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WAPO: GOP Concerns as Nunes Targets Mueller; Trump Takes Credit for 2017 Airline Safety; Nikki Haley Speaks Out on Jerusalem & Strong Words for Iran, North Korea, Pakistan. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 2, 2018 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00] ADAM ENTOUS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They see this, again, as an opportunity to discredit that information by casting it as political. Around the same time Steele was producing these reports and providing them to the FBI and others, there were other pieces of intelligence coming in that the NSA and the FBI were collecting. But also, that they were getting from foreign allies, such as the Australians and the British which was adding to the FBI's view that there was something to look at here.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You are referring, in part, to the explosive report in the "New York Times" that one of his campaign foreign policy advisers, George Papadopoulos, was drinking and meeting with an Australian diplomat in London and bragging that there was going to be - the Russians that had dirt on Hillary Clinton and that dirt was released.

ENTOUS: Right. That was a conversation that takes place in May. It's not for two months later, according to the "New York Times" report that the Australians provide this information to their American counterparts. You can imagine that the Australian representative, diplomat in London was listening to George Papadopoulos. This young man who is clearly bragging about information he has. Does he take him seriously initially or think this is not a serious thing? One would suggest, based on the fact that the Australians don't immediately notify the Americans. After all, Australia is a five-eyes partner of the United States. We share the most sensitive intelligence with the Australians. They share with us. Normally, there shouldn't be any barrier to sharing. In this case there was a delay. The delay was probably, if I had to estimate and based on a few sources, had to do with them not really taking it seriously at first.

BLITZER: Is there any indication any one of the Trump campaign alerted the FBI or other authority that is the Russians had this kind of information?

ENTOUS: Not that I'm aware of. I'm not aware of anything like that. In --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The first that the FBI may have learned was through the Australian connection? ENTOUS: Honestly, I don't know which was the first. These things

were all happening roughly at the same period of time. The release of the e-mails and the DNC in June disclosing that it believed that the servers were hacked by the Russians. You had another campaign adviser, along with George, a guy named Carter Page, who did a trip to Moscow that attracted the attention of the FBI. We know that in 2016, as far as we know, as far as "The Washington Post" knew and reported, and as far as CNN reported, that the only FISA, this is a special court order, that was issued associated with a Trump associate during 2016 was Carter Page, not George Papadopoulos. That raises the question, why didn't the FBI go up in the term? Why didn't they listen it George during that 2016 period? That doesn't mean they didn't decide later, in 2017, to pay more close attention to George.

BLITZER: Adam Entous, doing excellent reporting for us. Thanks very much. Good luck with the new magazine assignment, the "New Yorker." Great magazine.

The president's son-in-law in charge of Middle east peace talks but a new move today by Israel making any kind of two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, apparently more difficult. What was Jared Kushner's role here?

Plus, not one person was killed in 2017 on commercial jet flights, making it one of the safest years ever. Does President Trump deserve credit? We will check his claims.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:37:30] BLITZER: President Trump taking credit for a banner year in commercial aviation with no air travel deaths in jet aircraft in 2017. He tweeted this morning, "Since taking office, I have been very strict on commercial aviation. Good news. It was just reported there were zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record."

CNN's Tom Foreman is with us and has been checking into this claim.

Does the president deserve credit?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Like a lot of his tweets, a squadron of question marks come flying in. What he was talking about was a worldwide statistic about this lack of commercial airline deaths out there. In the U.S., it's a different matter. Take a look at the clarification we got a short while ago. They made a point and we can look at the numbers. Or we can go to the graphic. "President Trump raised the bar for the aviation safety and security. Last year, the president announced an initiative to modernize air traffic control and under his leadership there has been this progress. The Department of Homeland Security enhanced measures to ensure safer air travel."

That's the clarification from the White House."

But you are talking about a worldwide figure. In the U.S., we have been almost a decade without a fatality related to a U.S. commercial passenger flight crash in this country. It has been going on for quite some time. If you look at the numbers, scheduled passenger flights in 2016, almost 10 million. There have been a lot of flights. And the last fatal official commercial airline flight of a passenger jet operated by a U.S. company was 2009.

For him to say something he has done made the difference does not seem clear. Even that clarification has more to do with what's going to happen in the future and not necessarily as part of what happened last year.

Does he deserve credit? He's taking credit, but the evidence doesn't suggest there was a change that changed much since we haven't had the fatalities in a number of years.

BLITZER: That's great news.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All of the 10 million flights.

FOREMAN: Even the continuation of that record is a good thing. You should all be happy about that. But to suggest there has been a change that made it better, there is no evidence of that.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks for checking that. Appreciate it.

Whether the president can claim credit or not, the fact that there were no commercial airline fatalities in 2017 is worth noting.

Let's bring in our CNN aviation analyst, Miles O'Brien, who is a pilot, a science correspondent for PBS News Hour.

Miles, what factors played in the safest years on record?

[13:40:13] MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Wolf, the thing about aviation is that and the rules are written in blood. That's a grim expression. That's what we have done as time has gone on and as beings have occurred, there is a scrupulous effort to go through the accidents and figure out what happened and fix it. The last one, the buffalo crash of 2009 and the air crash, one of the things that came out was concerned about fatigue and training for the crew members. There was positive action in the wake of that, including changing the number of hours required from flying on regional air liners. When the there is no factual evidence to support that. That was a global report first of all and aviation has an amazing way of improving itself overtime. Really sort of separate from regulation.

BLITZER: What else needs to be done to make sure that airline safety improves this year and every year.

O'BRIEN: You always have to follow the money, Wolf. It's just like any reporter will tell you when you cover the story. The key to focus are airlines in good financial health. Making sure they are not cutting corners on maintenance and stripping for the pilots and going right to the edge of their performance capacity as far as the human beings themselves. The amount of rest time they have. The rules that are set up and the other governing bodies are the minimums. And true safe flying invites the airlines to do a little better than that. The major airlines in the United States certainly have done that. The regionals are doing better since that 2009 crash. As long as they are paying attention and understanding despite the human tragedy is one thing, it's not good for business when you have a crash. These things tend to get better overtime. That's what we have seen throughout the history of aviation. It is by far the safest mode of transport human beings have devised.

BLITZER: Here's what worries a lot of experts. The threat of terrorism, specifically in recent months and maybe the past year or so. Deep concern over batteries and electronic devices. Are those the biggest potential areas of concern down the road?

O'BRIEN: It is a huge concern. The batteries and the electronic devices, we have a system that is good at the front. As you and I fly, and we take off the shoes and we have the electronic scan in a specific way. The baggage is scanned very thoroughly. What we see time and again are vulnerabilities on the backdoor of the airport. The people who work around the planes. Access to the back side of the airport. It's not the level of scrutiny you have as passengers. Admittedly, these are employees who are vetted. We've seen time and again there are cracks in that system. That's scenario that we need to continue to be focused on.

BLITZER: The terrorism threat is a real threat and a worrisome threat.

Miles, thanks very much for joining us. Miles O'Brien, he knows his stuff when it comes to aviation.

Appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: You're welcome.

[13:44:11] BLITZER: As the president gets ready to sign the fate of the DREAMers in the U.S., he now says they will, quote, "fall in love with Republicans." You'll hear why he's saying that.

Plus, the White House press secretary -- take a look at the live pictures from the briefing room. The press secretary getting ready to face her first briefing this new year. Moments away from that. Lots of questions. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, speaking out about the latest demonstrations in Iran.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: "All these brigades have come out to the streets. They have come out against the leader. Political prisoners must be freed. Independence, freedom in the Iranian Republic. Neither Gaza, nor Lebanon, not only for Iran. Let go of Syria. Think of us. We will die, but we will take Iran back. Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. We are all together."

And in reference to the supreme leader, quote, "Feel some shame. Let go of the country." Those are not my words. Those are not the words of the United States.

Those are the words of the brave people of Iran. Now the Iranian dictatorship is trying to do what it always does, which is to say that the protests were designed by Iran's enemies. We all know that's complete nonsense. The demonstrations are completely spontaneous. They are virtually in every city in Iran. This is the precise picture of a long-oppressed people rising up against their dictators.

The international community has a role to play on this. The freedoms that are enshrined in the United Nations charter are under attack in Iran. Dozens have already been killed. Hundreds have been arrested. If the Iranian dictatorship's history is any guide, we can expect more outrageous abuses in the days to come. The U.N. must speak out. And in the days ahead, we will be calling for an emergency session the people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause. The international community made the mistake of failing to do that in 2009. We must not make that mistake again.

[13:50:32] On a second matter, the crisis in North Korea will continue to have our attention in 2018. We finished December with our third strong sanctions resolution of last year. That was a great achievement. But there is more to do to ensure full implementation of the Security Council resolutions. As we hear reports that North Korea might be preparing for another missile test, I hope that does not happen, but if it does, we must bring even more measures to bear on the North Korean regime. The civilized world must remain united and vigilant against the rogue government's development of a nuclear arsenal. We will never accept a nuclear North Korea.

One more item I want to mention. You have all heard that President Trump's comments made about Pakistan. The administration is withholding $255 million in assistance to Pakistan. There are clear reasons for this. Pakistan has played a double game for years. They work with us as times, and they also harbor the terrorists that attack our groups. That game is not with our administration. The president is willing to go to great lengths to stop all funding from Pakistan as they continue to harbor and support terrorism.

And that brings me to my final point. The Pakistan aide itch sue not connected with the vote to Jerusalem. It is connected to Pakistan harboring the terrorists. However, as I said in December, we won't forget the Jerusalem vote. To that end, tomorrow night, we are having a reception for the countries who chose not to oppose the U.S. position. This is great sign of U.S. friendship. And I look forward to tomorrow evening. We hope to see more of this in 2018. The United States has been asked to do a huge amount around the world, and we are happy to do that, but we expect to be treated respectfully in return.

I wish all of you a good 2018.

And I'll take a couple of questions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Ambassador.

Which U.N. body in New York do you want to handle Iran? And to do what?

HALEY: I think, right now, we'll have conversations with the Security Council and see what we need to do to have an emergency session. One way or the other, we will have a meeting on what is happening in Iran with the protests and their fight for freedom.

MARGARET BESHEER, REPORTER, VOICE OF AMERICA: Thank you, Ambassador. Margaret Besheer, with "Voice of America."

Ambassador, in light of the protests, is there any unilateral action United States plans to take insurance Iran? And also, here at the Security Council, do you plan to hold Iran accountable on another front perhaps through the Yemen Sanctions Committee for the missiles that they fired into Saudi Arabia, you had that presentation last night?

HALEY: Right. No unilateral plans at this time that have come from the administration. What I can tell you is we are absolutely going to move forward on the missiles. You will see us look at resolution 2231 carefully and see what needs to be changed so that we can put a stop to the radium testing of ballistic missiles.

Yes?

JOSEPH KLEIN, REPORTER, CANADA FREE PRESS: Joseph Klein, "Canada Free Press."

Will the U.S. maintain its present level of funding of the U.N. relief agency for Palestine refugees in light of the General Assembly Jerusalem resolution pushed by the Palestinians, and Palestine U.N. representative's threat to unleash, quote, "all the weapons we have in the U.N.," close quote?

HALEY: I think the president has basically said he doesn't want to give any additional funding or stop funding until the Palestinians are agreeing to come back to the negotiation table. And what we saw with the resolution was not helpful to the situation. We are trying to move for a peace process, but if that doesn't happen the president is not going to continue to fund that situation.

Yes?

[13:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Madam Ambassador. My name is Abdul (INAUDIBLE), from "Arabic Daily."

Now, you so strong when it comes to freedom and dignity of the Iranian people, but you have different meaning of freedom when it comes to the Palestinian people who have been brutalized for over 50 years of occupation. The second quell related to it, what made you believe that you are on the right side of history when you stood alone in the Security Council against 14 members of this committee? And 128 countries you only found countries like now next to you. What made you believe that you are on the right side of history? Thank you very much.

HALEY: I stood proudly even if I was the only hand in the Security Council to fight for the will of the people of the United States. They wanted to see the embassy moved to Jerusalem. And we followed through with that. We very much still want to have a peace process. Nothing changes with that. The Palestinians now have to show their world that they want to come to the table. As of now they are not coming to the table but ask for aide. We are not giving the aide. We want to make sure they come to the table and move forward with the peace process.

One last question.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Ambassador. (INAUDIBLE) TV.

Can I ask you regarding North Korea, as you heard reports about South Korea proposing talks with North Korea, can you give us your reaction to that? And about the talks, does it affect any of your policies putting pressure on North Korea?

HALEY: We won't take any of the talks seriously if they don't do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea. We consider this to be a very reckless regime. We don't think we need a Band-Aid and we don't think we need to smile and take a picture. We think we need to have them stop nuclear weapons and stop it now. North Korea can talk with anyone they want, but U.S. won't recognize it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have.

Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to United Nations, speaking out on latest issues, the Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, the Jerusalem decision by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capitol.

Juana Summers, our CNN Politics senior writer is here.

She's emerging as a major spokesperson for the administration on national security. And her stock seems to be going up.

JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: It absolutely has. It's a part we've seen of Nikki Haley since she was governor of South Carolina. Emerging as a forceful player on the world stage, too. Her tone is striking. She said all freedom-loving people must stand with the cause of the protesters in Iran. A different tact that we heard from the president while expressing support for the protests there.

BLITZER: Yes, strong words on Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Jerusalem.

We will stay on top of this. Much more coverage coming up.

White House press secretary, by the way, getting ready to face her first briefing of the news media of this new year as the president gets ready for new battles in Washington. Looking at live pictures. We'll have live coverage. Stay with us.

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[14:00:11] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin.