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Congress Adjourns With No End to Shutdown in Sight; Giuliani Contradicts Himself On Trump-Mueller Interviews; Reports: Donors & Decisions Under Scrutiny Long After Pres. Trump Sworn Into Office. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired December 27, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:15] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: He's back. So now what?

John Berman here, in for Anderson.

President Trump returned from Iraq to mixed reviews. Good that he visited the troops. Bad that he lied to them about their pay.

He's back to the government shutdown he encouraged, back to the West Wing dysfunction he presides over, back to the investigations encircling him, back on Twitter.

There are new developments in all those fronts tonight. Chief among them is this: a big chunk of the government is likely closed until 2019. No hope to end the shutdown before the New Year.

The breaking news is the House and Senate, they recessed today. The first lady left for Florida, leaving the chief executive once again on his own, facing the same challenge as he left, and the same demons that, wherever he goes, never seem to leave him.

David Gergen who had seen another president under similar pressure had this to say recently about the current one. The White House, he says, is closing down its adult daycare center. The last adults are leaving. Leadership of the world is in the hands of an egomaniac who doesn't want wise counselors around him, just underlings. Buckle up. These two years could be more turbulent than the last two. David joins us shortly.

So does Maggie Haberman, who has done some especially penetrating reporting on the president's state of mind and how the people around him are handling it.

First, the very latest on the president's return and how he sees the landscape he now faces from CNN's Abby Phillip, who joins us now.

So, Abby, the president has been all over Twitter talking about the shutdown, seeming combative. Does the mood in the White House match the president's Twitter feed?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the White House here has been rather dark the last few days, and that's kind of an encapsulation of the broader mood here. This is a White House that is under siege by a number of different problems. The president is really taking them on, on his own, on the social media feed. But you don't see a lot of aides jumping in on that fight.

President Trump today, the topic du jour was this government shutdown that is still ongoing. He's really on the defensive, trying to paint Democrats as the ones being the obstructionist, but then he sent out a second tweet that I think is pretty telling of what's going on both in his mind and also in the building behind me. The president said while Democrats have ten Senate votes, he has the issue of the border wall and border security in 2020.

This is a president who is very much focused on his re-election prospects and he also knows that the next big thing that he has to contend with is the economy. These gyrations in the stock market have been something that's been on his mind pretty constantly. And yesterday, when there was that massive 1,000 point rally in the stock market, he was on the phone, on Air Force One traveling back from Iraq, talking to aides, according to our sources. And the president was happy about that.

But, of course, the stock market has been going up and it's been going down the last few days. And this is something that's close to the president's heart, because he knows that it's, in his view, a reflection on him personally but also key to his re-election prospects. He knows that 2020 is going to be all about the fate of the economy, and whether he can make the argument that he is the person keeping everything afloat.

BERMAN: Abby, what is the White House, particularly the White House aides, what are they doing to end the shutdown? I ask this facetiously, has Jared Kushner been on Capitol Hill negotiating?

PHILLIP: Not at all. Jared Kushner has been out of Washington. Even though the president stayed here, everybody else pretty much left.

We haven't seen any movement at all here at the White House. There is no sign that aides are bustling around, trying to make this work, trying to come to resolution to this shutdown. And some ways, it seems everybody is waiting until next week when Nancy Pelosi inevitably takes the gavel in the House of Representatives, creating a new political environment. Until then, it's just President Trump and his Twitter feed, making a public relations argument about who is to blame for the shutdown.

But, frankly, we haven't seen anyone talking in real numbers and hard figures about what exactly they would accept in order to end the shutdown and perhaps come to a compromise with the Democrats on Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: All right. Abby Phillip for us at the White House, somewhat dark behind you as you say literally and figuratively. Appreciate it.

Joining us now, David Gergen, author of that tweet we read at the top. He's a CNN senior political analyst. And Maggie Haberman is CNN political analyst as well. He's also a "New York Times" reporter and co-author with Peter Baker of a great piece in "The Times," recently headline, "For Trump, 'A War Every Day' Waged Increasingly Alone." So, Maggie, the shutdown theatrics we've seen of the last two weeks,

the president saying he would own it, the president shutting down the government, and now the president more or less not negotiating.

[20:05:01] Is this part of some grand strategy?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No, I mean, that is the bottom line. This is -- people who worked for the president over a long period of time will privately say he is somebody who exists in ten-minute increments of time. He focuses on exactly what's in front of him. He's not backward. It's not forward. I think Michael Gershon referred to it as the internal now.

And that's exactly what you're seeing. He did what he had to do in that Oval Office meeting, because he could something out of it. I think both he and Nancy Pelosi got something out of that meeting where he said he would own the shutdown or whatever the language was. That did not work. They were then going toward a deal. Some members oh of the base got upset over that and other things about his presidency.

He then tore up that deal and said he was going to be adamant about the wall and now he's gotten himself into a box where it is true that he can hold out and it is true generally, and David can speak more to this, shutdowns are not great for anybody, especially when Congress' numbers are not good. But Nancy Pelosi is coming into this with a lot of leverage, and I'm not sure why it would be in her best interest, especially as she's coming in as a new speaker, with a caucus that is very, very critical of Trump, to make a deal they clearly don't feel like they have to. They just won the midterm cycle.

BERMAN: If you gave the president truth serum tonight and asked him, how do you think you'll get out of this shutdown, what would he say?

HABERMAN: I suspect, and I can't climb into his brain, but I suspect it would be something to the effect of, you know, we'll get there one way or the other. You know, I'm going to win in some sense or another. We'll call whatever compromise they come up with a win. I just don't think it's going to be the win as he characterized it before.

BERMAN: David Gergen, you know, the president does continue to blame Democrats for the shutdown, refuses to accept any responsibility. That's a flip-flop, right? Because he said, I will own this shutdown.

So how effectively will he be able to, after January 3rd, be able to sell the blame the Democrats message?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: I think he's playing a losing hand, John. It all started back with that meeting with Nancy Pelosi. My interpretation, Maggie, was that Nancy Pelosi outmaneuvered him into that conversation there on national television. He basically backed himself into a corner and to her pressure, and said, I will proudly shut down the government.

And since then, people have been saying, most recently a major poll that came out today 47-33, people blame the Republicans in Congress, or blame Trump for the shutdown. They blame Trump, 47 percent blame Trump, 33 percent blame the Democrats, and another 8 percent blamed the Republicans in Congress. So I think he's playing from a losing position.

And there's something else here, that is the public's reaction to the wall for a long time. You know, Robert Frost captured this well in a poem that he wrote a long time ago, there was this line in there, something there is that doesn't love a wall, and that's true for the American people, they do not love this idea of a wall. Only 33 percent of the polls say it's worth shutting down the government to get the wall. I think he's ultimately going to have to surrender.

BERMAN: A strong move, bringing out the Robert Frost on a Thursday night.

GERGEN: I knew you would like that.

BERMAN: I appreciate that, David.

Maggie, we learned tonight, just a few minutes ago, that the first lady, Melania Trump, has left for Florida. He's gone back to Mar-a- Lago to be with her son, who is there. Do you think that ultimately means that the president, who has been in Washington, say for the Iraq trip, because of the shutdown, will end up in Florida?

HABERMAN: My guess is he would always likely end up in Florida. But he's said to a number of people he doesn't feel like he can do that, given the shutdown. We'll see if he sticks to that. They have that big party every year in Mar-a-Lago that he really likes going to. I think there's some events that's happening there that he wanted to go to.

He was looking forward to this trip. I think he's been looking forward to it less in recent weeks, because I think it's going to mean a ton of glad-handing and interfacing and answering questions that he doesn't have the answers to. But he does like having a break, and he does like going down there. I will say in all the various venues I've seen him in, Mar-a-Lago is where he's seen the most happiest and contented. My money is that he get there is at some point, but who knows?

BERMAN: David, is there any reason not to go other than the perception?

GERGEN: I don't think so. There's nothing going to happen that he can work out there. I think coming out of the visit to Iraq, he has some leeway to go there. Yes, it will be carping, but I don't think it will matter much.

What his larger problem is what happens after January 3rd? The obvious play for Nancy Pelosi is to pass a bill in the Democratic House, calling for a continuing resolution that goes up to February 8th, which is what the Republicans in the Senate accepted earlier. Once he puts a proposal on the table and he refuses to accept it, it just deepens the sense that he's holding out, you know, of stubbornness and ego. [20:10:00] BERMAN: Maggie, on the subject of things weighing on the

president's mind, Abby was reporting about the stock market, the president called from Air Force One because he was pleased when the market went up 1,000 points, and who wouldn't be? But I think it shows an underlying anxiety over the market swings, particularly the market drop the last month or so.

HABERMAN: Look, we reported in his complaints about Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, that he described him as turning him in to Hoover, meaning Herbert Hoover is associated with the Great Depression, other things as well, but certainly a bad economy. He is very concerned about it. He knows a bad economy makes it much harder to keep his approval ratings where they are, and they're not in a great place, and they make it harder to run for re-election, which not everyone is convinced he does. It's hard to see him walking away.

The stock market has always been his poll, right? This is a person who likes to measure things through stats of some kind. He -- it's hard to balance the trade war that he wants with the stock market that he wants. He's always testing whatever market is in front of him to see what it will absorb. He's going to take this trade war as far as he can, and I think that he's going to take a comeback like today to push it further.

BERMAN: David, he has good reason to be watching the market and to be concerned about the economy, doesn't he?

GERGEN: Yes, he has every reason to do this, because his major accomplishment has been the quality of the economy, and he's got good selling points for that for a long time, even though he didn't play them well in the midterms. But, you know, in the last few weeks, he's broken -- long time actually.

He's broken two fundamental rules that most presidents follow, and that is never, first, never tie your fortunes to the stock market. You really don't have control of it. And yes, you'll get some ups, but you'll get a lot of downs and you got volatility and you got confusion.

Tie your fortunes to, you know, much more important things like unemployment, the rate of inflation and that sort of thing. And he -- for reasons unclear, he's tied himself to the stock market.

The second rule is that some presidents have a hard time observing but is really important is don't challenge the independence of the Federal Reserve board. Never challenge the Fed chairman. Once you do that, you put his manhood in question and he'll start doing things just the opposite of what you want as president just to show that he's independent. He or she, as Janet Yellen for example.

But both those rules are really important and I do not understand how the president has gotten himself on the wrong side of both.

BERMAN: Maggie, I want to end with a great story with Peter Baker about the president all alone, or increasingly alone in the White House with his own opinions. In a way, trusting himself more but more I think mistrustful of others.

HABERMAN: It's both. He had a great quote in "The Washington Post" to Phil Rucker and Josh Dawsey a couple of weeks ago, where he said, I have a gut and my gut is better than most people's brains, or something to that effect. That is what he thinks.

When he was first on the job, I think he was anxious and nervous enough, that he would ever admit that, about what he didn't know, that he was willing to listen to the judgment of others, enough that other people could slow him down. It's very hard to get him off of something totally, but you could wait him out. Then he started grinding down these guard rails. He grinded down Gary Cohn, he grinded down Jim Mattis, he grinded down John Kelly. He believes in his own version of wisdom, and he also thinks that everybody wants something from him or is trying to get something from him, or is trying to undermine him or all of the above.

His circle has contracted enormously in the second half of this second year, and it will be interesting to see how that translates for the third year.

BERMAN: Happy New Year.

All right. Maggie Haberman, David Gergen, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

Next, more on why the shutdown showdown could stretch into next year, and President Trump's latest suggestion he's on the same page as former President Obama on immigration.

Also tonight, there's a celebration to remember. These days in more ways than one, we'll show you what investigators want to know about the presidential inauguration, including where all the money raised for it actually went.


[20:18:07] BERMAN: Breaking news tonight. Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, all agreed on one thing today, they want to be elsewhere. Each chamber held brief formal session and then bugged out, leaving the government with little chance of reopening any time soon.

Congressman Mark Meadows, an ally of the president, said, we could be in for a long-term shutdown. The president, as we mentioned before the break, is again alone in the White House, and he has been tweeting up a storm about the key sticking point, money for his border wall. He tried to use his predecessor, not to mention nemesis, to somehow justify his position.

I agree, he wrote, retweeting a 2011 tweet from President Obama, which reads, I strongly believe that we should take on once and for all the issue of illegal immigration.

Now, keeping them honest, that's a passage from Obama's 2011 State of the Union Address and then President Obama certainly wasn't talking about a wall. The rest of his statement reads, and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time, but tonight, let's agree to make that effort and let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people.

So, Twitter misdirection aside, more now on the current bargaining over those current young people, the wall, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers now struggling to pay the bills.

CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us with that.

Phil, I have to say, it's looking pretty empty behind you. They left you in charge of everything and left town. Still, you're working your contacts.

What are lawmakers saying about the status of negotiations if there are any?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm wondering if I can walk on the floor and get unanimous consent to reopen the government basically at this point.

Look, the prevailing response I'm getting from staff and lawmakers who are working on this, or were working on this, is what you see is what you get. What you see right now is nobody is here. Congress is out, the Senate and the House have adjourned. Lawmakers are at home. Most didn't come back today.

And the reality is, there's not a lot going on behind the scenes, either. You know, usually in moments like there, there are negotiations behind the scenes.

[20:20:02] There are lawmakers shuffling back and forth in late night meetings. There are proposals being passed back and forth.

I'm told explicitly that is not happening right now. And it seems to be the reality has set in, Republicans, Democrats, House and Senate that nothing is going to happen in the near term. Nothing is going to happen before the start of 2019 and nothing is likely to happen before House Democrats take the majority on January 3rd.

And the reason why is frankly pretty simple. There's no incentive for either side, Democrats on one side and the president on the other, to come to any kind of agreement. Democrats are firm with their offers. They're firm with their stance, they're firm their political base and rank and file are behind them and the president has made clear this is a fight he wants to have, this is a fight he's threatened to have repeatedly and this is a fight that his base and talk radio and conservative pundits are behind him on.

Until that dynamic shifts, basically until one side is punished enough politically they give in or cry uncle, this dynamic is not going to change and right now, there's no sense from really anybody involved here on Capitol Hill that the change whenever it does come is coming anytime soon, John. BERMAN: So, Phil, there were dueling statements about who has done

what on negotiations. What do your sources tell you is actually being put on the table if anything, so far?

MATTINGLY: Yes. So, details here are important. Details are eventually going to decide or dictate how this actually comes to an end. And here's what's put on the table right now. The president's made know secret, his top line number for the wall was $5 billion. We do know from sources involved in the negotiations that last week, Vice President Mike Pence and incoming chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, put a different offer on the table, $2.5 billion for border security, $2.1 billion for border security, another $400 million priorities that the administration has.

Democrats, on the other hand, have been very clear. They're sticking at their number, which is $1.3 billion for border security, includes fencing, some concrete reinforcement, repairs and fencing, and they are not budging off of that. So the administration has come down but has not come anywhere near where Democrats are.

The reality is when you talk to Democrats, they're less concerned what the administration might offer in the near term and more concerned what they will do when Nancy Pelosi becomes about speaker January 3rd. What I'm being told is Democrats are planning on lobbing over a series of bills to reopen the government. A short-term stopgap bill, a bill that would fund all the appropriations bills save for the one that would include the wall money, maybe a longer term funding bill as well.

They're going to try and jam Senate Republicans and try and force the president's hand here. The big thing you need to keep in mind, John, Senate Republicans have been burned on a short-term measure before. They have made clear, they're not moving on anything until the president says what he's for and that more than anything else is why people think this is going to take longer than just a few days. It might take a few weeks.

BERMAN: Phil Mattingly, appreciate it. Thanks very much for being with us.

Perspective now from opposing points of view. Joining us, former Trump White House director of legislative affairs, Marc Short. Also, Symone Sanders, who served as national press secretary in the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

Welcome to you both.

Marc Short, the president initially said he would own a shutdown. Now he is squarely blaming the Democrats. That seems to defy the law of both physics and politics.

How can you at one time own and blame?

MARC SHORT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS TO PRES. TRUMP: I don't think he should have said he would own the shut down. I think the reality that the Democrats face to Phil's reporting a minute ago is they come back, pass their own bills but they will continue to put out these talking points they support border security but not a wall.

But the evidence suggests otherwise. They voted against Kate's law. They voted against reforms to asylum. They voted against expedited removal of MS-13. They voted against more funding for judges.

Every single border security measure they voted against. So I think they risk, as well painting themselves into a corner of looking weak on border security.

BERMAN: But they did vote for the $1.3 billion in border security and they would support that continuing resolution.

And, Symone Sanders, a subtle shift to that would be this. The president left the door open it seemed yesterday to $2 billion. He won't answer questions. He was asked three times, would you sign a bill that allowed for $2 billion in spending for border security? So, if that's the difference between the $1.3 billion the Democrats would now accept and $2 billion, did they risk looking like they're prolonging this just out of spite?

SYMONE SANDERS, FORMER NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, BERNIE 2016: No, because the president forced the shut down and he is the sole reason that the government is still shutdown. Look, Republicans today on the House floor although Democrats and Republicans were at work today. And Brett McGovern, the ranking member on rules committee, had a motion and wanted the motion to start debate to reopen the government. The Republicans wouldn't hear it.

So, the fact of the matter is the ball is in the president's court. And every day that this shutdown drags on, it's hurting millions of Americans. It doesn't matter if they're Democrats, Republicans, independents. They work at the justice department, at the department of homeland security. This is really about border security.

I think the president should be willing to come to the table, compromise because he's the only person here not moving and get this government reopened.

[20:25:02] BERMAN: Marc, Symone brought up an interesting point because the president did write this on Twitter today. He said that most of the people out of work because of the shutdown, they're Democrats. I have no idea how the president knows or suspects that. But is that effective messaging saying that the majority of the 100,000 people who aren't getting paid are Democrats?

SHORT: No, I think the reality is it doesn't matter if they're Republicans or Democrats. They're serving our government and we should be helping to help get them back to work as fast as possible. But, you know, I think when we talking about bills put on the floor today, the bill offered had zero funding for border security. And again, that's where I think Democrats continue to paint themselves into the corner.

SANDERS: I think it's important, John, that there are two things on the table. There are three separate options that Democrats have put on the table for Republicans and the president. The fact of the matter is the president is dead set in his ways about wanting this wall, this wall that well over 57 percent of Americans do not want, a wall over 52 percent of Americans in a PBS, NPR poll said they did not want the government to be shut down over, a wall that he told Mexico would pay for.

And so, Democrats are fine with funding border security. We want the border to be secure. Border security is part -- funding the Department of Homeland Security is something that has been done in the past that folks will continue to do. What Democrats will not budge on is this unnecessary wall again that the president told us Mexico would pay for.

So, I think it's just time Donald Trump stops with this is temper tantrum.

SHORT: But, again, Symone says the Democrats support border security without actually saying what are the issues they will support. There's been lots of votes last couple of years, lots of votes unrelated to the border wall, lots of votes to change immigration laws, none of them that Democrats supported.

So, they continue to say they will support border security but actually give no evidence on what they would actually support to help secure our boarder.

BERMAN: What is the $1.3 billion that the Senate passed? That's a continuing resolution that would in fact go to border security, yes?

SHORT: It is part of the overall bill. You're right about that, but any single measure we've put forward that say, here are additional rules, they've continued to backtrack. We'll see if Democrats continue to support the $1.3 billion when they take control of the House.

BERMAN: I suspect that's the first thing they'll do.


BERMAN: And, Symone, to my next question here, which is that I don't think that this was the plan. Nancy Pelosi would have preferred that will this be taken care you have so she could focus on other priorities the minute she takes that gavel as speaker on January 3rd. Does this gum up the works for the way that the Democrats want to portray their new time in power in the House.

SANDERS: You know what, John, this is really just unfortunate because the American people sent a message very loud and clear in the midterm elections. And their closing argument for the Republican Party including the closing argument for Donald Trump was this scary immigration policy, build the wall, we need the wall. These migrants are invading our country.

American people rejected that message. They sent Democrats to control could the House of Representatives to get something done and to get to work. So, I just really think that again the government could be reopened at any time if the president would get on board with the rest of America.

BERMAN: The government will not be reopened before January 3rd. That seems evident.

And last question, Marc, we have 20 seconds left. Mark Meadows, big ally of the president, said he's hunkering down for a long shutdown. How long do you think we're looking at now?

SHORT: John, I think this likely could go on for many weeks. As Phil outlined, I think there's little incentive for either side right now to come to a compromise. I think I said on your morning show a few weeks ago, if they reach the point of a shut down, it's likely to go on for some sometime.

BERMAN: If you said it on my morning show, it must be true.

Marc Short, Symone Sanders, thanks so much for being with us. I really appreciate it.

President Trump's TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani seems to be moving the goal posts when it comes to whether anyone in the Trump campaign received advance warning of damaging e-mails on Democrats directly from WikiLeaks. Just ahead, we have the very latest.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Rudy Giuliani, the president's TV lawyer, is signaling what might be a new tactic when it comes to whether the Trump campaign received advanced warning directly from WikiLeaks of e-mails damaging to the Democrats back in 2016.

In a telephone interview today with the Hill, Giuliani says that President Trump had no contact with WikiLeaks, but he claims even if someone inside or associated with the campaign got material directly or indirectly, as long as they weren't involved in hacking, Giuliani says there's no problem.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP ATTORNEY: I don't know if other people contacted with WikiLeaks, but it's hard to understand what the crime would be if they did.


BERMAN: Here to help me sort this out, CNN's chief legal Jeffrey Toobin.

So, Jeffrey, Giuliani left open the possibility that other people besides the president may have been in contact with WikiLeaks but says he's not sure what the crime would be, even if they were.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think we're really in the end game of preparing for the Mueller report. And I think what Giuliani is doing is he's preparing to make arguments based on the facts that Mueller finds. One of them, it appears, may be that contrary to what they have said earlier, there were contacts between people affiliated with the Trump campaign, perhaps Roger Stone and WikiLeaks, and the question will be, is there anything improper or illegal about that? Giuliani is asserting no. It may be somewhat more complicated than that.

BERMAN: Right. You know, there's an interesting legal question here, which has to do with what is WikiLeaks, correct?

TOOBIN: Right. Absolutely. If -- you know, someone tells, you know, the Trump campaign that CNN is going to report x, y, and z, and then they get that advanced knowledge, there's certainly nothing improper about receiving that information. WikiLeaks is or is not a journalistic organization.

When Pompeo was director of the CIA, he made very clear his view that it was not a journalist organization. It was an arm essentially of the Russian government, which creates a different set of legal questions. In any case, it's also true that the relationship between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks may have gone beyond simply receiving information from WikiLeaks.

[20:35:06] There may have been coordination, there may have been collusion to use the famous word. And those facts are actually more important than any sort of advanced spin on the legalities.

BERMAN: And there certainly might be a legal issue, might be a legal issue but there will definitely be political ramifications if that contact took place.

TOOBIN: Especially since the president himself and the Trump campaign and all of its surrogates have been saying for literally years now there were no contacts between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign.

BERMAN: Which again, to go back to your first answer is why it's so interesting that Rudy Giuliani perhaps in the weeks before a Mueller report comes out is opening the door to the possibility that maybe in fact there were those contacts.

I want to get your take since we're talking about Rudy Giuliani on two sort of contradicting statements he gave about whether or not the president would answer more questions from the special counsel. He said this in an interview with the Hill. Listen.


GIULIANI: We're not answering any more questions from these people. Their outrageous activity -- we did enough.


BERMAN: So that's what he said out loud. We have the audio there. He spoke to the Daily Beast and said, and I'll give you dramatic reading, "Negotiations haven't formally ended yet. They haven't ended because it's not just my opinion that matters. There are other lawyers involved and the president of the United States, of course. My opinion is, I don't trust them."

So we hear him out loud saying, there's no way he's going to answer more questions. And then we read that statement saying, you know, we're still talking about it.

TOOBIN: Yes. I believe the former more than the latter. I don't believe that the president is going to make any more statements. I think he wants to give the impression as he has from the very beginning that Donald Trump feels he has nothing to hide. He wants to answer all the questions. But the lawyers are saying this thing needs to come to an end. The short version is he ain't talking to them. In print, you know, in writing, orally not at all.

BERMAN: I suspect you're right and I think what we're also seeing here is Rudy Giuliani asking more -- acting more as a flak than a lawyer. He's just filling air time with the Hill, giving interviews and print interviews. And if he contradicts himself, who cares?

TOOBIN: That's been the job since day one. I mean he has been a public relations advocate for the president. Sometimes more effectively than others. Mostly it seems for providing talking points to Fox News so that they can continue offering the defense of the day. But, you know, on the legalities, the former mayor has been -- had some problems along the way.

BERMAN: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, stick around, if you will because we want to get your insight on another controversy bubbling for the White House. And this goes back to the very start of the administration, the inauguration. It brought galas and glamour and a record shattering price tag. Did donors expect more than just a good time? According to reports, federal investigators are on the money trail looking into that question. Details, next.


[20:41:55] BERMAN: The White House was quickly proven wrong about the supposedly record breaking crowd at President Trump's inauguration, but the event did make history in one area, the cost. The bill came in at more than double the money spent to salute his two predecessors, and nearly two years later, the money trail from Mr. Trump's celebration is yet another area of the president's universe reportedly under investigation.

Randi Kaye continues her special series to show us how the swearing in may be creating more legal headaches as the administration heads into year three.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Starting right here and right now --

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: $107 million. That's how much Donald Trump's inaugural committee raised in donations for the event. Now, federal prosecutors want to know if any of that money was misspent. And perhaps more importantly, did top donors pay big money in ex- change for access and influence in the Trump White House? "The Wall Street Journal" first broke the story.

REBECCA DAVIS O'BRIEN, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Part of this is certainly looking at what these donors gave and what they expected or what they received. But it's also partly about what happened with the inaugural committee's expenditures.

KAYE: And this all apparently stems from the raid on former Trump attorney Michael Cohen's office. According to "The Wall Street Journal," investigators seized a recording of a conversation between Cohen and a woman named Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, and one of the key planners for Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration. Wolkoff reportedly expressed concern during that conversation about how the inaugural committee was spending money.

Real estate developer Tom Barrack, who ran the inaugural committee, denied there was a new investigation, adding he had been questioned about it in 2017. The White House is distancing itself from the probe.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That doesn't have anything to do with the president or the first lady. The biggest thing the president did in his engagement in inauguration was to come here and raise his hand and take the oath of office.

KAYE: Meanwhile, an investigation by ProPublica found that the inauguration paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals, and event space at Trump's Washington hotel. And that Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and a senior executive at the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the prices at above market value for venue rentals by the inaugural committee. A spokesman for Ivanka's lawyer told ProPublica that Ivanka said discussions should be at a fair market rate.

And it isn't just about the money. "The Washington Post" reports that certain attendees at the inauguration also reportedly caught the attention of counterintelligence officials at the FBI, though it's unclear which attendees.

The paper reported that Victor Vekselberg, a tycoon closely aligned with Putin's government, attended inaugural events, along with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer whose meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., at Trump Tower in June 2016, is now under scrutiny.

[20:45:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. President.

KAYE: It's all just part of why federal prosecutor are zeroing in on the day Donald Trump officially became the 45th president of the United States.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


BERMAN: And so the second half of President Trump's term, one in which he vowed to drain the swamp, will begin with new questions about the priciest inauguration in U.S. history. Joining me tonight is Greg Jenkins who ran President George W. Bush's second inaugural committee and back with us, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

So, Greg, Randi mentioned this in her piece, but it really bears repeating, $107 million, which is about double what then President George W. Bush raised for his second inauguration. You had a smaller staff. You had more events. What do you make about the Trump amount?

GREG JENKINS, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PRES. G.W. BUSH 2ND INAUGURAL: I can't figure it out. They actually raised more than twice the amount that we raised. I think adjusted for current dollars, the amount we raised comes out to be about $54 million, which is still quite a bit less than what the Trump Organization raised.

We had the two biggest costs centers in an inaugural are the events and the staff. And we had three times as many staff and we put on four times as many events. So where that money went, I couldn't tell you.

BERMAN: Well, it has to go somewhere though, doesn't it?

JENKINS: It ought to. I mean if I were a donor -- since they put on so many -- they put on fewer events than we did, the two ways you raise money in an inaugural are by ticket sales and by donors. Since they did, you know, four times fewer events than we did, that's proportionally a lot less money that they're raising from ticket sales than from donors. So most of the money came from donors. So if I were a donor, I would like to know where that money went. I can't explain it.

BERMAN: Can't explain it. So, Jeffrey Toobin, what's the biggest legal issue here, as far as you see, the accounting of the money or perhaps the idea that there was some -- and Randi got to the center piece, the idea that there was some pay to play?

TOOBIN: Well, I think the first question is, did someone steal the money? I mean, you know, if the money didn't go to salaries, if the money didn't go to events, did someone put it in their pocket? I mean that's a very straightforward factual issue that an audit should be able to determine. Then you get into the other subsidiary questions, which are, was there some sort of improper motive, improper connection between donors and what they got.

I mean it is worth remembering that our whole political system at some level is based on pay to play. People give money to the inaugural -- for mixed motives at best. So I think that is very much a subsidiary question, unlikely to be proven improper. But if somebody stole the money, they stole the money and that's obviously a crime.

BERMAN: And, Greg, Randi Kaye, you know, we heard from Sarah Sanders in Randi's piece and Sarah Sanders basically says that President Trump, now President Trump's only role in the inauguration was to take the oath of office. Does that seem plausible to you, that he had no idea what was going on underneath him? JENKINS: That seems really implausible to me. What is I would imagine for then President-elect Trump, a three or four-day globally televised reality television show, starring one person, it seems unlikely to me that he wouldn't pay any attention to it at all.

BERMAN: Especially a guy who we know is deeply involved in his businesses, Jeff.

TOOBIN: Yes. And the role of the Trump International Hotel is particularly interesting and important here. Several of the events were held at the hotel run by the Trump Organization. Ivanka Trump apparently was involved in setting the prices, which may have been unduly high. I mean certainly the question of how much money went to the Trump family is one of the questions the investigators will want to know the answer to.

BERMAN: Is that illegal necessarily then?

TOOBIN: Well, it depends. I mean if it's simply high prices paid for a fancy hotel, there's nothing illegal about that. If there was outright graft or theft of money, that certainly is illegal. But I certainly wouldn't want to suggest that on the part of the Trumps. But certainly the administrators of this $100 plus million have to answer questions simply about where did all the money go? I mean that's just a very basic question that presumably should have a fairly straightforward answer.

BERMAN: So, Greg, you ran the show for the second inauguration of George W. Bush after his reelect -- you had the advantage of having seen one inauguration before and frankly the whole Bush crew had the advantages of seeing the inauguration of George H.W. Bush. So in theory you all know or knew how it was supposed to go. If the Trump team uses the excuse hey, we came from the business world, we didn't know what inaugurations were supposed to be. Is that plausible to you?

[20:50:01] JENKINS: No, it really isn't. Things don't change that much from one inauguration to another. It's roughly the same vendors in D.C. It's roughly the same venues. It's the same buildings. It's fairly the same, fairly much the same.

If this were a -- if you're looking at this from a business perspective, to spend -- to raise $107 million without a budget, or if they had a budget, to ignore the budget, is one of the worst business moves I can think of.

TOOBIN: Well, and also, just to emphasize the point that Greg made, you're talking about events in hotels. You have to pay the hotel, you have to pay for entertainment, you have to pay for security. It's not the world's most complicated transaction. It's not like building a car from scratch. So the idea that it is somehow wildly different in 2017 as opposed to 2013 or 2009 or 2005 is just ridiculous.

BERMAN: And just to make one other point that Greg made there, was in any event, it was far fewer events in this inauguration than before, which makes it all the more confounding that all that money was raised. Go ahead, Greg.

JENKINS: Well, I would also make another point, that they weren't coming into this blind. After Senator Obama was elected to the presidency, I spoke with his incoming executive director of his inaugural to sort of give him a download of my learnings. I did the same thing with President-elect Trump's executive director. So they did know what to expect.

BERMAN: You warned him. Greg Jenkins, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.

TOOBIN: My pleasure.

BERMAN: Ahead, a new look at a "Saturday Night Live" legend who brought laughs and change. Gilda Radner. Anderson talks to one of her good friends as comedic giants come together for the new CNN film documentary "Love Gilda," that's next.


[20:55:58] BERMAN: She was the first cast member hired for "Saturday Night Live." Gilda Radner left behind unforgettable characters, including Roseanne Roseannadanna.

But along with her comedy, she showed courage and wisdom while battling ovarian cancer that took her from us at age 42. Now some of the biggest names in comedy are coming together to her their memories and some of her own words in the CNN films premier, "Love Gilda." Anderson recently spoke with one of Rander's close friends from "Saturday Night Live," legendary producer and writer Alan Zweibel.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You and her created some of the most iconic characters, I mean Roseanne Roseannadanna.

ALAN ZWEIBEL, ORIGINAL WRITER, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: Well, that was one of them that we did together. There was another one that was created by a lot of people, Emily Litella, the one that was -- which she and I ultimately refined it and made it what it was.

COOPER: And I remember as a kid, Roseanne Roseannadanna did something on my mom.

ZWEIBEL: Every time we did Roseanne Roseannadanna, we would pick a celebrity that Roseanne Roseannadanna would see in some, you know, compromising position or some embarrassing situation, and I think your mom had toilet paper on her shoe.

COOPER: Yes, that I remember.

ZWEIBEL: But there was an incident that happened with the censor. What happened was, I had written a line where Gilda would name your mom and identify, you know that fancy schmancy lady who's the heiress and the socialite who took her family's good name. So this is when she came up with a line of genes -- COOPER: Right.

ZWEIBEL: -- took her family's good name and put it on every ass in America. Well, this is 1977. And the censor comes out and he says, you can't do ass.

COOPER: Really?

ZWEIBEL: Yes. It sounds a little crazy now, doesn't it? And he's going, can you do tush? Can you do butt? No, no. It's got to be ass. He was a good guy, his name was Bill Clotworthy. And he said, OK, why don't you do this, say put it on every ass but then instead of saying in America, say every ass who would buy them.

So the word ass now changed from being your butt, for being -- you being stupid enough to buy them. That he led on. That he led on. The audience laughed when they heard the word ass. And they never even heard what she came afterwards. So it was fine.

COOPER: What I love about this film is that it's introducing her to a whole new generation people who maybe, you know, haven't -- don't know much about her beyond "Saturday Night Live." I mean that original "Saturday Night Live," I mean you were just there at -- I mean it was just incredible.

ZWEIBEL: Boy, did I get lucky. Yes. I mean there was Belushi and Aykroyd, and Gilda, and Chevy, and Frank and was one of the writers and Laraine Newman. Yes.

COOPER: I used to have -- I remember as a kid, I had a book which was like scripts from the original "Saturday Night Live," I don't know why they published it, but there was something, I can't remember what it was, it was some takeoff on hamburger helper which was a huge commercial --

ZWEIBEL: Placenta helper.

COOPER: Placenta helper.

ZWEIBEL: Al Franken. It's unbelievable, I'll watch an old show and I can footnote it, who wrote what, who came and threw in that joke, you know.

COOPER: Right.

ZWEIBEL: Placenta helper was something that the first day when I met Al, and he had a partner, Tom Davis, it was Franken and Davis, they didn't shot up about placenta helper. Let them do placenta helper. I want to hear about this anymore.

COOPER: It's such an honor to talk to you. Thank you for talking to us.

ZWEIBEL: Thank you for having me. This is great.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: CNN films premiers "Love Gilda" on Tuesday, that is New Year's night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And a reminder, don't miss "Full Circle," which is our daily interactive newscast on Facebook where you get to vote on the stories we cover. You can watch it weeknights at 6:25 Eastern at

We've got a big night ahead. Right now, the CNN Special Report, "Battle in the Briefing Room: The President vs. the Press," hosted by Randi Kaye.