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7-Year-Old Girl Dies in Border Patrol Custody; Trump Welcomes John Kasich Primary Challenge; Uproar as GOP Moves to Weaken Power of Incoming Democrats; Republicans Shrug Off Trump Implicated in Campaign Finance Law Violations; Trump Insists North Korea Talks "Fine" Despite Uncertainty; Pompeo Reacts to Senate Vote on Saudi Arabia; "Everything Trump" Under Investigation. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 14, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: We are expecting the special counsel to file an update on what they want to do with Michael Flynn. It's their response to Michael Flynn's sentencing. Both Mueller's team and Flynn's have asked the judge not to give him jail time. And they said that he cooperated extensively. Brianna, he was one of the earliest cooperators in the special counsel's investigation.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Thank you, Sara, for breaking all of that down.

As Congress is debating immigration policy is Washington, real tragedy is unfolding at the border. Details of the death of a 7-year-old migrant girl while in U.S. custody.

Plus, President Trump said he hopes Ohio Governor John Kasich will challenge him in the Republican primary. Kasich will join us to respond.


[13:35:07] KEILAR: We are following a tragic story out of Texas. A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died after she was taken into Border Patrol custody. The "Washington Post" reported the girl of dehydration and septic shock last week. She crossed the border illegally with her father. The Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen responded to the tragedy.


KRISTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: My heart goes out to the family. This is just a sad example of the dangers of this journey. This family chose to cross illegally. They were about 90 miles away from where they could process them. They came in such a large crowd that it took our Border Patrol folks a couple of times to get them all. We gave immediate care and we will continue to look into the situation. But again, I cannot stress how dangerous this journey is when migrants choose to come here illegally.


KEILAR: Joining me is Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich.

Sir, thanks so much for being on with us today.

You listen to the secretary of Homeland Security -- and you are someone who has been critical of the president's immigration policies -- what's your reaction of what Secretary Nielsen said?

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-OH: I think the thing you have to realize is with many of the people who are heading north, they are escaping a dangerous situation where they live. The moms have reported their sons were threatened with execution if they were not transporting drugs. Daughters being threatened with rape. They would love to be in their own home. We don't have people from Panama, for example, that are going in great numbers into the United States. There are deep troubles in those countries. We have to have a strategy that can effectively deal with the problems that they have. They are our neighbors and we can, in effect, be effective in being able to stabilize things.

In addition that, I mean a 7-year-old? I read that story and -- what a terrible, terrible thing, that little girl dying. The answer is not just, don't come. Because these people are going to come. Shame on the Congress. A comprehensive immigration strategy is needed. I was thinking the other day during the Republican debates for president how they were all walking away from the fact that oh, no, no. I didn't want to get involved in that stuff. That was not important. Don't try to say I was for comprehensive immigration strategy. That's precisely what we need. God rest John McCain. He was one of the leaders in that.

It has to be done in multiple ways. We need border security and secondly we have a humanitarian crisis and we have to think they are our children. Our friends, our neighbors. We could be in that caravan when we are escaping danger in our homeland. It's a comprehensive strategy. I don't know, Brianna, if they have the guts to do something over the period of the next two years to try to stabilize the border situation, immigration reform. We may have to wait. And there's going to be a lot of human heartache as a result of this. This is a perfect example of the loss of the sweet 7-year-old.

KEILAR: The president looking towards 2020 said he would welcome a challenge from you. Your political adviser, John Weaver, replied, quote, "Be careful what you wish for."


KASICH: That was a pretty good line.


KEILAR: It sure was. But it also sounds like a challenge.

KASICH: We don't pay much attention to what he has to say. My decisions are not based on him. I watched him operate on a stage and I just don't pay much attention.

KEILAR: Your decision, I know you are undecided.


KASICH: That's a long time. There's a lot of water to go over the dam and then we will see where we are.


KEILAR: What would compel to say you are the person for the moment?

KASICH: If I thought I could be impactful and win. What do you mean? It's pretty simple. Would my involvement help the country? Would it be impactful? Could I win? All those kinds of things would figure into the decision. I suspect it's a long way away. There are so many things happening and we just have to watch the developments out there, and then I will let you know. You will be one of the first 20 million I will tell.

KEILAR: You said you probably couldn't defeat President Trump if the election were held today. You would obviously have to have a different sentiment.

In Wisconsin, lawmakers passed a law to weaken the powers of the incoming Democratic governor-elect and attorney general-elect. Republican lawmakers in Michigan have taken a similar action. Is this aimed at undermining the Democrats? How do you see it?

KASICH: Of course, that's what it is. It's outrageous. You lost the election. When you lose, you say you lost. You don't go and try to reverse the election by manipulation. I'm shocked. You talk about the division and cynicism. You take my power away because I win? Are you kidding? If they tried this in the state -- there were some murmurs about that here in Ohio. I communicated, you can call me Veto Corleone. But I will veto things I think are out of bounds and out of control. These power grabs are just outrageous. You lost, OK? You lost, accept it, move on, try to win tomorrow. Brianna, it flabbergasts me to see what people are willing to do in pure partisanship and pure power.

KEILAR: Right now, Republicans in Washington have shrugged off developments that implicate the president of the United States in campaign finance crimes for which Michael Cohen pled guilty. Let's listen.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On Friday night, they implicated the president in campaign finance law crimes. Do you have concerns about that?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I don't have any observations to make about that.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: I'm like everyone else. I want to see the full picture. We haven't seen it yet. What we have seen so far is an incomplete picture. SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R), UTAH: I don't care. All I can say is he is

doing a good job as president.


KEILAR: What are do you make of this?

KASICH: It's tribalism. I don't know where this is all going to lead. I'm troubled about it. Who wouldn't be? It's very concerning. There's no surprise here, but I tell you if these things keep happening. There are reports that draw conclusions, they will run as fast as they can away from them. That's the way it works. I'm old enough to remember and I read about it as opposed to really remembering on television, where Republicans finally went down to the White House and hold told Nixon, you gotta go. Up until then, they hung tough. I'm not saying we are going to end up in the same place. I'm trying to say that --


KEILAR: Should Republicans end up in the same place, Governor, if the Mueller report delivers news of something very serious?

KASICH: I don't know what it's going to say, Brianna. I'm not going to speculate. I just don't know. I'm not willing to draw conclusions because I don't think that's fair to anybody.


KEILAR: You said you remember --


KASICH: I'm saying that --


KEILAR: You said you remember when Republicans went to the White House to hold Nixon to account.


KEILAR: Can you imagine a situation where something is serious where Republicans into not?

KASICH: No. My point was to say that parties hang tough. Look at the impeachment of Clinton. Parties hang tough. Leaders hang tough and make excuses and finally when there's a conclusion to be drawn, I think you will see probably some change with Republicans. That's my only point. You know what I hope? I hope there's no problem. I don't want to see anybody have trouble. I'm not in favor of hooting against Donald Trump and see him have pain or misery. I don't agree with him and I don't like his tactics, but I would never sit here and say, I hope they get him. It's not good for the country.

KEILAR: You heard Kasich mention Wisconsin. Just in, Governor Scott Walker signed that bill that weakens the power of incoming Democrats. He claims the bill will not diminish executive authority. But, indeed, it does. It limits early voting and it curbs the authority of the incoming Democratic governor on certain points, and a number of other things that even there you hear a Republican saying is amounting to a Republican power grab. More on this ahead.

[13:44:26] Just in, despite evidence that North Korea is still working on its nuclear missile program and talks are uncertain, the president just tweeted that Kim Jong-Un wants to hold up his end of the agreement. We will discuss this.


KEILAR: This just in. President Trump insisting the talks with North Korea are just fine. He tweeted, in part, this: "We are in no hurry. This is wonderful potential for great economic success for that country. Kim Jong-Un sees it better than anyone and will fully take advantage of it for his people. We are doing just fine."

Joining me to talk about this is Susan Glasser, who spent years as a foreign correspondent and is a staff writer at the "New Yorker."

Thanks for being with us, Susan.


KEILAR: You hear him saying that and especially we have reporting from South Korean officials that they're not sure North Koreans want to stay engaged. What is your reaction when you see that tweet from Trump?

GLASSER: He strikes a plaintive note. This is one of the issues that gets lost in the flurry of year end news about the investigations and the like. Remember this is a year in which the president of the United States not only had this one on one summit, but embarrassingly to many members of his own administration said he had fallen in love with the North Korean dictator. And the evidence at the end of the year that the talks produced anything meaningful at all despite the president's claim that he had gotten North Korea to conceit the nuclear program and we are ending the year with uncertainty as to the talks. I would trust that reporting out of South Korea. It's dubious now what the next stage is.

[13:50:29] KEILAR: Trust the reporting over the tweets, indeed.

Different topic. We heard from the secretary of state. Mike Pompeo reacted to this vote that we saw in the Senate, which admonished Saudi Arabia for the role of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. What do you think of that?

GLASSER: They have respect for their vote but not their own intelligence agencies. Part of the outrage generated by Senators and the reason why you had this extraordinary rebuke by a Republican- controlled Senate of the Republican-controlled administration was the briefing from the CIA's own director, Gina Haspel. For Secretary of State Pompeo to say he has respect and a 100 percent rebuke, it seems like a very odd argument.

KEILAR: What do you think the Trump administration tells Saudi Arabia about the rebuke, trying to maybe, I guess, just ignore it or don't worry? What is your expectation?

GLASSER: I think that's one thing that I've encountered reporting in Russia, for example, with president Putin. Often in authoritarian systems, the leaders don't take seriously the word of a body like Congress and they say, unless I've heard it from the president himself, it doesn't matter. I think the message from President Trump and from his advisers like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been very clear, which is to say, don't listen to what Secretary Pompeo called the caterwauling from Capitol Hill. Listen to us because we're the ones shaping the policy. They have no intention of breaking this U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia.

KEILAR: Susan Glasser, thank you so much. We really appreciate your perspective on this.

GLASSER: Thank you.

KEILAR: Let's talk about something different. It's easy to become numb when it comes to these fast-moving developments, all the details made more confusing by the president and those around him deflecting and blaming and even lying.

Let's look at the big picture. What is happening right now is pretty extraordinary and historic. Under investigation right now the Trump campaign, the Trump transition team, the Trump Inaugural Committee; the Trump Organization, his family business, the Trump Foundation, his personal charity, and the Trump administration. The common denominator is the president himself. His friends are flipping on him left and right, more of them implicating him directly, and more of them going to prison.

And I want to focus on the women who have spoken up. Let's start with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. The president spent months and months lying about hush payments to them. When they weren't quiet, he made them out to be liars. But we know he lied. And not very well. He can't even keep his lies straight. Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty in his role paying off the Daniels and McDougal, implicating the president in this crime. The president denies it. Charges were brought in federal court by prosecutors in New York, overseen by a U.S. attorney that President Trump appointed.

What about a dozen women have publicly accused the president of sexual harassment and misconduct? The president says he's lying. He says they were paid to make up the stores, when there's evidence they were. He misrepresented their allegations. He even called one too unattractive for him to have gropes. He threatened to sue them, which he hasn't done yet. It's a "he said, she said," "she said, she said," and so on.

What indisputable after this week is, when it comes to allegations about his behavior, what he said is sometimes a lie. Even when allegations are verifiably true, the president will use these tactics to try to destroy the people making the claims. The president has done little to dispel the sexual allegations of these women. And this week has bolstered the word of at least two of them.

[13:55:05] He says he gave Robert Mueller substantial information and says unequivocally the president is not telling the truth when it comes to the Russian investigation.

We'll have more on Michael Cohen's startling revelations, next.


[14:00:01] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin.

We've said it before when it comes to the Trump White House, unprecedented, historic, never-before seen.