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Suspicious Timing of Trump's Putin Chat & Trump Remarks; USDA Worker: I Feel "Personally Betrayed by My Own Government"; Op-Ed by Yoni Appelbaum: "The Case to Impeach Trump". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 17, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:33:28] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Nearly two years later, we are still learning new details about what went down during President Trump and Vladimir Putin's face-to-face meeting and the 48 hours that surrounded it. According to the "New York Times," just one day after the handshake you see here, Trump was calling one of "The Times" reporters claiming that Russia was being falsely accused of interfering in the 2016 election. This is on top of the revelation this weekend that Trump went to extraordinary lengths to hide what he and Putin discussed during their private meetings. Not only did the president confiscate the translator's notes at the Helsinki meeting, but he told the translator not to discuss what was said.

CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has been following everything on this timeline.

Jess, lay this out because on top of what I just listed, the world was also learned about the Trump Tower meeting.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Brianna. It all centered on a few days in July 2017. When you piece the timeline together, it really adds up to big questions. What did the president talk about to President Putin? And did it have anything to do with that Trump Tower meeting, because this is how it plays out?

Let's start at July 7, 2017. The president at this time was in Hamburg, Germany, for the G-20 summit. And that's when he and his team learned that the "New York Times" had a scoop. The paper was about to publish this story about how Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner met with that Russian lawyer at the height of the campaign inside Trump Tower after Donald Trump Jr was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. The "New York Times" called because they wanted comment from the president's team. But while the president's team scrambled to respond, President Trump himself was meeting face to face with Vladimir Putin for the first time.

[13:35:16] Now, we know that secretary of state at the time, Rex Tillerson, was there at the meeting, as was Russia's foreign minister. But when a State Department official and White House official requested more of a readout of that meeting than Rex Tillerson actually gave, well, they learned the president had confiscated the interpreter's notes and also forbade that interpreter from disclosing reports of the meeting. That's all according to a "Washington Post" report that we saw this weekend. Hours later, the president meets again with President Putin for a second undisclosed meeting that lasted for nearly an hour. At that meeting, no American officials were present, and the White House didn't confirm the encounter until more than 10 days later after it was independently reported.

So then fast-forward to one day later, July 8. Back on Air Force One, en route to Washington, and we've now learned that the president called a "New York Times" reporter, who is also a CNN analyst, and argued that Russians were falsely accused of election interference. The president said that Putin denied it three times. And the president even said that Putin told him, if they had done it, they wouldn't get caught because they're professionals.

Here's the reporter he talked to.


DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST & NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST (voice-over): Basically, his line was Putin has made the argument to me, he said, that the Russians are so good at cyber that had they hacked into the DNC, they never would have been seen. He said, I think that's pretty convincing.


SCHNEIDER: So at this same time that the president seemed to be defending Putin, he was also on Air Force One dictating that response to defend his son. The president was huddled with his aides to come up with a response to the Trump Tower story that was about to break, saying in that dictated response, that the meeting was about Russian adoptions. But, of course, Donald Trump Jr later admitted that he was actually promised dirt on Hillary Clinton after some e-mails surfaced.

Well, within hours, the "New York Times" broke the story about the meeting at Trump Tower. And we know that that meeting has been a big focus for the Mueller investigation to determine what really happened inside the meeting at Trump Tower with all these people present. Don Jr, of course, has said that it was short and that they ultimately walked out because it was unproductive.

But most importantly, the big question here, Brianna, did the president know about the meeting in advance or even right after? It's something the president has denied but that Robert Mueller, no doubt, continues to look into. Maybe we'll get the details on it -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Maybe he knows the answer to that already, we don't know.


KEILAR: Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

Coming up, the real face of the shutdown on day 27. We'll hear from a military veteran, who is now a federal employee, and he penned an emotional op-ed about feeling betrayed by his own government.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:42:38] KEILAR: While both political parties are holding their ground, working on solving the partial government shutdown has essentially stopped. For those impacted by the shutdown, their bills keep coming and piling up. And something else to talk about, right now, Congress are getting their paychecks. They're getting their paychecks. For 800,000 federal workers, their paychecks are on hold, not to mention the contract workers and the millions of people affected by this shutdown. Many of those people are being forced to drain their checking and savings accounts to stay afloat.

Among them is Andrew Robinson. He is a military veteran. He is currently working for USDA.

And, Andrew, you are joining us from Missouri, and you are not getting paid. Thank you for writing this op-ed and being with us.

ANDREW ROBINSON, USDA EMPLOYEE & VETERAN: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: So you write in the CNN op-ed so clearly laying out this new reality that you're facing. You and your wife, who is a teacher, covered your mortgage last month, but this month you are short. Tell us what you've worked out to cover your mortgage.

ROBINSON: Basically, I am fortunate enough to have family who are supportive enough to help us out. The mortgage company is working with us. I was able to confirm everything with them yesterday, so we will be OK on that aspect. But it's all the other bills on top of that, which are -- which is really starting to pile up there.

KEILAR: You're basically taking out a loan, is that right?

ROBINSON: Yes. I am either going to have to or definitely cut back on some expenses. And while I'm --


KEILAR: How does that affect you? You're trying to build your credit, right?

ROBINSON: Right. And where I'm at right now with trying to build my credit, I can't really have any hits on it with loan applications or anything. And so, I mean, my wife and I, we're on a pretty diligent plan to try to better ourselves. And, I mean, the timing is absolutely miserable.


ROBINSON: And it's -- it's --


KEILAR: You say that in this piece. You say you have this three- bedroom House, you don't splurge, you don't really go out to eat. You come home and you spend time with your family. And part of your family is your eight-year-old daughter. You also have a two-year-old. I know your eight-year-old, you talk about this, that she's been worried. What are you telling her, and how does it make you feel that this financial uncertainty caused by the shutdown is causing her anxiety?

[13:45:17] ROBINSON: It's beyond what I could have ever imagined. The fact that -- she's eight, and she's living in this reality. She knows what's going on. It's all over the news. Radio stations are talking about it. Normal music radio stations are talking about it. So it's not like we're -- we're not trying to shield her from it, but we're also being very clear and letting her know, we're very transparent. She asks every day, what's going on with the news. Are you going back to work tomorrow? She has her things that -- she has her goals and she is letting my stresses and my wife's stresses interfere with what she wants to do with school, Girl Scouts and all that. For instance, I'm thinking about taking her out of soccer. We play competitive soccer, and if the government shutdown continues for months longer, you know, that's an income we can't afford to keep -- not an income, but an expense for my daughter. There's certain cuts that we're going to have to get to pretty shortly.

KEILAR: Well, Andrew Robinson, thank you for joining us.

And I just want to encourage our viewers to take a look at your op-ed. This is the reality.

You represent what so many people are going through, and your daughter shouldn't have to give up her soccer practice and being on the soccer team.

So thank you for coming on.

ROBINSON: Yes. And I want to say that my story is just one out of the 800,000. Plus, I was fortunate enough for you guys to pick my story, but please, everybody, this is serious. And it's very stressful for your government employees that are not getting paid, especially those that have to go to work and they don't have time to look for jobs, they don't have time to try to pick up a job at a Sonic or, you know, a sports store or something, you know? So --


ROBINSON: Yes, it's sad and it's stressful.

KEILAR: It's sad. It's wrong.

And, Andrew Robinson, thank you so much for coming on.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

KEILAR: This is the magazine cover guaranteed to stand out thanks to just one word: "Impeach." We're going to talk to the author on why he believes that removing Trump from office is the antidote to chaos.


[13:52:11] KEILAR: The idea of impeachment, Democrats have brought it up, a handful of times so far about President Trump. They haven't pulled the trigger and a lot of them are not inclined to.

My next guest thinks the time has come for Democrats to take up that fight for real.

We have Yoni Appelbaum with us. He's the senior editor of "The Atlantic" here with me.

You have a new piece out today. I want to read part of it, here. It says, "Trump's bipartisan critics are not merely arguing that he has lied or dishonored the presidency. The most serious allegations against him ultimately rest on the charge that he is attacking the bedrock of American democracy. That is the situation impeachment was devised to address."

You also say impeachment is a process not an outcome. You call it a procedure for investigating the president. That is being done by the special counsel. It seems like Congress is relying on that. But you say this is Congress outsourcing their responsibility.

YONI APPELBAUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: It is. And the special counsel has a very narrow focus. He's looking at Russia-related charges but there's a great deal that this president has done that members of Congress and the public object to and believe exceeds his constitutional authority or undermans American values and those conversations are not being had in any comprehensive way.

KEILAR: When I talk to so many Democrats, there are a few, like Brad Sherman, who moved into that area or move forward with impeachment, but a lot of them are waiting. They're keeping their powder dry and they're clearly looking at the Clinton impeachment where he became more popular and it backfired against Republicans. You argue that that is the wrong lesson for them to take.

APPELBAUM: Yes. You can look at the Clinton impeachment and walk away with that lesson. Or you can say, don't use impeachment words not called for. Not every crime is high crime and misdemeanor. Not every offense is an impeachable offense. Impeachable offenses are those that threaten the bedrock of American democracy that threaten to undermine American values and exceed the powers of the president. It's hard to argue that that's what was going on with Clinton and the public and the Senate rejected it. I'd look back to Andrew Johnson, instead of Bill Clinton.

KEILAR: How so?

APPELBAUM: That's a president who was very much like Trump. You can look at the parallels. He was very aggressive in his relations with Congress. And he sold the public on a vision of restoring America, in Johnson's words, as a white man's government. And he clashed with Congress and Congress didn't quite know what to do about it. It tried to do all the usual things that Congress does, it passed laws and held hearings, but it was impeachment that changed the terms of the debate and brought that president back into line.

KEILAR: When you say it's a process, not an outcome, you're saying that they shouldn't go into it with the idea that necessarily they're trying to oust the president. You lay out examples of what it could do. One of the things is reign in the president's agenda when it comes to things that are undemocratic. You also argue that people around him would rein him in.

I want to challenge you on that because you watched this, as we have, people around him who are supposed to be the ones reining in some of his impulses, they have not been able to do that. Why do you think that they will?

[13:55:20] APPELBAUM: It's a great question. Andrew Johnson did a speaking tour of the country called The Swing Around the Circle and he called for the lynching of the leader of the opposition in Congress during that tour before raucous crowds of his admirers and supporters. Once impeachment proceedings started, though, he understood that his fate didn't rest with his core supporters. It rested with the United States Senate. Presidents tend to discover previously unimagined capacity for restraint at that moment.

KEILAR: It's a very interesting article. Anything you ever wanted to know about impeachment as this discussion is going on.

Thank you so much for being with us --

APPELBAUM: A pleasure.

KEILAR: -- and explaining this. We appreciate it.

APPELBAUM: Thank you.

KEILAR: The president's former fixer admitting that he paid thousands to rig polls during the campaign to favor Candidate Trump. We'll have that next.


[14:00:02] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

On this roller coaster, unpredictable ride that is the Trump White House --