Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump to Propose Extending DACA Protections, Democrats to Propose $1 Billion for Border Security, No Money for Wall; Women's March Under Way Across U.S. But Controversy of Anti-Semitism Mars Message; Pompeo Defends Wife's Presence on Middle East Trip During Shutdown; Giuliani: Trump Didn't Collude but Don't Know if Campaign Did; Michael Cohen Admits to Rigging Polls in 2016 Election; Over 100 Million People Under Winter Weather Alert this Weekend; 4 Americans Killed in Syria Identified. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired January 19, 2019 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And 800,000 federal workers still without a paycheck as Democrats and Republicans battle it out over President Trump's demands for a border wall.

Today, the president will once again take his argument to the American people, promising, quoting now, "a major announcement" concerning the southern border. A source tells CNN the president is expected to propose extending protections for DACA recipients in exchange for a wall, something the president is not willing to back down on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope that Speaker Pelosi can come along realize what everybody knows. No matter who it is. They know that walls work. And we need walls. Whether it's personal or not -- it's not personal for me. She's being controlled by the radical left, which is the problem. And, you know, she's under total control of the radical left. I think that's a very bad thing for her. I think it's a very bad thing for the Democrats. Everybody knows that walls work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Right now, the president's announcement is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Meanwhile, House Democrats will put an offer on the table. They're adding $1 billion to border-related spending but no money for the wall. So are we any closer to ending this government shutdown?

Let's check in with CNN White House reporter, Sarah Westwood.

We'll hear from the president in a matter of hours. You hear anything more about how specific he's going to be?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, we are expecting President Trump to lay out a broader deal than he's offered so far throughout this shutdown mess, one that would trade wall funding for some of the immigration reforms that Democrats have in the past hoped to achieve. There's a lot of skepticism at the moment that this is the deal that breaks the logjam that has kept the government shut down for 29 days now. This deal would involve President Trump holding firm at that $5.7 billion demand for wall funding in exchange for temporary protections for those young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers and in exchange for extending and renewing some temporary protected status that has been extended to some immigrants, some which has been allowed to expire under the Trump administration.

Democrats say they haven't been consulted on this deal. Sources tell CNN this was the product of discussions among Republicans and with Republicans. It's a deal that came together over the past week here in the White House. Meanwhile, Democrats are prepared to add $1 billion to border security in a package of six spending bills they're set to vote on next week. They want to beef up security at ports of entry, do other things along the border that don't involve the construction of a physical barrier. It's not clear yet, Fred, that this is the ice that will be thawed around the negotiating table but it could get both sides talking again -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Sarah Westwood, at the White House, thank you.

The president's speech comes as a source tells CNN the Democrats are prepared to have a deal of their own for the shutdown.

Let's check in with CNN's Ryan Nobles for a closer look at what's inside the Democrat's proposal -- Ryan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No doubt, Fred. There's a lot of deals back and forth here in Washington. Doesn't appear these two sides are actually talking to one another. As you point out in Sarah Westwood's report there, Democratic aides telling me they've not been consulted at all about this proposal President Trump is going to make later this afternoon. One Democrat aide telling me, quote, "Democrats were not consulted on this and have rejected similar overtures in the past. It is clear he a Republican and Republican negotiation."

How are Democrats responding? They plan to do it by passing legislation. Within that legislation, we're told, they will include about $1 billion in border security funding. This is where they will provide that money, $524 million for additional infrastructure at points of entry and then $563 million in funding for 75 immigration judges. This is in no way, shape or form what the White House is looking for. It is a far cry from the nearly $6 billion that President Trump wants. And it, of course, does not include the word "wall," which is something that is not going to please the president at all.

Fred, it is important to keep in mind the way Democrats will likely view this latest proposal from President Trump, if it turns out to be exactly what we believe it's going to be. Essentially what President Trump is asking for is $6 billion in wall funding for a permanent wall in exchange for a temporary bit of protection for the DREAMers and for the TPS population. You know, in the past, when they've had these negotiations, they've involved a long-term path to citizenship for this community. So this is a very complicated and involved process. So the idea that the president can come out and say, you know, give me this funding, I'll build my wall and we'll talk about the DREAMer community, does not seem to be realistic.

The other thing is the Democratic position has never changed. They don't want to talk about immigration reform at all until the government is back open. They want two different conversations, open the government and then we'll talk about border security. That does not seem to be the place the president is in now. That's part of the reason the shutdown is likely to continue.

[13:05:16] WHITFIELD: Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

We'll talk further on all of this now. Joining me is Lisa Lerer, national political reporter for the "New York Times," and Sabrina Siddiqui, a politics reporter for "The Guardian."

Good to see both of you.

While we have yet to hear from the president, that's about three hours away, we do know his position on the wall. It's not changed. He said this earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have a lot of people in caravans coming up. If we had a wall, we wouldn't have a problem. But we have too many open areas. The walls that we fixed and the walls that we built hold beautifully.

Everybody knows that walls work. The Border Patrol has done an incredible job but we need the help and the backdrop of a wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Lisa, we know that's not going to be the major announcement because he's been saying that all along. What could he say later on today that will get these sides talking and really come to some agreement that means a government running again?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Right. This is really about getting the two sides back to the table and getting them talking about actually ending the shutdown rather than canceling people's travel plans and State of the Unions, delaying State of the Union speeches. He could -- the reporting indicates both, from "the New York Times" and CNN as well as other places, that he could bring up the yid of providing some sort of temporary relief for people on protected status or for, you know, the DACA kids. It's hard to see how a temporary measure would bring Democrats to the table in a really full way. Particularly when the wall is such a dividing line here between the two parties. It, of course, was the president's signature campaign issue. I'm sure everybody remembers the chants of build the wall. But it's also become a major symbol of opposition for the Democrats. It's hard to see how many Democrats, if any at all, could get behind a deal that provides any funding for the wall really.

WHITFIELD: Sabrina, Ryan Nobles made a great point earlier, talking about a temporary solution in exchange for a permanent wall. That doesn't sound like, you know, Democrats would see that as an equal exchange. By the way, Republicans, when they were running the House, didn't they try to extend these kinds of DACA protections? Is this an admission from the president that he's kind of stuck or in a corner?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, A POLITICS REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: This is a proposal that was the product of negotiations behind the scenes that primarily involved vice president Mike Pence and the president's son- in-law, Jared Kushner, both of whom met with Majority Leader McConnell over the past week. The move here -- of course, the devil's in the details -- but it will be perhaps to pass something through the Senate that they think could get some Democratic support and try and jam the House. Now, it's noticeable if McConnell moves forward with this, because he initially said he wouldn't put anything on the floor that didn't have the support of the White House and the Democratic leaders. Again, you know, we now have this shutdown that's been dragging on for nearly a month. So perhaps the calculus has changed. But it's important to note this is what we understand and what the president's prepared to announce, as is always the case. Nothing holds true until he actually says it. There's going to be another question about whether he's going to get pushed back from some of his more hardline supporters for offering anything by way of protections for DREAMers or temporary protected status holders. But it is a move towards substantive negotiations, to Lisa's point, and at least moving away from the public feud we saw escalate over the past week.

WHITFIELD: Lisa, Democrats have said they're willing to negotiate after the government is up and running again. And there aren't any indicators the president is going to make that kind of announcement today, that, you know, will work on these things to get government up and running again after we get government up and running again.

LERER: Yes, that's true. I do think the president coming out today shows the kind of political pressure he's under. This is, of course, the long of the shutdown in history. It's beginning to have an impact not only on these poor federal furloughed workers who are not getting any pay checks but also on the broader economy. Economic estimates on how this could impact or slow down the economy were much more severe than what even officials in the White House anticipated. So, and we're seeing in all the polling that, you know, the president is losing ground. Majorities of people blame Democrats -- sorry -- blame Republicans rather than the Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

LERER: His approval rate is dipping. Even there's a slight dip among his base, among conservative Republican voters. So I think really what we're seeing here, does the shutdown end this evening? That would probably be a major shocker. I don't think anyone anticipates that. We see the president is starting to feel some political heat here.

[13:10:07] WHITFIELD: Sabrina, we really did see this, you know, power play kind of playing out throughout the week with the House speaker saying, I encourage you to delay your State of the Union address, versus, you know, the president saying, you're not going to have that military aircraft, you know, to go to Afghanistan. How detrimental will all of that be potentially to all the negotiations?

SIDDIQUI: Certainly, there was a fairly significant breakdown in negotiations, that predated even some of the drama you saw unfold or spill into public feud this week. You'll recall that just over a week ago, Democrat leaders went to the White House and they said that the president stormed out of the room when they rebuffed once again his demand for funding toward the wall. I do think that people are starting to feel the pressure, as you have roughly 800,000 federal workers going without pay, and you soon -- and are starting to see Americans feel the impact of the shutdown at airports across the country. There's been concerns with tax season around the corner, food and drug inspection, how they might be impacted by the ongoing shutdown. So I think there's still incentive to try and get to a deal. The question, of course, is with Democrats still saying their position is that they oppose any funding towards the wall and the president refusing to back down from that demand, how do you sort of address that fundamental sticking point? And do Democrats still believe that acquiescing in any way toward funding for the wall would take away from the position they've taken, seeing that's symbolic of the president's agenda on immigration? So a lot of unanswered questions. But at least a move towards some sort of negotiations today.

WHITFIELD: I wonder, Lisa, if it will come down to semantics. In that Democratic proposal, while they talk about this, what, more than $500 million in additional infrastructure at points of entry, I mean, you know, it will be defining what infrastructure is. A wall is infrastructure. Of course, it may not necessarily be at the points of entry. Will it just boil down to that?

LERER: Oh, of course. I mean this is all in the details. These kinds of negotiations are always in the details. But I think nothing gets done without political pressure on both parties. And you're certainly seeing that on the president. I think you're also seeing it on Democrats. I mean, frankly, the drama that happened this week, it just doesn't reflect good, well on either party. It looks like the government shutdown and there's absolutely no progress to get it open. That's not a place any politician wants to be in. So I think that really is key to this whole thing getting solved, finding a resolution. Yes, at this point, we will in two hours have pro proposals. Then it will come down to what is the definition of temporary, the port of entry, all those kinds of issues will have to be ironed. And that's a complexion negotiation in and of itself.

WHITFIELD: Sure is.

Then, Sabrina, didn't Democrats in the last Congress, you know, offer $25 billion, including, you know, for the wall, for the same kind of deal? There were concessions. Reminded by some Democrats they tried to pass something like six bills, you know, just recently. So why is this not moving the needle?

SIDDIQUI: Well, it was fairly roughly a year ago that Democrats did put on the table some funding toward the wall. In fact, Chuck Schumer reportedly offered full funding towards the wall in exchange for making permanent protections for DACA recipients. That was sort of the negotiations unfolding before the shutdown that occurred a year ago over DACA. The president rejected that proposal. So now you're operating in a different context where Democrats are newly in the House majority. A polling shows a majority of Americans blame the president for the shutdown, that they don't believe the government was worth shutting down over the wall. So I think Democrats don't necessarily believe that they have to cave. Again, the question is whether they believe the president is negotiating in good faith. And this is sort of the basis of some broader deal that also addresses immigration. But when you look at the fact they haven't been able to get any sort of deal on immigration, how they would achieve that in the context of this government shutdown.

WHITFIELD: Lisa?

LERER: I think that's exactly right. This is complicated situation and the political pressure is intense, particularly on the president, giving those dipping approval ratings. At the same time, it's crucially important to him. We know when the president and the White House think about politics they're thinking about their base. And they believe keeping their base solid will keep the Republican Party unified. The Republican lawmakers, even those in battleground states, can't risk losing the base of their party, which is the president's base. So it is -- the president needs to find a way out of this. The pressure's mounting. He also needs to find a way out of it that keeps his base happy. That means at least being able to say to them that part of the wall, if not the entire wall, is being built or is, you know, moving forward. And that's a really tough needle to thread.

[13:15:20] WHITFIELD: Lisa Lerer, Sabrina Siddiqui, good to see both of you. Thank you so much.

LERER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, women across the country marching for the rights of women everywhere. But a cloud of controversy could undermine the message. Why some of the organization's leaders are accused of being anti-Semitic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:19:47] WHITFIELD: Happening right now, women in cities across the country are taking part in the third annual Women's March. A live look at the march in Washington. The first marches in 2017 took place the day after President Trump's inauguration to protest comments he made about women during the campaign and to support women's rights. This year's marches are expected to be smaller as controversy and division have cast a shadow over part of the movement. But organizers are still expecting thousands to turn out in cities across America.

We have a team of correspondents fanned out across the country covering these marches.

Let's begin in our nation's capital. Jessica Dean is in Washington for us -- Jessica?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN: Good afternoon to you, Fredricka. We're here among some of the marchers. The marching part of the day has really concluded. They're now gathered around for the rally portion. We've seen a lot of the pink hats that first originated in 2017. It is a smaller crowd compared to that massive record-breaking crowd in 2017 and even 2018.

But people we talked to said it was important for them to be here today. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here because I'm here. I'm here because I want to stand up for what's right, you know? Trump saying stuff in this White House, blah blah blah, I'm here to say, you know what, no.

DEAN: What's a successful march today for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being able to get the people that are leading our nation to listen. Being able to get them to pay attention to us and make a real (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: And people here really hoping that is what happens today. Again, traveling from all over the country to be here in Washington. Where the shutdown continues, that also affected the route and the size of the crowd here as well. But that is what we're seeing on the ground in Washington, mothers, daughters, men, women, all here for this one cause.

I want to check in now with my colleague, Dan Simon, in Seattle.

DAN SIMON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, thanks very much, Jessica. It is a damp day here in Seattle. The weather is cooperating. The march really just beginning. Obviously they're talking about gender issues. Of course, they're focusing on the administration, the government shutdown, as well as the wall.

I want to talk to the marchers here today. This is Alisa and Lucy.

Just want to talk to you about why you decided to come out, Lucy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here because nobody's free while others are still fighting. That's why we need to stand together and we need to get rid of this administration by standing together as a people.

SIMON: Alisa, what are the issues you care most about?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I care a lot about protecting Roe v. Wade and making sure, you know, women continue to have the right to choose what they do with their bodies. We're also out here for protesting against what they're doing on climate change. Lucy is a huge environmentalist. And we just want to bring more attention to these issues.

SIMON: All right, thanks very much to both of you.

Just two of the many sentiments out here.

Of course, we're going to be marching towards downtown Seattle, towards the Space Needle. There's going to be seminars that deal with breaking down some of the gender issues.

Now I'm going to send it to Nick Watt, my college in Los Angeles -- Nick?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Dan. The theme down here is very much still we rise and let's finish what we started. And of course, there are many signs also attacking the administration, "impeach the narcissist," for example. A real celebration of what they think they really achieved by this march last year. Last year, the theme was "grab him by the midterms" here. In California, that did pretty much happen. Orange County just -- was pretty Republican and went all blue. Katie Hill, one of those newly elected members of the House, just took her seat a couple of weeks ago. She spoke earlier and thanked the crowd for the work they did last year. But she said now it is time to get back to work.

The organizers here are very eager to say they're not affiliated with the organizers of the march in Washington, D.C. Numbers here, they say, around 200,000 this year. Was 750,000 back in 2017, but that 200,000 might even be a little bit high. We'll see as they begin to march just how many people are here.

We don't have Scarlett Johansson but we do have Laverne Cox. We don't have Kamala Harris. We have plenty of pictures of her but no Kamala Harris herself.

Now let's go to New York and my colleague, Jason Carroll.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nick, this is a march that has been marred by controversy here in New York City. This is the Women's Alliance March. That's what's happening right up here in uptown.

But in downtown New York, there was a different organization holding a rally. That organization called the Women's March Inc, has been marred by controversy dealing with anti-Semitism after one of the group's founders was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks. She denied that. She has not denied her allegiances to Louis Farrakhan. People here are frustrated about the confusion between these two different groups, upset about the allegations of anti-Semitism.

[13:25:19] I spoke to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about that earlier. She's speaking at both events. Listen to what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: What would you say to some of those people? How concerned about anti-Semitism within the women's march group?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D), NEW YORK: I think ,right now, in this moment in the United States, we have to center this conversation. I think that concerns anti-Semitism with the current administration and the White House are absolutely valid. We have to make sure we are protecting the Jewish community and all those who feel vulnerable in this moment.

I think, right now, as it pertains to today, it's important to recognize why all of these women are coming together. And the reason all of these people are coming together is to make sure that the rights of women are protected in advance. I know in my heart that all of the New Yorkers that are coming down here and downtown are coming in that spirit and not in the other spirit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: Again, the concern out here, Fred, is that the message is getting lost.

I want to bring in very quickly these four sisters from the tristate area.

We talked about message. What for you is the main message you want to get out today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women's rights. We're four sisters. We're mothers. Two boys and girls. We want equal rights for women, reproductive rights. Really everything that falls under that category.

CARROLL: Do you feel the message is getting out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, yes.

CARROLL: Today. But the question is tomorrow. The next day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every day.

CARROLL: Very good, thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we --

(CROSSTALK)

CARROLL: I get it. I get it. I get it.

All right, thanks, ladies. Thanks very much. Thanks for joining us.

Fred, you hear what's going on out here. Concerns about the message getting muted. Concerns about the message getting lost. But obviously everyone's going to keep marching, keep getting their words out -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Jason Carroll, in New York, thank you so much.

Jessica Dean, Nick Watt, Dan Simon, all of you, really appreciate it, across the country.

You just heard Jason mention the controversy around the march. Some leaders of Women's March Incorporated being accused of anti-Semitism or their association with Louis Farrakhan, a man known for hate speech regarding Jews and the LGBT community.

This morning, organizer, Linda Sarsour, denounced Louis Farrakhan's rhetoric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDA SARSOUR, ORGANIZER, WOMEN'S MARCH INCORPORATED: We unequivocally have rejected the comments made by Mr. Farrakhan on LGBT communities, on Jewish communities. We've said multiple times on statements on our Web site at women womensmarch.com that we unequivocally reject anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Meanwhile, organizers at other events say the controversy is taking away from the message they're trying to send.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN'S MARCH LEADER: My colleagues in other cities have been distracted from their organizing by having to answer questions about an organization that really doesn't have to do with any of us. We wanted to make sure that people understand and are clear that here in Boston our message is one of unity and that we are in steadfast opposition to any form of hate speech, anti-racism, anti-Semitism, transphobia, homophobia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The marches are moving their events to disassociate. The women's march in Omaha will now take place in March to coincide with International Women's Day.

So much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:33:16] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defending his wife's presence on a recent trip to the Middle East. Sources say many diplomats were angry about Susan Pompeo joining the eight-day trip during the government shutdown since it required unpaid staffers to prepare and protect her.

But as CNN's Michelle Kosinski reports, the secretary says it was a working trip.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled through the Middle East, eight countries, reassuring allies about the U.S.' role. But it's the role of someone else who went on that trip, Pompeo's wife, Susan, during the government shutdown, that has raised questions among many State Department diplomats. According to one official, "This is B.S. You don't bring more people

that need staffing and transportation, et cetera, when embassy employees are working without being paid."

The State Department says most diplomats abroad have not been paid during the shutdown, though many had to come to work anyway to handle this trip, some requiring very long hours.

One source familiar with the planning tells CNN, "I've been outraged. Eyebrows were raised from the start. Why was this necessary? This wasn't a matter of national security."

Pompeo described the trip as a working one for his wife as well.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE (voice-over): She meets with the medical officers. She'll tour housing. She will write up her thoughts and comments after that. I wish I had time to do each of those things myself. But she is a force multiplier.

KOSINKI: Susan Pompeo had a State Department employee dedicated to attending her schedule. At each location, she had her own state official and security to travel with her to meetings. She also required that staffing and security to shop at a local market, which, sources say, made her late for the next flight, keeping the secretary and his team waiting on the plane a half hour, plus a crowd of officials waiting at the next stop.

[13:35:10] Another issue raised is what kind of notes and recommendations exactly Susan Pompeo will prepare, as the secretary said she would.

BRETT BRUEN, FORMER U.S. DIPLOMAT & FORMER DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT, WHITE HOUSE: He takes his wife and gives her responsibilities, gives her support, and taking that away from those same men and women during the shutdown, during the time when they are particularly sidelines. It sends a terrible message about a double standard. One set of rules applies to me. Another set of rules applies to the working men and women of this department.

KOSINSKI: While it's not that common for secretary's spouses to join them on these trips, it has happened.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It's important when they do, they have an itinerary that is justified for the trip. That they're having engagements of their own. They're providing meaningful context.

KOSINSKI: Normally, it wouldn't draw anger or even much notice necessarily. But this is a government shutdown. People were called in and worked for free.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much.

Still ahead, President Trump's personal attorney raising more questions than answers after he says he's unsure if there was collusion between campaign aides and Russia. We'll discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:40:29] WHITFIELD: In just a 12-hour period this week, two blockbuster headlines about President Trump, Russia and the 2016 election. First, the president's lawyer raising questions about his comments on CNN about the possibility of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you have.

GIULIANI: 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, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Then the president's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, confirming another huge headline by the "Wall Street Journal," admitting he did, indeed, pay the head of a small technology company thousands of dollars in 2015 to rig online polls to benefit Trump. The White House calls the claim categorically false.

Let's bring in our legal guys. Avery Friedman is a civil rights attorney and law professor, and criminal defense attorney, Richard Herman.

Good to see both of you.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Good to see you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Near matching ties. Will you be in unison? Let's find out.

Richard, Giuliani moving the collusion goal post to now say that he just knows the president didn't collude but not necessarily the campaign staff. What is Giuliani doing here?

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Fredricka, for 18 months, no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, everybody's no collusion, which means Trump, his campaign, his friends, his people, everyone. No. All of a sudden, well, maybe there was collusion between some people. But Trump didn't know about it.

WHITFIELD: So was that a slipup or was that calculated?

HERMAN: No, no, that was calculated. Fred --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: I know the government has information that is very damaging on one of my witnesses. I have that witness on direct examination. I'm going to bring it out first. I'm going to soften the blow to the jury. That's what Giuliani -- there must be some very damaging information that's going to come to fruition very soon that's going to make Trump look very, very bad on this collusion, which, by the way, is conspiracy. Same thing. It's going to come out. So Giuliani is trying to soften the blow so that when it comes out, they can say, well, Trump didn't know about it, even if there was conspiracy --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: -- with the Russians.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Avery, why would that potentially soften the blow if that was his strategy? The president really is kind of the CEO. He's always said he is in charge.

HERMAN: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: And being in charge of the campaign.

FRIEDMAN: That's right. That's right. But the problem is, if you juxtapose Giuliani's statement in July, where he said there's no collusion by the president or the upper-level campaign people, politically, it's significant. Legally, it's just another spin. Sort of a court jester sort of screw up on the part -- I don't think there's any grand plan. What we've seen from Rudy Giuliani, Fredricka, is just whatever comes out. Their there's no plan here.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: No. That's not true.

FRIEDMAN: Frankly, no legal significance whatsoever, none.

HERMAN: Public relations.

WHITFIELD: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: And then there's the issue of, you know, the fixer, former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has claimed he paid the head of a small tech company thousands of dollars to rig some online polls in 2015. You know, that rigging attempt was unsuccessful, you know, by the way.

But, Richard, if this is true, is there a crime there committed?

HERMAN: I don't see a crime there, Fred. Just goes to show you --

(CROSSTALK) WHITFIELD: Not fraud or anything like that?

HERMAN: No. I don't even see that either. You don't want to hire Giuliani or Michael Cohen as your lawyer. We're learning that clearly. But he paid -- supposedly he had a deal for 50 grand to rig some software to inflate the figures on the Drudge Report --

FRIEDMAN: Right. Right.

HERMAN: -- and MSNBC polls to show that Trump was a viable candidate for the president and showed fake support for him. It didn't work. He paid the guy about $10,000 or $12,000 and put the rest in his pocket. So now Giuliani saying, oh, you can't believe him. It's not credible.

FRIEDMAN: It's deeper than that. It's deeper than that.

HERMAN: The significance is he said -- Cohen said, I did this at the direction of the president. And that's the theme we're going to be seeing for the next few months. People doing things at the direction of the president, which goes back to what you said, Fred, that is the head CEO of the company, he knows everything that's going on.

FRIEDMAN: He's already pleaded to that.

WHITFIELD: So, Avery, polls are tools, you know, of elections.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: And so why would that not be considered, you know, interfering with the election or at least attempting?

[13:44:59] FRIEDMAN: I actually agree. I think, back in 2015, it was very insignificant. The fact he tried to rig polls, not the big deal. The big deal, though, is that money that was paid to the software company dealt with the creation of a Twitter account to pump up and -- Michael Cohen to say, look, I'm a sex symbol, I'm a good- looking guy, I'm going to go on tour speaking for Trump. Money was paid for that, not in 2015 but, Fredricka, it was 2016. The question is, is that a federal election crime? That is a very significant legal issue and that still needs to be played out.

WHITFIELD: How concerned, Richard, should the Trump orbit be that Michael Cohen would be on Capitol Hill February 7th and to testify?

HERMAN: Yes, they're so concerned that the president is threatening Cohen to divulge information about his father-in-law, which is scaring the hell out of him, and he's now having second thoughts about whether he wants to testify. That's how important this is, Fred. This is devastating to the president because Cohen's going to get up there and say, I did this, I did this, all --

FRIEDMAN: Maybe, maybe. HERMAN: -- with the knowledge and express direction of the president.

It's going to be devastating for the president. He doesn't want it. That's why he's scaring him and threatening him and --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Right now, the president is threatening, you know, via tweet and otherwise, talking about his dad. I mean, that's badgering the witness.

FRIEDMAN: That's serious. Also part of the formula, Fredricka, is that the Mueller people may be limiting Michael Cohen's testimony before the House committee. Because there are many things that they don't want disclosed until the report is out. You've got, on the one hand, his personal lawyer saying you're going to have a problem about what you say concerning your personal liability. You've got the Mueller people saying you're not allowed to talk about that now. So look for a truncated level of testimony on February 7th before the House committee.

WHITFIELD: All right, Richard Avery --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: -- not good for the president, not good.

WHITFIELD: Matching ties, dissenting views. All the time.

FRIEDMAN: You bet.

HERMAN: Yes, always dissenting.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Got to surprise people all the time.

(LAUGHTER)

All right, Avery, Richard, thank you so much. Good to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Next, snow, ice and heavy rain. Over 100 million people str under a winter weather alert from the Midwest to the northeast. And it's all happening this weekend. An update coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:51:51] WHITFIELD: Millions of Americans will be snowed in this weekend. A massive storm system is bringing significant snow and dangerous ice to the northeast and the Midwest. The storm has already forced the cancellation of thousands of flights. In Omaha, the airport closed for several hours yesterday after a plane slid off the runway while taxiing.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is joining us in the CNN Weather Center. It looks pretty gad.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Fred, good to see you.

That is a huge storm, figuratively and literally. It stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. It is producing every single type of precipitation you can imagine. We've got rain. We've got snow. We've got sleet. We've got ice, freezing rain and even hail, because we've got a tornado watch on the southern flank of this thing that extends for another few hours here from the gulf to Mississippi and Alabama and eventually into Georgia. Some nasty thunderstorms. But the northern side of the storm, the colder side of the storm, that is where we've been accumulating significant amounts of snow. Already have had reports of over a foot of snowfall across the Midwest. And this is headed east. It is going to hit the big cities. In two ways. I think the snow and also the ice is going to be very problematic.

Look at here. Winter weather advisories and storm warnings stretch out for 1,500 miles, the biggest storm of the season, no question about it. Here's the way it is going to go. Saturday evening, the snow begins to spread up to the north. By Saturday around 8:00, it is snowing at New York and into Boston. Look at this. This is going to be the big problem. It is going to start raining overnight. The problem is that temperatures are going to be below 32 on the ground. That rain is going to freeze on contact. It is going to accumulate. When you see that pink there, I will tell you what, folks would rather have snow. Six inches of snow is going to be better than an inch of ice, which, in some cases, is what we're going to get here.

As far as the snowfall, the ski country will love this. Talking two feet of snowfall here. Closer you are to 95, that's where the mix will happen. That will have lesser amounts of snow but more ice, anywhere from a quarter to as high as an inch of ice. Already for the weekend, look at this,2,400 flights have been cancelled. If you're watching from the airport, my apologies. It will take some time to get where you're going.

WHITFIELD: Oh, what a mess.

Thank you so much, Ivan Cabrera.

CABRERA: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: Appreciate it. Good to see you.

[13:54:06] Still ahead, President Trump expected to announce a new deal to reopen the government. And he plans to announce it in just a couple of hours from now. Could the impasse over the southern border be coming to an end?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: The dignified transfer of one of the four Americans killed in a suicide bomb attack in Syria this week wrapped up about an hour ago at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. President Trump paid his last respects to the families of all four Americans who had gathered there. He called it a very sad occasion and the toughest thing he has had to do in office. He said that before he left the White House this morning. Officials say the four Americans had special skills to gather highly sensitive intelligence in Syria.

And their identities have been released. Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent was a 35-year-old Navy chief, cryptologic technician from Upstate New York. She was a cancer survivor, a wife, mother of two young boys, according to "Stars and Stripes." A rock star with infectious determination and tenacity, according to her commanding officers.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer was a 37-year-old married father of four who did six overseas combat tours since he joined the Army in 2005. He was from Boynton Beach, Florida.

And 42-year-old Scott Wirtz was a Navy SEAL before joining a defense intelligence agency as an operations support specialist. The St. Louis native was a patriot, according to his supervisors.

And the fourth person killed was an interpreter from East Point, Georgia, Ghadir Taher. Taher's brother said she worked through a company called Valiant, and was a naturalized U.S. citizen and immigrated from Syria in 2001.

The U.S. military has not said why the Americans traveled to the busy commercial city of Manbij. This is the largest loss of American life in Syria since the counter-ISIS campaign started --