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Flynn to be Sentenced; Travel Ban Blocks Yemeni Mother; Overturning School Discipline Rules; Flynn Arrives for Sentencing. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired December 18, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:29] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: In a little more than an hour, President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, will learn whether he is going to prison for lying repeatedly to the FBI.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, President Trump is using a bit of executive time this morning to wish the general good luck in a tweet, which we know is an official White House statement. The president also adding it will, quote, be interesting to see what he, Flynn, has to say.

Molly Ball is with us, our political analyst, and Sabrina Siddiqui, politics reporter for "The Guardian."

Good morning, ladies.

We know where the president stands on this. He's made it very clear on Twitter.

But let's talk about where the judge is going to stand on this. This is a judge who has a recommendation, very supportive of Flynn from Mueller saying he deserves no jail time because he has been so cooperative on multiple investigations despite what he has done and what his partners have now been indicted for.

Molly, what does it tell you that the Mueller team is asking the president -- asking the judge for no jail time this morning and how that is making the president feel?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's actually very interesting because the Mueller filing, as you say, suggests that Flynn has been very important and helpful to the investigation, suggests that his cooperation has been extensive. And they've said this in their filings. They've said not only that his cooperation was super helpful, but that it paved the way for them to find other cooperators and to find other evidence.

HARLOW: Right.

BALL: Really helped them structure the entire investigation. So the fact that the president still sees General Flynn as someone who is a friend, who is on his side, it's really kind of perplexes. And it suggests either that the president knows that nothing that Flynn has said is going to implicate him or involve him in any way, or at least believes that or -- and that may be the case or it may be that the president just simply doesn't know what it is that Flynn has told the investigators that may be bad for him.

[09:35:20] HARLOW: It's a good point. First-hand cooperators is what Mueller's team said. That Flynn let them to first-hand cooperators.

SCIUTTO: He got to hand-pick acting attorney general who has the ability to be updated on the special counsel's investigation. It's plausible he's getting updates.

Sabrina, let me ask you this because a big question here is ultimately political. Does outrage at the president's advisers, behavior, the president's possible misdeeds, does that penetrate the president's base? And it was an interesting moment yesterday when on Fox News Judge Napolitano, who is sort of a legal oracle in that world, said the following. I want to play it for you and get your reaction. Have a listen.


JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: There's ample evidence -- this doesn't require too much analysis -- to indict the president. The question is, do they want to do it. The DOJ has three opinion on this. Two say you can't indict a sitting president, one says you can. But all three address the problem of, what do you do when the statute of limitations is about to expire? All three agree in that circumstance you indict in secret. Keep the indictment sealed and release it the day he gets out of office. You can't let a person go scot-free because they happen to be in the White House.

SHIP SMITH, FOX NEWS: So he may be an already indicted co-conspirator?

NAPOLITANO: He -- that I don't know about but it could be because we don't know what's been sealed.


SCIUTTO: You heard that there, Judge Napolitano on Fox News just repeat those words, there is ample evidence, he says, that doesn't require too much analysis to indict the president. And I'm not relying everything on his judgment because there are multiple opinions about this. But does that fear begin to penetrate what has been a rock solid and unwavering base for the president?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICS REPORTER, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, you certainly have seen growing frustration among the American public when it comes to perceptions of the president -- the Russian investigation and the ways in which increasingly it seems to have implicated the president. You have more and more of the American public now at least believing that perhaps the president was, in fact, involved in wrongdoing. And actually a slim majority of the public, according to a recent poll, not really buying the president's statement that there was no collusion and really trying to downplay the nature of the context between members of his campaign and Moscow.

I think we, obviously, have been at least led to believe that the Justice Department is going to follow guidelines that suggest that a sitting president cannot be indicted and that the special counsel will ultimately hand over a report to Congress. And that's, frankly, where a lot of this will play out and where the court of public opinion will certainly weigh -- factor in heavily.

Part of why, in fact, Republicans have been reluctant to take on the president with respect to Russia is because the base is so overwhelmingly behind him. Now, as he faces, of course, re-election in 2020, how much this will be a wedge issue for voters when they head to the polls, that, of course, remains to be seen and I think it will be dictated by what else is uncovered in the coming weeks and coming months from Mueller and his team.

HARLOW: You know, Molly, Jim and I talk about this a lot, and that is sort of what really breaks through to people because there is so many significant developments every day on this front and Chuck Todd recently called it sort of white noise to most people. And it's shown in the -- in the polling this morning, the new "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll shows, yes, 46 percent of people think all these Russia issues and the people connected to the president found guilty of some of these things do tie back to the president. But 43 percent still approve of the job the president's doing. And within the Republican Party, 85 percent approval for the president here. So is all of this coverage just sort of being tuned out at this point by many people?

BALL: Well, no. I mean, as journalists, it's not our job to make people disapprove of the president. It's our job to report the truth. And the American (ph) people can make whatever judgement they want about that truth, right? Maybe it doesn't matter to them. They --

HARLOW: No. No, but what I'm saying is the American -- absolutely, but, I mean, have the American people become numb -- I guess my point is, have they become numb to a lot of this.

BALL: Sure. Yes. I mean I think this started being -- being an issue during the campaign, right, when we suffered from this sort of outrage fatigue because there was always some new outrageousness coming from Trump in particular.

But, look, I think what breaks through to the public are still facts.


BALL: And the fact is that so far the Russia investigation has been a lot of confusing stuff and speculation because all the facts haven't yet been revealed. And what we have seen, especially since the election, is more and more facts being laid out clearly so that rather than people speculating or wondering or being mystified, more and more, I think as Sabrina was saying, people are less and less persuaded by the idea that this is all a made-up witch hunt because there are more and more facts on the table. And so as more and more comes out -- and there's still a lot we don't know and there's still a lot we don't know about the president's exposure in particular. As more of that comes out, I think that's what breaks through.

[09:40:18] HARLOW: Molly Ball, Sabrina Siddiqui, thank you and have a good holiday.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you.

HARLOW: A mother in a desperate race, a race against the clock to see her dying two-year-old son, this little boy, one last time. He is in a hospital in San Francisco. She is unable to come here, she's a Yemeni mother, because of the Trump travel ban. And this morning an important new update from the little boy's father, next.


HARLOW: All right, this morning, time is running out for a mother who's blocked from seeing her dying two-year-old son in a California hospital. Why? Because of the White House, the Trump administration's travel ban. Here's a look at her son, two-year-old Abdullah Hassan, on life-support there. He is suffering from a genetic brain condition. Doctors say he may not have much longer to live.

[09:45:08] SCIUTTO: So the issue is that Hassan's mother is a Yemeni national living in Egypt. She is not allowed to come to the U.S. because of the White House's travel ban. These things have real effects. Now the family is working with the State Department to get her an expedited humanitarian visa, at least for her.

CNN correspondent Dan Simon is at the hospital in Oakland, California, with more details.

Is there any evidence, Dan, that she had a security background that required her specifically to be banned from entering the U.S.?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not that we know of, Jim and Poppy.

I can tell you, though, that things now appear to be moving in a positive direction for this family after CNN and other media began reporting out this story. I can tell you that as of last night the family had been in touch with the State Department so she could be granted this humanitarian visa so she could fly to the United States, come to this hospital in Oakland, California, and essentially say good-bye to her son.

You know, the father, he is a U.S. citizen. He lives in Stockton, California. But the mother, she is from Yemen. So she was blocked from coming to the United States because of the Trump administration's travel ban.

I want you to listen now to what the father told "NEW DAY" just a short time ago when asked what message he may have for President Trump. Take a look.


ALI HASSAN, FATHER OF TWO-YEAR-OLD BOY ON LIFE SUPPORT: All families, they're supposed to be together. Right now, my son's situation, he's facing death. And I'm going through losing my son. It's really hard for me and for my mother and for my family and my wife, too, just really hard.


SIMON: Well, this boy, Abdullah Hassan, he's two years old. He has a rare brain condition. He's on life-support at the children's hospital in Oakland. And the hospital, they put out a statement last night saying that they empathize with this family, they're supportive of their desire, of course, to be together in the boy's final days. And they say right now they're just doing everything they can to keep him comfortable.

I can tell you that right now the wife, she is in Cairo, Egypt, essentially waiting for the State Department to grant this visa, which could come, again, as early as today. And if it does, she plans to hop on the earliest flight available.

Jim and Poppy.


SCIUTTO: Dan Simon, thanks.


SCIUTTO: You see this often, I mean one story will get attention and the administration will respond, take care of that one story. Does it change the broader policy?

HARLOW: Yes, it doesn't.

SCIUTTO: You have to imagine there are others effected. That's the test.

HARLOW: I hope that mom gets over here.

All right, the White House just announced plans to overturn some school policies that were put in place under President Obama to make sure that minority students are disciplined fairly. The details, next.


[09:52:07] HARLOW: Just in to CNN, the White House says it will soon overturn a handful of Obama era education policies that were put in place to make sure that minority students are not unfairly disciplined.

Also this morning, according to "The New York Times," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is expected to send a letter that argues that those policies endanger student safety.

SCIUTTO: Rene Marsh is here with the details.

So explain to us, if you can, in short form what these policies were.


SCIUTTO: And what the justification is now for changing them.

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Right. So the Department of Education, just a short time ago, they revealed these recommendations from President Trump's School Safety Commission which was put together, as you know, following the Parkland High School massacre in Florida. This is a very lengthy report. But one of the first moves that the commission is recommending is revising that Obama-era policy that essentially insured that minority students are not unfairly treated when it comes to discipline.

The policies gave schools guidance on how to discipline students in a non-discriminatory manner. They were implemented after strong evidence, according to the Obama administration, that showed that minority students were being punished more frequently and in harsher ways than their white counterparts, and for the same or lesser offenses. Even disabled student were quickly put in remedial or special education programs.

Another notable finding following this announcement from the Department of Education is that the main focus of this safety commission report is actually not focused on the access to firearms, the main issue that many of the students who survived Parkland had been calling for. The report does shine a light on a core problem they say is firearms in the hands of people who are a danger to themselves and others. But again, the main focus of this report is not on access or gun control at all.

We also know that in this report that we're still reviewing, they are recommending arming school personnel.

SCIUTTO: So after Parkland, that's the headline recommendation, is to arm the school personnel? There's no other changes to increase gun safety in schools?

MARSH: There are many others. There are many others. So, again -- so, Jim, to be clear and to be fair, they are looking at mental health access for students. They're also looking at, as I said, this issue of disciplinary issues and how you handle students who have a track record for misbehavior in school. They take a broad look at all of this. But the two headlines that people will most likely push back on is the arming of the school personnel, as well as the rolling back of these Obama-era policies.

HARLOW: Right.

All right, because there's a lot of questions over the race element there, right?

[09:55:00] All right, Rene.

SCIUTTO: Rene Marsh, thanks very much.

We'll have more right after this.


SCIUTTO: Breaking news.

This is Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser, live pictures, arriving with his lawyer there at the courthouse for his sentencing for lying twice to FBI investigators.


SCIUTTO: About discussions with then Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. This during the transition in December 2016. We learned a lot about those lies yesterday in what's known as a 302 filing, a record of his interviews with the FBI.

It's going to quite a moment.


SCIUTTO: It's going to be quite a moment for Michael Flynn before that judge.

Our Shimon Prokupecz, crime and justice reporter, is down at the courthouse.

[10:00:03] Shimon, he's facing the judge in about an hour. What do we expect?