Return to Transcripts main page

ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Huntsman Visits Retired Marine Accused of Spying By Russia; Man Who Spent Millions to Impeach Trump Could Run Against Him; WH Official On Shutdown: This Is Going To Go On For A While; Romney Doubles Down On Slamming Trump; Rand Paul On Romney Op-Ed: It's Going To Backfire On Him. Aired 7-8pm ET

Aired January 2, 2019 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:07] ERIN BURNETT, BLOOMBERG ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, President Trump digs in on his demands for a wall, even dismissing his own vice president, refusing to budge, fearing he could look "foolish."

Plus, Mitt Romney on why he's choosing to speak out against Trump now just hours before he's sworn in as a senator.

And the race for 2020 is on. Is billionaire Tom Stier officially ready to join Elizabeth Warren, throwing his hat into the ring? He's my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, President Trump back stabbing his own vice president. Today when asked about Pence's offer of a deal to Congress to end the shutdown in exchange for $2.5 billion for the wall, Pence had gone to Capitol Hill to sell this plan to everybody. Trump's asked about it and says this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you accept anything less than $2.5 billion?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: No, not $2.5 billion. No. We're asking for $5.6 billion. And, you know, somebody said $2.5 billion. No. Look, this is national security we're talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Somebody was Vice President Mike Pence who went on the President's behalf to say that amount which the president now says, no way. Let's be clear. Every lawmaker, Pence pitched that plan to, now knows the vice president can't deliver.

Trump wants to own this, and own it he does. Today he called Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to the White House for a closed door conversation. Their take?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I said, Mr. President, give me one good reason why you should continue your shutdown of the eight cabinet departments while we are debating our differences on homeland security. He could not give a good answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: At an impasse. And the 12 days into the shutdown, no sense of urgency coming from the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long do you think the government's going to stay partially shut down?

TRUMP: It could be a long time and it could be quickly. It could be a long time. It's too important a subject to walk away from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Too important for him. The President is obsessed, tweeting about the wall 22 times since Friday. Just think about that for one second, 22 times since Friday. Take this one from today. "Mexico paying for the wall through the new US MSA trade deal." That's the replacement to NAFTA. "Much of the wall has already been fully renovated or built."

Let me break this down. One, Mexico is not paying for the wall, because the trade deal has not been approved by Congress. And even if it is, Mexico is still not paying for the wall because the money saved from that deal, if there is any saved, is supposed to go to you, the American taxpayer, not towards a wall.

If Trump uses that money, money, right, because it's kind of hard to call it that but if it's money to pay for the wall, he is taking it from you. You are paying for it. Not Mexico. OK?

And two, back to the tweet, the President actually tweeted again, let me read it. "Much of the wall has already been fully renovated or built." Now, this is true. There actually already is a barrier, according to customs and border protection, it runs 702 miles long.

The president himself only wants a thousand miles of wall, along a 2,000-mile long border. So it's absurd that we're even in this position to begin with.

Jessica Dean is OUTFRONT live at the White House. And, Jessica, you know, when you put all this together, 22 tweets since Friday, undermining, back stabbing his own vice president, does the President actually have a strategy here?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we're hearing a lot from him, from the tweets, from the different, you know, meetings that they had today, that cabinet meeting where we were hearing him talk. It does seem like it's kind of in different places. What is for sure is that he has drawn this line on the border wall and the $5.6 billion that he wants for it. And just recently a White House official telling our Kaitlan Collins this shutdown is going to go on for a while. So, what did we see here at the White House this afternoon? We saw Congressional leadership coming in for a meeting. They were invited here by President Trump to the White House. But instead of meeting in the Oval Office like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer did back in December, they were all in the situation room for what was being billed as a border security briefing. The secretary -- the Department of Homeland secretary, Nielsen, was briefing them. She had a one-hour presentation, we're told, that was prepared.

But Schumer and Pelosi kept asking about the shutdown. They wanted to talk more about reopening the government. We got some more information, some more reporting with someone who is familiar with the situation telling CNN that Schumer kept asking President Trump, look, as Democrats, tomorrow, the Democrats are going to take over the House. They're going to vote on a package of bills designed to reopen the government.

[19:05:00] We're going to take Department of Homeland Security out. We're going to continue it. We're going to allow for 30 days so we can continue to negotiate, specifically on that, and then reopen the rest of the government. And the source saying that they -- that Schumer asked President Trump three times why he wasn't going to accept that and on the third time, that's when he said, because I would look foolish, according to this source, if I did that. So, what is for sure is when everybody came out of this about one hour long briefing, they were no more closer on reopening the government than when they went in, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jessica.

So I want to go OUTFRONT now to Democratic Congressman David Cicilline, part of leadership, obviously incoming here, as you have all the swearings in tomorrow and formally take over. Nancy Pelosi says she's going to bring that legislation to the floor tomorrow, which Jessica referenced and basically it kicks this whole wall issue and the border off for a month.

Do you believe -- have any reason to believe at this point that President Trump will accept that deal, change his mind and take it?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, no. But I mean, we should remember, Erin, this is a proposal that was already passed by the Senate unanimously, 100-0. So what we're going to do tomorrow is bring to the floor two bills, one which will fund the six other departments, bipartisan agreement has already been achieved with respect to those departments, separate out the point of contention, that's the Department of Homeland Security, do a shorter stopgap for that.

So fund the rest of the government through the end of the fiscal year, those six departments, then take the Department of Homeland Security, give it a shorter timeframe to give us an opportunity to negotiate these outstanding issues.

But the President isn't serious about wanting to reopen the government. He said he wanted to shut it down. He said that 25 times. I think, frankly, he doesn't really have an interest in reopening the government because he's using it as an opportunity to really distract from a lot of very serious issues facing his White House and this administration.

There's an easy solution here, we're going to present it tomorrow like adults. We're going to fund the government, send it over to the Senate. I think they're going to be hard pressed not to pass it. They already passed it.

BURNETT: right. I mean, that, right, what was it, 96?

CICILLINE: Right.

BURNETT: OK. But if he's not going to go along with it, is this just a futile waste of time?

CICILLINE: Well, I don't think it's a futile waste of time because I do think that the American people need to see the Democrats doing the right thing, swiftly moving to reopen the government. Then they're going to have to put pressure on the Republicans in the Senate to do their job.

They don't work for the president of the United States. They work for the American people. They should be serving their constituents, not the president. They've already passed this proposal before Christmas. They want to do it again to reopen the government. Then we can have a real debate about what is the smartest way to secure our borders.

Democrats believe we should have secure borders but we should do it in a smart way, invest in technology, drones, cargo inspection, satellites, more personnel. Let's do it in a way that actually achieves the objective, not just some 19th century solution for 21st century problems, this big concrete wall that supposedly Mexico was going to pay for.

BURNETT: Yes. Well, and it's concrete some days, some days there's a fence, some days it's border slats, whatever it is, OK.

CICILLINE: Right.

BURNETT: But let me ask you this because we've reported the vice president, right, Pence went to Capitol Hill with a $2.5 billion proposal, right? Saying, OK, we don't need this $5.6 billion or whatever, we'll go for $2.5 billion and here's how it could work. And the president was asked about it today and here's what he said. Let me play it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No, not $2.5 billion. No. We're asking for $5.6 billion. And, you know, somebody said $2.5 billion. No. Look, this is national security we're talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. So, Pence goes to Capitol Hill with a whole plan and tries to sell it, and the President's like, I don't know who thought of that, I had nothing to do with it. Is he throwing the vice president under the bus, back stabbing him? What's going on?

CICILLINE: Well, I think this is one of the difficulties in trying to negotiate the resolution of a matter with someone who doesn't always tell the truth and someone who doesn't keep his word. I mean, if you remember, the President approved the prior deal. That's why the Senate voted for, you know, unanimously, because he had agreed to this idea of funding the six departments and doing a short-term CR for the Department of Homeland Security so we could work out these issues.

Then he changed his mind after the Senate voted. So, I think, again, there's a lot of trepidation about negotiating with someone whose word you can't trust, who seems to change his position with some frequency. I think if we do reach a deal, we're going to have to find some way to have the president commit to it so that he actually keeps his word.

But I think it's what makes a very difficult negotiation even more difficult. You just don't have a sense where the president really is and whether he's going to actually stick with the position he takes.

BURNETT: All right. So you've got people impacted by this, you know, citizens who deal with the government, right? Rely on the government, deal with the government. You have 800,000 federal workers who are directly impacted, right, not getting paychecks right now. And even if they -- when they get back pay, right, they've got bills to pay and debts to service that they can't do while they're not getting paid.

It's coming as the President is surrounded by an incomplete team, as you know, right? Seven of the 21 top jobs, all right, which is incredible, a third of them are now filled by acting or deputies.

[19:10:06] Acting or deputy. Including chief of staff, the attorney general of the United States of America, the defense secretary of the United States of America, right, single biggest budget item in this country, how long can a government continue functioning like this?

CICILLINE: I think it's a very serious question. I think the President is having considerable difficulty keeping people in his cabinet for a lot of obvious reasons. People are leaving in droves. I think he's found it difficult to keep people. I think he's a particularly difficult person to work for, for all the things we've seen.

So I think it's challenging. These are difficult and challenging times, but to do it without a proper staff of qualified people makes all this work more difficult. And I think the President has sort of, particularly with the Departure of Secretary Mattis, sort of the only adults in the room have left. And so I think it's a real challenge, and the president's surrounded by folks who are just sort of cheering him on, telling hip he's right, rather than confronting him with --

BURNETT: More sycophantic in your view.

CICILLINE: -- the reality and fact. Exactly. BURNETT: So, OK. But you bring up Mattis and I want to ask you about him, because he obviously is gone, right? He quit. And the President was actually asked about this today, about Mattis. And, well, now he's completely changing what happened. I wanted to play it for you, Congressman. Here he is today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I wish him well. I hope he does well, but as you know, President Obama fired him, and essentially, so did I. I want results.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. Essentially, he did not in any way, not essentially, not nonessentially, OK? Mattis --

CICILLINE: Not at all.

BURNETT: -- quit. But the President, he is trying to change history on that. Why? Why do you think he'd say that?

CICILLINE: Well, I think he recognizes Secretary Mattis is very well- respected. His resignation was accompanied with a very strong letter of rebuke of the President's foreign policy and criticism of the President. We all know the President doesn't take well to that.

But I think this is, again, what I said at the beginning of the show. I do think that the president's changed the conversation to talk about the shutdown. He lost secretary Mattis. The Trump foundation was closed because of persistent illegalities. He's lost the gentleman who was in charge of the diplomatic efforts and the fight against ISIS (inaudible).

He saw Michael Flynn's sentencing hearing blow up considerably. He knows Michael Cohen's cooperating, the walls are closing in on the Mueller investigation. I mean, it hasn't been a good couple weeks for the president, and what does he do? He changed the subject by saying, "I want to shut the government down and all the discussions about that."

So I don't actually think the President's serious about wanting to end the shutdown. He could do it by signing bills the House passes and telling the Senate to do the same. I just don't think right now he's interested in reopening the government.

I think he likes the distraction. He likes the chaos. He, I think, thinks he benefits by pretending that he's fighting to keep America safe when we've appropriated $1.7 billion over the last two years for border security, the department spent less than 6% of that. So sure we have to do more, but they haven't even spent what we've appropriated.

So this is a make-believe fight that he's doing because he thinks it helps his political future and ignites his base but it's an easy problem to resolve if you were serious about reopening the government and moving forward. BURNETT: Of course, as we said in that tweet today, he's already admitted that there already is a wall which goes against everything he said all the way before. God knows, two years. All right, thank you very much. Three years at this point. Congressman, I appreciate your time.

CICILLINE: Thanks.

BURNETT: And next, Mitt Romney doubling down, slamming President Trump just hours before he's sworn in as a sitting senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), SENATOR ELECT, UTAH: And he has said during the campaign that he could be extraordinary presidential. I don't think he's followed through on that front.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Plus, US Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman, a pretty incredible move, visiting an American detained on accusations of spying, the top American official in Moscow going straight to the jail.

Plus Nancy Pelosi's daughter with this warning to anyone who dares oppose her mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDRA PELOSI, NANCY PELOSI'S DAUGHTER: She'll cut your head off and you won't even know you're bleeding.

[19:14:07] That's all you need to know about her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Tonight, taking on Trump, Mitt Romney stepping up, telling our Jake Tapper why he wrote a scathing op-ed slamming the President's character even before Romney's actually sworn in as a senator from Utah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I think it's important, as I begin this new job, to make it very clear where I stand, and I also note that the Departure of Secretary Mattis and the decision to pull out Syria and the abrupt way that it was done, was a precipitating event for me finally going on this record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And the president, of course, not letting this go.

TRUMP: If he fought really hard against President Obama like he does against me, he would have won the election. Does that make sense to you? If he fought the way he fights me, I'm telling you, he would have won the election.

BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, Patrick Healy, New York Times Politics Editor, Joan Walsh, the Nation's National Affairs Correspondent, Scott Jennings who worked as senior advisor for the Romney campaign in 2012 also with us. OK.

Patrick, Romney says he needed to write this op-ed to make it clear where he stands before he even starts, right? He's not even technically sworn in until tomorrow. Timing?

PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I mean, it's -- he's speaking for a Republican Party that doesn't really exist anymore, at least if you measure it by influence and power. I mean, this is Trump's Republican Party today in Washington. And Mitt Romney is coming in, he knows that he's going to be a fairly, you know, isolated figure, one of 53 in the Senate. Again, a guy who the base doesn't love, doesn't have any like real particular affection for in terms of the Trump base. And I think he's trying to lay out some markers.

I mean, Mitt Romney's legacy and certainly sense of himself as a statesman is very important to him. His moral character, very important to him, something that he talked about when he was governor of massachusetts, when he ran. I think in some ways, what he's looking for is he wants to be remembered as someone who didn't sort of just give in to Trumpism, to the sort of the darker nature of the character of this presidency and has been willing to call it out. Whether it has any effect, Erin, I mean, that's -- it's hard to see, you know, who he's trying to persuade with this.

BURNETT: And, you know, in a sense, that's maybe not even the point, right? If you're going to choose to raise your voice and then you choose to raise your voice if you think it's a moral imperative, but Joan, you know, the problem is here, for some, is in a sense the hypocrisy, right?

[19:20:04] November 2016, Trump and Romney photographed together at a fancy restaurant when Romney was auditioning for secretary of state. And Romney once described Trump in this way

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: After he was elected president, it was very much my hope that he would rise to the occasion, rise to the mantle of the office, after all, becoming president of the United States is quite an elevation for anybody. And he had said during the campaign that he could be extraordinary presidential. When I hear that, I think of Washington and Lincoln and Jefferson and Roosevelt and Kennedy and Eisenhower and I think of those qualities, and I think that while he spoke of that and while that was my hope, I don't think he's followed through on that front.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. So, do you think, Joan, given right that Mitt Romney went to Trump Tower when he was campaigning to get Trump on his side, right, that he's kissed the ring whenever he's needed to kiss the ring, that what he now says is authentic and genuine?

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: I think it is authentic and genuine, but that doesn't mean he'll necessarily follow through, Erin. I was very disappointed, actually. Jake did a great job in the interview. He was very respectful but he asked him a very pointed question about that going to kiss the ring at Trump Tower in 2012 when the only thing that Donald Trump was known for, politically, was his ugly, racist birtherism.

Romney pursued that endorsement. He welcomed it. He made a couple of birther jokes himself, nobody questions where I'm born. And so we've seen this again and again. He said all the right things during the campaign, but then he did go for the secretary of state job. He did graciously accept the endorsement in this last Senate race, which I really don't think he needed. So I don't expect much to come of this op-ed, I really don't.

BURNETT: Is it all opportunistic, Scott? I mean, you know him. Is it all opportunistic now and, you know, some of the frustration that some have had with, you know, some of the retiring senators, right, is that when they'd stand up to the President and then they wouldn't and then they would and then they wouldn't, right, and it was all about what worked for them, it wasn't about taking a moral stand. Will it be different with Mitt Romney?

SCOTT JENNINGS, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE ROMNEY 2012 CAMPAIGN: I think Mitt Romney will do what he's done throughout his Senate race and then today, which is to continue to say that he's going to call out the President when he engages in behavior that he disagrees with, but that he is going to continue to vote for the policies where they agree and that's frankly going to be 90 percent of the time.

I mean, if you look carefully at the op-ed, he lays out all the policies that he supports and he specifically mentioned Mitch McConnell by name and says I look forward to working with Mitch McConnell and the rest of my colleagues to pass --

BURNETT: So what's he saying, Scott, I'm going to vote for every single thing the guy does but I'm going to call out his moral character?

JENNINGS: Yes, that's exactly what he's going to do. I think this is going to be different than flake. At the end of flake's tenure, people want this to be another flake. Flake was actually doing what Romney said he wouldn't do, which is to cut off his nose to spite his face.

I think Romney's always going to vote the way most Republicans would want a Republican senator to vote. I don't think that means he's going to hold his tongue on the behavior or the language or the communication style, but Mitt Romney at the end of this next converse is going to have a 90-plus percent voting score when you look at the Trump agenda, that's my prediction.

BURNETT: So, you know, look, this op-ed made some people mad. Some people said, look, it's hypocritical, right, you know, when it works for him.

PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. Mitt Romney's willing to attack when he's -- when it works for him.

BURNETT: Right. So there's those people that are frustrated and then there's Republicans like Senator Rand Paul who are also calling him out for a different set of reasons. Here's Rand Paul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think calling the President dishonest for Senator Romney to come into the Senate and even before he's sworn in to call the President dishonest is not productive and I think it's going to backfire on him. I think there's going to be a backlash from conservatives across the country who say, "Well, gosh, the President gave us two conservative Supreme Court leaders, President gave us the largest tax cut in 20 or 30 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Going to backfire?

HEALY: I don't know. Rand Paul had plenty nasty things to say about President Trump, you know, during the 2016 campaign when they were running against each other.

BURNETT: Fair point, yes.

HEALY: So these guys adjust. I mean, the reality is that what we're looking at is we're looking at another year and a half of a very public pretty brutal reelection campaign by President Trump where he has shown himself perfectly willing to say racist and sexist things and Mitt Romney, I think, to Scott's point, is probably going to be voting, you know, even more than a Jeff Flake did, certainly, with the President and the Republican Party, but he'll probably be willing to go on Twitter and --

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: And more than Rand Paul, just to your point.

BURNETT: But Scott, in doing so --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Scott, in doing so --

JENNINGS: But if you look at the voting scores, Rand Paul has the worst Trump score in the Senate Republican conference. I bet you anything Mitt Romney will vote with the President more often than Rand Paul.

BURNETT: Which is an interesting point, but Scott, doesn't that then Mitt Romney is doing everything he can to get Trump reelected? A guy who he says doesn't have the moral standing to be President, right? I mean, both those things I'm saying are true. [19:25:05] JENNINGS: Well, look, I think when push comes to shove --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: -- helping the guy win again.

JENNINGS: Yes. Look, when push comes to shove in 2020, I expect virtually every Republican to side with a Republican incumbent president over whatever liberal democrat alternative. I just think the idea that you're going to see Republican senators split off and support a third party or a Democrat for president, that is just not -- that's not living in reality.

BURNETT: And on this, since you have endorsement, though, you know, Jake asked Mitt Romney about that. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: He was endorsing me, I wasn't endorsing him. And I haven't decided who I'm going to endorse in 2020. I'm going to wait and see what the alternatives are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Does his endorsement matter, Joan?

WALSH: I don't think so. I think it's very early. Other people have said that they're not endorsing yet. You know, this is perfectly expectable for him to come in to do, but I do agree that by backing him up on every policy, Senator Romney is helping the President get reelected.

I was particularly disappointed, maybe I shouldn't have been, in his saying that he's going to support the shutdown over the wall and he supports the wall. One thing Mitt Romney was, unlike Donald Trump, was a very smart, successful businessman. He knows that wall is a boondoggle and there are many, many more efficient ways to secure our borders than that. That has become a big symbol to the President who likes big things.

So, that was just a way that I thought, oh, yes, he's condemning his behavior, some of his language, but he's endorsing his biggest and his, frankly, dumbest priority. How is it -- who is this helping?

BURNETT: Right. Thank you all very much. And back to that point about Customs and Border Protection, by the way, everyone saying we have 702 miles of wall already when there's only 1,000 miles that could even have a wall, that's a hell of a lot of people who have engaged in that task.

"OutFront" next, an American detained in Russia accused of being a spy and he got a visit from the top American in Russia. It's a pretty stunning development today. Who is Paul Whelan and why is he so important? Is he now a hostage?

Plus, Senator Elizabeth Warren announcing she's exploring a presidential run. But is her effort to win over voters already falling flat?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Hold on a second, I'm going to get me a beer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:29] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: New tonight, U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, visiting the retired marine arrested in Moscow on allegations of spying. It's a stunning move for the highest- ranking American in Russia to be the first to visit an alleged spy, elevating the case of Paul Whelan big time tonight.

Whelan's family says he was arrested in Moscow while attending a wedding just a few days ago.

Michelle Kosinski is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An American citizen is in custody in Russia tonight, accused of spying, and only today, after five days, was for the first time allowed a visit by the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, which is unusual and demonstrates the seriousness of the matter.

Paul Whelan, a 48-year-old head of global security for a Michigan Automotive Supply Company, disappeared in Moscow on December 28th. He was in town for a friend's wedding and when he didn't show up, his friends reported him missing. The Russian government says Whelan was arrested on suspicion of carrying out an act of espionage, but why and what exactly Russia believes he did are still very much murky -- even this morning, to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've made clear to the Russians our expectation that we will learn more about the charges, come to understand what it is he's been accused of, and if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return.

KOSINSKI: It was Russia that told CNN Whelan was finally allowed a consular visit today. Several hours later, the State Department confirmed it, saying: Ambassador Huntsman expressed his support for Mr. Whelan and offered the embassy's assistance, then spoke by telephone with Mr. Whelan's family. Due to privacy considerations, we have nothing further at this time.

Whelan is a former U.S. marine reservist who served for 14 years, including two tours in Iraq. He received multiple medals and awards but in 2008 was discharged for bad conduct after a court-martial and charges related to larceny, according to the Marine Corps. Since then, he's worked in corporate security.

His family says he's travelling often for both business and pleasure. He's been to Russia multiple times, has friends there, has had a Russian social media account for more than a decade, where he's posted some pro-Trump messages and pictures of himself in Moscow.

The situation now has confounded his twin brother.

DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF PAUL WHELAN: We don't really know why he was picked up by the Russians, why he's being charged with espionage.

KOSINSKI: Some critics of the Kremlin and experts are calling Whelan's arrest a hostage taking, possibly to gain leverage over the U.S.' detention of Russian Maria Butina who pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to influence U.S.-Russia relations. She's been held for five months and Russia is not happy.

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: What this looks like, at least, is the Russians simply doing tit for tat. What they'll do in response and other countries have done in response is just arbitrarily pick up someone who isn't responsible or guilty of anything just to create pressure and leverage on us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI: So, Russia isn't saying what they allege they have on Whelan, and the State Department isn't saying whether Russia's being forthcoming with information. What we do know is what we hear from our analysts here, even based on what we know about Whelan now, they're saying they feel it's highly unlikely he would be involved in the U.S. intelligence community. First of all, because of his dishonorable discharge from the military.

BURNETT: Right.

KOSINSKI: But also they say this is just not the way a U.S. espionage operation would work, that they wouldn't just send somebody over there as a sort of contractor in this way -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Michelle, thank you very much.

So, let's go now to Bob Baer, former CIA operative who also used to work with the KGB in Afghanistan, and former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama, Juliette Kayyem.

Bob, you know, so, Ambassador Huntsman is the highest ranking American in Russia and a very high-profile ambassador, right? So, within hours of Whelan being, you know, allowed a visitor, he's there, and you say that means this is a crisis.

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Oh, it's definitely a crisis, Erin. The ambassador never does a prison visit, almost never. It's always a vice consul goes in, checks his welfare, makes sure he has a lawyer, talks to the prison guards, makes sure he's got his medicine and it's that simple.

Sending an ambassador is signaling to the Russians that we're very worried about this, and as a matter of fact, I've never -- can recall an incident where an ambassador goes in for the initial visit.

BURNETT: I mean, Juliette, what do you think is going on here? If Bob's saying he can never recall a situation like this, that this is being escalated so quickly.

[19:35:05] JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, HOME AND SECURITY DEPARTMENT UNDER OBAMA: It is. It's both being escalated but we do have to understand that in these hostage situations, that the -- you want some quiet. In other words, you don't want everything to be public. Lots of things are going on. There's family interests, there's political interests in this case, so when Huntsman says, you know, I can't talk about everything, I'm somewhat sympathetic to that.

What this does tell me, just consistent with Bob, is we've ratcheted up immediately and we did so because this is clearly a -- not just a hostage situation. It's clearly, in my mind, a political hostage situation.

So, Russians have been signaling after Butina was taken, let alone the fact that she is cooperating, which has got to be terrifying to Putin.

BURNETT: Maria Butina, who pled guilty to spying. Yes.

KAYYEM: Exactly, and she's cooperating now, that they have been signaling that wouldn't it be interesting to take or maybe a good tit- for-tat would be to take an American citizen and that's what they've done now, and the solution is only going to be a political solution. This is not a legal issue.

BURNETT: Well, I mean, you've used the word hostage a couple times here. This is a serious word, Bob. Do you agree? Hostage?

BAER: Oh, I agree with Juliette. He's not a spy. I mean, he could have been freelancing on something dumb but the Russians would know that and wouldn't have arrested him. They would have expelled him, not let him in the country, something like that. They know he's not a spy.

So, it's a hostage situation and they're probably worried about what Butina has said about her mission here, that there could be other indictments, who knows what they're worried about. But Putin, at the end of the day, looks at Butina as a hostage herself because she wasn't properly spying. She wasn't collecting, stealing secrets.

So, he's furious about this, and this is a message to the Trump administration -- you better back off now or no American is safe in Moscow.

BURNETT: And do you think, Juliette, that's the situation we're talking about, the former ambassador Michael McFaul is now saying he gets asked all the time whether it's safe to go to Russia, he's saying now, as a student, as a tourist, I'd say no.

KAYYEM: I rarely say that about any country, even ones that suffer from terrorism. I wouldn't, for two reasons. One is, you know, I mean, Russia did attack this country, you know, through -- during the 2016 campaign. I don't want to give them our money, to be quite honest.

And secondly, we don't know what the Trump administration is going to do in response. We talk often about how the rules of engagement have changed over the Trump administration, you know, that there's -- that this sort of, you know, these legal rules, these understandings amongst countries are seen being pushed to the limit, whether it's the Russians killing in England or the Chinese taking their citizen who's the head of Interpol, and I think we're starting to see some of that. It makes me very nervous because I just don't know how -- I don't know what the Trump administration's reaction, how far they will push this to get him back, because of the underlying aspects of what we know about Trump, which is he tends to protect Putin in these situations.

BURNETT: This is going to be a huge, a huge moment, a huge test. Thank you both very much.

And next, billionaire businessman Tom Steyer is my guest. He has spent millions trying to impeach Donald Trump. Is he now about to officially run against him?

Plus, madam speaker, Nancy Pelosi, hours away from the gavel again. And you know, her story is a stunning one. And she has a revealing conversation coming up -- a conversation she had with her daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), INCOMING HOUSE SPEAKER: I went to her and said, your going to be a senior, mommy has a chance to run for Congress and I don't even know if I'll win.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: She said, get a life.

PELOSI: She said, get a life, and I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:42:22] BURNETT: Tonight, another billionaire taking on Trump. New signs that businessman Tom Steyer, who has already spent millions to impeach President Trump, is gearing up for a presidential run. The billionaire heading to three key early caucus and primary states, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire in just the next couple of weeks.

And Tom Steyer is OUTFRONT tonight.

And, Tom, look, at this point, all signs point to you running.

TOM STEYER, FOUNDER OF NEED TO IMPEACH CAMPAIGN: Well, Erin, I haven't made up my mind on that question. I'm obviously considering it. I think, in any case, the political conversation in the United States takes place disproportionately in the early primary states. So what I've done is try and put out the five rights that I believe Americans have in the 21st century and the logical place to push that out and discuss it with the people of the United States is in those early primary states, whether I run for president or not. BURNETT: When do you think you're going to make that decision, next

couple months here? Sooner?

STEYER: Well, I do think so, but let me say this. I'm thinking about it in terms of what I can bring that isn't already available. Unless I believe that my background and my beliefs and my priorities are different from the other people who are running, there's really no point in being one of a very large group of contestants, of candidates.

BURNETT: So, of a group running, right, you know, billionaire Michael Bloomberg among them and some of his issues overlap with yours, things like climate change. He is going to spend more than $100 million of his own money, according to CNBC, on his run for president in 2020.

Obviously, Tom, money's not an issue for you. How much would you be willing to spend?

STEYER: Erin, honestly, I don't know, and I've been working in grassroots politics full-time for the last six years and what I found in going into a campaign is you really never know how it's going to go or what it's going to cost basis because you get in and things change, circumstances change, opportunities open up and so as a result, what you really have to go in and ask yourself is, what am I trying to accomplish? What are the different ways that I can pursue that? And how deeply do I feel about it because that's what really counts is if you aren't in it all the way, then there's really no point in getting in at the beginning.

BURNETT: Right. So if you go in, you're going to spend what you need to spend is basically what you're saying, whatever that is. It's not like where you have an amount, not going above this line.

STEYER: Well, what I'm saying is slightly different than that.

BURNETT: Yes.

STEYER: What I'm saying is, I believe that Americans are desperate for a positive view of the future and that it is really important to try and put forward a new way of thinking about what the country stands for and what the relationship is between the government and the citizens and between citizens.

[19:45:20] And doing that is something that I consider to be of absolute critical importance for everybody to understand why we're Americans, what it means to be an American, and what we're trying to accomplish together.

BURNETT: So, you know, you're not alone in making this decision in the near future, right? Elizabeth Warren, the senator, has announced she's exploring a run. She's got a formal exploratory campaign now. On New Year's Eve, she drank a beer on Instagram live. I don't know if you saw it, tom, but I'll play a quick part of the video here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Hold on a sec. I'm going to get me a beer.

Hey. My husband, Bruce, is now in here.

You want a beer?

BRUCE MANN, HUSBAND OF SENATOR WARREN: I'll pass on the beer for now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: It is inauthentic in some ways. I don't think she says, I'm going to get me a beer in her normal way of speaking.

However, she's been criticized, right? People saying she's pandering, she's trying to get to younger voters. What do you think of that?

STEYER: Gosh, I have a ton of respect for senator warren. I'm not exactly sure of the thinking behind it. I imagine she's just trying to show who she is on a personal basis to as many people as possible and I can understand that.

But I think what people really need to see is a vision and a sense of who the person is on a character basis so that they can make up their mind. And I think that they're going -- people are going to try all kinds of things, Erin, for goodness sakes, it's going to be very hard to stand out so people are going to try all kind of things, and let's just see what happens.

BURNETT: So, one of your big issues, right, you've already spent millions of dollars on it. It is the impeachment issue, right? You've run the ads, you've done this.

Our latest poll, Tom, though shows 43 percent of people favor impeachment and why that is down -- it's down from 47 percent in the month of September. Does that discourage you? Are you surprised? It's certainly not moving in your direction.

STEYER: Well, actually, Erin, I do think it's moving in my direction, and I'll tell you why. I think that as a result of the election, the first time was September, and then you did one at the end of December. I think that people were focused on the election and rightfully so. We had a big win for the Democrats in November and we did a ton of work at a grassroots level to try and make sure that was true.

But I think that impeachment was off everybody's radar during that time and now I think it's going to be right back on, because I think we're going to get a Mueller report. We're going to get a whole lot of more information. The president, if you watch the last two weeks of the year, has been kind of melting down, and I think that people are going to realize, oh my goodness gracious, this man is corrupt, he's out of control, and he's incompetent and we need to get rid of him.

So, look, I understand that 43 is less than 47, but I think what's going to shape this is not one poll on one day but the events that happen over the next three to six months, and I think they're going to be overwhelmingly in my favor. BURNETT: Tom Steyer, thank you very much. Good to talk to you, sir.

STEYER: Erin, nice to talk to you.

BURNETT: And next, what drives the incoming house speaker, Nancy Pelosi?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: I do it for -- because I want women to see that you do not get pushed around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That revealing interview next.

Plus, President Trump apparently liked one of his own tweets so much that he has blown it up into a full-size poster.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:51:43] BURNETT: Tonight, Nancy Pelosi's daughter praising her mother's toughness in extremely blunt terms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDRA PELOSI, NANCY PELOSI'S DAUGHTER: She'll cut your head off and you won't even know you're bleeding. That's all you need to know about her. No one ever won betting against Nancy Pelosi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: This as Pelosi is expected to take the gavel tomorrow once again as speaker of the House.

Dana Bash is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: This is your hood?

PELOSI: Yes.

BASH (voice-over): To really know Nancy Pelosi, you go where it all started. Little Italy in Baltimore, where she was born to Congressman Tommy D'Alesandro and Anunciata D'Alesandro. When she was 6, her father became the first Catholic mayor.

PELOSI: We fought over the Irish that was a big deal. But it took political organizing to do that.

BASH: Much has been made of Pelosi's father influence on her. Less known is her mother's.

(on camera): Your mom actually patented the first device to apply steam to the face. PELOSI: Yes.

BASH: Basically an at-home facial.

PELOSI: That's right.

BASH: That's incredible!

PELOSI: It was incredible.

BASH (voice-over): Pelosi says her father and the times held her mother back in many ways, but Anunciata D'Alesandro was a quiet force in politics.

PELOSI: My mother was very much a part of the organizing. My father was the orator, the public servant.

BASH (on camera): And your mother got stuff done.

PELOSI: Well, my brother calls it her moccasin brigade. All of these women who would be part of getting the message out, being at events.

BASH (voice-over): The D'Alesandro home was at the center of this Italian community. A vivid childhood memory helping new immigrants who knew where her father, the mayor, and his family lived and would regularly knock on their door asking for help.

PELOSI: Since I was a little girl, I knew how to tell somebody to get to build city hospital, how to get housing in the projects, because I heard my mother say it so many times.

BASH: After college, she wanted to go to law school. Instead, like many in her generation, she got married and started a family.

PELOSI: When I got married and I had a baby and another baby, five and six years.

BASH: The Pelosis moved back to husband, Paul's hometown, San Francisco. She became more and more active in the Democratic Party. But it wasn't until her youngest daughter was a senior in high school that she ran for an open House seat.

PELOSI: I went to her and said, you're going to be a senior, mommy has a chance to run for Congress, I don't even know if I'll win.

BASH (on camera): She said, get a life?

PELOSI: She said, get a life. And I did.

BASH (voice-over): When she first ran for House leadership 18 years ago, her male Democratic colleagues didn't get it.

PELOSI: When people said, oh, a lot of the women are supporting Nancy to run, and they said, well, why? Do the women have a list of things they want us to do? Why don't they just make us a list and give us a list. This is the Democratic Party in the year 2000. BASH (on camera): How do you think that you yield your power as a

woman differently than a man does?

PELOSI: Other people tell me after a meeting or something, they say, do you understand how different that meeting would have been if a man were conducting it?

BASH: Do they explain how?

PELOSI: Well, you listen, you build consensus.

BASH (voice-over): That's exactly what she did to get what she hopes will be enough votes for speaker again, made compromises with Democratic doubters looking for someone new, not her.

[19:55:06] PELOSI: None of us is indispensable, but some of us are just better at our jobs than others. And I have a following in the country. Apart from anybody that has run for president.

BASH (on camera): For most women, frankly, you know, myself included, it is hard to say those words, I am uniquely qualified, I deserve this, I earned this, I can do this better than anyone else. But you can say that?

PELOSI: You know what I do it, Dana, I do it because I want women to see that you do not get pushed around. And you don't run away from the fight.

BASH (voice-over): Dana Bash, CNN, Baltimore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: An incredible tale by Dana.

And next, Jeanne Moos takes on President Trump's new "Game of Thrones"-inspired poster. Did taxpayers pay for that? Anyway, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: And next, the poster of Trump's tweet. Here's Jeanne.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everybody.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just your typical cabinet meeting with president Trump in the throne position and a poster mimicking "Game of Thrones" in front of him. "Sanctions are coming," it said, playing off the "Game of Thrones" mantra.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winter is coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And winter is coming!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Winter is coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mm-hmm.

MOOS: Hmm is pretty much what reporters said about the poster. We do know that President Trump tweeted out this exact same image back when he was about to reimpose sanctions on Iran after the U.S. pulled out of what the president calls that --

TRUMP: Stupid deal.

MOOS: But what's the deal with the poster? Critics re-imaged it. Mueller is coming. Or a back view with "indictments are coming."

Someone safely bet that "tantrums are coming."

The president made to reference to the poster while cameras were rolling.

TRUMP: And walls work.

MOOS: He talked about walls working in front of a poster echoing a show in which a wall didn't work.

In "Game of Thrones," a dragon breaches the wall. HBO did some crowing of its own. Referring us to what they said the last time the president used the image, with a nod to the show's made-up language, HBO tweeted "how do you say trademark misuse in Dothraki?"

Imagine President Trump delivering his rally speeches from that. Next thing you know, he'll be trading in Air Force One for dragon one.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: I'm going to ask again, who's paying for those posters? Small tab, but, still, right?

Thanks so much for joining us.

Anderson starts now.