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Trump Tweets Attack Against Former Clinton Aide Huma Abedin; Deputy A.G. Faces Dossier Deadline From Congress Tomorrow; Trump Has Lunch This Hour With The V.P. Pence; Two Democrats Being Sworn Into Senate Wednesday. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 2, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: I've stayed uninvolved with this particular matter." Let's bring in CNN's Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well then, yes, the president there starting the New Year much the same way he ended 2017. Prodding the Justice Department to investigate Hillary Clinton and also launching attacks against his own law enforcement agency.

So, just before 8:00 this morning, President Trump took the Twitter as he does and he tweeted this out he said, "Crooked Hillary Clinton's top aide Huma Abedin has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put classified passwords into the hands of foreign agents", and he continued on to say, "Justice Department must finally act?"

So the president there is pointing to a document dump of e-mails released by the state department over the weekend. These are e-mails that were found on Huma Abedin's estranged husband Anthony Weiner's computer as you remember just weeks before the election.

So this one in particular is from august 2009, Abedin there, she forwarded a message from her state department e-mail to her Yahoo account. As you scroll down there, you can see that list of passwords to log into her government-issued laptop. Well, you fast forward four years and in 2013 all Yahoo e-mail accounts, they were hacked and investigators believe they were hacked by Russians linked to the Russian government.

And, of course, that led to the possibility that this particular e- mail that you saw from 2009 maybe that was stolen along with those passwords. But notably, Abedin was no longer at the state department when the e-mail hack actually happened. So, if any password information was stolen, it likely wouldn't work. And also Abedin had to go through a two-step verification to actually get on to her government-issued computer. So, really, a password alone wouldn't suffice.

But really, you know, President Trump here, he's been adding to the fact that Republicans have been pressing for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate just a number of matters associated with Hillary Clinton. And the Justice Department responded, they sent a letter to lawmakers in mid-December explaining that federal prosecutors, they would be examining whether or not there's any justification to appoint a special counsel, another one.

And today the DOJ, they respondent they would say only this. They said, "The Department of Justice declined to confirm or deny the existence of ongoing investigations." Of course, that is typical, but really, Dana, what we saw from the president's tweet this morning and what we've seen is we've seen this distrust of the FBI. It's been a rally and cry for Republicans. And, Dana, the president once again putting a spotlight on their argument that there's bias within the FBI and in the Mueller investigation so the president keeping this at the forefront of the Republican talking points. Dana?

BASH: (INAUDIBLE), Jessica thanks for that report. And meanwhile when it comes to the Russia investigation on Capitol Hill, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes is continuing to take aim at Special Counsel Robert Mueller as GOP lawmakers eye the potential end to their investigation.

Back with our panel and, you know, what Jessica was talking about that the president is kind of, you know, really trying to add fuel to the fire on this notion of needing a second special counsel to investigate all things Hillary Clinton in the short-term, like tomorrow short- term.

The question is, will his own Justice Department respond to and comply with a request by Republicans on Capitol Hill to give over more information about the infamous dossier that was made about President Trump?

Again, the deadline is tomorrow. Here's what Republican congressman who sits on the Judiciary Committee Ron DeSantis said about it.


REP. RON DESANTIS (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We want answers to all of these questions. I mean, you know, how did it start, when did you get the dossier, the government get the dossier? Did they pay for the dossier? How did they use the dossier in terms of getting surveillance on Trump associates? What was the role of Bruce Orr? Was he the one who brought the dossier?

Remember, he was one of the highest ranking officials in the Justice Department and his wife worked for fusion GPS and he met with Christopher Steel, the guy that compiled the dossier during the election. So these are all actually simple questions to answer, but we've gone months and months without any answers.


BASH: Will Rosen Stein at the Justice Department, the deputy A.G. give over that information and more that Congress is looking for?


BASH: Yes. You don't?

WARREN: No. My sources have never told me anything of DOJ. No. But, look, I think that this is in vacuum, you know, this would be something that all of us talked, the concern about Huma Abedin will be something that a Justice Department might want to look into, a former, you know, just because it's the past administration and the presidential candidate lost from that party, it doesn't mean it's not worthy of investigation. But it's clouded by all of the circumstances on this.

[12:35:06] This is a president who is under investigation by his special counsel and already had two indictments and two guilty pleas. He's feeling pressure and I think the White House is feeling a lot of pressure on this.

And the sort of violation of this, the kind of the norms of what the president actually commenting on this on Twitter are what make it so much more difficult. But at the same time the president is using that to sort of drive away and say to his most die-hard supporters, "Look, they're not going after this legitimate Huma Abedin investigation, these other investigations, they're only going after me then we can just trust what they have to say.

BASH: Right. And your newspaper has some reporting on what is going on with the Hill investigation. And in particular, House Intel Chair Devin Nunes who by the way was supposed to recuse himself from all of this after the wild -- how do I even explain it, the wild events several months ago where he run to the White House to give them information, but he actually is not from the White House.


BASH: Right. That was the whole situation. But the bottom line is he is supposed to be recuse. And so the question now going into 2018 is, will he keep Russia probe alive? But make it more about the special counsel and close the case as soon as they can on the whole question of meddling in the 2016 election which of course what this whole thing was supposed to be about. How it happened, what happened, how you can stop it in the future?

JENNA JOHNSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I mean the actions that he has taken seem to hint at that. This rush to get done with this Russia investigation and really bringing a lot of public attention to other questions. You know, I mean he -- even though he had personally recused himself, you know, referring have shown that he was still very involved every step along the way in deciding, you know, who was going to come in and what sort of information was coming up? Where the focus was going to be?

And now, you know, casting doubt on Mueller's investigation and raising questions in a way that have made a lot of his colleagues uncomfortable and asking why, you know, why is he making this a partisan issue.

SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG: He seems to want to investigate the investigators rather than prosecute the pressure probe at this point. It seems like there's a probably (ph) shift on his part and among many House Republicans to move in that different direction. And this is such an enormous contrast that I think is going to come up in the 2018 elections. If Democrats were to take back the House, it would be Elijah Cummings and Adam Schiff and as, you know, very very different set of people who are going to approach this in a very different way.

If it continues, between now and then the president's approval rating is going to have a big effect on the election. You can tell the president's antsy, his tweeting about Hillary Clinton with the crooked (INAUDIBLE) and her aid (ph) at the Justice Department James Comey using the phrase "deep state". He really wants this to get over --

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG: I was like, oh before 8:00.

KAPUR: I guess tweeting was not one of his New Years resolution.


BASH: OK. Everyone stand by, up next, Vice President Mike Pence in 2018 his evolving role and his relationship with President Trump. Plus, pro golfers who joined the president on his first round of golf this year put on the spot.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: First of all, Taylor, does he play for money? Do you play for money? Was there gambling involved?

TAYLOR FUNK, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: There was no gambling involved.

BERMAN: And number two, does he cheat?



[12:42:20] BASH: President Trump is now back at the White House, but he started the New Year with a round of golf at his Florida club with pro golfers Fred Funk and his son, Taylor. They told CNN this morning that they were impressed with the president's game and his work ethic.


FRED FRUNK, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I don't know how he does it. I don't know how anyone would do it, I don't know how anyone would be president of the United States and deal with all the world's problems and how it affects our country. But he said he loves it and he said he loves the aspect of being the president and all the pressures that go along with it. And he truly could tell how much he loves our country.


BASH: And our own John Berman just had to ask --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: First of all, Taylor, does he play for money? Do you play for money? Was there gambling involved?

T. FUNK: There was no gambling involved, no.

BERMAN: And number two, does he cheat?

T. FUNK: He does not, no. He played so good. I mean he didn't even have to, but I don't think he would anyways and it was a lot of fun. You don't need to play for money when you're playing with the president.


BASH: Taylor Funk says the president shot an impressive, he even par 36 on the front nine. But the big headline is that Taylor and his partners beat his dad and the president.

Now, President Trump is scheduled to be having lunch right now with his secretary of labor Alexander Acosta and his vice president, Mike Pence. This as the VP's office released a statement denying reports that his trip to Israel when he had to postpone last month in case his tie breaking Senate vote was needed on tax reform is now being put off indefinitely. Here's what they said in the VP's office, "The reports are false. Nothing has changed. He is still going in January." That's according to the vice president's spokes woman.

That trip's future aside, what else is on the schedule for the vice president almost a year into the job, what is his role and his relationship with the president? We're back with our panel, two people here just got back from a pretty wild trip with the V.P. in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

What was your sense of the -- some of the answers to those questions of kind of how he feels on the role and where his place is in the Trump world?

TALEV: Look, he has take out a role as a loyal sort of wing man to President Trump, sort of a Trump's planner to the sections of the Republican base and maybe some swing voters who don't always understand what the president's trying to do. And he is taking out his role both on the domestic and the foreign policy for sure. But I think as more questions swirl about Rex Tillerson's future and whether he speaks for the president, Mike Pence were only stepping into some of those assignments.

[12:45:07] And then back on the home front, a very difficult year to get any domestic agenda through and he, of course, is the tie breaking vote in the Senate, but also has some ability through his congressional relationships to smooth things over recent deals.

So he's trying to do all those things and, of course, the big political question for all of us terrible people of the table is what's his aim other than, you know, he's doing by America. Is he eying a future presidential run, is he trying to build up his own leadership base? BASH: And on the international front, he has been doing a fair amount of sort of globe trotting which is not unusual for a vice president. I was with him in Asia and we were at the DMZ in April of 2017, his first big international trip. Let's just take a little of our conversation there.


BASH: This is real for you, you know, that the -- that their estimates that North Korea could have a missile ready that could hit the continental U.S. Seattle by 2020, which is going to be on your watch? I mean is that weighing on you and is that a deadline that you all have in mind?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know the president of the United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people.


BASH: That's his role, to try to be the translator in chief, be ambassador for the president and for the United States. And kind of tried to, you know, have diplomatic -- quiet diplomatic conversations when he goes on these trips, but also articulate policies that aren't always very clear. Did you find that?

JOHNSON: Yes. I completely agree. I think quiet is the key word here. I think the vice president has spent the last year being seen going to Afghanistan just before the holidays. The president has not gone to a war zone kind of stepping into that role, but not making any news there. You know, not making -- not really delivering anything new other than just bringing the president's wishes to local leaders into the troops.

BASH: And he is so effusive when he goes on these trips, really when he goes anywhere about the president more than I've ever seen any V.P. even though that's basically one of their fundamental roles. Just one quick example from the trip that your guys brought when he was talking to trips.


PENCE: Let me assure you, President Donald Trump is the best friend the armed forces of the United States will ever have.


WARREN: He speaks fluent Trump. And I think that is a role you've mentioned with me and Margaret (ph) I think that's a good way to describe certainly what he's doing domestically, not just with his -- with Congress or with his own party, but even within his own administration.

This one (ph) today with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, it's one of several that the vice president has had with the president and a member of the cabinet. This is a cabinet that often goes its own way or ignores what the president does or tries to reinterpret what the president says into some kind of policy.

The vice president really has taken on role in this first year of the presidency -- of Trump presidency of helping both is sides kind of get through it together and find some kind of happy place.

BASH: And you could see him all the time on Capitol Hill trying to do just that with fellow Republicans.

KAPUR: Right. He's studiously trying to stay on the president's good side. He knows exactly -- he reads the room well and he knows what the president likes which is the effusive appraise and flattery.

He really moved into it in a way that other Republicans when they're around him, it's a little bit forest (ph). He wonder what's really going on in their mind when they say this do your leader ask things, but the vice president loves it. And it's a big part of its role, I think, you know, on Capitol Hill, he has relationships that President Trump does not. And he also knows not to make consult the story as you pointed out. President Trump does not like when people around him are sucking up oxygen and intention.

TALEV: And, yes, I think it would be wrong to think that he's only in a reactive role with President Trump. We saw this on the Jerusalem's efficient where after the fact we learned that very much behind the scenes Vice President Pence for months and in those closing weeks have been pushing for the president to take this controversial stance. Even knowing that he was going to have to do then go do the clean up round in the Middle East that's --


BASH: It's a controversial active moving the Capitol.

TALEV: Declaring the Capitol.


TALEV: Yes. And I think that's the whole act (ph).

BASH: OK. Everyone stand by. Thanks for the great reporting from your trip especially.

Coming up, two new Democrats are joining the Senate tomorrow, just in time for a spending deadline drama. They're going to really jump right into the deep end.


[12:53:29] BASH: Welcome back. Democratic Senator Al Franken is expected to officially step down from his Senate seat today. And Minnesota's Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith will be sworn in as his replacement tomorrow. Also tomorrow, Doug Jones, the Democrat who defeated Republican Candidate Roy Moore in Alabama last month will become Senator Jones.

With new blood in the Senate for Democrats in a month where the to do list is longer than the accomplishments. Where do these two fit in? Back for some final words, you're on the Hill everyday, what do you think the answer to that question is?

KAPUR: Well, my guess is that these two people, they don't strike me as the type who want to come in and make a big splash and be agitators and shake things up right away like someone might say Senator Ted Cruz a few years ago when he joined, the deals that are going to have to be made, that things that they have to do are mostly going to be done on a bipartisan basis which is probably good for someone like Doug Jones who wouldn't necessarily want to come in and have his first few votes or his first vote be a sharp partisan sort of contrast.

I don't think we're going to hear a whole lot from them to be honest with you.

BASH: I mean, what a different -- what is happening now is versus the atmosphere we and Republicans whether in facing had Roy Moore actually won.

TALEV: Oh yes, and this was like Republicans having the day they save from themselves. So that is off the table now, but nevertheless the fact is that the numbers have changed. They're even that much tighter and this is a real dynamic that Republicans are going to have to deal with heading into the midterm season. There's going to be no shortage of political speeches on the floor.

Let's just agree, it just may not be from these two.

BASH: And then just on Doug Jones, the question is whether he will be somebody who will make a deal because he's from a red state. They're a red state, Alabama.

[12:55:11] JOHNSON: Right.

BASH: Is he going to be a go to guy for President Trump?

JOHNSON: Yes. And I mean, I think he would love to continue to be a senator from a red state. I was actually down in Alabama during the election and talked to the lot of Democrats he's voted for. And, you know, a lot of them are just happy that he's there, just happy that Roy Moore is not there. But a lot of them were also saying, you know what, he might not win reelection. So why not get in there and agitate, why not get in there and, you know, be a voice and push for things that we want him to push for.

I think voters like that are going to be disappointed, but it's important to keep in mind that there's a lot of momentum behind him and I think he's really going to be torn between the state he represents and the voters who got him there.

WARREN: Spoken like true red state liberals, you know. Who really wants to have --

BASH: I think likely.

WARREN: -- but, yes. BASH: We're going to have to leave it there. Hold that thought, we'll get you next time on it. Everybody, thank you so much for joining me, thank you for joining us on "INSIDE POLITICS". I'll see you back here tomorrow. And Wolf Blitzer is back after a quick break.