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New Report Says Russia Used Every Major Social Network to Aid Trump; House Republicans Are Grilling Comey For Second Time In 10 Days; White House and Democrats Are Not Budging with Shutdown Possible in Five Days; Girls Death in Border Patrol Custody Raises Questions. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 17, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN on this Monday. Thank you for being with me. Let's jump to it. You're getting your first in-depth look at how far Russians went in their effort to help elect Donald Trump as President. Releasing these two major reports. What they found was that Russians used every single major social media platform to sway people to vote for Trump. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. The list goes on and on, reaching millions and millions of people on these popular sites, and the attempts to interfere did not stop with the election. They actually spiked in the President's first months in office and still remain a significant threat to this point. The report warns of the, quote, "sustained effort to manipulate the U.S. public and undermine democracy." So, how are these social media companies responding? Silicon Valley may have done the bear minimum to help the Russia investigation. With a look at what all of this means for all of us, here is CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin. What else can you tell me about these reports?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, we've been reporting on this two years now, the scope of this problem and the Russian attempt to drive this dialogue in the U.S. is astounding. More than 10 million tweets, 116,000 Instagram posts, 61,000 Facebook posts, 1,000 videos, these are posted by the Russian government-linked internet research agency, all of these. This is the troll group indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year. The report by CNN shows how the trolls, as a group, regularly tried to co- op unsuspecting Americans to work for them by holding rallies, staging protests, even handing over their personal information. We have reported some of this before, that the Russians were behind various black matters groups even on social media, pro and against NRA groups. This reveals something that is even beyond politics. They made up a fictious group called the Army of Jesus, targeting Christians. Brooke, they were offering free counseling to people with sexual addiction. According to new knowledge the company that did the research on this, this could have been a way to create an opportunity to blackmail or manipulate individuals, essentially a way to pressure Americans into working for the Russians. It is really astounding.

BALDWIN: It is stunning. And the report says certainly before the election, the efforts were aimed at getting Trump elected in suppressing the potential supporters of Hillary Clinton, but it didn't stop there.

GRIFFIN: No, it didn't stop at all. All the major social media platforms used as part of that campaign, the report said. New knowledge in 2017, investigators began unearthing the Russian social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter, which they mostly used. Then this happened. The IRA shifted much of its activity to Instagram and said the most prolific activities are specifically targeting black American communities and appear to have focus on black audience and recruiting black Americans as, quote, assets. Amazing.

BALDWIN: And this went on for as long as it has. Drew Griffin, thank you very much on those reports.

Meantime, all of that, as the man who once led the FBI's investigation into Russian interference is back up on capitol hill for his latest face-off against lawmakers. We're talking about James Comey. He is wrapping up around 2:00 with the judicial and oversight committees after a grilling ten days ago on a whole range of topics, including the FBI's handling of Hillary Clinton's e-mail case. Manu Raju is up on the hill, tracking those developments. What do you know so far today?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. James Comey has been behind closed doors more than four hours now. We expect him to wrap probably early this afternoon. This comes after more than six hours sitting behind closed doors with the same two Republican-led committees, final days in power before the Democrats take control in January and Republicans have been called in as part of the larger investigation into what they believe was FBI bias and how they handled the Clinton e-mail investigation, the Russia investigation and Republicans going in believe that James Comey has not been consistent in some of his responses, particularly what he knew about the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign's involvement in funding for research that led to the Steele dossier. Democrats are making it clear out of these hearings that this is nothing but a waste of time.


[14:05:00] REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I can tell you that when you look at his public statements and also the testimony that he has given, those don't seem to reconcile.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D), MARYLAND: I do believe it is a waste of the taxpayers' money. Basically, what we've been hearing since we've been here over and over again.

RAJU: Do you think that the FBI handled the interview with Michael Flynn appropriately based on what you know?

CUMMINGS: I have no reason to believe they didn't. Michael Flynn has been in intelligence just about all of his adult life. He has dealt with all kinds, he knows FBI rules and the whole bit. I practiced law for quite a few years myself. I believe it was appropriate and he was dealt with properly.


RAJU: Now that last point, of course, is a new area for this committee to talk to James Comey about. Since he came last to this committee, court proceedings have shown that Michael Flynn's legal team believe he was not handled properly, the questioning that led to his lying to them about the interactions of Sergey Kislyak has come under question. Mueller's team has pushed back. And you hear Elijah Cummings, that he believes it was handled properly. We'll hear what James Comey says himself. He was exasperated last time on the Clinton e-mail.

BALDWIN: We'll look for that, Manu, later today. Before Comey went to Capitol Hill, he had choice words for President Trump. The President claims that the authorities broke into the office. Survey says that's fault, and the FBI had a search warrant. He also ripped his former fixer as a rat, went on a ten-tweet tear Sunday, reviving his greatest hits like witch hunt and hoax in the process. NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll suggests that the President's rants are not resonating beyond his base. Some 62 percent of Americans think he is lying about the Russia investigation. That is up six points from this summer. To all of this, you can add Rudy Giuliani, who probably isn't exactly helping his client's credibility with statements like this.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULUS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Did Donald Trump know that Michael Cohen was pursuing the Trump tower in Moscow?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR THE PRESIDENT: According to the answer he gave it would have covered all away Up until November 2016, he said he had conversations with him.


BALDWIN: November 2016, that is at odds with Michael Cohen's statement with then candidate Trump that conversations ended in 2016, Cohen then admitted that he lied to congress on Trump's behalf when asked to clarify by CNN, Giuliani said he did speak to Cohen but doesn't offer dates. They don't really remember when they happened. So many contradictions, so many investigations. My next guest has been keeping track of all of this, compiling a list of the 17 different inquiries into President Trump and Russia. And this is part of his piece scrolling there on your screen, this massive list that touches on Russia, Super PACs and the Trump family business. Garrett Graff. Author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Mueller's FBI and the War on Terror." Welcome back.

My goodness, this is a mighty -- what a piece this is. Before we actually delve in to your one through 17, going on television and admitting that Trump was working on this Moscow project basically into his transition and my question to you, why is he admitting to this?

GARRET GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, AUTHOR OF "THE THREAT MATRIX: INSIDE MUELLER'S FBI AND THE WAR ON TERROR": Well, I think it probably -- Rudy Giuliani, who knows why he gets up and says the things he's saying on a given day. This is a guy who is doing an incredibly bad job even playing a lawyer on tv, let alone actually being helpful to the President's defense.


GRAFF: I think what it probably means is that he has been doing -- that the President's written answers are so vague and so noncommittal as to cover any myriad, number of possibilities and that there are sort of -- written answers to Mueller might be sort of as fact free as the President's tweets end up being.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: OK. You write about how Donald Trump faces, your words, illegal assault unlike anything previously seen by any President. Total of 17 distinct court cases. As you also point out, this doesn't even include congressional inquiries and the like. Is there any area, garret, where the evidence, as we all know it right now, seems the strongest? Could one main theme emerge? Cases. As you also point out, this doesn't even include congressional inquiries and the like. Is there any area, Garrett, where the evidence, as we all know it right now, seems the strongest? Could one main theme emerge?

GRAFF: So, one of the things, you know, that the President spent the weekend sort of flipping out, as you were saying, about these investigations, and when you look at them in total, there's sort of good reason to be stressed out about them if you're the President. These are, as I lay out, 17 different distinct court cases and investigations that are currently under way from seven different offices, prosecutors and state attorneys general. When you look at the totality of cases, it's probably actually thinking about this wrong, that what we sort of shorthand as the Mueller probe or the Russia probe is actually this much broader investigation into how money moved in and out of virtually every aspect of Donald Trump's world and how a number of countries, not just Russia, but also potentially the UAE, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, potentially other countries even beyond that tried to buy influence through Donald Trump's campaign, businesses and presidency.

BALDWIN: Isn't that what so much of this is about? Many people haring back to Watergate and follow the money, which we know has been Trump's red line. But what are the chances as it relates to the President that money trail is the thing that leads to something substantial?

GRAFF: And it is certainly looking, with almost every single passing day, more and more like the President's greatest criminal liability lies in his campaign finance filings, in the finances of his own organization. And, remember, those are the only places where we have seen Donald Trump's main, actually in court papers from prosecutors is as individual one tied to various finance problems both with the Trump tower Moscow deal and the campaign finance conspiracy and that, you know, the President has long said that diving into his business was going to be a red line, but really it looks like the President himself is culpable here, that he, in turn, mingled his business, his campaign, his presidency in such a way that it's impossible for prosecutors to separate out investigating one without investigating everything.

BALDWIN: One more for you as it pertains to his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. He will be sentenced tomorrow. We'll be talking about that then. Former business partners of Flynn were charged in this Turkish lobbying case. My question to you, do you think this is a direct result of Flynn's cooperation and that it gives us insight as to what could be happening in this investigation behind the scenes?

GRAFF: Yes. It seems like this case grew directly out of Flynn's cooperation. His own court filings show that he turned over voluminous business records. One thing that really stands out in that indictment is that he -- that Michael Flynn Is highly culpable in that scheme where the fresh indictments came down today. Remember the fact that he's getting off, effectively, without being prosecuted in that case at all, is likely to face little to know jail time, prison time at all tomorrow, makes you realize just how substantial the cooperation was that he has likely provided prosecutors in other matters and, remember, there aren't that many people in Michael Flynn's world above him in the hierarchies. And most of them are named Donald Trump or have the last name Trump.

BALDWIN: Shows how much he has cooperated and how much information he has shared and will likely, depending what happens tomorrow, serve no time. Garrett Graff, good to see you.

Five days and counting. The clock is ticking on this possible government shutdown. Neither the Democrats nor the President willing to budge on the border wall. Then there's the issue of the lame duck Republicans who may or may not be planning to vote at all. Also, he is the subject of more than a dozen investigations.

[14:15:00] Ryan Zinke is the latest cabinet secretary soon to be out at the White House. Who could be next? And will President Trump face a Republican primary challenger come 2020. We have poll numbers just out from a key primary state on how they feel about Trump challengers. You are watching CNN and I am Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: In Washington, D.C., just five days until partial shutdown of the federal government and neither side is willing to blink. No one on Capitol Hill seems to know President Trump's bottom line, what he will or will not accept as a deal. He has threatened to shut down the government and his adviser is repeating that threat.


[14:20:00] STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: We'll do whatever is necessary to build a border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration. If it comes to it, absolutely. This is a very fundamental issue. At stake is the question of whether or not the United States remains a sovereign country, whether or not we can establish and enforce rules for entrance into our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Republican lawmakers who lost their re-election bids aren't necessarily feeling compelled to even return to Washington let alone vote. Let's go to Capitol Hill to our CNN Congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, when you read this "Times" piece it paints it as all these Republican members of congress saying, eh, what's in it for me to return by the end of the year?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not a lot of enthusiasm. Whatever the end game is here, brook, as you rightly point out, lawmakers on Capitol Hill don't know what the end game is or, frankly, what the next steps are until President Trump tells them what he wants or wants them to put on the table as they move forward. What that demonstrates, Republicans retiring or lost re-election in November demonstrate by the fact that they've not been showing up for a lot of votes since the election is just the general lack of willingness to have this fight right now. I've covered a lot of these. You've been in the chair for a lot of these shutdown fights the last five years. One side or both sides are rarely willing to go. Put the brass knuckles on. It's rank and file, leadership, across the board. Republican and Democrats just want to go home. You have this group of Republican lawmakers in the house, 40 or so that were defeated. Think about it this way, Brooke. A lot of them no longer have offices anymore. They've been moved out as they are setting up for their replacements to come in and a lot of Republican members sleep in their offices, that's their housing. The idea that they want to come back and be here for a fight that they're not enthused about doesn't really fly right now. Where does that leave things going forward? It's an open question when you have lawmakers on capitol hill who don't want the fight but on the Republican side of things they don't want to undercut the President and his key campaign promise. Right now, everybody is kind of in a freeze. They're waiting for him to weigh in. Sources involved in these negotiations made it very clear, multiple options have been worked up behind close doors for the President to try to move forward on. They're just waiting for him to do that. When that's going to come, no one really knows. As far as I know in talking to the sources, the President was calling lawmakers over the weekend but did not tip his hand one way or another. There's a lot more tea leaf reading than there is actual knowledge of what actually happens.

BALDWIN: Phil Mattingly, we'll be watching right there with you on Capitol Hill. Thank you very much for now. Meantime, so much outrage over the death of this little Guatemalan girl in U.S. custody. Her father says he has no complaints over how his daughter was treated. We'll take you live to the Texas border for her story.

And more turnover in the Trump cabinet. Just a couple of months ago, Chris Cillizza made predictions about who would be left standing. How did he do? A look at who's in and who's out.


BALDWIN: A group of Congressional Democrats say they want specific answers from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol about this little Guatemalan girl who died in their custody nine days ago. She was 7 years of age. She passed away in an El Paso hospital fewer than 48 hours after she and her father were picked up by Border Patrol agents. A timeline has been given about what happened after they were found. Some, including that delegation traveling to the region tomorrow say they want a full investigation. Ed Lavandera is live for us. The father said agents did everything they could to save his daughter so tell me more about this case and what exactly is being called into question.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things. A lot of questions as to what exactly unfolded in the seven or eight hours that this young girl and her father were in Border Patrol custody and what might have happened during that time that led to this. But the father, through various people over the weekend, has been saying he believes that border patrol agents did everything they could, that medical teams did everything they could to save this young girl's life. In fact, over the weekend, he expressed his gratitude to the efforts they made to save her life. Some of the questions about the timeline and some of the initial statements that the Department of Homeland Security made early -- late last week department officials said this young girl had been traveling through remote areas for several days without food and water. The father poignantly said they traveled by bus south of New Mexico and that the girl had been well fed and hydrated along the way. There was also some -- the words of the father's attorneys, they found unacceptable that they would have this man, who doesn't speak English and Spanish is his second language -- he speaks native Guatemalan, indigenous language and he had this form in English he signed early on after turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents, form in English that basically said his daughter is fine. Those are some of the things that the father and people who represent him have been saying over the weekend. They all agree -- doesn't seem to be any confusion, that the fact that the girl first started showing signs of distress, vomiting, on this bus ride around 5:00 in the morning last -- on Friday. Not this past Friday but the week before, when she was being taken from the border checkpoint to this border patrol station some two hours north.

BALDWIN: We'll continue to follow the story as clearly it should be looked into. Ed Lavandera, thank you for reporting that we have so far. We want to bring in Ana Navarro who is with us.