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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Trump Slams "Tainted" FBI, "Bogus" Russia Dossier; Trump: Dems and Republicans Will Come Together On Health Care; Trump Aiming For Bipartisanship On Taxes, Health Infrastructure But Will Dems Work With Him?. Aired 7-8pm ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[19:00:02] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: -- in a new way. Be sure to check out Anderson Cooper and his good friend Andy Cohen for an epic celebration, 8:00 Eastern New Year's eve only on CNN.

I'm Brianna Keilar. Thank you for watching. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.

PAMELA BROWN, OUTFRONT HOST: And OutFront next, attacking the FBI. President Trump ramping up his war of words on the FBI. So what's the strategy behind all of these angry tweets?

Plus, North Korea calls new U.S. sanctions an act of war. Are the U.S. and Kim Jong-un on a collision course in 2018?

And Russian military ships lurking off the British coastline. Is Putin testing Trump? Let's go OutFront.

And good evening. I'm Pamela Brown in for Erin Burnett. And OutFront tonight, the President lashing out at the nation's top law enforcement agency once again. Earlier today, he fired off a blistering tweet calling the bureau, quote, tainted and labeling the Russian dossier's alleged ties between his campaign and Russia as bogus.

He said, "Wow, Fox and Friends dossier is bogus. Clinton campaign, DNC funded dossier. FBI cannot, after all this time, verify claims in the dossier of Russia/Trump collusion. FBI tainted. And they used this crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump campaign."

Now, remember that the dossier's assertion that Russia waged a campaign to interfere in the 2016 election and wanted to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton has been verified and accepted by the U.S. intelligence community. Many of the more salacious parts of the dossier remain unconfirmed.

Now the President has also been targeting FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe in multiple tweets over the holidays. And despite his Christmas day tweet that tomorrow it's back to work, the President spent part of his day working on his swing on the golf course.

Abby Phillip is OutFront in West Palm Beach for us this evening right near the winter White House. So Abby, what's the strategy here for the President with these tweets?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good night, Pamela. Well, the President has been relentlessly attacking the FBI and also the people who are charged with investigating his associates' alleged ties to the Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Now, all of this is happening as his allies on the Hill are actually looking into potential misconduct at the FBI. And the President's tweets seem to feed into that narrative that there's a problem at the highest levels of the FBI where officials were tainted from the beginning. Tying Andrew McCabe to the Hillary Clinton campaign, for example.

But it's worth noting here that Andrew McCabe is also one of the people that the President interviewed earlier this year to replace the fired FBI Director James Comey. At that time, the President seemed to make no mention of some of these concerns that he's been raising on social media in recent days, Pam.

BROWN: All right. Abby Phillip, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

And now, I want to bring in Evan Perez. Evan, President Trump said in today's tweet that the dossier is bogus, but that's not entirely true, right?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's really not that simple to sort of boil it down to that. It's true that the dossier was compiled as opposition research. Republicans opposed to Donald Trump and then Democrats who were connected to Hillary Clinton's campaign paid to gather negative information on him. But the dossier itself is considered raw intelligence. It's a series of memos that was put together by a former British intelligence officer who the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community considered to have a good reputation.

Now, the basic thesis is this, that the Russians were trying to meddle in the U.S. elections and they were trying to use connections with people close to Donald Trump and with Trump's businesses to try to exert that influence. And that was a serious concern among U.S. intelligence officials. Even before the FBI got ahold of early drafts of the dossier last summer.

The important issue here, Pamela, is that the Russians -- the interference by the Russians occurred. And even if the President and some of his supporters don't want to accept that, that did happen. Now, some of the allegations in the dossier have been corroborated. Some of it has not been. But the important thing here is that the President's tweets are a bit of a side show.

The Special Counsel is conducting its own independent investigation. It's not relying on the dossier for that investigation at this point. And those who want to discredit it and the entire investigation have sort of zeroed in on the dossier because that's the distraction they'd rather focus on, Pamela. BROWN: Even though, as you point out, Robert Mueller's team isn't necessarily focused on the dossier. Yet the President appears fixated on it. All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much for that.

PEREZ: OK.

BROWN: And OutFront now, former White House Ethics Lawyer under President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, and CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Richard, first to you. President Trump as we were just discussing has attacked Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

[19:05:05] Just the other day, he went after James Comey. Today, he's going after the FBI as a whole. Calling it tainted. But if you notice, he isn't going after Special Counsel Robert Mueller himself. What do you make of that?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER W.H. ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think his lawyers have told him to lay off Robert Mueller. They ought to be telling him to lay off twitter completely. But with Robert Mueller, attempts to go after Robert Mueller are going to be viewed, I think correctly, as obstruction of justice.

And if he makes a move on Robert Mueller, he's going to do it through trying to fire him or put someone in the Justice Department who's going to curtail the investigation. In other words, he's going to actually do something about Robert Mueller rather than just attack him on twitter. So I think he's holding back on Robert Mueller, but he's attacking McCabe, which I think is intimidation of a witness in a criminal investigation. It may not itself be actionable as a crime in and of itself, but it is certainly a very bad thing for him to be doing and combined with other acts, could compound the case against him for obstruction of justice.

BROWN: So what do you think about that, Jeffrey Toobin? Do you think that Robert Mueller sees it that way, that he's basically intimidating a witness with Andrew McCabe, and what would the implications of that be?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think he is trying to intimidate Andrew McCabe, but I don't think it's a crime in and of itself. You know, the President even though he is the superior of the superior of the superior of Andrew McCabe, he is not immediately trying to fire him. He is not trying to intimidate him. Andrew McCabe is on his way out as a government official.

And the President does have the right to free speech. He does have the right to speak out about this investigation. But I do think there is very clearly a political agenda here which is to turn Robert Mueller into a political actor in these polarized times so that Trump supporters see Mueller instead of as a independent law enforcement official, as just another Democratic pursuer of the President.

BROWN: But you know, that's so interesting because if you'll recall, when Robert Mueller was first appointed, there was widespread praise on both sides of the aisle. Let's take a listen to some of that praise. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Director Mueller, a former Director Mueller, has now been appointed. I think virtually everyone has full confidence that he's going to conduct a thorough and fair investigation.

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We need to know more about 2016, and the American people should applaud the appointment of Bob Mueller this week as Special Counsel.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Bob Mueller is a Republican who is appointed by a Republican who served in the Republican administration and crossed over. I mean, and stayed on until his term ended. But I don't think many people are saying Bob Mueller is a person who is a biased partisan. He's really sort of anything but.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So what do you think, Richard? I mean, this is what the Republicans said when he was appointed. Now, you hear all these Republicans on Capitol Hill trying to make the case like Jeffrey said that he's, you know, basically a liberal or has an agenda.

PAINTER: Well, that's some of the Republicans on Capitol Hill. The ones either in safe districts, extremely conservative pro-Trump districts, or who have lost their mind, because most of the Republicans on Capitol Hill are just trying to keep their head low, knowing it's not going to be good later on in 2018 in the elections. The American people are not buying this. Any of these attacks on Robert Mueller, on McCabe, or on anybody else connected with the FBI or connected with the Special Counsel's office.

And these constant tweets, well they may be within the President's first amendment rights, he is incriminating himself. He's displaying his motives with respect to actions he did take, including the firing of James Comey. And I do think that when you put this tweet together with the other tweets, the one where he apparently acknowledged that he knew that General Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired General Flynn, and you put it all together, these tweets could be an important part of a legal case against the President for obstruction of justice.

TOOBIN: Pamela, I actually think the President has been more effective than we're giving him credit for here. If you look at the polls for better or worse, Republicans now have a much more negative view --

BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: -- of Robert Mueller than they did when he was appointed. You know, the President has succeeded in politicizing this investigation. And that means that Mueller is seen at least by more people than previously as someone who is sort of part of the political maelstrom in which we live instead of an independent actor. This will serve as an opportunity to attack him if he takes even more direct action against the President. [19:10:07] I'm not saying the President was right to do that. But I think we need to acknowledge that there has been a change of perception, at least by the Republican base.

BROWN: It does appear that --

PAINTER: I would just say everybody who knows Robert Mueller knows it's a lie. Robert Mueller is a loyal American. He's a Republican, and it's a lie being perpetrated by President Trump and his supporters in Congress. Nobody who knows Robert Mueller buys into any of it. It's just Fox News and the President's twitter feed.

TOOBIN: Well --

BROWN: But it's clear what they're trying to do here is not maybe say OK, Robert Mueller himself, you know, has some agenda, but perhaps it's his judgment. He brings on people who donated to the Democratic parties. Peter Strzok, who he did take out of the investigation, was texting anti-Trump bias texts. I mean, do you see that kind of -- do you see that play, Richard?

PAINTER: No, I think he took him out as soon as he found out about the texts. He got rid of him. And, of course, you're going to have people who contributed to the campaigns who work at the Justice Department and elsewhere. Every U.S. attorney is going to be a supporter of President Trump, and would have been active in his campaign. And the U.S. attorneys under President Obama were supportive of Democratic campaigns and Americans are investigated and prosecuted by these U.S. attorneys all the time.

The idea that somehow the most powerful man in our country is being victimized because there a handful of staffers on the Robert Mueller team who contributed to Hillary Clinton. I mean, that's a joke.

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, you know, I think this is such an important point that Richard is making. The, you know, the U.S. attorneys in this country are appointed by, in effect, the President's party in that state. And Preet Bharara, who is, you know, is now our colleague at CNN, who was, you know, an aide to Chuck Schumer before he became U.S. attorney here. And I think he did widely acknowledge to be an excellent job.

And the fact that there are people in the Justice Department who have previously expressed political views is nothing new. It's not disqualifying. But it's being used here by the President and his allies to create the impression that there is something wrong with this investigation. And that's false, but a lot of people believe it.

BROWN: Why do you think that is? Why do you think a lot of people believe it then, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: Well, I think because we live in this tribal moment. We live in a moment where people are so closely -- you know, feel so passionately either for or against Donald Trump that they are prepared to believe anything that supports their previously conceived -- previously expressed beliefs. So people who like Trump believe that anyone who is investigating him has to be somehow a partisan.

And Donald Trump and his supporters have, you know, clung to these very thin reeds, Peter Strzok campaign contributions, and this gives people a reason to believe what they already want to believe, I think.

BROWN: And it's really the repetition. I mean, the President time and time again keeps tweeting about the FBI, keeps tweeting that it's tainted, going after individuals. You know, clearly like you pointed out in that poll, that is resonating with some of his followers. Go ahead.

TOOBIN: And he's the President. And I think, you know, you make a very good point, Pamela, that, you know, when the President tweets, you know, some people think, well, we should just ignore it. You know, it's just -- you know, but we can't do that. He's the President.

BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean, we have always covered the utterances of the President. It's a new technology, but it's still very clearly coming from him. And the repetition really does have an impact.

BROWN: Yes. I mean, the President's behavior matters, no doubt. What he puts out on twitter, even if he thinks about it for five seconds, it matters.

All right, Jeffrey Toobin, Richard Painter, really great discussion with you both. Thank you so much.

And OutFront up next, President Trump predicting that Republicans and Democrats will come together on health care in 2018. So where's the evidence of that?

Plus, the vice gets tighter on North Korea with new sanctions against the rogue regime, but will they cripple the nuclear weapons program or cause Kim Jong-un to act out? That's the big question. And by the way, President Trump playing golf today in Florida. Here's some video of that. Do you think he forgot this promise?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf. Believe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:18:16] BROWN: Well new tonight, President Trump hoping a new year will mean a new opportunity for bipartisanship, specifically on health care. One of his key campaign promises.

In a tweet this morning, Trump said, "Based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular individual mandate has been terminated as part of our tax cut bill, which essentially repeals over time Obamacare, the Democrats and Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new health care plan." So will Trump be able to get the Dems to play on any major pieces of legislation?

OutFront now, CNN Political Director David Chalian, and Politico National Political Reporter Eliana Johnson, and former Presidential Adviser for four presidents, David Gergen. Great to see the three of you.

David Chalian, I'm going to start with you here. The President, you know, has a major legislative victory with tax reform. Right off the heels of that, but with no support from Democrats. So why is he refocusing his attention on health care, which has already failed?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, part of what he's doing is touting the success that he sees in getting a piece of Obamacare out the window with this tax reform bill, which is the individual mandate. And part of that, I think, is also bending to the reality that indeed, any work on health care going forward, just by the nature of the numbers, will have to be bipartisan. But I want to make this point about -- we should caution against thinking that is something likely to happen.

I think one of the biggest political developments of the year due to the President's low approval rating is the fact that some of these deep red state Democrats who serve from states in the election where Donald Trump won by double digits last year, felt no real political pressure on big ticket items, whether it be tax reform or health care, to join with Republicans. That, to me, is big indication of just how difficult any kind of bipartisan work is going to be.

[19:20:12] BROWN: Right, so why would they do it, 2018 just before the midterms. Eliana, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has emphasized the need for bipartisanship with such a narrow margin in the Senate. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: It's not much you can do on a partisan basis in the Senate at 52-48 or at 51-49, which will be the number for us next year. I don't think most of our Democratic colleagues want to do nothing. And there are areas, I think, where we can get bipartisan agreement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And McConnell also said Republicans were unable to completely repeal and replace Obamacare and that it was time to move on to other issues despite what we saw from the President tweeting today. So it seems to me that McConnell and Trump are on different pages in terms of legislative priorities.

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, it wouldn't be the first time that that's happened. But, you know, McConnell is bowing to what is a political reality. It's not just the slimness of Republicans' margin in the Senate that's going to necessitate their reaching out to Democrats. It's also the nature of the legislative priorities that they may pursue in 2018.

Both tax reform and Obamacare repeal, which they failed at, they could conceivably have done on a party line basis. They did tax reform with only Republican votes. The things they're looking at in 2018, they can't do without Democrats, like infrastructure reform and potentially entitlement reform. Those are things that split the Republican Party and that they would absolutely need Democratic cooperation for if they're going to accomplish.

BROWN: And with a 51-49 margin in the Senate in 2018, David Gergen, do you see Democrats getting onboard and Republicans reaching across the aisle more to Democrats just because they have to out of sheer necessity, to work on things like infrastructure?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm going to stick with health care just for a moment, if we could, Pamela. There's one issue they have to face together that they cannot dodge in the next few months. And that is the Children's Health Insurance Program, so- called CHIP Program, which provides health insurance coverage for almost 9 million children in this country.

The funding was basically expiring here in late fall/early winter, and the Congress just passed a stop gap measure to keep the government open. In that is a provision to keep the CHIP Program going, but only until March. And it expires in March. That means they're going to have to find some solution to that.

I cannot imagine either party is going to want to go through the whole year and let CHIP collapse and put these 9 million children in peril. So I think that's one area where they can cooperate. The Republicans also have, you know, some commitments here. They have a commitment to Nancy Collins to do something about funding health insurance and providing subsidies. They've got Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray who have been working on a bipartisan bill.

The White House says they would like to see action on both of those. I think if they offer much sweeteners to the Democrats, perhaps they can get some cooperation on some of these areas, not the whole thing, the Democrats have no reason to rescue them.

What the Democrats believe and with good reason, I think, is that the Republicans starting with the President have been trying to sabotage the health care program. Been trying to sabotage Obamacare. That's why they put that poison pill in about ending mandates in the tax reform bill. They slipped it in there. The public didn't really notice what was going on. But the Democrats don't want to rescue the Republicans right now.

BROWN: Well, and you talk about ending the mandate. I mean, David Chalian, that's a big part of Obamacare. And look, this past year, 8.8 million people signed up, enrolled in Obamacare, and now they took out individual mandate. So what's going to happen next? I mean, what's going to happen to health care?

CHALIAN: Right.

BROWN: If they can't work together in the New Year. Go ahead.

CHALIAN: It's certainly sort of one of the legs of the stool of the Obamacare law. But as David was just pointing out, the subsidies have to be dealt with. The Susan Collins bill, the Alexander/Murray compromise there, and although the President is touting that he repealed and replaced it, that stuff that they're going to try to work on to stabilize the insurance marketplace is an acknowledgment that it is still the law of the land and it actually may require, you know, will require the President's signature to move forward on that stuff. So he is going to have to grapple with the fact that it is still the law of the land here.

But I think the important point here on the politics of it, as David is noting, saying Democrats are in no mood to rescue them, all of the energy we've seen in the Democratic Party this year is the sort of life force of the party is an anti-Trump energy. That's what's animating Democrats right now.

And therefore, I think while Democrats, as Eliana was pointing out, will -- if they want to get anything done, if any side wants to get anything done in the Senate, it is going to have to be somewhat bipartisan, but it's not likely to be big ticket legislative items because there's a danger for Democrats at this point where the energy in their party is, to work with the President on anything.

[19:25:15] BROWN: And just to your point, David for Eliana, Eliana, how do you thing the Democrats will capitalize that as you look ahead to the 2018 midterms in terms of the anti-Trump energy and the momentum they feel they have right now?

JOHNSON: You know, there's no real incentive I think for Democrats to work with Republicans because the real energy in their base, and we've seen Democrats overperform in all of the special elections since Trump has taken office, is on, you know, a real anti-Trump platform. And they risk sapping some of that energy ahead of the midterms if they, you know, appear on a podium with the President and hand him another legislative victory.

So I think the chances are slim that we'll see Democrats partner up with Republicans, with one exception. And that's on DACA reform, which I think is important and I think we will see some kind of bipartisan deal on that in the opening months of the new year.

BROWN: Right, because even some Republicans wanted to get something done before the New Year on that. All right, thank you to the three of you. Do appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BROWN: And OutFront up next, the squeeze intensifying on North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons threat. New sanctions tonight against officials in the rogue nation.

And alarm in the U.S. over aggressive moves by Russia. The latest, a spy ship coming close to the British coast. So what is Putin up to? We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:31] PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: New tonight: the United States slapping sanctions on two senior figures connected to North Korea's ballistic missile program. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin calling it the latest step in a, quote, maximum pressure campaign to isolate and denuclearize North Korea. This as Russia's foreign minister says he warned Secretary of State Tillerson that, quote, Washington's heightened rhetoric had heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula was unacceptable.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT in Moscow for us.

And, Fred, what can you tell us about that call?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Russians really seem to be trying to insert themselves into the whole situation, Pamela, between the U.S. and North Korea. On the one hand, the Russians from their perspective are saying that both Secretary of State Tillerson and the Russian foreign minister agreed that some of North Korea's moves were out of line and against the U.N. Security Council, especially of course the development of the ballistic missile program. On the other hand, as you share, Russia is saying the U.S. needs to tone down its rhetoric as well.

One of the things that Secretary Lavrov apparently said to Secretary of State Tillerson is he said, look, we have to get away from a language of sanctions back to a language of negotiations. So, you can see how the Russians really are trying to get into this process and they really want to be the ones to -- if there is going to be any negotiations, to bring the North Koreans to the negotiating table, Pamela.

BROWN: And you mentioned that the Kremlin is willing to mediate talks between the United States and North Korea, but how likely is that? I mean, does Moscow really believe that the U.S. will accept its offer?

PLEITGEN: Yes, I don't think that the Russians believe that the U.S. will ever accept them as the sole mediator in such a process, but I do think that they are trying to put themselves out there as perhaps one of the mediators. It's no secret that most countries believe that China is going to be the main one that could bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table.

But the Russians also do hold some sway. They certainly provide things like oil to the North Koreans. They have some business ties to the North Koreans and they also have a little sway in Pyongyang and with Kim Jong-un.

And the other thing about the Russians is they certainly don't want this conflict spiraling out of control. They have a direct border with North Korea. They don't want any instability at the border. So, certainly, they seem to have the same interest as the U.S., but the big question is still, will the U.S. trust the Russians to mediate? And it really doesn't seem as though that's something that's for sure, Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

And OUTFRONT now, retired major general with the U.S. Army, Spider Marks, and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World", Gordon Chang.

So, thank you, gentlemen, for coming on.

General Marks, first to you. Moscow, as we were just discussing there with Fred, is offering to mediate talks between the U.S. and North Korea. Is that a viable option? Would the U.S. even allow that?

RET. MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY: No. Well, I think the United States certainly would not participate in any talks that were being hosted or were being led by Russia. I really find the height of irony is that now we're having a discussion where Putin may be a peace maker of all things in this conflict that is potentially going to boil over here on the peninsula.

Clearly, Russia has a dog in this fight. I mean, for years, for decades, both Moscow and Beijing were vested in what was happening in the regime in Pyongyang, clearly, over the last number of years, Moscow has distanced itself from what's taking place in the peninsula, but they're very, very interested, as Fred indicated. They share a border, but I know for certain the United States would not abide for a second any type of mediation effort that was led by Moscow.

BROWN: As you said, sort of clear what Russia's motive is here.

And, Gordon, as you just heard, Russia is warning the U.S. that it's, quote, aggressive rhetoric has heightened tension in the region and is unacceptable. In case anyone has forgotten, here's some of the things President Trump has said recently about North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

Do not underestimate us. And do not try us. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So what do you think? Is Russia right about Trump's rhetoric?

[19:35:02] GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Well, you know, Trump's been actually quiet for the last month or so. I mean, if we're hearing anything belligerent, one could say, for instance, that the comments from Secretary Mattis or the Marine Commandant Neller were provocative, but they really aren't when you parse them through. The problem right now is you've got both Russia and China, both of

them are violating the oil sanctions of the United Nations, especially the Chinese with the information that we have seen over the last couple days about North Korean vessels in Chinese ports. You have Chinese vessels making ship-to-ship transfers of oil, which is prohibited by the U.N.

And so, it is ironic, as General Marks says, that you have the bad guys trying to mediate this. So, this is just not going to work at all.

BROWN: And so you feel like we need to do more against countries like Russia and China that are enabling North Korea?

CHANG: Oh, absolutely, because you know, at this particular time, we have sanctions on North Korea. I mean, they're strict, but we have very few secondary sanctions on the really important players in this drama, which is China and Russia, because China and Russia are supporting North Korea in many dangerous ways. For instance, the Chinese are supplying ballistic missile technology and equipment. They're supplying components equipment and materials for the nuclear weapons program, and Chinese banks have continued to launder money for the North Koreans.

And we have not gone after the Chinese banks, and we haven't gone after a lot of these Chinese enterprises that are involved in this deadly trade. So right now, there's a lot of war talk, but clearly, there's so many sanctions that we can apply, you know, short of the use of force to disarm North Korea.

BROWN: Very quickly, Spider, new analysis, I want to get this question in really quickly. A new analysis, this is according to "The New York times," from South Korea concludes that the North will conduct at least one more missile test in the New Year.

At what point does the U.S. conclude there is no deterring North Korea with sanctions?

MARKS: Well, if we're trying to tie additional sanctions or if there is -- if the question really is, is the United States on the verge of initiating a combat operation against the North contingent upon another nuclear blast, I'd say that's -- you know, that horse has already left the stable. They are already a nuclear nation. They have already had six tests.

The last test was -- we have assessed to be a hydrogen bomb. So, I don't think any additional test in the near term or further down the road would put the United States on a war footing beyond where they are right now.

BROWN: All right. Spider Marks, Gordon Chang, thank you both.

MARKS: Thanks, Pamela.

BROWN: And OUTFRONT up next, a Russian spy ship spotted near the British coast. Just one of several threatening moves by Putin. Will Trump respond?

And is the Trump evangelical extremist? That's what my next guest says. She's the granddaughter of Billy Graham. That's OUTFRONT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:41:58] BROWN: Well, tonight, the U.S. on alert after Russian ships come dangerously close to the coast of a key U.S. ally. The British Navy forced to escort a Russian warship sailing just off the country's coast. At least four Russian ships, including an intelligence gathering ship, have now passed near British waters.

So, how will Trump respond?

Barbara Starr is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A British Royal Navy helicopter's infrared camera tracks a Russia warship Christmas Day as it sailed close to U.K. territorial waters, the latest in what the British government is calling an upsurge in Russian warships too close to its coastline. It's all part of a message from Moscow to Washington: the Russian military will be a force to be reckoned with in 2018.

MICHAEL ALLEN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: The Russians are certainly pushing the envelope. A lot of their activities in the naval and aerial arena are certainly hard-edged and they're designed to push us to the limits.

STARR: The question now, how much confrontation will President Trump risk? He has taken an unexpected step, allowing the export of anti- tank weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian-backed rebels in a country where pro-Russia rebels frequently clash with Ukrainian armed forces.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: It was important for the United States to tell Russia that we will support Ukraine's ability to defend itself.

STARR: But it's also a risky step.

ALLEN: If Putin decides that this is sort of a hostile act and a new U.S. policy to push back on Russia, Russia has everything from covert operatives across the region in Ukraine and they're able to push back and escalate very significantly.

STARR: Vladimir Putin's military has also flown aggressively against U.S. pilots in Syria. The Pentagon openly calling it a deliberate violation of an agreement to prevent accidents. After that, Moscow appears to have backed off a bit.

Putin personally challenging the president's new national security strategy.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth. We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interests.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Diplomatically speaking, if I can put it in two words, it is of an attacking nature. And if we use military terms, it's no doubt aggressive. We need to take that into account in our practical work.

STARR: There is some U.S. leverage. Moscow may be nervous that new congressionally-backed sanctions could be strengthened even further.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Russia may have one more hand it's trying to play. It's calling for the U.S. and North Korea to sit down and talk, but President Trump is giving no indication he wants to be backed into that corner.

[19:45:04] He still wants to see North Korea denuclearized and give up its weapons programs -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

And OUTFRONT up next, all evangelicals aren't the same. The woman calling that Trump hypocritical is Billy Graham's granddaughter, and she's my guest.

Plus, exclusive CNN video of President Trump doing what he said he wouldn't do if he were president, play a lot of golf.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, new tonight, how will evangelical voters impact the 2018 midterms? They strongly supported then-candidate Trump, helping solidify his victory, but the same did not apply to Roy Moore, who had evangelical support but lost the Alabama Senate special election.

My next guest is the granddaughter of Billy Graham, perhaps the world's most well known evangelist. But she says the term evangelical is outdated and even hypocritical.

Jerushah Armfield is OUTFRONT with us tonight.

Jerushah, thank you for coming on the show.

JERUSHAH ARMFIELD, REVEREND BILLY GRAHAM'S GRANDDAUGHTER: Hey. Thanks, Pamela.

BROWN: So, first off, evangelicalism was essentially founded by your grandfather, Billy Graham.

[19:50:01] But you say the term, evangelical, is outdated, extremist, and hypocritical. How so, and what other term would you like to see used instead? ARMFIELD: You know, I'd love any ideas on a new term, Pamela, but I

do believe that the term has really changed. I think back in the '40s and '50s, it was coined primarily to depict a branch of Christianity that was kind of breaking itself away from fundamentalism. Now, fast forward, you know, 20 years, and it really kind of has started to represent especially in the 2016 election. It started to really represent actually a branch of Christians that seemed to be a little more conservative and a little bit more hypocritical, a little bit more willing to compromise on the personal morals of a candidate in lieu of what politically they could gain for their party.

BROWN: And are you talking about their support for candidates like Roy Moore who faced sexual assault accusations? Are you referring to those kinds of evangelicals? Those who in your belief put their morals or religious beliefs aside for politics, is that what you're talking about?

ARMFIELD: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, I'm actually lumping in a lot of the evangelical Trump supporters as well. I'm hoping, you know, the Roy Moore vote was awfully close so I'm not too encouraged by it, it was a win that I think this country needed. However, I think Roy Moore lost, because it was close, I'm not too excited about it.

But at the same time, I think that it did wake up those who are not in the evangelical branch that so many are now associating us with. And they kind of woke them up to say, you know what, we can't just be mass herd voters, and we need to go out there and speak for the things we think are going wrong in this country.

And I think a lot of people, I'm hoping if, you know, that were to happen again in a year, I'm hoping the vote wouldn't even be represented as closely as it was. That would be my hope.

BROWN: So, your uncle, Franklin Graham, is a strong supporter of President Trump. He recently tweeted: Never in my lifetime have we had a POTUS willing to take a strong outspoken stand for the Christian faith like real Donald Trump, we need to get behind him with our prayers.

What do you think of that tweet? What do you think of your uncle's influence when it come to his support for Trump?

ARMFIELD: I think that tweet was specifically speaking to Trump wanting to bring back merry Christmas. I haven't seen merry Christmas really be attacked. I've been told merry Christmas by all sorts of walks of lives and all sorts of cultures just this year. So, I'm not really sure that was a good representation of what he was trying to say.

BROWN: Right.

ARMFIELD: However, I think my uncle is an incredible -- he's an incredible humanitarian ministry that's been on the front lines often before a lot of ministries have been there. I think he probably needs to stick to doing that. I think he believes that he's speaking to a larger audience than he is. But I think the audience he was once speaking to is starting to migrate to a little more progressive open- mindedness.

BROWN: But do you believe -- I mean, clearly your uncle does, do you believe that Donald Trump is a man of strong faith? Has he shown that to you?

ARMFIELD: He's not shown that to me, absolutely not. I can speak pretty confidently and say for me, personally, Pamela, my president doesn't have to be a Christ follower. My president doesn't have to be a Christian. Just because those are my personal beliefs doesn't mean that that's what I need my president to follow.

However, I think my rub is when the evangelicals are coming up and posing him as the godly candidate. I think we can look at his life, look at the intolerance that he's spoken, I think that my Jesus that I follow was really somebody who fought for the outliers, and I think that Trump has actually done the opposite and kind of the ostracizing them.

BROWN: All right. Jerushah Armfield, thank you for coming on sharing your perspective.

ARMFIELD: Thanks.

BROWN: And up next right here on OUTFRONT, 86 days at a Trump golf resort with President Trump. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:51] BROWN: President Trump tweeting: It's time to get back to work.

But today marked the 86th day this year that he spent at one of his golf courses. A surprising number given what he once claimed.

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Golf Digest" called him the golfer in chief, but because he used to slam President Obama --

TRUMP: He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods.

MOOS: -- Trump is getting heat because he, himself, has been doing so much golfing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the Tiger Woods of hypocrisy.

MOOS: Before he was president, Trump posted tweets like, can you believe that with all the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf?

TRUMP: Because I'm going to be working for you, I'm not going to have time to go play golf, believe me, folks.

MOOS: Hard to believe President Trump seems to have played golf, we say "seems" because the White House avoids talking about it.

As a CBS reporter tweeted: White House press aide wouldn't say if POTUS played golf. Told of twitter photo of POTUS in golf attire, she said he may have hit a few balls.

Reporters have resorted to poring over photographs like this looking for telltale signs. Ah-ha, he's wearing a golf glove.

Trump has said it's best for a president to play with other leaders.

TRUMP: I would not have made certain deals if it weren't for golf. Big deals.

MOOS: The time we saw him play golf with a leader, the president gave Japan's prime minister a pat on the shoulder. Golf diplomacy?

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Help foster deeper relationships in Southeast Asia, in Asia, rather.

MOOS: So who's the better golfer? Obama or Trump?

"Golf Digest" calls Trump the best golfer to ever hold the presidency with a 2.8 handicap, compared to Obama's 13. And look who else golfs. There's Ivanka in a dress billowing like Marilyn Monroe's and high heels instead of golf shoes.

But with the president sneaking off, we're going to need a little birdie to tell us when he's gone golfing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump for the birdie.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.