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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Lying About Russia Most Americans Think; Giuliani Says Hush Money Not a Crime; Child's Death at the Hands of Border Patrol, Father Not Blaming Them; Trump's Presidency Hounded by Legal Woes; SNL Sketch Angers Trump; Pete Davidson and his Alarming Social Media Post; Explosion in a Bar in Japan; HQ Trivia Co-Founder Dead. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 16, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. You are in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Good to have you with us. New developments right now about Americans and whether or not they believe the president is telling the truth particularly when it comes to Russia. A new poll out just today does not cast the president in a very flattering light.

Nine hundred people answered questions about the state of the country and roughly half men, half women from across the age, race, and political spectrum, and look at this. One of the poll questions, do you agree that President Trump has been honest and truthful when it comes to Russia's interference in this election?

And 62 percent of people answered no. They believe he is not being honest, and more people believe the president is lying now than they did over the summer, same whole question back in August and 56 percent of people thought the president was lying then. Again, that is up to 62 percent now.

The president sending out a lot of tweets this morning. None of them about that new opinion poll but it went after this former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who we learned earlier this week will be spending the next three years in prison. President Trump, using a rather nasty word about his former personal attorney. He called him a rat.

Here it is, "Remember, Michael Cohen only became a "rat" after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable and unheard of until the witch hunt was illegally started. They broke into an attorney's officer. Why didn't they break into the DNC to get the server, or Crooked's office?"

We will be fact-checking that in just a moment, but of course, crooked is the nickname the president has given the former first lady, a U.S. senator, for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Trump's current lawyer whom we assume he doesn't see as a rat is Rudy Giuliani who went on T.V. this morning with his own assessment of Michael Cohen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: The man is pathetic. That is a lawyer you are interviewing and he says he directed me to do it. Oh my goodness he directed me. He is a lawyer. He is the guy you depend on to determine whether or not you should do it this way or that way. Whether you're Donald Trump or me or you I have --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he is saying that --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez is live with us now at the White House. A lot to tick through there, Boris. First of all, that tweet from the president, I just read it. Let's look at it again. Trump calling the FBI raid on Cohen's home and office unthinkable and unheard of, which is not true.

There were proper warrants issued for that search and the Russia investigation was not illegal in how it started. Several Trump appointed judges have upheld Robert Mueller and have signed off on his mandate, and so much betrayal for Michael Cohen who is out of the picture for now. What is going on here?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no dull days in this administration, Ana. There on the president's tweet, it is interesting how he characterizes what actually happened. After all, Michael Cohen shortly after FBI agents served those warrants said that they were nothing but respectful. So, it is unclear exactly where the president is getting that characterization.

Of course, the White House trying to do everything that it can effectively to try to discredit Michael Cohen. You had Rudy Giuliani today calling him a liar saying that Cohen should not be trusted going as far as to suggest that the only way to believe his claims about the president are to take him at his word. That is simply not the case.

The southern district of New York has been able to corroborate a lot of what Michael Cohen is saying and further, Giuliani suggesting that those hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were not campaign contributions though Michael Cohen pled guilty to campaign finance violations. So there is what Rudy Giuliani is saying and then there is what actually has happened in court.

We should point out, we may not have heard the last of Michael Cohen. Today, a representative of Elijah Cummings was on "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper suggesting that he may ask Cohen to yet again testify before Congress. Listen now to the incoming chairman of the oversight committee in the House as he speaks with Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), INCOMING OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I am hoping that Mr. Cohen will come before the Congress where he can tell the American public exactly what he has been saying to Mueller and others without interfering with the Mueller investigation.

I think the American people just voted for transparency and integrity in our hearing. They want to hear from him. And I certainly would like to see him come in the month of January to -- before the Congress and so the people's representatives will have an opportunity to ask him questions.

(EN VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Whether Cohen testifies is still an open question. The other big open question out there Ana, what CNN reported last week that Robert Mueller apparently was still interested in interviewing President Trump one on one despite those written answers that the president submitted last month.

[17:05:02] Rudy Giuliani was asked about a possible interview today. On Fox News, he played coy. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Has his office reached out to you about sitting down for an in-person interview with the president?

GIULIANI: Yes. There are several unpaid parking tickets back in 1986 - 87 that haven't been explained.

WALLACE: Seriously.

GIULIANI: Seriously. Unpaid parking tickets --

WALLACE: No, no, no. Is the special counsel doesn't want to interview the president?

GIULIANI: Yes, good luck. Good luck, after what they did to Flynn, the way they trapped him into perjury and no sentence for him. Fourteen days for Papadopoulos, I did better on traffic violations than they did with Papadopoulos.

WALLACE: So when you say good luck, you are saying no way, no interview?

GIULIANI: They are a joke. They're a joke. Over my dead body but, you know, I could be dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: In a separate interview, Ana, Giuliani was a bit more serious. He said he wouldn't comment specifically on that reporting though he did leave the possibility a bit more open saying that any negotiations between the special counsel and President Trump's attorneys, there is still time to discuss more questions that special counsel Robert Mueller may have for President Trump, Ana.

CABRERA: Boris Sanchez at the White House. Thank you. Giuliani also sat down with ABC this morning. In that interview he argued there was nothing illegal about the $130,000 hush money payment to Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels. Her he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: It's not a crime. It's not a crime, George. Paying $130,000 to Stormy whatever and paying $130,000 to the other one is not a crime. The Edwards case determines that. She was paid a million one to be a no-show in his campaign.

If there is another purpose, it's no longer a campaign contribution. If there's a personal purpose. Now think about this. Suppose he tried to use campaign funds to pay off Stormy Daniels. It would be totally illegal. If it's not a campaign expense, it can't be a campaign contribution. These are not campaign contributions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the corporate --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Giuliani is arguing that the payments aren't illegal because they perhaps could have been made for personal reasons not just political reasons. He made the same argument back in May, but at that time, he also admitted this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're saying that Stephanie Clifford made these allegations, told Donald Trump's lawyer, look, I'll deny (ph) in public.

GIULIANI: And denied them and then said it wasn't true. However, imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016 in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So to make it go away, they made this --

GIULIANI: Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Joining us now, law professor Steve Vladeck and former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin. Steve, is Giuliani's argument legally sound if these payments are not just for political reasons? There's no crime?

STEVE VLADECK, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SCHOOL OF LAW: So it's really more, Anan, if they not for political reasons at all. And then part of the problem here is that it would have been a lot easier to take Rudy Giuliani on his word. If we hadn't had the president and everyone around him basically lying about these payments for months.

And if we hadn't had late last week this deferred prosecution agreement between federal prosecutors in Manhattan and AMI, the parent company of the "National Enquirer" where the "National Enquirer" has also admitted that it was making payments, in that case, for Karen McDougal at the behest of the president of then candidate Donald Trump with the election around the corner for political purposes.

So, it's possible in a different world, Ana, on different facts, Rudy Giuliani could be correct. The problem is that increasingly, it doesn't look like he is describing the facts as we increasingly are hearing them and frankly, as folks are increasingly swearing to under penalty of perjury.

CABRERA: I want you guys to also listen to something else Giuliani said. This is about what Robert Mueller is looking into. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: This is a witch hunt. They are going back now. They are going back to 1982, 1983. They are going through business records.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Michael, is this the first time we have heard Giuliani or we have heard anything about Mueller looking as far back as 1982 and '83 and is he giving a clue here as to perhaps what Mueller has been up to because how would he know otherwise?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Exactly. And when I listen to those interviews this morning, I thought to myself, I was like oh my goodness, what is he admitting here about the possibility that there is a financial crimes investigation ongoing by Mueller or the southern district of New York?

That is something that we have speculated a lot on television over the past year, and he seems to be validating that there is a financial crimes investigation on the Trump Organization dating back to 1982. That's not good.

[17:09:52] CABRERA: And I wonder what it is? Steve, if Mueller took an investigation that was founded on collusion and is now looking at Trump's business dealings from the 80s, is that a witch hunt? Is Mueller looking for something anything like Giuliani says?

VLADECK: I don't think we have any evidence for that, Ana. And keep in mind, the campaign finance related stuff, the Michael Cohen related stuff, the special counsel handed that off to federal prosecutors in Manhattan because he understood that even though it was evidence of criminal activity, even though it was related to President Trump, it was not related to his charge which was to investigate Russian interference in the election.

The business stuff is trickier because I think one of the things the special counsel is surely interested in is whether the president has had business dealings with Russian corporations with Russian oligarchs going back a period of time.

But what we have seen over and over again, what we saw last week with Michael Cohen and with AMI is that this is not just about Mueller versus the president. This is increasingly about the federal U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan versus the president when it comes to these non-Russia related allegations and now convictions.

CABRERA: Giuliani also talked about that Trump Tower Moscow project, the one that Cohen originally said ended in January of 2016, but then he later admitted it went into June that year. Well now listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Did Donald Trump know that Michael Cohen was pursuing the Trump Tower in Moscow into the summer of 2016?

GIULIANI: According to the answer that he gave it would have covered all the way up to November of 2016. He said he had conversations with him --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: That was another one of those really, wait, did I just hear him right? Michael, is he admitting something again that we didn't know already? I mean, first it was January 2016, then it was June 2016 as revealed in the documents related to Michael Cohen in lying to Congress.

And now he brings up to date November of 2016 as he is talking about how the president responded and answers the written answers to Robert Mueller. I mean, are you hearing it the same way that he is saying it possibly could have gone into November these conversations?

ZELDIN: Exactly the same way you're hearing it. It struck me again that Giuliani is making an admission against his client's best interest. The client, Trump, has always said as of January, I thought it was all done. When I was on the campaign trying to induce people to vote for me, I could say honestly there was no dealings with Russia.

Now, Giuliani seems to be saying that he knew that there were dealings with Russia and that this dovetails with Cohen who testified that the president knew of this and that when Cohen testified before Congress, before he did so, he socialized his testimony with people in the White House, with the senior person in the White House.

So, it could be -- it could be that they knew that Cohen was going to falsely testify and agreed to it. If that's the case, it's a terrible crime for them to have committed because it's a very easily provable crime and it's probably an impeachable crime.

CABRERA: There is still a huge question about whether the president is going to sit down with Mueller. Apparently, Steve, our reporting is that Mueller does want to sit down with Cohen. He is not just accepting written answers. Does that surprise you? Not just Cohen. I'm sorry, the president.

VLADECK: No. I think it's hard -- yes, I know, but I'd be honest. It's hard to imagine that the special counsel and his team were satisfied with the, you know, carefully calibrated, scrutinized, repeatedly edited answers that the president and his team submitted. You know, I think the end game for the special counsel here probably always involved some kind of sit down with the president.

The problem is that there is really no reason why it would be a good thing for the president to sit down with special counsel Mueller having nothing to do with concerns that the special council might try to entrap him and having other things to do with the fact that in the president, we have someone who has a rather casual relationship with the truth.

And so, it just, you know, if I were his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani or anybody else, I would be trying to keeping him as far away from that interview as possible.

CABRERA: Gentlemen, great to have you both with us. Michael Zeldin, Steve Vladeck. Thank you.

The president today taking aim at at what he calls a Democrat policy of child separation at the border. We are going to fact check his statements next.

Plus, father of young Guatemalan girl who died in U.S. custody says agents did everything they could to save her, so why is her family calling for an investigation? Details ahead. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."

[17:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: President Trump has been on a Twitter tear today, starting early with anger over media coverage and "Saturday Night Live" skits, moving onto Michael Cohen and FBI agent text messages, but a few hours later he touched on the issue of child separations at the border claiming the separation process was much worse under Barrack Obama, warning that if people are not separated, more will come, and alleging that smugglers use kids.

Well, let's fact check this. First of all, the president's claims that the current separation policy is better than that of the Bush and Obama administrations are simply not true. The Department of Homeland Security has never provided any proof when asked about smugglers using children to cross the border despite the president repeatedly making this claim.

What we do have, is about 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents under Trump's controversial border policy between April and May. After then, attorney general -- acting attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, ordered prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against all migrants who cross the border illegally.

In many cases those parents have now been deported back to their countries while the children were left in legal limbo here in the U.S. In June, the Trump administration said it would end that policy, but according to the Department of Homeland Security, 81 children were still separated from family members after being apprehended at the border between that time and the end of November.

And now we are getting more details about a seven-year-old girl who died within 48 hours of being taken into custody by Customs and Border Patrol.

[17:20:06] That agency says it did everything it could for that child and the Trump administration is blaming the girl's parents for trying to bring the child into the U.S. illegally. Her father said in writing, he had no problem, no complaints with how his daughter was handled in custody. But the family attorney says the man doesn't speak English and that Spanish is his second language suggesting he really didn't know what he was signing. Our Ed Lavandera is following this story from El Paso, and Ed, take us through what we know about this little girl and her final days and hours.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are told that this family travelled by bus from Guatemala to this border area in far west New Mexico, along the border there with Mexico. So, imagine this is an area that is almost a five-hour drive from the city of El Paso. So you're talking about a very remote area. They crossed the border in that area and immediately turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents there.

They were there as part of a large group of people who had shown up. They were taken into custody around 9:15 on Thursday night, December 6th, a little more than a week ago. Those Border Patrol agents had about 160 migrants who they needed to transport about 95 miles up the road to a Border Patrol station to begin the -- processing them through the immigration system so there were several bus rides.

They were on the second bus ride which didn't leave until about 4:30 in the morning. This is according to the Department of Homeland Security. It was on that bus ride around 5:00 in the morning that the father began alerting Border Patrol that his daughter was showing signs of distress.

They have said -- the father have said that he feels that Border Patrol agents and the medical personnel did everything they could to save his daughter's life. He has no complaints about the way those agents behaved during that process.

Several hours later, as things became much more dire, the young girl was airlifted from that far remote area of New Mexico by helicopter to a hospital here in El Paso. She arrived there Friday morning and then didn't pass away until early Saturday morning. So it was little more than 24 hours after being taken into custody where the young girl died here at the hospital in El Paso, Ana.

CABRERA: Her father says everything is OK, but now they are saying that there needs to be an investigation. What are they hoping comes from that?

LAVANDERA: Well, there are a couple of things. So you need to perhaps separate a couple of the issues that the father and his -- the young girl's family are talking about. They said they had no complaint about the way the agents did to save the young girl's life and all of that.

But the father and the attorneys who are representing him here in El Paso do take exception with the way the Department of Homeland Security initially described the condition that his daughter was in. Those initial reports from DHS have suggested that the young girl had not eaten or had not had any fluids for several days as she was crossing the desert.

The father insists that's not the case. That before they crossed the border, that she was properly fed and was given plenty of water and hydration and that she didn't become sick until after she crossed the border and had come into Border Patrol custody. So, those are some of the issues that this family has troubles with.

And they are also urging people to caution any kind of speculation as to what exactly was the cause of death. They say that medical examiner here in El Paso has not issued an official ruling on how and why this young girl died and they say any speculation about that is just too soon, that everyone should wait and see what this medical examiner reports says in his autopsy findings.

CABRERA: All right. Ed Lavandera in El Paso. Thank you.

As the president's lawyer today is calling former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen a liar, new polling shows the majority of Americans think President Trump is lying about the Russia investigation.

Plus, the decision by a federal judge to strike down the Affordable Care Act is being met with outrage among Democrats, but should Republicans be taking a victory lap? You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."

[17:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: President Trump now facing plunging poll numbers when it comes to his honesty and the Russia investigation. As we mentioned earlier, a new NBC/Wall Street poll just out today finds 62 percent of Americans say no, the president has not been truthful and honest. Thirty-four percent say he has, four percent aren't sure.

This is close to our latest CNN poll that asked whether the President has been telling the truth about Russia, 36 percent say Trump's been mostly truthful but 54 percent in that poll say he hasn't been. Joining us now, Patti Solis Doyle, a former manager of Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and Steve Cortes, former head of Trump's Hispanic advisory council. Steve, the numbers would suggest calling the Russia investigation a witch hunt may not be working for this president.

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look. The numbers do suggest that there is a lot of mistrust right now in our country. I think in fact we have a crisis of trust, both with politicians and media. And President Trump is only a part of that. I'm not trying to excuse him from it, but it struck me when I read that number at 62 percent because in a recent Gallup poll, that is exactly the percentage of Americans who said they don't believe what media tells them.

So, and by the way, you would get similar numbers if I give you a poll almost any politician say does the public believe what they are telling them, but having said that, I don't like that number, of course not. And I think it needs to get better. To me, the best way for this to improve is transparency.

[17:29:58] I urge the president to declassify as much as he possibly can surrounding matters pertaining to Russia and I urge Mueller to wrap it up, play his card, show his hand on the table. Let's have at it in the public -- with full disclosure on both sides and see where the evidence leads us. I am confident that it will lead to the conclusion that the president has long argued that there was zero collusion or coordination.

CABRERA: Patti, your thoughts about this new numbers?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the president should be very troubled by them obviously. Look, his major strategy for dealing with the Mueller investigation is calling it a hoax. And all the while he is calling it a witch hunt and a hoax we see indictment after indictment after indictment.

We see, you know, Trump associates pleading guilty. We see Trump associates serving jail time. We hear Donald Trump on tape with Michael Cohen admitting to the payments. So, you know, Americans aren't stupid. They see all of these things happening and then you have Donald Trump also moving and shape-shifting his story. You know, he didn't know about the Stormy Daniels payment and then he knew about it, but it was Michael Cohen's fault.

He didn't know that there was a meeting with Russians or Donald Trump, Jr. said there was no meeting and then there was a meeting, and then it was about adoption and then it was to get dirt on Hillary. It's just -- the story keeps, as I said, shape-sifting. And so American people aren't stupid. They know the president is lying and they are taking an attitude that they are going to wait and see what the Mueller investigation comes up with.

And now they also have to wait and see what the investigation on the Trump inauguration committee comes up with and the investigation on the Trump Organization comes up with and the investigation on the Trump campaign comes up with. There is just too much going on right now for the American people.

CABRERA: Let's weigh it out. She is right Steve. The president is the common denominator in a litany of investigations encompassing almost every aspect of his life, his administration, his transition team, his business, the Trump Organization and now even his inaugural committee's spending. What makes you so confident he is innocent?

CORTES: Right. Listen. By the way, I think actually, you know, you talking about and showing in that graphic how extensive this investigation has become actually backs my point that I have made since the very beginning of the Mueller probe, which is that this whole inquest is unjust and un-American.

We don't do that in America. We don't start an investigation in search of a crime and look into absolutely every aspect of a person's life particularly a life as complicated as the business life before he got into politics, of Donald Trump. That is something we see in totalitarian countries where they say identify the target and then investigate the target and find crimes, most of which have nothing to do with Donald Trump by the way. CABRERA: That's not what happened here though. This didn't come out

of nowhere. This investigation started legally even though the president continues to disparage the Justice Department and the intelligence community.

CORTES: I didn't say it is illegal, but I'm saying it is unjust.

CABRERA: The president has been dishonest, completely untruthful in his tweet when he says -- questions the origins of this investigation and the search warrant for example with Michael Cohen.

DOYLE: And then also --

CORTES: Listen, the foundation of the probe was dishonest because it started with Comey, a liar and leaker by his own admission --

CABRERA: No. No.

CORTES: -- really trip wiring his boss' (inaudible) by his own admission --

CABRERA: It started with George Papadopoulos, remember. Even the Republicans own memo from the intelligence -- House Intelligence Committee said it started with George Papadopoulos and his meeting with this Australian diplomat.

CORTES: Well, and by the way, if you want to go back there I'm happy to because the only actual collusion that we know about so far, the only evidence of collusion with Russia is out of the Hillary Clinton campaign because the DNC --

DOYLE: Oh, god.

CORTES: -- and the Clinton campaign paid Fusion GPS to dig up a bunch of salacious nonsense dirt from Russian intelligence sources, and then a lot of people in the Obama DOJ used that partisan ridiculous information to weaponize our national security (inaudible) against an opposition campaign and then later against an incoming administration.

CABRERA: Steve, we don't know -- we don't know what the evidence is that Mueller may have.

CORTES: So, if we will talk Russian collusion, let's talk about real crimes not windmills, not a Quixote quest to take down this president.

CABRERA: Hold on just second.

DOYLE: Steve, let me just ask you.

CABRERA: Hold on -- I do want to get you in on this, Patti, but let me just remind everybody because again, I think that it is really important that we don't confuse our viewers. And I don't know. You don't know. We don't know what the evidence is that Mueller's team has, but we do know that four judges have upheld Mueller's appointment to this investigation. We do know --

CORTES: Sure.

CABRERA: -- that according to the Justice Department and all the judges who have been a part of this, they believe there is a reason to do this investigation. Patti, go ahead.

CORTES: We also know that judges approved FISA warrants not knowing that the evidence they were presented by our own national security team was partisan -- was a partisan dossier that was paid for and sourced by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC and was full of salacious nonsense. The judges didn't know that when they approved FISA warrants, and that is an abuse of our national security in this country, and we (inaudible) real crimes. Those are known crimes.

[17:35:05] CABRERA: Okay, Patti. Patti, go ahead.

DOYLE: I just want to say, well first of all, the fact that you're still talking about Hillary Clinton is just shows how desperate that you and the other Trump, you know, supporters and defenders are out there, first of all. Second of all, you know, Bob Mueller basically -- what is he supposed to do Steve when he finds evidence of other crime? Just turn a blind eye to it? No.

What he has done is he has forwarded to the southern district of New York and they are taking over. So these crimes of campaign finance where Michael Cohen has been indicted for and is going to jail for, they found evidence that Michael Cohen did this in the -- with the direction -- by the direction of the president and in coordination with the president. So of course, what is suppose to happen now? That President Trump is

above the law so he shouldn't serve time but Michael Cohen should?

CORTES: No.

CABRERA: Trump is the law and order president, right.

CORTES: No. He is not at all above the law and the proper way, the proper check and balance -- our founding fathers gave us enormous checks and balances, and the proper check and balance on the executive branch malfeasance is very clear. It is the legislative branch. It is their subpoena power and ultimately it's their impeachment power if need be.

It is not the southern district of New York and it is not a prosecutor within the president's own Justice Department who is effectively acting like a king, who has endless resources and endless purview and can look anywhere he wants, again, an investigation in search of a crime. It is unjust. It is un-American. There is a proper way to do this. If the president committed campaign finance violations for example, I don't believe he all did, but if he did, it is then the job of the Congress to scrutinize that and ultimately to impeach him if necessary over that.

DOYLE: That is not true.

CORTES: That is completely true. CABRERA: Let's talk about what Congress is prepared to do because

Democrats, Patti, as you know, prepared to take control of the House in January. They have a growing number of Trump investigations to choose from. Do you have concerns that they could spread themselves too thin and maybe lose focus and possibly swing and miss?

DOYLE: I think there's so much that they can possibly take on in terms of investigating this administration. We see a very corrupt administration. We see it at the cabinet level. We see it at the White House. But the first and foremost function of this Congress is to actually legislate for the American people.

And so it is my hope that they can do both, that they can work on things like infrastructure, work on things like criminal justice reform, work on things like immigration and still hold this administration accountable. I have faith that they can and I have faith that they will, but it's not an either or -- it's not an either or choice here.

CABRERA: All right. Thank you both. Patti Solis Doyle, Steve Cortes, always appreciate both of your perspectives. Thank you for being here.

Coming up, facts first. We set the record straight on everything, from the border wall to Saudi Arabia, that's next. And a quick programming note, the incredible story of comedy great, Gilda Radner in her own words, a CNN film, "Love, Gilda" airs New Year's Day at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

[17:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: The president has turned to alternative facts to explain the problems he is facing. He is providing new explanations about everything from legal troubles facing him, to getting his border wall funded. Here to break it all down is CNN politics digital director Zachary Wolf. Zach, you wrote that these alternative facts can only go so far.

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. We have seen this through his presidency really when faced with uncomfortable truths. He sort of creates his own different explanations for things. Kellyanne Conway famously called then alternative facts, but three in particular in the last week or so have really been interesting to look at.

The first of these has to do with Michael Cohen's sentencing. His former lawyer is going to face, you know, years in prison now and Donald Trump has essentially explained this away by saying that things that Michael Cohen was convicted for, campaign finance crimes, he says they aren't crimes at all. Here is what he said to Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATESL: What he did was all unrelated to me except for the two campaign finance charges that are not criminal and should not have been on there. They put that onto embarrass me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF: That they are not criminal will be news to Michael Cohen as he spends years in jail essentially for them. We also saw this -- he was sort of slapped on the wrist for his alternative facts this week as well. He said consistently that he is not sure that the Saudi prince, Mohammad bin Salman, was responsible for this horrible murder in Turkey of a U.S. based journalist.

You know, he told Reuters that, you know, if standing by the prince that the U.S. should continue to do it. He said well, at this moment it certainly does largely because he is the leader of Saudi Arabia and they are an ally. The Senate meanwhile passed -- unanimously passed a resolution that totally condemned Mohammad bin Salman. Here is what Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), CHAIRMAN, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Unanimously, unanimously, the United States Senate has said that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is a strong statement. I think it speaks to the values that we hold dear. The rest of this resolution does. I'm glad the Senate is speaking with one voice, unanimously towards this end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOX: And so, you know, there we have him being slapped on the wrist by Republicans in the Senate. That's a pretty rare thing.

[17:45:00] The other issue he is going to face soon is the possibility of a government shutdown. Earlier in the week he was talking about how he would be proud to shutdown the government if Democrats won't agree to fund a border wall. And then shortly thereafter, he came out with a tweet saying, "Well, you know, actually Mexico is going to be paying for the wall."

That is something he had long promised, but he is saying that this new trade deal, which hasn't been passed by the Senate yet, will be paying for it. That doesn't jive with reality though because even if Mexico pays for the wall through the trade deal somehow, that doesn't get the money into the U.S. coffers. He would still have to get a Senate vote and a House vote in order to use it to build his wall.

CABRERA: All right. Zachary Wolf, a good fact check for us. Thank you.

A distressing Instagram post from "Saturday Night Live" Pete Davidson sparking concern and even a response from New York police. Details on what happened just ahead live in the "CNN Newsroom."

[17:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Instead of it's a wonderful life, it's a wonderful Trump. "Saturday Night Live" spoofing the holiday classic, re-imagining what life would be like if Donald Trump weren't elected president. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Michael Cohen, shouldn't you be in jail after you flipped on me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? I would never ever flip on you. You're my best friend. And since it is Christmas, I just want to say that you taught me everything I know.

BALDWIN: Oh, come on, Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, it's true. Every single thing I've done is because you've directed me to do it.

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: I have something for you.

BALDWIN: Would you say a subpoena or your final report?

DE NIRO: No. Report? No, no. It's a picture of my grandson. I've been spending so much more time with him since I don't have to investigate some idiot for treason.

BALDWIN: Wow, this night really is getting into perspective. I've had an epiphany. I guess the world does need me to be president after all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that was not the lesson at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Perhaps no surprise, the president was not amused by that sketch. Tweeting today, a real scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC and Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It's all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in court, can't be legal? Only defame and belittle! Collusion?"

Well, later on the SNL holiday show, one of the show stars, Pete Davidson, made a short appearance and this was noteworthy because it came hours after posting an alarming message on social media. Earlier in the day, he posted an Instagram writing this, "I really don't want to be on this Earth anymore." CNN's Polo Sandoval has more on that troubling post and Davidson's tumultuous year.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, Pete Davidson's Instagram was taken down after the distressed message was noticed that prompted a police response. Also, more concerns about the young comedian.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE DAVIDSON, COMEDIAN: Once again, Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL (voice-over): This was Pete Davidson on "Saturday Night Live" hours after an alarming post Instagram page. "I really don't want to be on this earth anymore, note the "Saturday Night Live" cast member. I'm doing my best to stay here for you but I actually don't know how much longer I can last."

According to the NYPD officers who rushed to check on the 25-year-old on Saturday afternoon, soon after the troubling post appeared, police confirm they were able to personally speak with Davidson. And the police nor NBC will say more about what happened, but Davidson has been open about his mental health struggles in the past.

The young comedian has previously said he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. It's also been a very difficult year for the young comedian personally. In October, he and singer Ariana Grande called off their engagement ending their very public romance. Then in November, Davidson apologized for mocking Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw who lost his eye serving in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIDSON: This guy is kind of cool. Dan Crenshaw.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Crenshaw later appeared on SNL accepting Davidson's apology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R), TEXAS: Americans can forgive one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL (voice-over): This month, Davidson took to Instagram sharing that he was a victim of online bullying during his relationship with Grande. In the December 3rd post, Davidson also wrote that he was outspoken about his illness and suicidal thoughts to increase awareness for others.

He added, "I just want you guys to know, no matter how hard the internet or anyone tries to make me kill myself, I won't." Davidson has received an outpouring of support from public figures including Nicki Minaj, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Meghan McCain. Family doctor Jennifer Caudle told HLN, Davidson's case is renewing awareness about suicide prevention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENIFFER CAUDLE, FAMILY DOCTOR: This could be a particularly hard time of year for depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts because, you know, there is just so much going on. So that's why to say, especially during this time of year look out for your friends, look out for your loved ones.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL (voice-over): A reminder many more could be suffering in silence and may not make their pain known on social media or elsewhere. (on camera): Davidson did not appear in the live skits during last

night's show. That was the last one of the year as the cast and crew will be off for the holidays, Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Polo, thank you.

Now, the founder of one of the world's most popular trivia games has died. Details ahead here on the "Newsroom." Don't go away.

[17:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Welcome back. At least 42 people are hurt following an explosion near a pub in Japan. The fire after the blast caused the building to collapse. Officials say the cause is still under investigation. According to local media there, people nearby reported smelling gas after the explosion and authorities warned residents about the possibility of another blast in the area.

The co-founder of one of the most popular trivia games has died. And official tell CNN that HQ Trivia CEO Collin Kroll was found dead this morning in New York. Police say Kroll was found unconscious and unresponsive in his bedroom. Police were called to KROLL's home by his 33girlfriend after she requested a wellness check.

Thanks for being here. You are live in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. The majority of Americans believe their president is lying when he talks about the role Russia did or didn't play in his election.

[18:00:02] This is according to a nationwide poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.