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Earthquake Causes Extensive Damage in Anchorage; Trump: Mueller Investigation Undermining U.S. Relationship with Russia; Mueller Team Says More Charges For Manafort Possible; Kremlin: Cancellation Of Trump-Putin Meeting "Leads To More Tension". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 30, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Dangerous earthquake. Anchorage, Alaska, suffers extensive damage from a powerful quake centered just miles from the city, that closed airports and damaged hospitals. We're getting dramatic new video of the shaking and the aftermath.

[17:00:22] Undermined relationship. The White House says the Mueller investigation is hurting ties between the United States and Russia. But President Trump insists it's not the reason he cancelled his meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit.

More Manafort charges? Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is considering bringing more criminal counts against the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who Mueller says violated his plea agreement.

And the despots' club. President Trump exchanges pleasantries here at the G-20 with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, implicated by the CIA in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the prince a high-five. Is the Saudi leader getting away with murder?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, live at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news. We're live here in Buenos Aires, where world leaders are gathered for a summit of the top industrialized nations. And President Trump is right in the middle of the spotlight, insisting his decision to cancel a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin is unrelated to dramatic new developments of the Mueller investigation, which the White House now says is undermining the U.S. relationship with Russia.

We're also following breaking news from Alaska, where the state's largest city, Anchorage, has been rocked by a magnitude 7 earthquake, causing extensive damage and felt 400 miles away. And the region is still being rocked by dozens of aftershocks.

This hour, I'll talk with Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents, analysts and specialists, they are also standing by.

We're going to have much more on the breaking news from here at the G- 20 summit in just a moment. But first, let's get the very latest on that major earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, we're seeing some very dramatic video. What's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are, Wolf. First, the good news. So far, no reports of deaths or serious injuries. But we're still early in the recovery, and make no mistake, this was a very severe event.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Violent shaking. Debris falls from the ceiling. Terrified people dive under desks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK. You're OK.

TODD: This video from a TV reporter inside a sixth-floor office of the Nesbit Courthouse in downtown Anchorage shows the earthquake lasted several seconds.

Inside this home, a horrified mother grabs her children. She heads toward the door, then hugs them. A passenger in this vehicle took this video of an off-ramp that collapsed, an SUV stuck in the middle of the damage.

The earthquake, which measured 7.0, struck at about 8:30 a.m. local time and caused significant damage to homes, buildings and other infrastructure across Anchorage. Widespread power outages are reported.

In this security video, you can see what appear to be several transformers blowing up in the background.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FedEx, go around! FedEx, go around!

TODD: At Ted Stevens International Airport, planes were directed not to land. A ground stop was ordered. A control tower was temporarily evacuated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Attention all aircraft, there was an earthquake here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aircraft, we're evacuating the TRACON for an earthquake, and everybody stand by.

TODD: A brief tsunami warning was issued then cancelled. But a local seismologist says the shaking was felt up to 400 miles away.

People who've lived in Alaska for decades and are used to this threat describe this as a severe event.

KRISTIN DOSSETT, FELT EARTHQUAKE NEAR ANCHORAGE (via phone): I have been here 37 years, and that was the most violent earthquake I have ever felt. It was absolutely terrifying.

TODD: At the most intense moments of the crisis, many Alaskans were hard-pressed to get information on it. TV and radio stations were knocked off the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are TVs on the ground. You can see this right here. A TV on the ground. All of these are TVs and computers. This is a camera.

TODD: A government seismologist spoke of the frequency and intensity of earthquakes in Alaska, part of the so-called Rim of Fire in the Pacific region.

GAVIN HAYES, RESEARCH SEISMOLOGIST, USGS: Earthquakes this close to Anchorage are obviously not very frequent, but it's a plate boundary. It's a massive zone. And so big earthquakes are fairly common in this region. We saw a massive 9.2 earthquake in 1964.

TODD: Employees at one restaurant in Anchorage turned into instant first responders when the shaking started.

[17:05:05] GABRIELLE BLACK, ALASKA CAFE EMPLOYEE (via phone): All my co-workers were yelling, you know, "Get under the tables, get under the tables and be safe." But I'm still shaking. I'm still -- you can probably hear it in my voice. I'm just scared it's going to happen again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And it will happen again, at least on a smaller scale. Seismologists say there have been several dozen aftershocks since the earthquake struck this morning, and there will be several more, they say, for weeks, months, possibly even years -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, the major oil pipeline across Alaska, I understand, had to be shut down. What's the latest on that?

TODD: Right, Wolf. Operators of the Alyeska Pipeline, also known as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, say they had to shut that pipeline down right after the earthquake hit. But they say, as of now, they know of no damage to the pipeline. It was shut down as a precaution. But right now, they are still assessing that. A very important oil pipeline, obviously.

BLITZER: Certainly is. All right, Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting.

Here in Buenos Aires, the cloud of the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, Russia investigation is hanging over President Trump, and the White House now says it's undermining Washington's relationship with Moscow.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is also here in Buenos Aires with us.

Jim, the president tweeted just a short time ago, first of all, about the Alaska earthquake. He's promising federal help.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. White House officials say President Trump is being briefed on the latest damage reports coming out of Alaska after the earthquake there.

But the president is still meeting with world leaders here at the G-20 with one notable exception: Russia's Vladimir Putin. But the White House insists that has nothing to do with the cloud hanging over his head, the Russia investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Down in Argentina, President Trump appears to be trying to tango his way out of one diplomatic dance, a meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, will you be exchanging pleasantries with Putin?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you! Thank you so much. It's time to go. Let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know. Not particularly.

ACOSTA: The president suggested his decision to scrap a formal meeting with Putin at the G-20 summit had nothing to do with the Russia investigation but was in response to Moscow's escalating tensions with Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

TRUMP: Ukraine. Pure and simple, Ukraine. We don't like what happened. We're 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 regard to the ships and the sailors, that was the sole reason.

ACOSTA: The White House went further, saying in a statement, "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 cancelled meeting is Ukraine. Hopefully, that will be resolved soon, so that productive conversations can begin."

The president is in full damage control mode after his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Moscow real-estate project, admitting his discussions with then- candidate Trump about the deal extended well into the 2016 race.

Just before signing a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, Mr. Trump was downplaying that Cohen bombshell, tweeting, "Against all odds, I decide to run for president and continue to run my business. Very legal and very cool. Talked about it on the campaign trail. Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia, put up zero money. Zero guarantees. And didn't do the project. Witch hunt."

But contrast that with so much of what Mr. Trump has said in the past, including this declaration days before he was sworn into office: "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I have nothing to do with Russia. No deals, no loans. No nothing."

The reality is then-candidate Trump never talked about the Moscow project on the trail, even as he was touting the benefits of improved ties with Russia.

TRUMP: They say, "Putin likes Trump." And he said nice things about me. He called me a genius. He said we're going to win. That's good. That's not bad. That's good.

You know, some of my opponents said, "We want you to disavow that statement." Why would I disavow, OK? Why? But if we could get along with Russia, wouldn't that be a good thing instead of a bad thing?

ACOSTA: Even as former top aides pushed back on questions about Mr. Trump's business dealings with Russia, as former campaign chairman Paul Manafort did during the Democratic convention.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So to be clear, Mr. Trump has no financial relationships with any Russian oligarchs?

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: That's what he said. That's what I said -- that's obviously what the -- our position is.

ACOSTA: At the G-20, Putin is making the rounds, bumping into Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, another leader President Trump may only see briefly, as the U.S. is distancing itself for the moment from the kingdom in Riyadh after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Putin was all smiles with the prince.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:10:04] ACOSTA: The president is scheduled to meet with other world leaders before leaving the G-20, including China's Xi Jinping for a high-stakes discussion on trade issues.

As for the new questions hanging over the president in the Russia investigation, there are some grumbles inside the GOP over Mr. Trump's changing stories on the Moscow project. One top GOP strategist told me earlier today, it would have been a different campaign in 2016, had the public known about it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta reporting from here in Buenos Aires. Thank you very much.

I want to bring in CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson; and CNN senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. They're also here with us at the G-20 summit.

Michelle, the White House says the Mueller investigation undermines the U.S. relationship with Russia right now. How is it impacting, though, this summit? MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot

of things undermine the U.S.-Russia relationship. How about the fact that Vladimir Putin is implicated in murders and attempted murders on foreign soil? Or the fact that Russia has taken over part of its neighbor? Or that Russia influence was involved in the downing of a passenger plane?

I mean, for the White House to say that it's the Mueller probe that's hurting the relationship is a bit much.

But it absolutely hangs over the summit. It affects Trump's mood in ways that are only hinted at by his aides. Every world leader that he meets with knows everything that's going on back home. That's in their minds. They read his tweets in the morning. It's not to say that productive conversations aren't going to happen.

But by not meeting with Vladimir Putin, that does take away the possibility of some bad optics or some potential problems. But it also takes away an opportunity for Trump to improve on that performance in Helsinki that was jaw-dropping to people of any political persuasion.

BLITZER: Because as you know, Nic, the president says he cancelled the meeting. It was supposed to be a two-hour meeting tomorrow morning, Saturday, here in Buenos Aires, because of Russia's aggression against Ukraine. But why not go ahead and have the meeting and express U.S. opposition, U.S. concern, deep anger, face-to-face with the Russian leader?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, there's clearly a lot of frustration on the Russian side, as well. I mean, they have been wanting this meeting. They count on this meeting. I think this is going to be a hard sell for President Putin, or he's going to have to find a way to sell it when he goes back home, that he didn't get this meeting, because he came back from Helsinki looking so good, almost the cat who got the cream, if you will.

But, you know, President Trump is missing that opportunity to get into that meeting. The Russians wanted it. So go ahead and have it. Talk about the -- the missile treaty, the intermediate nuclear force missiles in Russia that is such a point of contention between the two countries right now. And press President Putin on Ukraine.

Let's not forget, earlier today, the G-7 countries -- that's, you know, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Canada -- all signed a very, very strong statement condemning what Russia has done, what Vladimir Putin has done just now in Ukraine, taking not only those vessels but also taking those sailors now to Moscow.

So you've -- President Trump had strong backing to go into that meeting and take that case very strongly to President Putin. And that is complete loss now.

KOSINSKI: But by not doing it, that only raises the questions of why doesn't he want to do that? Isn't now the best time to do that? BLITZER: Issue that kind of stern warning to the Russian leader.

You did some excellent reporting that the president was deeply irritated by all of the Michael Cohen developments before he left Washington. How is that affecting -- because supposedly, and it's your reporting, he's in a pretty terrible mood right now going into this summit. How is that affecting his interactions with world leaders?

KOSINSKI: Right. So our sources saying that, you know, he's rattled by this; he's extremely distracted. That may be why there could have been some slight downgrades in the status of meetings, how much time he was originally planning to spend with certain world leaders versus what he's going to do now.

I mean, the White House pushes back on that. There's -- there's a question over, you know, were there really any changes to these planned meetings?

But you see his mood going in by these tweets that he keeps sending every morning. By calling the Mueller investigation again a hoax and a witch hunt, what kind of message does that send on the world stage? That's like taking up water for Putin yet again.

And as one diplomatic source said to me today, look where the American president stands in relation to the U.S.'s closest allies. Look how those conversations have been lately with the U.K., France and Germany. That is really unprecedented.

BLITZER: The Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, as you know, he's here. It's the first time he's really been meeting with world leaders since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist who wrote for the "Washington Post." How's that working out so far?

ROBERTSON: It's a rehabilitation tool for him. You know, I think we can say so far that it's going OK. It does appear that he met with President Trump briefly. The Saudis, from their point of view, didn't want to have a photograph of that. They were concerned about what President Trump might say in that environment.

I mean, he got a high five from President Putin. It's not the kind of guy you actually want to have a high five with on the global stage. But this just tells you what we already know, that the relationship between Russia and Saudi Arabia is strong. It's also a message to the United States.

President Trump says, "If I don't sell weapons, the United States doesn't sell weapons, then Russia will." He met with the Indian prime minister yesterday. Did he talk about Khashoggi? We don't know, because we're not told that. What they did talk about was Saudi Arabia's investment in India. So that's going well.

There is a picture of -- he's also meeting with Theresa May. She was going to give a stern message.

But I think the message that Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, will perhaps have trouble spinning will be the video of him meeting with the French president, Macron. Because Macron, you can see, has taken a tough line with him. And although the official lines about that meeting was Macron tells MBS he wants international investigators as part of the investigation into Jamal Khashoggi's killing, actually, when you try to read the lips and look at the body language, there was something much sterner going on there. That's not something in public, a dressing down the crown prince is going to take well.

But if you add up all of the scores here that we've seen so far, he's batting pretty well from his own estimation.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens at the dinner tonight and what happens tomorrow.

KOSINSKI: And if anybody was going to do that --

ROBERTSON: It was Macron.

KOSINSKI: -- on the world stage, it was going to be Macron. He made sure that those cameras were right there.

ROBERTSON: Yes, he did. Yes, he did.

KOSINSKI: Up close to hear even some of those words. It was -- it was uncomfortable to watch Mohammad bin Salman --

ROBERTSON: You could see the tone change, couldn't you.

KOSINSKI: -- trying to smile, this forced smile. And, you know, you have to just say, "Well, at least somebody did that."

ROBERTSON: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stick around. There's a lot more we're watching here at the summit. Michelle Kosinski and Nic Robertson reporting.

I want to get some more on all of this right now. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is joining us. He's the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us. The White House says that the Mueller probe is hurting U.S. relations with Russia. Do you think the Russia investigation is hampering President Trump's ability to do his job here on the world stage?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Absolutely not. Look, if you have nothing to worry about, if everything that the president has said about his relationships with Russia, whether they be economic or otherwise, that he has no interests, then it's just a question of U.S. national interests and security, vis-a-vis the Russians. And that creates a lot of troubles for our relationships, because Putin constantly violates the international order. Of course, annex Crimea, continuing conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Now the Kerch Strait in high seas and international water; Syria; the cyberattacks against our own democracy.

There's plenty to upset the relationship between the United States and Russia. And it has nothing to do with the Mueller investigation.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Senator, that the president was correct to cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin here in Buenos Aires?

MENENDEZ: No, on the contrary. What I think that he should have done is confronted Putin about what happened most recently in Ukraine. He should confront him about the continuing escalation of conflict in Eastern Ukraine. He should confront him.

You know, saying that -- that Putin denies attacking our elections and cyberattacks, when all of the intelligence agencies say that he did is simply not acceptable. I don't -- I wouldn't accept Putin's just outright denials. I'd challenge him. I would tell him, "Well, here's what's going to happen if you continue to violate the international order. Here's what's going to happen if you continue cyberattacks against the United States. Here's what's going to happen if, in Syria, we don't have a pathway forward that also pursues U.S. national interests." And so I think he should have challenged him.

Now, if what he was going to do was another Helsinki performance, yes, then he was better off cancelling it. I think he cancelled it because he's trying to avoid appearances in the aftermath of the recent Cohen -- latest confessions. And not because, you know, of his feigned interests over expressing displeasure over Ukraine. That could have been done far more forcefully, directly to Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: The president called his pursuit of a real-estate deal, a Trump Tower deal in Moscow during the first half of 2016 during the presidential campaign, he said it's very legal and very cool. How do you see it?

MENENDEZ: Well, this is the problem with this presidency: the intertwinedness of his personal business interests with the national advocacy of the nation. Especially -- even as during a candidate, you would think during that time, you would have frozen those activities. Obviously, as a president, these interests are still being pursued. You see them being pursued in China, with trademarks at the same time that we no longer -- the president said he's not going to move forward on his denying the one China policy or move forward on calling China a currency manipulator. Then all of a sudden there are trademarks given to the Trump Organization.

[17:20:34] You know, these -- this intertwining and the lack of having his, you know -- his tax returns continue to raise serious questions about the intermingling of his personal interests and whether or not they affect his views and his relationships with these countries in a way that he holds back punches.

On Russia, I just -- I just don't get it. I just don't get it whatsoever. He seems to have no backbone to confront Vladimir Putin, someone who only understands strength.

BLITZER: Whatever the facts may be, Senator, the Russian government presumably knows exactly who was involved and to what extent in those various Trump Organization business efforts with the Russians. Does that give Vladimir Putin -- do you believe, does that give him leverage over President Trump?

MENENDEZ: Well, look. If Putin wanted to use it and say, "No, there were meetings, and here's a level of the meetings we had. And here's the extent, and here's the depth of the conversations. And here are the people involved," all which would create a problem for President Trump if those meetings took place, and if, in fact, the depth of those meetings were serious enough. Yes, that's a potential leverage.

It's a potential leverage of oligarchs -- Russian oligarchs invested in the Trump Organization at a time that it was having difficult issues several years ago and continue to have an influence in that.

You know, these are all questions that the lack of the financial disclosure and the lack of transparency with this administration and the intertwinedness of its business interests raise serious questions as to why the president doesn't stand up to Vladimir Putin.

And any other president, I believe, would have. Ronald Reagan would have. George Bush would have. I don't understand --

BLITZER: All right. Senator, I want to interrupt for a moment, because I want our viewers to take a look.

You see the president and the first lady. They're now arriving at this opera house here in Buenos Aires. The families are now all getting together in advance of the dinner later tonight. You can see the president, leader of Argentina, they are there. I don't know if we can hear anything. I don't think we can.

But they're going to be going to some sort of entertainment. They're going to be going to some entertainment first before the dinner. Then they're all going to be getting together for the dinner, and maybe we'll get some pictures from there, as well.

It's important, Senator Menendez, as you know, as we're looking at these live pictures, to see the body language and to hear what they're saying, especially during these very tense times.

MENENDEZ: Well, absolutely. The last time that there was such a gathering, remember that President Trump got off of his seat and went over and spent a fair amount of time with Vladimir Putin, speaking one-on-one with no American translator with him. And no one knows what that conversation was.

So, yes. It's very important to understand the dynamics of what happened at these state dinners, who you speak to.

I'm sure Theresa May wants to speak to him after what he said about her Brexit deal. That's an ally of the United States. And he continuously undermines our allies but embraces the most authoritarian figures in the world.

BLITZER: The president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, is there, together with her husband, Jared Kushner. They are both senior advisers to the president in the White House.

You can see the Trump family now meeting with the leader of Argentina. The man the president has known now for many, many years going back to their private business deals over the years. But they're going to be -- they're going to be going forward and having this entertainment.

Michelle Kosinski -- Senator, stand by for a moment. Michelle, you're watching this together with our viewers. And they're pretty happy right now.

KOSINSKI: Yes. This is a relaxed moment. And I think everybody -- given what's going on back home, sometimes in these large events, it's the body language, the greetings, the interactions that make the biggest headlines, because everybody wants to know, how is it really behind closed doors?

You get these readouts of meetings that say very little, and seem like everything is going great all of the time. And then a day or two later, the real story trickles out of what was really said. Was really said.

So you look at these pictures, you see him interacting. Earlier in the day you saw him walk by Mohammad bin Salman and Putin without, obviously, in front of the cameras, greeting them. You know, many think that was the right thing to do at the time.

He did exchange pleasantries earlier with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. And now, you know, the curiosity is how is he going to be with America's allies? It all seems very cordial. He seems to be in a subdued mood. You see him, you know, doing all the right things.

ROBERTSON: And the president --

BLITZER: Nic, I was going to say -- but go ahead, make your point.

ROBERTSON: I was going to say President Macri, the Argentinian president, was actually quite critical in his opening statement today, essentially of President Trump's position, where you'd been reporting earlier on today, Michelle, about the difficulty of getting towards a final communique.

President Macri was talking about the need for multilateralism. This is something that President Trump doesn't like. He was talking about the need for sustainable environment, for sustainable economy. All these things that President Trump really does not like to hear and is adverse to having in the final communique. And he was addressing the whole of the G-20. And it seemed at that moment quite specifically to President Trump.

KOSINSKI: Yes. And Trump has not pushed back in tweets yet. We haven't seen the contention that there has been at prior events, where other world leaders --

ROBERTSON: Yes.

KOSINSKI: -- are interacting with him in these ways. So, given what's happening domestically, let's see, a day or two now, how these meetings went and how Trump responds to them, and whether the U.S. does join the group statement at the end. Because right now that is in question.

BLITZER: The last two summits, it didn't happen. APEC, a few weeks ago, the G-7. No communiques. This is almost unheard of in global summits. And this is happening under President Trump. This is a real change that he's bringing to the way that the world works together. Dot, not working together right now.

BLITZER: It's -- you're talking about the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where there was supposed to be a final communique amongst all the leaders. Didn't happen, necessarily.

ROBERTSON: The one in Canada.

BLITZER: And there is a question whether that's going to happen right now, given the various positions of these G-20 -- these G-20 leaders.

It's interesting. They're allowing the cameras as the arrivals come in, but apparently, there's not going to be any cameras allowed during the dinner. And we are anxious to see the interaction -- there's President Xi of China arriving right now. There's going to be a dinner tomorrow night that he's going to be having, Nic, tomorrow night that's going to be very important with the president of the United States. There's a huge, huge trade dispute affecting both countries right now.

ROBERTSON: And you can be absolutely sure all the leaders here, even Russia, really concerned about how that's going to go. Because if it goes badly, then this is going to have a real long-term knock-down effect on the global economy. And that's a worry.

President Trump today said that he feels good about it, that he thinks that the Chinese want it, but is still indicating, you know, it may not happen. So it's still -- it's still a concern. And I think even when the summit wraps up, everyone is going to be watching that dinner. They're going to want to know how it plays out.

KOSINSKI: Yes, and the push and pull here. I mean, in one of the readouts, the U.S. side mentioned the predatory practices of the Chinese, and emphasizing fair and reciprocal trade.

So they want to go into this meeting with the Chinese president, taking this hard line. And at the last minute, we found out that one of the -- one of Trump's advisers on this issue, who takes the hardest line, Peter Navarro, is now going to be a part of that meeting. So that raised questions as to is this going to end well?

But the good thing is, what we hear from our sources is the likeliest outcome is that there's pressure on the U.S. side, there's pressure from U.S. farmers, there's pressure on the Chinese side from Xi's own party to get something done here.

ROBERTSON: They want this to happen. They believe that it is only with these two men can they get past the -- KOSINSKI: And all they need to do to have a, quote, "win" is to say,

"We've worked out a framework to talk about this. We've worked out a time line to talk about this." And then Trump, if this goes well, can walk away and say, This is a success." However, you know --

ROBERTSON: If you say the tough language. And, again, going back to the opening remarks. The guidance to all these leaders coming from the Argentinean president was, you know, you have to, in the negotiations, you have to respect one another's views. It takes a long time to get consensus and agreement. You cannot do it in a day. But it does come down to respect.

And I think that, you know, when one side takes a tough line, even if China is being intransigent as well --

BLITZER: And take a look at this now. You see President Putin of Russia. He's arriving now for this dinner here at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.

You know, it's going to be important. Unfortunately, Michelle, this dinner, we're going to see -- we're not going to see anything, because cameras are not going to be allowed inside. It's closed-door. So we're not going to see the interaction between President Trump and President Putin, for example.

KOSINSKI: Yes.

BLITZER: We're not going to see the interaction between President Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, for example, and other world leaders.

KOSINSKI: True.

[17:30:00]

BLITZER: And remember, at the dinner at the G-20 summit in Germany last year, you remember what happened.

ROBERTSON: Well, absolutely. There was -- President Trump got up, he seemed to be bored or didn't understand that the lady sitting next to him spoke English. Decided to get up, move around the table, go -- leave his translator behind and go stand next to President Putin, who was sitting at a table, use his translator to have a one-on-one conversation, which as we know has become a trait of President Trump in his meetings with President Putin.

So, this was sort of completely breaking normal diplomatic protocol. So, there was not another U.S. presence in that conversation other than President Trump.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right. And no one knows to this day. But there were many Trump interactions that to this day people don't know. People close to Trump do not know what all was said.

BLITZER: Well, the world leaders are gathering now for this dinner tonight. Unfortunately, as I say, our cameras, the news medias' cameras won't be inside to see it. But we'll get some reports, I'm sure there will be some leaks coming up. I want you guys to standby much more on all the breaking news from here at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires right after this.

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[17:35:31] BLITZER: We're back here live in Buenos Aires. We're covering the G20 summit. You're looking at live pictures coming in. There's the class photo, as they say, the families of the G20 leaders. They have gathered here. They're going to have some entertainment. They're all going to have dinner later tonight. All of the G20 leaders were there. We saw President Putin of Russia and, of course, President Trump of the United States. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is there. The Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was there, as well. They're now going to be going inside for the entertainment here at the opera house in Buenos Aires.

In fact, I want to show you right now, this is the class photo. The first -- all the leaders and their spouses here in Buenos Aires. Take a look at this. There you see it right there. You see the host right in the middle, the leader of Argentina. There you see the president and first lady of the United States. You see Prime Minister Abe. You see the leader of India, the Prime Minister Modi and others. We're going follow all of these developments, but we're also following very important developments back in the United States in the Russia investigation.

The former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, he could face more charges now that his plea agreement with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has fallen apart. Let's go to our Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez, joining us right now. Evan, what is the very latest?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the very latest is that the judge has now set a sentencing date for Paul Manafort, March 5th of 2019. And one of the things we learned today from prosecutors from the Mueller prosecutors in court, is that they're still thinking about whether or not they need to charge -- they can charge Paul Manafort with additional crimes for allegedly lying during the time that he was supposed to be cooperating with prosecutors. As you remember, prosecutors have now blown up that cooperation agreement.

They say that Paul Manafort repeatedly lied during the time that he was supposed to be providing information. And so now the prosecutors are trying to decide whether they want to charge him with additional crimes. They also are trying to decide whether or not they are going to charge him with those charges that he -- as you remember, the jury in Northern Virginia hung on several counts. And so, they're trying to decide whether they want to put him on trial for those additional counts. Again, as consequence for what they say are additional crimes during the time he was supposed to be cooperating. The.

BLITZER: You know, Evan, Michael Cohen, the president's long-time lawyer and fixer, now says that work on the Trump Tower project in Moscow continued well into 2016 during the presidential campaign until June of that year. We're also told that Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., were involved in that specific project, as well. Could they now be in for more scrutiny based on what Michael Cohen is now saying?

PEREZ: It is possible, Wolf. We know that at least some of the -- some of the e-mails that the Trump organization turned over referred to Donald Trump Jr. being aware of some of the -- of this project as well as Ivanka Trump being aware of this project during that time that it was under consideration. And so, the question now is, how much more further do the Mueller prosecutors delve into this? Or do the other prosecutors from the southern district of New York delve into this?

And I can tell you this is one reason why people who talk to the president, they can tell you, this is one of the things that bothers him so much about this investigation. He believes that it is unfair for the Mueller prosecution, for the Mueller investigators, to be going not only into his personal business, the business of the family, but also to be looking into the work of the kids, his daughter and his son, because he believes that they should be off limits.

If this investigation was initially supposed to be about Russian collusion, the president and his lawyers believe and certainly people close to the president believe, that all of this should be off the table. And so, the question is, how much further do prosecutors delve into this? We do not know the answer yet. And this is why the president is so upset about it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yep. That's a good reason. All right, Evan, thank you very much. I want to bring in our correspondents and analysts to talk about all that has happened here so far and the drama that is clearly unfolding as a result of the Mueller investigation back in the United States. So, the White House, Michelle said that the Mueller probe is hurting the U.S. relationship dramatically with Russia right now. And do you get a sense that's hanging over this summit?

[17:40:09] KOSINSKI: Of course, it is. But what else has affected the U.S./Russia relationship lately? Maybe the fact that Vladimir Putin has been implicated in murders and attempted murders on foreign soil? Maybe Russia taking over part of Ukraine? Continuing war there? There are lots of things that have affected the relationship. So, to say that a legitimate U.S. investigation that has yielded dozens of indictments so far, I don't really see how that is a problem. But it is a problem for Donald Trump, certainly it affects his mood. Every meeting he has, everyone knows what's going on back home. And there's uncertainty, of course, over where it's going to end.

BLITZER: What has clearly affected the U.S./Russia relationship, Abby, is the U.S. government, the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia stole e-mails, hacked into the U.S. election system for all practical purposes, provided those stolen e-mails, those texts to WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, which in turn supposedly -- that's the allegation -- was working with Trump campaign officials.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And that very issue is something that President Trump has struggled with for about two years now. And he continues to gloss over it, we should say, because I think over time he's gotten to the point where he's been willing to acknowledge the assessment that Russia did meddle in the election in 2016 but he's been trying to kind of put that behind him. And this would have been -- this G20 would have been another attempt to do exactly that. But once again, the Mueller probe has gotten in the way of that in the eyes of the president and in the eyes of his advisers.

You saw Rudy Giuliani talking about on twitter a pattern of Mueller releasing indictments or guilty pleas or what have you, just before President Trump hits the world stage. The fact that it impacts the president's mindset, though, is on President Trump. I mean, other presidents would say, well, this is a distraction. I'm going focus on the people's business. President Trump came into this summit tweeting about Mueller. Talking about it constantly. So, President Trump is unable to let this go, and he's also unwilling to really make it clear that he's willing to stand up to Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: Yes, I just want to be precise. The U.S. intelligence community conclusion was Russia was meddling in the U.S. presidential election by hacking into those e-mails. You know, Gloria, let me get your thoughts on the president clearly was spooked by all these recent developments, especially the testimony, the revised change testimony by his long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen. Do you think that was apparent in his decision to cancel his planned two-hour meeting supposed to take place tomorrow morning here in Buenos Aires with the Russian leader?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it was. Look, one of his attorneys, Jay Sekulow, said on his radio show today that it had nothing to do with Michael Cohen. Sarah Sanders, as you know, tweeted about the Russia hoax or the witch hunt or whatever, but said the reason was, of course, Ukraine, and the president has said that. But the timing of it is very suspicious. And we know, as Abby was just saying, that this is a president who is unable to compartmentalize.

I mean, when Bill Clinton had the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he was able to do his job and let his war room handle the scandal. This president instead handles the scandal and can't seem to get away from it. And it's very clear that his pattern of tweeting has become more and more frantic on this over the last couple of weeks, particularly just since the midterm elections.

BLITZER: Yes, that tweeting has been almost nonstop. Phil Mudd, does all this weaken the president's standing among other world leaders as he tries to advance his agenda here at the G20?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think it does. But the picture is not just what's happening with Cohen now. I'm sure all those world leaders are being advised day by day on what they're seeing in the media, but the picture goes back to the beginning of the Trump administration. Let's cut to the chase. If you're sitting in the table over the next day or so in those meetings and you're going to have a conversation about Ukraine and what has been happening in terms of Russia's confrontation with Ukrainians, if you're British or German and look across the table and see President Trump, how do you trust him? Based on not only this week, but what you've seen over the past year-and-a-half-plus? Are you going to say this is the traditions of NATO, we're on this together and we have to contain the Russians, formerly the Soviets? Or you do you say the counterpart who's been with us since World War II and before has more interest in cultivating Vladimir Putin than cultivating us? I'll tell you, if I were in Britain or Germany, I'd say, I don't know the answer to that question. I wish I did, but I don't.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, let me get your thoughts on President Trump today defending his business dealings with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. He tweeted this morning that pursuing a Trump Tower in Moscow, in his words, was very legal and very cool. What's your analysis?

[17:45:16] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is true that he was not required as a candidate to withdraw from his business. And he never said he was going to withdraw from his business. However, he never said during the Republican primaries that he was in active negotiations and cultivating the Russian government, which controls development in Moscow, while he was campaigning. That is something that would have been of great interest to the American people, the Republican primary voters and his opponents. So yes, it's true it was legal but the fact that it was secret is extremely -- I think inappropriate. And the fact that he says that it was widely known and talked about is simply untrue. So, you know, it just underlines the complexity and frankly inappropriateness of what he was doing, because he kept it secret.

BLITZER: Gloria, what did you make of that reaction from the president?

BORGER: Look, I think the president was saying what a lot of his allies are saying, which was, look, I might not have won. I was a private businessman, and I was allowed to continue my business while I campaigned and, you know, protect myself just in case I lost. What he misses in all of this is that, as Jeffrey was saying, he was keeping it a secret. He was lying about it publicly. He was trying very hard to get this deal. It extended further than we ever knew.

And that if you're somebody who is talking about foreign policy on the national stage as he was, and was unable to say a bad word about Vladimir Putin during the campaign, we were all asking ourselves, why is this? How can this be? And this helps answer that mystery. He was seeking business in Russia with Vladimir Putin. He was seeking to brand a hotel in Russia at the same time. And I think that the American public might have wanted to know that by way of explanation and, of course, it was also at the same time that the Russians were hacking the election.

BLITZER: Yes, it was all kept very secret. All right, everybody stick around. There's more news we're following the Russian response to President Trump's abrupt cancellation of his one-on-one meeting here at the G20 summit with Vladimir Putin. Will the president and the Russian leader do more than simply, though, exchange pleasantries at tonight's dinner? All the G20 leaders are now attending.

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[17:52:33] BLITZER: We have breaking news just coming in about President Trump's cancellation of his one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader. Our Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance is joining us live from Moscow right now. Matthew, what are the Russians saying about the last-minute cancellation?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're regretting it. And the latest remarks coming from Dmitry Peskov, who's the Kremlin Spokesperson, is saying that if they don't is discuss these important issues, it's going to lead to more tensions. Dmitry Peskov making these remarks in Buenos Aires on the outskirts of the G20 summit where you are. He said this: "Meeting with Trump can be planned from two sides. It is impossible to plan from one side."

And so, the Kremlin spokesperson saying that President Putin is ready to continue the dialogue with the U.S. president when the U.S. president is ready to sit down. It's a much more diplomatic response to the one that the Kremlin first issued. They actually texted me a statement when they were midair on route to the G20. It must have been yesterday local time. This is what they said then: They were first informed of the cancellation. We're trying to get the issue clarified. If it's the case, we'll have a couple extra hours for other useful meetings. So, there were sort of brushing off the significance of that cancellation.

A cue was taken from that tone on state television. They've been ridiculing in some ways, the U.S. president, basically saying that he has subjected the world to a roller coaster ride. Everyone in the Trump administration needs tranquillizers. That was the line being broadcast on Russian state television and, of course, the Russian foreign ministry has played down the idea that it was that naval confrontation between Russia and Ukraine. It's the real reason President Trump abandoned the one-on-one meeting. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): Is the provocation organized by Kiev in the (INAUDIBLE) area a real reason for the cancellation of the meeting? We heard that as a public explanation and we took note of it. But is that the reality? I think that it's necessary to look for answers in the U.S. domestic political situation, which is the dominant factor in making the decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE: One last remark coming from the Kremlin spokesperson there in Buenos Aires saying this, "We, Russia, are a fairly patient country and we're waiting for the condition for the next change of the president's decision to appear." Wolf.

[17:55:14] BLITZER: All right. Matthew, thank you. Matthew Chance reporting live from Moscow. We'll get back to the breaking news that's unfolding right here in Buenos Aires. Getting new information about President Trump's decision to cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin. We'll update you on that. Also, the dramatic new video and the details emerging of the magnitude seven earthquake that caused damage in Anchorage, Alaska.

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