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Ryan Zinke To Leave; Trump Investigations; Trump Inaugural Committee; Trump's Chief Of Staff; Girl's Father Has "No Issues" with Border Patrol's Treatment; Texas Federal Judge Strikes Down Obamacare; Parkland School Safety Commission Recommends Arming Teachers. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired December 15, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: This is part of it: "After 30 years of public service, I cannot justify spending thousands of dollars defending myself and my family against false allegations. It is better for the president and the interior to focus on the accomplishments rather than fictitious allegations."

Let's bring in our White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez. And, Boris, Zinke referencing false allegations, having to defend himself. He's talking about being the focus of several ethics' investigations.

BORIS SANCHES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. At least 15 inquiries into his behavior by the inspector-general at the Department of the Interior. To be fair, Zinke has been cleared in some of those. But at least one of those cases was referred by the inspector general to the Department of Justice. This land deal that Zinke struck with the head of Haliburton, that one will be scrutinized very closely moving forward.

There were other accusations about his misuse of agency resources, lavish travel expenses, et cetera. Zinke has, obviously, denied all of these, as you noted in his statement there.

There are reports that the White House, essentially, asked him to leave, in part because of the incoming Democratic majority in the House. Zinke was a favorite target of Democrats, and the belief was that he would likely have several investigations opened into his behavior and, potentially, even have to testify publicly, in regards to his dealings.

I did want to point out one prominent Democrat in Congress, sort of relish this moment, and that's Senator Chuck Schumer. Check out his tweet after Zinke announced his departure. He writes, quote, Ryan Zinke was one of the most toxic members of the cabinet in the way he treated our environment, our precious public lands, and the way he treated the government like it was his personal honey pot. The swamp cabinet will be a little less foul without him.

Chuck Schumer there, sort of, laughing at the fact that there have been several Trump administration members who have found themselves under scrutiny for questionable ethical behavior. We know that the White House was watching Zinke's situation very closely -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Boris, another personnel change in the coming weeks. We also know John Kelly is out. Mick Mulvaney is not in as the White House Chief of Staff, the acting Chief of Staff right now. Again, I use the word, acting, there. But is there any indication of a time limit, at this point, on Mulvaney's job?

SANCHEZ: Not yet, Ana. What's interesting there is that if you look at a reporting from months ago, when rumors were first surfacing that John Kelly's departure was imminent, it was reported, at the time, that Mulvaney had told people close to him that he was interested in the role of chief of staff. Ultimately, this week, it appears that he had a change of heart because, according to sources, he told people that he was interested in remaining the director of the OMB or finding another place in the administration for him to go. But that he didn't want to be the chief of staff.

The other noteworthy thing here is that President Trump didn't end up taking his original pick, Nick Ayers, on because Ayers refused to company with the two-year minimum that President Trump wanted for that position. Ayers only wanted the job temporarily. The president, apparently, having to settle now, ultimately, for a temporary chief of staff anyway -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Thank you so much, Boris Sanchez.

Let's take a look, now, at all of the fast-moving developments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. We have seen 12 days of shocking revelations just since Thanksgiving. The latest one, a rupture between Mueller and his start witness, Michael Flynn, the president's first national security advisor who lied about what he discussed with a high-profile Russian ambassador close to Vladimir Putin.

The special counsel's office ripping a suggestion by Flynn's lawyers that Flynn lied to the FBI because he was caught off guard when FBI agents approached him. Now, Mueller makes it very clear Flynn was committed to his false story, because he had already lied repeatedly to high-ranking Trump administration members, including Vice President Mike Pence.

It also goes against President Trump's recent assertions that the FBI said he didn't lie, and that the agent was embarrassed by the way he, Flynn, was treated.

Also this week, the president's former fixer, Michael Cohen, speaking out, after being sentenced to three years in prison. Cohen saying Trump absolutely directed him to pay off a porn star and a former playmate so that they would keep quiet about their sexual history with Trump before he was elected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me -- as I said in m allocution, and I said as well in the plea, he directed me to make the payments. He directed me to become involved in these matters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Plus, a brand-new investigation to add to the list. The Trump inauguration is being looked at for what federal prosecutors describe as possible financial abuses. They are reportedly looking into whether the committee accepted donations from people in foreign countries, looking to gain influence or access to the incoming administration.

So, here is where we are right now. Investigations linked to Trump world are piling up fast. The president's administration, his business, the Trump Organization, his transition team, his foundation, his campaign, and now Trump's inaugural committee spending all under investigation.

[17:05:05] Joining us to discuss, former A.P. investigative reporter, Seth Hettena, author of a brand-new book, "Trump/Russia: A Definitive History." Seth, CNN reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team continues to be interested in interviewing the president. Just how worried should the president be?

SETH HETTENA, FORMER A.P. INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Deeply worried. As you laid out, there are multiple investigations going on here. And we have the Justice Department putting its weight behind statements from Michael Cohen, that you just laid out there, that the president directed him to commit a crime. And, not only that, but we have the parent company of "The National Enquirer" cooperating in the same investigation.

And that's just one of the multiple investigations going on here. And, you know, as you touched on earlier, the president can't find a chief of staff and this reflects part of the problem. Nobody -- there's tremendous legal jeopardy around this White House now and nobody wants to get involved.

CABERA: We know John Kelly, his outgoing chief of staff, is somebody who has been interviewed by Robert Mueller's team, looking into potential obstruction of justice. Now, as we learn about some of these new investigations in which the president is becoming a central character, one of them is directly tied to the hush money payments. And Cohen who has now been sentenced and is speaking publicly. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: The special counsel did say that you were doing your best to tell the truth about everything related to their investigation, everything related to Russia. Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about that?

COHEN: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Seth, he says the president does not tell the truth on a mire33 (ph) of issues. What's your take-away from that new interview by Cohen that we heard in the last 24 hours?

HETTENA: Well, I think it's a dispute of whether the president doesn't tell the truth. He, you know, confabulates and lies and misstates things on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

You know, but what lends credence to Cohen is the testimony of American Media there, and that's the parent company of "The National Enquirer." And, you know, what Cohen -- what I -- my take-away from that interview was what Cohen said when he's going to come out and he's looking forward to talking about everything he knows about Trump, when these -- Mueller wraps up his investigation.

And that's going to be interesting because Cohen has been a fixture in the Trump Organization for a decade. He's the fixer. He's the keeper of secrets. And he knows where the bodies are buried so I think he wants to get this -- he wants to move on. He wants to get this stuff off his chest, and that's going to be some riveting testimony when that comes out.

CABRERA: You have written about Cohen's connections to the former Soviet Union, Russian organized crime figures in New York and Florida. If you are Trump, what are you most concerned about Cohen spilling to Mueller?

HETTENA: Oh, boy, you know, we only know a fraction of Cohen knows. That's just the glimpses we've gotten. But, you know, as -- Cohen's got organized connections of his own. His father -- according to my reporting and my sources, Cohen's father-in-law, who's an Ukrainian immigrate, has sources of money, probably from the former Soviet Union, that are mysterious. And Trump, actually, has been hinting about them recently in his tweets which is kind of interesting.

But Cohen comes into Trump's world, you know, with his own organized crime connections. And my reporting shows that Trump also has his ties to Russian organized crime that goes back decades to Trump Tower, to his casinos. You know, there's a lot of confluence there. And Michael Cohen may have a lot of -- you know, a lot of light to shed on Trump's unseemly dealings with Russia, going back to the 1980s and 1990s.

CABRERA: Do you think Cohen has more to say or there's more for us to learn about this Trump Tower Moscow deal?

HETTENA: Well, you know, the -- in Mueller's own, kind of, statements that he's put before the court, he said that Cohen has -- yes, that Cohen has given information about what Trump Organization executives knew in their discussions about Russia. So, it looks like this investigation may go deeper than Trump. It may involve the children. And it may involve other Trump Organization executives.

And, as you know, Ivanka and Don Junior were key members of the Trump Organization. It's a very tightly held group. And I doubt that anything that Trump knew wasn't also known by the children.

CABRERA: In your deep dive into Trump ties to Russia, did you see their names come up? HETTENA: Well, yes, Don Junior -- you know, Don Junior has that

famous statement he made where he said, we see lots of money pouring into the Trump Organization from Russia. Ivanka's name comes up in this Trump Tower Moscow project that Cohen was involved in. And, you know, she was -- she going to have her name on a spa in that building. She chose the architect. So, Trump may be trying to shield his children from exposure here.

[17:10:02] And, you know -- you know, their -- but their involvement is deep. They're involved in the inaugural committee. They're involved in every aspect of the Trump Organization and the presidential campaign.

CABRERA: You know, one of the common themes that's come into focus this week is all the lies. Let's talk about Michael Flynn for a second. He's set to be sentenced next week. The new court document filed by Mueller just yesterday afternoon in response to Flynn's team, suggesting Flynn had been set up, in a way. Mueller's team really makes it clear that he lied intentionally and they suggest he was a practice liar.

HETTENA: Wow. Yes. You know, that's a really interesting observation. The FBI did not detect that Flynn was lying but they knew he was. They had -- you know, they had tapped the Russian ambassador's phone. Flynn was talking to the ambassador. They knew the lie. And it does seem like -- yes, you're right. It does seem like Flynn was a practice liar. But, more importantly, he is a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

You know, he's the national security advisor. This is not some, you know, low-level campaign aid aide. This is a practiced intelligence professional who dealt with the FBI, as he said, for many years. So, he knew what the game was. He was telling a lie.

And, you know, your point about the lying here, everybody is lying. Michael Cohen is lying. Michael Flynn is lying. George Papadopoulos is lying. Paul -- you know, Paul Manafort is lying. Everybody is lying and their lies all involve Russia. And it's -- you know, if I'm Mueller, I'm going to follow those lies and they all lead back to the White House, to the Oval Office.

CABRERA: And the big question, then, is why? Why all the lies? What are they trying to hide?

Seth Hettena, thank you for joining us, for your insight. We appreciate it.

HETTENA: Thank you.

CABRERA: With all the investigations into the president and his orbit, what exactly is Mick Mulvaney walking into? And how could all this change the White House's approach? We'll discuss that.

Plus, a federal judge striking down the Affordable Care Act, just hours before open enrollment ends for next year. How that affects you, next, live in the CNN Newsroom. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:15:45] CABRERA: Tonight, President Trump and the people and organizations he associates with, yet again, under the legal microscope. The latest investigation, CNN has learned, targets the president's 2017 inaugural committee. And sources tell us federal prosecutors in New York are looking into how the committee spent or possibly misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, all, very much.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The investigation surrounding President Trump starting to pile up with the revelation of the investigation into Trump's inaugural committee. There are now inquiries into almost every aspect of the president's political and personal life.

Based on CNN's reporting, the special counsel and other U.S. attorneys are looking into aspects of his campaign, transition, inauguration, time in office, and his company.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Donald John Trump --

COLLINS: The latest, an investigation into the president's inaugural committee and whether it misput funds and gave top donors access in exchange for money. "The New York Times" adding that prosecutors are also looking into whether the committee and a pro-Trump super PAC received illegal foreign donations from some Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia. The White House responding by claiming Trump's inauguration had nothing to do with him.

HOGAN GIDLEY, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This charge has nothing to do with the president of the United States.

COLLINS: As the president is bombarded by new investigations, he's still dealing with the fallout from Michael Cohen, his former attorney who was sentenced to three years in prison this week and claims Trump new about the payments to women.

COHEN: Nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump.

COLLINS: Adding, he's limited in what he can say because of all of the investigations.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How does this end for Donald Trump?

COHEN: You know, that, sort of, gets into the whole investigation right now between, you know, the special counsel's office, the attorney general's office, you also have the southern district of New York. I don't want to jeopardize any of their investigations.

COLLINS: Those investigations, a problem the next White House chief of staff will have to deal with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: And now, we know it is President Trump's budget director who will inherent response of this growing list of investigations. The president naming Mick Mulvaney as the acting chief of staff.

But the White House staff shake-ups don't shop there. Today, we learned interior secretary Ryan Zinke will be gone at the end of the year. His departure comes amid multiple ethics' probes.

So, let's discuss with our fiery panel: CNN Political Commentator and host of CNN's "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED," S.E. Cupp; and commentator and Democratic strategist Keith Boikin. So, Mick Mulvaney, guys, hasn't exactly been complimentary of the president in the past. Let's remind everybody about what he said in 2016 prior to Trump's election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, I am supporting Donald Trump. I'm doing so as enthusiastically as I can be. In fact, I think he's a terrible human being. But the choice on the other side is just as bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: He says he's a horrible human being, or terrible human being I should say. Do you think the president just doesn't care, as this point? Or what do you make of the fact that a man who prides his loyalty above all and cares about his image and what people say has chosen this man to be his next chief of staff?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, he tried to offer the job, apparently, to Nick Ayers who is, what, 36 years old, a Trump White House staffer. He tried to offer the job to Chris Christy and he turned him down as well. I mean, who else is he going to offer to, a White House intern? I mean, nobody seems to want this job, so he's got to pick people who don't like him, apparently, in order to be able to do something with it.

[17:20:04] The reality is that nobody wants to be associated with Trump. Because if you take on a job like this right now, you become the chief of staff. You have to lawyer up. You're going to possibly expose yourself to potential liability.

CABRERA: But, apparently, Mick Mulvaney does want the job, because he accepted it.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Ish. Ish, right? He had it (INAUDIBLE.)

BOYKIN: What's the risk there. The guy's got three jobs already. I mean, he's -- who -- he's -- now, he's the -- he's going to be the chief of staff. He's already the Consumer Financial Protection Board chairman. And, at the same time, he's the OMB director. He's got a lot on his plate.

And, I guess, he's kind of like the Jared Kushner. You know, he just keeps on -- Trump just keeps putting these tasks on certain people. Maybe because Trump does trust him, despite the comments he has made in the past. But, I mean, Trump doesn't really have a lot of opportunity for choice right now because no one wants to be associated with this fine-tuned machine.

CABRERA: Is that how you look at it (ph)?

CUPP: Yes, slim pickings. And Mike Mulvaney reportedly insisted that the title was acting instead of permanently chief of staff.

CABRERA: But, remember, Nick Ayers was. Ayers wanted it to be acting. He wanted it to be temporary. The president wouldn't go for that. Why the change of heart now?

CUPP: I think, as you move down the ladder, you know, and you're left with few options, they wanted the story to be over. And so, they thought we wouldn't notice that they picked someone with two jobs already to temporarily fill in. See, we can find good people. But I think that's how bad it was and the story of no one wanting to work in the White House wasn't going away. And they want to focus on other things.

CABRERA: So, what does Mick Mulvaney, though, bring to the White House. To the structure around the president, we know that, in part, some of our reporting is that the president needed somebody who was, maybe, more politically savvy. And Mick Mulvaney provides that, doesn't he, Keith?

BOYKIN: Well, yes, he is more politically savvy than John Kelly is. But, you know, before that, you remember Reince Priebus was the chief of staff. He was politically savvy.

CABRERA: Yes.

BOYKIN: That didn't exactly work out well for Trump either. So, the problem isn't the staff. It's not Mick Mulvaney. It's not Jared Kushner. It's not all these other people. The problem is Donald Trump. And you can't fix the staff if you don't fix the person who's running the staff. And the person who's running the staff is not the chief of staff. It's the president, Donald Trump.

CABRERA: Let's talk about Ryan Zinke for a minute, because he's the latest in, really, a long line of people within this White House, within the administration, the cabinet to now leave who have been mired (ph) in ethics questions. We saw it with Price. We saw it with Pruett. Now, it's Zinke.

CUPP: Yes.

CABRERA: But, yet, it hasn't been Republicans pushing them out, and I'm trying to understand why. CUPP: Oh, because they're Republicans. Because this is a Republican

-- was, until recently, a Republican majority Congress or a Republican president. And we have seen them circle the wagons around their own.

CABRERA: But this is after the president who said, drain the swamp.

CUPP: So, I mean, I didn't believe that at the time. It's been proven to be swampier than ever. But, of course, I mean, you do have to point out, under the Republican Congress, all those people you just put up, are gone. They did leave. And I think Ryan Zinke is, sort of, a harbinger of things to come. You know, there are other cabinet members who could be facing a probe by Democrats in Congress. And they might not want to lawyer up.

BOYKIN: Right.

CUPP: And go through the, you know, scrutiny, both them and their family, that they are inevitably going to go through. And might just say, all right, I'm bouncing before this gets too real. Ryan Zinke is trying to, sort of, finesse this that him -- you know, these were Trumped up charges, and he just doesn't want to. That's fine.

But I think you might see more of this to come. More cabinet members saying, I'm not going to wait for this investigation to happen.

BOYKIN: Well, Ryan Zinke was facing 15 different investigations during his two-year tenure at the Department of Interior. That's a lot for anybody. That would have gotten anybody else tanked a long time before. The difference is that, in January, in a few weeks from now, the Democrats will have control over the House of Representatives. And there will be accountability and oversight for the first time.

And I think a lot of people will start to head for the exists, rather than to face investigations in the future.

CUPP: Right.

BOYKIN: Because they know that's likely to happen.

CUPP: It's going to be -- it's going to be ugly. It's going to be intense.

CABRERA: Do you think that -- again, this is a president who said he's going to drain the swamp. He calls himself the law and order president. And then, you have these people, though, that appear to be rather shady characters, given the allegations and what some of the investigations have come to conclude. What is your reaction to the fact that these are the people the president chooses to surround himself with?

CUPP: Well, I know some very good people who work in the White House, and that should be said. But it does seem like this administration either corrupts the corruptible or courts the corrupt. Because the -- it's unprecedented. The number of ethics violations we're seeing in one administration in the first two years of the first term. [17:25:00] So, there is something going on in there, and I put the blame squarely at the feet of Republicans in Congress who have not been willing to do their job which is to be, in addition to passing laws, is to be a check on the executive. And that includes Trump's cabinet. And so, they've shirked this responsibility, for the most part. And now, Democrats are coming in to do -- to do their job.

CABRERA: Do Democrats need to be careful about getting into -- involved in too many investigations?

BOYKIN: I don't think so. I don't see any down side. They have a duty, a constitutional responsibility, to provide oversight. You can't over-investigate if there is -- are things to investigate. The problem, I think, is that the Republican have probably -- if the Democrats start investigating things, and we discover more and more information that could've come out in the past two that didn't come out, then people start to look at Republicans say, well, what were you doing when you were in charge of Congress? When you were in charge of the entire federal government?

CUPP: I think they already are. I mean, they already are.

BOYKIN: Well, they did at the general election.

CUPP: But I think there is -- there was one danger and it's not -- you're right. They're -- this is something that, you know, they're supposed to do. The only danger is, if there's a pile on, there could be a political downside. We all know that, you know, the impeachment of Bill Clinton actually helped Bill Clinton's popularity.

CABRERA: Right.

CUPP: It could -- it could have a slight, you know, affect on his whole (INAUDIBLE.)

CABRERA: One last thought and then I got to go.

BOYKIN: One last thought. You said this earlier about drain the swamp. The reason why the Trump argument doesn't work about him being no worse than the Republicans or Democrats in the past or anything like that is because he promised to do something better. He promised he was going to drain the swamp and make things more ethical. And, instead, he's become the exact opposite of what he told people he would be.

CUPP: He hasn't become.

COYKIN: He was from the beginning and he is still the exact opposite of what he said he would be.

CABRERA: Thank you both. S.E., thank you. Keith, good to see you. Don't forget S.E.'s show top of the hour right here on CNN.

Now, just two days after being taken into border patrol custody, a seven-year-old migrant girl from Guatemala dies. We'll hear from her father next. [17:27:50]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:42] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. We have new information just into CNN about the Guatemalan migrant girl who died in U.S. Border Patrol custody last weekend. Despite the outrage following the 7-year-old's death, the Guatemalan Council tells CNN her father has no complaints with how U.S. agents treated them. Jakelin Maquin and her dad were detained in a remote part of New Mexico on December 6th. She got sick just after they were picked up by U.S. agents, some 90 minutes from the nearest processing station. Maquin died less than 48 hours later.

Critics are blaming the Trump administration's broader border policy saying they have led to more dangerous crossings in isolated areas.

CNN's Ed Lavandera just spoke with the Guatemalan Council who had a meeting with the grieving father.

And, Ed, what have you learned?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We were able to kind of piece together some new details and new reaction here. And the perspective of the father of this young girl who we haven't had a chance to hear from since this story first broke. This is the latest information we have. This is according to the Guatemalan Council, who met with the father here in the city of El Paso, and also with officials here from the Annunciation House, which is a shelter that helps these migrants and refugees who end up here in El Paso, and they read a statement from this father's attorneys. And in that statement, it talks about how the father is grateful for the many first responders that tried to save his daughter's life. The Guatemalan Council also tells us, as you mentioned, Ana, this father has no complaints, that he feels that everything was done by these agents who were in that bus, on that bus ride from the border port of entry to the border station. That he felt like everything was done that was possible to save his daughter's life. The only part of the trip that that father was not alongside his daughter, we're told, is when she was airlifted from that remote part of New Mexico and flown here to El Paso to the hospital for treatment. No real questions coming from this father about what kind of aid was provided, And, in fact, on the contrary, the father felt like the agents there in that bus did everything they could to help the young girl.

This is a little bit more from the statement that Ruben Garcia, the man who runs this shelter in El Paso, who read this statement on behalf of this father and the young girl's family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBEN GARCIA, DIRECTOR, ANNUNCIATION HOUSE: The family of Jakelin Caal Maquin is still coping with their profound lose. The death of a child is the most painful experience that a parent or family can endure. Jakelin, just five days past her seventh birthday, was a beautiful and loving child. Jakelin and her father came to the United States seeking something that thousands have been seeking for years, an escape from the dangerous situation in their home country. This was their right under U.S. and international law. But it is a journey that had resulted in tragedy. The family is seeking an objective and thorough investigation and are asking that investigators will assess this incident within nationally recognized standards for the arrest and custody of children. The family intends to assist in such an investigation into the cause and circumstances of Jakelin's death.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:35:21] LAVANDERA: A couple of things the statement did go on to say, they said the family had found it unacceptable, in their words, that Border Patrol agents would have the father sign a form stating that the daughter's health condition was fine the moment that they crossed border, they were taken into Border Patrol custody. The father speaks an indigenous Guatemalan language. Spanish is his second language. He does not speak English. That form, we understand, is only in English. They found that to be unacceptable.

They are also pushing back on the idea that anybody knows what the cause of death in this situation is. There has been a number of reports that allude to what might have led to her death, but the family is pushing back saying that, at this point, there's no official cause of death and that no one should speculate about that -- Ana?

CABRERA: As the mother of a 7-year-old myself, it's really difficult to hear this story.

Ed, thank you for bringing us the latest information.

A federal judge in Texas striking down the legality of the Affordable Care Act. It is a political win for the president and Republicans. But as we hear from both President Trump and former President Obama, the health care for millions hangs in the balance. I'll talk to the architect of the Affordable Care Act, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:41:09] CABRERA: President Obama jumping on Facebook today and encouraging people to sign up for Obamacare. Open enrollment for 2019 closes tonight at midnight. And there's been some confusion because a Texas judge ordered -- issued an order just last night striking down the law.

Let's be clear. Right now, Obamacare is still the law. The judge's order now being appealed and may end up back at the Supreme Court.

Earlier today, President Trump reacted to the judge's ruling during a visit to Arlington National Cemetery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good ruling. A great ruling for our country. We will be able to get great health care. We will sit down with the Democrat -- if the Supreme Court upholds, we will be sitting down with the Democrats and we will get great health care for our people. Repeal and replace was handled a little bit differently, but it was a big, big victory by a highly respected judge, highly, highly respected in Texas. And on the assumption that the Supreme Court upholds, we will get great, great health care for our people. We will have to sit down with the Democrats to do it but I'm sure they want to do it also.

Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So to help us make sense of what happens now, here's CNN's Supreme Court reporter, Ariane De Vogue -- Ariane?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Ana, this judge issued a broad ruling and delivered a major victory to opponents of Obamacare. Now not only did he say the individual mandate is unconstitutional, he struck down the whole law. It is important to note, however, that he allowed the law to remain in effect for now, pending appeal. Nothing will change regarding coverage.

The case is likely to go next to a federal appeals court. And then it could land once again before the Supreme Court. The court's upheld the law two times. But now things might be different with new conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Meanwhile, this all comes on the last day of open enrollment for Obama care coverage for most of the country. Supporters of the law worry the court's decision could discourage people from coming forward to sign up -- Ana?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Ariane, thank you.

I want to bring in Dr. Zeke Emanuel. He is one of the Affordable Care Act architects and a former Obama White House policy advisor, who is now a CNN contributor.

Doctor, good to have you with us.

First, I want to get your reaction to this ruling.

DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the ruling doesn't make a lot of sense. I think, interestingly, even conservative legal scholars think it makes no sense. What the judge said is, look, the mandate with the tax penalty was the core of the Affordable Care Act. The tax penalty has been taken away. The mandate, therefore, has to be taken away. And guess what, if you take away this essential element, the whole bill is unconstitutional. Now most legal scholars think that, look, we took away the tax penalty, the mandate isn't doing any work, so you're not ruling -- it's not doing any work and, therefore, it's not essential for the rest of the bill. The rest of the bill is working. I would like to remind the viewers that the Affordable Care Act is over 900 pages long. The section dealing with the mandate are about 50 or 100 pages. You've got 800 pages of other stuff on the bill. Clearly, they're not affected by the mandate. The mandate is not the central, for example, to Medicaid, not essential to that at all, not essential to many of the insurance market reforms that were issues. And we know that even after the Congress repealed the mandate, the exchanges actually worked really well because of the subsidies people were getting to buy insurance, and they wanted health insurance. This judge's idea that the mandate was so essential and that without the mandate everything in the bill fell, just defies logic.

[17:45:00] CABRERA: But do you worry if this goes to the Supreme Court, Obamacare ends up dying, given the current balance on the bench with the addition of another conservative justice, in Justice Kavanaugh?

EMANUEL: Well, let me make two points. I'm not actually worried about that. You do have the addition of Gorsuch and the addition of Kavanaugh.

CABRERA: Kavanaugh.

EMANUEL: Remember, it was the four Democrats, Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer and Ginsberg, along with Justice Roberts, who ruled for the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and you're not going to change that. As a matter of fact, the last time a case on the Affordable Care Act came before the Supreme Court, Justice Roberts was -- expressed a certain amount of ire that this case was coming up to them. He thought that they had dealt with it and made clear that it was constitutional. And I think you're not going to sway him to the other side now? I'm actually not that worried.

The second part I would say, though, is that it does mean that the Republicans and the courts, and especially the president, have not listened to the American public. They said quite clearly in the last midterm election that they want the protections much the Affordable Care Act, that they want what the Affordable Care Act stands. That everyone should get health insurance, and people, regardless of the preexisting health care situations, whether they had cancer or heart disease or they have multiple sclerosis, get health care and get it at the same price that the rest of us do it.

If they keep -- the Republicans keep tinkering with this and keep trying to tear it down, they're pushing people further and further to, well, maybe we just need Medicare for All or something like that.

I would note that about -- some recent polls have suggested that as many as 50 percent of Republicans are beginning to warm up to Medicare for All, and that ought to tell the Republican Party something.

CABRERA: All right, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, really appreciate you taking the time this weekend. Thanks for being here.

EMANUEL: Thank you.

CABRERA: The panel investigating the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, is now recommending a law allowing teachers to carry guns. Details ahead.

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[17:51:35] CABRERA: A controversial conclusion from the Florida panel reviewing the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. The conclusion is that teachers should be armed. The panel's report is not final but is already stirring a lot of heated debate. One lawmaker says teachers want to teach, not be armed for combat in their classrooms.

CNN's Polo Sandoval looks at the panel and its findings.

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BOB GUALTIERI, SHERIFF, PINELLAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT & CHAIRMAN, MARJORIE STONEMAN DOUGLAS PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSION: Such as participating on threat assessment teams.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Division is recommending teachers be allowed to carry guns on school campuses. The controversial proposal, part of a 407-page preliminary report. It addresses failures by Broward County law enforcement during the massacre as well as recommendations on how to counter future school violence.

Chairing of the commission, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who supports the measure.

GUALTIERI: We have to give people a fighting chance. We've got to give them an opportunity to protect themselves in my view. We don't have enough to put cops in every school or multiple cops in every school. And we're not maximizing the use of the Guardian Program. And one person, one good guy with a gun in every campus is not adequate.

SANDOVAL: The proposal has yet to go before the governor or state lawmakers. If approved, teachers who want to carry would be required to go through training and background checks before arming themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's the issue. Districts and schools need to act now. They need to act now. They need to act now.

SANDOVAL: Currently, only some teachers and school staff are allowed to carry firearms. Since the Parkland shooting, at least 14 other states have introduced similar measures. The changes have been met with some support in states where rural communities lack funding and resources to respond to a school shooter.

Max Schachter is the only person on the advisory commission opposing the arming of Florida teachers.

MAX SCHACHTER, MEMBER, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSION: I don't think teachers should be carrying guns. I think they have enough on their plate. I think their priority is teaching. It just creates a lot of host of problems, more problems.

SANDOVAL: With the recommendations still tentative, more debate likely about how to face a school's worst nightmare.

GUALTIERI: What we got right now ain't working. We need to do something differently.

SANDOVAL: Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.

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CABRERA: In this season of giving, we want to show you how to help our 2018 top-10 heroes continue their important work and have your donations matched dollar for dollar. Here's Anderson Cooper.

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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm Anderson Cooper. Each of this year's top-10 "CNN Heroes" really proves that one person can make a difference. This year, we're making it easy for you to support their great work. Go to CNNheroes.com and click "donate" beneath any 2018 top-10 "CNN Hero" to make a direct contribution to that hero's fundraiser on Crowd Rise. You'll receive an e-mail confirming your donation, which is tax deductible in the United States. No matter the amount, you can make a big difference in helping our heroes continue their life-changing work. Right now, through January 2nd, your donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $50,000 for each of this year's honorees. CNN is proud to offer you this simple way to support each cause, celebrate all these everyday people with changing the world. You can donate from your laptop, your tablet, or your phone. Just go to CNNheroes.com. Your donation in any amount every amount will help them help others. Thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:55:05] CABRERA: Such great people who can really use our help. If you know someone great who deserves to be a "CNN Hero," tell us about them. Nominations for 2019 are open and we are waiting to hear from you. Go to CNNheroes.com to nominate someone right now.

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. That does it for me for now. I'll be back here at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

My colleague, S.E. Cupp, continues our coverage of today's news, next.

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[17:59:59] S.E. CUPP, CNN HOST: Welcome to "UNFILTERED."

Here's tonight's headline. Mass exodus? After abruptly announcing that White House budget director and OMB chief, Mick Mulvaney, will take on a temporary third job as acting White House chief of staff --