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Mueller's Team Denies Accusations Made By Trump Lawyers; California Wildfires: Thousands Forced to Evacuate Near Thomas Fire; 300+ People Sick With Stomach Virus on Cruise Ship; Trump Transition Lawyer Accuses Mueller Team of Improperly Obtaining Emails; Key Vote Tuesday on Republican Tax Cut Bill; Fight for the Future of the Internet. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 17, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Next hour starts right now.


UNIDENTIIFED MALE: This story just adds another layer on what has been a barrage of attacks on the special counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cinch coming out of the Justice Department and the FBI is like that of a third world country.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Sometimes, things might appear to be bad in the press have more innocent explanations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The integrity of this investigation has to be protected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the Trump team is terrified as to what could happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a circus, at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just makes the meeting this week between Donald Trump's attorneys and Robert Mueller that much more significant.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you.

We start this morning with what could a crucial week in the Russia investigation. Special counselor Robert Mueller's team preparing to interview President Trump's private lawyers. This is part of its probe into Russia interference in the 2016 election.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but Mueller's team is also now defending itself against new attacks from members of the Trump transition team, Republican lawmakers and the conservative media. At issue here: tens of thousands of emails sent by the members of the transition team rather. Team lawyers say Mueller got those emails illegally and argue the documents should have been protected.

PAUL: But the special counsel's office says it's followed the proper legal channels and legal experts say the emails are fair game because they were sent from government accounts.

We are covering this story from all angles with our team of correspondents and analysts. To start with CNN's Dan Merica live in Washington.

So, Dan, obviously, what we are hearing this morning could change what we see happening with this meeting later this week when the president's lawyers talk to Mueller's team?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Christi. It's going to be a high stakes week for the Russian investigation and that certainly colored by these accusations, let's detail those. The Trump's transition team is accusing Robert Mueller's investigation of accessing their emails without the proper requirements and notifying them. There is some background to that this is important, though. Those transition emails are actually maintained by the General Services Administration, a pretty benign government agency. It basically provides the White House, the number of different -- or agencies here with hardware and infrastructure that allows them to do their work. And in a letter to Capitol Hill, the Trump transition team says that they were not notified that those emails were going to be handed over to Mueller's team.

Now, a spokesperson for the GSA tells "BuzzFeed" that actually they were notified if they use their hardware, these emails could be subject to law enforcement subpoena or be turned over to law enforcement.

And I also want to note that in a surprising move, the special counsel's office actually responded to these accusations. Here is what Peter Carr said, a spokesman from Mueller: When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secure either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal processes.

It's pretty rare that we see a statement from the special counsel's office. So that is a significant step in all of this.

It's also important to note this is not happening in a vacuum. While this is going on, while these accusations are being made, people, Trump supporters, on Capitol Hill and in the conservative media, are really trying to undercut Mueller's credibility, saying that it's nothing more than an attempt to take out the president and you have even some lower thirds on Fox News suggesting that it's a coup.

So, all of this is happening not in a vacuum. This is happening as Trump supporters are trying to undercut Mueller and certainly we know that the president often watches TV and certainly getting some of that messaging from places like Fox News.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the lower third being the words across the bottom of your screen as you watch cable news.


BLACKWELL: Dan Merica, thanks so much, for us at the White House. Stay with us. I want to also bring in Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent and host of RELIABLE SOURCES. Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for "Chicago Sun Times", Joey Jackson, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney.

Good morning to all of you, and I want to start with attorney who is with us.

Joey, first up to you. I want to read just a bit of this letter that the attorney for the transition team wrote. That the GSA unlawful produced Trump for America materials, including privileged communications, to the special counsel's office, unlawful.

Is this illegal what has happened?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Victor, good morning to you. Good morning, panel.

It's somewhat mind-boggling to me, and as much as if you have the GSA, General Services Administration, which is assisting the transition team which is a governmental arm or unit, if you will. I don't see how any devices that may be used in conjunction with that entity for transition or governmental purposes would be private in nature.

[07:05:05] You know, in the event any of us are serving government and they are working on governmental devices, sending emails or text messages or anything relating to those functions, there is not an expectation of privacy there. So, in the event the special counsel request emails pursuant to their investigation, looking to do their job involving transition members, transition officials with those communications are, I don't see how that would be unlawful in any shape, form or manner.

The other point, Victor, you could talk about issues of privilege but then the question becomes are they really privileged? In the event that you don't know the aim of -- well, we certainly know the aim and the focus of the special counsel's investigation, but where are they going, what exactly are you talking about? So, I'm a little befuddled by this indication that they would be an unlawful transfer of this documentation.

BLACKWELL: Hey, Lynn, let me come to you with this tweet from Sam Stein with "The Daily Beast", and he writes this, put this into this context. So the crowd that asks the Russians and WikiLeaks to help obtain Clinton's emails is now upset with Mueller for obtaining emails through the General Service Administration.

Your response to that juxtaposition.

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: Well, my response is that Sam, in a very witting way, has a very good point. The -- so we could look at this a few lanes here, that don't look for consistency. You complain about one thing, you know, one circumstance and another.

The thing I do want to point out, these are not -- it's not only GSA emails. These are government emails. OK. Emails written on government accounts, very often for, you know, local, state, and federal, the White House is exempted from freedom of -- and Congress -- from Freedom of Information Act laws. No, very few government officials and that's what a transition official was working on that what they called -- what the or Presidential Transitional Team --


SWEET: OK. These are government documents and that is what maybe they didn't anticipate this, but now, the significance of working on this becoming part of the government is starting to sink in.

BLACKWELL: Norm Eisen, who's -- was the ethics czar for President Obama's administration said that the executive privilege only extends to the executive, and when you are in transition before you become the president, you really don't have that protection.

Let me come to you, Brian. The suggestion here in saying this was unlawful, it coincides with this suggestion that this is part of some deep state conspiracy from career employees as they refer to them.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. When Trump's lawyers come out and use the press to say Mueller is acting unlawfully, that creates a narrative for right wing media to put on the bottom of the screen, to put in banner headlines on the Website, to add more fodder to this narrative that the Mueller probe is illegitimate and needs to be shut down. That has been the argument for months from the Sean Hannitys of the world. And it is intensifying as Mueller closes in.

You know, we know that there was a willingness to collude on the part of the Trump campaign, or some individuals, like Donald Trump Jr. on the Trump campaign. We know that there were a weird number of contacts between Russians and Trump associates. We know several of those associates have now pled guilty and have now been charged by Mueller's team. In at least one case, Michael Flynn, he has pled guilty and is cooperating.


STELTER: There's a lot we know about how real this is and that's partly why right wing media is trying to shut it down, trying to say, President Trump, you need to fire Mueller, you need to get rid of this because they're going to try to reverse the outcome of the election. I think this move by Trump's lawyers is another attempt to put Mueller on the defensive because they're --

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about that. Let's talk about that, and the suggestion that Robert Mueller should be fired. I want you to listen to Congresswoman Jackie Speier and what she said this weekend about what she is hearing on Capitol Hill.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: The rumor on the Hill, when I left yesterday, was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week, and on December 22nd, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller.


BLACKWELL: Now, Dan, the White House is pushing back about that, but we only have to look back to the firing of James Comey about how sometimes the official line from the White House does not coincide with what the president believes. Let's get this reminder.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be very clear that the president's decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI, was based solely and exclusively on his commitment to the best interests of the American people and to ensuring that the FBI has the trust and confidence of the people of this nation.

[07:10:15] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDNET OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not --

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You had made the edition before they came in the room?

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey.


BLACKWELL: So you have the White House on May 10th saying that this was from the recommendation from Rod Rosenstein and on the 11th saying, regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire him. He went on to talk about Russia and Trump and he saw that there was nothing there.

Dan, what are we hearing from the president, if anything, about this, and from the White House?

MERICA: Well, Ty Cobb, one of the president's lawyers, told CNN yesterday that there are still no plans, not being considered that Robert Mueller will be fired. So, you know, that is a pretty persistent rumor in Washington and what Representative Speier has laid out is that the possibility of Robert Mueller being fired. That is a pretty persistent rumor.

But I think what Brian says is really important here. You know, the president right now is in Camp David. He's going to Mar-a-Lago next week. We know that's the time where he spends a lot of time in front of the TV talking to old friends, kind of getting reinforced much of what we are hearing on Fox News and conservative outlets.

That's going to be critical to see how he responds to that. You know, you have to put yourself in the shoes of someone that -- you know, the habit of President Trump. When he is down in Mar-a-Lago, he will have more access to those kind of messages that we are hearing coming out of a especially Fox News. What role does that play on how he thinks about the Mueller investigation, what he tweets about the Mueller investigation and what he says going forward.

It is a rumor that he is going to fire Bob Mueller, but that's in a pretty persistent rumor. If we get past that and he gets to Mar-a- Lago and starts getting reinforced this message, it's going to be really interesting to see how that plays on not only on the White House's view --


MERICA: But personally, President Trump's view of Robert Mueller and the broader investigation.

BLACKWELL: Lynn, back to you. There was a period earlier in the investigation where most political experts who looked at the potential for the president firing Robert Mueller knew what would happen next in Congress. But in recent days and weeks with this continued drum beat from members of Congress who now are calling for the president to fire Mueller, is that as obvious as it was, what the next step could possibly be?

SWEET: I think no one -- I'm not -- let's not predict the next step because I think President Trump is such a wildcard here. Just a few days ago when he was asked if he was going to pardon Mike Flynn, he said, not yet or he used the word "yet" as opposed to a yes or no. So, there is a few other plays here that the president could make that still would be very controversial and still would work to try to discredit or diminish or even deny that there is a valid investigation going on.

And one quick point about the Trump lawyers complaining about these emails, if they thought they had a legal leg to stand on, they would not only be in the court of public opinion, talking to the press and talking to their allies, they would be in court seeing if there is something that could be done about it --


SWEET: Or preventing their use. You know, they are out already, so the information in these emails are informing the questions that witnesses are being asked.

BLACKWELL: Joey, let me put up the tweet from Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell where he says private documents on a U.S. government public email system, what are they afraid was found? Baloney. This is another attempt to discredit Mueller as his hashtag Trump Russia probe tightens.

Joey, let me finish up where I started here with these documents, that we are getting this complaint about from the Trump for America transition. As Lynn just touched on there, it's often we pay a lot of attention to who is going before these investigators and speaking one- on-one, but these cases are often a hinging upon the documents, the emails, the letters, hard copies and that's why these are so important.

JACKSON: No. They absolutely are critical. You know, it's tough to talk about this, Victor, without pointing out the irony. The investigation talks about, you know, the democratic process and that being impaired in some way by Russia or in collusion and undermining our democracy. The firing or potential firing of Mueller would do precisely that in terms of the undermining of the democracy. You have a special counsel for a reason, so that they are independent, so that they can investigate and not be bothered or worried about being interfered with.

And so at the end of the day, when you have any communication that's on a government server, again, there is no expectation of privacy. It's governmental in nature and I just don't see how any claims, Victor, of that being unlawful can really carry any weight at all, and so what are on those emails will be critical. Obviously, it's been talked about that nothing per se, you know, has been too damaging but who knows what they will uncover.

BLACKWELL: Yes, tens of thousands, it says there --

STELTER: Hey, Victor?

BLACKWELL: We've got to wrap it there, Brian, unfortunately. We've gone a little over the time allotted.

Brian, Lynn, Dan, Joey, thank you all for being with me this morning.

STELTER: Thanks.

JACKSON: Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: And again, do not miss Brian Stelter, you'll hear from him more later this morning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

PAUL: Listen, there's a wildfire that is bigger than New York City right now. And it is still forcing thousands of people to get out of southern California. We have an update for you from the front lines.

BLACKWELL: Plus, hundreds of passengers aboard a Caribbean cruise get sick. What happened and what the cruise line is doing about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't block my Internet!


PAUL: Cable companies and Internet providers controlling your Internet access? Sometimes even blocking your favorite content? My next guest says you should be very afraid for the future of the Internet. We have more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:20:01] PAUL: There are new evacuations in place for thousands of people in southern California this morning because firefighters are battling what is now the third largest wildfire in the state's history.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the Thomas Fire has burned nearly 300,000 acres so far and led to the deaths of two people at least, including a firefighter.

PAUL: CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez is on the front lies and sent us this report from Santa Barbara late last night.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, this Thomas Fire has just been a slog and it's only get harder. The winds have just been completely sporadic, blowing almost not at all like they are right now but up in the hills, they are blowing much more intensely. We were in winds as high as 40 miles an hour and they are expecting that this is the last stand for this fire. If they can keep it down tonight, they think they can hopefully to get on top it and finally put it out. But it is a huge job.

We're going to turn off the light so you can see how it looks in the foothills above Santa Barbara. Big massive fire there, as you move over here to hillside, you can see that hillside is just fire. When the winds pick up, that fire is pushed directly toward Santa Barbara and that is the concern they have right now. It burned near Carpinteria and then Montecito and now, it's burning toward Santa Barbara, the neighborhoods of the towns of Montecito and Santa Barbara now in the direct line of the fire of this Thomas Fire that just will not quit -- all wind-driven and the dry, dry brush.

The humidity levels in the brush here has been below 10 percent. Firefighters hope that if they can get on it tonight, though, if they can survive those winds tonight, and they have some 400 vehicles up in the area here fighting the fire, that's why they have called for these new evacuations because they didn't want to do it in haste and in a crisis situation where you have all of those fire vehicles in there and then people are trying to get out at the same time. So, if they can survive the winds tonight and they can get past this one evening, then tomorrow, in the days ahead look much better to finally get this fire out -- Victor, Christi.


PAUL: That's what we hope so there. Thank you to Miguel Marquez there.

Strong winds you heard him say, dry conditions, that's what is a big part of this problem.

PAUL: Yes. So, let's talk about the days ahead.

Our meteorologist Allison Chinchar is here watching the conditions there and where the threat is greatest. So, break it down for us, please.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. So, the main threat is just going to be at this point the entire state of California. We wish we could pinpoint it more than that but the threat exists for that whole area. Here is a look at what we are talking about. The Orange area that you see here, that's an elevated fire threat. The red pockets here down around Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Francisco and even around Sacramento, that is more of a critical fire threat. So, it's a little bit more elevated there.

Now, this area, one of it, does include the Thomas Fire. You've heard us talk about this. It's only 40 percent contained right now, 267,000 acres. That's only about 5,500 acres off from being the largest fire in California history ever.

But it's the containment. That is going to be a big concern, at only 40 percent containment. When you talk to California fire, when you talk to them, they say they don't expect to have full containment until January 7th of next year. That's how long they expect it to take because the weather just simply isn't going to cooperate.

Now, it is expected to get slightly better in the next 24 hours. This low pressure system is going to gradually push away. That's going to allowing the winds, the pressure gradient in between that low and that high to lighten up just a little bit. We're not talking about it's going to take away the wind entirely, but it will make it a little bit easier for those firefighters and the crews.

Winds are still going to be about 40, 50 miles per hour this morning. But once we get into the evening tonight, Victor and Christi, that's where the real good news is going to take place when those winds finally do die back down. But the one thing I wish I could tell you was that we had rain in sight but unfortunately, there is no rain chance for the next seven days.

PAUL: OK. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

You know, there are hundreds of passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise that got sick with a stomach virus. And the ship did return to Florida yesterday but that was only after more than 300 people became ill.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we are told the ship's doctor treated them with over- the-counter medication and a Royal Caribbean spokesperson says they are taking intensive sanitary issues to minimize the risk of any further issues. They don't know what caused those sicknesses.

PAUL: So, straight ahead, President Trump says this tax cut package is going to bring jobs, it's going to boost the middle class. We've got tax policy experts to give us their take.

BLACKWELL: Plus, getting fast access to Facebook and Google and Netflix may cost more money in the future. Our next guest says the FCC may have just handed the entire Internet over to the wrong people.


[07:29:15] PAUL: Twenty-nine minutes past the hour on this Sunday.

Good to have you here. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good Sunday to you.

Robert Mueller's team is now defending itself with a rare public statement. They say they've gotten all of their evidence through cooperation or the proper legal means. They're responding to acquisitions from Trump transition lawyers who say that the special counsel's office obtained their emails unlawfully.

Joining me now is CNN politics reporter, Dan Merica.

So, explain what the accusation here and what the response has been.

MERICA: Hey, Victor.

The accusation is essentially that the Trump sent transition team believes that Robert Mueller's investigation illegally obtained emails from that transition period, which is the period between when Trump was actually elected and when he became president.

[19:30:01] Now, it's important to note that at that time, these emails were housed on government servers. The transitions, both Trump's transitions and Hillary Clinton's transition that never really fully became a transition, are government run. They are housed on government servers, those emails.

And in this letter to Capitol Hill, the Trump transition team accused Mueller's investigation of going through the General Services Administration, which is a pretty benign government agency which provides hardware and different infrastructure to agencies here in Washington so that they can run.

And in a statement, the General Services Administration told "BuzzFeed" that, you know, the Trump transition team knew that they would be subject to law enforcement if they used their products and we have a statement, a statement that doesn't come out very often from Mueller's team.

And this is what Peter Carr, spokesman for Mueller says: When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal processes.

This all is not happening in a vacuum. It's important to note that. This is happening at the same time that many Trump supporters on Capitol Hill and in conservative media are trying to undercut Mueller and it seems like this is another aspect to that attempt -- Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Dan Merica for us at the White House -- Dan, thank you.

President Trump is looking ahead to this Tuesday's tax vote and responding to criticism that the plan will only help high earners.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Here is what he said on the White House lawn before leaving for Camp David.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will be great for jobs. It will be fantastic for the middle income people and for jobs. It will also benefit lots of other things. And we are looking to -- if you look at the whole thing, everybody is going to benefit. But I think the greatest benefit is going to be for jobs and for the middle class.


PAUL: Joining me now, Dorothy Brown, professor and tax policy expert at the Emory University School of Law, and James Davis, executive vice president of marketing at Freedom Partners.

Thank you both for being with us. We appreciate it.

Dorothy, I want to start with you because you are a tax policy expert, of course. Do you see the middle class getting a good benefit from this?

DOROTHY BROWN, PROFESSOR, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: Absolutely not. This tax plan was designed around tax cuts for corporations, 14 percentage points. For individuals, it's about 2 percent, and the individual tax cuts goes away after eight years. The corporate tax cuts are permanent. So, this is designed to put money in the pockets of shareholders which tend to be very high income.

PAUL: So, James, she brings up a good point about the temporary tax cuts for individuals. Do you think that there is a sense that people think, all right, this will be good for us in the short term and maybe they will change it long term?

JAMES DAVIS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, FREEDOM PARTNERS: First of all, this is great for Americans across the board, because what we have seen through history is both when Republican presidents and Democratic presidents have passed bold tax relief, we've seen more revenue come into the federal government and billions more in fact, and thousands more in disposable income and we've seen millions of jobs created.

If you look back at the Kennedy tax cuts, you saw 9.7 million jobs created through that. And you saw more than $2,500 dollars of disposable per capita income. That is tremendous.

If you look forward into the Reagan tax cuts, you see the same thing. You saw 11.7 million jobs created. And you saw more than $2,700 of per capita disposable income. This is going to create tremendous amount of jobs, more -- higher wages and, you know, that can't be discounted.

PAUL: James, there is no guarantee. (CROSSTALK)

PAUL: And people have admitted there is no guarantee what these corporate tax cuts, corporations will actually add more jobs.

DAVIS: History proves it out. So, one of the best indicators of the future is look back at history. So, I would encourage Professor Brown look back at history here and see how this bears out.

PAUL: Dorothy?

BROWN: Actually, he is actually wrong. So, with respect to the Reagan tax cuts, there were significant tax cuts on individuals that were -- individuals that were paid for with corporate tax cuts. So, the notion that corporations that actually have been said to have over trillion dollars in cash reserves are suddenly with more money going to raise wages when they haven't done it, when they've got over a trillion dollars of cash reserves defies logic and reality and history.

PAUL: You know, some Democrats, Dorothy, have said this isn't the time to tax cuts. And they say because the economy is doing well. But we haven't had tax reform in 30 years. There aren't a lot of people who dispute that there are changes that need to be made.

BROWN: Absolutely true. And a different tax bill, which would have centered on individual tax cuts, would have done everything or had the potential to do everything President Trump said. If you put more cash in the hands of middle class, lower income workers, they spend more. What the higher income taxpayer does with more income is hoard more.

[07:35:02] PAUL: So, depending on what happens here, James, what is -- what is the political ramification of this bill?

DAVIS: I think this is a huge boost for Republicans.

PAUL: Does it work?

DAVIS: This is a campaign promise -- this is a campaign promise that they have lived up to and President Trump deserves a lot of credit working with the House and Senate leadership of getting this to the floor. This is a historic opportunity.

And, you know, history bears this out. Again, I'd point back at those facts. Individuals will see more money in their pocket next year and the economy is already starting to take off a little bit in expectation of this tax reform. You already see companies like AT&T announce that they are going to invest more than a billion dollars in the U.S. That investment could have gone to another country. But, no, companies are looking here.

And other countries are actually talking about what they are going to do now to try to be competitive with the U.S. The U.S. has been so anti-competitive for such a long time and you don't have to take my word for it. Chuck Schumer said in 2012 that we have to lower the corporate income tax rate to be competitive globally. This is a global economy and this is exactly what we need at exactly

the right time.

PAUL: Dorothy, do you believe there was another way for the U.S. to become more competitive in the global market?

BROWN: Absolutely. The notion that corporate taxes were too high is -- does not -- is not borne out. Apple, very little in taxes. GE, very little in taxes. Retail industry, yes.

So, the notion that across the board, corporate taxes are too high is false, along with the idea that corporations will invest without supply and demand. Come on. Corporations don't hire workers because they have extra cash. They hire additional workers if the demand increases and there is no way the demand is going to increase when you have the small income tax cuts that individuals are getting compared to the huge tax cuts corporations are getting. It just defies logic.

DAVIS: It's 3.2 million.


PAUL: I'm sorry. We have run out of time.

James Davis, Dorothy Brown, we do appreciate both of you being with us, sharing your perspectives. Thank you. We will be looking to Tuesday with you.

BROWN: Thank you.

DAVIS: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Nevada Congressman Ruben Kihuen says he will not run for re-election after the House Ethics Committee opened into allegations he sexually harassed two women. Kihuen, a Democrat, has repeatedly denied the allegations. Earlier this month, he said he plans -- has rather no plans to resign.

PAUL: Still to come, free downloads of your favorite Websites and your apps, that could go away. Our next guest says we need to be afraid because Internet freedom, as we know it, may be coming to an end.

BLACKWELL: "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." You heard about it? It's going to move (INAUDIBLE) this weekend -- a lot of money coming in about this. We'll tell you just how much this movie has made.


[07:42:15] PAUL: Well, the Internet has always been an open platform, right, for free speech, for access to free information. That could change soon at the expense of you, the consumer.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Thursday, the FCC voted to turn control of the Internet over to your cable and Internet providers. Listen. I know this is something that may make your eyes glaze over. You're looking at the video. It's five or six people sitting at a bench and you don't know who these people are, but this means something for your real life. It has Democratic attorneys general in three states and public interest groups lining up to sue the agency.

Ninety seconds here from CNN correspondent Laurie Segall explaining what this means for the future of your Internet and more importantly to your wallet.



It has nothing to do with the volleyball or tennis court. The Net refers to the Internet, something as become as necessary as water and power for most of us. The neutrality part is about keeping the net the way it is today.

It's a set of rules that went into effect in 2015 to prevent speed traps on the information super highway. In other words, speeding up access to some sites and slowing down access to others -- or blocking certain sites entirely.

So, are these rules a bad thing? It depends on who you ask. The companies that deliver your Internet like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T have spent millions in lobbying money to get rid of net neutrality, arguing that having the government micro-manage their business is not good for them, or their consumers.

On the other side are Internet giants like Facebook and Google, streaming services like Netflix and former president Obama. They all argue the Internet is a public good and should be regulated like one. They also say that companies that own the pipelines could play favorites.

For example, a constant provider like Netflix is in direct competition with Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal and controls access to the Internet for over 20 million customers. You can imagine a scenario where NBC would want to speed up streams of its shows and slow down streams of its rivals, Netflix.

Now, Netflix can afford to pay for the fast lane. It's worth more than $70 billion, but the next Netflix, some awesome start-up, can't.


BLACKWELL: All right. So, now, with us to talk about this, attorney and consumer watchdog for victims of corporate abuse, Michael Burg.

Michael, thanks for being with us.

And, listen, I'm not sure people truly understand or can appreciate yet what this would mean for them. So explain for us as clearly as you can what this means for them and when they will see the impacts of this after this FCC vote potentially.

[07:45:00] MICHAEL BURG, ATTORNEY AND CONSUMER WATCHDOG: Well, thank you. It's great being on.

First of all, I think people have to understand it's not only about slowing down. It's also about controlling information. More people get their news from the Internet. More people use the internet than they use, for example, you know, cable news or local news.

And so, by having pay to play, it would allow corporations, it would allow the entities that are paying to make determinations as to what information and at what speed you get that information. I think it's a really dangerous slippery slope for consumers because by having this now pay for play, it will allow certain entities or certain corporations to be able to influence what information is going to be slowed down, what news is going to be slowed down. And what the consumer is going to be able to see.

PAUL: So, I'm sure there are a lot of people sitting back on what can I do this? Is there anything they can do?

BURG: Well, what --

PAUL: I mean, other than choosing certain providers and choosing what they want to see?

BURG: Well, what I recommend is that they actually write their congressman. I mean, even here in Colorado where my main base is, we have Republican and Democratic congressmen who want to bring this to Congress to look at this issue and hopefully, reverse this and go back to net neutrality.

So, I think people have to understand it's not just about entertainment. This is about news. This is about where people get their information. And if we have a pay for play, people are going to be only seeing one side of what the news -- we have this fake news thing going on. This is a dangerous situation and they need to act and write their congressman, their senators and let's get this changed back to where it was.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this. There are some people who are saying, listen, this is about overburdensome regulation, the president has said he is going to reduce regulation, some people like that. These rules are only as old as 2015 any way and they think back prior to that, everything was fine. You're crying wolf.

You say to them what?

BURG: Well, I would say to them, first of all, if you go back 10 years, people are getting their information not from the Net. Over the last five years, more and more people in this country rely on the Net to get their news.

So, no one is crying wolf here. When you allow people to control the speed of the information and being able to hoard information, and everyone is relying on that information for its accuracy, that's a real problem.

PAUL: All righty. Michael Burg, we appreciate your insight, sir. Thank you for being with us.

BURG: Thank you for having me on.

PAUL: All right. We will keep you informed how that is going and how it takes its turn this week as well.

But we want to talk about "Saturday Night Live" poking fun at Omarosa and her departure from the White House.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quick! Someone turn off the lights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too late. I see you in there Donald! Nobody kicks Omarosa out of the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, get away from the window right now!


BLACKWELL: All right. One in four Americans see a mental health therapist when they need help.

PAUL: But where are people getting that help? Because that is changing. There is a growing trend of doctors and patients that are getting away from the couch and they're going for a walk.


EDWARD ADAMS, THERAPY CLIENT: I can't tell you how I feel about something in 140 characters. I can, kind of.

DENICE CLARK, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST: Walk and talk therapy is what it sounds like. Rather than being enclosed, in an office space, the therapy session takes place outside while we walk. I mean, you know this is how I should be approaching it, and yet I am shutting that out right now.

For some clients, coming to therapy in an office setting is intimidating, and walking side by side, clients are more free to express themselves.

ADAMS: It makes me open up a little differently and makes the conversation seem more natural.

CLARK: I maintain their confidentiality. If we are too close to others, we will stop for a minute and let people pass.

ADAMS: I'm an outdoors guy by nature. I like to garden and I like being active. And so, this is just a natural fit for me. The park itself is really part of the therapy process. When I had therapy in the past, and you go into an office, it just feels sterile. CLARK: When we are out walking, we are moving forward and it's the

exact same thing we are doing in the therapeutic process, we are moving forward.



[07:54:10] BLACKWELL: "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is here, making little change, little bit of money.

PAUL: Just a little.

BLACKWELL: More than $200 million on opening weekend.

PAUL: Oh my goodness, and, you know, fans -- I could have gone to this last night.


PAUL: Because I had to choose my sleep.

BLACKWELL: Sometimes we have to choose.

PAUL: Sometimes we have to choose but other fans are raving about it already.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung spoke to some of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amazing. It was fantastic.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How did the film live up to your expectations?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen them all. This is probably at this stage, number one.

HARTUNG: Number one?



PAUL: So, guess which movie had the biggest numbers on opening day? The previous movie in the "Star Wars" series, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens". Oh, yes.

We are so grateful to always have you with us.

[07:55:00] Make some good memories today.

BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS" starts after the break. We'll leave you, though, this morning with a clip from "Saturday Night Live" getting into the spirit of Christmas. See you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This angel's got Robert Mueller's face on it because he's next. We've got to cut the head off this. We've got to cut off the head to kill the snake and I said, no, because I'm a mischievous little mongoose. Merry Christmas. Everybody is going to get away with everything.