Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Trump's Whirlwind G-20 Underway after Cancelling Putin Meeting; Signing Statement Between U.S., Mexico, Canada on New NAFTA; Hotel Says Guest Reservation System Was Hacked; Pelosi Threatens to Tie Mueller Protections to Spending Bill; Trump Skeptical of Government Climate Change Report; Trump & Abe Meet on Sidelines of G-20 Summit; Former Trump White House Lawyer Emerges as Contender for A.G. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired November 30, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We got a statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders that does not add much to this at all. It confuses the matter more. Let's take a look at it and we'll explain what she says. She says this, "The Russian witch hunt hoax, which is hopefully now nearing an end, is doing very well. Unfortunately, it probably does undermine our relationship with Russia. However, the reason for our canceled meeting is Ukraine. Hopefully, that will be resolved soon so productive conversations can begin."

The reason the meeting was called off, the president said, was because of Ukraine, a situation with the Navy sailors there that Russia is still holding them. The underlying reason without question, and Sarah Sanders acknowledges, there is the uncomfortable optics of President Trump appearing one-on-one with Vladimir Putin in the wake of the headlines yesterday, still ongoing. We're at yet another world summit where the president distracted and trying to deal with the obstacle course of the Russia probe -- Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I'm having so many memories of awkward school photos as you lay it out that way.

Thanks, Jeff. It's great to see you.

A lot to discuss, especially what that statement meant from Sarah Sanders.

Joining me, Samantha Vinograd, CNN national security analyst, former senor to President Obama, national security advisor. Also, Max Boot is also here, CNN global affairs analyst and he's the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism, Why I Left the Right."

It's great to see you guys.

Sam, what do you make of the statement? Put aside the befuddling first sentence about the Russia investigation doing well, what does -- what is she saying in the statement?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's very clear she's echoing Russian talking points. We heard earlier today the Russians blaming U.S. politics for the reason President Trump has canceled the meeting. She's probably not wrong, though, right? It's very clear that the president didn't cancel this meeting because of Ukraine. He summited with Vladimir Putin several months ago in Helsinki when Vladimir Putin was actively attacking our sovereignty. So attacking U.S. sovereignty wasn't a red line for canceling a meeting. And the president has a consistency problem if he's now claiming Russia's violation of the territorial integrity is why he's not meeting Vladimir Putin. Plus, Kate, he, to date, has pursued a strategy of love is the answer. He's embraced despots, like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un, and said talking at a summit level is better than not talking at all or business as usual.

BOLDUAN: This is contrary to that.

VINOGRAD: He's undermining whatever semblance of a coherent national security strategy he had before by saying, yes, my executive time is actually a reward for good behavior and now I'm not going to give it to you supposedly because of Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: There's been a kind of combo or quite a range of reaction, if you will, Max, to the president canceling this meeting with Putin.

Let me play the reaction that first came from Democratic Senator Bob Menendez when I spoke with him yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ, (D), NEW JERSEY: Just avoiding a meeting doesn't speak to all the issues that are out there.

So he avoids that by not having a meeting instead of confronting Putin. And it is ironic that this president cannot find his spine to confront Vladimir Putin, but can, you know, challenge the closest allies the United States has across the globe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But on the other side, Republican Lindsey Graham called canceling it, "a show of strength and resolve" saying that it sends a signal to Vladimir Putin that his outrages against international norms will have consequences.

Where are you on this, Max? Who's right?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I'm rolling my eyes at Lindsey Graham's latest obsequiousness toward Donald Trump. The notion that perhaps canceling this meeting shows American resolve is laughable. It's a wrist slap at best. Frankly, there's probably still going to be a meeting although the announced one supposedly will not take place.

It was also stunning for me to read that statement that you were just reading, issued by Sarah Sanders, and obviously written by Trump himself, blaming the so-called Russia witch hunt hoax for the deterioration of relations with Russia. Translated, what that means is, investigating Russia's attack on the 2016 election and trying to get to the bottom of what the Russians did is hurting our relations with Russia. Does that make any sense? That is, as Sam said, the most pro-Russian viewpoint imaginable.

And I would add seeing the video from the summit a few minutes ago with Putin and MbS giving each other the big handshake and the smiles and the big bro love, that makes me sick to my stomach. These are guys with blood on their hands. And they are cavorting and happy as clams because they are gotten away with their crimes. And Donald Trump is not holding them to account. They're accepted as a normal part of the world community, even though they have committed these heinous offenses. With MbS, the Saudi crown prince, having overseen the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and Donald Trump -- just a few days ago, having committed unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, and violating international law and the freedom of navigation, and they're getting away with it. And Donald Trump is not going to stand up to them, of that, I'm pretty sure.

[11:35:04] BOLDUAN: Sam, President Trump started this summit with a political win, a signing statement with Canada and Mexico over the new NAFTA. Yes, the U.S. Congress still does need to ratify it, the other countries still need to approve it, but do you give this as a win for the president? I mean, that's what we heard from Canada and Mexico this morning.

VINOGRAD: It's somewhat up to him. I'm struck by the fact he signed the statement with Enrico Pena Nieto on his last day of office, and a new president takes over tomorrow, and with Justin Trudeau, at the same time he's threatening to close borders. There are very contradictory facts ahead of the president now. That border is really critical to this new trade agreement being successful.

I do want to point out that the G-20 itself, which is focused on this

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Yes.

VINOGRAD: -- the foundation of the G-20 is about international cooperation on international economic issues like trade. That is a foundational premise of the G-20. And this president has really decided that going rogue and riding solo on trade issues, whether it's with Canada and Mexico, the E.U., who is also president of the G-20, is his preferred course of action. So, yes, he won in getting this document signed. If it's put into force. While, at the same time, undermining this rules-based international order of which the G-20 is a key part.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what happens today, honestly. We're just going to have to wait and see together.

Great to see you, Sam.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Max, thanks so much.

BOOT: It's going to be crazy. Whatever happens, it's going to be crazy.

BOLDUAN: It's always crazy whenever you're around, Max. That's what I say.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

Coming up, there's been a major data breach of Marriott Hotels. Hackers were able to access names, passport information, credit numbers for a half a billion people. How did this go on for so long, first off, and also, maybe most importantly, what do you need to know about it now?

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:26] BOLDUAN: Potentially the biggest consumer data breach ever. Marriott Hotels says its guest reservation system has been hacked potentially exposing the personal data of approximately 500 million guests. The hack effects its Starwood Hotel brands, including St. Regis, Weston, Sheridan and W Hotels. It's really amazing how big this is.

CNN chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, is here and looking at this.

This is a lot.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think we have data breach fatigue, and this one really brings back to the fore how your information is out there for the highest bidder. This is 500 million people. And Starwood is saying they know for sure there could be some duplicates there. So let's say 327 million people who have stayed at one of these hotels in the last four years, your information could be there. We're talking information, we're talking about your name, address, phone number, your gender, e-mail, passport number, date of birth, day you check in, day you check out. Reservations you perhaps made in the past or future. Imagine how much information that is. For some millions, there were credit card information that was also attached here. They don't know if it was encrypted or not encrypted. They're still trying to figure that out, which is also scary.

They found this on September 8th. They say there was an internal warning that was flagged than an unauthorized party had gotten into the information, was encrypting it, and trying to get it out of the system to export from the system. It took them another month to figure out what was going on and what that information was, and it was the entire reservation database. We don't know is who. Were these spies, was is a government trying to get this information, was it criminals, a criminal entity trying to get this information? We don't know. They only say at this point an unauthorized party.

BOLDUAN: Starting back in 2014.

ROMANS: That's right.

BOLDUAN: It's amazing this has been going on so long.

ROMANS: They'll start sending out e-mails to people who may have been exposed. You'll need to monitor your information --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: To everybody.

ROMANS: Right.

BOLDUAN: So everybody, if you stayed in a Marriott --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Three-hundred million e-mails coming.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a new demand from Nancy Pelosi, a threat to potentially shut down the government if Republicans don't vote to protect Robert Mueller and his investigation. Does she mean it? Will it work? We'll discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:46:58] BOLDUAN: As Congress races toward another deadline, the question must once again be asked: Can lawmakers get their act together and avoid another government shutdown? Now, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is joining the calls for protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and saying that it should be, and Democrats will fight to have it included in any final spending bill if it's not done before then. The president has his own demands. He wants billions of dollars for the border wall be included in that final spending bill.

Joining me now is a former Republican governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman.

It's great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Good to see you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I checked your Twitter feed and you said, "Shame on you, Republicans, if you don't move ahead in protecting Bob Mueller's investigation."

Mitch McConnell says, though, this is a solution in search of a problem because Mueller's investigation hasn't yet been impeded. Does he have a point?

TODD WHITMAN: He does have a point. Except that when you hear all the rumblings and all of the threats about we want to get rid of it, and we have the president threatening -- well, you don't know what he's going to do. He says one thing one day and one thing the next day. There's a reason to be concerned about it. It just would be good practice for them to adopt legislation that does this, not for the Mueller investigation, but for any of these special counsels. They have got to be able to do their job. The American people want that. Polls show that. They want this concluded. And they want him to have the freedom to do it and do it right. That should be true for all special prosecutors. That's legislation the Congress should take up.

BOLDUAN: We'll see. Doesn't seem likely. We'll see, though.

You were also importantly an EPA administrator under George W. Bush. I say that because President Trump's new pick to lead the EPA has faced a lot of scrutiny and criticism on his position on climate change. Andrew Wheeler was asked this week about clean air initiatives. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIET EILPERIN, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: What are three policies that the administration is championing that are reducing air pollution in absolute terms?

ANDREW WHEELER, NOMINEE FOR EPA SECRETARY: I'm not sure I'm going to be able to give three off the top of my head.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Even later, he struggled to come up with it. Should the head of the EPA be able to answer that question or --

TODD WHITMAN: One would think so. One would hope so. But if you're stuck in this position where you might believe it's happening and humans have a role to play, but your boss doesn't, you're in an awkward position because you really have to toe the line or better yet say nothing else if it truly goes against what you think. And maybe he's trying to fudge that a little bit.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you --

(CROSSTALK)

TODD WHITMAN: His belly may not be quite as bright as the president's, which seems to be brighter than any scientist or any of his intelligence people. Who knows?

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the president's position on climate change because he was asked about his own administration's report that came out, pretty devastating report, about climate change. Here's what the president had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you read the climate report yet?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've seen it. I've read some of it. It's fine.

[11:50:03] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They say the economic impact will be devastating.

TRUMP: Yes, I don't believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You don't believe it?

TRUMP: No. No. I don't believe it.

Right now, we are at the cleanest we have ever been. That's very important to me. But if we are clean but every other place on earth is dirty, that's not so good. So I want clean air.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The president doesn't believe the report coming out from his own administration. It was multiple agencies, hundreds of scientists. What do people do who work at the EPA? What do they do with that?

TODD WHITMAN: They keep their heads down. That's part of the problem. They are very concerned. If they say anything or contradict the administration, they get sent off to some position that they -- or some place they don't want to be or they don't have the expertise. This is bad for the American people, bad for our health, bad for our future, and bad for our children. It's happening. We see it every day. It's not just this report. You have the IPC report. You had another one in the interim yesterday that came out that just reaffirms that this is true and it's happening faster than we thought it was going to. We need to prepare for it. We are not going to stop it. It's a natural phenomenon. But we, as human beings, are impacting it, so that we need to start thinking about that, to slow it down to the extent we can, and prepare for what we're going to face, more wildfires, more floods, more mudslides, more hurricanes, more nor'easters. They cost us a lot and it's a national security issue because it's happening around the world that. That affects us as well.

BOLDUAN: National security implications are fascinating and important thing that doesn't get enough attention.

Great to see you. Thank you for coming in.

TODD WHITMAN: Good to see you. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Trump eyeballing a new attorney general. Details on why this man is a top contender for the job and what his ties are with the Trump White House.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We are going to take you live to Buenos Aires where President Trump is meeting with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Let's listen in.

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(through translation): Every time when we see each other, we always have a very candid discussion. And today, I look forward to having another candid discussion with you on the regional fears, including North Korea, as well as Japan and the U.S. economic relations, of course, including our trade relations and other important topics.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you.

Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

[11:55:07] TRUMP: Ukraine.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Ukraine.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: We don't like what happened. We are not happy about it. Nobody is. And hopefully, they'll be able to settle it out soon because we look forward to meeting with President Putin. But on the basis of what took place with respect to the ships and the sailors, that was the sole reason.

Thank you very much, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- China?

TRUMP: We will be meeting with China. Yes. We'll be meeting tomorrow. We have already spoken. We are working very hard. If we can make a deal, that will be good. I think they want to and I think we would like to. We will see. But we will meet with President Xi in a little while. But for the most part, tomorrow, I would say, will be our big meeting. But in the meantime, people are working and our staff is working and we have a lot of very talented people working. Larry Kudlow's representatives are dealing with them on a constant basis. There's some good signs. We will see what happens.

Thank you. Good question.

Thank you very much, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Listening right there to the president and Shinzo Abe getting some questions. You may not have heard the question but he was clearly asked about the cancellation of his meeting with Vladimir Putin and the president saying the sole reason was Ukraine, we don't like what is happening there, hopefully, they can settle it soon because he is looking forward to meeting with Vladimir Putin. We will follow the president in Buenos Aires at the G-20 summit.

At the same time, back here, Republicans and Democrats continue to debate whether or not the president had the right to appoint Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general, complete with a lawsuit by three Senate Democrats. CNN has reporting on who the president may be appointing as the permanent attorney general.

For more on this, let's go to Laura Jarrett. She's joining me now with more.

Laura, what are you picking up?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Hi, there, Kate. A number of names have surfaced in recent days, including the head of the Justice Department over here, the head of the Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim. He has close ties to the White House, especially former White House counsel, Don McGahn. He served in the White House counsel's office and helped shepherd through the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. His name has risen to the top.

Also other names in the mix, including former attorney general, Bill Barr, as well as a circuit court judge, Michael Luttig, who now services as the general counsel of Boeing, and also a Republican congressman close to the White House, John Ratcliffe. We don't know which of these names will be the ultimate successor to Jeff Sessions but this White House is very mindful of not naming anyone too soon, leaving a potential gap between when Congress returns in January, and leaving that person vulnerable to unearthing a mountain of evidence when these contentious hearings will be highly watched -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Laura, on this, there's one name that was in contention, but seems to -- I don't know if we can say be falling off of contention, Labor Secretary Acosta?

JARRETT: Yes. A report from the "Miami Herald" has made it, sources telling us, pretty impossible for him to get the position. He was a U.S. attorney in Florida and he oversaw a plea deal for the mega- millionaire, Jeffrey Epstein, which appears to have put him out of the running. As well as Matt Whitaker. He also appears to be out of the running. He is serving as the acting attorney general and can serve until June -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Is there any word on timing? Traditionally, when the president announces that someone is going to be out, when the attorney general is long known that Jeff Sessions will be on his way out, the president would have someone lined up to be in that spot. The fact that there's lag time since then and Matt Whitaker has been in that position for quite some time now, what do you make of the timing?

JARRETT: It's quite notable. As you mentioned, Whitaker can stay here for 210 days under the Vacancies Act. The president obviously likes that flexibilit6y. It gives him a little wiggle room. Whitaker has come under fire for a number of things he said about the special counsel's investigation before he was in the job. But the president, according to our sources, doesn't appear to be in any rush to name a permanent successor. But we've seen in this White House, Kate, anything can change a moment's notice.

BOLDUAN: In a moment's notice. Stay there, Laura, because you never know when they need to come back.

Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

JARRETT: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for your reporting.

And thank you all so much for joining me today and this week.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

[11:59:56] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

President Trump is at the G-20 summit in Argentina, but his anger at the Russia special counsel traveled with him.