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AT THIS HOUR
New Book Claims Chaos, Dysfunction Rule White House; Trump Enraged by Scathing Book, Mueller Probe; House Intel Chairman Settles Feud with DOJ; Manafort Sues DOJ over Mueller's Authority; Bomb Cyclone Slays Northeast & Will be Colder than Mars; Trump Speaks Amid Feud with Bannon. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired January 4, 2018 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, DONALD TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: But he doesn't like attacks on the image of the Trump family, on the integrity of his children, so he'll use that as a banner, you know, he'll say I'm defending my family, but at the end of the day, he's really concerned about his image himself and how he is being portrayed. He resents any suggestion that he's not up to the job.
CABRERA: Not in control, I suppose.
CABRERA: Let me get to --
D'ANTONIO: One point --
I just want to --
CABRERA: I want to get to Steve Bannon's response in a minute.
Go ahead, David.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I wanted to add, in addition to crossing that line that you can't cross in Trump's world and probably in the many president's world of going after family members, that's not just specific to Trump, but clearly drew here, the bap non- comments that got so much attention went to the heart touched the nerve that the Russia investigation which is what is consuming President Trump's thoughts these days, and he's, obviously, very sensitive to comments about the Russia investigation, and so the fact that that is sort of what the initial release of what we learned was in the book was out there, I'm sure that fueled the fiery response as well.
CABRERA: So now we have the president's lawyers filing this cease and desist letter against Bannon. Bannon has not denied anything, important to note, when we talk about the credibility of the book and the quotes, but here is what Bannon is saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, EDITOR, BRIETBART & FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: The president of the United States is a great man. I support him day in and day out. Going through the country giving the Trump miracle speech or on the websites I don't think you have to worry about that. I appreciate the kind words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Josh, does it surprise you to hear Bannon say that.
JOSH DAWSEY, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: No, it doesn't. Publicly, Steve Bannon has said repeatedly he backs the president's agenda, one of his biggest defenders. Others in the president's orbit do not see it that way. They see Bannon as a bit of a charlatan and as someone out for himself, who is looking out for his own best interests. Bannon said repeatedly he's looking out for the president, I want to push the president's agenda.
When Bannon left the White House, he said, without him, the Trump presidency was over as we knew it. That comment chafed the president and many around him. He is a figure in the president's orbit. And look at his comments, he is aligned with the president on many issues but, at the same time, promoting his own agenda, own radio show, doing his own thing.
CABRERA: Josh Dawsey, David Chalian, and Michael D'Antonio, thank you all.
The indicted former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is now suing the Department of Justice. He is accusing the special counsel of going too far. The DOJ calls the suit frivolous. But could Manafort have a case here?
[11:36:37] CABRERA: A scathing tell-all book sparking fury in the White House, and sources tell us the president is becoming incensed by the pace of the open-ended Russia probe.
Chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is here now.
Dana, I know you are hearing about what's going on behind the scenes in the West Wing. Fill us in.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: As you mentioned, everything exploded about this time yesterday inside the White House because of the quotes that began to come out from that pretty intense book from Steve Bannon on the record talking about the president's children and specifically what he was -- what the president, we're told, was most upset about was with the quotes that had to do with Russia. Saying that what Don Jr, what Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort did, in taking the meeting that they did in Trump Tower, in June of 2016, was treasonous.
And one of the reasons was that something that hit very raw nerve, Ana, because we were already doing reporting, Kevin, our White House producer, and I, were already looking into why we -- people close to the president thought he had issued a series of really kind of unbelievable tweets, 16 in all in about a 24-hour span, that threatened national security and threatened global relationships, and really went kind of over the top according to many people close to the president and the reason --
CABRERA: The tweets on North Korea and Iran and Pakistan.
BASH: And the reason we were given -- exactly -- is because he came back to the White House, started 2018, thinking as he was told by people close to him, particularly his legal team, that he was going to soon be free and clear of the Russia investigation, and he's starting 2018 not even close to that. They were hoping that perhaps they could get a letter from Bob Mueller, the special counsel, saying publicly that the president is not a target of this probe, that he is in the clear, that hasn't happened. Unclear if it ever will happen. The president has been -- has been scathing and really kind of erupting about that. So the theory according to people who we are talking to is that that was what propelled and fueled many of the tweets that he was sending, that really did have a big effect on national security.
CABRERA: Now what? Obviously, this book and the excerpts that have been revealed, have sort of taken everything into a whole new level.
BASH: Exactly. It is a whole new level. But since the book has come out, aside from the pretty unbelievable statement that was released from the president breaking up in a very harsh way with Steve Bannon, we haven't heard from the president. He's sent some tweets out but nothing like we saw on Monday and Tuesday. It will be interesting if we do see the president actually on camera, which we haven't in several days, we haven't since he's been back and he does have a couple of important meetings including and especially one supposed to start right about now with key Republican Senators to talk about a potential deal on immigration reform. So that is certainly something that we're looking at to kind of see if his mood and hear from him which we haven't, again, in several days.
[11:40:14] CABRERA: We await anxiously any news of that. We do hope to have at least some tape we can play back from any comments made at the opening of this conversation that he has with the Republicans on immigration.
Dana Bash, thank you for filling us in on your reporting.
Meantime, on Capitol Hill, there is a number of investigations still under way. And House Chairman Devin Nunes saying he's going to get what he wants and expects to soon receive documents related to the Trump dossier after reaching a deal with the Justice Department. Crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is joining us with the
Shimon, what can you tell us?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Ana. That deal coming late yesterday, the end of the day. The FBI director and the attorney general went to the Capitol Hill where they met with the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and some sort of deal was struck. All we really know is what Devin Nunes is telling us, basically saying in a statement he released yesterday is that he expects to have access, that, "The House Intelligence Committee" -- this is me quoting him here -- "has reached an agreement with the Department of Justice that will provide the committee with access to all the documents and witnesses we have requested."
Now it's not clear if the FBI, the Department of Justice, are actually going to hand over documents to him or if he's going to go to the FBI or to the Department of Justice and review these documents. The word access is key here. But it does seem like they've come to some sort of conclusion.
Keep in mind, Ana, for some time now, folks over at the Department of Justice and the FBI, have felt that Nunes has been overreaching here and causing some of the issues and the delays, at least that's the sense I've gotten from talking to some of the officials who have been involved in this.
And also, the other thing is they want Nunes to back down a little. They feel that he's politicizing some of this, some of the information he's seeking, perhaps it's for political reasons and they also feel that some of this is really sensitive, it has to do with the dossier and how that information was gathered and the interviews that were conducted surrounding the investigation are all pretty sensitive and they want to be careful here and make sure that it's used in the right way.
CABRERA: Even some of Nunes' Republican colleagues have expressed concerns about how he's approaching things.
Thank you very much for that, Shimon.
Joining us now, former U.S. attorney, Michael Moore, and CNN legal analyst that worked under Robert Mueller at the Justice Department, Michael Zeldin.
Michael Zeldin, I'll start with you.
Congressman Nunes wants to hear from leadership at the FBI and DOJ about their involvement with the dossier and he had at one point threatened to hold them in contempt of Congress if they didn't meet his subpoena demands. There's a deal and Nunes is looking forward to seeing new documents. What kind of deal do you think this is, documents, no testimony or both?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALAYST: This is the congressman who has recused himself from this investigation, right. I just want to make sure that we're talking about --
CABRERA: He's still the chairman but yes.
ZELDIN: I say that, you know, with certain irony in my mouth because it seems that his interest here is on the collateral matters not material matters. If he was really serious about conducting an inquiry of this, then the majority of the witnesses who come before his committee should be compelled to come before his committee and offer testimony under oath and by subpoena so that they can be held in contempt if they don't answer the questions.
To your question, it seems to me that what he is interested in is this collateral matter of the dossier and how it was prepared, and did the FBI have any role in paying for it, and all of this is a side show, for the fact that I think that they're going to find that the dossier is more valid than invalid when they look at the heart of the matter. He may be in this be careful what you wish for situation when he gets access to what did the FBI do to validate the dossier findings, who did Steele speak to in the FBI to, you know, confirm to them that this was legitimate intelligence that they was gathering, so while Nunes is on a bit of a side show, the consequences of what he's getting may be more harmful to what he's I think trying do, divert attention, than helpful.
CABRERA: Michael Moore, some might argue, why not allow these FBI and DOJ officials to testify to begin with? Why not get it all out there?
[11:44:50] MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I mean, I think there's value in getting information out, but I don't think there's any doubt when you look at chairman Nunes he considers himself somehow a defender of the president. We know that because of his run down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue some months ago that got him in trouble to start with and probably ended up in his recusal as chairman over the proceedings. But I want you to think about this, this is a lot like investigating a bank robbery and somebody on the sideline trying to figure out, you know, whether they put unleaded or regular gas in the getaway car.
This is a move to divert attention away. It tells us if anything he truly believes that report that's going to come out of his committee, whether it comes out from the entire committee or whether there are two separate reports, that they are going to be damming on this administration. And this is some way, again as a defender of the president, he feels like he can come in and put a distraction out there and talk about the dossier. What we keep talking about is who paid for the dossier. There's no doubt at this point that the dossier started during the Republican primary time. After that Democratic money apparently, that went into the payment for the dossier.
But the facts in the dossier is what we ought to be concerned about. He wants to talk again, about technicalities with the origin as opposed to the substance which, as the days go on, continues to be verified both through the committee investigations and through Bob Mueller's investigations. CABRERA: And the other piece is, the Republicans have sometimes
argued that the dossier was the impetus of the FBI's investigation and that is not the truth.
MOORE: That's right. We know that's not true.
Let me turn to this new attack on the special counsel with Paul Manafort's team filing a lawsuit that challenges Robert Mueller's authority, alleges the Justice Department violated the law in appointing Mueller and they seem to go after the special counsel's ability to investigate. Quote, "In any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." That was part of Mueller's mandate. Manafort's lawyers say that goes beyond what the law allows.
Michael Zeldin, the DOJ calls the lawsuit frivolous. What do you think?
ZELDIN: Frivolous is a kind word. If there were sanctions for filing lawsuits in the United States as frivolous as this the lawyers would be sankshiped. The regulations that give rise to the special counsel specifically say that they give you no cause of action as a litigant to sue under this. So I think the outcome of the lawsuit is determined by the regulations themselves. To the extent it's not, however, what they're saying is, who the attorney general picked or in this case deputy attorney general picked to be the prosecutor is something that we have some right to interpose an objection to.
As Michael will tell you, hen was U.S. Attorney, that is unavailing as a legal strategy and so were he to prevail, hypothetically, all he would get is a regular DOJ prosecutor bringing the same charges. I'm not sure what the legal strategy is, but I think it's losing on both the PR and a substantive matter.
CABRERA: So you agree with the DOJ that this is a frivolous lawsuit.
But our Jeffrey Toobin says it may have some merit. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The issue of the jurisdiction of special prosecutors is one that the courts have never fully resolved. This is not a frivolous lawsuit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So there you go.
Michael Moore, he did go on to say he doesn't believe the lawsuit would succeed, but do you think the courts will take a look at it?
MOORE: I think he's maybe talking about legal theory and whether or not the theory once it's determined by the courts makes the lawsuit frivolous or not. I think ultimately, it's a frivolous lawsuit as they come in to challenge. I would be happy to go back and read all of the Republican briefs that I'm sure they submitted when we were talking about white water and went from talking about the investigation in white water to suddenly a blue dress and the Rose Law Firm bill records. I don't think they had the same outrage they seem to have now. They have attacked this investigation in every way. I don't believe they're isolated attacks. They're coordinated through communications back and forth between individuals involved in the case. They have attacked the investigators --
CABRERA: Would you attack this way if you were Manafort's defense attorney?
MOORE: I wouldn't have filed a lawsuit, a deck action in the case, but I wouldn't have had people out talking about whether or not there were too many African-American jurors in the grand jury either. I think when you look at these attacks that are being done both on the investigation, on the investigators, they've attacked Andrew McCabe, talked about money pouring in to Bob Mueller's team. Every one of the Republicans sitting on that committee has Republican money coming in to them.
To act like they're indignant about the fact that there's Democratic money or political money coming in, that's a nonstarter. So I wouldn't have taken the attacks that many of them have had but I certainly wouldn't have filed an action like this in the court challenges the authority of a special prosecutor. I think there's history -- and Michael can tell us about this. But there's a history for great authority and latitude from a special prosecutor and allows there to be special independence. We already know the attorney general has to accuse himself --
[11:50:08] CABRERA: Yes.
MOORE: -- so here we are.
CABRERA: Thank you, guys.
CABRERA: I've got to go. I'm so sorry. I'm up against the end of my show. I would love to continue the conversation on another day.
Michael Moore and Michael Zeldin. Interesting conversation. Thank you.
MOORE: Glad to be with you.
CABRERA: We have the deadly winter storm bearing down and it's getting worse. The bomb cyclone putting tens of millions of Americans under brutal cold and whiteout conditions. We will get a report live, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CABRERA: A so-called bomb cyclone is hammering the northeast and it will be colder than Mars in some places by this weekend. Here's what the snowstorm looks like, 12 inches of blinding snow, 60 mile-an-hour wind gusts. Thousands of people without power.
Let's bring in CNN's Alison Kosik, braving the elements in Boston.
Alison, I understand the folks are bracing for up to a foot of snow.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are. Up to a foot or more of snow. The snow only just began falling a few hour ago and you can see how much it's piled up. This is despite the fact that there are plows coming through all morning long. We have not gotten the official total yet. I have gotten my handy measuring stick in this pristine area of snow, about five inches of snow here. Could get up to a foot or more of snow.
We will be getting two to three inches per hour here in Boston before this snowstorm moves out. Here's the thing. I know Bostonians are a hearty bunch and they are used to this sideways-driven snow, I get it. This storm is different because not only is it piling that foot or more of snow, but it's coming with very strong winds. We felt at least 40 miles per hour gusts and those winds are expected to continue. When the snow moves out, get ready for the brutally cold temperatures. We are hearing by Saturday night, Boston can feel minus 7-degree weather and that would break a record.
[11:55:47] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: CABRERA: And I said that it's the best number. We have to break 78 percent. And we'll do it.
Thank you all very much. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
TRUMP: Hopefully, everything is going to work out very well. We really want it to work out. I can tell you, the Republicans want to see it work out very well. If we have support from the Democrat Democrats, I think DACA will be terrific. We have people that have been working on this issue for a long time, as Lindsey said, and others have said. We really are at a point where we can do something spectacular for the people on the border, people coming through.
We have to be careful because there is a drug epidemic the likes of which we have never seen in this country. We need protection and we need the wall and all of those things. A lot of Democrats agree with us when they see what's happening and the kind of problems we are having at the border. They really understand it. Whether they will vote that way is another situation, but they really understand it.
We want to thank you all for being here. We have a great spirit going in the Republican Party. I think it can be bipartisan. I hope it's going to be bipartisan and we can take care of a lot of problems. It would be nice to do it in a bipartisan way. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
TRUMP: He called me a great man last night. He changed his tune pretty quick. Thank you all very much.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
TRUMP: Thank you. I don't talk to him. I don't know. I don't talk to him. That's just a misnomer.
BASH: You just have been listening to the president of the United States having a meeting with Republican Senators. But most importantly speaking out for the first time at least on camera about Steve Bannon saying that Steve Bannon called the president a great man last night, but denies that he speaks at all to Steve Bannon and called that a misnomer.
Let's get to senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, what did you make of the brief but important comments?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Very brief comments and it was the president's decision to answer that question. We saw him for several seconds. The aides are saying thank you and they are being escorted out. The president decided to answer that which I thought was very interesting. He was paying attention to the "Breitbart" radio show last evening when Steve Bannon referred to the president as a great man. He also said he changed his tune quickly there. Certainly interesting.
Dana, I think it raises an initial question. Is this feuding permanent with the president and Steve Bannon or will they at some point make up, if you will and will Steve Bannon still be in the mind of this president? I think we have seen several times the president has a hard time fully getting rid of advisers and things. He likes to collect different thoughts and continues. Steve Bannon is in that group there. But certainly, interesting that he decided to address that. No question, the agenda and the message this week has been overtaken by that bombshell book coming out later this month, particularly the quotes from Steve Bannon.
BASH: No question.
Jeff, thank you so much for that report.
And here to share their reporting and insights, Julie Pace, of the Associated Press, and Joshua Green, from "Bloomberg Business Week," and "538's" Perry Bacon, and "The Daily Beast's" Jackie Kucinich.
We should not, Josh is the author -- you see it there -- the book about Trump and Bannon's relationship called "Devil's Bargain." You can buy it on Amazon.
Shameless plug for you there.
JOSHUA GREEN, BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK & AUTHOR: Appreciate it.
BASH: Let's start with what we just heard from the president.
What do you say.
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: It's interesting when the president had the futs that tend to happen quite often because he surrounds himself by people who are drawn to chaos the president loves a good compliment and Bannon loves the president loves a good compliment.