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GOP Lays Out 2018 Targets Immigration, North Korea, Welfare; Competency Questions Cloud Trump's 2018 Agenda Meeting; Trump: No Deal On DACA Unless We Get The Wall; Trump's Evolving Stand On North Korea Talks; Kim Jong-Un To Celebrate Birthday Ahead Of North Korea-South Korea Talks. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired January 7, 2018 - 06:00   ET





DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I went to the best colleges, came out and made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people. Went to television and for ten years, was a tremendous success. Ran for president one time and won.

MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURTY: They say he's a moron, an idiot. This man does not read, does not listen.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Everything that I've done is 100 percent proper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kim Jong-un's regime says it will come to the table and engage in peace talks with its South Korean enemies.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've had channels open for North Korea for some time.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: If I weren't involved, they wouldn't be talking about Olympics right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First round of any negotiations with the North Koreans is tough and sometimes even confrontational.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: He know I'm not messing around. I'm not messing around, not even a little bit.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you on this Sunday. We are always grateful to have you here. It was billed as a weekend of looking forward. The president and top Republicans huddled at Camp David, planning their goals for the 2018 agenda.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: But as Mr. Trump wakes up at the president retreat this morning, the GOP is still touting its victories from 2017.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: One of the things Mitch said and he said it very well was it's going to be tough to beat the year we just left.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The 2017 was the most consequential year in the many years I've been here in Congress.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The 2017 was a year of extraordinary accomplishment.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: As both the president and the leader said, we had historic achievements in 2017 that we want to build on.


BLACKWELL: All of those comments can be debated. The Republican leaders did mention 2018. They are saying they are hoping for bipartisan in this year, wins in the midterm elections, of course, and big immigration changes.

But for a party facing a slim majority in the Senate, the chance of losing the House, and a president with really low approval ratings, there was little mention of how they will get all of this done.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live in Washington. Jeremy, we didn't get too many specifics here. We did get an idea of what the GOP's top priorities are for the next few months.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. Well, the president is still huddling right now today and yesterday at Camp David with top Republican congressional leaders, as well as key members of his cabinet, and while there was some discussion of 2018, we didn't get too many of the details of what is being discussed inside those discussion rooms right now.

We made clear that welfare reform, bipartisanship will be a priority in 2018, but as you mentioned, there was a lot of talk of 2017 still riding high on those late victories last year perhaps also in a bid to lower expectations for the coming year which is going to be very tough.

There was also some discussion of the politics as well. The president preparing, of course, for the midterm elections. But if there was one issue on which the Republican legislative agenda is going to crucially hinge over the coming months, the president did discuss in some detail, it was immigration.

And that is, of course, his attempts to make a deal with Democrats over DACA, the program to defer deportation, of course, for DREAMers, those undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. He laid out some of his demands during his brief press conference at Camp David yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT TRUMP: We want the wall. The wall is going to happen or we will not have DACA. We want to get rid of migration very important and the lottery system and in addition we want money for funding. We need some additional border security.


DIAMOND: And this comes as the president's administration is privately laid out a request for $33 billion in additional border funding including $18 billion for the wall and all of that is going to be a very tough ask for Republicans to make of Democrats, but those discussions are going to happen over the coming months.

One issue that the president did not manage to escape during his weekend retreat at Camp David was questions about his mental fitness. In fact, he perhaps even amplified those questions yesterday as he took to Twitter to tout himself as a very stable genius and followed that up with more questions yesterday during that brief news conference alongside Republican leaders during which he touted his success from college to the board room and of course, to his current presidency. Victor and Christi, back to you.

PAUL: All righty, Jeremy, stay with us here. I want to bring in as well Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst and historian and professor at Princeton University and Kelly Jane Torrance, deputy managing editor at the "Weekly Standard."

We will get to DACA in a moment. I want to take a moment to jump off what Jeremy was talking about. British Prime Minister Theresa May was asked a very interesting question yesterday about President Trump's mental state.

[06:05:07] Let's listen to what her response was.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the states, there were quite serious questions being raised about his mental state, do you think they are serious?

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As I say, when I deal with President Trump, what I see is somebody who is committed to ensuring that he is taking decisions in the best interests of the United States.


PAUL: She went on to say that is what she does. She takes decisions here in the U.K. on what we believe is in the best interests of the U.K. So, forming some commonality there, Julian. She is seeming to back up the president. Do we have a good grasp of what the world images of President Trump, since this book came out and since these tweets yesterday?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. We don't have a good grasp of what it is. That would be speculative. But we do have a sense of how many leaders and populations have responded to President Trump's tweets over the years, and to some of his more provocative statements which really have been the basis of the discussion of how stable he is.

The book simply has concerns that already existed and a lot of this is very public and I'm sure these questions have been raised many times all over the globe as the year has unfolded in Trump's presidency.

PAUL: All right. So, Kelly Jane, when we look at his tweets yesterday and then this kind of resume that he gave us yesterday, did it surprise anybody with all of his cabinet and the vice president behind him and they are supposed to be talking about what is happening in 2018, that we are still hearing the president seeming to be distracted by this "Fire and Fury" book?

KELLY JANE TORRANCE, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": You'd think it would be surprising, but what's surprising anymore with the president any more. I mean, I think he basically it's like he's answering the question, when did you last beat your wife? This is not something you want to make the issue.

It's incredible to me, one of the reasons we are talking about this is because he, himself, is talking about it. Whatever Trump tweets, the world listens and that is what we talk about and here he is talking about it himself.

I have to say, I mean, the fact he is going through his resume touting what he has done and everything that not what a confident person who is happy with themselves does, I think. It's like when he can't stop talking about his huge electoral college win and how many people were at his inauguration.

It makes you wonder what is going on in his mind and why did does he feel the need to be congratulated constantly for his accomplishments? Instead of saying, wow, I became president of the United States on my first try and now I'm going to use that position to do something good for my country.

PAUL: I want to move on here to DACA because that is one of the hallmarks of what was discussed yesterday and it's looming, no doubt about it. Let's listen to what the president said about DACA yesterday at the same press conference.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: We want DACA to happen. We all -- everybody -- I think I can speak for everybody. We want Jon Cornyn from Texas, we all want DACA to happen, but we also want great security for our country.


PAUL: Jeremy, we know Jeff Flake from Arizona voted for tax reform because he was promised if he did so, he would have a voice in the DACA conversation. Is there any indication what Democrats are willing to negotiate for DACA? DIAMOND: Yes. Well, listen, you know, the president has made clear that there is going to need to be some kind of border security attached to this DACA proposal and specifically he said funding for the wall and that's because his base absolutely needs him to get funding for the wall in order to give a concession on an issue like potentially giving citizenship or some protected status to some of these undocumented immigrants which is not popular with the president's political base.

Some of what he is asking will be tough for Democrats to swallow. He not only is asking for more border security funding for the wall, but seeking to make much more sweeping changes, including changes to the chain migration, visa lottery system. What the president is looking at here is more than a simple DACA fix.

It seems to be heading in the direction of some kind of more comprehensive immigration proposal and that may be very difficult for Republicans and Democrats to agree to, particularly in this current climate.

PAUL: Kelly Jane, any indication on your end as to what Dems -- Democrats are willing to reconcile to try to get DACA passed in some regard some they only have until March. In March, their protections run out.

TORRANCE: Exactly. They are in a tough spot because this is a very sympathetic group of people and who doesn't want to help them? You kind of wonder about Trump's negotiating skills because he is saying that the Republicans want DACA too.

[06:10:11] The thing is, though, Democrats don't want to give Trump or the Republicans any sort of win going into the midterms. Given how they performed in the special elections throughout this year, it seems that getting -- not signing on to the Trump and Republican agenda has been good for them.

Voters do not want, they think them to do anything with Trump and the Republicans. So, it's hard to see how there is going to be possibly be any sort of compromise on this, especially, again, if Trump, himself, is saying he wants DACA. Why would they compromise if it's something that the president himself wants?

PAUL: Julian, there is another aspect at play here and that is the government shutdown which is at risk on January 19th. Senator Dick Durbin, number two Democrat in the Senate, we should say, is leading the negotiations on DACA, we understand. He says there could be a government shutdown over this issue. Is it going to go that far? Who is willing to shut down the government?

ZELIZER: We have seen the government shut down when Republicans controlled Congress and we could see that happen again. I think this is a test of the resolve of Democrats. They have a lot of leverage right now and they have to make a decision are they willing to go that far in terms of a government shutdown?

Are they willing to go so far as to give President Trump basically the entire immigration package that he has been asking for in exchange for a program that he dismantled, or do they want to use their leverage and hold out and insist, as Republicans did when Obama was president, that the president responds to them?

And this is a key moment and it's not simply kind of swallowing some parts of a bill that they don't like. It's handing the president a major victory right now, which will set up the Republicans for 2018 and for the next couple of years.

PAUL: Representative Nita Lowy from New York earlier this week, Kelly Jane, said Republicans control the White House, the Senate, and the House. They are in charge. If the government shuts down, it's because they couldn't do their work. Are Republicans really going to get blamed if the government shuts down or are Democrats going to get blamed? Who is going to carry that?

TORRANCE: Yes. It's a great question, Christi, and it sort of depends on what happens. If the government shuts down, what it was, what was the final straw that did it. When you have a party in control of both chambers of Congress and the executive branch, it sorts of looks difficult to understand why they can't get things done and get things passed.

The budget thing is kind of shocking really that they kept pushing it off down the road. Now the government is only funded until January 19th. This was something they should have been dealing with last year they end of the year instead of, you know, trying to just do something that made them look good, the tax cut bill.

And putting off the hard issues until January because now look at how much they have to deal with and you got to add in North Korea and Iran? There's a lot going on right now.

PAUL: A lot going on in a short amount of time. Jeremy, Julian, Kelly Jane, we always appreciate all of your voices here. Thank you so much.

Sure. Don't miss "STATE OF THE UNION" later this morning. Bombshell revelations in a tell-all book alleging dysfunction and chaos in the west wing. Jake Tapper is talking to Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser to the president. That is "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning at 9:00 Eastern.

BLACKWELL: So, the other big news out of this weekend's Camp David retreat, the president is open to dialogue with North Korea and he always believes in talking. What happened to all those angry words about fire and fury and telling the secretary of state that he was wasting his time negotiating with Little Rocket Man?

Can the president claim credibly credit for contact between North and South Korea? That is next. We'll talk about it.

Also, a closer look at Kim Jong-un's dictatorship as Kim celebrates his 34th birthday.



PRESIDENT TRUMP: Right now they are talking Olympics. It's a start, a big start. If I weren't involved, they wouldn't be talking about Olympics right now, they would be doing no talking, or it would be much more serious. If something can happen and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity.


BLACKWELL: That is President Trump speaking to reporters at Camp David yesterday. He also said that he is open to talking with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

PAUL: North Korea has accepted South Korea's effort to have talks this week. That meeting will be the first high-level face-to-face contact between the two countries in more than two years at this point.

BLACKWELL: President Trump said the talks would not be on the table if he had not taken what he called a firm stance on North Korea.

PAUL: But all through his first year in office, he has taken a lot of different stances when it comes to North Korea starting with when he said he would be open to meeting with Kim Jong-un and that was back in May.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it. If it's under, again, under the right circumstances.

"Rocket Man" is on suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

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.


BLACKWELL: Then you'll remember this on October 1st, President Trump released this statement via Twitter, "I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with "Little Rocket Man."

Joining us to talk about this, Gordon Chang is the author of "nuclear Showdown North Korea Takes on The World." Gordon, good morning. Let's start with the president's claim of credit. The president says if he were not involved that these conversations between the North and the South would not be happening. True?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": I hate to say this, but, yes, and no. Yes, because Kim Jong- un, the North Korean leader, is, I think, hurting. We heard this in his New Year's address. He talked about sanctions being existential threat to his state so clearly, he needs to talk to the South Koreans to get aid.

But it's also no because what we are seeing from North Kores is their regular cycle. This is a seven-decade old playbook. First, the North Koreans refuse to talk to South Korea and then they make a dramatic overture then they demand concessions and some of those concessions could be quite big and if they don't get what they want, they throw a tantrum. This is sort of the Kim family playbook.

BLACKWELL: So, it sounds like you have a lower degree of optimism of what will come out of these talks beyond potentially a North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics?

CHANG: Yes. And the reason is that the sanctions are working, which also Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president is boxed in in what he can do. Moon would like to give Kim almost everything that he wants.

[06:20:10] But President Trump and his administration, over the course of about nine months since Moon became president in May of last year, has told the South Koreans that they cannot give money to the North because of U.N. sanctions and international concerns.

The problem here is going to be and those talks on Tuesday, the North Koreans are going to ask for quite a lot. They are going to ask for relief from sanctions and the resumption of inter-Korean projects like an industrial complex and ask for more aid.

A lot of what they are going to ask for is prohibited by the U.N. and the South Koreans are not able to give it to them, which means North Korea is going to probably get a little bit upset.

BLACKWELL: You know, one thing that the North Koreans have demanded was an end to these military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea. Now, there was the announcement that the military exercises would be delayed.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there would be no freeze for freeze, meaning the U.S. and South Korea would not freeze those military exercises in exchange of a freeze for the North Korean development of their nuclear weapons program.

But only hours after the announcement from the U.S. and the South Koreans that the military exercises would be delayed, did the North Koreans then accept the offer to have these talks, right?

So, are we in a de facto first half of freeze for freeze where the military exercises have stopped, the North Koreans are willing to talk? Could this lead to something like what Rex Tillerson has said that the U.S. is not going to entertain?

CHANG: Yes. The U.S. is never going to entertain a freeze for a freeze, and the reason is that if you actually stop military exercises like the Foul Eagle exercises that have maybe been postponed, the ability of the alliance to defend South Korea would degrade very fast.

And so, the United States is not going to do that. Also, that is a moral equivalent because North Korea is prohibited from developing its weapons. The military exercises are illegal. One thing about this Foul Eagle exercise, the dates were never announced until just three or four days ago when Mattis said that they would start after the Paralympics.

So, it's not entirely clear that they were postponed, but clearly what the United States is doing is trying to make the conditions for talks on Tuesday good. So those exercises won't start until after the Olympics are over.

That is really good policy on the part of the administration, sort of giving the South Koreans the ability and environment to actually make some progress with the North Koreans.

BLACKWELL: So, we led into this conversation with a myriad of the president's positions on North Korea, "Little Rocket Man," you'll remember just a couple of days ago, but it feels like month, my button is bigger than your button tweet. And all the president has said is honored to be speak with Kim Jong-un and stop wasting your time, Rex Tillerson. What is the fact that the president in his communications with the potential for some talks, high-level talks with North Korea?

CHANG: Yes. There is a lack of apparent consistency. One thing is clear to both the Chinese and to the North Koreans and that is the basic policy of the United States is, first of all, deterrents which is reason why President Trump said some of those things.

But also, is to cut off the flow of money to the North Korean regime and the North Koreans are getting a little bit concerned. Not only are the sanctions starting to work, but they are also probably looking at the Iranian protests and thinking if Iran actually falls, then they are not able to play the North Koreans $2.3 billion a year, which is what they are estimated to pay.

That actually is about 10 percent of North Korea's gross domestic product so that's a big number and North Koreans have a lot of reason to talk to President Trump. He deserves some credit for that, but clearly as you point out, he needs to be more consistent in his messaging. That would be better. I think the Chinese and North Koreans have gotten used to this.

BLACKWELL: All right. Gordon Chang, always a pleasure.

CHANG: Thanks, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Thank you for being with us.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN's Elise Labott and he's spoke a lot about these topics, including President Trump's mental stability.


TILLERSON: I've never questioned his mental fitness. I have no reason to question his mental fitness.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: We will have more from that interview in our next hour.

PAUL: North Korea has fired 23 missiles in 16 tests since February and each one of those has shown a steady advancement in their technologies. So, as Kim Jong-un celebrates is birthday, CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul and has a closer look at the regime leader's reign now.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North Korea's leader turns a year old on Monday. He is young, but he's also and ambitious and brutal.

[06:25:11] Kim Jong-un has gone further and faster than his predecessors by accelerating North Korea's nuclear missile program. Far act phasing his father, Kim Jong-Il and his grandfather, Kim Il- Sung.

In the last year alone, North Korea fired 23 rockets during 16 tests. The most recent one in November flew higher and further than any others. An achievement that Kim boasted about during his recent New Year's address.

KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER (through translator): The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons and a nuclear button is always on my desk.

HANCOCKS: The rapid advancement of North Korea's missile program has rattled world leaders. Most notably, U.S. President Donald Trump.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. "Rocket Man" is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

HANCOCKS: Kim, himself, joined in the war of words with the U.S. by calling Trump a mentally deranged (inaudible), an insult that sent many people around the world scrambling for the dictionary. Kim Jong- un is used to operating in the shadows of world approval.

The U.N. Security Council recently tightened sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear weapons program. In 2014, a U.N. Commission of Inquiry found North Korea's leadership guilty of crimes against humanity, a claim which Pyongyang denies.

Within his own country, Kim is feared and trusts only a select few. He's famous for his tactic of purging senior officials having ousted dozens since he took power including his own uncle.

Kim's half-brother, Kim Jong-nam was mysteriously murdered in the Kuala Lumpur airport after two women wiped his face with a VX nerve agent. The women have both pleaded not guilty. Both Malaysia and South Korea believed North Korea to be behind the assassination although North Korea denies anything to do with his death. It's unknown how the ruthless leader of a rogue nation marks a birthday and whether or not the official talks with South Korea, which begin the day after, will lead to a year of dialogue or more deadlock. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


PAUL: Meanwhile, the U.S. is beefing up its military might in the Pacific. The USS Wasp, which is essentially a multipurpose assault ship and a small aircraft carrier can now deploy Stealth fighter jets, which take off and land vertically, and they are undetectable by North Korean radar. The Wasps had just joined the Seventh Fleet after it was diverted to the Caribbean to help with hurricane relief that was back in September.

BLACKWELL: OK. So, based on what happens with North Korea, Senator Lindsey Graham says the U.S. should boycott Winter Olympics coming up just next month. Later this hour, we will talk to an athlete who says never again. He missed out on the 1980 Olympic games because of a U.S. boycott that year.



TRUMP: Only because I went to the best colleges or college. I went to a -- I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out, made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people, went to television, and for 10 years was a tremendous success, as you probably have heard, ran for president one time and won.


PAUL: And President Trump rattling off his resume there after his tweets that he is -- quote -- "like really smart and a very stable genius."

In a few hours, he is going to be back in the White House after spending the weekend at Camp David with other GOP leaders whom you saw there congratulating each other on their achievements in 2017.

BLACKWELL: And making plans for this year. Here is the president's to do list.

He says he wants to be very involved with the midterm elections. He may meet with special counsel Robert Mueller, possibly open to talking to Kim Jong-un if the conditions are right, he says. And he wants DACA to have been, but not without the wall and several other immigration changes.

PAUL: So, Brian Stelter, CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" with us right now

That's a long to do list, Brian. BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It is and amidst all of it there's a government shutdown looming. There's a deadline in about two weeks.

Hopefully, the Democrats and Republicans will work together to avoid that shutdown possibility. But that looms over all these conversations.

And at the end of the month the president has his first official State of the Union address. You know, last year when he had just been inaugurated he had a joint address to Congress but at the end of the month the State of the Union it will be his chance to more formally to the entire American people present his plan for 2018.

Obviously, though, whenever you're in a midterm election season it can be difficult to reach bipartisan compromise and try to pass legislation. So I think it was notable that the president, yesterday, tried to outline his goals.

After that photo op was really interesting because it was a -- it was a change of subject photo op with GOP leaders in wake of the Wolff book and the wake of the tweets about his mental stability. You had this very normal looking photo op with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and others but we are in anything but normal times right now.

BLACKWELL: Yes. If you were watching the television on mute or you just see a photo on the front page of a newspaper on a Web site --


BLACKWELL: -- it looks like a brand-day but as soon as you read --

STELTER: Exactly.

BLACKWELL: -- but as soon as you read the words or turn up the volume the president is still talking about Sloppy Steve and Michael Wolff and -- I mean, Michael Wolff is going to be on a television show this morning, a talk show. He, I guess, has to defend himself against these attacks from the president and some of the criticisms from people who were saying that some of the things in his book just are not accurate.

STELTER: Yes. This book tour really gets started in fury today. "Fire and Fury" is flying off bookstore shelves. It's sold out in many places.

And for the next week, Wolff is going to be blanketing the airwaves talking about this book and defending himself from the White House's critiques, from the president's critiques. There are real questions Wolff needs the answers about some of the errors that are in this book, some of the relatively small but real errors that show up in "Fire and Fury."

But the overall picture he is painting is very disturbing about a president who has checked out as incapable of doing the job, and, you know, we are going to see in these TV interviews of Wolff adds even more details, adds even more information to corroborate his account.

He says he has tapes. He says he has notes. To prove that a lot of the aides and senior officials don't have confidence in President Trump but, of course, it's the Bannon quotes, the on the record Bannon quotes that are so revealing and I'm curious to see what Stephen Miller says on Jake Tapper's show later today. Stephen Miller, a Bannon ally, perhaps he's going to be coming out, speaking about his former colleague.


So that's going to be very curious to see as the White House tries to present a united front against this book.

PAUL: Brian, do you get a sense that if there are inconsistencies or factual errors in a book, as we know are in this one, based on other journalists who say, listen, he said I was at Four Seasons for breakfast. I wasn't there.

STELTER: Right. Right.

PAUL: And some people saying, look, this really is not accurate fully. Does it negate the rest of the book, or is President Trump, with his tweets and his conversations, is he solidifying some of the other things in the book?

STELTER: You know, you would look at the reaction to the book's imminent release last week and say it helps prove Wolff's point. I say that because President Trump's lawyer first sent a cease and desist letter to Bannon then to the publisher and the author in an unsuccess -- unsuccessful bid to try to stop the book's publication.

That the kind of reckless or unusual behavior that I think Wolff would say, hey, this is proving my point. You look at a recent president embrace of conspiracy theories, his continued belief in widespread voter fraud, those are all the sorts of data points that would back up some of Wolff's conclusions.

But, you know, we have seen the president's own children on Twitter say, this books reads nothing like my father. So I think it's best to -- for people to read the book themselves, read the excerpts themselves, read them skeptically and reach their own conclusions about it.

PAUL: All right. Brian Stelter, always good to see you. Thank you, sir.

STELTER: Thanks.

PAUL: And he's going to be around for the morning. Don't forget to watch him on "RELIABLE SOURCES," at 11:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN, just a few hours.

So this week's winter storm, you know, it brought air travel to stand still at New York's JFK Airport. Air travelers waited hours yesterday after thousands of flights were delayed, hundreds were cancelled. We are going to hear what is going on today.


PAUL: All I can say is I'm sorry --


PAUL: -- for all of you people that might still be sitting in an airport somewhere particularly flying through New York where it has been really messy I'd say.


BLACKWELL: Yes. Traffic into and out of JFK Airport stopped Saturday of course with the major weather delays and the shortages of gates there.

Erin Logan with affiliate WCBS got a first look at the chaos.


ERIN LOGAN, WCBS REPORTER: Long lines, missing bags, a lot of waiting around and the list goes on.

MAZEN YOUSEFF, PASSENGER: I don't have clothes, even to change my clothes.

LOGAN: Mazen Youseff has been stuck at JFK since the middle of Thursday's snowstorm trying to get back home to Cairo, Egypt. As frustrated as he is, he says he must remain calm for his family.

YOUSEFF: A family of five so I have three kids with me. We have not even been offered hotel, even transportation while we pay for the hotel ourselves.

LOGAN: Omar El Nahas described the experience as very miserable.

OMAR EL NAHAS, PASSENGER: We know it's difficult. We know it's out of their hands, but after all, there needs to be some crisis management.

LOGAN: Other passengers taking to social media with similar comments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone, video this because we need answers.

LOGAN: By Saturday afternoon, the port authority explained there are not enough gates available to handle the backlog of flights because of Thursday's storm. They are working with the FAA, the airlines, and individual terminal operators to limit arrivals into JFK. Still, passengers feel being stuck on dark planes on the tarmac is just unacceptable.

MICHELLE LOPEZ, PASSENGER: So we were in the plane for a good 20 hours. They took us out once to eat and then we are back on the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's awful. I've never seen anything like this. It makes me not want to fly anywhere.


BLACKWELL: All right. That was Erin Logan with our affiliate WCBS reporting for us. Thanks.

PAUL: And you know these extreme temperatures are really causing a different set of problems. Elsewhere in the northeast, firefighters in Boston were trying to put out a blaze. In minutes -- in minutes the water froze after they had doused this building. Even their uniforms froze on them.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's check in with meteorologist Allison Chinchar. She has got the picture there to see if it will get any warmer.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It will but unfortunately it just wasn't perfect timing for them because -- yes, take a look. These (INAUDIBLE) power lines that you see here it looks more like Elsa of "Frozen" got a handle of them. Yes, they are just coated in ice but so were the fire trucks, so were the officers.

So it was just about everything within a nearby radius including cars that were parked on the street because those temperatures were so cold. The problem is the cold temperatures are going to cause a different icy scenario in a different portion of the country, namely, around the Midwest. We have a winter weather advisory in place for cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis, Indianapolis.

The main concern here is ice accumulation. In most spots it's going to be to be a quarter of an inch potentially for Cleveland, Cincinnati and Chicago. But even some southern cities including Nashville could have some ice accumulation.

Now the other story we are following is another round of moisture but this one for the west coast namely for California.

You would think this is a fantastic thing, they would have wildfires there. They need to have the rain. Not this much.

We are talking widespread two to three inches of rain and then in southern California, especially around Los Angeles and Ventura, where that famous Thomas wildfire was, you're talking four to six inches of rain. The main concern here is because of all those fires, you have what is called burn scars. The burn scars unfortunately trigger mudslides especially where this Thomas fire was located -- by the way still only 92 percent contained.

So the rain will actually help with that aspect of it but not so much for the area around the burn scars. When you have those wildfires, it takes away all of the vegetation on that top layer here -- OK? And creates that organic material most of it being that burned ash that sits on the top.

The problem water cannot penetrate that. So when you get very heavy rainfall, it just slides right off so, unfortunately, that makes a big concern for a lot of this area, Victor and Christi, that we could be potentially be looking at some mudslides.

PAUL: All right. Allison, good explainer. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: All right. North Korea is now talking to South Korea. They are trying to get into this year's Winter Olympic Games. Now a U.S. senator says, if North Korea is admitted, allowed to participate in Pyeongchang, the U.S. should not go.

One of our next guests says that the U.S. should not even think about it. He missed out on the 1980 Olympic Games because of the U.S. boycott.



BLACKWELL: Thirteen minutes to the top of the hour now.

North Korea is set to meet for talks with South Korea this week. Their top goal? To get into next month's Winter Olympics which is held in South Korea. That prompted a tweet from South Carolina's senator, Lindsey Graham.

Here's the tweet, "Allowing Kim Jong-un's North Korea to participate in #WinterOlympics would give legitimacy to the most illegitimate regime on the planet. I'm confident South Korea will reject this absurd overture and fully believe that if North Korea goes to the Winter Olympics, we do not."

Well, that suggestion of another U.S. Olympic boycott likely triggered a certain reaction from a fencing coach Greg Massialas. Greg is on the phone with us and we also have presidential historian Julian Zelizer.

Julian, I want to start with you. How broadly supported is this you ultimatum, let's call it, from Senator Graham?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's hard to imagine it has that much support right now. It's not as if North Korea is hosting the Olympics which is what happened back in 1980 when Moscow was hosting the Olympics.

So I imagine if somehow momentum built for this, there would be a lot of blowback not just from athletes who want to participate but also from the public who don't necessarily see the clarity of doing this right now.

BLACKWELL: All right.

Greg, to you on the phone with us. You were alternate in '76 games in Montreal. You are at the peak physical shape in '80 in -- for the Moscow games. President Carter then announced that the U.S. would boycott the games.

You did not obviously participate. Help us understand what a boycott this time around would mean for those members of the U.S. Olympic team.

GREG MASSIALAS, FENCING COACH (on the phone): Well, it's really a very tragic sort of situation because you train for extended period of time. People say four years but the reality you're training for 10, 12, 14, and 16 years sometimes. And the reality is that when you have this one moment to, you know, especially in a lot of sports, fencing or in a lot of sports generally speaking, even, say, high profile sports like skiing or, you know, even other sports, even ice skating, the Olympics are the pinnacle of basically what happens and you are taking away this opportunity when people sacrifice their lives, you know, bypass opportunities for work, for schooling, different things, it's really very tragic.


Especially when, you know, in certain places like in Russia where they are basically government employees. In the United States, a complete separation between the government and the Olympic committee. So the athletes basically are training on their own, doing -- they're sacrificing pain and money and then, all of a sudden, had the rug is pulled underneath you so it's really very, very difficult.

BLACKWELL: Greg, quickly tell me the story of 1996 games. You had this almost poetic interaction with former President Carter who, again, determined that the U.S. Olympic team would not be participating in Moscow in 1980. The former first lady was there and the niece and a boyfriend. What happened?

MASSIALAS: Yes, it was interesting because I happened to be sitting down at that time. There's a match also and I turn around and there it was like -- I leaned over my shoulder (INAUDIBLE) there is Jimmy Carter and the whole entourage, his wife and niece and boyfriend.

And so, you know, I say let me help explain to you what is going on with fencing. They can come in, you know, it's sometimes difficult to understand so I was kind of going through this. And then the person said, oh, you're an Olympian?

So the next -- the boyfriend of his niece says to me, she goes, oh, so when is your first Olympics? I said, well, actually, my first Olympics was 1980 but 1984 is when I actually competed for the first time. Of course this nephew was, at that time, was maybe 20 years old or the boyfriend was like 20 years old so he was, like, four years old or two years old when the boycott happened so he didn't know anything about it.

So he goes, why was that? And I'm like, well, because there was a boycott of the Olympics and so and so forth.

And then, you know -- and then, he goes, why was that? I said well --


I said, well, because the president put pressure on the Olympic committee and we had to withdraw.


BLACKWELL: And no response from President Carter?

MASSIALAS: Jimmy put his hand on my shoulder, OK, OK.


BLACKWELL: Yes. And just President Carter put his hand on your shoulder there.

Julian, let me come back to you quickly. There is this unpredictability in connection with North Korea. There could be a missile launch, there could be a nuclear test.

The commitment of the president to allow U.S. Olympic team to go, he mentioned it yesterday -- Julian?

ZELIZER: Oh, I thought you were going to play it.

Yes, I still don't think this is going to happen. We have to remember in 1980, the soviets had just invaded Afghanistan, that's what Carter was responded to. It was an act of aggression.

Right now we have the North Koreans making all kinds of threats. It's not clear President Trump would be behind this. It's not as if that is the host country.

So I still think the odds of this happening are very low and the context is extraordinarily different from what was going on in 1980 at that key moment.

BLACKWELL: We will see if Senator Graham, who's been playing a lot more golf with the president tries to influence any decisions if we see if North Korea sends a delegation. Also those closest to former President Carter said that he really regrets that decision, the boycott in 1980.

Julian Zelizer and Greg Massialas, thank you both.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

MASSIALAS: Thank you.

PAUL: So the NFL playoffs starting with a bang, Andy Scholes.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Really did, Christi. The Titans making an epic comeback against the Chiefs yesterday. You have to see the wild touchdown that sparked that rally.

We will have that for you next.



BLACKWELL: A big weekend for football in Atlanta. The city will host the National Championship game Monday night. The Falcons get a big win in the playoffs too.

PAUL: Andy Scholes is the man of the hour this weekend.

SCHOLES: It's a good time to be a football fan at Atlanta. I'd tell you that. Atlanta is like the football capital of the world right now.

The Falcons taking on the Rams in L.A. yesterday in the wildcard round of the playoffs. The team trying to get to back-to-back Super Bowls and, hey, they may be peaking at just the right time.

Devonta Freeman scored in the first half thanks to one of his offensive lineman pushing him in. And that gave the Falcons a 13-0 lead.

Then in the fourth quarter up to six Matt Ryan is going to put the game away hooking up with Julio Jones the eight yard touchdown. The Falcons win 26-13. They're going to face the Eagles next weekend.

In the AFC, the Chiefs had a 21-3 lead at halftime over the Titans. And they blew it. Marcus Mariota had one of the most impressive touchdowns in playoff history.

Check it out. His pass is going to get batted up. He is going to catch it and then jump in for the touchdown.

Just incredible. The Titans is just the second team in NFL history to win a playoff game on the road after trailing by 18 or more at halftime.

They shocked Kansas City. The final (INAUDIBLE) was 22-21.

The excitement ramping up for Monday night's championship game between Georgia and Alabama. The team is going through media day yesterday.

Nick Saban is a perfect 11-0 against his former assistant coaches. Bulldogs' head coach Kirby Smart is one of them. He's going to try to be the first off Saban's coaching tree to beat him.


KIRBY SMART, GEORGIA HEAD COACH: I have nothing but good things to say about University of Alabama and Coach Saban and their staff. I'm close to a lot of those guys. But the game is not between Coach Saban and I.

I'd like my chances playing against him in pickup basketball sometimes better than I would in a game possibly.

NICK SABAN, ALABAMA HEAD COACH: I think that the results that he got in whatever his role was, you know, certainly showed that he is very, very capable in terms of leadership and being responsible to getting people to play at a high standard.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: So, guys, there's two way to think about that 11-0 stat. You could think of, hey, one of the assistants is due for a win. Good news for Georgia fans or it could be like, oh, man, that is not a good sign.

The pupil has never beaten the teacher in this situation.

BLACKWELL: Hello number 12.



PAUL: There's a time. There's a time for (INAUDIBLE).

SCHOLES: Hoping for a good game.


PAUL: All right. Andy, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right. Have a good one.

PAUL: You know (INAUDIBLE) have a good seat.


TRUMP: I went to the best colleges, came out, made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people, went to television, and for 10 years was a tremendous success, ran for president one time and won.


WOLFF: They say he's a moron, an idiot. This man does not read, does not listen.

TRUMP: Everything that I've done is hundred percent proper.