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Trump's Agenda While Vacationing; U.S. Sending Anti-Tank Weapons to Help Ukraine; NYT: Trump Makes Inflammatory Statements about Immigrants in Meeting. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 23, 2017 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, again, everyone. And welcome back. Thanks for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
President Trump golfing on his first full day of vacation in West Palm Beach. This marks the 107th day he has visited one of his Trump properties. This, after signing a sweeping tax cut bill into law and cheering what he calls the largest tax cuts in history. The president wanted to celebrate that news with a traditional year-end news conference, but aides urged him not to, fearing questions about the Russia probe overshadowing his first major legislative victory.
Let's start with CNN's Boris Sanchez, who is near the president's resort in Florida.
Boris, what else do we know about the agenda of the president while vacationing?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred. The president told reporters this would be a working vacation. He has spent his first full day in south Florida at the Trump International Golf Course. We got video of him, apparently, finishing a round of golf earlier.
He wants to focus on several clear areas of concern with some of his advisors, he said yesterday, while he's here, including North Korea and areas that are escalating in the Middle East.
The president is also expected to begin work on his State of the Union address while here in Mar-a-Lago, which will be delivered to the nation toward the end of January.
Beyond that, the president has to weigh next steps when it comes to his legislative agenda following the major victory on tax reform. The two big options for the president and Republicans come down to either entitlement reform, welfare reform, something that House Speaker Paul Ryan has mentioned is likely a next step following tax reform, or something the president brought up to reporters yesterday, an infrastructure plan, something that he believes could lead to bipartisanship. Here's more of what the president told reporters yesterday in the Oval Office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really do believe we're going to have a lot of bipartisan work done. And maybe we start with infrastructure because I really believe infrastructure can be bipartisan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: The president believes Democrats will be enthusiastic about working with him on an infrastructure bill. He actually admitted that if would likely have been earlier to kick off his legislative agenda at the beginning of his presidency with something like infrastructure, where both parties can reach across the aisle and work together.
Beyond that, the president has to focus on his own team. There have been swirling rumors that for weeks that some key members of his staff may depart the cabinet, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson has denied any rumors that he may be departing from the State Department. Yet, this is something that will likely come up in the coming weeks for the president as his first year of office wraps up -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks so much. We'll check back with you.
Let's discuss this, the president's regulative win on taxes and where Trump and his fellow Republicans go from here in 2018. Joining me right now to talk about this, Josh Rogin, a CNN political analyst and a columnist for "The Washington Post."
Good to see you. Happy holidays.
The president celebrating his first major legislative win, but the tax cut plan remains deeply unpopular with many Americans. So is this a win that could end up hurting the president and the GOP overall, especially leading into midterms?
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITIAL ANALYST: Well, right now, Fred, it's a win. But the game is not over. There's a lot of time between now and November. So you've got a tax bill that's basically unpopular, but the president has a chance to do something about that. Now Trump said that he doesn't think he really has to sell the tax bill.
ROGIN: He does it, that would be a mistake. We saw that during Obamacare. The president sort of won the battle and lost the war. And Trump has 11 months to go around the country, convince people this is a really good idea. The deductions will put some money in people's paychecks right away, whereas the -
ROGIN: -- I mean the lower tax rates. But their loss of money won't come until they file their taxes much later. At the same time, right now, the numbers with working against him. He should try to fix that if he can.
WHITFIELD: OK. Signal is a little spotty, so just bear with us on that, Josh.
So the president, you know, arguing that he doesn't need to sell it. You're saying that's a mistake.
Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, you know, perhaps agrees with you. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don't think I'm going to have to travel too much to sell it. I think it's selling itself. It's becoming very popular. But I think it will really -- you'll see something on February 1st when they open up the paycheck.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: My view of this, if we can't sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: OK. So, Josh, you know, how does the president go about trying to sell this? I mean, he traditionally has not been very good about details and trying to really sell any kind of plan. But then, you know, touts that it is his idea, and it's going to be good, it's going to be great. The difference here is it's got his signature on it already. It is now law. But how much does the president, you know, need to tout about this plan before he even perhaps getting support on, say, infrastructure, where he says he is likely to get bipartisan support?
[13:05:13] ROGIN: Right. I think in the short term, he's got to explain what it is. He's got to point to the sort of near-term benefits. You see companies sort of announcing things because they want the tax law to be popular and they want people to think there are economic benefits. It really depends on if the economy grows. The whole team is gambling that big tax cuts for corporations will spur investment. That might night happen by November. So that's something that's outside the president's control. Most of this, he should try for sure. He should look to the next part of the GOP agenda, and he should try and make an effort with McConnell and Ryan and get on the same page. Right now, they're not on the same page, which is what's really most attractive to GOP voters.
This is an example of the fractures in the White House, fractures in the administration, fractures in the GOP. They're kind of coming together in a way that we didn't see in health care and we're not seeing on the road ahead. So is this just a moment of unity and then they'll go back to their squabbles? And some people are going to want DACA and welfare reform and infrastructure, which is not going to be an easy thing, by the way. Or can Trump use this to kind of chart a path in the next year, maybe in the State of the Union, that brings the party together and brings a vision to the voters that all the party can run on. I haven't seen that yet. But he ought to.
WHITFIELD: Well, traditionally, that State of the Union will present a sort of framework of this is the president's vision at least for, you know, the next year. But we know this president likes to buck tradition.
However, we do understand in between being on the golf course, as he is there in Florida, that he is planning to work on that State of the Union address. Do you see that there might be a return to some tradition for this president in that State of the Union address, where he will try to map out in some real detail, you know, what he sees for 2018?
ROGIN: Yes, but I don't think he can do that right now because, as you've seen from the recent reporting inside the White House, there's no agreement and inside -- Republicans, there's no agreement what the message should be going forward. We've had a series of contentious meetings, high-level White House departures, deputy chief of staff, Dearborn, Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell, and several others who won't be there in a month's time as this speech is getting written. Then you've got real concerns coming from the RNC leadership about Trump's dwindling support amongst women in the wake of the Roy Moore disaster. And that's not even touching upon all the international issues that are really coming to a head, talking about Iran, North Korea, just to name a couple.
So these are really big issues that the White House hasn't decided what they want to say and how they want deal with. And what happens is, in that vacuum, you know, we always have constant turf battles, but the knives are coming out. And this is an opportunity for all the people in Trump's orbit, especially when he comes down to Mar-a-Lago and sees all his friends and club members and people that John Kelly doesn't let in the White House anymore, he's going to get a bunch of really differing views. Because these people, one, have different views and, two, knock each other out of contention in the battle for Trump's love and attention. So that hasn't played out yet. He can start to write the speech but, I assure you, the speech won't get really done until probably the days right before he has to give it. And there's no way, really, to predict right now how it's going to come right.
WHITFIELD: He'll get an earful from regular advisers, but, yes, lots of friends while he's there in Florida.
Speaking of that Roy Moore defeat, there is a report in "Politico" that the RNC chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, actually warned the White House that if President Trump were to back Roy Moore in Alabama, it would only make Trump and the party's numbers with women far worse. Memos -- the memo from McDaniel reads, in part, "The president's poor approval numbers among women nationally and in several states."
So how conscientious might the GOP be of that?
ROGIN: I think the GOP is very concerned about that and I think the numbers support that concern. Here is the problem. The president of the United States is not indicating he's concerned about this at all. Let's remember one of the stories that President Trump likes to tell the most is what happened in the fallout after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out last October. Then the RNC leader, Reince Priebus, told him he had to withdraw from the race or face the worst presidential loss in modern history, and that didn't happen. Trump doesn't believe the numbers.
He doesn't believe the advice of the experts. His confidence in his own personal powers to overcome these kinds of large shifts in the electorate are real big concerns about core issues, like how does he treat women and how are women viewed by the Republican Party leadership, he doesn't seem to be indicating in any way that he's going to change his approach based on any of that information.
You know, he's a 71-year-old president, who has a lifetime of actions that has led him to this spot, and all that has done is given him confidence that what he's doing is the right thing to do. I don't think he's going to change. He is who he is.
[13:10:44] WHITFIELD: Yes.
ROGIN: And most of the Republican Party (INAUDIBLE.
WHITFIELD: I think you just teed it up very succinctly, 2018, more of the same.
All right, Josh Rogin, thanks so much. Happy new year, right around the corner.
ROGIN: Thanks. You, too.
WHITFIELD: All right, straight ahead, Russia says U.S. plans for Ukraine will result in new bloodshed. We'll explain what's putting the U.S. and Russia now at odds.
[13:15:20] WHITFIELD: Welcome back this Saturday. The U.S. going to provide anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, a U.S. State Department official tells CNN. The State Department describes the weapons as entirely defensive in nature, meant to help the country build its long-term defenses and deter what it calls further aggression. Since the Russians annexed the Crimea region back in 2014, the Ukrainian government has been asking for these kinds of weapons. The move also comes during an uptick in clashes between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists in the region.
CNN's global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, joining us now and following this story from Washington.
Elise, how is this move likely to play out in Moscow?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Already, Fred, the Russians are clearly unhappy with it. The Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov issued a statement earlier today saying that this first approval of lethal weapons to the Ukrainians crosses a line and it will create additional bloodshed in the region. And of course, that's what some people are concerned about, that Russia will use this as a pretext to crack down further on Ukraine and launch further incursions into Ukraine. But the Ukrainians have been asking for this for a long time and many
members of Congress have also been pushing the Obama administration and now the Trump administration. The Obama administration had started allowing the sale of U.S.-made light weapons to the Ukrainians. President Trump did the same earlier last week. But this is the first time that these lethal weapons are being allowed to the Ukrainians. And that's why the State Department says it's defensive in nature but that's because, you know, they're facing what the U.S. calls Russian aggression. And these anti-tank missiles can puncture those kinds of armored vehicles that the Russians and Russian-backed separatists use.
WHITFIELD: Elise, this is interesting, Senator McCain, who is not in Washington, you know, for the tax plan vote, instead went to Arizona. He hasn't been feeling completely well, you know, in the midst of his, you know, brain cancer treatment. But then Senator McCain did send out a statement today commenting on this, you know, arms I guess delivery, you know, coming soon. And what is he saying exactly?
LABOTT: Well, you know, Senator McCain has been one of the staunchest proponents of giving aid to Ukrainians even since like 2012, 2013 when this all began and the annexation of Crimea. He issued a statement from Arizona earlier today. I'll read a little bit from that statement. He said, "President Trump's reported decision to provide Javelin anti-tank munitions" -- that's among the munitions that the U.S. will be selling to Ukraine" -- "marks another significant step in the right direction and sends a strong signal that the United States will stand by its allies and partners as they fight to defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity. The decision is years overdue. But as Vladimir Putin continues to sow instability in Ukraine and Russian-led forces escalate their deadly attacks, it could not come at a more important time."
Fred, you'll remember, when President Trump was on the campaign trail for the 2016 election, there was some concern that he would, you know, possibly recognize Crimea as Russian territory. He said he would consider it. There was fears that he might lift sanctions against Russia that the Obama administration posed against Ukraine. But I think this is evidence that's not happening. In fact, I think this is a little bit of a, you know, kind of tougher line towards Russia, specifically where it affects Russian actions in Ukraine. Officials say that President Trump has been watching this very closely and very upset by it.
[13:20:10] WHITFIELD: All right, Elise Labott, thanks so much from Washington.
In a harsh rebuke to North Korea, the United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to adopt tough new sanction against the rogue state. They're designed to stop the use of North Korean workers overseas and chokes off the supply of industrial equipment and fuel. U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, says the new sanctions -- restrictions, I should say, are a direct response to North Korea's most recent ballistic missile test in November.
We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. A just released "New York Times" article reports on explosive details of a June Oval Office meeting about President Trump's aggressive immigration agenda. In the article, the president is accused of making several inflammatory statements about immigrants.
"The Times" article citing six officials who attended or were briefed on meeting details the president was visibly upset about immigrants flooding into the United States despite his campaign promise to fortify the nation's borders. Venting to his national security team, the president reportedly began reading from a document given to him by domestic policy adviser, Steven Miller, that listed how many immigrants received U.S. visas in 2017.
And according to one of the officials who attended the meeting, according to this "New York Times" reporting, the document read that -- and I'm quoting now from how it's written out of "The New York Times," Haiti had sent 15,000 people and the president's being quoted here as saying, "They all have AIDS," he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting. And then in this meeting, apparently, it was also mentioned how many had come from Nigeria. I'm quoting now, how it's written from the "New York Times," "40,000 had come from Nigeria." Mr. Trump added, "Once they had seen the United States, they would never," quote, "go back to their huts in Africa," recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity.
Now I want to bring in one of the reporters, Michael Shear, of "The New York Times," who helped break this story.
Michael, good to see you.
This meeting now already Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the spokesperson, you had reached out to, and according to the article, Sanders is saying this didn't happen. So how did this come about? Do you have sources who either heard of or were in attendance of this meeting who were giving you quotes of how the president reacted to these things?
[13:26:10] MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
My colleague, Julie Davis, and I both covered the White House. We spent the last several months working on a very long piece about the president's immigration policy throughout the entire year. So we tried to trace from the beginning of the year, which started with the travel ban, all the way through a lot of the different pieces of immigration policy that the president has tried to implement, a lot of which has been aimed at securing the borders, you know, making sure that people don't come into the United States.
As part of that reporting, we talked to several people who described this meeting in which the president came into the Oval Office, had a lot of his national security team there, and was essentially complaining -- this is about halfway through his year in June -- complaining that the steps they had taken so far hadn't done enough to secure the borders, to keep people out, that people were still flooding in, in his words, as too many people coming in and they posed potentially a threat and other problems.
And it was in the course of the reporting for that, of that meeting that we talked to people who described how the meeting went and what the president said, and as you described, that he read from a list of countries and how many people had come in from those countries and that's when he made derogatory comments, first, about the Haitians and then the Nigerians and others.
So we're confident. We stand by our sourcing. We're confident that story is true. The White House did push back very aggressively late last night and early this morning, sending us a note that said that several of the cabinet secretaries who were in the meeting at the time say it didn't happen, not that the meeting didn't happen, but the comments weren't said. But we stand by our reporting. And I think we would encourage people to look at the entire story because there are many, many different aspects of this story. It's long. It's a long piece. It talks not just about this meeting, which I think is emblematic of his approach on immigration, but also kind of about the rest of the year and all the different things the administration did.
WHITFIELD: You also write in your reporting that there's real consternation that, apparently, it elicited quite the emotional response from John Kelly, who is now chief of staff. At the time, it was secretary of state, you know, Tillerson, Rex Tillerson, who was in the meeting or at least listening to the comments from the president, as well as this documentation. But that seems to really underscore some real fissures, too, in how they were handling what you are reporting to have happened in that meeting.
SHEAR: Right, this was essentially the president and most of the national security apparatus that deals with this issue, deal also with the immigration and border patrol. And there was -- it was described to us as very heated and a lot of back and forth and a lot of cross talk. And at one point, Mr. Kelly, General Kelly, who is now the chief of staff, who was then the Homeland Security secretary, and Steven Miller, the domestic policy advisor, really did sort of gang up on Secretary Tillerson, whose State Department, of course, manages the sort of entry into the country.
That's the Consular Affairs Division of the State Department. So there was a lot of tension. And, at one point, Secretary Kelly sort of looked around the room realized there were other aides in the room, and said, you know, would you clear the room here if we're going to continue this conversation. And at that point, many of the more junior folks left and it was just the cabinet secretaries who remained to continue the conversation with the president.
[13:30:00] WHITFIELD: So this almost indicates, too, in reading your article, that, you know, the real differences of approach were apparent even then, particularly with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson kind of being on outside of how he was digesting this kind of information. It almost sounds, from this article, that if -- taking offense is too strong of a language -- that he seemed uncomfortable with this kind of response coming from the president as you reported.
SHEAR: Look, this wasn't a piece designed to look at the question of the fissures inside the administration. There's been reporting about the differences between Secretary Tillerson and others on the president's staff and the president himself. So this wasn't -- the idea of this article wasn't to sort of get at that. But it's certainly true what was true about that meeting is there was a lot of frustration, a lot of raw emotion and raw feeling.
What we documented in the rest of the story is that it took a while for the president's staff to kind of figure out how to maneuver the levers of power in government to get the things done that he wanted to get done on administration. And so what didn't work as well at the beginning of the administration -- we all remember the chaos of that first travel ban. When you sort of get to the end of the year, he's reduced limits on refugee entry into the country. He's ratchetted up enforcement and deportations inside the country. So you get this sense that, regardless of what the disagreements and divisions were among some of the key players, by the end of the year, the administration has done an ineffective job at implementing this restrictionist agenda, and this keep-people-out agenda, which is what the president really wanted to do when he came into office.
WHITFIELD: We talked about Nigeria and Haiti. But also on the issue of Afghanistan, that was also something that was discussed. And you're reporting it here, you know, "'More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven,' the president complained." That's how you have it written in your article. But give me some detail on how the 2,500 number from Afghanistan was part of that documentation that was either being read to, in some part, and then also the president reading and what his response meant.
SHEAR: Well, so one of the things that was said back to the president during that meeting, according to our sources, was from Mr. Kelly, that these numbers you're seeing on the paper, Mr. President, are largely, you know, they don't, they're not indicative of threats, they're an overall number of people coming into the United States from those countries. So that can include, like Afghanistan, it can certainly include people who had worked with the American military as translators or people who had relatives --
WHITFIELD: So arrangements.
SHEAR: -- in the United States. So they were trying to say to him, look, don't take these numbers and think, wow, all of these people are threats. But it indicates the level of frustration on the president's part that even just a number on a page triggers in him like, hey, we're not doing enough to keep the country safe. And they would argue that's what the president's motivation here is, to secure the country against threats. We've seen some of the attacks that happened in the last couple of months, the one in New York City, and what have you. So their argument would be, look, this is what angers the president, is that, you know, we're not doing enough to secure our borders, and what this meeting shows is that sometimes comes out in very raw ways.
WHITFIELD: This was the White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders' response to your reporting saying, quote, "General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen and all other senior staff actually in this meeting deny these outrageous claims. It's both sad and telling 'The New York Times' would print the lies of their anonymous sources anyway."
Also in your reporting, you mentioned that there were people outside of the room, but they could hear the sentiments of the president and that he seemed enraged.
SHEAR: Yes, he was clearly angry, according to people we talked to, both who had been in the meeting but also been briefed about it. Just to clarify, folks -- when we reference folks who had been moved out of meeting and were outside -- the meeting at one point, as I mentioned, did get cleared out of some of the other staff members -- we're not suggesting they could hear through the closed door the specifics of the conversation, but once they were outside and the door closed, they could clearly hear that the conversation remained heated and was ongoing.
WHITFIELD: OK, Michael Shear, it's a fascinating read. Thank you so much for joining us, with "The New York Times." Appreciate it.
SHEAR: Sure. Thank you very much.
[13:34:47] WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The White House tried to make it crystal clear this week that President Trump is not considering firing Special Counsel Bob Mueller. This, after Democratic Senator Mark Warner took to the Senate floor Thursday to warn that firing Mueller would be a, quote, "gross abuse of power."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER, (D), VIRGINIA: In the United States of America, no one, no one is above the law. Not even the president. Congress must make clear to the president that firing the special counsel or interfering with his investigation by issuing pardons of essential witnesses is unacceptable and would have immediate and significant consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[13:40:10] WHITFIELD: Immediately after that speech, White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, put out a statement saying, in part, "For five months or more, the White House has persistently and emphatically stated there is no consideration of firing the special counsel. And the White House willingly affirms, yet again, as it has every day this week, there is no consideration being given to the termination of the special counsel."
Let's talk more about this with my legal minds, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor in Cleveland, and Richard Herman, a criminal defense attorney and law professor, joining us from Las Vegas.
Good to see you guys. Happy holidays. Merry Christmas.
WHITFIELD: All right, Richard, you first.
Warner says he brought this up because he was concerned the president could try to fire Mueller while Congress is in recess. So is Mueller in jeopardy with Congress, you know, not -- with Congress and Washington not necessarily not trying to protect him any further than what we heard from Warner?
RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Well, they're not going to protect him, Fred, and I absolutely believe Trump will fire Mueller. The more he says he won't, we know he will, because he's a serial compulsive liar. The White House lies on a daily basis. And his minions lie for him on a daily basis.
But let me tell you why the Democrats have their hands tied behind their back and they can't do anything about it. There's nothing they can do. Say Mueller says crimes were committed and makes the report to the House of Representatives, there was obstruction of justice, there was conspiracy with the Russians to affect the election, and throw in a money laundering count. The House of Representatives needs a majority vote, Fred, in order to draft articles of impeachment.
HERMAN: If they do, the Senate, which will try Trump, needs a two- thirds majority. That ain't never going to happen. There's absolutely nothing the Democrats can do if Trump fires Mueller.
I believe he's going to do it. He crossed the red line, according to Trump.
HERMAN: He subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, from Wells Fargo, it's getting personal with the Trump finances. I'm telling you, Fred, he is absolutely going to fire him.
WHITFIELD: I think we got the gist of it that you believe a Republican-controlled Senate would not follow through on Mueller's recommendation. I say that because there was a little hit in your signal there, Richard.
So, Avery, the deputy attorney, Rod Rosenstein, really has the oversight of Mueller's investigation and, so far, he has been vocal. He recently, on Capitol Hill, said that he backs Mueller.
This is what was said on December 14th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I know what he's doing. I'm appropriately exercising my oversight responsibilities. So I can assure you that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding about the scope of his investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Have you seen good cause to fire Special Counsel Mueller?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe. It would be Rosenstein who would really have the authority, right, to remove Mueller. He just said it on record that, you know, he can't see any reason why Mueller should go anywhere.
AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Right.
WHITFIELD: But then, back to the hypothetical, you know, Avery, if there were an effort to remove Mueller, does that mean the entire team would be removed or it's just the head of that special counsel team would be removed, and the team would have to, you know, continue on and perhaps another special counsel -- I mean, lots of hypotheticals here. Another special counsel would be named?
FRIEDMAN: No, no, no. Good hypotheticals. Those are good hypotheticals.
FRIEDMAN: Again, your first question was, now that Congress is in recess, can the president make a recess appointment? Congress actually outsmarted the president. They're not in recess. It's an adjournment. They're keeping it open. They're not going to let the president try to pull something like that.
Let's return to your question. In order to get rid of Rosenstein, it really -- the president can't fire him. He can instruct Sessions, who's recused himself, to fire him. If he does, and then Sessions fires Rosenstein, it then goes to the associate attorney general, a person named Rachel Brand. So it goes down the line. But the idea that the president has no consideration, parenthesis, right now, I think really means that he's going to keep his options open.
And you know what's really important, Fredricka, this week was an enormous and remarkable meeting between the lawyers in the Trump administration and the lawyers of the office of special counsel.
FRIEDMAN: And you know what, in the highway coming out of Washington, with leaks and gossip, they were extremely tight-lipped. Because I think the office of special counsel wants the president's returns. And here we go again. They will connect those returns to what has surfaced through Michael Flynn and others. And no one has talked about it because no one leaked anything. And that is an enormous issue coming up for 2018. [13:45:08] HERMAN: Right.
WHITFIELD: OK. Well, maybe that's very impressive that those involved have been very tight-lipped.
FRIEDMAN: It is. Yes.
HERMAN: Fred --
WHITFIELD: Yes, go.
HERMAN: They already have his returns, Avery. They've had them for a while. They absolutely have his tax reforms, number one. Number two, they want him to give testimony. That's what they want. And his counsel have been blowing smoke up his butt, telling him, oh, it's going to be over by Thanksgiving, it's going to be over by Christmas.
HERMAN: This is six months to a year down the road, at a minimum, Fred.
HERMAN: This is going to go on for a while. More --
HERMAN: -- Jared Kushner's going to get indicted next. This is going to be a long haul here.
I'm telling you, Fred, just like the Republicans did when Obama nominated a representative to the Supreme Court, they ignored him. When Gorsuch was put up by Trump, they changed the voting requirements to get him approved. The Democrats did nothing. This tax bill, that was just signed off on, the Republicans did it without the Democrats.
FRIEDMAN: You're getting far afield.
HERMAN: Didn't consult them. They voted on it without even reading it.
FRIEDMAN: You're getting far afield.
HERMAN: He's going to fire Mueller and there's nothing the Democrats can do, Fred.
WHITFIELD: OK, then both of you agree if, if that hypothetical were to happen, and there were a firing or removal of -- I've heard of language of constitutional crisis many times over, that's what this would lead to.
HERMAN: You just nailed the issue. It will be, just like the Saturday Night Massacre," it will be a serious and remarkable constitutional crisis.
WHITFIELD: Right, and what administration could afford that?
If you've spoken with any Trump supporters, they're blinded. It's tunnel vision. He could do anything, they're not going to change their mind about him. He could go on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone, won't lose a vote.
AVERY: It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter.
HERMAN: Of course, it matters. He can do whatever he wants right now. And there's nothing the Democrats can do about it.
WHITFIELD: Well, all right, except so many are arguing that, you know, given the balance of power and, you know, that, no --
HERMAN: It's out of whack, that's the problem.
WHITFIELD: -- you can't do anything you want.
FRIEDMAN: Exactly right.
WHITFIELD: All right there are consequences to them.
All right, Richard Herman, Avery Friedman -
FRIEDMAN: Fredricka, merry Christmas.
WHITFIELD: Thank you, and Merry Christmas and happy New Year.
WHITFIELD: I look forward to seeing more of you in 2018.
WHITFIELD: I know you were Hawaii bound.
WHITFIELD: Well, enjoy.
All right, gentlemen, always good to see you.
WHITFIELD: I appreciate you every day of the year.
WHITFIELD: Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, happy holidays, happy New Year, and see you in 2020.
HERMAN: You bet. Thanks.
WHITFIELD: All right, take care.
We'll be right back.
[13:52:13] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. In the last push before Christmas this weekend, delivery trucks will be out in full force this weekend scrambling to get those packages to those destinations just before Christmas. And that's a fact not lost on thieves hoping to the get their hands on your presents before you do.
CNN's Dan Lieberman has more on the problem of holiday theft.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: As you can see he's thinking about it, and he walks right up to the front there. And then goes ahead and takes the package.
DAN LIEBERMAN, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's something that's happening all across the country. Some of it caught on camera.
(on camera): Are you seeing more packages being stolen this year?
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Absolutely. I think it's -- it's becoming quite the epidemic.
LIEBERMAN (voice-over): One survey found 23 million Americans have had a package stolen. In this holiday season, maybe the biggest heist yet with more than a billion packages being delivered as more people do their shopping online.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: That one as well. We're going to be running two teams. Make sure everybody is vested up.
LIEBERMAN: This police unit is trying to catch package thieves in the act.
(on camera): You've got a flat screen TV.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: We have what's made to look like a player over here.
LIEBERMAN: Someone trying to steal this would be pretty disappointed when they open it up.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Absolutely. And --
LIEBERMAN: There's nothing in here.
As you see someone trying to steal this, you'll jump out and arrest them?
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Correct.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: We have two surveillance teams with packages placed on their doorsteps. The chances of one of them being stolen is possible
LIEBERMAN (voice-over): Lieutenant Reiner (ph) says it's all too easy for thieves to snatch up these packages.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: This is a prime example of how easy it is to commit one of these thefts. The package is clearly visible from the road on a high-traveled street.
LIEBERMAN: So far, his department has recovered more than 100 items this season that they hope to return to their rightful owners.
(on camera): What do we have here, blenders?
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: We have blenders, make up, sneakers. We have some higher-end items.
LIEBERMAN (voice-over): Packages have already been returned, but a lot of people are still missing their gifts.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: We all have families and we want to put smiles on your children's faces on Christmas morning, and just to find out that an individual stole a package is really -- it's heartbreaking.
[13:54:40] WHITFIELD: Yes, it is heartbreaking.
Dan Lieberman, thank you so much.
We'll be right back.
[13:59:18] WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Frederica Whitfield.
A just released "The New York Times" article reports on explosive details of a June Oval Office meeting about President Trump's aggressive immigration agenda. In the article, the president is accused of making several inflammatory statements about immigrants. "The Times" article, citing six officials who attended or were briefed on the meeting, says the president was visibly upset about what he called immigrants flooding into the country, despite his campaign promise to fortify the nation's borders. Venting to his national security team, the president reportedly began reading from a document given to him by domestic policy advisor, Steven Miller, that listed how many immigrants received U.S. visas in 2017. And according to one of the officials who attended the meeting, the document read, "Haiti has 15,000 people. The president then added, quote, "They all have AIDS," end quote. The article --