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Time Magazine: Manafort Pressured by Russians to Pay Back Debt while Serving as Trump Campaign Chair; Lion Kills Intern at North Carolina Wildlife Preserve; 8 in 2018: Top Political Stories. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 31, 2018 - 10:30   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: New York and reportedly contacted Manafort on behalf of a Russian billionaire who has closed ties to the Kremlin. What does this suggest to you about the influence the Russians may have had over Manafort at this time where he was part of the campaign?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Any time you have that kind of leverage over someone like Paul Manafort, it's concerning. That being said, there hasn't bib from the Mueller camp or from the Special Prosecutor's Office any charges whatsoever against Manafort relative to any conduct that he had during the campaign which says a lot. Certainly, Mueller knew about this. Just because "Time" magazine is reporting it just recently doesn't mean Mueller didn't know about it prior to this. He certainly did. So if there was something, some leverage that had some influence over the decisions Manafort was making that may have been criminal in nature that would certainly have been charged. They didn't go easy on Paul Manafort. So to the extent that there's that -- you know to the extent that there's any link here to the president, I don't believe there is any whatsoever. I don't believe there is any relative to the campaign or we would have seen that out of the Manafort camp at this point.

BROWN: But as we know, Robert Mueller continues with his investigation. There is a lot we don't know, but you're right that this was not included in the charges against Manafort, this specific situation. We're seeing sort of a shift in strategy, it appears Jim. The president began saying back in August that collusion in fact isn't a crime. We know collusion is not a legal term. Conspiracy is a legal issue, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and other charges surrounding that. But as you see, Rudy Giuliani is basically coming down and saying hey, look, even if there is collusion, that's no problem. What do you make of that?

SCHULTZ: Well, first off, they deny that any collusion existed. What they're doing, what you're seeing out of Giuliani, they don't know what Mueller is going to say in his report. And that's his way of saying look, even if there were some, you know, we don't know what the definition of collusion is. Conspiracy is the criminal issue here. And there has been no conspiracy charge as it relates to Flynn, as it relates to Manafort and as it relates to Cohen. No conspiracy whatsoever relative to the campaign issues and issues relative to the -- to President Trump's campaign in 2016. So I don't think there is any issue there, but I think what they're doing is preparing. We don't know what the report is going to say, we don't know how Democrats are going to spin that report. It may not say collusion, but Democrats may turn around and try to spin it that there was collusion. So they're preparing for that. But what they are hard and fast on, that there was no conspiracy, no criminal conduct, and what Giuliani is asking for is for Mueller to put his cards on the table.

Remember, this is a political process at the end of the day. There's no judge. There's no jury as it relates to the president of the United States. This is going to be Congress, the Democratic Congress in particular in the House, and the president. And they're preparing for battle as it relates to that -- to those issues.

BROWN: So you continue to hear Giuliani and those in the president's team say there is no collusion. There is no evidence of collusion. There has been a lot, though, that has happened since Robert Mueller has been special counsel. Four people sentenced to prison, seven guilty pleas. What does that say about this probe?

SCHULTZ: I don't think it says anything relative to collusion. Remember, going back to the point, there has been no allegation of conspiracy with the Russian government as it relates to 2016 campaign. The fact that a bunch of Russians were charged is irrelevant to that fact. The fact that Manafort was charged in a number of crimes unrelated to the campaign, again, irrelevant to any in inquiries as it relates to the president of the United States or his campaign. Same thing with Michael Cohen as it relates. There was nothing related to the Russians or otherwise as it relates to Michael Cohen. So none of these things are relevant --

BROWN: Well, he did lie.


SCHULTZ: To the question that - Giuliani is wanting to answer --

BROWN: He pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow. So that does relate to the Russia probe.

SCHULTZ: No, that relates to lying. That has no connection - conspiracy whatsoever.

BROWN: It raises a bigger question of why he lied, who he was talking to in the White House, those around President Trump about that statement to Congress that he admitted to lying about.


SCHULTZ: They threw the -

BROWN: There are still a lot of unanswered questions. That's not a done deal. Go ahead.

SCHULTZ: Right, they threw the book at Cohen. No question about it. If there was conspiracy to be charged, they would have charged it. They didn't. That says a lot.

BROWN: Right. And the probe again is ongoing. We'll have to wait and see. Jim Schultz, thank you so much for coming on, and Happy New Year to you.

SCHULTZ: Thanks for having me.

BROWN: Well an intern is mauled and killed by a lion at a North Carolina zoo. How did this happen? We'll be back.


[10:39:14] BROWN: A 22-year-old intern at a North Carolina wildlife preserve was killed after a lion somehow escaped its locked enclosure. An investigation is now underway.

I want to bring in CNN's Kaylee Hartung, who is live in Burlington, North Carolina, with more on this very sad story. Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Pamela. Yesterday, a professionally trained animal keeper led his staff into the lion's habitat. They were supposed to be performing a routine cleaning of the area. And when that happens, the lions are taken into a separate area enclosed, thought to be secure and locked. But yesterday, something went terribly wrong. One of those lions escaped that secure area. It's unclear how. Got into the area where the humans were, and the 14-year- old lion known as Mathai attacked and killed Alexandra Black.

[10:40:03] The lion was then killed, the Conservatory Center here says, by necessity so that they could then retrieve Black's body. Black's family is devastated. They have issued a statement saying in part that, "Alex loved animals. She was a beautiful young woman who had just started her career, there was a terrible accident, and we are mourning. But she died following her passion."

This was the 22-year-old's fourth internship of this kind, the first outside of her home state of Indiana. She wanted to make a career out of caring for animals like these here at the Conservators Center, they're heartbroken as well. Here's more from the director.


MINDY STINNER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CONSERVATORS CENTER: I can't imagine the loss they're enduring. I can't imagine what it must feel like to be them. We only knew this person a short time, and obviously, it was devastating for us. So I'm just so grateful that they have spoken with us and are working with us to try to get some closure and to make sure that we all understand what's happening.


HARTUNG: The Conservators Center says they're assessing the situation, trying to better understand what happened here. They want to ensure the security of everyone moving forward. But in the meantime, Pamela, the Conservators Center will remain closed until further notice.

BROWN: All right, Kaylee Hartung, thank you.

A battle at the border and a nation divided over a Supreme Court justice. Up next, the year in politics. Stay with us.


[10:45:57] BROWN: We're now entering day 10 of a partial government shutdown, just one of the major political headlines that dominated 2018. Among them, a contentious confirmation battle for Supreme Court seat, and the death of two political giants.

CNN's Dana Bash takes a look at 2018.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You would think 2018 being a midterm election year that would be the defining political story. It was big but, with Donald Trump in the White House, there was so much more.

BASH (voice-over): When a former student opened fire, murdering 17 people, including 14 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Emma Gonzalez and fellow survivors channeled their sorrow into action.


EMMA GONZALEZ, SURVIVOR, PARKLAND SCHOOL SHOOTING: Every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!


BASH: Across the country, thousands of students heard the cry coming from Parkland, Florida and staged a 17-minute walkout, one minimum for each victim of the shooting.

DEMONSTRATORS: Enough is enough!

BASH: Then their demand for a stricter gun laws went global with "March for Our Lives."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can and we will change the world!


BASH (on camera): Washington felt the weight of several icons passing away in 2018.

BASH (voice-over): Senator John Sidney McCain died in August after a 13- month battle with brain cancer. The naval fighter pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war was known for bucking his party and reaching across the aisle to get things done. In classic McCain style, he asked the two men who defeated him for president to eulogize them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: What a better way to get a last laugh and have George and I say nice things about him to a national audience.


BASH: His final maverick move, not inviting the president he tangled with and worried about as America's leader to his funeral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We honor our 41st president.

BASH: The country also mourned the death of former President George H.W. Bush, described as decent, honorable and gracious. The 41st president who managed the end of the Cold War without a shot fired was eulogized by the 43rd president, his son.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man. The best father a son or daughter could have.


BASH: A family grieving for not one parent but two, with the passing of the 41's wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush just seven months earlier and an American icon who was remembered by another famous son.


JEB BUSH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She was our teacher and role model on how to live a life of purpose and meaning.


BASH: President Trump continued to put immigration front and center in 2018, imposing a controversial family separation policy.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you prosecute the parent force coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away.


BASH: Images of children in cages sparked an outcry from both sides of the aisle, along with revelations that at the height of the policy, more than 2,600 children were separated from their parents after entering the U.S. illegally. Bowing to political pressure, the president reversed himself and signed an executive order to end the separation.

A few months later, in a raw political move to motivate his base, he warned against a caravan of immigrants headed to the southern border.


TRUMP: We're not letting these people invade our country.


BASH: After Election Day, the president largely stopped talking about the caravan after Election Day but not about immigration. He ended the year, threatening a government shutdown if he did not get funding for his signature campaign promise, the border wall.

The president stunned the world in Helsinki this year when he stood next to Vladimir Putin and not only failed to admonish the Russian president for meddling in American elections, he accepted Putin's denial.

[10:50:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So, I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


BASH: Angry Democrats and Republicans lashed out in disapproval. Senator McCain called it one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.

But that wasn't the only 2018 Trump shocker on the world stage. After months of rhetorical fire and fury with North Korea's Kim Jong-un, President Trump broke precedent by agreeing to a summit in June in Singapore. After a nearly five-hour Trump-Kim meeting, they announced what they called a denuclearization agreement.


TRUMP: We have developed a very special bond.


BASH: Despite the warm embrace, 2018 come comes to an end with reports that the hermit kingdom is still operating secret missile bases.


REP.-ELECT ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: We have made victory tonight.


BASH: It was the year of the woman with record numbers of women running for and winning races on a local and national level, especially Congress. Fourteen women elected in the Senate, bringing it to a total of 25. 102 women will serve in the House next year, breaking the previous record of 85. Women from all walks of life are flooding the Hill, with one exception, Republicans. Only 13 GOP women will be in the House next year, the lowest number in a quarter century.

Supreme Court fights are always high stakes but President Trump never imagined what would happen when nominating Brett Kavanaugh, someone he thought was a rather safe pick. Several women came forward, accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, leading to a day of public testimony for the ages, starting with Christine Blasey Ford.


CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, KAVANAUGH ACCUSER: I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling.


BASH: Kavanaugh followed with a fiery defense.


JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: I'm not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time, but I have never done this.


BASH: Ford's story touched a nerve among women across the country, who had been sexually assaulted and afraid to come forward or not believed, a new front in the MeToo movement. Republican Jeff Flake had just announced he was a yes vote and this happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're telling me that my story doesn't matter.

BASH: A rattled Flake worked with Democrat Chris Coons to delay the vote for a week while the FBI investigated. Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed to the high court's swing seat, Trump's second Supreme Court win in just two years.

A Kavanaugh no vote would cause trouble for some red state Democrats up for re-election in places like Missouri where that state's now GOP senator-elect Josh Hawley predicted it would be a game changer and he was right.


BASH (on camera): Big deal?


BASH: That could make the difference?

HAWLEY: Yes, I do.


BASH (voice-over): GOP backlashed over the Kavanaugh fight energized their base and helped Republicans maintain their majority in the Senate.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And CNN predicts Democrats will reclaim control of the U.S. House of Representatives.


BASH: On the House side, a very different story. Democrats found that blue wave and rode it back into the majority, winning 40 seats, almost twice the 23 needed to take back the house.


TRUMP: There was no collusion whatsoever.


BASH: It's been over a year since Special Counsel Robert Mueller was given the mandate to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with Trump aides or associates.

The president spent the year trying to undermine it.


TRUMP: It's a terrible witch hunt.


BASH: The Mueller investigation has revealed that many in Trump's orbit had contacts with Russians, 16 to be exact. But the most stunning revelation? Trump's long-time personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, sentenced to three years in prison and turned on the president, cooperating with federal investigators. The president now calls Cohen a liar and a rat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Selling America out to the Russians. Traitor.

BASH (voice-over): And after months of claiming his innocence, the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort pled guilty to several crimes not associated with the Trump campaign. He cut a deal with Mueller which, by year's end, fell apart. Manafort is now looking at the possibility of more charges from the special counsel.

2018 ended with the president nominating a new attorney general, William Barr, to oversee the investigation after he fired Jeff Sessions. And Mueller's team bringing charges against 32 entities and individuals, five people pleading guilty and four sentenced to prison.

BASH: What a 2018!

What's in store next year?

Buckle up.


BROWN: Buckle up is right. Take a look here. Here are some live pictures now from Hong Kong, just one of the many cities across the globe set to ring in the New Year in just a few minutes.

[10:55:07] And be sure to check out the party at Times Square with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

Meantime, an American citizen has been detained in Russia. He's now accused of spying. We're following all the new developments.