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Trump Writes Letter to Pelosi: I'm Canceling Your Trip; Democrats Call Out Giuliani's Evolution on "No Collusion". Aired 4:30- 5p ET

Aired January 17, 2019 - 16:30   ET


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But, of course, we're largely where we were when this started 27 days ago, even though they've sent White House officials back and forth to the Hill, talks have really broken down.

[16:30:03] And people will say that they've hit a wall. And now, we're in this agreement where words like petty and inappropriate are being thrown out over these actions taken, the president canceling her trip and Nancy Pelosi suggesting the president cancel the State of the Union she invited him to after the shutdown was well under way. She invited him on January 3rd.


COLLINS: So, the government had already been shut down. So, her argument about security, that's how the White House is looking at this.

But what this -- when you step back from who is the latest, who has the upper hand, which is what the White House is paying attention to, and Democrats as well, we're in an area where the two people who are going to decide to reopen the government, Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump, are in this crazy fight to where they're even further apart than they were 27 days ago.

Not only is she suggesting he cancel his State of the Union Address, suggesting security concerns that the Secret Service can't handle which DHS pushed back on, the president is suggesting she fly commercial into a war zone. Those are the two people in charge of reopening our government. That is what the White House will say. It comes down to those two people.

Right now, we are so far apart that we are nowhere near closer to the government reopening and if the White House thinks that Nancy Pelosi is going to be much more amenable to a wall after this, that seems pretty unlikely to me.

TAPPER: What's the way out of this? Don't say Donald Trump is to blame. What can Democrats compromise on to get us out of this incredible dysfunction?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, where is Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans? Why aren't they stepping up to the plate to try to help broker some kind of deal? TAPPER: He said he won't put anything on the floor unless President

Trump will sign it.

FINNEY: That's the other piece of this, what will he actually sign? At times they thought he had something that he would sign and now he wouldn't and now he's dug in about the money for the wall.

I agree with you that I think this idea of a compromise over DACA or, you know, some kind of leeway might actually start to at least reopen the conversation. But I think the president is going to have to give. And that is not something he seems very willing to do. I do not think we are not going to get the kind of deal where -- I don't think you'll see leader Pelosi say, OK, here is your $5 billion.

TAPPER: Definitely not.

FINNEY: That's not going to happen. So --

TAPPER: Not first fight as speaker of the House after this new majority that she has.

Everyone, stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about.

The president has said countless times, no collusion, no collusion. Now his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, seems to be saying he can't be sure that everyone didn't commit collusion. Is this part of a strategy? What's going on?

Stay with us.


[16:37:01] TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead now.

In an act of moving the goalpost not seen since the search for Jimmy Hoffa under Giants Stadium, the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, made a stunning admission on CNN, allowing that he cannot say for certain that no one on the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians, only that the president did not.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: There is no single bit of evidence that the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC.


TAPPER: It has been a long and winding road to the admission from the Trump team's stream of blanket denials.

Hope Hicks in 2016, quote: There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.

Sarah Sanders, February 2017, quote: To the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place.

President Trump himself in his very first press conference as president that month.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.


TAPPER: Of course, we soon learned after he said, that that was not the case when it came to Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort.

In March 2017, Donald Trump Jr. who had previously denied meeting with any Russians to the campaign, told "The New York Times," quote: Did I meet with people that were Russian? I'm sure, I'm sure I did. But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment and certainly none I was representing in the campaign in any way, shape or form, unquote.

Then, of course, in July of 2017, "The New York Times" broke the story of that Trump tower meeting with the Russian government lawyer, initially Don Jr. in a statement written by his father claimed that meeting was primarily about adoptions. We soon learned the meeting was actually because Don Jr. had been promised dirt on Hillary Clinton by a Russian lawyer. Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner were also at that meeting.

In the spring of 2018, Rudy Giuliani came onboard. And the excuses and defenses continued to, shall we say, evolve. Watch this montage. You'll see it goes from no collusion to no evidence of collusion to collusion is not a crime to if it happened, it happened a long time ago to the president didn't commit collusion but I can't speak for anyone else on the campaign.

Roll tape.


GIULIANI: They never used it is the main thing. They never used it. They rejected it. If there was collusion with the Russians, they would have used it.

The collusion part we're pretty comfortable with, because there has been none.

No evidence of collusion.

I don't even know if that's a crime, colluding with Russians.

If the collusion happened, it happened a long time. I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign. I said the president of the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now prior to last night, the president throughout has denied any collusion between anyone on the Trump team and the Russian government.


TRUMP: There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.

There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can only speak for myself and the Russians, zero.

[16:40:03] There was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian people.


TAPPER: Now, of course, we know at the very least Paul Manafort shared campaign data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a man that the FBI says has ties to Russian military intelligence, which conducted interference in the 2016 election campaign. So, now that we're here, not only are we wondering what's next, we're wondering if Rudy Giuliani is admitting that neither he nor President Trump knew about any collusion or conspiracy that may be going on by any member of the Trump team, does that not justify completely the Mueller investigation to get to the bottom of it all?

As CNN's Jessica Schneider reports, today, Rudy Giuliani is trying to clean up the collusion confusion.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some Democratic leaders jumping all over the stunning statement from the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on CNN Wednesday night.

GIULIANI: I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.


GIULIANI: I have no idea. I have not. I said the president of the United States. There's not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime he could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC.

SCHNEIDER: Giuliani seeming about-face comes days after revelations in what was supposed to be a redacted filing from Paul Manafort that Manafort provided private polling data from the Trump campaign to Konstantin Kilimnik, a man with ties to Russian intelligence. It was a bombshell mistake in revealing that exposes how Mueller's team is finding potential contact between at least one Trump campaign official and the Kremlin. GIULIANI: If the collusion happened, it happened a long time ago.

It's either provable or it's not. It is not provable because it never happened.


CUOMO: What do you mean if it happened? You said there's absolutely no chance it happened.

GIULIANI: I'm telling you there's no chance it happened, with the president of the United States.

CUOMO: How do you explain Manafort? But it's his campaign, Rudy. Doesn't that matter?


GIULIANI: I have no idea -- I have no idea, never have, what other people were doing.

SCHNEIDER: But the conflicting statements now have Democrats demanding even more answers.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: It's a tangled web. It just makes no sense. It either reflects his client, who may be leading or misleading him, or his own musings as to what might have occurred here. I don't see any clear statement from him, credible, consistent statement that I would want to take into a courtroom.

SCHNEIDER: And House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff saying this.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: He had said quite the contrary earlier. This is an attorney who has continued to issue misleading and false representations about his client's actions from the very beginning.

SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, sources tell CNN the White House counsel's office and outside groups have started laying the groundwork for a political and public relations response to Mueller, including planning to beef up the White House press teams to field inquiries related to the investigation.

Giuliani, though, continuing to call for a quick end.

GIULIANI: What's going on here is an investigation that should be reported on now. It's gone far enough. Let's see if he's got anything.


SCHNEIDER: And Rudy Giuliani told our Dana Bash today that he did not intend to send any new signals about the investigation, putting it this way, saying: The president did not, himself, nor does he have any knowledge of collusion with Russians. If anyone was doing that, he is unaware of it and so am I, but neither he nor I can possibly know what everyone on the campaign was doing. But, really, even if that's an attempt to clean up his statement,

Jake, Giuliani there still seeming to leave the door open that Mueller might find collusion within the campaign itself -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

I want to get into the broader question about whether or not this was on purpose or not. Before I do that, there's something that Giuliani said that I found really, really interesting, Carrie, I want to get your legal opinion. He volunteered this about the president's actions.


GIULIANI: There was not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime he could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC.


TAPPER: That's a very specific statement. Is that the only crime that is potentially committed here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: No. The hacking of the DNC certainly was a big discreet act that the Russians took as part of their broader influence campaign, but their influence campaign on the 2016 election was multifaceted. The hack was part of it. Their online disinformation.

So, all of the things they did out of the Internet Research Agency to influence U.S. public opinion, their online trolls, all of that which took some infrastructure, took some money for them to have that effort. That was part of it.

Whether or not -- I would imagine that might be part of the case that has to do with whether or not foreign money ended up coming into the campaign in some way. We've already seen some cases that involve foreign money into the inaugural committee.

TAPPER: Right.

CORDERO: So, I think that's probably an open avenue of investigation. So there are ways that the Russians potentially were affecting the election or affecting the campaign far broader than the discreet act. And so, if that particular piece was intentional on Rudy's part to just specifically hone in on the hack, then he is either being disingenuous publicly by portraying the investigation as more narrow than it is, or he's misadvised his client that that's the only thing he might potentially be on the hook for.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And this is the mystery of Rudy Giuliani. But for instance -- when he dropped the information about Stormy Daniels, it turns out that was intentional. That was intentional and that he was getting ahead of it. Is he doing that here? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's the question. That's why we raised questions like that, when he says things like that because he's done it before where he surprised everyone, but he purposely wanted to get it out because he knew that was going to come out. Now, him saying a specific thing right there is very interesting because obviously, Rudy Giuliani does know more about this investigation than we do because they're the ones who submitted the President's answers to the Special Counsel. And of course, the Special Counsel knows more than all of us.

So that really raises questions why he would be very specific there, not to talk about the polling data that Paul Manafort was allegedly sharing because those raise questions as well.

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SENIOR SPOKESPERSON, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Well, this is something I thought about from the beginning. And when he said that last night, so everybody is talking about those polling data. It's not who is up and who is down. Polling data as you know, it can be what are effective messages. What's working, what's not working?

Now, you combine that with information that's been hacked on modeling, right? The campaign -- the DNC and the campaign modeling on the voters they were reaching out to. And if you combine the modeling and the messaging, you have a very powerful weapon around how -- who you need to target, how you need to target them and when you need to target them, and what sort of means.

So that -- it may be that part of the reason he was trying to step away from one part of it and focus on this other part is that it's the combination of all of these things that we may find out is actually true and may have been where you see the collusion.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say yes to all that. But here is where I get hung up. When Rudy Giuliani goes on T.V., he wants to pretend he is only the President's T.V. lawyer. But we forget he was a pretty active member in that campaign.

TAPPER: Oh, yes.

CARPENTER: When he does interviews, he often references I know this because I was there. Well, I have questions for you, Mr. Giuliani. Did you not notice when Paul Manafort went missing for a few weeks to go greet people abroad? Did you not notice that? He was there. He has much more knowledge than he's letting on. And I think Mueller would be interested to talk to him as a witness and not as the President's lawyer.

COLLINS: And it's a good point because the White House regularly refers questions about the investigation about Jared Kushner and other people who work in the White House to Rudy Giuliani, not just about the President.

TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) President Trump says ISIS is defeated but our reporter who traveled to the frontlines in Syria found ISIS definitely did not get that memo. An exclusive look inside Syria next. Stay with us.


[16:50:00 TAPPER: Our "WORLD LEAD" now. This morning, President Trump honored the four Americans killed in yesterday's suicide bombing in Syria. Sources tell CNN that ISIS was behind the attack, according to a preliminary assessment by the U.S. military. The Trump Administration has claimed at times, including just yesterday, that ISIS has been defeated but that declaration belies the battlefield reality. CNN's Clarissa Ward now reports for us from the Syrian front lines.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The battle against ISIS is still raging as the U.S. allied Syrian democratic forces known as SDF, push in on the last sliver of territory under the militants' control. Here the fighters prepare to move into the village of Shafa. Flares turn the dark night into day. Coalition aircraft circle overhead, providing crushing air power.

By daylight, they push further in. This is where ISIS ends, SDF Commander Simko Shikaki tells his men. Moments later, panic breaks out. ISIS has launched a counterattack. The SDF fire back and Shafa is quickly liberated.

We travel to the front line as they approach the next village. Our escorts insist on taking an armored vehicle, even liberated territory is far from secure. These roads are still dangerous, especially early in the morning, because there are ISIS sleeper cells in the area that come out overnight and they plant roadside bombs.

We stop at a house that the SDF took from ISIS just days earlier. Mortars are fired off at militant positions. Commander Shikaki takes us up on to the roof to show us the front line.

So the next village over Sousa is where the front line is now, and they're hoping that they'll be able to liberate that by tomorrow.

American forces provide assistance from just a few hundred yards away. The commander warns the battle is not over. The pressure we had militarily is ending, he says, but the fundamental war is eradicating the ideology of ISIS.

That will be a much tougher fight to win. Support for ISIS still lingers here. On the way back, we pass through another recently liberated area. This is what is left now of the town of (INAUDIBLE). You can see it's basically been completely obliterated. And to many of the people living in areas like this and others, this is what liberation looks like, miles and miles of rubble.

Many here fear that buried in the destruction, the seeds are being sown for another war.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [16:55:28] TAPPER: And our thanks to Clarissa Ward in Northern Syria for that story. More on our breaking news ahead, a top Democrat reacts to President Trump putting a stop to Speaker Pelosi's overseas trip. Stay with us.


TAPPER: That's all the time we had. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN.