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CNN RIGHT NOW
Elizabeth Warren Forms Presidential Exploratory Committee; Russia Detains U.S. Citizen Accused of Spying; Disturbing Video Shows Migrant Children in U.S. Custody Shoved & Pushed; Ex-Russian Spy Reportedly Pressured Manafort to Pay Back Billions During Campaign. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 31, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:33:51] BRIANNE KEILAR, CNN HOST: Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading potential Democratic contenders for a presidential bid, took her first official step and formed an exploratory committee to look at a 2020 run. She also released a video that plays up her political history and childhood in Oklahoma. But Warren could face a challenger in former Vice President Joe Biden and a number of other potential candidates if Biden decides to run as well.
Let's bring in CNN Political Director David Chalian back with us.
First, we are pretty far from 2020.
KEILAR: It's still not that far in the process. We are starting and it's important and fun to talk about. What are obstacles and tail winds?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: First, as you noted, this is going to be a huge field. Two dozen Democrats have been using about running. Elizabeth Warren is the first big-name top-tier Democrat to jump in the race. That's why today is significant. And of course, she is trying to do it in a way that gets out ahead of a crowded field so she can own space for herself.
Some of the obstacles that you asked about -- look at that.
[13:35:09] CHALIAN: That's not an exaggeration. We are not scraping the bucket to find names. All of these people are considering a run. Her obstacles -- the president called her Pocahontas and she tried to respond to that by putting out a DNA test that --
KEILAR: It's a racial slur, by the way.
CHALIAN: Without a doubt. And the way she responded had blowback. She's not done dealing with that negative frame the president is putting on her.
Also, her policies are both an asset and obstacle. She may own the progressive wing inside the party, but she is going to have to prove that progressive messaging is appealing to a majority of the electorate come the general election.
KEILAR: Julian Castro, the former housing secretary under Obama, the former mayor of San Antonio, will be making an announcement and the expectation is that he will say he's running. And we wonder how much of a challenge it will be for him considering you now have another Texan, Beto O'Rourke, who has gained so much popularity after his run for the Senate seat in Texas.
CHALIAN: There's no doubt that Julian Castro thought he was going to be the Texas Democrat in the race when he started thinking about this. But obviously Congressman O'Rourke had a star turn in the 2018 midterm election. He came up short against Ted Cruz. But there will be a battle for donor dollars. There's room as you just saw on the graphic for a ton of people to get in the race. That's why this race will be so fascinating. There's no clear front-runner. Yes, there's a front- runner in the polls in national name recognition, but no clear sense of a behemoth in the race. This is going to be an open race for the Democratic nomination.
KEILAR: Speaking of Joe Biden, and he is ahead in the polls nationally in a key state like Iowa, and the thinking from Democrats, this may be a person to beat Trump at his own game. He is a white male and older and Rustbelt roots, which were a problem for Democrats in 2016. Is he poised to do that? What are you hearing?
CHALIAN: There's no doubt a reservoir of a ton of good will for Joe Biden inside the Democratic Party. No doubt about that. You are right. Joe Biden will be the first to admit he has been around the block a few times. If the electorate is looking for a fresher face, Joe Biden is not the answer. Who may be the best to take on Trump? That's the deciding question in this contest. Democrats no matter what they want, they want to keep Donald Trump as a one-term president.
KEILAR: Do you mean, with such a long history of being in Congress where we are seeing a change in "Me Too" and I think back to Biden with Anita Hill, if you make an ad about it, it can depress Democratic turnout for him. And if you look at the things he said in the past, even though he is someone who is a front-runner, maybe he starts to look not so good.
CHALIAN: He served for 44 years between the Senate and the presidency. He's completely enmeshed in Washington. He has street cred in the Rustbelt and that is key for any Democrat. That will be a calling card. You mentioned the Anita Hill moment. Yes, Joe Biden has to learn how to be a candidate in 2019 and 2020. This is not the same politics even as 2008 when he went on the ticket with Barack Obama.
KEILAR: David Chalian, thank you so much for the conversation.
KEILAR: Still to come, an American citizen detained in Moscow suspected of being a spy.
Later, new details about Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and the millions he reportedly owed to a prominent Russian who demanded pay back in the height of that race.
[13:39:09] We'll be right back.
KEILAR: Russia has arrested an American citizen on suspicion of spying.
Let's bring in senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, in Moscow to tell us more about this.
Tell us about this American and why he was arrested.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, we don't have much information about him, first and foremost. We just have the statement released by the FSB, one of the main Russian intelligence services in this country, saying on December 28th, a couple of days ago, they arrested a U.S. citizen in Moscow, the Russian capital, while he was spying, is the phrase they used. He has been named at Paul Nicholas Whelan and he is in detention here. That's all we know. We don't know what circumstances he was arrested in or what he was accused of doing specifically.
The State Department issued a statement over the U.S., but that's not shedding much light on it either. Basically they are acknowledging they have been formally told this U.S. citizen is in detention. They asked for consular access and expect the Russian authorities to give that access. But they said the privacy considerations are not able to disclose further information at this stage. Details at the moment about this U.S. citizen are very, very sketchy -- Brianna?
[13:45:04] KEILAR: All right, Matthew. We know you will keep an eye on that. Thank you so much.
Stright ahead, disturbing new video showing migrant children being shoved and pushed by those who should be protecting them. We will have details.
KEILAR: Our next story is a disturbing one. And we do want to warn you that the video you are about to see may be hard to watch. There's pushing, dragging, and slapping of migrant children. All of this caught on camera, on a surveillance camera there at a shelter facility in Arizona.
CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Phoenix with more on this.
And, Dianne, it's worth noting that this video, as it comes out after the deaths of two Guatemalan children while in U.S. custody, the video is new but the details about what happened is actually not new. Without video, we knew about this in October. And county officials said this wasn't anything that reached a criminal level. Sounds like now they could be changing their tune, as they see this video.
[13:50:26] DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds like they're definitely changing their tune, Brianna, because the Maricopa County sheriff's office says it's turning the case over to the attorney general's office today to see if it warrants those criminal charges. They've been investigating this since September, when all of this evidence was turned over to them, including this video. And it's disturbing for a lot of people to see. You can see that it's been blurred and edited it out. And that was done by the Arizona State Health Department. They have had this video in their possession for months now. It happened back in September, mid-September, here at this location. We are now in Arizona, just outside of Phoenix.
This facility is shut down now. It actually shut down in October. It was run by Southwest Key. Southwest Key actually referred us to a statement it issued to us back in October, when they talked about complying with authorities at that point. A source tells us two people were fired almost immediately afterward, Brianna. And Southwest Key tells us on the record that there were people who were fired after suspensions in the investigation.
KEILAR: All right. Dianne Gallagher, thank you for that.
Up next, new details emerge about President Trump's campaign chair, Paul Manafort, and the millions that he was asked to pay back to a rich Russian during the 2016 race.
[13:56:27] KEILAR: Another reported connection between a top Trump campaign official and a Russian billionaire. "Time" magazine now reporting that former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, allegedly owed Russian oligarch and Putin ally, Oleg Deripaska, millions of dollars. "Time" quotes a former Russian intelligence officer named Victor Boyarkin as saying he pressured Manafort during the height of the 2016 presidential race to pay that money back and Manafort offered ways to do so.
Joining me now is former DOJ prosecutor, Joseph Marino.
This story is fascinating, right? I wonder what it means when you have a Russian oligarch and they all have ties to Vladimir Putin, pressuring the then-Candidate Trump's campaign chairman about how he could, about how he could essentially re-pay money.
JOSEPH MARINO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure. So Brianna, I've heard people analyze this over the course of the day. And people have picked on the fact that, well, if this was so bad, Paul Manafort would have been charged along with the other things he was charged with. I think that kind of misses the point. This goes to a fundamental question about Donald Trump's ability to surround himself with people of questionable backgrounds, right? And I'm thinking, Paul Manafort, I'm thinking Michael Cohen, I'm thinking Michael Flynn. All of these gentlemen had significant baggage. And to think they were at the heights of the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign, and ultimately, potentially the Trump White House is a scary thought. So there's this mountain of ever-growing circumstantial evidence that's tying the Trump campaign to the Russian government. So even if Bob Mueller doesn't ultimately prove collusion or coordination, there's all of this evidence that gives people this information as to, why these connections, why the lack of transparency between the connections between the campaign and the Russian government. And again, this just piles on to what we already know.
KEILAR: Lawyers for the oligarch allege that it was something like $19 million. This is not small money. This is huge money that we're talking about.
And let's take a look at what some of "Time" reports here. It says, "In a series of e-mails sent that spring and summer, Manafort tried to offer," quote, "private briefings about the presidential race to Deripaska," the oligarch, apparently, as one of the e-mails puts it, "to get whole."
That's from the "Time" story. What kind of alarms does that set off?
MARINO: You have someone who has evaded taxes to the tune of several million dollars to the U.S. treasury. He's committed bank fraud. He's an unregistered foreign agent. And now he's in hock for almost $20 million to Russian oligarchs. This person is going to be desperate to use his influence during the campaign, and potentially after the campaign had he not been sort of unceremoniously booted to provide access, to provide information. Anytime you have someone in such desperate straits, particularly to Russians, there's no saying to what he could have done, had he had more access.
KEILAR: When, you know, Russia, or even the U.S. is looking to identify an asset and convince them against their will to do something, one of the things that makes them so vulnerable is owing money. This is something that could be seen by officials, by the Mueller investigation, who has been interested in this, as something that would make Manafort interested in playing along to get himself out of trouble.
KEILAR: So would he have been a major target? Would that have been the expectation, that this is something that at least could have raised that question for the Mueller investigation?
MARINO: Sure. I mean, I have no doubt that even though we're learning about this now, Robert Mueller must have known about this a long time ago. I'm sure it's part of the analysis that he partook when he charged Paul Manafort, when he sought cooperation, when he ultimately did not get that cooperation and was frustrated, obviously, with the lack of truthfulness he got from Paul Manafort.