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Interview With Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee; Terror Attack in Egypt Kills Hundreds; Flynn Lawyers Stop Sharing Info with Trump's Lawyers U.S. Intelligence Fears Terror Attack Over Holidays; CNN Exposes Modern Day Slave Trade. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 24, 2017 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Happening now: terrorist assault. Hundreds of people killed in a coordinated attack on a mosque. Bomb blasts sent worshipers fleeing, only for them to be slaughtered by waiting gunmen. Who is behind this horrifying massacre?

Cooperating witness. Lawyers for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn stop sharing information about the Russia investigation with President Trump's legal team. Does it mean Flynn is now cooperating with the special prosecutor and trying to cut a deal?

Heightened alert. Frayed nerves in London, but no sign of terror after reports of gunshots in a crowded shopping district. But European and U.S. intelligence fear ISIS or al Qaeda may be plotting to attack over the holidays. Why are terrorists more desperate than ever to strike?

And course projection. President Trump tweets about his game with two of the biggest names of golf, promising to play a quick round that stretched for four hours. After repeatedly slamming President Obama's golf outings, why has President Trump now visited his own golf courses 80 times since taking office?

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Jim Acosta. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM room.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ACOSTA: We're following breaking news.

President Trump just off the phone with Egypt's president expressing condolences and condemning a terror attack on a mosque that left at least 235 people dead. The attackers first detonated bombs that sent worshipers fleeing right into the sights of gunmen outside, who later moved into the mosque to slaughter even more victims.

We're also following growing alarm within the U.S. intelligence community over possible terror attacks over the holidays by both ISIS and al Qaeda, with ISIS believed to be especially eager to strike after major losses on the ground in Iraq and Syria. The heightened concern was evident in London today. Police went into full terror mode after reports of gunshots at a popular shopping area, but no suspects or evidence were found.

There's speculation tonight that fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may be cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation and possibly trying to cut a plea deal. That is being fueled by word that Flynn's lawyers have stopped sharing information about the probe with President Trump's legal team.

We're covering all of that and more this hour with our guests, including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees. Our correspondents and specialists, they are also standing by.

But let's begin with the terror attack on an Egyptian mosque that's left at least 235 people dead.

CNN's Ian Lee is working that story for us.

Ian, this is believed to be the deadliest attack in that country's history.


Tonight, Egyptian security forces and the military are combing the desert looking for the culprits behind this deadly attack. Not only did these militants wait for people to flee the mosque before starting to shoot and then going inside and executing people, but they also ambushed ambulances who were trying to get to those people who were injured.

And it took security forces to secure the entire area before the ambulances could go in and ferry the people to hospitals in the area and in Cairo. Over 100 people were injured in the attack. While no one has claimed responsibility, Jim, this bears all the hallmarks of ISIS.

ISIS has been operating in the northern part of Sinai and they have carried out mass attacks like this in the past in Egypt. And in the aftermath of such attacks, We hear from the president, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and he always comes out strong, and this time he came out strong, too, saying he will use brutal force in hunting down the people involved in this.

We heard President Trump spoke with President Sisi, offering his condolences and support. The Egyptians though are also concerned about what they're seeing in Iraq and Syria. As ISIS loses territory there, Egyptian officials are concerned that militants could be coming to Egypt and other territories where ISIS has a foothold.

Again, ISIS did not claim responsibility for this, but all the signs point to the terrorist organization -- Jim.

ACOSTA: And intelligence agencies around the world have to be on guard this time of year.

Ian Lee, thank you very much.

And we're learning new details about President Trump's phone call to Egypt's president following that attack.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Florida with the president.

Jeff, he condemned the attack and said the U.S. will continue to stand with Egypt in the face of terrorism, but he also had other comments on what happened in Egypt, right?


He condemned the attack. And he did have a brief telephone call this afternoon with the Egypt president, as well as a call earlier this morning with the Syria president -- or -- excuse me -- with the Turkish president about Syria.

This brings to three the number of world leaders the president has talked to here during this week, which has been a working vacation, as we saw today later on the golf course.



ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump hitting the links today with two of the biggest names in golf, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson.

The White House rarely confirms when the president is golfing, but he made the announcement himself on Twitter, saying he would be "heading over to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, to play golf quickly."

He departed after more than four hours at the course. His visit marking the 80th day he's spent at one of his golf properties since taking office and his 100th day at a Trump-branded property. Many Americans and more than a few presidents play golf. It's only notable because of what Mr. Trump repeatedly said before winning the presidency.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I win, I may never see my -- I may never see these pieces again because I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf, believe me.


ZELENY: The president also talking by phone today with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the conflict in Syria. The Turkish foreign minister said Mr. Trump pledged to stop arming a Kurdish militia, the YPG, that the government considers a terrorist organization.

The president also condemning the attack today in Egypt killing more than 230 people and wounding more than 100 others in the deadliest terror strike on Egyptian soil. He called the president of Egypt to discuss the attack, which he also seized upon to push his immigration agenda, tweeting: "We have to get tougher and smarter than ever before and we will. Need the wall, need the ban. God bless the people of Egypt."

The president is also turning his attention to the tax plan up for a vote next week in the Senate. He offered a preview during a Thanksgiving Day call from Mar-a-Lago with American service members around the world.

TRUMP: Now we're working on tax cuts. Big, fat, beautiful tax cuts. And hopefully we will get that and then you're going to really see things happen.

ZELENY: The president is set to meet with congressional leaders at the White House and attend a weekly lunch of Senate Republicans on Tuesday.

The Senate Republicans still don't have the votes to pass the sweeping tax overhaul amid the concerns of the bill's effects on the deficit.

NARRATOR: Congress is talking about tax cuts that will add trillions to our national debt and hurt our economy.

ZELENY: Senator Ron Johnson has announced his opposition, with Senator Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski all voicing concerns. Senator Rand Paul will likely support the plan with Senator John McCain as a wild card.

As America marked Black Friday, the president's campaign joined in an the annual day-after-Thanksgiving shopping rush with Trump merchandise marked down 30 percent.


ZELENY: Now, the dinner hour at Mar-a-Lago, where the president is, he has just sent out a very interesting tweet, Jim, just a short time ago, an audacious tweet, if you will.

Let's take a look at this. We have to read through this together.

He said: 'TIME' magazine called to say that I was probably going to be named man/person of the year, like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway."

Jim, this is sort of coming out of the blue here, but we do know "TIME" magazine often names their person of the year in the month of December coming up here. We're not sure which is more unlikely, that "TIME" would name him man of the year for the second year in a row -- he is correct that he earned it last year -- or if he would to decline it if they were to name him. We have checked with "TIME" magazine.

They have not yet gotten back to us. But, Jim, this is also something to point out. There is still a fake copy of "TIME" magazine from 2009, I believe, hanging in some of his golf clubs. It turned out that was not real.

"The Washington Post" reported that last year, if you recall. So the president, as we know, has been long a fan of magazine covers, so interesting that would have turned it down, if indeed that is even the case.

ACOSTA: Jeff, it may be the first time a sitting president has actually campaigned or lobbied to be on the cover of "TIME" magazine as well.

Jeff Zeleny, traveling with the president in Florida, thank you very much.

Lawyers for the president's fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have told Mr. Trump's legal team they're no longer going to share the information about the special counsel's Russia investigation. And that could be a sign that Flynn is cooperating with Robert Mueller's team, in hopes of a plea deal.

CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is here right now with the latest.

Shimon, one of the president's lawyers is warning against making too much of this development. Obviously, it could mean lots of different things, but certainly a pretty interesting development in this investigation.


And based on the conversations we have had with sources, it appears that there are at least ongoing conversations between Flynn's camp and Bob Mueller's team.

Now, this can mean several things. They could be negotiating a plea deal or perhaps more significantly there could be a plan in place where Flynn will plead guilty and cooperate with the investigation.

Now, in terms of what his cooperation will bring, that's unclear. But as a result, he would want to distance himself from the president's team, so that he doesn't jeopardize any of the plea deal or any -- potentially a cooperation agreement that could come of this.


And another perhaps significant explanation for this is that Flynn himself could be fighting these charges and, therefore, does not want to also inject himself into the president's team, again, trying to keep his distance from them.

And so the president's lawyer yesterday issued a statement. Let me read that to you here. He basically said: "No one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the president."

No matter which way you look at this, Jim, as you said, this is a significant development, a significant shift in the defense strategy for Michael Flynn.

ACOSTA: And Jay Sekulow says don't draw any conclusions, but there may well be conclusions. PROKUPECZ: Yes.

ACOSTA: Shimon, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Let's get more on all of this with Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. She's a member of the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees.

Congresswoman, thanks for joining us tonight. We appreciate it.

Does it look like Michael Flynn is cooperating with the special counsel, based on these developments?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Well, first of all, Jim, happy Thanksgiving to you and all the American people.

ACOSTA: You as well.

JACKSON LEE: I can frankly say to you as a lawyer and one who has served on committees that have investigated a number of issues, particularly the assassination of Dr. King and President Kennedy when it was reopened some years later, that this is bad news for the president's lawyers and the president and those surrounding him in the White House.

It's particularly bad news as he is on the golf coast -- golf -- playing golf for the 80th time. And the reason is, there's several elements to this.

And let me share with you those elements. When the agreement was in place, and the legal teams were sharing information, the president's team could be comforted about what they were seeing. They would have a sense of comfort where Flynn and his counselors were going.

The information would give them a sense that this is not headed in their direction or that this is reasonable that he's giving this information, that this is nothing new and it isn't anything that would impact them negatively.

Now, when the agreement has been disbanded, there's complete silence. That means the lawyers are not talking. They have to protect their client, in this instance, General Flynn. There's a potential conflict of interests, and they don't know what General Flynn is doing, either cooperating for a plea bargain or cooperating and providing information about the engagement of President Trump, his campaign officials in collusion or collaboration with Russia to undermine the 2016 election.

So, I think it's bad news. And, yes, you can speculate that there's nothing there, but I can assure you that his lawyers are worried or they should be worried, because now they do not have a pipeline into the legal strategy of General Flynn's lawyers or General Flynn.

ACOSTA: And do you believe, based on what you have seen so far, is there enough evidence to indict Michael Flynn, do you think? JACKSON LEE: Well, there's basic facts that he has violated some

aspects of the law, the foreign agent registration, even though sometimes you can register after the fact, the potential issue with Turkey, taking, allegedly, dollars to lobby on their behalf or to help deport an individual who has legal status here in the United States.

Those are elements that certainly could jeopardize General Flynn independently of anyone else. But, certainly, as an insider, as someone who was hired and present as a national security adviser, he obviously had intimate conversations, not only with campaign officials, but he was in the White House.

And so he would have knowledge of facts of that general -- that special counsel Mueller would be very interested in, and being a top- notch prosecutor, former FBI director, he can truly put the pieces together. He has a top-notch team.

I would be worried if I was the president of the United States and also his inner circle, but, in particular, General Flynn is concerned about his son. And, therefore, there may be a lot of leeway, a lot of room, a lot of desire to get this thing behind him, both for himself and his son.

ACOSTA: And let's turn to the attack in Egypt, where at least 235 people are dead after a terror attack on a mosque.

President Trump reacted on Twitter this afternoon. I will read it to you and have you react to it, Congresswoman.

It says: "Will be calling the president of Egypt in a short while to discuss the tragic terrorist attack with so much loss of life. We have to get tougher and smarter than ever before. And we will. Need the wall. Need the ban. God bless the people of Egypt."

Can't argue with the last sentence there. But you sit on the Homeland Security Committee. what does the wall on the border with Mexico have to do with any of this?


JACKSON LEE: Well, first of all, I'm disappointed that the president of the United States could not behave like a commander in chief and a president that would offer the president of Egypt and the people of Egypt, which I would to want right now, my deepest sympathy and prayers for them and a recognition of the fight in the territory in which they're here, and to stand alongside of them in the fight against terrorism and ISIS.

Here is a president that cannot singularly offer a statement that really represents the American people all over the nation, singularly focus on the Egyptian people.

This was a dastardly, vicious act. Not only did they bomb the mosque, where people are worshiping, but they shot people fleeing for their lives and shot the ambulances. I'm horrified by this sickness with ISIS. But what should have been

said is, we recognize that, as ISIS begins to lose its position of power in Syria and Iraq, that they are headed toward Africa.

That is what happened in Niger. And it's happening around Nigeria and Chad. And to be able to say that we will stand with you and the Egyptian people to fight against the dastardly acts of ISIS, and ISIL, and that terrorism has no place in the world, that's the kind of statement that should have been made.

It is absurd and really embarrassing. As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, we know this all the time. We're in classified meetings about this. But it is embarrassing not to acknowledge the pain of a particular nation and to associate the ban here which has been ruled unconstitutional by the courts, but also the wall.

Let me say, as a Homeland Security member of the committee, I want a safe and secure nation in the northern and southern border, but there are many ways that we must look at it, new technology, training of our Border Patrol agents, enhancing those numbers.

But to mix that with the devastating, desperate acts that happened and the loss of life in Egypt, I just think is apples and oranges and certainly unfair and certainly inappropriate.

My sympathy again to the Egyptian people.

ACOSTA: And we all share that sympathy, Congresswoman. Thank you very much for that.

We're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, want to talk to you about those growing sexual assault allegations up in Capitol Hill, other topics.

We will be right back in just a few moments. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



ACOSTA: We're back with Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. She's a member of the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees.

We want to talk to her about these allegations of groping and harassment against two lawmakers.

But, first, Congresswoman, let's get the latest from our CNN congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty.

Sunlen, let's start with Senator Al Franken, who's now issuing something of a new apology for what he says is, I guess quote, "making some women feel badly," according to that statement he put out.


This is a new apology from the senator. And he does admit to crossing the line with some women, but he apologizes without specifically taking responsibility for the actions and without saying exactly what he did.

In a lengthy statements, he attempts to try to explain some of his conduct. He says -- quote -- "I have met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I'm a warm person. I hug people. I have learned from recent stories that, in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women, and I know that any number is too many. Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate. And respect their feelings about that. I have thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen and recognize that I need be to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations."

And beyond statements like these from Senator Al Franken, he hasn't spoken out publicly since the first claims of sexual misconduct originally broke. With Congress out for Thanksgiving break this week, he has largely been out of the public eye, but all of that will change next week when they return here to Washington, Jim. A lot more pressure on him now.

ACOSTA: My guess a lot of reporters staking out his office next week.

Sunlen Serfaty, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman John Conyers, Sunlen, he is not backing down in the face of allegations against him, is that right?

SERFATY: That's right. He is not backing down.

He has denied these allegations through a lawyer. And though he has admitted that he paid a settlement to the accuser out of his own office's budget, and there is of course an ethics investigation in the House already launched to look into this, but some are calling this process out.

Here is what Congresswoman Kathleen Rice said earlier today.


REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D), NEW YORK: Enough is enough. At this point, what I am voicing publicly is what every single private citizen is saying across America.

Why are the rules for politicians in Washington different than they are for everyone else? Right now, what we're talking about is there going to be any level of accountability?

And, you know, saying we're going to have these allegations against politicians go before an Ethics Committee that can sometimes take a couple of years -- no offense to my colleagues who are on the Ethics Committee -- but that's not real. That's not real and that's not accountability. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: We will likely hear directly from John Conyers soon. His lawyer said he will be addressing the allegations about him after Thanksgiving, so potentially as soon as this upcoming week -- Jim.

ACOSTA: OK, Sunlen Serfaty, thank you very much.

Let me get back to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

Congresswoman, simply put, does Congressman Conyers need to step down? Does he need to resign, do you think?

JACKSON LEE: Well, first, Jim, let me say the good news is that there are women in Congress, that the women who been impacted, who have offered their stories, we will be listening to.


The first thing I would like to say is the legislation we have, Me Too, should be passed next week. And you can do that by implementing martial law, and in 24 hours, we can pass a new process.

I think what is important is to disabuse the American people that the House Ethics Committee is lightweight. First of all, any criminal acts don't go to the House Ethics Committee. They immediately go to the U.S. attorney, if it happened in Washington, D.C.

So if these are criminal acts, they frankly should go to that authority.


ACOSTA: What's your view? Do you think it's a criminal act, Congresswoman, that we're talking about here, or is this a matter for the ethics investigation, do you think?

JACKSON LEE: Yes, what I'm saying, if it is, you can be assured that members of Congress will know where it should be referred it.

But the House Ethics Committee is no lightweight. And I think the investigation should go as swiftly as possible. Both of these individuals have indicated that they would welcome and will subject and communicate and cooperate with the House Ethics Committee. That should done posthaste, immediately.

In contrast to Mr. -- the senator down in Alabama, the candidate, Mr. Moore, who has not admitted to anything, has not conceded to anything, has not been investigated by anyone, nor the president of the United States, of course, that had 16 women who accused him of various forms of sexual harassment, and has he never either indicated that he is sorry, acknowledged them or had any response to them.

So, I believe the House Ethics Committee is not paper weight. It's not a lightweight. And it's going to be moved very quickly. And the reason is because the American people are watching. It's important for the Congress to clean its house.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

JACKSON LEE: And I believe the House Ethics Committee is the appropriate entity to do so.

And these individuals, these members will appropriately come before them, and they have indicated that they willingly cooperate. That's very, very important.

ACOSTA: All right, it is very, very important, Congresswoman.

And I think, with so much light being shed on this subject, I don't think it's going to be possible for these members of Congress, and I don't think you're one of them -- obviously, you're not one of them -- but some who would like to see this swept under the rug, see the process and the system that is in place sort of suppress this information from coming forward, I don't think that's going to happen anymore.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Just ahead: Is former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn trying to cut a plea deal in the Russia investigation and what might he have to offer to special counsel Robert Mueller?

Plus, fear of a holiday attack -- what has U.S. intelligence so concerned about a possible terror strike?


ACOSTA: And we're following a potentially major development in the Russia investigation. Lawyers for fired national security advisor Michael Flynn have told President Trump's legal team that they're no longer going to share information about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, and that could be a sign Flynn is cooperating with Mueller's team in hopes of a plea deal.

[18:32:40] Let's dig deeper now with our correspondents and analysts. Let me turn to Matthew Rosenberg, who is on the screen behind me. Matthew, do you believe that Michael Flynn is cooperating? Is that what this development means?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": That's really what Trump's lawyers believe, that he's either cooperating or starting to negotiate a deal to cooperate.

Look, I think we have to remember that Flynn's own lawyer said in the spring that his client had, quote, "a story to tell," and he wanted immunity to tell it. That was in reference to Congress, but the implication there was that he would also cooperate with federal investigators.

What that story is, what he has to offer, we still don't know. And I think there's a lot of uncertainly over at the White House among Trump's lawyers and among other people kind of within this core circle: Manafort, Kushner. You know, there's a whole range of people.

But Flynn was, you know, one of the earliest campaign -- people to join the campaign. He was the national security advisor throughout it. This is a former three-star general who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency. He also served as national security advisor for 24 days. That is an office right down the hallway -- hall from the West Wing. He saw a lot; he knows a lot. What he's got to say, that we don't know and how much is he willing to say, we're going to find out.

ACOSTA: And that tees up the next question, Phil Mudd. What can Michael Flynn offer to Robert Mueller, do you think? It sounds like he could offer a lot.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: A heck of a lot. And let's focus not only on what he can offer but on the timing. But on the what, you look at all the smoke we've seen. Look, stupidity is not a federal violation. Donald Trump Jr. last summer, meeting a Russian lawyer for dirt on Hillary Clinton, that's stupid. It's not clear that it violates federal law.

Michael Flynn knows the details of what happened in the campaign. For example, did someone accept information from a Russian source that related to the campaign? That would potentially be a federal violation.

So getting behind all the smoke about allegations and getting into the facts of whether there's a federal violation is significant. The timing to me, this is better than "Game of Thrones," if you're from Washington D.C.

We're going into key interviews in the White House. Those interviewees, people like Jared Kushner now know a couple of things. No. 1, it's not just about Russia. If you lie, Robert Mueller has already shown he'll indict you.

No. 2, if you've got financial irregularities, it's not just about Russia, you'll get indicted.

Now we have a No. 3, the big shoe. If you sort of shuck and jive about what happened during the campaign, there's somebody who was there, sitting beside you, who's going to say, "Hey, Director Mueller, that guy is not telling the truth." This is really interesting, the timing, because now these people being interviewed know they're in trouble.

[18:35:07] ACOSTA: And Sunlen, the president's legal team says, "Well, don't read too much into this, but obviously, you're up there on Capitol Hill quite a bit. People are reading into this.

SERFATY: Yes, absolutely. Jay Sekulow saying there's no conclusions to be reached here, but clearly, this is one step closer to President Trump. Really, you know, this is someone that not only was, as you guys have been arguing, very trusted and loyal during the campaign but was in the White House, sitting next to President Trump when a lot of decisions are being made. He knows a lot -- potentially a lot to tell and that, again, just inches closer to President Trump. Really, the circle is tightening around him.

ACOSTA: And I remember, Rebecca when the indictments came down against Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos. The George Papadopoulos element was one that surprised all of us.

But the president and his legal team, the White House folks were trying to say Manafort and Gates, they were a part of the campaign, and Papadopoulos, he was the coffee boy, or whatever -- however they described him, even though he was seated at that table at that national security advisory board meeting.

Michael Flynn, you can't write him off.

BERG: Exactly. And so as Sunlen said, the question of closeness to the president, you can't get much closer than Michael Flynn. And it's worth remembering, and certainly, I'm sure Mueller and his team will not forget that the president continued to praise Michael Flynn even after he fired him, after he was out of the White House, after it had been shown that he was lying publicly about relations or contacts he had with Russians.

So very significant that we are getting closer and closer to the president and his top advisors. They're not able to argue that there was any distance between him and Michael Flynn, as they were with Manafort. Even though he was his campaign manager, obviously a key role in the campaign, as well.

ACOSTA: We don't think Michael Flynn is going to be Person of the Year, at least not at this stage. But the president seems to be very concerned about who's going to be the Person of the Year, and he seems to be lobbying and campaigning for it, Phil Mudd.

I don't recall a president of the United States, a sitting president lobbying and campaigning to be on the cover of "TIME" magazine. But here's a tweet from President Trump a short while ago: "'TIME' magazine called to say that I was probably going to be be named Man/Person of the Year like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway."

MUDD: This guy is the most prominent individual on the planet. That is, the president of the United States. And he's angling for more publicity. He's going to LaVar Ball, whatever it was a week ago, saying, you know, "It wasn't the Chinese who did this. It wasn't the State Department. It was me that got your out."

Last I checked, the United States did not imprison LaVar Ball's kid. That was the Chinese, and it was the Chinese president who let him out.

What I can't figure out is if you're one of the most photographed -- one of the most photographed individuals on the planet, one of the most profiled individuals on the planet, why are you angling to say, "I need one more magazine cover"? It indicates more about psychology than anything else, I think. SERFATY: Yes, I think we can read a lot into President Trump here.

We already know he's very sensitive. We already know he likes good P.R. around him and this is a touchy issue. And he's already kind of laying the ground work for, if he doesn't get "TIME" magazine Person of the Year, to say, "No, I took a pass on it" and also highlight, he says, in his tweet that he would have had to agree to an interview and major photo shoot. It highlights the fact that the president has not sat down with mainstream media in quite a long time.

ACOSTA: Yes, and he was Person of the Year last year.

SERFATY: He was.

ACOSTA: Rebecca, so isn't once enough? You know, and also, I mean, let somebody else have a chance. Right? Maybe it's Robert Mueller's turn, is that -- potentially?

BERG: Maybe it will be Mueller this year. I would think that that would get under the president's skin...

ACOSTA: Not mine.

BERG: ... even more than not being Person of the Year himself. But you're right. He has been Person of the Year. He's been featured in Person of the Year magazine editions before. So yes, maybe somebody else's turn.

ACOSTA: Matthew Rosenberg, what's the betting over at "TIME" -- at "The New York Times" on "TIME" Person of the Year?

ROSENBERG: You know, we're going to be pretty upset if Mueller starts giving interviews for Person of the Year, because he's not talking to us, and we would like to talk to him.

ACOSTA: Yes. I don't think that's going to happen any time soon, but we can always hold out hope. That's right. And we do here, as well, at CNN.

All right, everybody. Thanks very much. Happy holidays. We appreciate that. And maybe the panel will be Person of the Year. We'll start campaigning for that one. All right. Thanks, guys.

All right. Just ahead, ISIS believed to be increasingly desperate to launch another attack. Will terror strike over the holidays?

Plus, modern-day slave trade revealed as migrants are auctioned off like commodities. It is a disturbing CNN exclusive.


ACOSTA: There's growing concern in the U.S. intelligence community over the possibility of a terror attack during the holiday season.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working that story for us.

Barbara, it's not only ISIS but al Qaeda that's posing a threat? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. Officials we are talking to say they're very concerned about all of this, both ISIS and al Qaeda trying to attack even as the U.S. tries to attack them.


STARR (voice-over): London went on high alert seconds after citizen reports of shots fired in one of the busiest shopping areas. It wasn't terrorism, no evidence shots were fired, but nerves are running high.

President Trump chose a strong Thanksgiving day message to the troops about winning against terror.

[18:45:01] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know how to win. But we have to let you win. They weren't letting you win before. They were letting you play even. We're letting you win.

STARR: But there is good reason to worry this holiday season. U.S. intelligence officials remain alarmed that ISIS will again strike.

The State Department warning U.S. travelers that ISIS and al Qaeda have the ability to plan and execute terrorist attacks in Europe. German intelligence already believes it's facing a plot to attack holiday markets.

Last year in Berlin, a person drove a tractor trailer into a Christmas market, killing at least a dozen people. ISIS remains motivated.

COL. STEVE WARREN (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: ISIS has always looked to conduct external operations. They have long tried to conduct terror attacks outside of their declared caliphate.

STARR: This year, ISIS may be more desperate. With the loss of their strongholds in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is strengthening its affiliates in Yemen, Libya, Niger and especially Somalia, looking for new bases of operation.

In Somalia alone, the U.S. conducted seven air strikes in six days against al Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate, and ISIS. One strike killing 100 militants, according to the Pentagon. Al Qaeda and its affiliates are also ramming up efforts.

The reliance on Special Operations Forces has expanded under President Trump. There are now approximately 2,000 U.S. troops fighting ISIS inside Syria.

But military experts say it's not enough to stop the threat.

WARREN: Military power is not enough to defeat ISIS or to defeat terrorism. We cannot shoot our way out of this problem. We cannot kill our way out of this problem.


STARR: There are now 19 countries around the world where U.S. troops are deployed and equipped for combat if it comes to that -- Jim.

ACOSTA: That's an incredible number, Barbara. How much concern is there over the military relying too heavily on the special forces?

STARR: Well, as you get into these areas, special operations forces really are the ones on the front lines to a large extent. They are deployed from Somalia to the Philippines.

These troops are doing repeated deployments, up to a dozen or more in their careers. They're becoming exhausted. They don't see their families. There's a lot of concern that this is a very special force that is stretched way too thin -- Jim.

ACOSTA: They are carrying a heavy load. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much for that.

Just ahead, people sold at auction, international outrage tonight after CNN uncovers a shocking modern-day slave trade.


[18:52:47] ACOSTA: The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is urging a full investigation into migrants being sold as slaves in Libya. The disturbing practice was first revealed in an exclusive CNN report that sparked widespread protests.

CNN international correspondent Nima Elbagir and her team traveled to Libya and witnessed the inhumanity as migrant slave auctions where men were sold like commodities.


SUBTITLE: Unknown location, Libya, August 2017.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A man addressing an unseen crowd.

Big strong boys for farm work, he says. Four hundred. Seven hundred. Seven hundred? Eight hundred.

The numbers roll in. These men are sold for 1200 Libyan pounds, $400 a piece.

You are watching an auction of human beings.

Another man claiming to be a buyer. Off-camera, someone asks, what happen to the ones from Niger?

Sold off, he's told.

CNN was sent this footage by a contact. After months of working, we were able to verify the authenticity of what you see here. We decided to travel to Libya to try and see for ourselves.

(on camera): We're now in Tripoli and we're starting to get a little bit more of a sense of how this all works. Our contacts are telling us that there are one to two of these auctions every month and that there is one happening in the next few hours. So, we're going to head out of town and see if we can get some sort of access to it.

(voice-over): For the safety of our contacts, we have agreed not to divulge the location of this auction, but the town we're driving to isn't the only one.

Night falls, we travel through nondescript suburban neighborhoods, pretending to look for a missing person. Eventually, we stopped outside a house like any other.

[18:55:03] Adjust our secret cameras and wait.

Finally, it's time to move.

We're ushered in to one of two auctions happening on the same night, crouched at the back of the yard, a flood light obscuring much of the scene. One by one, men are brought out as the bidding begins.

Four hundred. Five hundred. Five-fifty. Six hundred. Six-fifty. Seven hundred.

Very quickly, it's over.

We ask if we can speak to the man, the auctioneer, seen here, refuses. We ask again if we can speak to them, if we can help them. No, he says. The auction is over we're told.

And we're asked to leave.

(on camera): That was over very quickly. We walked in, and as soon as we walked in, the men started covering their faces, but they clearly wanted to finish what they were doing, and they kept bringing out what they kept referring to in Arabic as badayie, the merchandise.

All in all, they admitted to us that there were 12 Nigerians that were sold in front of us, and I -- I honestly don't know what to say. That was probably one of the most unbelievable things I've ever scene.

SUBTITLE: Treeq Alsika migrant detention center, Tripoli, October 2017.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): These men are migrants with dreams of being smuggled to Europe by sea. They come in their thousands from Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Ghana.

It's hard to believe that these are the lucky ones, rescued from warehouses like the one in which we witnessed the auction. They're sold if those warehouses become overcrowded or if they run out of money to pay their smugglers.

If these rescued men so many here say they were held against their will. It doesn't take us long to find victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No food, no water, nothing.

ELBAGIR: Victory was a slave.

(on camera): We know that some people are being sold.


ELBAGIR: Some people are being sold.


ELBAGIR: Is this something you've heard about?


ELBAGIR: Can you tell us about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. I was sold.

ELBAGIR: What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On my way here I was sold.

If you look at most of the people here, if you check their bodies, you see the marks. They're beaten. Mutilated. You understand? Most of them lost their lives there.

I was there, the person who came to buy me, give them the money. Then they took me home. So, the money wasn't even that much.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): As the migrants now start to come forward with their stories --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They took people to work by force. Even when we were at the seaside port.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you are working. When you are doing their work, they will be beating you. They will be maltreating us.

SUBTITLE: Immigration officials, Tripoli, October 2017.

ANAS ALAZABI, ANTI-ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION AGENCY: But I promise you, I will take care of your husband --

ELBAGIR: Anas Alazabi is the supervisor here. With no international support, it's his job to look after the captured migrants until they can be deported. He says every day brings fresh heartbreak.

ALAZABI: I'm suffering for them. I am suffering for them. What they have seen here daily, believe me, they make me really feel pain for them. They come on, every story is a special case. A few, there was abusing them, few is they stole their money.

ELBAGIR (on camera): Have you heard about people being auctioned off, about migrants being sold?

ALAZABI: Honestly, we hear the rumors, but there is nothing that's obvious in front of us. We don't have evidence. ELBAGIR (voice-over): But we now do.

CNN has delivered this evidence to the Libyan authorities who have promised to launch an investigation, so that scenes like this are returned to the past.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Libya.


ACOSTA: A very powerful report.

Thanks very much for watching tonight. I'm Jim Acosta. Wolf will be back on Monday. Until then, have a safe and happy holiday weekend. Good night.