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Mueller Filing Expected; CIA Director Briefs Senators; Senators Speak out on Saudi Situation. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 4, 2018 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: We know with this president they're going to be brought up.

Yes, always wonderful to see you, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good, that way, too. Perfect.

Thanks for joining me.

Thanks for joining me, Chris.

John King with INSIDE POLITICS starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

President Trump plans a private visit with the Bush family today. This as Americans of all walks of life file through the Capitol to say farewell to our 41st president.

Plus, the Russia special counsel does his talking in court filings. And a big one is due today. The former Trump national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is a cooperating witness after pleading guilty and Robert Mueller, today, lays out some details.

And Joe Biden says he's the most qualified to be the next president. What say you, Elizabeth Warren?


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think that the vice president has many wonderful qualities and I'm glad to hear that he's out and talking.


KING: You're looking right now at live pictures inside the United States Capitol Rotunda where President George Herbert Walker Bush is lying in state. This hour, we expect agent who served on his Secret Service detail to visit him and to pay their final respects as the nation pauses this week to celebrate President Bush's life and his legacy.

Last hour, a final visit from a trusted friend, the president's service dog, you see him there, Sulley, came to the Capitol and laying near the casket.

Much more on President Bush and the services and ceremonies throughout the hour.

But we begin today with a scheduled court filing from the special counsel, expected to shatter a year long silence from Michael Flynn. The fired former national security adviser, you might remember, pleaded guilty back in 2017 to lying to federal investigators about conversations he had in the campaign year with then Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn then agreed to cooperate. Since, we've heard nothing about what Flynn has told Robert Mueller. Today's filing in court could fill in -- could fill in some of those details and show how or if Flynn has moved Mueller's case forward.

Flynn connects to several different areas the special couple is exploring. One is the nonresponse from Russia to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration just after the 2016 election. A GOP activist mission to obtain Hillary Clinton's e-mails is another. A secret meeting during the presidential transition with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, and a subsequent meeting in Seychelles reportedly to establish a back channel between Moscow and President-elect Trump.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins us now.

Shimon, again, the special counsel doesn't talk in public. He doesn't respond to presidential tweets. But when he puts in these important court filings, that's when we learn. What we are looking for?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, certainly that is when we learn, and in most cases it always makes news. Really what we're looking for here is whether or not we get any insight into where this investigation is, where it's been really for the last two years. And, most importantly, what Michael Flynn's cooperation has been like.

Look, you know, normally in these kinds of situations, the government, when they have a cooperating witness, or a defendant in this case, what they do is they file what's called a 5k (ph) letter. And that's essentially asking the judge to be lenient in terms of the sentencing for Michael Flynn because really that's -- that was the incentive for his cooperation in this case.

So in that letter we may learn extensive details about where Michael Flynn was most helpful. How impactful was he on this investigation. And what information did the special counsel basically learn because of his cooperation?

We may not learn as to who else is being target and who else is under investigation. Those types of things are normally sealed and not something that the Department of Justice likes to make public. But, none the less, we will learn something. We will learn how cooperative Michael Flynn has been and if there is this letter, if they do provide him this letter, that means that his cooperation here has been really extensive and important to this investigation and there, as in most cases, the judge will likely reduce any jail time that Michael Flynn is facing. So, most significant, in the end, I think what we're going to learn is

where Michael Flynn's investigation, his information is most helpful and possibly, possibly, John, where this investigation now stands.

KING: And we saw in the Michael Cohen documents last week, gets you closer to the president's. Another question here, does -- do these documents as well?

Shimon, appreciate the reporting live. If anything new is filed during the hour, please come back.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Michael Warren with "The Weekly Standard," CNN's Phil Mattingly, Ayesha Rascoe of NPR.

And, remember, this -- there's a lot of questions about Michael Flynn, contacts with the Russians, some of the spy novel stuff that we never have been sure whether it's actually just smoke or whether there's something there. But one of the key questions is, did the president of the United States know that Michael Flynn had lied to investigators and what else did he know when he fired Jim Comey. That gets you the big -- whole seeds of the beginning of, was there some effort by the president to obstruct here?

[12:05:00] AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: And a big question will be, how will the president respond when whatever these facts are, are laid out. He's obviously been very agitated. Yesterday he was tweeting, you know, his kind of concerns about Robert Mueller, he's not the man we think he is and all of this. So he's clearly like upset. It seems like he's upset about something. And so how will he react if there is anything in this that implicates him or maybe other people that are close to him.

KING: That's a key point because upset -- because, remember, he knows more than we do.

: That's right.

KING: And he sees what's happening with Michael Cohen. You read the court filings there. He knows there's a Manafort filing coming. He knows the Flynn filing is coming. He knows -- I'm just going to read from Michael Isikoff of "Yahoo," a very fine crime and -- cops and robbers reporters, if you will, who says they've been telling people they're tying up loose ends and trying to conclude said one source familiar with the communications between Mueller's office and defense lawyers who represents key witnesses in the case.

So there's a sense that this is getting closer to the top of the pyramid.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Which is interesting because I actually talked to someone in the White House today and we were talking about the end of the Mueller probe and they said, yes, maybe the Mueller probe is coming to an end, but then what are House Democrats going to do with all of the information that they get from this? They don't think that this headache is anywhere near ending. And that's evident from the president's Twitter feed. He's clearly

unnerved by everything that has happened lately, especially the developments with Michael Cohen that happened. He seemed to have bottled up that anger while he was in Argentina for the G-20 Summit. And then he unleashed all of it yesterday on Twitter. And that's something he's continued to fume about behind the scenes. Not just about Michael Cohen, but I think the Michael Flynn thing today could raise questions because we also know that President Trump stayed in touch with Michael Flynn after he left the administration after the president said that he had lied to the vice president, but didn't mention that he had lied to the FBI because Flynn told people that the president relayed a message to him essentially to hang in there. So it will be interesting to see if that communication continued or what we will learn from this.

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Not just from Flynn's time in the White House, very short time, and after, but also before Flynn entered the White House.

KING: Right.

WARREN: Remember, when -- when he entered this plea deal, he was the first person that Mueller was able to grab who had connections to the campaign, the transition, and the White House. This is what I think people have forgotten because, of course, what did Mike Flynn originally pleaded to was lying to the FBI. Sort of a process crime.

KING: Right.

WARREN: And I think what supporters of the president have sort of been hoping is that, that's all that Mueller has. It could be all that Mueller has, but there's a whole a lot of other connections that Flynn has that Mueller could have been exploiting. And we'll find out hopefully a little more about whether or not that he actually had the goods or not.

KING: Right, because we've learned in these other cases, Mueller gets you on the process question and then tries to bring you in and then tells you, here's what I know. How long of a sentence would you like? Let's talk.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, and I think that's -- to pull it back a little bit, that's the value of this filing. That will be the value of the filings on Friday. A good rule of thumb is, nobody actually know what Mueller knows. The only thing we know is what we hear from defense lawyers, what we hear from witnesses that have gone in. Almost to a person who say, man, they really know everything there is to know.

And so these court filings, the valley that they serve is not speculation, it's not what people think might be happening based on questions that were asked when they came in to testify or came in to meet with the special counsel. This is in black and white what the special counsel knows.

Now, how deep is it going to go, how much are we going to learn from this, we're not totally sure. But if you want to know the most concrete information that is almost indisputable, that we've known over the course of the last couple of months, comes from filings like this. And that's what they provide.

KING: Right. And so you see from Michael Cohen, he says, business dealings with Moscow about Trump Tower went on at least six months longer than we all said during the campaign. We were lying, including the president of the United States. That's what Michael Cohen is saying now. The president says that's not true.

Then you have Michael Flynn. So the Obama administration, post- election, imposes sanctions and Russia is silent. And everybody says, whoa, wait a minute, why isn't Vladimir Putin pushing back? Why isn't he fighting back? The question is, was there some deal? We don't know that there was, but that's Bob Mueller's question.

Because of campaign relations, was there some deal with the Russians going forward? And so you watch all these pieces come together and part of it -- you mentioned the president's anger. You as well. He's been saying that Michael Cohen, number one, he says he's lying and then he says he's weak because he's talking. He says Roger Stone is brave because Roger Stone, who is allegedly part of this whole WikiLeaks conspiracy, what did they have, when did, you know, he talking -- was he talking to WikiLeaks, was he talking to the Trump campaign?

Listen to a former Obama administration official here saying the president's trying to essentially put his thumb on the scale.


NEAL KATYAL, ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: He didn't order Stone not to testify. He didn't have to do that. He said, don't cooperate and effectively you're going to get a get out of jail free. But if you do, then I'm going to tell everyone to throw the book at you. And, you know, you know, the mob does it with violence. He's doing it with pardons and with the law enforcement apparatus.


KING: The White House says the president's just speaking his mind. But the lawyers say, you're the president, you're the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, you're supposed to -- on these things.

COLLINS: And it's interesting because also all of this talk about Roger Stone and what he's -- what he knows and the president is saying that he's got guts because he's not cooperating with the special counsel and he said he won't testify against the president. But it wasn't that long ago that the president said the same about Michael Cohen on Twitter.

KING: Right.

[12:10:00] COLLINS: He talked about flipping something he said he believes should be illegal. And he said, sorry, I don't see Michael doing that.

Now we know that Michael Cohen has sat with the special counsel's team for 70 hours. And that's what it's unnerved the president so much because he and Michael Cohen were so close and Michael Cohen did know so much.

Now, the president says he's lying and he's making all of this up. That's still to be determined.

KING: But the special counsel knows that they're going to question Michael Cohen's credibility. So when Michael Cohen does a plea deal, the special counsel releases only a minimum of what he has to, e-mails to back up Michael Cohen's new story.

And that's getting the attention -- this is Judge Napolitano on Fox News, normally friendly to the president, normally a network where you hear the echoes of the president, this is a witch hunt, there's nothing here. But Judge Napolitano starts reading these filings, understands the law and says --


ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: The most significant things that we learned last Thursday when Michael Cohen pleaded guilty for the second time is -- is not what Michael Cohen told the court and not what Bob Mueller told the court, it's what Michael Cohen told the FBI when they debriefed him for 70 hours. He must have told them something and they must have corroborated it and they haven't tipped their hand yet as to what that is.


KING: Beginning to see, again, even from places normally allied with the president, attacking Bob Mueller, essentially compliments, that these guys know what they're doing.

WARREN: Well, and this makes Phil's point, that now we're getting black and white actual information that sort of everybody agrees on. You read that criminal information about the Michael Cohen plea. There's Michael Cohen's signature. There's Michael Cohen's lawyer's signature. Everybody's saying this is -- we're all in agreement here. That's so much harder to spin. And I think that the benefit for, OK, both sides and this, the defenders of Trump, but also the people who think that this is going to be able to have Mueller throw the book at him, they've been just sort of dealing in speculation. Now we're getting into facts.

KING: And as we go to break, I just -- first, before we go to break, remember, the Flynn filing today, Manafort filing by the end of the week, so we're starting to learn more and more from these filings.

And as we go to break, news you've all been just waiting for. You can't wait for this one at all. An update on 2020. The Stormy Daniels attorney, Michael Avenatti, posting a statement on Twitter announcing he will not run for president in 2020 against President Trump. The suspense is over. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:18] KING: Welcome back.

CIA Director Gina Haspel on Capitol Hill today briefing a small group of lawmakers on the murder and what the CIA knows about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Haspel meeting with the chairman and ranking members of four key Senate committees in a secure room in the basement of the Capitol. This, you might recall, after lawmakers rebuked the administration and expressed frustration when Haspel was not part of a briefing last week.

Today, Haspel may be able to satisfy their demands for answers about what happened, who was involved, and exactly what is on that audio recording of the murder. National Security Adviser John Bolton seemingly mocking the lawmakers and the journalist who say it would be nice to hear that audio.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The idea that policy makers are going to sit around and listen to that, that's what we have intelligence analysts for. And I'm not (INAUDIBLE). Maybe members of the press are. Maybe members of Congress are. I rely on our analysts to listen to it, understand it, and give us their best conclusion.


KING: We'll get to the importance of Haspel in a minute. It's nice to know John Bolton reads Agatha Christie. In the sense that I get that not everybody is supposed to listen to this audio. And I get that if this audio is what it is purported to be, which is an audio recording of a brutal murder and dismembering, why would you want to listen to it. Except if you're the one guy the president -- is down the hall from the president who has to make a recommendation to the president about what to do here. Don't you want to be able to say, sir, I heard it. It is certain or if there's doubt or whatever, just be able to say that I heard it and so do this?

COLLINS: It's also rich that he says let the intelligence analysts listen to it. I don't need to because then the intelligence analysts have determined that MBS, the Saudi crown prince, did play a role and did order the killing of this reporter, and yet that's not enough to convince them to do anything harsher than what they've done so far, sanctioning a few of the Saudis who they believe were involved in this murder. So I'm not sure what his logical is there, if he's saying leave -- let's leave it to them and then we'll go from what they say because they're saying that MBS ordered it and that still hasn't changed anyone in the administration's mind about this. Certainly not the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who keeps remarking that he doesn't believe that there's any direct reporting that links the two of them, when that is, in fact, what the CIA has assessed.

So that's why we've seen all this anger come from the Capitol, not only Capitol Hill, but even, you know, reporters and some of the president's biggest allies in Washington saying, why has the woman who not only traveled to Turkey in the aftermath of this, but also listened to the audio, why is she not the one briefing the senators.

They question now is, is it going to be enough that they're only briefing a few and not a Senate-wide briefing, which is what people like Bob Corker wanted?

KING: Well, but sometimes this is what happens. They do the small group. We'll see if they can sell it.

But last week they lost ground. There was the resolution essentially rebuking the administration on support for Saudi Arabia's civil war in Yemen. And the sponsors say we got votes. They sent up -- they wouldn't send up Gina Haspel. They sent up the other administration officials, including the secretary of state, who was a bit smug when he came out of the meeting, and they -- the sponsors of the resolution say, you actually helped us.

Will Gina Haspel be able to dial back the anger at the administration here, even if they don't like what she says, just by the fact that she's showing some respect today for the process?

MATTINGLY: Maybe to a degree. But not entirely. And I think what you saw last week was really a confluence of factors, kind of a perfect storm against the administration, where you had Republican who, look, if you want to upset senators, call into question their congressional prerogative, or just ignore it. And oversight is one of those things, particularly people like close allies, like Lindsey Graham, or somebody who has oversight of these specific areas, like Senator Bob Corker.

So you had that issue. You have several Republican senators who are very upset that the administration has not communicated what's been happening and the support of Saudi and Yemen. Frankly, like there are actual legal requirements that the administration report on what's been happening. That's been ignored. So that's how you lose conservatives like Todd Young, people of that degree. So all of this coming together at the same time was why you saw the vote you saw with the resolution.

[12:20:04] There's a back story here behind while Gina Haspel wouldn't come up, and it has to deal with leaks and it has to do with frustrations. There's a lot of things that were happening there.

I would argue that the bigger issue overall with Saudi -- there are a lot of issues with Saudi. One of the bigger issues last week that was going on was Mike Pompeo, was "The Wall Street Journal" op-ed that he put out.

KING: Right.

MATTINGLY: The morning he went out there that attacked people who questioned -- essentially said it was zero sum. You either support Saudi and you support our position on Saudi, or you support a clean break with Saudi. And no senator I spoke to say for maybe a couple of the far left had any desire to do that whatsoever. And you saw Lindsey Graham put out a -- kind of a clap back if you will this morning in "The Wall Street Journal" countering that -- KING: Yes. Right. So let me read -- let me read from the clap back because that's interesting -- it's important because at this moment the Republicans just lost the House. So January we're going to live in a different world. So why would you alienate your friends in the Senate when you still have Republican control? Lindsey Graham, over the past year, has become very close with the administration. But to your point, the clap back term, there is -- this is what he said to counter Mike Pompeo in "The Wall Street Journal," same op-ed page. They recent vote shold show Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration that Congress isn't mugging for the cameras or caterwauling, as the secretary of state put it. We are a co-equal branch of government exercising leadership to safeguard the country's long-term interests, values and reputation. After all, someone's got to do it.

It's that after all someone's got to do it is essentially saying, the president of the United States, in Senator Graham's view, is not standing up for American values and saying, we don't have to break completely with Saudi Arabia, but here's what we're going to do to sanction you and here's what you must do to get out of the doghouse.

RASCOE: And this has been one of those areas where Republicans have actually stood up and said, this is too far. You cannot just allow Saudi Arabia to possibly get away with this horrible crime that they may have committed and not -- and just say, well, we'll just continue doing business with them because they're such an important ally. Like you -- you have to stand up for American values and freedom of the press and not this type of oppression and kind of horrific acts. So you actually see Republicans pushing back. And this is -- this is unusual. This doesn't normally happen.

KING: And among the pushback is Bob Corker, who's leaving. He's the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He's leaving. And he's on bad terms with the White House. Lindsey Graham's on good terms with the White House most days. Bob Corker's (INAUDIBLE) what he says here is this is -- you know, he views it, this is Trump again being transactional. This is one thing -- my relationship with Saudi Arabia is so important, I'm going to give them a pass. I'm going to look the other way. But he says, you know, what are the Assads -- how do the Assads process this, how do the Kim Jong-uns process this? Bob Corker essentially saying, America cannot do this.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: This is pretty well uncharted territory. I'm not sure this has ever happened before where you've got a crown prince that it would appear directed, you know, the dismemberment of a journalist who has children here in the United States, who's a resident here. And there's been no response. I mean that just -- what happens over time is leaders like him believe that they can get away with, you know, killing people around the world that are dissidents or who are criticizing them.


KING: A lot of things in this town are debatable. It's pretty hard to argue with that point. WARREN: Yes, the White House makes this mistake. They made it with the

particular issue, right? They're sort of making the issue about a proxy war between the kind of establishment left in foreign policy, that this was, you know, between what -- you side with the Saudis or you side with the Iranians. Of course, that's not really what this is ultimately about.

Something we haven't mentioned here is the sort of proxy war going on between the administration and certain people within his national security world and the CIA, which they believe, with some justification, the CIA has become very politicized, particularly in the Obama administration. There's some -- a lot of these turf wars that are going on that really have nothing to do with the issue at hand and seem to supplant the issue at hand with these other side issues for the moment that ultimately blind the administration.

COLLINS: But the idea that the secretary of state, who used to be the CIA director not that long ago, doesn't take the CIA's assessment and it doesn't say -- or it doesn't find it credible at all is really saying something about where we are in this administration. And it's not just the president against the intelligence community, it's Mike Pompeo disagreeing with the agency that he used to lead, or at least not willing -- being willing to stand up for what they have assessed in this.

KING: Because of the audio of one, I suspect, is how you would trace that one back there.


KING: Second note, maybe deciding he likes his job.

Up next for us here, a look at the newfound political truce between President Trump and the Bush family in the wake of the passing of George Herbert Walker Bush.


[12:29:12] KING: Live pictures now. The United States Capitol. President George H.W. Bush lying in state.

President Trump and the first lady stopped by to pay their respects last night, including a salute from one commander in chief to another.

The president plans a private visit later today with the Bush family at Blair House. And in a tweet this morning he called the Bush family wonderful and said, quote, the elegance and precision of the last two days has been remarkable.

It is a remarkable truce. There's a long history of bad blood and friction. But the 41st president thought it essential the current president be part of the farewell, as is tradition. "The Washington Post" reporting the Bush family made clear to the White House this summer that President Trump was part of the funeral planning. A Bush family confident I was in communication with this morning telling CNN, the Trump White House has been, in this source's words, quote, perfect, beyond gracious in assisting with the ceremonies and logistics.

[12:30:05] This should not be news, but it is, to the degree