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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Trump Threatens To Close Entire Southern Border If Democrats Don't Fund His Wall; W.H. Blames Pelosi For Shutdown Even After Trump Said He Was "Proud" To Shutdown The Government; House Dems Scooping Up Staff, Lawyers For Potential Trump Probes; New Details About Robert Mueller Emerge; Trump Threatens to Close Entire Southern Border if Dems Don't Fund Wall; Federal Workers Brace for Shutdown That Could Last Weeks. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 28, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much for all you do. And Barbara Starr, thank you, of course, to you as well. I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Out front next, the President's new threats. Warning, he may shutdown the entire southern border if he doesn't get his wall. This, as he tries to shift the blame for the government shutdown.

And help wanted. Democrats are recruiting lawyer, lots of them as they gear up to investigate Donald Trump.

Plus breaking news, Republicans raising new concerns about the Russia investigations. We'll tell you what they're taking issue with tonight. Let's go out front.

Good evening everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. Out front tonight, shut it down. And this time, I am not talking about the government.

The President tonight threatening to shutdown the entire Southern Border, all 48 points of entry, that is if he doesn't get the money he wants for his border wall. Tweeting this, "We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the wall."

So in the shutdown's 7th day, this is the new wrinkle. More money or else. But just how much money will the President settle for? 2 billion, 5 billion, more or less? The White House now unwilling to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you give us any idea what the President will be willing to accept financially for border security for his border wall where you could reach a deal if Democrats would get there?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We made that clear to the Democrats. I'm not going to negotiating the press, but the President has been willing to negotiate on this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Really? Because pretty much all the evidence proves otherwise. It was just over a week ago that the President spiked the Senate-approved deal, the Senate-approved deal to avoid a shutdown all together because that deal didn't include money for a border wall.

In fairness, it's not like Democrats have been willing to negotiate at this point either, but even now, the President is still not clear about what he really wants.

Just about 24 hours ago, the President tweeted this, "This isn't about the wall," remember that goody in the fast few weeks prior to that. Let's just play the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a little bit of a shutdown because we believe in walls. We're going to have great wall. And if you don't have that, then we're just not opening.

We are going to -- one way or the other, we're going to get a wall. But I will tell you the wall will get built. We're going to get the wall built and we've done a lot of wall already.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So maybe it was about the wall. I'm not sure. So with the President -- with that, the President is returning to an old threat. If he doesn't get the money, he's going to shut the whole thing down.

Jessica Dean is out front live outside the White House for us. Jessica, do we know how real this threat is, the new one, the old one, whichever one from the President tonight?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. OK. Well, we certainly know he's been tweeting about it all day long. We saw a flurry of tweets early this morning going through the morning. You showed some of those talking about his threat to shutdown the Southern Border to Mexico.

In one of those tweets, he was talking about how he believes America is losing millions of dollars in the NAFTA deal and that this would be considered a profit creating move. He will consider it a profit making move to shutdown that border. Now, there's no evidence to support that claim, but he certainly is talking about it again and again and online, on Twitter, also in person as you showed. He's been saying that is his hard line, that $5 billion for the wall.

What we do know is that President Trump is here at the White House tonight. White House advisers telling us that he was in the Oval Office today. He was making phone calls. He was having meetings. It's unclear what those were about or to whom those phone calls were going to but that he was working from the White House. We also learned a bit about their strategy as they entered day 7 and now we're going into day 8 of the shutdown. Part one, blame Nancy Pelosi. They've been saying that really she's not going to be able to deal with them because she's trying to line up votes to make sure she's the speaker when the new House convenes January 3rd. Again, all evidence is that she likely has those votes and will be speaker.

The other thing is that they are keeping President Trump here in Washington. Of course, he was scheduled to go to Mar-a-Lago for Christmas. He canceled those plans. He was scheduled to be here for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Canceling those plans, they announced today he -- they usually have a big very formal, very fancy New Year's Eve party there. And Kate, they kind of aligned that in a thousand dollar a person ticket when hundreds of thousands are out of work as the government is shutdown.

BOLDUAN: Optics is one thing but actually starting to talk, negotiate and get the government open is entirely a different deal obviously. Great to see you Jessica, thank you so much.

DEAN: Thanks Kate.

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now retiring Republican Congressman, Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania and Patrick Healy, Politics Editor at the New York Times. Great to see you both. Thank you for being here. Congressman, the President now threatening to shutdown the entire Southern Border if he doesn't get funding for his wall. When we talk yesterday, you said it was disconcerting and disappointing to be leaving Congress in this way with the government shutdown. If that's how you felt last night, I do wonder how do you feel then tonight.

[19:05:12] REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I mean, this struck me as like an angry 8th grader's tweet. I don't really know how to make sense of it because I don't think he can do this even if he wanted to. It probably violates NAFTA. I don't think he'll have much, if any support, in Congress. Nor do I think logistically he'd be able to implement it.

And when you start throwing out vacuous threats like this, people that start -- people stop taking you seriously in terms of how you go about negotiating. I understand the desire to sort of point the finger at Nancy Pelosi and say this is your fault or this is your shutdown. And I am a Republican and there's been plenty times where I can point to Nancy Pelosi and say I disagree with her. I think the ball is in her court but remember the President said that this is his shutdown and I'm not clear on what amount of money he needs in order to sign a funding bill.

So, I am disappointed that I'm leaving Congress with the government being shutdown but I really don't know that there's anything I can do about preventing the shutdown at this point or any members of Congress because the ball is in the President's court and I don't have -- we have no clarity on what he's willing to accept or what he might sign.

BOLDUAN: And Congressman raises an important point at this point and maybe throughout. What do you want? At first, it seemed clear, $5 billion, nothing less, that's it, no negotiating. But now you hear from Sarah Sanders, Patrick, maybe not negotiating the press again.

PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right.

BOLDUAN: But they've not shied away from setting their standard or their bar before.

HEALY: Right.

BOLDUAN: The President when he was in Iraq, reporters asked him three times if there was room 2.5 billion, 2 billion, 5 billion and the President dodged the question three times, not once he dodged a question, do you think that that is where things are headed? What do you take from that?

HEALY: Yes. I mean, he is saying that he's -- and Sarah Sanders is saying the President is making, you know, these phone calls, he's talking to people.

BOLDUAN: Right.

HEALY: You know, there are these overtures apparently going on. But at least according to Nancy Pelosi's office, they're not talking to him and they're not certainly talking about -- they're not talking to her and they're not talking about specific numbers.

BOLDUAN: Right. I think on the reporting it seems Nancy Pelosi hasn't talked to him since that Oval Office meeting?

HEALY: Yes, since this sort of the mid December meeting. I mean, but the reality is that President Trump, the more he talks about the wall, the more he talks about that that's what he wants, it's money for a wall. Whether it's 5 billion or 2 billion or less, his problem is that the Democrats are pretty united in not being willing to give money for what he can come away and call a wall. I think when you're -- when you hear the President --

BOLDUAN: This steel slat thing that's coming, yes.

HEALY: The steel slat thing, you know, this sort of the --

BOLDUAN: I don't mean to belittle -- I really don't mean to diminish it but now that they're like parsing words --

HEALY: No, you can diminish it but --

BOLDUAN: -- it seems that they're a little bit shutting down.

HEALY: -- the sunny steel slats are a lot different than the big beautiful wall that no one is going to be able to get over.

BOLDUAN: That's the goal for.

HEALY: But the thing is -- right. When you hear the President start talking about border security and no longer using the word wall, that's when it seems like the Republicans, the President are about to start shifting and caving and being willing to negotiate. Because on border security, they've won before, you know, in past years. It's him sort of hunkering down on the wall that's going to be a real problem.

BOLDUAN: And actually I drill down, Congressman, on something that you were talking about it on who's to blame. Nancy Pelosi and -- because there is a clear attempt at a new tactic on this. Let me just play you a little bit of what I'm talking about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots, not Chuck.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This all comes down to Mrs. Pelosi's speakership. I think left to his own devices that Chuck Schumer and the Senate Democrats probably would cut a deal, but they're protecting Mrs. Pelosi.

SANDERS: She's unwilling to actually do anything until she gets her speakership.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I talked to some of the smartest reporters on the Hill today and they say that this isn't the case. There is not daylight between Schumer and Pelosi on this. Why do you think the White House is going down this road? You can see what they are trying to do but why?

COSTELLO: Yes. I see what they're trying to do. And I serve with Mick Mulvaney and he's extremely smart, extremely capable. And by the way, the White House can -- they have the team in place to get to the finish line and do a deal when the President is willing to get a deal done.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's the whole thing. You know that. It is the President. I mean that's it. That's a long game.

COSTELLO: Correct, correct. But let me just directly respond to your point.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

COSTELLO: I actually do think there may be a bit of difference between Schumer and Pelosi. Yes, they're going to stay aligned but I do think you can move some senators a little bit easier than you can move Democratic members of the House for a couple of political reasons.

Some of which, I think the White House is correctly pointing out, but having said all of that, if we were going to do a deal, the time to do a deal was when you had Claire McCaskill and Heitkamp and Donnelly and a couple other more centrist Democrats in the Senate where you could have got some more border security money not when you enter into a new Congress with a Democratic majority house.

[19:10:12] So even if there is a little bit of a daylight between Pelosi and Schumer, the reality of the situation is the better deal from a border security Republican perspective would be to have done the deal prior to the new Congress being sworn in and it's very difficult to argue with that proposition.

BOLDUAN: That's a good point. I'm not going to argue with it. Patrick, there is this one thing I've been thinking about. Heading into the new Congress, Democrats had listed out what their priorities were in the House, right? I mean, range, big, bold, gun control, infrastructure, protecting Obamacare.

HEALY: Voting rights.

BOLDUAN: Voting rights, you name it.

HEALY: Yes.

BOLDUAN: But what they are having to face at the beginning of a new Congress is getting the government open again. And I do wonder in a strange way is the President have a win here because he has -- I won't say hijacked but he has changed their agenda going in?

HEALY: Right. I mean, the Republicans shutdown the government. President Trump shutdown the government so now the Democrats have to deal with it. But I don't think it's a skunk at the garden party necessarily. I mean, this is a chance for likely -- it seems like Speaker Pelosi to come in later next week and probably see the Democrats pass a bill that would reopen the government, that would provide money for border security, you know, maybe some fencing but not for a wall.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

HEALY: And then kick it back, probably build pretty similar to what the Republican-controlled Senate passed.

BOLDUAN: We've seen this game before. You guys passed this, why won't you pass it this time? We see this.

HEALY: Right, right. But then look they can -- there's going to be a legislative schedule for all the other Democratic House priorities that they want to send, but the reality is until the shutdown is resolved and until the wall fight end, you know, it's not worth trying to bring media attention to voting rights. They know that that isn't going to get a lot of attention. They would rather get whatever kind of win they can get by getting Trump to bend --

BOLDUAN: Yes.

HEALY: -- to bend on the wall and to take that away from them.

BOLDUAN: Definitely they can all walk and chew gum at the same time. They don't often do it. No. We'll just put it that way, Congressman, except for you, Congressman, except for you. Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.

COSTELLO: Good to be with you, thanks. BOLDUAN: Out front for us next. Democrats prepare to take over the House. They're staffing up and looking for a few good lawyers, more on that next.

Plus, the mysterious Robert Mueller, he has no interest in the spotlight even though he is the center -- he is the center stage in Washington. And Republicans questioning the FBI handling of the Clinton and Russia investigation, so what are their concerns?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:16:10] BOLDUAN: New tonight, preparing to take on a president. House Democrats actively staffing up, looking to hire a whole new batch of attorneys as they prepare for what may be the largest congressional investigation of a sitting President in modern history. How do we know? No further than the job postings found by our Capitol Hill unit.

Seriously, one committee looking for attorneys with experience in -- and I listen for you -- criminal law, immigration law, constitutional law, intellectual property law, commercial and administrative law, including antitrust and bankruptcy, or oversight work. Everything except divorce attorneys apparently.

Phil Mattingly is out front in Capitol Hill for us tonight. Phil, we did also learn late today that Nancy Pelosi hired a new general counsel. What does all this staffing say about what Democrats are preparing to do?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the scope will be broad. The staffing will be many. And the targets will be plentiful. I think that's kind of the reality right now when you talk to Democrats.

Look, they have been meeting for months trying to map out targets. Frankly, trying to map out committee jurisdiction trying to make sure one another don't step on one another's toes. But with the majority not only comes power, almost notably subpoena power, it also comes more money and they will be almost doubling their staff on the investigation side were told over the course of the next couple days. They can start hiring on January 3rd.

And what we're being told from sources right now is there are actually people willing to take major pay cuts to come in and take part in these investigations. Now, what exactly are they looking into? Again, there are a lot of people that have a lot of ideas. Right now, they've mostly narrowed them down to a couple of things. You have people looking in to potential financial crimes. You have people that have been applying for jobs related to money laundering, perhaps to look into the President's business issues.

You have people that are trying to do investigations into cabinet officials. You obviously have the intelligence committee that's looking more into the Russia investigation as well. So there's no sure (ph) of issues here but I think the broader point is that Democrats know that they need to have the staff. They need to have the personnel to actually do the investigations and not just in a circus like atmosphere but try to make them count. Because take note (ph) this place is better than anybody. These things can spin out of control quickly.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

MATTINGLY: And they need the talented people, at least in their eyes, that can pull the weight to make these things work. And along those lines, you mentioned the hiring of the House's general counsel that Nancy Pelosi announced earlier today. Doug Letter is a 40-year veteran of the Justice Department. He was leading a pallet (ph) division for a period of time. He's worked with both administrations, both Republican and Democratic administrations.

I've covered the Justice Department before in past life. He's very well respected as a career official over there. And so, bringing him on, what that means, what is the general counsel do in the House? He will be the point person on all litigation fights. He will be the point person when the Trump administration decides not to respond to his subpoenas. So when you bring somebody with that level of the government experience, with that level of experience, period, into the ball game, you recognize that Democrats are taking this seriously. And there's going to be a lot of investigating going on.

BOLDUAN: Exactly, which means you're going to sleep, maybe some. Great to see you. Thanks, Phil. Appreciate it, man.

Out front with me right, Steve Cortes, a member of President Trump's 2020 re-elect Advisory Council and National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation, Joan Walsh. Great too see you guys. Steve, you're -- Phil is laying up perfectly as always.

STEVE CORTES, MEMBER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP'S 2020 RE-ELECT ADVISORY COUNCIL: Right.

BOLDUAN: Does the White House, do you think, appreciate what is going to be coming at them come January?

CORTES: Right. I hope so. I worry at times they don't. I think the President definitely does. I worry at times that the White House staff might not realize the political wave that is about to happen in 2019. I mean, this is sort of the political version of the crips and blood. They are getting ready to fight. And the crips are fighters which in this case is lawyers, right? They are. They're getting ready for a brawl.

BOLDUAN: A wild mental image right now.

CORTES: And at 2019, you know, look, I said this before the election quite a bit. If the Dems win, I still believe they are hell bent on impeachment. That's I think the best case scenario. Let's see I'm wrong about impeachment, the best case scenario will be an investigatory circus. And that is going to commence very shortly as soon as next week. I think January to February we're going to see the pace of this real increase. [19:20:02] I guess I would also say that, look, the Democrats to some degree earned the right to do this. They won the house, right. It's their prerogative. It's the constitutional. And I've said this for a long time because I don't like the Mueller investigation.

BOLDUAN: Right.

CORTES: Congress is supposed to be the check and balance upon the executive branch. It's their right to do it, but I would say this. As an American, it worries me that they're going to over reach and that they don't have an agenda outside of resistance. And resistance and antagonism is not an agenda.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: The first thing Nancy Pelosi is doing on Thursday, it's already scheduled is introducing H.R. 1. It's a package of voting reforms, campaign finance reform, election rights. And I think that's really substantive. That's what's she promised.

She surveyed her members. That's what people wanted her to do first. So she's not leading with impeachment certainly or even with investigations. I think the truth is and I'm glad to hear you say that you agree, that it is their responsibility, they are the new majority. I would say Paul Ryan really fell down on the job and deferred too much of the President. So there's plenty for them to investigate. And I think that they have to do both.

They have to put forth a legislative agenda that let's them keep the House in 2020. That is a background for what's going to be a very feisty presidential nominating campaign. But I think that the hiring of Doug Letter, and I'm glad Phil really, you know, brought that in and made that a big point, that actually is got to be scary to Republicans because he is respected on both sides. And he is assign that she's not going to go crazy, whatever people think is crazy, you know, that she is looking to somebody who is going to be very sober and keep them on track.

BOLDUAN: Interesting about Robert Mueller. They are respected by both sides until they're not.

WALSH: Until they do, yes, exactly.

BOLDUAN: Until they're not, until we don't like what they're doing.

CORTES: You know, a current example of why I don't think they are serious about an agenda, I think they're only serious about resistance. In this government shutdown in the fight over the wall, the President, according to another network's reporting, the President has already offered -- has cut his number in half. Has gone from --

BOLDUAN: Right. We have that reporting that Pence went to the Hill and have about 2.5.

CORTES: And what was the Congress answer, crickets.

BOLDUAN: Yes. CORTES: And (INAUDIBLE) crickets because they didn't ever bother to really take it seriously. Nancy Pelosi is too busy vacationing at a luxury resort in Hawaii while the President skipped his vacation. He's working at the White House.

WALSH: Poor him.

CORTES: But that tells me, if they're not willing to even talk about meeting in --

WALSH: They're going to talk.

CORTES: -- in exchange for protecting DACA which they claim is paramount to them.

(CROSSTALK)

CORTES: -- that their agenda is not an agenda.

BOLDUAN: I do like how you're bringing it all together, though. I do appreciate it. But here is the one thing that -- here's the one thing that he doesn't have, is that Republicans in the Senate they were ready. They approved, passed a deal with no additional border money in it because the President was on board. And he is the one who pulled back. He is the one who reversed. And that is the problem that you've got.

CORTES: And thank goodness he did. And I think he did at least in part because a lot of people like me -- I mean, I'm not taking the personal credit, but a lot of people like me out there who support this President, believed that he will continue to fulfill his promises as he has done in a foundation promise, maybe the foundational promise of his candidacy and our presidency is building this wall.

BOLDUAN: Right, but isn't there a foundational promises the President have like keep the government open.

WALSH: And have Mexico pay for the wall. That was the foundation.

BOLDUAN: Wait, wait. Let me play --

WALSH: Sorry, I'm going to far. I'm sorry, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Let me play -- that's not too far. He did say it and then he said it again and again and again. Let me play for you what President Trump actually said on Christmas day, getting back to investigations, in Christmas day about the Democratic majority in the House coming in January. Let me play this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's probably presidential harassment and we know how to handle that. I think I handle that better than anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: This gets to kind of Steve's point is -- are Democrats going to be able to help themselves? His comeback is ready.

WALSH: He's comeback is ready. It's always been his comeback. Mueller is a witch hunt. This is presidential harassment. No, it's not. They are doing their jobs. They don't know what they'll find. We'll find out.

But we the American people, you know, the Mueller investigation I supported. I believe he has rights. I think he's within his rights. But there is also a realm where we need public testimony, where we need public accountability where people can see. Quite honestly, they can see whether the Democrats go too far. I think they are going to be hearing --

BOLDUAN: I always wonder if the President knows the difference between the job of Congress, which is oversight and presidential harassment. I wonder.

WALSH: I don't think so.

CORTES: To me, one of the easy clean lines there and my advice to the President would be matters that are related to either his candidacy or presidency are totally relevant. Matters before that, his business life before we come in the politician, his personal life, his taxes before entering politics, all of those matters, if the Congress goes there, my advice to the President of the White House is they have to fight back fiercely on those.

WALSH: And that's going to look really bad.

CORTES: Go to court if necessary. No, but listen. They are co-equal branches. The President has rights as well. And he should instruct his Justice Department to frustrate overreach when it happens to not cooperate when subpoenas are inappropriate and when necessary to go to court and fight these matters.

WALSH: Kate, you know that his business dealings really matter. Whether he was working on the Moscow project, Trump Moscow during the campaign up into the period when he was actually nominated. That matters.

[19:25:11] I don't care what he did with Playboy pent ups or anything else before but if those payments were made on the eve of the election, that matters. We need to get to the bottom of it.

BOLDUAN: Incredibly. We have a little preview of what 2019 in Congress is going to look like guys. Great to see guys. Thanks so much. As if it hasn't been crazy enough.

Out front next, Republicans questioning the FBI investigations tonight. What are their concerns? And he may be the most famous attorney with the lowest public profile ever. Who is Robert Mueller?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: New tonight, House Republicans have officially wrapped their review of the FBI's handling of the Clinton and Russia investigations and raising concerns about the thoroughness and impartiality, those are their words, of the probes.

Shimon Prokupecz is out front for me right. Shimon, what are you learning about this letter House Republicans just sent out and what does it say about the Mueller investigation?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. I mean, generally what they take issue with is the FBI and the Department of Justice. They do kind of take an interesting look at what the Special Counsel is doing. They say that what the work that the Mueller team is doing is important.

And in fact, they say that they have made no effort to discredit the work of the Special Counsel. They then go on to say that whatever the Special Counsel does, whatever work, whatever it is that they do, whether it's this report, indictments that that work needs to be trusted by the Americans, by people in this country. It is an interesting way certainly for them to express their support perhaps of the Special Counsel's investigation. But really what this report and what they were looking out was how the Clinton e-mail situation was investigated versus the Russia investigation and they have said that they have issues with how those two were investigated, how different in terms of how the FBI handled both of those investigations.

[19:30:00]

BOLDUAN: As we all know it was basically wrapped up in every other way other than by name and now it is official. Great to see you, Shimon. Thank you.

PROKUPECZ: Happy New Year.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. So as Republicans say the Mueller investigation should be allowed to continue, it's a reminder that his is a name you've heard nearly everyday but you've heard that -- you've heard his voice next to never.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT with a fascinating look at the mysterious Robert Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Robert Mueller may be the most famous invisible man in Washington. President Trump can't stop talking about the Russia probe.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I call it the rigged witch hunt.

FOREMAN: But the man in charge holds no press conference, gives no interviews and is caught on camera so rarely, this photo at an airport with Donald Trump Jr. passing caused a sensation. Most of Mueller's comments on camera are old, like his thoughts on having survived being wounded while serving in Vietnam.

ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: In some sense, you feel that you have been given a second lease on life, and you want to make the most of it to contribute in some way.

GARRETT GRAFF, MUELLER BIOGRAPHER: In a city where every one rushes toward the spotlight, the idea of actively turning away from it really baffles people.

FOREMAN: So, what do we know about him? Mueller grew up in the Northeast, attended Princeton and has dedicated his life to the justice system, handling some very big cases along the way. He has served every president since Ronald Reagan, Republicans and Democrats alike.

LISA MONACO, FORMER MUELLER CHIEF OF STAFF: He's apolitical. He's nonpartisan. He is become quite clear a pretty law and order guy.

FOREMAN: That has made him the hope for Democrats, the bane of Republicans and fodder for comedy shows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, I've waited for this moment for a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mueller I've been meaning to come talk to you but golf.

FOREMAN: But Mueller's real life script remains a closely guarded secret. In a town as leaky as a rotted row boat, his team has given up virtually no details of their work until filed in court.

GRAFF: It is the most airtight operation that we have seen in modern American political history.

FOREMAN: Mueller has been married more than 50 years, father of two daughters. He goes to work early, enjoys golf, dislikes chitchat, understands not just the law but the impact of crime, as evident in the speech about the bombing of an airliner over Scotland in 1988.

MUELLER: I'll never forget the visit I made to Lockerbie where I saw the small wooden warehouse in which were stored the various effects of your loved ones.

FOREMAN (on camera): Some here in D.C. argue maybe Mueller is the only person who can conduct this investigation precisely because he's not overtly partisan, he does not try to grab headlines and lets his work do the talking. And so far, it's saying plenty.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Tom, thank you so much.

OUTFRONT with me now, Harry Sandick, former assistant U.S. attorney from the southern district of New York, and John Dean, former Nixon White House counsel.

Great to see you, guys. John, it is somewhat remarkable how little every one has seen or heard from Mueller in this day and age in Washington. When this investigation ends, do you think we'll hear much from Mueller anymore than we're hearing from him now?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It's likely we'll hear from him if his report is contested and the Congress calls on him to explain some of the material in the report. That's the most likely way. I don't think he will have a press conference.

He is among the true workhorses rather than show horses of Washington. So, I think he'll let the document speak for itself. There are issues that the Congress may well want to get into.

BOLDUAN: I would not be surprised one bit. Harry, if you look at 2018, it wrapped up with indictments, guilty pleas, jail time for many people around Donald Trump. What then are you looking or watching for in 2019? Are there any signals that you think would indicate where things are headed?

HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Sure. We're seeing the cooperators get sentenced in terms of Cohen who tried to cooperate and Michael Flynn who did cooperate. His sentencing was delayed but it wasn't delayed forever. He'll be sentenced at some point in the first few months of 2019 one would expect.

There's been open investigations believed into Roger Stone and maybe Jerome Corsi relating to actual connections between these folks who are linked to the Trump campaign and who are also connected to WikiLeaks. And so, that I think will be an interesting subject.

But it does seem based on some reporting and the fact that we're seeing these cases begin to end in terms of Flynn and Cohen and Manafort, that even though this may not be the end, it may be at least the end of the beginning and maybe the beginning of the end.

[19:35:11] BOLDUAN: So, stay tuned to stay tuned. In the meantime, more indictments are on the way.

John, one of the players in this, the Republican face that is talking a lot and has been where Mueller hasn't is Rudy Giuliani for Donald Trump. And he's been all over the place lately. I mean, for example, on the question of will Trump answer anymore questions from Mueller, here is what Rudy Giuliani said two weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: When you say good luck, you're saying no way, no interview?

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP LAWYER: They're a joke. Over my dead body.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, over my dead body. Yesterday, he told "The Daily Beast" the talks are still open. They are still open to it and they're still talking about it.

Also heading into 2019, what does Rudy Giuliani do for the president? How is he helping him, John?

DEAN: Well, that's a very good question. He is his own theater in this whole episode. I think what Rudy is doing, he's doing it pro bono. He's not charging the president anything. He's getting some attention on himself and his relationship with the president which may help his business, his security business, that he peddles around the world.

So, I think that's what's driving him. He doesn't seem to be well- briefed on what is happening on any of these cases, doesn't appear well informed by the lawyers who are working for Trump. I think it's show but not much tell.

BOLDUAN: Harry, on the day that the Mueller drops, assuming it is public, what are you looking for? Where do you go first?

SANDICK: Sure, the first thing I'm looking for is what is the evidence of the connection between the Trump campaign, Trump and his circle, his family, his business associates and Russia. Are there financial ties that were uncovered as a result of this investigation that helped explain some of the conduct we have seen? Trump at the Helsinki summit with Putin. Are there answers to these mysteries in the report?

The second thing I'll be curious to see is the unanswered questions and the open questions.

BOLDUAN: Well, they have been concluded.

SANDICK: Exactly.

And when I say what they haven't concluded, why haven't they concluded it? Is it the absence of evidence? Is it that people obstructed and told lies? Witnesses are unavailable effectively to the government? Either through taking the Fifth Amendment or because they were oversees or is there some other reason why?

BOLDUAN: It is amazing to think that after all these, and when this report comes out, there will still been unanswered questions, but we'll come it I guess.

Great to see you, Harry. Thank you.

Great to see you, John. Thanks.

OUTFRONT next, President Trump claims that closing the entire southern border would be a profit-making operation. What is he talking about?

Plus, the people affected by the government shutdown their share stories.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have two mortgages to pay. So, I haven't even looked at how my checking account will balance out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:41:46] BOLDUAN: Tonight, President Trump is threatening to shut down the entire southern border if he doesn't get the money for the border wall, and going so far on Twitter to say this: I will consider closing the southern border, a, quote/unquote, profit making operation.

Really? Profits for whom? Honestly.

OUTFRONT now, "Washington Post" columnist Catherine Rampell and former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign, Stephen Moore.

Great to see you guys. Stephen is also the author of the new book, "Trumponomics". Sorry, I did not mean to bury the lead.

Stephen, the Wilson Center, if you're looking it up, puts it at $1.6 billion a day in two-way trade between the U.S. and Mexico across the border. Can you make the case that shutting down all of that would be a good thing for the U.S. economy?

STEPHEN MOORE, INFORMAL WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: No. You certainly can't. And, you know, that definitely prosper. Both nations benefit from the trade that goes across the border.

I think this was a declaration of frustration by the president. He wants to get -- you know, it's one thing to say we should have trade and immigration and a free flow of people across the border, for sure. It has to be orderly and regulated. I think Trump is very frustrated that Democrats don't seem to have any interest in any kind of border security or wall provisions. I think that's why he said what he said.

BOLDUAN: Stephen, I understand he said what he said, but what you got to advise him to say something else. I mean, this is -- you can't -- this is ill advised when the markets are going like this.

MOORE: Do you really think I can regulate Donald Trump's tweets?

BOLDUAN: Yes, I do. Hope springs eternal.

MOORE: No, I can't. I think his point is really he is trying to put the pressure here on Pelosi. You know, let's get something going here. Let's try to do something with respect to border security.

And, look, this is Trump being Trump. I'm not going to defend it. I think it would be very harmful for the American economy to shut down our southern border.

BOLDUAN: I do want to ask you, this comes on CNBC reports a top Trump official reached tout a well known investor, Stephen, for advice on the volatile stock market. And then, also -- so you got that. Then you got CNN's reporting that Trump made calls aboard Air Force One on his way back from Iraq to celebrate that remarkable gain in the stock market on Wednesday, that turned around.

Does this sound, when you hear that, does this sound like a White House that is confident or worried about the economy right now?

MOORE: Well, I don't think there's any question that the White House is very worried about the financial situation after Christmas Eve. I mean, that was a horrible day for the stock market. In the week following the Fed's decision to raise interest rates, the stock market fell by 1,500, 2,000 points. So, that's massive selloff and everybody was nervous.

I'm not surprised that -- I'm not sure if it was reported who it was that checked with some of these top Wall Street advisers say, look, how bad is it? Is this going to be a blood bath? And fortunately, we found out this week, later in the week, that at least for now, it looks like the selloff has stopped.

BOLDUAN: Catherine, what do you think?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think what was interesting about this CNBC story is that the advice to the White House was that Trump should stop tweeting about the Fed.

[19:45:05] Trump should end the trade --

BOLDUAN: The source was Stephen Moore -

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Trump should end his trade war with China and there should be less turnover with the White House. And I'm going to tell you a secret. I think I know who the secret investor was.

BOLDUAN: Who?

RAMPELL: It's a "Murder on the Orient Express" type solution. It was all of us. Every one has been saying this for months. I know why you would need a top secret investor or adviser or whoever to give Trump this advice unless Trump isn't listening to those around him. I think that's the solution.

MOORE: I think Catherine is certainly right that the big overhang on the economy right now is clearly the China trade situation. That's the unknownable, is whether Trump can pull out a victory here and, you know, get a better trade deal with China, because I think that will be so reassuring for the markets.

But I think, what, there are 60 days left in that 90-day deadline. So, we'll know by February whether that happens because I'll tell you this, if he doesn't get a deal in 60 days, Trump is moving forward with those higher tariffs on idea --

RAMPELL: Which would be disastrous.

MOORE: What else do you do with China? I mean, we saw just two weeks ago, another hacking into the companies -- RAMPELL: I've got an idea.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: I have an idea. I think you agree with it. We talked about it before which is the Trans Pacific Partnership, TPP.

MOORE: That would help.

RAMPELL: That would have helped.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Trump already pulled us out. This was a 12-country pact that Obama signed us onto that Trump basically his first or second action while in office was to pull us out. The whole point of this deal was not only to have a free trade zone within these ally countries but also to gang up on China. I mean, that was --

BOLDUAN: It is something that Donald Trump ran on. It's something that Donald Trump promised.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: He ran on getting tough on China. Those goals are intention.

MOORE: What he's trying to do to clarify is do individual deals with countries like Japan, Korea, like Australia and so on. And, look, I'm fine with that too.

I mean, I agree with Catherine's main point which is we want to isolate China as the bad actor here and go after them. But, you know, this is not a fight that Trump can't back down on. The country can't back down on.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You were saying you want to see him stop tweeting. On the issue of profit making in the border, closing down the southern border, I have heard from some folks that investors have just stopped listening to his words. Now, they have stopped listening to the words, listening to the tweets and the threats and they just wait for the policy.

RAMPELL: Yes. Well, in this particular case, he probably doesn't have the legal authority to shutdown or close down the entire border. It would not be legal for a number of reasons including it would violate NAFTA, including there are U.S. citizens in Mexico who we have to let back in. But beyond that it would be a stupid idea because how does it make us richer to stop buying tomatoes and avocados and half of cars and stuff like that.

But there's a good reason for investors to ignore that particular tweet because he doesn't have the authority to act on it. But some of these other things, he's regularly abused his trade authorities including by claiming national security concerns to raise tariffs against other countries. So, I think we do need to pay a little bit of attention to that because he's been very liberal in his interpretation.

BOLDUAN: It's just the beginning of the end. It's the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.

We got to go.

MOORE: Very important tweet that Trump sent out two weeks ago for every American to buy "Trumponomics".

BOLDUAN: OK, now, I will cut you off. Great to see you, guys. Thanks so much.

OUTFRONT next, when President Trump shut the government down, he claimed this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Many of those workers have said to me and communicated, stay out until you get the funding for the wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Is that really what government workers are saying?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:52:18]BOLDUAN: Tonight, we're only a few days into the government shutdown. But the salaries of hundreds of thousands of federal workers are being impacted already. And they are bracing for weeks more to come now.

Brian Nobles is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: With President Trump unable to secure funding for his border wall.

TRUMP: I can tell you, it's not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it. If you don't have that, then we're just not opening.

NOBLES: The government shutdown will likely continue into the New Year, affecting an estimated 25 percent of the federal workforce, 380,000 employees are furloughed, and another 420,000 are still working, without pay, including the TSA and the Coast Guard. The Smithsonian Museum and National Zoo will be closing its doors beginning January 2nd. And even the panda live stream cameras are going dark.

TRUMP: The federal workers want the wall.

NOBLES: The president said on Christmas that federal workers support the shutdown. But the shutdown is causing families we spoke to, many who live paycheck to paycheck, to worry about when they may see their next one and they're fed off.

LOREEN TARGOS, AFGE LOCAL 704 UNION MEMBER & STEWARD: I have two mortgages to pay. And so, I haven't looked at how my checking account is going to balance out. I don't even have children. For people who have kids in school, you know, extracurricular activities, putting food on the plate to their kids, those are things that, you know, make it even more disgusting what's happening with the federal government.

NOBLES: Loreen Targos is a local steward in a public sector union and a physical scientist with the EPA, which will shut down at midnight tonight. She, like other EPA employees, received this e-mail referring employees to the Office of Personnel Management for additional guidance. The OPM Thursday tweeting suggestions for workers to send to creditors, landlords and banks that they can't make their payment on time, like trading maintenance work, like painting and carpentry for rent payments.

TARGOS: That's absolutely unrealistic. Federal workers are going to be penalized for not paying bills their on time, when we just want to go back to work and do the jobs we were hired to do.

NOBLES: Thursday, the president tweeting, without evidence, that most federal employees are Democrats. But workers say their politics shouldn't even matter.

TARGOS: We are civil servants. We are hired to do our work at the EPA. Workers are hired to protect human health and the environment. If he wants to imagine that we are Democrats instead of human beings and civil servants, that's his problem. I hope Congress steps up and is able to be the adult in the room.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: Now, it's likely that, at some point, Congress will pass legislation that will make sure that all of these federal workers impacted will ultimately get paid once this mess is taken care of. In fact, there is already bipartisan legislation drafted, but it's not passed either the House or the Senate.

[19:55:01] And in this era of Congress, even the simplest legislation is no guarantee. That is why many of these federal workers must prepare as if they will never see this money. And that is a big part of their anxiety as this staring contest up and down Pennsylvania Avenue continues -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: They don't know how long it's going to last. Great to see you. Thank you, Ryan.

Coming up next, Gilda Radner, the women who inspired a legion of female comedians.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Gilda Radner inspired a generation of female comedians. The new CNN film "Love, Gilda" tells her story in her own words. Tonight, women who followed in Radner's footsteps pay tribute.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GILDA RADNER, COMEDIAN: Hi. I'm Gilda Radner. And -- OK, now.

FRAN DERSCHER: Dear, Gilda. Hi, it's me, Fran Drescher.

YVETTE NICOLE BROWN: Dear Gilda.

CAROL BURNETT: Dear Gilda, I loved watching you on "Saturday Night Live."

TRACEY ULLMAN: Gilda Radner was a huge inspiration to me.

RACHEL BLOOM: When I was about 9, I saw the sketch "The Judy Miller Show." It inspired me to write my own one person comedy sketch. It was directly because of you.

BROWN: Thank you for teaching us it's OK to be unapologetically wacky and fearless.

RADNER: Dear Rosanna (INAUDIBLE).

BROWN: You blazed a trail for so many of us. I am so grateful.

ULLMAN: Was this incredibly funny girl who is equal to the guys.

DRESCHER: I started to experience gynecologic cancer symptoms. I kept talking about you and your symptoms and then I survived, and then I thrived.

ULLMAN: Gilda Radner was a bloody, great girl.

BURNETT: Not only were you brilliantly funny, you had a terrific soul.

ANNOUNCER: "Love Gilda", New Year's Day at 9:00 p.m.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: That's wonderful.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.