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Bolton Comments on Syria; Jong-un Meets with China President; Tax Refunds Will Go Out; Federal Workers Without Pay; Parts of Steele Dossier Proven True; Carbon Emissions Spiked in 2018. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 8, 2019 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Separatist organization. We also heard from the presidential adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, who met with Bolton while he was here in Turkey, and they were supposed to be holding a joint press conference. That didn't happen apparently because Bolton had to rush off back to Washington due to Trump's remarks happening later on today.

But then, of course, there's this whole issue of the potential for a Bolton-Erdogan meeting which did not take place and cause quite a stir. Now, the Turks are saying that it was never officially on the books, that it had been requested but it was never confirmed. But, of course, this is being viewed as a snub, especially following Erdogan's reaction to Bolton's comments. And this really is perhaps indicative of the way that this current U.S. administration attempts the do business, sending out mixed messages. Mixed messages coming out from within the administration. Mixed messages going to his various different allies, all leaving behind a very convoluted situation to say the least.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, contradictory messages.

Arwa Damon, thanks very much.

Just as the White House is making plans for a possible second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader is in China for talks with that nation's president, its close ally. The surprise three-day trip comes amid concern that the peace process on the Korean peninsula has stalled. And, just a reminder, no irreversible steps towards denuclearization by North Korea since the last summit.

CNN's Matt Rivers joins me now live.

Matt, is Un's meeting with Xi Jinping meant to be a run-up to this planned second meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Trump, check in, in effect, with China before he meets with the American president?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, I don't think there's any other way to see it, frankly, just the timing of it, and also the precedent that was set back in 2018. You'll remember that Kim Jong-un visited China three times in 2018 alone. Two of those trips were actually just before that summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June of that year. There was another trip, a third trip, that happened just one week after the summit concluded. But basically what precedent telling us is that when Kim Jong-un comes to China, it has something to do with the United States. And we know that plans are in place for -- or plans are trying to be worked on, to be put in place, for a second summit.

So, we haven't heard anything specifically from the North Koreans or the Chinese yet. It is Kim Jong-un's birthday actually today. We think that he's at a birthday party at the Great Hall of the People right now, which is why we haven't seen any pictures. But we do expect those two men to really be lining up their strategic interests ahead of any possible summit. And it's a good reminder that China will have strategic interests and strategic influence over North Korea and this process.

And if you needed another confirmation that we think this summit at least is being planned for on both sides, the fact that Kim Jong-un is coming here. That shows he probably thinks a summit will happen. And then you've got the United States. CNN is reporting that the United States has already scouted locations for a possible summit in places like Vietnam, Thailand and even Hawaii. That's not a complete list. It could change. But clearly what it seems like between this visit here and the scouting locations, it does seem like a summit is in the works.

SCIUTTO: Yes, lots of summits, no denuclearization, that's key.

Matt Rivers, thanks very much.


SCIUTTO: Less than three weeks till the start of the tax filing season. Oh, my God, here it comes again. The White House vowing that refunds will still be paid despite the shutdown.


[09:37:42] SCIUTTO: You can still expect to get your tax refund on time, even if the government shutdown drags on. To be clear, we're talking about tax refunds for tax year 2018, if you're smart enough to get them in already. The White House reversing a longstanding policy that refund checks go unpaid during shutdowns. The IRS says it plans to recall a significant portion of its furloughed employees as the tax season approaches.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more from the White House.

I suppose this is another one of those cases where the -- where the White House, the president realizing, this is another reason the shutdown's unpopular because folks who got their taxes in on time wouldn't get paid otherwise.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Jim. This is all about the White House's strategy to try and mitigate those effects of the government shutdown. The Trump administration now reversing a longstanding policy that prevented those tax refunds from going out during a government shutdown. Now, lawyers in the Office of Management and Budget have now ruled that those tax refunds can go out despite this lapse in funding.

And, interestingly enough, they're actually relying on a 2011 Obama era IRS memo that argued that those tax refunds could go out even during a shutdown. But at the time, in 2011, lawyers in the OMB during the Obama White House, they argued against that, and they said that those tax refunds could not go out. So now we're seeing that policy being reversed.

And it is really a directive from the president to try and mitigate those effects of the shutdown as much as possible. Now, because of this ruling, million millions of Americans will soon begin filing their tax returns, will be able to get those tax refunds. But it also means that IRS employees who have been sent home, 90 percent of that workforce has actually been furloughed, they will have to come back into work, many of them, a significant portion according to the IRS, will have to come back to process those refunds.

But, of course, Jim, those employees will not be getting paid.


SCIUTTO: No fun to work without pay.

Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much.

Employees at federal prisons across the country are feeling the pinch of the government shutdown. In the city of Aliceville, Alabama, a correctional facility for women is the driving force of the local economy, but this week prison workers are facing the reality of missing their first paycheck since the shutdown started.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is following this story.

[09:40:01] And, Vanessa, I spoke to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who made the point that a lot of his constituents, you know, they live paycheck to paycheck. So missing one paycheck is a big deal.

What are you finding on the ground there?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, these federal employees, many of them do live paycheck to paycheck and it really does mean a lot when they do miss those checks.

Today, they are looking at Washington, waiting to see what happens, whether or not those papers are going to get processed so they can get paid. And why that means a lot for here in Aliceville is because the town relies on these federal employees in order to stay afloat. They make double what the median income is for this town, which is just about under $20,000. So if they aren't getting paid, the town's not doing well.

Now, we met up with three of them at a local business here in town, and they were adamant that they needed Washington to do their jobs, stop using them as political pawns, and we asked them about the stress and how it was affecting their life at work.


HEATHER BRYAN, PRISON EMPLOYEE: The tensions are high. And it's already a high, intense job, to be alert. But when you add this into the mix, and inmates know it, it makes it more stressful.

ANGIE ACKIN, PRISON EMPLOYEE: And they're still getting paid. So they're getting a paycheck and they will tease and say that, you know, I got paid this month, did you get paid? You know, it's just little things that they will do just to get under your skin. And like she was saying, with it already being an intense situation, if you don't know what the staff member is going through, that could make things worse. So it could make it a more dangerous place.


YUCKEVICH: And when we got the three of them together, we realized really quickly that they don't talk about politics. They are very concerned, especially right now, just about getting their paycheck. It's not about red, it's not about blue for them, it's about green, and that means money. And when they step behind these walls here at the federal prison into a stressful situation, Jim, they are definitely unified.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I hear you. It's a tough situation for so many.

Vanessa Yuckevich, thanks for following this story.

The Steele dossier, over and over again, President Trump has called it fake news, but two years since the dossier came into the public eye, much of it, many of the allegations, have, in fact, been corroborated. A closer look at some of the dossier's now proven allegations of Russian meddling, and also contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. That's right after this.


[09:46:58] SCIUTTO: Two years ago, can you believe it, James Comey, then the director of the FBI, briefed President-elect Trump on some of the details from the now infamous Steele dossier. The 35 pages of raw intelligence leads alleged a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals, including Russian nationals tied to Russian intelligence. President Trump has aggressively denied all the findings in the dossier, but Special Counsel Mueller's team, as well as committees on The Hill, have shown that several of the allegations in the dossier are in fact true.


SCIUTTO (voice over): After endless debate in Washington and countless denials and dismissals by President Trump --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fraud of the fake dossier, and the phony dossier. SCIUTTO: Parts of the now infamous dossier on Trump have proven to be

true. The dossier began as opposition research on Trump, first funded by his Republican opponents, and then Hillary Clinton's campaign. It was then that retired British Intelligence Officer Christopher Steele began to take part, later compiling a series of raw intelligence leads which form the 35-page document.

The dossier included salacious and unverified claims about Trump, as well as broader allegations of a potential conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and Russian nationals tied to the Kremlin and Russian intelligence, which Trump has repeatedly denied.

TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia.

SCIUTTO: However, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russian investigation, as well as probes by committees on Capitol Hill, have, in fact, corroborated some aspects of the dossier.

Take the claim that Russians tried to develop a closer relationship with Trump by offering him fruitful real estate business deals.

TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, OK?

SCIUTTO: During the campaign, Trump repeatedly and emphatically denied that he had any deals in or involving Russia.

TRUMP: Zero. I mean I will tell you right now, zero.

I have nothing to do with Russia. Zero. Zero.

SCIUTTO: Despite denying it for months, Trump's one-time fixer and personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testified in December that he and Trump were in fact negotiating a potential deal with a Russian company that would bring a Trump Tower to Moscow, with efforts continuing as late as the summer of 2016 as Trump was clinching the Republican nomination for president.

With his earlier denials proven false, Trump now brushes the project aside.

TRUMP: I decided ultimately not to do it. There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it.

SCIUTTO: Claiming the deal was well publicized at the time, though it was not, and suggesting that the negotiations were merely part of his obligation to run the Trump Organization.

TRUMP: This deal was a very public deal. Everybody knows about this deal. I wasn't trying to hide anything.

When I run for president, that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to do business. I was doing a lot of different things when I was running.

SCIUTTO: Despite Trump's claim of little to no contact with Russia prior to his election victory and inauguration, we have learned that, in fact, at least 16 Trump associates had contacts with Russians, either during the election campaign or the presidential transition. One such interaction took place in June 2016 at Trump Tower in New York, when Donald Trump Junior, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort all met with several Russians who were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

[09:50:13] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Today, President Obama sending a message to Russia, essentially, we're coming for you.

SCIUTTO: A further allegation in the dossier relates to U.S. sanctions on Russians imposed by the Obama administration. The dossier includes the allegation that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page met with the president of a Russian state-run oil company and discussed lifting the sanctions. In 2017, Page testified before the House Intelligence Committee that he did visit Russia in 2016 and met a different senior official of the oil company and that the campaign was fully aware of the trip. However, Page claims that he visited Russia as a private citizen and that his meeting was not specifically about sanctions, though the topic was discussed during this visit.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: A few people might have brought it up in passing. But, you know, again, it's a major economic issue. And so, you know, there may have been a loose conversation.

SCIUTTO: A still unresolved allegation and a potentially explosive one, if proven true, the dossier also claims that Michael Cohen travelled to Prague in the summer of 2016 to coordinate with Russian officials on covering up Russia's interference in the election. Cohen has consistently publically denied any such trip. And all the while the president has stood firm insisting --

TRUMP: There's been no collusion. After two years, no collusion.

SCIUTTO: Some of the dossier's other allegations remain uncorroborated, including the allegations that the Russian government has damaging, highly salacious material on President Trump, which the Kremlin could use as compromising material, kompromat in Russian.

TRUMP: And I have to say, if they had it, it would have been out long ago.

SCIUTTO: Throughout, President Trump has had one very public companion in his denials, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I'd like to add something to this. After all, I was an intelligence officer myself and I do know how dossiers are made up.

SCIUTTO: Putin did admit that another allegation in the dossier is true, that he preferred Trump to win the election over Hillary Clinton.

PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S./Russian relationships back to normal.


SCIUTTO: One more note. Soon after CNN reported the briefing of the dossier to Trump, we reported that U.S. intelligence had, in fact, corroborated multiple communications and contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians during the campaign. At the time, not only did the White House deny it but the White House enlisted Republican lawmakers on The Hill, senators, House members, to call around to other news organizations to say that our story was wrong. Of course, that denial, both from the White House and The Hill later proven false, as well.

Tonight, President Trump will do something that he has never done since taking office, as he tries to convince the American people to back his border wall plan. Stay with CNN for the very latest.


[09:57:05] SCIUTTO: So pay attention now. This matters to you. It matters to your children. A stunning report this morning, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are surging over the past year. According to researchers, carbon emissions jumped 3.4 percent last year despite a record number of coal plants closing around the U.S.

CNN's Jason Carroll has been following the story.

Jason, you look at this research. What is driving up these numbers? Can you see?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, it's a couple of things. First of all, the U.S. is seeing a strong economy. And, as a result, we're seeing more emissions from the manufacturing industry, factories and transportation. And the reality is there simply are not as many policies in place to police those industries. This administration has made it clear at times they are not on board when it comes to some of the science behind climate change. And critics say this new report should be a wakeup call.

The report from the Rhodium Group estimates carbon emissions increased, as you say, by 3.4 percent last year. That's the biggest increase in eight years. The report also shows how fossil fuel emissions from industries, such as power, transportation and building had been decreasing in the United States in previous years but now increasing. The group also estimates that the industrial sector is on track to become a major source of emissions, for example, in California, by 2020. That's followed by transportation. That will be the biggest source of emissions in Texas by 2022.

Again, the Trump administration wants to roll back a number of environmental protections saying some of those protections hurt industry, hurt the economy. This new research shows that these increases highlight what some say is a lack of strategy in the administration's emissions efforts.

A number of the president's critics say this is just another example of why the United States should not have pulled out of the Paris climate change agreement. The goal obviously of that agreement is to strengthen the global response to climate change and create a network of international bodies dedicated to lowering emissions.

It's really a troubling report to say the least.

SCIUTTO: So there's an economic factor here, a stronger economy.

CARROLL: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: But those jumps are very sharp and the economy had been growing before. We know the Trump administration has already relaxed a whole host of emissions and other standards. Can the research establish that those changes are part of the cause of this?

CARROLL: Researchers are drawing a link between the two. And I think what's going to happen after this is, you're going to have environmentalists on one side of this. You're going to have those in the industry on other sides -- on the other side saying, look, if you want a booming economy, this is what you've got to do. You've got to relax some of these -- some of these policies that were in place there.

What they're going to have to do is they're going to have to find some sort of middle ground because the science of what's happening here is clear.

SCIUTTO: It is. We're going to live the effects, inhabitants of planet earth.

Jason Carroll, thanks very much, as always.

CARROLL: You bet.

[10:00:00] SCIUTTO: Good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

In the lead-up to the president's very first primetime Oval Office address to the nation.