lago, there was an effort to not have a press conference then to try to just ride the momentum of a tax legislation. And then, you know, he gets down to Florida, and is largely unstaffed. He -- you know, is playing golf, he's talking to friends and he begins tweeting what he wants. He sees something on Fox News, he see something on CNN or another network and he responds immediately.
I think their efforts to ameliorate some of those concerns about his free-wheeling nature and his ability to make, you know, off topic news cycles that they don't want was shown today, it's largely impossible just as his tweet tonight shows.
BERMAN: And do these tweets that at the press conference some ways that he didn't have, you know, Annie to that point -- we don't have time to -- I think analyze word for word this bizarre statement he made about "Vanity Fair" and Anna Wintour and retractions that they made about Hillary Clinton there. But this just go to shows his sort of continue obsession with both Hillary Clinton and to an extent the old magazine world.
[20:35:19] KARNI: That's right, this is vintage Trump talking about "Vanity Fair" even though his nemesis great and carter is no longer there. This just tell like old school Trump in Palm Beach like josh said, unstaffed.
KARNI: But one thing about the global warming tweet, it reminded me a little bit of, you know, he's talking about good global warming here, its like when he talks about a good government shutdown, taking what people see as negative, and saying maybe there's good side of this. But this is Trump just on is on, John Kelly is not with him.
KARNI: Most of his -- the family is there and that's it.
BERMAN: So Michael, to that point, you know, what do you think is happening right now down at Mar-a-Lago? What does the next days, you know, what portends for the next days?
SHEAR: Well look, I mean, you know, I think the administration is trying to set an agenda for the beginning of the year. You've heard the president talk a little bit about infrastructure, there's some sense and some optimism in parts of the White House and west wing that might be a way to kind of ride the wave of the tax success and get another legislative effort going and one that might actually work with some Democrats. But look, you know, what's also going on at Mar-a- Lago is that he's going to lunch, he's seeing all his friends who come in and out of the club or in and out of the golf club. And that kind of free-wheeling exchange of information is what he's been used to almost 72 years of his life. And that's what undermines the sense of discipline that the White House tries to impose. And ultimately that's where, you know, a tweet about global warming comes from. BERMAN: Michael Shears, Josh Dawsey, Annie Karni, thanks so much.
Next we are going to speak to a lawmaker who said she is willing to work with the president, a democratic lawmaker.
[20:41:03] BERMAN: All the president's boast yesterday is signing more bills than any president since Truman was in fact false. There is no disputing that he is looking for a big 2018, put that in mind he'll be getting together with Republican Congressional Leaders next month at Camp David. And one of the potential items on the agenda is infrastructure. If that's indeed the case, at least one Democrat might be on board. Representative Debbie Dingell, in fact, this which she told us she will work with the president on anything that helps to working men and women of her district.
Congresswoman Dingell joins us right now. Thank you so much for being with us. You said you are willing to work with the president on infrastructure. What does that look like? Infrastructure is complicated. You know, there's a debate about whether it should be the private sector or public funding. We know, the president tends to favor the private sector, here's to where is there room for agreement.
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL, (D), MICHIGAN: Well, I think, one, the public/private sector agreements, we're going to have to commit to making a significant investment and determine how we're going to pay for it. It's going pay a minimum or a trillion dollars, but we've had studies that it shows going to keep take a couple of trillion dollars. Let's talk about what we're talking about. We're talking about bridges and roads. And by the way, we don't have Republican or Democratic potholes. But we're also talking about -- let's look at Flint, Michigan, do you know how many cities across the country and little towns have an aging infrastructure on water delivery? That's a crisis. We got children with lead poisoning across the country. We need to do something about it. If we're going to be competitive, we need to do something about broadband.
Two years ago, it was said that Amtrak needs to install this keep train safety, safe hardware, which wasn't done and could have prevented deaths last week with Amtrak. We need to -- we don't have a choice. And I think there's a lot of Democrats that are willing to work together with Republicans because we need to deliver for our country.
BERMAN: But there are Democrats who look at this and say, hey, you know what, we shouldn't be in a rush to give the president a legislative victory on anything. What do you say to them?
DINGELL: I don't agree with them. I was elected to take care of working men and women, of all the men and women in my district. And the fact of the matter is that we need to work together. I'll give you an example of something that we desperately need to deliver on which is pension legislation. I have one of the largest groups that central pension fund retirees in my district. These are men and women who put in an entire lifetime into a pension fund, we're told that it was safe and now in their retirement, they are scared to death. I had one commit suicide. Hey, this is a -- these aren't games we're playing. We've got to deliver for Americans in this country.
Now, he does something gets wrong, like attack, somebody based on the religion like he has on Muslims, I also have the largest population of Muslims in this country in my district. I will fight him tooth and nail. He's met a bus, so I'd like come never see. But I think that we've got to deliver on some of these things for our constituents.
BERMAN: So, again, just to use an example from the last hour, let's say he wrote on Twitter about global warming basically suggesting that the cold temperatures in the Northeast that we're feeling right now, you know, proved that global warming doesn't exist, not in those words exactly but that's a gist of what he is writing right there. Is this someone you feel like you can deal with on other issues?
DINGELL: We've got no choice. We can't say I don't like somebody, I mean I can fight on substance and will. And we need to remind him that global warming is doing -- is causing very severe weather patterns. So, (INAUDIBLE) you get this kind of freezing temperatures that we're seeing across the country, 17 below at Michigan. But it's not just working with the president, we're working with the administration, his cabinet, and we're working with the House and the Senate. And I do believe that we've got a responsibility to deliver an infrastructure for this country and on pensions and a number of other issues. It's not about messaging, it's about delivering for the American people.
And I think part of last year's election with the American people are tired of the partisan bickering. They want to see us get something done. And I think what you saw on last year's election and you're still going to see this November is anger. And anger at everyone who's not caring about them and delivering for them.
[20:45:13] BERMAN: There are no Republican or Democratic potholes. Have a happy new year, Congressman Debbie Dingell.
DINGELL: Happy New Year.
BERMAN: Next, the New York Times op-ed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sparks outrage from Russia including claims of fake news. What the Secretary wrote that angered them, that's next.
BERMAN: More claims of fake news, not from the White House but from Russia. Russia's Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman used the phrase to dismiss the "New York Times" op-ed from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. She also called it confrontational. A speculation that Tillerson maybe on the way out of the State Department of this read to some as it offense of his legacy including his handling the North Korea.
Joining us now, CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kimberly Dozier and Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering. Kimberly, let me start with you. I think the first question a lot of people wondered when they read this, is the Secretary defending his legacy, a legacy he wants to continue or is it sort of writing is own obituary here?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, DAILY BEAST CONTRIBUTOR: I think he is saying I'm here to say, I'm not going anywhere and he's also messaging to future possible voters for the GOP in the midterms that the centrist Republicans, the adults are in charge. That kind of policies he articulated matched those in the national security strategy put out by H.R. McMaster's White House are NSC last week, that they're going to be tough on Russia and tough on North Korea, tough on China. Messages that you don't always see coming from President Trump. When you see teleprompter Trump, he says the right things about Russia but when he speaks off the cuff, he's a lot warmer.
BERMAN: Ambassador, what's your take on this?
[20:50:01] THOMAS PICKERING, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think Kimberly is probably right here. Never really wanted to go, there's some rumors around that he will go after some tax benefits appear in his account. But I don't know how to take those and it's more less I guess at this stage is to whether he will or not. It's perfectly reasonable for secretary of state at end of the first year with more or less there. But to try to add up pieces. I'm not sure they exactly match what Tillerson said in the past, certainly on things like North Korea he was for negotiations without preconditions. Now, the president has pushed to preconditions which seemingly are unknown.
On the Russia piece, he's certainly not in sync with the president because maybe in the sense the access of adults, Matis and Kelly, and Tillerson, talking over the president and beyond the president. And it's important, I think, here that playing tough with Russia and making that statement, which I think is probably true that we haven't had a worse period in U.S.-Russia relationships for a very long period of time all make a lot sense.
What else he has said there, I think is a little bit of a reach. A little bit of what we would all call trying to find a way to brush up a pretty, I think, moth-eaten policy at the moment. And not much of it comes through as real accomplishments, things that he is going to do, that's he would hope to do, things that he would like to do that the president doesn't agree with, are all very much in the op-ed.
BERMAN: Look, he also cites Russia election meddling as a fact there, which puts him at odds in a way but at least, the tone coming from the president. But Kimberly, if I can, a little bit of news on North Korea today, and China. The president wrote today of China caught red-handed, very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen. How did you interpret that?
DOZIER: Well, look, this is another chance for President Trump to give Beijing a hard time, to say, you're not doing enough to maneuver Pyongyang towards denuclearization. But he did it in a very odd way in that he is citing a newspaper report from South Korea that quotes anonymous sources.
BERMAN: Right. DOZIER: It's completely uncorroborated. So, that's very easy for Beijing to dismiss.
BERMAN: All right. Kimberly Dozier, Thomas Pickering, Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.
We do have some breaking news, a new piece of the New York Times. They spoke to President Trump today. He had new words about the Russia investigation. We'll have much more when we come back.
[20:55:53] BERMAN: All right. It turns out Michael Shear had a little something up his sleeve earlier, a new story in the New York Times, it just hit, an interview with the president. The president says he believe Special Counsel Robert Mueller can be fair. That is different than with some Republicans are saying.
I want to quote from the piece write here, the president did not demand an end to the Russia investigation, swirling around his administration, but he says 16 times, that there's been no collusion discovered by the inquiry that makes the country look very bad, the president said, and puts the country in a very bad position.
Joining us again, Michael Shear. Michael, thank you so much for being with us. I just crammed the article during the break right now. The president spoke to your colleague, Michael Schmidt. You helped write up the article here. The headline here is he believes that the special counsel can be fair. Explain.
SHEAR: Yes. Look, that was the most striking part of what was more than 30-minute interview that Mike Schmidt, my colleague got down at the president's golf club down in West Palm Beach. But it really stood out, right? Because we have been watching over the last several weeks as the Republican Party has really tried to discredit the Mueller investigation, seizing on these texts that people have been reporting about, that were sort of anti-Trump texts by one of his investigators.
And there's really been an effort by the Republican Party to undermine the credibility of the Mueller investigation. So to have the president come out in this conversation with Mike and say, look, I believe that he can be fair, that was pretty striking. Though, he did go on to sort of make some comments about how he can do whatever he wants to, with the Justice Department, even though he is not taking any action now.
BERMAN: Explain that, because that, I have that quote underlined here, "I have absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department". What was he getting at there?
SHEAR: Well, it's a little bit unclear. I mean, and Mike and I talked about it before. There were -- the specific question here asked was about his power over the Justice Department related to the Hillary Clinton investigation -- e-mails that -- and the past e-mails investigation. But when he answered the question, he seemed to seize on this, again, this question of fairness and said, look, I can do whatever I want with the Justice Department.
But as long as it's fair to me, I'm not going to take any action, which seemed to refer to the previous conversation about fairness -- excuse me, fairness in Mueller. And so, you know, it appears that what he was basically saying was, I've decided to be hands-off for now. But I have the power to take some action if I wanted to.
BERMAN: And some other greatest hits for my initial scan on this, you know, and number one, Paul Manafort again, he says, I barely knew him despite the fact he was the campaign chair during the conversation.
BERMAN: And then, number two, continuing, just really to bash Jeff Sessions and suggest that the attorney general didn't have his back politically.
SHEAR: Yes, that was pretty striking as well. He talked about Democrats and was very angry actually, about the fact that Democrats, in his words, hadn't negotiated on any of the tax legislation and really hadn't been bipartisan partners, even though they claimed they wanted to be.
He also just, you know, was his typical sort of bragging self, at one point, saying that the criticism that he doesn't know the details about the legislation that he's, you know, that is being worked out is unfair. And that he knows more about the tax legislation and the details of the tax legislation than any CPA ever would.
BERMAN: Again, we've got 20 seconds left here, Michael. One of the headlines also seems to be, didn't come across that he's nervous about the special counsel's investigation?
SHEAR: No, he didn't. He really didn't. It was, you know, there are sort of sense that like Mike asked him if he was concerned about the timing. And he said, no, I'm not concerned about the timing, other than he said that he felt like the country would be harmed by an investigation that continued for a long time.
BERMAN: All right. Michael Shear, great to have you back again. I commend your poker face in the first segment. Not letting us know this was going on.
SCHERER: I'm sorry about my voice.
BERMAN: It's great. Thanks for being with us. I appreciate it.
That's all for me. I'm John Berman. The CNN Special Report, "All the Best, All the Worst 2017", begins right now.