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White House Gears Up for Fight; Trump Team Looks at Clinton Model; Giuliani Flips on Campaign Collusion; Cohen Admits Rigging Polls; Pressure Mounting on Trump; Interview with Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA). Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 17, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Maybe -- maybe as he travels. He's going from Kansas. Maybe he's going to go to Kansas City to root not for the team on your necklace --


KING: Not for the team (INAUDIBLE) but to root for the good guys from New England.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Have a great day.

Brianna Keilar starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, the goalposts seem to now be in the parking lot as the man defending the president says he can no longer rule out that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.

Plus, the man who used to defend the president now admits paying to rig online polls during the campaign.

And as the shutdown escalates, the president reportedly fumes to his staff that he's getting crushed.

And the suspicious timing of the president's Trump Tower meeting response and a secret chat with Vladimir Putin.

But we start with the White House getting ready for a fight. A fight over the results of the Mueller report and for fights with Democrats in the House of Representatives.

CNN political correspondent Sara Murray is here with us, as well as CNN's senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown.

How exactly are they preparing now, Pamela, for this report?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House has been quietly readying a strategy and laying the groundwork to prevent and mitigate any political fallout from both the Mueller report and House Oversight investigations. And so what we are told -- sources telling both of us -- is that the White House Councils Office and allied groups outside of the White House have been preparing for a political and public relations strategy.

And so that is really what the focus has been. There is no war room set up yet. That is likely going to happen. But we're told that the press team in the White House is expected to beef up with people with legal expertise who can field these inquiries related to Russia, related to House Oversight. As you know, up until this point, the White House has told reporters to go that -- to outside counsel. Rudy Giuliani, who has been the main spokesperson on all Russia-related matters.

Now, Rudy Giuliani and the legal team says that they're going to have a counter report to Mueller's report. But the White House is preparing for something much broader, and they're also going to try to do whatever they can to keep the Mueller report under wraps. As you know, Bill Barr, the nominee for AG, indicated he wants at least some of the report to be made public. But the White House is going to do what it can to keep that under wraps and they're prepared for a potential subpoena fight over the matter.

KEILAR: And when obviously -- you don't want to totally reinvent the wheel when you're doing something like this, so they must be studying what happened in the past when the Starr report came out.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are looking at sort of what worked and didn't work in the past. And, you know, obviously, when the Starr report came out, the Clinton team attacked Ken Starr kind of miraculously. We're obviously seeing that happen already with Trump and his allies when it came to Mueller.

But the other thing about the Clinton team is they were extremely aggressive in pushing back in what they thought was going to be coming from Ken Starr. And then when the results were made public. And I think that the Trump team wants to do that.

One of the interesting things, though, is they're trying to sort of tailor their response sources tell me. They really want to focus on any allegations that might have anything to do with President Trump and hammer home the idea that the president did nothing wrong. He wasn't engaged in obstruction. He wasn't engaged in collusion. And just let the rest of it fall by the wayside.

So, you know, Russia troll farms, Paul Manafort, none of that has anything to do with me. And the folks from the Clinton era were a little bit skeptical that something like this could work. You know, the buck kind of stops with the president when you're in the White House. And so, you know, we'll see how that goes for them.

KEILAR: Great reporting you guys. Pamela, Sara, thank you.

Now to those ever-moving goalposts. My how far we have come from Hope Hicks claiming back in 2016 that there was no communication whatsoever between Trump campaign officials and any foreign entities to where we are now. That maybe, just maybe, someone on the campaign colluded with Russia. That is a stunning admission. It was made right here on CNN last night by the president's own attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to our Chris Cuomo.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or between people in the campaign. I have no idea if there --


GIULIANI: I have not. I said the president of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC.


KEILAR: Let's play that first part one more time for the people in the back.


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


KEILAR: There you are. And I don't think I have to tell you why Chris Cuomo looked so incredulous right there.

The president has repeatedly, if not incessantly at times, claimed that there was no collusion, not just by him but by anyone on his campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.

No collusion whatsoever.

There has been no collusion. No collusion.

They all say there's no collusion. And there is no collusion.

I can only say this, there was absolutely no collusion.

It has been determined that there is no collusion.

When they have no collusion, and nobody has found any collusion.

[13:05:02] There was no collusion with Russia, you can believe this one.

With me nothing, no collusion, no nothing.

To say it one time again, and I say it all the time, there was no collusion.

Everybody knows there was no collusion whatsoever. They have found no collusion and they won't find collusion.


KEILAR: And those are just the sound bites. Of course, there are print interviews and there are a lot of tweets. Many, many tweets where the president explicitly says that his campaign did not collude.

We have Joseph Moreno, he is a former DOJ prosecutor, and Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst, with us.

First off, the thing that struck me when I'm watching that interview, in that I actually thought -- I mean you can kind of chuckle at Chris Cuomo's face, but it was also very important because it communicated just how false what Rudy Giuliani was saying was.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it was incredulous. You know, Chris was sort of looking at him saying, with his face, with his eyes, are you kidding me? And, you know, as you know, Rudy's tried to walk it back today saying he's only the president's lawyer, et cetera, et cetera. But just hearing him say that means that he is actually listening, or watching, which, of course, I assume he is, what's going on with the special counsel. Manafort, Gates cooperating. I mean you can't miss those things. And that spells collusion.

KEILAR: And, joe, Giuliani serves this interesting role. He frequently says things -- now the first time he did it, we thought, oh, my goodness, is he not on the same page with the president? But then over time we've realized, he will come out and say something and he is sometimes getting ahead of a revelation or saying something different than what the president has said, and there's a reason for why he is saying it. With that in mind, what do you read into this?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROSECUTOR: Well, I have to say, I have a begrudging admiration for Mayor Giuliani because he's will to go and answer tough questions, respectful questions. And I -- I do think he's trying to be honest and he's trying to, you know, talks straight.

But to have to say these things and then walk them back, I mean, their strategy is all over the place. And, you know, obviously he's trying to say -- two things I saw out of the sound bite that's most frequently played. One, he's trying to say, look, maybe there was collusion, but my client, the president, wasn't involved. And then, by the way, there's only this narrow crime of conspiracy you can charge him with, and that didn't happen, so therefore there's nothing else to see here. You know, it's a poorly executed strategy, but you can see the strategy behind it.

KEILAR: All right, you guys stay with me. We have much more to talk about, from collusion, confusion, to secret payments and attempted poll rigging. President Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen, confirms he paid a firm to try to rig online polls in Trump's favor ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign. "The Wall Street Journal" first reported details of these payments and the paper says the head of the technology firm showed up at Trump Tower in early 2015 to collect $50,000. According to the report, quote, Cohen surprised the man, John Gauger, by giving him a blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash. Cohen actually denies that. He says the payments were made by check. He doesn't say it didn't happen. He said they were made by check.

So in a statement to CNN, he says, as for "The Wall Street Journal" article on poll rigging, what I did was at the direction and for the sole benefit of Donald J. Trump. I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn't deserve it.

All right, Gloria Borger, Joe Marino, back with us on this.

What do you make of this, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, it's kind of an audacious story, first of all. Secondly, what sticks in my mind is that this is a president who complains about fake news, right, all the time, fake news. And what he was trying to do, and Michael Cohen says it was at the president's direction, what he was trying to do was supply fake news and -- in the form of polling, and supply fake polls to make him look better. So I don't think the president has a lot of credibility when he talks about anything that's fake, because that's what he was trying to do.

KEILAR: When we at CNN, Joseph, look at polls, we don't use online polls, just to be clear, when we are -- when we are doing polls of polls and citing different polls, we're very judicious in what we consider to meet a certain standard. Online polls don't because there is some openness to manipulation, right? You don't always know who is on the other end answering the question. But is there anything legally wrong with this?

MORENO: Well, you know, every time we see one of these revelations, whether it comes from Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort or wherever else, it's the first thing I think of, right, is, could this be part of the an indictment, part of an impeachment case? What strikes me from this story is not so much the legal aspect. I don't know if this is going to be part of a larger case or just one of the tawdry details we've learned about this while situation.

[13:10:05] It goes, to me, though, the importance of choosing those around you carefully, especially your lawyers. I mean a good lawyer advises his or her client. And if they're told to do something wrong, they say no and ultimately you'll resign rather than do it. The fact that Michael Cohen was willing to do these things, and the fact that President Trump kept him around as long as he did and had him so involved in his affairs, that's what scares me is the judgment.

BORGER: Well, and that -- and that's what Michael Cohen talks about all the time now, which is -- and he did it in his interview with George Stephanopoulos, which is the blind loyalty that drove him to do this. And if he ends up testifying before Congress, which we think he intends to do today, and he's supposed to testify February 7th, I think you'll hear a lot about that, that he's not the villain of the story, it was the -- his loyal -- the president was and that it was his blind loyalty, which he now regrets, both personally and I presume legally.

MORENO: It's fine to regret it now, but he shouldn't have done it in the first place.

BORGER: Well -- well, absolutely.

MORENO: So I think there's two villains here.

BORGER: You know, absolutely. But that's -- that's his story.

KEILAR: Michael Cohen was actually on Wolf Blitzer's show, "The Situation Room," when I was filling in a few months before the election and there was a moment that we had in an interview, and there are certain days where people get back in touch with me or I see traffic on Twitter where people sort of revisit that interview. Let's take a look.


KEILAR: You guys are down. And it makes sense that their would --


KEILAR: Polls.

COHEN: Says who?

KEILAR: Most of them. All of them.

COHEN: Says who?

KEILAR: Polls. I just told you. I answered your question.

COHEN: OK. Which polls?

KEILAR: All of them.



KEILAR: And today was one of those days. So this happens every so often, every few months, or something that kind of brings it back up. In seriousness, though, when it comes to looking at Michael Cohen there as a defender of Trump --


KEILAR: And, holy cow, that a year -- I look at that and I say, a year before that he was online poll tampering? It's wild, Joe.

MORENO: Yes. I mean it's -- again, a lawyer shouldn't be an all- purpose fixer. He shouldn't be paying people, whether it's bags or cash or a check, fixing polls. I mean it's so inappropriate. And, again, it just goes to me as like the importance of choosing people around you that are quality individuals. Look at the nominee Bill Barr earlier this week.

BORGER: But is that what Trump wanted?

MORENO: Well, I mean, look, it goes to judgment, as far as I'm concerned. He's made some fantastic appointments and nominations as president. But he's shown some horrendous judgement in her personal life, in his pre-presidential life in terms of those he surrounded himself with. And Michael Flynn's a, you know, perfect -- I'm sorry, Michael Cohen's a perfect example of that.

KEILAR: Don't confuse your Michaels, Joe.

Joe Moreno, thank you so much. You corrected yourself, thank you. Gloria Borger, really appreciate it.


KEILAR: President Trump is standing firm on his position on border security, but there are cracks in his wall of support. Each day of the shutdown is bringing more negative news coverage, slipping poll numbers, Democratic attacks, all of the things that infuriate the president.

CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza is here with that.

He is under pressure, Chris. Walk us through all of these things he's facing right now.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: OK, I'm going to do it, but man that polls all of them clip brings back the memories.

OK, let's go to the big board. And it is a big board, as you point out, Brianna. A lot of things going on. What a tangled web we weave.

You can start anywhere. You can jump in. But let's jump in here.

There's a House Democratic majority now, divided government. Donald Trump's learning that lesson most importantly because Nancy Pelosi says, you know that January 29th invitation to give the State of the Union? Yes, not so much anymore.

OK, staff vacancies. Trump always says so many people want to work for me, everyone's begging, but we've seen time and time again, whether it's communications director, some of this cabinet positions, people really not wanting to serve. So that's another one.

The Syria withdrawal. It was announced on Twitter. Lindsey Graham has said, well, maybe it's not exactly what it was. You saw Jim Mattis resign in protest as a result as secretary of defense. That's another one. The economy. I want to tie these two together, economy and the

shutdown. The economy broadly has been humming along for Donald Trump, but the shutdown, now in its 27th day, longest in history, is threatening to hurt the economic growth. And we know that the government underestimated the amount by a significant amount, underestimated the amount of damage the shutdown could do to the broader economy.

I mean you guys have been talking about this, the Mueller probe. I mean you -- we could do just this connection as a pressure point for Donald Trump. We -- Bob Mueller has found so much already. We're talking about 192 criminal convictions, 36 people and entities charged, seven people have pled guilty, four who have been sentenced to prison, one, Paul Manafort, who has been convicted by a jury of his peers.

[13:15:04] Cabinet nominees. So we saw this on The Hill this week. We saw the acting EPA administrator, his hearing confirmation, as well as the attorney general nominee. What's interesting about that is maybe they both get through, Brianna. I'm not sure about the Senate votes. But both of them took a series of positions, whether it was on climate change, or the Mueller probe, that were directly in opposition or close to directly in opposition to Donald Trump's established position.

OK, two more. Senate Republicans. Look, no matter what Donald Trump says about how united they all are, there are cracks. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, people getting more and more and more nervous that just saying I want $5 billion for the wall isn't enough. I did shutdown. A huge problem. A huge problem politically. A huge problem just from the fact that you have 800,000 people, federal workers, reporting to work either not getting paid for furloughed.

And the watchdog report, this is about the emolument's clause. This is about should Trump Tower have -- should the Trump Hotel have been used as -- the emolument's clause. Should it have been closed. The GSA, General Serve Administration, was knocked by the inspector general said the way that they interpreted this when Donald Trump was elected president was incorrect. I mean this is a big deal in any other administration. In the -- in the sweep of this, it's just one bubble. But it speaks to Donald Trump just getting squeezed from so many different angles. And I think he feels it. I think it's why you see some of his lashing out more and more.

Brianna, back to you.

KEILAR: Certainly, Chris, thank you.

As Nancy Pelosi pushes the president to move his State of the Union speech, the president reportedly tells his staff that they're getting crushed -- something Chris Cillizza just talked about -- in this shutdown fight.

Plus, the Trump administration now admitting more children were separated from their parents at the border than previously reported. In fact, they don't even know the exact number. And new reporting from CNN that President Trump is fraying nerves

inside of the Pentagon, in part because of his unpredictable decision making.


[13:21:24] KEILAR: Maybe the Trump campaign did collude with Russia. That is essentially the admission coming from Rudy Giuliani, one of President Trump's attorneys. He told our Chris Cuomo that members of the Trump campaign very well may have colluded with Russians, but he is sure that President Trump did not.

We have Pennsylvania Congressman Brendan Boyle here with us to discuss this. He's a Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Thanks for being with us, sir.

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D), PENNSLVANIA: All right, thank you.

KEILAR: The president, as you know, has repeatedly said there was never any collusion between his campaign and Russians. So when you hear Rudy Giuliani say what he's now saying, which he's trying to kind of erase the past and just say, well, there was no collusion between the president and Russia, how problematic is that for him to say that?

BOYLE: Well, I'll tell you, last night after Rudy Giuliani was on your network and finally conceded this, I was going back attempting to remember how many different stories at some point the Trump campaign and Trump White House have had on this issue. And I think we're up to six. So it has been quite the evolution to where we are now, no collusion, not actually meaning no collusion.

You know, the idea that this investigation is a quote/unquote witch hunt has already been proven false. We don't know the final outcome of the report, but we do know more than 30 people have been indicted. People have already pled guilty because of crimes related to Russia and various other matters.

So this is an incredibly serious investigation led, by the way, by mostly lifelong Republicans who are career Justice Department officials, like Bob Mueller. I have the greatest confidence in it. And as a member of Congress, I'm going to continue to do everything I can to ensure the independence and the integrity of the investigation are protected until it comes to its conclusion.

KEILAR: The speaker sent a letter to the president saying he should delay the State of the Union or maybe he should just deliver his address in writing to Congress. And she was citing concerns over security because the Secret Service is currently working unpaid.

But I wonder if Republicans like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have a point when they're accusing her of using this for politics.

What do you think?

BOYLE: Well, you know, I have somewhat of a different view on this than any that I've heard expressed on either side, so let me explain.

First, I agree that as long as we have the governor shutdown, holding a State of the Union Address really doesn't make any sense. So that's number one.

But, number two, there seems to be sort of, you know, in elite circles a bipartisan consensus coming around the idea that we should end these formal State of the Union Addresses and go back to how it was in the 1800s. And I have to say, I actually disagree with that. I do think, even though, you know, all of the standing and the applause can -- happening 100 times can be a bit much and more resemble the silliness we sometimes see in the U.K. Parliament, I do think the State of the Union is a norm of our democracy.

So once we get the shutdown resolved finally, I do hope the tradition of State of the Union Addresses continue. I do think it does serve a purpose, and I don't want to see yet one more norm of American democracy eroded under this Trump administration.

KEILAR: Why not just say, though -- or why not the speaker -- why not have the speaker just say, the government's shut down, there shouldn't be a State of the Union Address on the date that we picked, instead of hiding behind the security issue. Yes, Secret Service is unpaid. However, they are stressing that they're operational. And when we talk to people who are doing this, they're working without getting paid, congressman, I have been struck, and even surprised at times, where they say, yes, we want to get paid, of course, but we're -- this is an important job we're doing and we're not going to stop doing it, and they're caught between these two places. I mean why sort of use the Secret Service there?

[113:25:09] BOYLE: Well, I -- you know, I read her letter yesterday, and she doesn't say cancel it. She does say delay during the shutdown. I think that is appropriate.

But you raise a separate, related point that I think is very important, and that is the enormous patriotism and self-sacrifice of our government workers, whether it's the folks at the Secret Service, whether it's the folks that work for TSA. The hundreds of thousands who are showing up for work every day, even though they've now been without pay for quite some time, it really is inspiring and I just want to take a moment to thank them. I -- from Philadelphia, we have more federal workers than almost any other metro area in the country. So it shows you it's not just the Washington, D.C., metro area that's affected by this, it's all throughout the country.


BOYLE: And I deeply appreciate and admire their patriotism.


BOYLE: One other point I do want to make about this, that probably even matters more to most Americans in the State of the Union, and that's the Super Bowl. With the Super Bowl coming up in a couple weeks, this is a major potential terrorist target. The government shutdown is impacting the security effort that comes at the Super Bowl. That is yet one more reason and one other not so obvious way in which the government shutdown is affecting all these other facets of American life.

KEILAR: That's an interesting point.

While I have you, I want to ask you about some news that we have, which is that an auditor looking into the child separation issue at the border has found the government separated thousands more children from their parent or parents than originally reported. They say that actually poor recordkeeping is to blame for the underreported numbers and that also more than 100 kids were taken from their parents after the president officially ended his zero tolerance policy.

What's your reaction to that?

BOYLE: There are many things that I've disagreed with over the last two years that this president has done, but probably none I found more immoral than the disgusting policy that the Trump administration had on the forced family separations. It serves absolutely no point. It's remarkably cruel. It's far more expensive. And I do wonder, once this whole period is behind us, how many children will actually go never reunited with their parents. It is -- I never imagined in my lifetime I would ever see a government of the United States enact such a policy. And, sadly, I'm not surprised that the numbers were even greater than originally reported.

KEILAR: Your worry on that, that kids would forever ne separated from their parents --


KEILAR: Is that because they're pre-verbal? Is that because they're so little they've been separated and they may not be able to make a match? I mean where is the -- where -- that is heartbreaking. So where does that concern come from?

BOYLE: Yes, because -- because the minors were at such a young age. Also because of this poor recordkeeping that you talked about, because of the fact that you had parents deported without their children while their children remained under our care. This is going to be an issue that we're going to be unraveling for quite some time.

The government enacted this policy, even though they were completely unprepared for how to handle it. It is -- it is -- has been as ineffective a policy and poorly run as it was immoral and cruel.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman Brendan Boyle, thank you for joining us.

BOYLE: All right, thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, with a new spotlight on the president's mysterious chats with Vladimir Putin, we're going to take a look at the suspicious timeline of what was happening at the time.