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President's reaction to this book seems to be overshadowing the politics plan for this weekend at Camp David; Secretary of state Rex Tillerson spoke out today about President Trump's mental fitness; Passengers flying in and out of JFK airport facing major delay; Aired 7:00-8:00p ET

Aired January 6, 2018 - 19:00   ET



[19:00:12] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: The top of the hour. 7:00 here in New York. 4:00 in the afternoon out in the west. I'm Ana Cabrera. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for being with us.

One hundred percent proper. Those words from President Trump today describing his handling of the Russian election meddling investigation, 100 percent proper. The President is hosting Republican leaders at Camp David right now. This is a weekend dedicated to mapping out the New Year's legislative agenda.

But a reporter asked the President about reports he tried to prevent attorney general Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everything that I have done is 100 percent proper. That's what I do is I do things proper. And you know, I guess the collusion now is dead because everyone found that after a year of study, there has been absolutely no collusion.

There has been no collusion between us and the Russians. Now, there has been collusion between Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Russians, unfortunately, you people don't cover that very much. But the only collusion is between Hillary and the Russians and the DNC and the Russians and one of those things.


CABRERA: That was the public President Trump today. Earlier in private and on twitter, he lashed out again at that new book that paints the oval office in a not so flattering light. And reports suggest he is not mentally stable.

While in one tweet, the President refers to himself as a quote "very stable genius."

CNN's Boris Sanchez joins us from the White House.

Boris, the President's reaction to this book seems to be overshadowing the politics plan for this weekend at Camp David.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. The President making news on several fronts today, not only backing his attorney general Jeff Sessions, whom several congressional Republicans in the freedom caucus called to be fired this week, but also praising direct talks between North and South Korea, sending a message to Democrats on immigration saying there would be no solution to the legal status of Dreamers, the issue of DACA, without funding a border wall, also talking about the Russian investigation.

All of that, though, being overshadowed by his defense of his mental state. He clearly has taken the comments from Michael Wolff personally in his book "Fire and Fury." And not just that but also some of the comments that Wolff has made during television interviews saying that the President has quote "lost it and going as far as to say that 100 percent of the people around the President question his fitness for office.

In turn the President calling Michael Wolff a fraud. Saying that what he is doing is disgraceful and going as far as to question or rather refute that Michael Wolff had any access to the President saying that he was never in the oval office.

Questions about the President's mental state have long been swirling, though. It was a few months ago Steve Bannon reportedly said there was a 30 percent chance that people around the President might bring upon the 25th amendment and force him out of office because of his mental state. And just last month, you had some dozen lawmakers in both chambers of Congress being briefed by a psychiatrist from Yale University about the President's metal fitness.

Despite those previous questions, we have never really seen the President be as aggressive as he was today at Camp David defending his mental state. And at the same time while trying to outline and then move forward with his 2018 agenda -- Ana.

CABRERA: And a part of that little press Q&A the President re- affirmed his support for attorney general Jeff Sessions. But Sessions is not at Camp David this weekend. What does the White House have to say about that?

SANCHEZ: That's right. They say it has been part of a long-held plan. The absence certainly curious as I know that before. Because this week you had several congressional Republicans calling for Jeff Sessions to step down. Despite that the White House says that this week was all about the legislative agenda. And that it had long been a part of a plan for the lawmakers and cabinet members that there now to be there not a part of the executive branch department of justice agenda for this weekend. So it would be natural that Jeff Sessions, this is attorney general, will not be there, Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Boris Sanchez at the White House. Thank you.

President Trump's comment on Jeff Sessions following the "New York Times" report, suggesting he ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to try to prevent Sessions from recusing himself from the Russian investigation. Now CNN has learned that three White House officials, in fact, were a part of that effort.

CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz is joining us now.

What does this mean for special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, Shimon?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Right. So keep in mind, Ana, that this revelation, these sort of new facts are not necessarily new to the special counsel. Some of the people who we have reported were involved in trying to put some pressure on the attorney general in not recusing himself from the Russia probe, have all been interviewed by special counsel, by Bob Mueller's team.

So some of this information is probably already before the special counsel. And it could go into a sort of building a bigger pattern, a fact, a pattern here into obstruction. You know, Bob Mueller's team, the obstruction is still a big part of the investigation. We know that several people who have been interviewed by the special counsel have been asked questions about who played what role in the firing of the former FBI director. This Air Force One statement regarding the Trump tower meeting with Don Jr. and a Russian lawyer, where the President had direct involvement in the statement and the crafting of the response when that story surfaced.

So all of this goes to the obstruction case, because in the end, you know, every time the FBI, we now know, when the FBI had asked questions of people associated with the campaign about their connections to Russian, some of them lied to the FBI. George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser was arrested by the FBI, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russians.

So all of this just continues to build out perhaps a pattern of continuing to hide information from investigators, continuing to hide contacts with Russians. And we know that the obstruction case is still going on and is still a big part of this special counsel probe.

[19:06:35] CABRERA: There are a lot of Republicans now calling for Jeff Sessions to step down because of his recusal from the Russian investigation, which led to this special counsel appointment. What is the mood like right now inside the justice department regarding session a future there?

PROKUPECZ: I think it's fair to say that there is probably constant confusion between some of the people who worked there as to what the future holds for the attorney general. There are today the President said he had the attorney, he supported the attorney general, you know, tomorrow that could change the day after that could change. You know, there is constant inconsistency in where the President stands.

I think the other issue here is the relationship with the FBI in the department of justice. And, you know, the President's attacks on the FBI. The revelation from the "New York Times" that the department of justice has denied that, you know, someone in the department of justice was trying to, was ordered to try to find dirt went to the hill to try to find dirt on the FBI, the former FBI director. So all of this just sort of keeps happening. There are new facts that

come out. The department of justice has denied that they were looking for dirt on Comey. But, you know, all of this is very interesting because it does go to the continued kind of morale within these agencies that they feel beat up, you know. We are still talking about them. And they really want to move forward. But the career folks and the people who work at these agencies will keep doing their job in trying to keep us safe, keep prosecutions open investigations. That is going to continue.

But you know, you do have to expect that it does hurt the people who work there, morale and how they feel about their leaders, about the people that are heading these agencies that they' are working at.

CABRERA: Shimon Prokupecz in Washington. Thank you.

I want to discuss President Trump's actions today, defending his mental stable, lashing out at the author of a tell-all book and turning the spotlight back on the Russia probe during that press that was supposed to be the focus of the legislative agenda moving forward.

Joining us now to talk more about it is Douglas Brinkley, CNN Presidential historian, Samantha Vinograd, former member of President Obama's national Security Council and Page Pate, defense attorney and constitutional law professor.

Douglas, President Trump's tweets, the ones saying she a very stable genius, where does this fit into a big pick historically. Have previous Presidents weighed in the base over their mental fitness?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No. I mean, there often been Presidents have had to defend their health. I mean, when Woodrow Wilson had a stroke, people wondering what kind of condition he was in. Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1955. And you have to come out and show that you are vigorous.

This is about the psychological health of the President. Some people raised that about Lyndon Johnson in 1968 when he decided not to run for re-election. And, of course, Richard Nixon in his last months. I mean, Nixon - I edited Nixon's tapes and you can hear him screaming at Henry Kissinger and others to do crazy irrational things and they would say yes sir, yes boss, and not -- listen to him.

But the fact that he came out the way he did, Donald Trump, and reminding me of Nixon saying I'm not a crook. Donald Trump basically said today I'm not a moron. And I think it was silly of him to have taken the bait of the Wolff book this fulsomely.

[19:10:02] CABRERA: Douglas, in all of the bluster about Wolff's book, one thing is missing, not one mention of vice President Mike Pence emerged in any quote or published exit (ph) so far. What do you make of his notable absence in this tell-all book?

BRINKLEY: That Pence stays very quiet. Tries to avoid the media spotlight. You don't see him saying a lot of things that would anger Donald Trump. I mean, he is the nation's plan b if Donald Trump has to resign or and Democrats get control of Congress in the Senate and they move to impeach him. So Pence has shown that he stays under the radar often. And it speaks well of him not to have spoken of Wolff. I still don't know how Wolff got that kind of access into an administration, but alas he did. And his book is beyond being a bestseller. It's in the history books, a lot like a Woodward and Bernstein, in the sense of -- it's a permanent part of this year and what's going on right now in the book.

CABRERA: Samantha, Trump blames Bannon for these revelations that came out in the book. But is Bannon to blame for the kind of access he had to the White House and these other aids are also quoted on the book?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it was bad staffing. I worked for two Presidents. And it's staffing 101 that before a reporter or writer enters a White House, has any meetings, has any discussions, two sides, who is he or she going to talk to? Is it going to be on or off the record? Those are the kind of details that you work out in advance sow don't get into the scenario that we are seeing right now.

But I think that the reaction to the book has a lot of national security impacts that we are not talking as much about perhaps. Let's do a little bit of role playing here. If you are Kim Jong-un or you are Vladimir Putin and you are watching the President of the United States react this strongly to a book. This is not the first bad thing that's ever been said about the President.

CABRERA: And it won't be the last.

VINOGRAD: Most definitely. How many books have been written about Presidents in the past? How many bad news stories? The Presidential thing to do typically is to shrug it off. But again, if you are a foreign leader, if you are an enemy of the United States, you just learned the very valuable lesson. You have learned that the surest way to throw the President off track and to distract him is to insult his image.

We have seen Kim Jong-un do this in the past. He has done it over twitter. He has made fun of Donald Trump. Now we see Michael Wolff writing a book and poking at the President and his stability. And instead of the President spending time working on infrastructure, which is sensibly why he is at Camp David or really digging deep on the myriad of national security issues we have in front of us. He is tweeting about a book that's messaging to our enemies all over the world that you just distract him by insulting him.

CABRERA: And he is tweeting about just how smart he is and how mentally stable he is.

Page, here is what the President said about Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, if Robert Mueller asks to you come and speak with his committee personally, are you committed still to doing that?

TRUMP: Yes. Just so you understand, just so you understand, there has been no collusion. There has been no crime. And in theory, everybody tells me, I'm not under investigation. Maybe Hillary is, I don't know. But I'm not. But there has been no collusion. There has been no crime. But we have been very open. We could have done it two ways. We could have been very closed and it would have taken years. But you know, sort of like when have you done nothing wrong, let's be open and get it over with. Because honestly it's very, very bad for our country.


CABRERA: Page, you are a defense lawyer. Does the President's argument that his administration has been opened to Mueller's investigation, hold up?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, somewhat Ana. They have been producing documents, the White House has, that were documents that were requested by the special counsel's office. But as far as interviews, making themselves available to discuss with investigators' specific allegations, that really hasn't happened yet.

But there is going to come a time as the special counsel gets close to finishing their investigation, when they are going to want to talk to key people in the White House. And I'm interested to see whether Trump and other folks in the White House will try to rely on things like executive privilege, attorney/client privilege to try to block those interviews.

So as of now, they have been somewhat cooperative. But the real test is as we get closer to the end of the investigation.

CABRERA: He was asked if he would be willing to talk with Robert Mueller. And he appeared initially to say yes, but he quickly deflected. Is there any chance you can pick he isn't asked to come before the special counsel?

PAGE: You know, it's unusual. This entire investigation is unusual. But normally, in a federal criminal investigation like this even when it's done by an independent or special counsel, they will gather all of the other evidence first. They will charge other individuals, which they have done in this case, get cooperating witnesses, which they have done in this case. And then at the very end when they think they have satisfactory information of either a criminal act or that there is no crime been committed here, then they want to interview the guy at the top. Because then, they know a lot more than perhaps the President does about this investigation.

So no longer is it just about collusion, conspiracy or obstruction, but it is about making that false statement. So anyone who is representing the President will certainly want to keep him away from any sort of sworn testimony in front of this particular special counsel.

[19:15:21] CABRERA: Douglas, the President also saying today he stands by attorney general Jeff Sessions. We also know secretary of state Tillerson is defending Trump's mental fitness in his interview with our Elise Labott and he is saying he is not planning to go anywhere. Are these signs of this administration is stabilizing is perhaps stabilizing from earlier days of chaos?

BRINKLEY: Well, I thought Rex Tillerson did an amazing job in the interview, right, when just what Samantha was talking about, people in the world worried about Donald Trump's stability on the news of the book went global. And there was Tillerson kind of reassuring people that American foreign policy had a steady hand in the state department.

So, yes, I think Tillerson now looks like he is probably going to stay on at least for this year. Jeff Sessions would be a disaster if he quit for Donald Trump or if he got fired. So I think you are starting to see some of those key players stabilize a little bit. Although, there is no love lost between Sessions and Trump and Tillerson needs to get more of our ambassadors in place and start jump starting the state department, not just, you know, trying to get to know his boss as he did if 2017.

CABRERA: Sam, real quick. Your take on the impact of Jeff Sessions were to resign at this point.

VINOGRAD: I think that it would be just another blow to the functioning of our legal system. Now, leaving aside whether he has done anything improper or now. What we do know from all this different threads is that it looks like the President is trying to interfere with the separation of powers. And that the independent judiciary is a core part of our democracy. We know that Russia is trying to undermine that democracy. So every single time we see the President or a thread about the administration, trying to interfere in the investigation or gather dirt on Comey, all that's doing is making the Russian's job easier so the best case scenario is that the department of justice continues to function without interference from the White House and the special counsel continues to do its work.

CABRERA: Thank you all so much Samantha Vinograd, Page Pate, Douglas Brinkley. I really appreciate it.

Still ahead here in the NEWSROOM, as headlines swirl about this new book about President Trump and the White House, the Republican agenda waits. How "Fire and Fury" is overshadowing everything from DACA to infrastructure. Congressman Dan Kildee give us this take next.

Plus, secretary of state Rex Tillerson telling CNN in a TV exclusive what he thinks of the President's competence as commander-in-chief.

And later, the riffle effects of the bomb cyclone leaving passengers stranded for hours at one of the country's busiest airports.

You are live in the CNN Newsroom. Don't go away.


[19:21:00] CABRERA: As "Fire and Fury" dominates headlines in Washington and beyond, President Trump is unleashing on the book's author over this controversial claim.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC HOST, TODAY SHOW: One of the overarching themes is that, according to your reporting, everyone around the President, senior advisers, family members, every single one of them questions his intelligence and fitness for office.

MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, FIRE AND FURY: Let me put a marker in the sand here. One hundred percent of the people around him.


CABRERA: Well, that set off a barrage of Presidential tweets early this morning with the President declaring that mental stability is one of his greatest assets.

Democratic congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan is joining us now.

Now Congressman, thank you for being here. Earlier this week, you said Republicans need to stand up to the President because his actions regarding Steve Bannon and his taunting of Kim Jong-un put the country in jeopardy. How concerned are you about the fallout of this book and the President's response?

REP. DAN KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: Well, I'm concerned about the response. First of all, in my lifetime, people who have to say they are smart or stable are not usually smart or stable. It's almost as if the President has to say he is not a crook and what do we find out about that statement a few decades ago?

This is a dangerous time. And it's dangerous because Congress has authority that it ought to exercise to rein in this President. And what I worry about is that privately you hear Republicans, I do all the time, saying many of the same things we hear in this book. But publicly and officially, that I are falling all over themselves to protect this President from legitimate inquiry and from legitimate over sight. And that is very dangerous for this country.


KILDEE: Well, it's dangerous because our system of government is one that assumes that one branch will check the power of another. And the decisions that the President can make are consequential. His behavior is consequential. And to have Congress simply sit back and say that's Trump being Trump. No, it's not. It's the President of the United States challenging the interests of the American people and destabilizing the interests on the globe.

It's not Trump being Trump. He is the President. He ought to behave like the President. I'm not sure he is capable of it.

CABRERA: Now we are learning a dozen lawmakers from both the House and the Senate met with a Yale psychiatrist last month due to concerns over President Trump's mental health. I'm curious if you were one of them? KILDEE: No, I was not. I have not been involved in that. And you

know, I understand the interest in it. But my concern is that a lot of this obsession about the President's capabilities diverts us away from the work we ought to be doing. It will reveal itself. And I'm confident that our constitutional form of government can overcome any sort of deficiency, whether it's a serious problem with the President's mental state or just bad decisions that he makes because he makes bad decisions.

I'm hopeful that we can focus on the work that we ought to be doing and not be drawn into a whole lot of discussions around the town that are interesting here in Washington but don't address the real serious problems we face in this country.

CABRERA: Now we do know some parts of this Wolff book are fought true. Do you think the President has been given a fair shake?

KILDEE: Well, here's the thing. I don't really think folks ought to judge the President based on the contents of this book. I don't think that's fair. I think we can judge the President based on what we know he says and does On the Record or in meetings where we can witness his behavior.

And honestly for me, that's enough to come to certain conclusions about this President's preparedness for the job. But you know, these books are interesting. But I don't know that much about Mr. Wolff. I don't know that we ought to spend a lot of time in Congress. I heard somebody is going to send every member of Congress a book. I would rather that they send every member of Congress a constitution and have each one of them read that. If they read the constitution, they wouldn't have to read this book.

[19:25:11] CABRERA: Let's turn to the upcoming year and talk a little about policy and what Americans can expect in terms of what you are doing in Congress. I want to you listen to something that Republican leaders said today at Camp David.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: We hope that 2018 will be a year of more bipartisan cooperation.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We think this agenda is one that will appeal to everyone in between, between Democrats, Republicans and independents.


CABRERA: The President predicted that infrastructure would be one issue that would bring two sides together. Do you agree?

KILDEE: Well, I think it has the possibility. But when I hear speaker Ryan or leader McConnell say those sorts of things about bipartisanship and whether it is infrastructure or other issues, I think to myself. Give me a break. You wrote a tax bill in private and dumped it on the floor of the

House and Senate 48 hours before you asked legislators to vote yes or no on it. If that's their pattern, whether it's infrastructure on the budget or CHIP or whatever it might be, that's not going to be real bipartisanship.

The other concern that I have is that Republicans I think very irresponsibly have spent the resources on tax cuts for people at the very top that could have been used for new roads, new bridges, rails, ports, high speed internet across the country. We still have to fix that problem. But their priorities were very clear. They did not put infrastructure on the table. They put tax cuts that are disproportionately almost exclusively targeted to people at the very top and not better roads and bridges and rail systems, not the kind of things that would actually get this economy moving in a sustainable fashion. It was a huge lost opportunity.

CABRERA: Some people could argue, you know, these are sour grapes because of how the tax reform went. But I know you were very passionate about chip, you are very passionate about the DACA protections. Are you willing to shut down the government over those things?

KILDEE: Well, if the government shut down, it's because the Republican Congress and the Republican White House can't agree with one another on a spending plan. If they want Democrats to help them keep government opened, they can't wait until the last 15 minutes and then turn to us and say, we are not going to deal with any of your priorities. We are not going to deal with DACA, CHIP. We are not going to do anything on infrastructure. But if you don't vote yes because we can't get republicans to vote yes, government is going to shut down. That would be the Republican shutting down the government.

If they actually want to do the work, look even if the President wants to talk about infrastructure, like water infrastructure, you know where to find me, Mr. Mr. President. Maybe you are watching. You should call. They should really talk to us and not wait until the last minute when their own failure creates the potential of a government shutdown and then all of a sudden the Democrats are supposed to come to the rescue? They really have some explaining to do when they leave us out of all these conversations and then ask us to save them from themselves.

CABRERA: We understand there is supposed to be a bipartisan meeting with the President. I believe it's on Tuesday, if I recall correctly.

Congressman Dan Kildee, thank you for your time this weekend. We appreciate it.

KILDEE: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Coming up, new revelations about the man who killed 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas. The Mandalay Bay's owner says he was no stranger to the hotel employees.


[19:00:00] CABRERA: Some new revelations today about the gunman who killed 58 people at that outdoor music festival in Las Vegas last October. MGM resort says it sounds like the Mandalay Bay interacted with Stephen Paddock, the gunman, at least ten times in the days leading up to the massacre, including on a day he opened fire on a crowd below his window.

That day, room service delivery was made to suite and a call to housekeeping with maid, according to MGM. A member of Congress from Nevada we spoke with just after the shooting said it appears that no one noticed anything suspicious even though 23 guns were later found in Paddock's room.

President Trump today launching fresh attacks on tell-all book about the inner workings of the Trump White House. The President calling author Michael Wolff a fraud and saying Wolff's book, the "Fire and Fury" is pure fiction.

Shi former press secretary Sean Spicer weighed in on the book when he talked to HLN's S.E. Cupp. Watch.


SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: A lot of quotes that I know are attributed to myself and other people that frankly never happened. And if you read the author's note that he put in the book that I have obtained a copy of. He makes it clear that, you know, Michael Wolff, who has a history of fabricating stuff, who has a very questionable past, and a lot of reporters are now kind of digging into this and saying, you know, we got to question his sourcing here. He admits that he never wrote any notes. He took notes. He didn't bring a recorder to the thing.

There is no question that the accuracy of this book is definitely in question. And I know from some of the things that were written, that don't pertain to me, definitely didn't happen with respect to the President, the first lady.


CABRERA: Let's take it over with Stephen Collinson. And he is a senior reporter for CNN Politics.

Stephen, Wolff didn't stroll into the White House uninvited. Does Sean Spicer have some responsibility here at White House press secretary? Should he have warned Trump's team, hey, be careful when you talk to this guy?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Well, you would have thought so. That was, after all, his ultimate responsibility. I think the level of access of Michael Wolff though just by being inside the west wing is incredible. If you are a general reporter inside the White House, you get to stay in the briefing room area, which is where the press secretary gives the briefing from every day. There is that door to as you look on the TV to the left of the podium, journalists can walk up there into the west wing to a place called upper press where Sarah Sanders' office is located. But that's it.

And it appears that Michael Wolff was sitting in the lobby of the west wing, where journalists normally can't go by his own account and just sort of getting people as they walked by and talking to them as well as installing himself into the hotel across the road, you know. It's impossible to think the first press secretaries of the previous two administration, Ari Fleischer or Robert Gibbs would have allow that to go on. Yet having said that in Sean Spicer's defense, this was a press operation at a White House like no other.

Michael Wolff writes in the book that he tried - he actually asked for official assess to the White House. And there was no one able to give it to him but there was equally no one to tell him to go away and that's pretty remarkable.

[19:35:04] CABRERA: Stephen, in one of your pieces this week, you write Trump's image is under siege and the "Fire and Fury" seem certain to widen the perception between the version of himself that the President wants America to see and the one that emerges from behind the scenes reports.

Stephen, is Trump helping or hurting his public image when he declares himself in his tweets today a stable genius and Wolff a fraud?

COLLINSON: I think that it depends on how you see the President. It's difficult to think that there is anybody in America in the world right now who has not made up their mind on what they think of Donald Trump. So if you see that tweet, you are quick of President and we have seen it today. A lot of people have come out and said, well, the fact that he would write that he is a stable genius and engage in a debate about his own mental state in public on twitter in this kind of frenzied manner is proof that perhaps there is something there to worry about.

But, you know, the debate is being had by Washington elites, politicians, journalists, on the east coast, for example. If you are one of Donald Trump supporters, you are familiar about this behavior from the campaign trail in many ways, you know, taking shots and winding up those the Washington crowd is exactly why you voted for him.

So I don't think that suddenly people are going to turn around who like Donald Trump and say, wow, this tweet is something to worry about. But I'm not going to support him anymore. The situation is so polarized. The politics of this apart from the fact, you know, perhaps looking back in history, we will say, man, that was something that was a real departure of what we are used to. I don't think that immediate politics of this won't are going to change because of what has happened today.

CABRERA: Stephen Collinson, thank you for your thoughts.

You can read the rest of Stephen's analysis at Up next, here in the NEWSROOM, secretary of state Rex Tillerson

speaking out today in a rare CNN interview, what he is revealing about his plans for 2018. And why he says he has never questioned the President's mental fitness.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:40:16] CABRERA: The U.S. secretary of state says he has never questioned President Trump's mental fitness and has no reason to. Rex Tillerson spoke at length to CNN's Elise Labott this week. They talked about how he gets along with his boss, the President and their different management styles and also was asked if the President's tough talk is working with North Korea.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Can you explain a little bit about what the U.S. policy is on North Korea? Because I think Americans are a little bit confused. Do the North Korean have to give up their nuclear program before committing to talks?

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our policy is the complete verifiable irreversible de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. That is a policy that is prominent held by everyone in the region as well. The Chinese has that as a stated policy. Russia has it as a stated policy. So originally, all of the countries in the neighboring area, as well as the international community are well aligned on the policy.

How we achieve the ultimate end point, the final, the full de- nuclearization, the verification of that and irreversibility of it, clearly that will take some time. So how we begin the talks is yet to be determined. But we clearly need a signal from North Korea that they understand these talks must lead to that conclusion. The pathway of how you get there, that is the nature of the negotiation. There will be some give and take to achieve those objectives. So that objective has never changed.

LABOTT: Do you think, you know, a lot has been made about the President's tweet on the nuclear button. But you know now North Korea is talking with South Korea. Do you think that tough rhetoric has worked here?

TILLERSON: I this I the rhetoric that North Korea understands is while it is our objective and the President has been very clear to achieve a de-nuclearization through diplomatic efforts, those diplomatic efforts are backed by a strong military option, if necessary.

That is not the first choice and the President has been clear that's not his first choice. But it is important that North Koreans as well as other regional players understand how high the stakes are in an effort to ensure our diplomatic efforts are fully supported. And I think to date, the diplomatic efforts have been supported very well in the international community.

LABOTT: So it sounds like this good cop, bad cop, if you will, you know, holds out the prospect of talks, but if talks don't work, military action, that might be the formula that you and the President will continue?

TILLERSON: I'm going to let you characterize it that way. I'm not going to necessarily show all of our cards. I have never questioned his mental fitness. I have no reason to question his mental fitness. My relationship with him and it is a developing one and I remind people. And I think it's well known that he and I did not know one another before he asked me to serve as secretary of state. So we don't have a lot of history in the past. So part of this is us coming together to learn and understand one another.

LABOTT: You are also two different kind of people.

TILLERSON: Well, and we have different management styles. How I make decisions, how I process information, I have to learn how he takes information in, processes it and makes a decision. And that's my responsibility. I'm here to serve his presidency. So I have had to spend a lot of time understanding how to best communicate with him so I can serve his needs with information.

I do think one of my roles is to always give him all sides of the issues, even when I know it's not the side that he really wants to consider, I think it's a part of making good decisions is that I know he at least has had visibility to all aspects of the decision he is about to make. And that's my role as secretary of state is to provide him that full 360 visibility of what these decisions mean for our foreign affairs, with allies, with part first and with adversaries.

And I think what comes out sometimes, what people see then is they think that is conflict when it's not. It's a normal process of having the President look at all sides and saying, I don't like that. And that's healthy. That's good. I mean, people should feel good about the way decisions are made because it's fought just one of giving if to what you think the President wants, rather helping him see the full array of all options and what the implications of those are and he decides. He's the commander-in-chief. He is the President. He decides and we will implement against his decisions.

LABOTT: You know, reflecting back, what have you learned about yourself and what might you do differently next year?

TILLERSON: You never stop growing as an individual. So in terms of what I would do different? I'm going to build on my ability to communicate with the President better. My ability to communicate with others better. As I said, something I had to learn is what is effective with this President? He is not a typical of Presidents of the past. I think that's well recognized. That's also why the American people chose him. They were tired of what was being done in the past. They wanted something to change. So I have learned over the past year better how to deal with the President, to serve what he I think needs, to know, so he can make good decisions. And I've learned a lot about the inner agency process, which was new to me. And that will get better all the time as well. But that is our role here at the state department.


[19:45:32] CABRERA: Elise Labott joining us now.

A fascinating, very revealing conversation with Rex Tillerson, Elise. How does he see this New Year shaping up and his own future with the administration?

LABOTT: It was, Ana, I think this secretary was very reflective of the past year and the fact that it was a real learning curve for. A. Culture shock. He's not a creature of Washington who has lived in Texas all his life and lived in the oil industry, no government experience. He seems to be finding his footing, asserting himself. And I did ask him point blank about all the rumors he would be leaving in the early part of the year. Take a listen to what he said.


TILLERSON: We had a very successful in my view year of 2017, pivoting our policies, helping our partners understand those policies. We are now into the implementation and execution against those policies. I think we are going to have a productive 2018. Again, the state department gets stronger every day understanding what we're trying to do. I look forward to having a successful 2018.

LABOTT: For the whole year?

TILLERSON: I intend to be here the whole year.

LABOTT: Has the President given you any indication you won't be around for a while?


LABOTT: None whatsoever?

TILLERSON: None whatsoever.


LABOTT: So there you have it. I mean, look, despite all the rumors of his early exit in the early part of the year, he said there to quote Mark Twain, they are premature. And you know, he is looking for several policy options that he wants to advance in the New Year. And point bank, Ana, I think he laid a marker down that if the President wants him to leave, he will have to fire him personally. It is not going to be ran out of town by any antagonists in the west wing or elsewhere that don't like him and want to see him go.

CABRERA: And I like how you pushed him, for the whole year? He didn't hesitate to answer, though.

Thank you, Elise Labott.

LABOTT: He didn't say three years, but you know, at least for the year.

CABRERA: That's true. Exactly. We shall see.

Thank you, Elise.

Coming up, from cars frozen in flood waters in Massachusetts to one of the strangest things we have seen during this deep Artic lap along the east coast, frozen iguanas falling from trees in Florida.

We are back in a moment.


[19:51:23] CABRERA: It is a bone chilling cold weekend from north to south on the east coast, bitter winds making single-digit temperatures feel even colder. And in fact, overnight the northeast could see new record lows.

In Massachusetts, look at these pictures. This week's storms deluged harbors with icy water, flooded roads, that coinciding with more than a foot of snow across ten states. In Florida even, it got so cold, that iguanas were found falling frozen from the trees. A reptile keeper at home beach county zoo explained that he got the iguana are cold stand below 45 degrees, slowing their bodily function to the crawl. But they are still alive. And like the rest of the east coast, will eventually thaw out.

Travel is improving but still more than 3,000 flights were delayed and 400 cancelled at the JFK international airports. The back log of flights created a different kind of freeze. A congested tarmac and not enough available gates has forced the airports to limit arrivals. For those who made it to the tarmac, well they luck were short lived. The passenger on this flight reported sitting on it for five hours before getting to deplane on to a shuttle bus.

Dan Lieberman is joining us now from JFK international airport.

Dan, it looks so cold there. Are things improving?

DAN LIEBERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Temperatures have gone down, Ana, but things are slowly starting to get better. The port authority has issued new tweets tonight saying that they have really told international flights coming into New York to be in touch with them before they fly out. Because that's really been a big issue and one of the major causes for so many of these delays and cancellations is international flights coming into New York have been backed up. And so it's been hard for them to get into gates and for passengers to deplane as we have seen so much on social media today, passenger's and family concerns. These people all have been sitting on the plane unable to get off hours, many hours at a time.

We have seen today more than 3,500 delays, more than 400 cancellations. And we did speak with one passenger who finally made it off a plane but did not have the right gear, the right jacket. Here's la he had to say.


MARK KIRBY, STRANDED PASSENGER: I was going to the Bahamas from London. And yes, we were supposed to be here for an hour and 50 minutes. And yes, we were stuck on the runway for three hours and then getting our bags for about two hours. And now I don't think the flight will be until probably tomorrow now. (INAUDIBLE).

LIEBERMAN: What's the airlines telling you here? How is the airline responding?

KIRBY: The airlines are doing everything they can really. The airport is chaos.


LIEBERMAN: And New York is not the only place that has delays. We have seen delays in Chicago out there. And airports are experiencing this. But in New York the port authority saying tonight that they have deployed more resources to help passengers and families here. They are actually providing bussing to bring passengers back for flights that have been delayed. So they are trying to do more to respond to this really difficult situation in the days after this major storm -- Ana.

CABRERA: Well, Dan Lieberman, thank you for the report. Go get warm, my friend.

This could warm you yes, one ticket, six numbers and a very happy start for the New Year for a Mega millions lottery ticket holder in Florida. The multistate lottery association says a single ticket was sold in Florida matching all six numbers in Friday's drawing. The winner, we have not learned yet who that is. This is the fourth largest jackpot in the game's 15 year history. An estimated $450 million with a $281 million cash value. The jackpot now resets to merely a $40 million.

A girl can dream.

Well, bombshell allegations in a new tell-all book describing dysfunction and chaos in the west wing. The White House is calling it complete fantasy. What do the new details say about the president's fitness to serve? Out Jake Tapper talks to Trump senior policy advisor Steven Miller in the "STATE OF THE UNION" tomorrow morning at 9:00 eastern only here on CNN.


[19:59:22] CABRERA: Sad news today about a true American pioneer, one of just 12 people on earth to have walked on the moon. John Young, navy pilot and NASA astronaut, he blasted into space six times and in 1972 Apollo 16, young walked on the surface of the moon. He also commanded the very first flight of the space shuttle. That was in 1981. Former President George H. W. Bush tonight calling Young a fearless patriot who helped our nation push bark the horizon of discovery. Astronaut John Young died yesterday after fighting pneumonia. He was 87. Deep freeze. More than 100 million Americans facing bone-chilling

cold for yet another day.