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Big Papers Run Damning Pieces on Trump's Russia Activities; WAPO: Trump Concealed Details of Meetings With Putin; Longest Government Shutdown in U.S. History in 23rd Day; White House Preparing for Shutdown to Extend Into February; Trump Invokes Other Countries' Fences in Border Fight. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 13, 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] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with us on this very busy Sunday evening.
The headline today, the most alarming news on our country's leadership involves Russia and the President.
But before that, a reminder, 22 full days and counting. That is how long the U.S. government has been partially shut down and the people who staff it not getting their pay. It's a political stalemate, a partisan fight over money and a border wall, and there is no end to it in sight. Again, today is now Day 23.
In just a few minutes, you'll see how some federal employees are trying to keep their heads up, but there is a very pressing matter to go over first. It is President Trump.
He is in the White House all day yesterday and today, watching T.V., tapping out tweets, while two separate major newspaper reports call into serious question how he's conducting himself with regards to Russia, America's adversary.
One of them, "The Washington Post," throwing light on the extremes President Trump has allegedly gone to to hide details of his conversations with Russia's Vladimir Putin -- swearing interpreters to secrecy and, on at least one occasion, confiscating written notes after a private meeting with the Russian leader according to U.S. officials cited by the paper.
Another report from "The New York Times." That claims the FBI opened an investigation into whether President Trump was knowingly working with the Russians to damage this country from the inside.
An FBI probe, counterintelligence agents, investigating the President. Unheard of! In all of American history! It was enough to prompt a host on Fox News to ask President Trump, point blank, if he was or was not a Russian agent. Here's the exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia, Mr. President?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's the most insulting thing I've ever been asked. I think it's the most insulting article I've ever had written. And if you read the article, you'd see that they found absolutely nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: It really is a yes or no question. And he went on for nearly two minutes, curiously, without saying that he, definitely, is not an agent of the Russian government.
Senior members of the U.S. Senate very concerned. Watch CNN's Jake Tapper ask the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee if he believes President Donald Trump is working to help the Kremlin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think President Trump is, wittingly or unwittingly, an agent of the Russians?
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Jake, I think the earlier evidence this week, where the President's campaign manager -- and we're unaware of whether the President knew, where the President's campaign manager, at whose direction, turned over confidential polling data to a known Russian agent.
A known Russian agent who has ties to Putin and Deripaska. Why would you turn over that information? And what's curious, Jake, is that it would be that kind of information that would inform the Russians later in the campaign when they launched their social media efforts or they created these fake identities.
And as we've seen with, you know, clear-cut proof, a lot of those efforts were aimed at suppressing African-American vote. Did they use that polling data to guide the Russian social media efforts to suppress African-American vote? We don't know the answer to that yet.
WARNER: I would hope that Mueller has gotten more indication, but it is a very real question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Boris Sanchez live now at the White House for us.
Boris, that's a senior senator saying it's a very real question whether or not President Trump is knowingly working to help the Russians. How is that and other reactions hitting the White House? A very snowy White House right now.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. No reaction yet specifically to what lawmakers have said about these two stories. You heard President Trump's response on Fox News to reporting in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," both bombshell reports dropping on the White House this weekend.
The President did tweet a little bit about "The New York Times" report. Not really addressing any of the specific accusations or the details of that report, really just blasting James Comey and peddling deep state conspiracies about Robert Mueller.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders put out two statements about both of these reports. They're very, very similar. Not only does she dismiss these reports, but she suggests in both of them, with very similar language, that President Trump has been tougher on Russia than President Obama was.
Ana, you know this well. We have all seen the photograph of President Trump publicly pressing Vladimir Putin on the issue of Russian election meddling, something that President Trump has never done.
Further, we don't know if President Trump has done it privately either. And that's the gist of this "Washington Post" report, saying that U.S. officials don't know the content of conversations between President Trump and the Russian president.
[19:04:57] President Trump has been active on Twitter today. He has tweeted about the American presence of troops overseas. He's also tweeted about the snowy White House and, of course, the government shutdown as we're now entering the fourth week of the shutdown.
The President, at one point, tweeted, quote, I'm in the White House waiting. The Democrats are everywhere but Washington as people await their pay. They are having fun and not even talking.
We should point out, many Republicans also left Washington for their home districts this weekend. But it is clear, at this point, neither side is actually talking, moving forward with discussions on how to reopen the federal government, Ana.
CABRERA: Boris, something that's just in to CNN as well is looking at how things are being run around the Oval Office and one particular interaction between the President and his new Acting Chief of Staff. What are you hearing?
SANCHEZ: Yes. This is a bit of an eyebrow-raising statement the President apparently made to his new Acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney.
According to a source I just spoke with a few moments ago, they tell me that during a situation room meeting with congressional leadership including Democrats and Republicans, toward the end of that meeting, Mick Mulvaney started talking about the offer that Democrats had made to reopen the federal government, that $1.3 billion figure, that there was an agreement between Republicans and Democrats until the President changed his mind.
And the President, mid-sentence, cut off Mulvaney, saying, quote, stop, stop, just stop. What are you doing? You are effing it all up, Mick. That's according to an official who was in the room for the
negotiations. And according to the source, there was shockingly no reaction at all from anyone in the room.
According to my source, several Democrats had also been ribbing at Mulvaney during these negotiations. So, clearly, a very difficult jumping off point for the new Acting Chief of Staff to not only get it from the President but also from Democrats, Ana.
CABRERA: Boris Sanchez in a very stormy Washington tonight. Thank you.
CABRERA: With us now, CNN presidential historians Douglas Brinkley and Tim Naftali.
Doug, there's this quote from "The Washington Post," no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump's face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Just how unprecedented is that?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, certainly, since the end of World War II, it's unprecedented.
FDR met with Stalin -- Joseph Stalin at Yalta and there weren't great notes kept on that, and it created a lot of confusion in the early Cold War years because nobody knows what was said. But since that point of time, we've always had other people in the room. And FDR had people in the room to say what they thought occurred. Now, we're in this place.
You know, it's absolutely stunning that Donald Trump made a fool of himself in Helsinki. That we know that they're -- he's under investigation for collusion with Russia. Now, he has five meetings with Putin, and he's trying to silence the translator, destroy notes of what may or may not have been said.
So this is a president that's creating a global image of himself, if not an agent of Russia, of some kind of patsy or somebody that's being blackmailed by the Kremlin. And it's an unfortunate and embarrassing situation we have going right now. And deeply dangerous and disturbing, this Putin/Trump relationship, to my mind.
CABRERA: Tim, Trump allies say the President likes these intimate meetings to try to establish a rapport and he was also worried about leaks, perhaps explaining why he didn't want the interaction to get out there, why he confiscated the notes, which we know leaks were a problem at the beginning of this administration. Is that a fair point?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Since the middle of 2016 when then-candidate Donald Trump seemed to encourage the Russians to access Hillary Clinton's e-mails, the missing e-mails, he's had a credibility problem among people who study security matters and people who are responsible for U.S. counterespionage and counterintelligence. You would think that someone who understood this credibility problem
would take special care not to give people reason to doubt these interactions with Putin.
What is so striking about this information, the reporting of "The Washington Post," is that it seems that not only is Donald Trump not concerned that his government be fully informed on what he's saying to Putin, he's actively attempting to prevent his closest associates from knowing what he's saying to Putin privately.
Yes, there have been some meetings, private meetings, between presidents and Soviet leaders. Richard Nixon, for example, had a 15- minute meeting alone with Brezhnev and Brezhnev's interpreter -- and he, by the way, taped it -- but no one at that point was thinking that Richard Nixon was going to give the store away to Moscow.
But Donald Trump is in a different situation. There are many legitimate questions about Donald Trump's interests when he talks to the Russians. And for him, in that environment, to be so secretive is worrying, troubling, and a little suspicious.
[9:10:04] CABRERA: Now, the President and the White House have continued to sort of brush this off and try to hammer home this message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If you ask the folks in Russia, I've been tougher on Russia than anybody else, any other -- probably any other president, period. But certainly, the last three or four presidents, modern-day presidents, nobody has been as tough as I have. From any standpoint.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Doug, is that accurate? Put that into context for us.
BRINKLEY: No, it's wildly inaccurate. He's the best friend that Russia has had, and I'm talking about even, you know, for decades.
Look at what's happened in the last couple of years since Trump has been president. It's a gift to Putin -- the United States now pulling out of Syria, the undermining of our NATO alliance, the pulling out of the climate accord and making Russia look good on the issue of climate and the United States not in the game at all, the Trans-Pacific Trade deal which Putin didn't want to see go through blown up by Donald Trump.
Trump seems to have an agenda right in line with Putin, and it perplexes people. It's why we constantly think there is something amiss here. That, you know, there is too much Russia going on and not enough Americanism. And so I'm deeply concerned that these stories that have just come out are only adding to this narrative that Donald Trump seems to be beholden to Putin.
We don't know whether it's because of financial dealings in the 1980s or about collusion in the 2016 election or whether there's some secret tape they have, but you get the feeling that Trump is being blackmailed by Russia. And that has to be a deep concern to anybody that cares about this -- the future of our country and national security.
CABRERA: There are ongoing investigations. Hopefully, we'll get to that the bottom of that. We don't have the conclusions just yet.
Gentlemen, much more discuss. Doug Brinkley, Tim Naftali, please stay with me.
A new CNN poll revealing who Americans blame for the longest government shutdown in history.
Plus, remember that GoFundMe collecting money to pay for Trump's border wall? Well, it reached more than $20 million. We'll tell you what's going to happen to that money now.
And a huge winter storm gripping the eastern U.S. You saw it in Boris Sanchez's live shot. Well, we have this wild moment in St. Louis, how a regular pickup truck helped get this huge semi out of trouble. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:16:39] CABRERA: This just in to CNN. The government shutdown causing major problems at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the larger of the two commercial airports there.
It has Terminal B security checkpoint and the ticketing counter now closed due to the shutdown and staffing issues. Travelers flying out of Houston Intercontinental should arrive early and give themselves extra, extra time to get through security.
So we are now into Day 23 of this shutdown. There is still no end in sight. In fact, a White House official confirms the administration is preparing for this to potentially last until February, and we're not even halfway through January.
Tim Naftali and Doug Brinkley are back with me now.
Tim, the longest shutdown in U.S. history is where we're at, two days past what was the previous longest shutdown. What does this say about the health of America's democracy?
NAFTALI: Well, what it says, at the moment, is that there isn't a Republican leader in Congress who is willing to do what Bob Dole did in 1996. And Bob -- in 1996, in January of 1996, Bob Dole said, you know what, enough is enough, it's time to get back to business. And he basically put pressure on Newt Gingrich, who's then the Speaker of the House, to do a deal with Bill Clinton.
Unless Mitch McConnell is saying things behind the scenes that we're not hearing, obviously, it's not clear that the congressional senators, the GOP senators, are putting any pressure at all on President Trump. And that's what's going to be necessary for the President to make the move at this point, I think. CABRERA: I wonder if this new CNN polling might make a difference
because it finds a majority of Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown. I mean, look at that, 55 percent compared to 32 percent who blame the Democrats. Doug, any surprises there?
BRINKLEY: No. And, Ana, it's only going to get worse. This is Trump's shutdown. History is going to know it as Trump's shutdown. The polling indicates it. He has himself painted in in a corner.
Senator Mark Warner, earlier today on CNN, was saying this is a classic example of how not to do a negotiation. It will be studied in business schools for decades to come. Donald Trump has painted himself in a corner. He's boxed himself in. He has no real good smart way out.
He underestimated the opposition, meaning the Democrats, after the blue wave that put Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. And so I think the next big chess move -- this may go on for a while, but January 29th is the State of the Union address.
Does Donald Trump want to address a government that's got this partial shutdown in his State of the Union, or is he going to use that televised opportunity to perhaps push forward the emergency funding of the wall and open up the government and try to turn the polling around? Because States of the Union usually give presidents a bounce in the polls by a couple of points.
CABRERA: Well, his approval rating has actually gone up five points -- his disapproval, I should say, has gone up five points now to 57 percent. His approval rating is relatively flat at 37 percent.
Tim, you probably know that's the same as Ronald Reagan's at this exact same point in his presidency, and Reagan was a beloved president.
NAFTALI: Yes, but Ronald Reagan had a functioning government. Ronald Reagan didn't leave most of the executive branch empty as this president has done.
[19:20:05] And this president has really staked a lot of his presidency on this one game of chicken. I think one of his assumptions -- I think one of President Trump's assumptions is that the public won't notice that there's not a federal government. That the public doesn't really understand the civilian side of the U.S. government. The public understands the military.
He's defunded the civilian side. There are 800,000 Americans who are not getting paychecks. There are a number of Americans, TSA, for example -- next week, the Coast Guard -- that are actually working for nothing.
I don't think Donald Trump understands that, A, those people are not only are not voters, but they have families, they have friends, they have communities that care about them.
And at a certain point, there are going to be costs that ordinary -- that those of us who are ordinary Americans are going to start to feel. And they're going to start to understand that this matters, that the civilian side of our federal government matters.
I don't think Donald Trump understands that. And I don't think he realizes that the longer this goes on, the more people that are hurt, real people hurt by it, and they are going to ask for action.
CABRERA: All right. Gentlemen, good to have both of you with us. Your wealth of knowledge is appreciated. Thank you, Tim Naftali and Doug Brinkley.
BRINKLEY: Thank you.
NAFTALI: Thank you.
CABRERA: In the President's quest to build a border wall here in the U.S., he's often cited other nations, like Israel, that have built border walls to curb illegal immigration. But did those walls actually work?
CNN's Tom Foreman has a look at how they fared and whether they impacted those countries' bottom line.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump has cited a conversation with the leader of Israel about a barrier that country put up and how well it worked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Israel put up a wall, 99.9 percent successful according to Bibi Netanyahu. Ninety-nine point nine. I said, do you mind if I use that number? He said -- you know, because they'll fact-check it and then they'll say, oh, it was actually only 99 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: The President seems to be talking about Israel's fence along its border with Egypt. It's 150 miles long and was erected in response to a great wave of immigrants from Africa about 10 years ago.
The results? Well, a Harvard researcher, citing numbers from the Israeli government, says that in 2011, 17,000 African immigrants entered Israel illegally. But in 2013, after the wall was done, the number was only 43.
Still, that researcher points out that the terrain there is wide-open desert, which is easily watched, and Israel also passed deterrent laws. For example, making it harder for immigrants to be employed and to send money to their families back home.
But there are other examples we can talk about, as well, too. For example, Spain and Morocco. Spain has a fence to stop people in Morocco from entering two small Spanish enclaves there in Africa and seeking asylum.
There are two layers. It's patrolled. It is equipped with anti- climbing mesh. And it, too, has had an impact. Twenty-one hundred immigrants came across that way in 2014 into that area. The fence went up and by 2015, approximately a hundred came across.
And Hungary has also erected some very imposing razor wire and electrified fences in response to large numbers of immigrants seeking new homes in Europe. And, again, it seems to be working.
Still, does this tell us that this would work on the U.S./Mexico border? Well, if you look at what some people say there as they look at the tunnels that have been dug under existing portions of wall, places where people have cut through the wall, places where people have found ways around it, they say, look, this is 10 times as long as the Israeli wall. It goes over very different terrain.
And to keep it secure, even if you could put a wall all the way along it or a fence, you're going to have a lot of electronic surveillance, a lot more monitoring, a lot more patrolling. In short, a lot of things which many Democrats say are already in place, are working, and which they are prepared to fund.
CABRERA: Thank you, Tom Foreman. People who donated to a GoFundMe campaign to fund President Trump's border wall could soon get their money back.
Brian Kolfage is a triple amputee veteran who hoped to provide $1 billion for the wall. He asked every Trump voter to donate $80, and he promised to give their money back if he didn't reach his goal.
Well, as of Friday, he had a little over $20 million. It's a good amount, but a GoFundMe spokesman says that money will be refunded since the campaign was meant to be all or nothing.
Kolfage now says he is creating a nonprofit to have a private team build a wall.
Democrat Tulsi Gabbard facing controversy just one day after announcing a run for president. Surfacing now, some old remarks slamming the LGBTQ community and supporters of same-sex marriage. That story is next in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:25:04] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Democrat Tulsi Gabbard running for president of the United States. The Hawaii congresswoman, an Iraq war veteran, making it official this weekend.
She's 37 years old. She's the first Hindu and American-Samoan member of Congress, and she has been a political force for years. In fact, at age 21, Gabbard became the youngest person elected to Hawaii State Legislature.
And that's where she publicly opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions. In 2012, Gabbard renounced those views, saying she had changed her mind after serving in the Iraq war. Now, she is taking heat over some of her past comments that she made on same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ community. [19:30:07]
I want to bring in CNN's KFILE senior editor Andrew Kaczynski with new reporting on Gabbard.
So what exactly did she say previously that was so anti-gay?
ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: So she actually has a pretty rich history in the early 2000s of anti-gay comments. Now in 2000, when she first ran for the state legislature, which you referenced coming in, she sort of -- she touted her work for her father's organization, a group called the alliance for traditional marriage. And that was work to pass an amendment to the Hawaii state constitution via ballot measure, which made it so they could ban same- sex marriage in the state. Now, this group that her father ran is very anti-gay. Refers to homosexuality as an unhealthy, abnormal behavior that should not be promoted or accepted.
But in terms of Gabbard's own rhetoric, there is a lot of stuff there, too. In 2000 she blasted homo sexual activists, those are her words, that were attacking her mother when she ran for office. And as we referenced, in 2004, she -- this is testimony against a civil unions bill. She said, as Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists. So there is a long history there. Very much limited to the early 2000s. But there are a lot of comments.
CABRERA: And as we mentioned, also setting up this story, she has said, since she served in the military, that her views changed. And any evidence in her record that that's the case?
KACZYNSKI: So when she ran for Congress in 2012, she apologized to LGBT activists in the state of Hawaii. And in Congress since she got elected and started serving in 2013, she's actually had a record that has been -- she's backed most LGBT legislation. And she's been very supportive of gay rights.
CABRERA: Any comment since this new reporting came out?
KACZYNSKI: So when we reached out for comment, her campaign, they pointed us to her 2012 apology. She pointed us to a record, but they have not yet provided a comment for other story.
CABRERA: All right. Andrew Kaczynski, thank you so much.
Important that we bring all of it to light. Let you decide. You can read Andrew's full report on Tulsi Gabbard's Past Views on same-sex marriage at CNN.com.
Coming up, the man who appointed Robert Mueller and has been protecting the special counsel heading for the exits. What this means for the Russia investigation, next.
[19:37:45] CABRERA: The man who hired Robert Mueller to investigate Russian election interference is apparently on his way out. CNN has learned that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein intends to leave his job once a new attorney general is confirmed.
CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, takes a look back at Rosenstein's career and his stormy relationship with the President.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): If the President is your boss, this is not what you want to hear when he is asked if he'll fire you.
TRUMP: You figure that one out.
BORGER: Rod Rosenstein, the man who hired special counsel, Robert Mueller, has lived life on the edge as deputy attorney general, with multiple near-death experiences as a frustrated President lashed out at the Russia investigation.
TRUMP: The entire thing has been a witch hunt, and there is no collusion.
BORGER: Oddly enough, Rosenstein started out as a teacher's pet.
TRUMP: His is highly respected. Very good guy. Very smart guy. The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him.
BORGER: Rosenstein's stock rose even higher when after just two weeks on the job, he wrote a now infamous memo at the request of the President, lambasting James Comey for mishandling the Clinton email investigation.
SANDY WHITE, ROSENSTEIN FRIEND AND FORMER COLLEAGUE: If the President asks you to look at this and give me your thoughts, you can't say no.
BORGER: So he writes the memo.
WHITE: He writes the memo.
BORGER: And then?
WHITE: All hell breaks loose.
BORGER: The President loved it, almost as much as he hated Comey. So much, in fact, that he received it, released it, and fired Comey all on the same day.
Do you think he knew that it was going to be used by the President as the rationale, publicly, for firing James Comey?
WHITE: Well, I think he had to know it was going to be used in some degree. I don't think that he realized that the President was going to put greyhound bus tracks on his back with that memo. I don't think that he realized it was going to be used in that way.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: My memo, truthfully reflects my views. I'm not in a position to comment on anybody else. So from my perspective, senator, that memo is about what it's about. I do not know what was in anybody else's mind.
[19:40:05] BORGER: But in Comey world, Rosenstein is seen as a Trump collaborator, not an independent actor. So what's the motive?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think the motive is to keep his job.
WHITE: What's Rosenstein's rep now?
CAMPBELL: There's conflict there. He is someone people are suspicious of. But in these interesting times, people are looking at him thinking he might be the last best hope that we have to ensure that Bob Mueller is allowed to do his job, which is a strange place to be in.
BORGER: Rosenstein is 53, married, with two teenage daughters.
WHITE: He's a dad. You know, his world has changed a lot because of this.
ROSENSTEIN: My younger daughter was 14 at the time when she heard I was going to become deputy. She asked me a very important question. She said, dad, does this mean you will get your picture in the paper? And I said, no.
BORGER: But he keeps his own counsel, even with his friends.
WHITE: With Rod, you scratch the surface, and you get more surface.
BORGER: He was confirmed 94-6 for his current job in April 2017. But the shine wore off quickly after the Mueller appointment. And then Trump became further enraged with Rosenstein after the Michael Cohen raid.
TRUMP: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man. And it's a disgraceful situation.
BORGER: And an increasingly tenuous one for Rosenstein.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you afraid of President Trump firing you?
ROSENSTEIN: No, I am not, congressman.
BORGER: But Rosenstein's job always seemed in jeopardy, especially in September, when he denied reports that he had seriously suggested wearing a wire to record conversations with an out of control President, should he need to be removed from office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you planning to fire rod Rosenstein?
TRUMP: I'm talking to him. We have had a good talk. He said he never said it. He said he doesn't believe it. He said he has a lot of respect for me. And he was very nice and we will see.
BORGER: Rosenstein survived, hanging on once again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rod is -- he's like shockingly fatalistic.
BORGER: Now leaving, possibly as the special counsel finishes up on his own terms.
ROSENSTEIN: I'm headed straight back to Washington. But you let the President know that his favorite deputy attorney general was here.
BORGER: And will be gone as soon as a new attorney general is confirmed, probably around mid-February.
Gloria Borger, CNN, Washington.
CABRERA: A new report revealing President Trump tried to conceal details of his face-to-face meetings with Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Details on the potential risks this brings to U.S. national security when we come back.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:47:19] CABRERA: Nothing to see here? As we have been discussing, the "Washington Post" is reporting President Trump tried to conceal details of his face-to-face conversations with Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
Now, the paper is saying there is no detailed record of five meetings between the two leaders. And while the White House is denying this report, calling it an exaggerated account, analysts say this could play right into Putin's hands.
And that brings us to the weekend Presidential brief, a segment we air every Sunday night, highlighting some of the most pressing national security information the President will need when he wakes up tomorrow.
And joining us now is former national security council adviser and CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd. She helped prepare the presidential daily brief for President Obama.
So Sam, I know you have been involved in Presidential meetings before, including with President Putin. What should President Trump have done after that? Which steps should he have taken?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Ana, I didn't take notes during Presidential meetings, because I liked looking at my own handwriting. Past Presidents wanted to have note takers present in key meetings like bilaterals with Vladimir Putin because note takers are an important first step towards conducting a safe meeting. Note takers are human witnesses to what is and isn't discussed in a meeting. And they can corroborate different accounts of what happened and what was actually discussed.
And I want to make an important point here, because there is so much focus on the interpreter in President Trump's meeting in Helsinki. An interpreter is not a note taker. They are there to translate in this case President Trump's English into Russian and to facilitate the conversation. They are not taking detailed notes. The absence of a note taker means there is no formal record of what happened. And that's why as a second step Presidents have typically read out members of their team at an appropriate classification level, so that again, more human witnesses as to what did or didn't happen.
And with President Obama, he often asked us to file for the presidential record a memorandum of what happened so that there was evidence in the national archive about what was or wasn't discussed and we would then issue a public readout of what happened so that the other side, in this case the Russian propaganda machine, couldn't manipulate the narrative on what happened. The President's failure to take all these steps really opens him up to a lot of risk.
CABRERA: Of course, Trump's allies will say it had to do with not wanting leaks to get out there were an issue that he also likes to have intimate times with these leaders to establish rapport, thinks that might be more effective. But I wonder what kind of risks does this potentially now pose for the President, perhaps for the U.S., if there is no record of what actually transpired?
VINOGRAD: Well, just on the leaks point, he didn't trust his own team to keep information close, but he trusted Vladimir Putin, the Russian government, to not leak things in a way that was negative. That just doesn't make any sense.
From a risk perspective, he may actually have opened himself up to legal risk. There is something called the Presidential records act, which mandates the preservation of all presidential records. It the President tried to conceal notes or even destroyed them, he would be violating that law.
From a policy perspective, he is hamstringing his own team. The Russian government has access to what happened in the on-on-one in Helsinki. They can incorporate that into their strategy on policy. The U.S. national security team doesn't have the same benefit, which really puts us at a disadvantage.
And counterintelligence wise, President Trump opens himself up to manipulation if he doesn't take all the steps that we mentioned. One of the first questions they ask all of us during security clearance interviews is does a foreign government have information about you that the U.S. government doesn't? At this point, based upon what we know about just the Helsinki meeting, the Russian government has information on what President Trump said and what he did that the U.S. government does not. That would really preclude the President if, he was anyone else, from even getting a low-level security clearance that the point.
[19:51:08] CABRERA: Wow. Sam Vinograd, good information.
VINOGRAD: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: Thank you very much.
As a winter storm blankets large parts of the country in snow right now, a small but mighty moment out of St. Louis. Look at this. A pickup truck pulling a couple of 18 wheelers after they became stuck in snow and ice. Those semis weighing in around 30,000 pounds. The driver of one of those big rigs said it was an act, an impressive act of kindness for the pickup to stop and help, also an impressive display of horsepower there that may inspire a truck commercial, I bet.
[19:55:53] CABRERA: A monster winter storm is slamming Washington D.C. It is now prompting a ground stop at Dulles international airport just outside the capitol in Virginia. The airport tweeting the FAA has implemented a ground stop at Dulles airport due to the weather, which is impacting both inbound and outbound flights. And adding thank you for your patience.
If you are traveling in that area, be sure to check in with your airline for the latest on your flight.
And we have this just in to CNN. A manhunt now under way for three suspects who police say fled the scene of a shooting outside a Utah shopping mall just south of Salt Lake City.
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CABRERA: Here you can seed that mall being evacuated after it happened.
Now, two people in their early 20s were wounded. One is in critical condition, the other in serious condition. And right now, police say they don't know if the victims were actually targeted.
In less than two weeks into 2019, it's already been a very deadly year for law enforcement officers across the country.
CNN national correspondent Diane Gallagher has the details.
DIAN GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A pretty routine call early Sunday morning to check out some suspected car break-ins in Birmingham, Alabama.
CHIEF PATRICK SMITH, BIRMINGHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT: The officers approached one suspect, padded him down where they found what they believed to be a weapon, asked him about it. He armed himself and fired upon our officers. Two Birmingham police officers have been struck.
GALLAGHER: Sergeant (INAUDIBLE) Carter, an air force veteran was 17 years at law enforcement did not return home from that routine call. There is a suspect in custody.
The 44-year-old husband and father is the fourth police officer shot and killed on duty or in uniform across the country this year. Three others have been hit and kill bid vehicles while responding to calls. Seven officers, just 13 days into 2019.
On Thursday in California, Davis police officer Natalie Corona was responding to a triple car crash when a gunman on a bicycle shot her multiple times. The 22-year-old rookie officer, whose father was a retired sheriff's sergeant was described as quote "a rising star in the department."
Investigators say Kevin Limbaugh, the man suspected of killing officer Corona, left a note before taking his own life. Rookie officer (INAUDIBLE) Payne was headed to her shift while gunned down in uniform getting into her car in front of a home in Shreveport, Louisiana. After graduating from the academy in November, the 22-year-old posted on Facebook, my personal mission is to become that positive influence to protect those who can't protect themselves and to at least try to push someone to be a better version of themselves. Investigators are still trying to determine what led to her killing. No arrests have been made.
On January 5th in Utah, master officer Joseph Zinners was shot and killed while arresting a fugitive. The profile police chief described the 29-year-old as a scrapper, who wasn't afraid to get in there and take the bad guy to jail. His family described their grief at losing quote "a brother, friend and all-around hero." The suspect is in custody.
Three others have been killed after being hit by vehicles while on duty. Officer Clayton Townsend (ph) of the Salt River police department tribal police in Arizona. Illinois state police trooper Christopher Lambert in Colerain Township police officer, Dale Woods.
Diane Gallagher, CNN, Atlanta.
CABRERA: It is almost 8:00 here in New York, 5:00 in the evening out west. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. And you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday.
President Trump spending a very snowy day inside the White House while two separate major newspapers reports call into serious question how he is conducting himself with regards to Russia.
One of those reports in "the Washington Post" shows the extremes President Trump has allegedly gone to, to hide details of his conversations with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, swearing interpreters to secrecy and making sure there's no written record of at least to one of those private meetings with Putin according to U.S. officials cited by the paper.
Meanwhile story in the "New York Times" says the FBI was so concerned after President Trump fired FBI director James Comey that the bureau launched a counterintelligence investigation into the President himself.