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Trump Legal Troubles Escalate; Yemeni Mother Blocked By Travel Ban From Seeing Dying Son; Shutdown Coming?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired December 17, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And Giuliani says there's no way the president will sit down for an interview with the special counsel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Is the special counsel -- does he want to interview the president?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: 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're saying no way, no interview?

GIULIANI: They are a joke. They are a joke. Over my dead body.

But, you know, I could be dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us.

And, Kaitlan, Giuliani is also raising questions about Cohen, about Trump, and their conversations about that Trump Tower Moscow project. What did Giuliani say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he seems to be indicating, Brooke, that those conversations between the president and Michael Cohen might have gone longer than we previously knew.

Now, we know that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress when he said that that deal to pursue a Trump Tower in Moscow was shelved in January 2016, later admitting that it actually went through the summer of 2016.

And when Giuliani was asked just how long the president and Michael Cohen were having these conversations, this is what he said yesterday:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: 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, would have covered all the way up to November of -- covered all the way up to November 2016, said he had conversations with him about it

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: So, there, Brooke, he says through November of 2016 potentially. He's referencing those written answers that the president and his legal team submitted to the special counsel, Robert Mueller. He's not pinning himself down to a timeline.

He's essentially giving himself a broad area to work with, saying they could have gone on through November of 2016. Now, somebody watching at home might say, why does it matter if the conversations were happening in January or July or November?

But it would be incredibly significant if the president's attorney was still pursuing a deal, a real estate deal in Moscow throughout June 2016 and keeping the president apprised of that as the president was becoming the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency.

Now, of course, Brooke, we have seen Rudy Giuliani contradict himself or contradicts the president before, but we have also seen him take this tactic of leaking out information that later is proven to be true, like when the president reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to silence Stormy Daniels.

And so the question now is, is he trying to get this information out there ahead of it becoming publicly available? Or is it just Rudy Giuliani being Rudy Giuliani?

BALDWIN: Excellent question. Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much at the White House.

Right at this moment, yet another favorite Trump target, James Comey, is sitting behind closed doors up on Capitol Hill. For the second time in less than two weeks, the former FBI director is again testifying before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, as Republicans and Democrats bicker over whether Comey's appearance is even necessary.

Manu Raju is our senior congressional correspondent on Comey watch essentially up on the Hill.

Is it still, still under way, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Still under way.

We do expect it to wrap soon, potentially even as soon as this hour. Comey has been behind closed doors since about 10:00 a.m. Eastern, this after about six hours of closed-door interview from about a week- and-a-half ago as part of the Republican-led investigation into the FBI's handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation, the Russia investigation, an investigation that the Democrats when they take power in January will discontinue.

So this is a last gasp of sorts for the Republicans on this committee, bringing in Comey for the second time. Also expected to bring Loretta Lynch, President Obama's former attorney general. Now, Comey has faced of number of questions from Republicans today about Michael Flynn, his handling of the Clinton investigation, whether Flynn was questioned appropriately, as well as the two-page summary of that dossier of Trump-Russia allegations.

Some of that -- redacted portion of that summary came out in court proceedings late last week. And Republicans say they want to push him on some inconsistencies between his public statements and what they believe he said privately.

And Democrats say this is all just a waste of time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I do believe it's a waste of the taxpayers' money, basically where we're here, and it seems that we've been here over and over again.

RAJU: Do you think that the FBI handled the interview of Michael Cohen 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's dealt with all kinds of interviews, including he knows the FBI rules. He knows the whole bit.

So, I would I have to believe -- and I practiced law for quite a few years myself -- I believe that it was appropriate and he was dealt with properly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:05:03]

RAJU: Now, the ultimate question, Brooke, is how much new information has been gleaned from two days' worth of testimony?

James Comey did a big book tour after his book came out. He has testified in public before the Senate Intelligence Committee. So far, some Republicans have expressed concern that an FBI attorney sitting next to James Comey has prevented him from answering questions about the Mueller investigation or things that may affect the Mueller investigation because of an ongoing probe.

Democrats say that's perfectly fine with them. So, ultimately, what did they learn? We don't know that yet. We will see if James Comey has any to say when he leaves in hopefully just a matter of minutes here -- Brooke. BALDWIN: We will look for him. Manu, thank you for the heads up. I

appreciate you.

Meantime, a lot to sift through.

Joining me now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers, and CNN legal analysts Paul Callan all with me.

So, Dana Bash, let me just begin with you, backtracking a second ago, when we were talking to Kaitlan about your conversation. I know you have been talking to Rudy Giuliani, who was doing the rounds yesterday morning.

But the fact that Giuliani was essentially admitting that Trump was working on this Trump Tower Moscow as he was saying maybe into November, that could maybe be into the transition, if he's talking to the president on a consistent basis, why would he go on national television and say that?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a really important question.

What he said to me when I talked to him trying to clarify the comments that he made on the Sunday shows yesterday was that the bottom line is, he said the president doesn't remember exactly when he had that last conversation with Michael Cohen about the Trump Moscow project.

But he insists that what they told the Mueller team which is under oath -- and this is different from what he said to the public, which is another thing that Giuliani made clear -- but what he said gave him cushion basically because apparently he said what the answer was -- left open the idea of talking to Michael Cohen about Trump Moscow during the 2016 campaign, which, of course, was up to Election Day.

So I know that's clear as mud. But I think that's the point.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: And, also, what I what I wonder is whether or not this is the latest example of Giuliani getting out there, looking like he is messing up, and looking like he's off-message, when actually he knows something, the president knows something that could be coming down the pike to bite him, and he's trying to kind of lessen the blow by doing it first.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: On Dana's final point, Jennifer, what do you think?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it could be that, but also remember they had to turn in their answers before they knew what Michael Cohen was going to say.

BALDWIN: True.

RODGERS: So he has to turn in a time period, and I guess he's just covering his bases by saying all the way up until November.

Then Michael Cohen comes out and says it was up until June, so I guess at least he's covered that. They didn't know he was going to say, so they had to say something that would cover that, I think is what happened.

BALDWIN: Moving off of Giuliani, I just wanted to ask you, as somebody who I know has prosecuted mobsters, when you see the word rat, especially -- President Trump had almost like tiptoed over, up to the point of calling Michael Cohen a rat.

But to call him a rat signifies what?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that he is a turncoat, that he's somebody who's subhuman, because he's giving testimony against somebody else.

But, of course, rats are really insider witnesses who may be criminals who make a deal with the prosecution and testify. Now, this is very common in law enforcement. I mean, when you're trying to make -- present evidence of a crime, you need the evidence from the people who were there. So, of course, you're going to be dealing with criminals and people with lots of problems.

BALDWIN: Dana, to you on -- going back to Giuliani and some of the other bits and pieces that he said, that he said Trump would sit down for a Mueller interview, Rudy Giuliani's words, over my dead body.

But CNN has learned that Mueller is still indeed interested in speaking with the president. And how does this resolve itself? We know, as you were alluding to, that those written answers were just this first step in the negotiation.

BASH: I mean, that's an unknown question. We don't know how it's going to resolve itself.

You're right. Pam Brown got this excellent reporting that the Mueller team does still want to sit down with the president. And what Giuliani said, over my dead body, is what to a person for the past year-plus this has been going on people who are close to the president had been saying to me and other reporters.

They just -- they won't allow it to happen, at least to the best of their ability. And that is why since Emmet Flood has come on as the pretty new attorney dealing with this inside the White House, one of the things I'm told that he has been doing is preparing the sort of legal precedent and legal strategy for fighting a potential subpoena, if it came down to that, meaning if Robert Mueller -- I mean, these are big ifs.

[15:10:15]

If Robert Mueller decides to subpoena the president, and then if Robert Mueller can convince the Trump-led Justice Department that that's OK to do, and then so they were preparing to fight that fight, just in case. BALDWIN: You're nodding. That's a possibility?

RODGERS: It is a possibility still, but I think there are a lot of obstacles to that.

As Dana said, they'd have to seek permission. I don't even know if Matthew Whitaker's in charge of this investigation. We haven't gotten clarity on that. Is he going to block it? Or Rod Rosenstein might be in charge. He might block it. Then they subpoena it. Immediately, you get a motion to quash, and then it's in the courts for litigation, probably all the way up to the Supreme Court, because it's a really unsettled question as to whether in these circumstances, for testimonial evidence, this president would have to testify.

BALDWIN: Got it.

And then, lastly, we have been talking about, depending on the crime, the statute of limitation, five years. To do the math, if this president is reelected, it could essentially be his get-out-of-jail- free card, but you say, not so fast.

CALLAN: Well, there is a way around it, possibly. And that is the same evidence that was used to charge Michael Cohen could be used against the president now, and he could be indicted or charged, and that indictment could be sealed.

This is done frequently by prosecutors when a suspect is at large and can't be apprehended, or you're going to indict somebody, but you're afraid, if they know about the indictment, they're going to destroy evidence. There are a variety of reasons that it is done.

This is a very unusual one, and it's spelled out this way. The Justice Department says you cannot indict a sitting president of the United States because it would prevent him from doing his job. But, on the other hand, there's a five-year statute of limitations on some of these election fraud claims that have been made against Michael Cohen, the election -- the whole business that was spelled out last week.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CALLAN: So if you don't charge the president now, how would you ever be able to prosecute him later? So one way might be charge him and seal the indictment, and only when he becomes a civilian, do you begin the prosecution.

BALDWIN: What do you think of that?

RODGERS: I think it's a possibility. We were talking earlier about the notion of a possible speedy trial problem, if there's a charge against the president that you're not executing. Sometimes, you get in trouble there.

And we were talking through what you could do. The truth is, it's a whole new world. This has never been done before. So all of these strategies are just thinking through the possibilities. At the end of the day, if they do try to do anything, we're all going to be in court kind of waiting to see what judges think of all of this.

BALDWIN: Jennifer, Paul, Dana, thank you all so much for that.

We are also -- appreciate it.

We are also just couple days away from a potential government shutdown. But even if Republicans in the House can strike a deal with President Trump, they're not quite sure if enough outgoing lawmakers will show up to vote to pass this.

Former Congressman Charlie Dent will join me to weigh in on this. That's next.

Also, a stunning surge in the number of teenagers smoking e- cigarettes. CNN investigates how vaping companies are using social media to lure them in.

And the real human impact of the president's travel ban. A mother from Yemen has been blocked from coming to the U.S. to see her dying 2-year-old son. And, today, her husband is speaking out.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:50]

BALDWIN: Five days and counting, that is how long before the federal government could shut down, at least partially. No one on Capitol Hill seems to really know what President Trump will or won't accept for a deal.

You know his demands. He wants this $5 billion in funding for his border wall and says he's happy to shut down the government if he does not get it.

Just a short while ago, the White House indicated that there may not be a lot of wiggle room in terms of coming up short.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: The president is continuing to negotiate with Congress. Obviously, he is going to have increased funding for border security.

That is his priority. And we're going to find ways to get to that $5 billion and make sure that we increase funding not only for the physical barrier, but also for technology and for personnel.

QUESTION: Is the $5 billion negotiable?

SCHLAPP: He's very focused on getting to that $5 billion number.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The path to compromise not made any easier by this being a lame-duck session.

"The New York Times" is reporting that number of Republican lawmakers who lost their reelection bids aren't compelled to vote or for that matter return to Washington.

So let's talk to former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. He now serves as a CNN political commentator.

And so, Congressman, good to see you, sir.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to be with you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: The way "The Times" put it, they call it the revenge of the lame ducks, going into how Republicans are sick of D.C., they don't want to show up to work anymore if they have been voted out.

And so just do me the favor and peel back the curtain. And what must these lame-duck members be feeling?

DENT: Well, Brooke, a lot of these lame-duck members, they're either retiring or they were defeated. And they have checked out.

I mean, they're done. And they have dealt with a lot of drama over the years, these types of unnecessary skirmishes. And this is just one more they don't need. And I suspect that's what's going into their thinking.

But, regardless, there will be a need for Democratic votes, certainly in the Senate, to pass this appropriations bill, as well as in the House. They always need Democratic votes to pass these so-called omnibus bills or minibus bills. And that will be the case here, regardless of how many Republican members are actually there to vote.

BALDWIN: I read this tweet from Paul Kane, who has been covering Capitol Hill for years.

And in it, he writes: "One indirect cause of no-shows for House votes, many have nowhere to live during lame-duck. Nearly 100 members are retiring, probably a couple dozen who slept in their offices. They lost those offices a few weeks ago. No bed. No votes"

[15:20:12]

So, Congressman Dent, does that sound about right? And what does that mean for funding the government?

DENT: Well, yes, many members are both officeless and homeless right now for these last few days.

(LAUGHTER)

DENT: That is true.

But the reality is this. There are seven appropriations bills that need to be enacted before the end of this week. Six of those bills are ready to go. They're all teed up. They can simply pass those. The hangup, of course, is on the homeland security appropriations bill, which is where the border security wall funding is.

BALDWIN: Right.

DENT: I would recommend pass the six bills and do a continuing resolution on that homeland bill into the new year sometime.

If the president insists on $5 billion, I suspect there will be a shutdown, or at least a partial shutdown, at the end of the week. If this is negotiable, well, then you can cut a deal with the Senate Democrats between now and Friday night.

Well, then I think there's a way out.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: He doesn't seem like he's budging on the $5 billion, but I also know that he's been picking up the phone from our reporting and talking to members over the weekend.

But we have been -- you and the rest of the world witnessed that crazy 17 minutes of television last week, with the president and, as he referred to them, Chuck and Nancy.

And Trump said, I'm sure to the Republicans' chagrin, I will take the mantle, I will own this if I shut the government down.

And just, that said -- and I hear you on the C.R. maybe -- but who has the advantage going into this deadline?

DENT: Well, I'll tell you what. I would say right now the Democrats probably have more of an advantage.

The party that is making the -- insisting on a particular policy, in this case President Trump on the border wall, the Senate Democrats, whenever that was when they shut down last time, that was on DACA, of course, Republicans in 2013 on defunding Obamacare.

The party that's making -- that's insisting on some policy provision is taking ownership of the shutdown. And I think, in this case, President Trump is saying he's going to take ownership on it if he doesn't get his $5 billion in border security or wall funding.

BALDWIN: While I have you, Congressman, I wanted to ask you about these new numbers out of Iowa. The president's favorability among Republicans is 77 percent, but 63 percent of these Republican Iowa voters, they welcome a 2020 primary challenge to Trump.

Susan Collins, Senators Susan Collins, was asked about this. She agreed.

Do you think that there is another Republican who actually has a chance of challenging him? And do you think, though, that would be at the risk of further dividing your party?

DENT: Well, John Kasich, are you listening right now?

I mean, certainly, I was a big Kasich supporter back in the last election in 2016. But, look, that's a very interesting poll, that while the president certainly enjoys strong support among a lot of Republican voters, the fact that that Iowa poll is suggesting they'd like to see a primary challenge, I think is a certainly an invitation for would-be challengers, people like former Governor Kasich or whoever else -- anybody else out there who might be considering a challenge.

So, I if were the White House, I would be a little bit anxious if I saw numbers like that right now.

BALDWIN: Congressman Charlie Dent, thank you very much.

DENT: Thanks, Brooke. Great to be with you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

And coming up next, the father of a terminally ill 2-year-old boy is speaking out today. His wife, who lives in Yemen, has been unable to come to their son's bedside because of the government travel ban, and time is running out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI HASSAN, FATHER: My wife is calling me every day, wanting to kiss and hold our son for the one last time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:28:35]

BALDWIN: It is an absolutely heartbreaking situation.

Little Abdullah Hassan doesn't have much time left. The 2-year-old boy is on life support at the Children's Hospital in Oakland, California. His mother wants to see Abdullah one last time before he dies.

But she cannot. The family says President Trump's ban on travelers from certain Muslim-majority nations is keeping this mother, a Yemeni national who currently lives in Cairo, out of the country.

Today, Abdullah's father issued an emotional appeal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASSAN: This is running out. Please help us get my family together again.

As you know, my wife was denied return to the U.S. to see her son. My son Abdullah is only 2 years ago. We celebrated his birthday just two days ago. So, I am hear today for your support and help bring my family together for the one last time.

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN correspondent Dan Simon is in Sacramento.

And, Dan, you talked to the boy's father one on one. What did he share with you?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Brooke.

Well, first of all, this appears to be an example of where the administration's travel ban is having some unintended and very sad consequences for the family of this 2-year-old, who you said is on life support in Oakland, California.

His name is Abdullah Hassan. He has a rare brain condition and may have only days left to live. Now, his father is a U.S. citizen. He's living in Stockton, California.