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Michael Cohen Postpones Testimony Claiming Threats from Trump; Federal Workers Protest and Want to Return to Work; Venezuelan Opposition Leader Swears Himself in As President; Trump Recognizes Guaido As Venezuelan Interim President; Missing Footballer Sala Sent Audio Message from Plane Before Crash. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired January 23, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. Tonight, we begin with breaking news about the investigation into

President Donald Trump. Michael Cohen, the President's long-time lawyer who has now turned on him, will not be testifying to Congress as scheduled

next month. Cohen's lawyer issued a statement saying the President has made threats against Michael Cohen and against Cohen's family. The

statement also says Cohen is continuing to work with the special counsel Robert Mueller. Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez

for more on this breaking news. The statement is from Lanny Davis, the attorney for Michael Cohen. It's dated today. Mr. Cohen volunteered to

testify but due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Boris, adds Mr. Giuliani as recently as this weekend, he will not be

doing so. This is a real bombshell here.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly is, Hala. It raises questions about whether Cohen will ultimately testify before the

House Oversight Committee or not. Keep in mind he's scheduled to sign in to be imprisoned for the charges that he pled guilty to March 6th. The big

question obviously is about those threats that he is alleging that President Trump and Rudy Giuliani made beyond that. We do recognize that

President Trump tweeted about investigating Michael Cohen's father-in-law over the weekend. And, of course, we've seen a very swift change from the

administration when they first took questions about Michael Cohen. The President previously calling him a good man, saying he would only lie to

lighten his sentence, and recently as you've seen, Hala, the President and Rudy Giuliani have gone out of their way to essentially call Michael Cohen

a liar and to dismiss just about everything that he has said. Of course, there are many questions for Michael Cohen to answer while he testifies

before the House oversight committee if he, in fact, does. Many of them have to do with whether the President had conversations with him previous

to his other testimony before Congress. Remember, one of those convictions that he pled guilty to is that he lied to Congress. There are still being

questions to be answered. But, of course, we have reached out to the White House and to Elijah Cummings, the chairman of that committee, to get their

perspective on this announcement from Lanny Davis, Hala.

GORANI: Breaking news, we don't know what these threats are. We only know that the attorney for Michael Cohen is alleging that threats have been made

by the President himself.

SANCHEZ: Right, that's right. Publicly what we've seen so far aside from trying to disparage Michael Cohen's character is simply a call from

President Trump for Cohen's father-in-law to be investigated for alleged financial crimes. Again, there is no evidence that the President is

supplying with those claims. Publicly what we've seen so far, it is unclear whether there are other threats perhaps made through back channels

or elsewhere that Lanny Davis is alluding to here.

GORANI: He's tweeted things like, watch your father-in-law, or watch father-in-law, directed at Michael Cohen. We don't know what he was

referring to.

SANCHEZ: We don't exactly know what he was referring to in those tweets. He did mention some sort of financial dealings previously. Also keep in

mind many of those tweets came after that reporting in "BuzzFeed" that the President allegedly had talked to Michael Cohen about his testimony before

he actually pled or, rather, spoke in front of a House committee last year. But again, that reporting has been dismissed by the special counsel and so

it's really a matter of time before we find out exactly what Lanny Davis means here.

GORANI: All right. Thanks very much, Boris Sanchez at the White House with our breaking news.

The statement by Lanny Davis and as Boris was mentioning, states that Mr. Cohen had volunteered to testify before the House Oversight Committee.

When we hear from capitol hill, we'll be able to fill you in on their reaction as well. That testimony was scheduled to take place on February

7th, but the statement goes on to say, due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani as recently as this weekend as

well as Mr. Cohen's continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen's appearance will be postponed to a later

date. Let's bring in CNN legal and political analyst in Washington. David Swerdlick is in Washington. Joey Jackson is in New York. David, your

reaction to this breaking news.

[14:05:00] DAVID SWERDLICK, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": So, good afternoon, Hala. I think that Michael Cohen is pretty far into this to

start having cold feet. I am just catching up with some of the details of the story. But if it's the case that he now has reason to fear, I do think

that this was something of an inevitability that we might have seen. But I think we need to know more, both from his spokesman/lawyer Lanny Davis. I

think we need to hear from him. I'm wondering what facts changed between his many court appearances, the announcement of the scheduled February 7th

public testimony and today when they are issuing this statement.

GORANI: All right. And, Joey, I mean, legally speaking, Mr. Cohen had volunteered to testify. What happens now that he's pulling out and

postponing without giving any alternative date to the House?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL AND POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Hala. Good to see you, David. Look, here's the reality. This was voluntary

testimony. I think that was significant in and of itself because it makes it credible, right? It makes it certainly compelling. This is not

somebody who is deemed to be there pursuant to a subpoena, who is compelled or forced to be there. It's someone who is voluntarily giving information.

I think the world was going to be riveted by this, based on, one, his relationship with the President who was long-standing. A person who knows

a heck of a lot about everything. And number two, the position that him and the President are in. They're at odds. This is a guy who said he'd

take a bullet for him one day and the next day he said I'm protecting my family which he appears to be doing now, and he's spilling all. In terms

of what happens now, yes, Congress has subpoena power, which they can issue and you could be held in contempt of Congress, et cetera. I don't think

they'll go that route. I think part of the charm --

GORANI: Why not? Why not?

JACKSON: Because part of the essence of this testimony, at least initially they won't -- and let me explain. Part of the essence of the testimony in

giving it voluntarily just made it much more compelling than someone who is there -- it's like us attorneys when we're cross examining a witness. If a

witness is there voluntarily, a lot less to go after if you're compelled to be there when you can rip someone apart. On the issue of why I don't think

they'll do that because these concerns or threats may well be legitimate. We have to parse out what were the threats, when were they, how are they,

are they indeed legitimate? They can be crimes in and of themselves. That is first and foremost. Any Congress person has to look at that, the

essence of someone's safety before we start talking about voting on subpoenas and having somebody compelled to appear, et cetera.

GORANI: David, first of all, I was going to say, David, the fact that in this statement, Lanny Davis is saying that these threats are alleged to

have happened as recently as this weekend. We're talking four days ago here.

SWERDLICK: Right, Hala. Look, I want to make clear I think everyone has to take a step back. We in the media included, and realize that if these

threats are something that really have accrued in the last few days and depending on the nature of the threats, how serious they are, where they've

come from, I do think you have to look with some sympathy on Michael Cohen and say, any husband, father, family member, or just someone concerned for

their own well-being would have to take these things seriously and reflect on how public testimony is going to affect the safety of themselves and

those around them. On the other hand, if any part of Michael Cohen's hesitation -- this going back to joey's point about this being voluntary

versus subpoenaed. If any part of the hesitation is not safety related and it's related to him not wanting to sort of go before the cameras, if it's

not because he thinks, look, hey, it's not part of my plea deal, I don't have to do this, then you have to look at him and say, look, you got

yourself into this mess. You're never going to clear your name as he has said he wanted to do, unless you make a clean whatever you know before the

American people.

GORANI: Joey, because he's cooperating with the special counsel, because he has pled guilty, he wouldn't presumably be saying he's receiving threats

without having something to back it up. Would this be something he would be sharing with the special counsel?

JACKSON: On the issue of credibility of Michael Cohen, I believe many people believe he's credibility challenged based on representations and

things he's said before. No one can vouch whether the threats are credible or not credible. You have to wonder, here is a person who certainly was

motivated to give testimony. And now he's facing a firestorm by the President as well as Mr. Giuliani and he feels that based upon that

firestorm, his safety is at issue, in addition to threats, whatever those are. That will come out in due time.

[14:10:00] But I think those need to be really investigated, viewed and evaluated and certainly could become the subject of criminal charges

themselves. But in terms of whether or not he ultimately testifies, Hala, that's an open question, you know, because you have to really give credence

and pause into why he's not doing it when he was originally motivated and so open to do so. But in terms of whether or not he ultimately testifies,

Hala, that's an open question, you know, because you have to really give credence and pause into why he's not doing it when he was originally

motivated and so open to do so.

SWERDLICK: Hala, I can I make a quick point?

GORANI: Yes, please.

SWERDLICK: Quick point. I don't know as we're sitting here right now whether or not he and his family members have been in protective custody,

if they have round the clock law enforcement protection. If so, then that's good. If not, I would wonder why not, and why no one thought of

this possible eventuality before now, if that's the case.

GORANI: All right. It is remarkable, though, that we're reporting on an ex-private attorney of the United States saying he will not testify on

Capitol Hill because he has been threatened, he alleges, as recently as this weekend by that very President. Remarkable development. Thanks very

much to both of you. David Swerdlick and Joey Jackson.

Now to that seemingly -- not unseemingly, seemingly unending U.S. shutdown, we are in day 33. President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have not

spoken to each other the past two weeks. What does that mean? It means no phone calls, no meetings, no progress. They can't even decide if President

Trump will deliver the State of the Union address to Congress next week. President Trump sent a letter to the speaker saying he plans to show up

even if she does not want him to. It would be so very sad for our country, he wrote, if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule

and very importantly, on location. Pelosi said she's concerned about security during the shutdown and thinks it is the wrong time for a State of

the Union address. You'll remember she wrote the letter to him first saying she is postponing it. He writes a letter saying he hopes it is

going ahead and is planning on it. Meanwhile, the federal workers who will miss a second paycheck this Friday, they are angry. Some of them are

protesting right now inside the heart Senate office building demanding that Congress and the White House let them get back to work. Do your job read

one of the signs. Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly with more. Let's talk about this back and forth letter writing

campaign between the President and the House speaker. The House still -- so what happens now? The President has said, oh, no, I intend on

delivering the speech on January 29th in the House. What happens now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just from the 30,000-foot level, we're on the 33rd day of the government shutdown, this is the fight

that's happening and this is the communication between the Democratic speaker and the President who haven't communicated in two weeks, neither

has Chuck Schumer and the President. It's a total mess and not ending any time soon. Here's the technical reality behind what the President did

today. It's not up to the President. The speaker of the House determines whether or not the President comes and addresses both Houses of Congress.

They have to green light the State of the Union all together. Neither chamber, as you have done so, the speaker has control over what the House

passes. The President has floor privileges. The capital is an open building. He's more than welcome to walk the floor. He couldn't address

the Congress. Really what we're seeing now is a back and forth standoff of one trying to make the other blink which is what you're seeing in the

shutdown. Both sides not willing to budge. They're not going to shift any time soon. As a result, no action of any kind, while federal workers as

you note, 800,000 will miss their second check on Friday. Coast guard, T.S.A., integral to the daily operations of the United States government,

frankly the United States in general, all suffering because this is just right now still at an intractable level.

GORANI: Yes. And by the way, senators and House members will still getting their paychecks, right?

MATTINGLY: Yes, the government is funded. Only 25 percent of the government is shuttered. Congress did their job with 75 percent of the

federal government passing it through the fiscal year through the end of September. It's just 25 percent and it's unfortunate for those who are in

the 25 percent. One of the interesting elements of this is to some degree that's lessened the bite and urgency of lawmakers to come to the table.

Hala, you've been through these before. Usually what forces lawmakers to come to the table and capitulate is the pain of the people involved.

[14:15:00] They realize this is a fool's errand and it's time to put everybody back to work. It's taken longer to get to that point. I didn't

think it would take 33 days. It doesn't seem like there is an end coming in the near term which is amazing given the people who are hurt by that.

GORANI: As you said, they're squabbling about the State of the Union address and haven't spoken in a few weeks. Thank you very much, Phil

Mattingly, as we continue to see images of protests in Washington, of federal workers fed up, get back to work, do your job, one of them read.

Some of them entered or are protesting in the Senate building itself. Still to come a lot going on in Venezuela. The opposition leader is saying

he's the President. Nicolas Maduro is refusing demands to step down. We'll have the latest. We are live in Caracas next.


GORANI: Now to Venezuela where the national assembly President has just sworn himself in as the nation's President. It's a stunning move in the

middle of huge protests calling for the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro. And it was quickly endorsed, this move, by the U.S. President Donald Trump,

recognizing Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim President. Let's get the latest from Caracas. He's live. You were in the middle of the crowds

today, Stefano. Talk to us about what is going on in the streets of Caracas. Is it enough to put enough pressure to lead to some sort of

change? Just as the opposition leader is saying he's the President.

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, exactly, Hala. That's the question everybody is asking both here in Caracas and the international community

that is closely monitoring the situation here in Venezuela. The opposition have

gone all in.

They have decided to try the last move in order to break the impasse, the constitutional crisis that is happening in Venezuela -- that has been

happening for the past few years. The legislative power firmly in the hands of the opposition, and the executive, the presidency firmly in the

hands of Nicolas Maduro. The President of the parliament today swore himself in as the new interim of Venezuela in order to call for fresh new

elections as soon as possible. And he did it to a cheering crowd.

[14:20:00] The people that I was able to speak with today in the morning saying they were expecting Guido to do that. They are grateful for the

support he has received from the White House, from the United States, examine from the international community, Canada and other countries. Here

in Latin America are all recognizing Guido as the interim President. Will this be enough to smash -- to go through the message on to the other side

and to start a new democratic wave, a new development in the spring. Here in Caracas, that is yet to be seen, Hala.

GORANI: Stefano, we are seeing images of tense and violent moments in these protests. How much violence has there been? Is it from security

forces directed at demonstrators? Tell us about that aspect of things.

POZZEBON: yes of course, everything political here always turns out to be in somehow in violence. We remember for example the images of 2017 when

130 people lost their lives in a very ferocious wave of protest, that was not enough to call Maduro to step down. We are seeing these images yet

again today. The morning was mainly peaceful. The morning was very smooth and

a lot of people tried to demonstrate as peacefully as they can. Maduro has spoken has thrown his name into the ballot pushed as far as he could

and some people are simply not going back. And they want to stay to the street and see the results of these.

GORANI: All right, Stefano Pozzebon, thanks very much. Reminding our viewers of lots of breaking news this hour including what is happening in

Venezuela with these big protests. And also, what is coming out of Washington with a statement from President Trump recognizing the opposition

leader, Juan Guaido, as the interim Pres. of Venezuela. In the statement that was issued by the White House today, he writes I am officially

recognizing the President of these Venezuelan Assembly as the interim President of Venezuela. Very much waiting into Venezuelan politics right

from the White House. And there is an image of him. We will keep in touch with Stefano as the story develops in Caracas and across the country.

To the latest now on the missing Argentine footballer, Emiliano Sala, we are hearing that he sent WhatsApp audio messages from the plane to a group

of friends before his plane went missing. It was unclear exactly when Sala send the message but he is heard saying, he is on board the plane that was

scheduled to fly from Nantes to Cardiff.

"Brothers, I'm so tired, I was here in Nantes doing things, things and things and they don't end, they don't end. So, guys, I'm on a plane and it

looks like it's going to fall down in pieces. Ant I'm on my way to Cardiff, tomorrow, yes, we start in the afternoon. We start training guys

with the new team let's see what happens. So how are you doing guys? All OK? If in an hour and a half you don't have news from me, because you

don't fine me, but you will know. Dude, I'm scared."

It's just really -- it's just so sad. Don Riddell joins me now live. So, he's sending audio messages saying the plane feels like it's going to fall

apart. They'll probably send a rescue team to look for me. It looks like his worst fears came true. It's terrible, it really is.

DON RIDDELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS: It is absolutely awful. It's just so tragic, Hala. Of course, we don't yet know at what stage of the flight

this message was sent. We have had confirmation that this was, indeed, his voice and his message. Initially there were fears this might have been a

hoax recording.

[14:25:00] You know, when you hear the message, he sounds rather sarcastic, sort of rather sort of dead pan. It doesn't necessarily sound as though a

disaster is imminent. But, of course, it may well be relevant in the days and weeks to come. His observations about the state of the plane. It

sounds as though he's joking it's falling to pieces. Was it actually falling to pieces, he doesn't sound particularly panicked at that stage?

It's sobering to hear that message. Now we know the plane didn't make it to Cardiff Monday evening. They have been searching 48 hours and found

nothing. Authorities conducting the search say it is no longer a search and rescue operation, it's now a recovery operation.

GORANI: So, are they going to continue? I mean, obviously they'll continue searching. They're saying it's a recovery operation, in other

words, saying they believe there is no way he could have survived it.

RIDDELL: That is what the authorities said this time yesterday. Given the temperature of the water, we are still in the middle of January. It's

very, very wintry in the U.K. right now. They were speculating at the time that survival in water of those temperatures, your prospects wouldn't be

good for much more than an hour, and we are way beyond that point in-n-out. Don Riddell at the CNN center, thank you very much for that. On this sad

update on this young player who was sending -- I know you said it sounded sarcastic, but I can tell you with people who have a fear of flying, they

often try to turn it into a joke because it's their biggest fear. So anyway, sad news and a sad update. Thank you, Don Riddell at the CNN

center. Still to come, the breaking news we are following as President Trump's former attorney is postponing his testimony before Congress because

of threats he says he received from the President. We'll be right back.


GORANI: Back to our breaking news this hour, a dramatic turn in the investigation into Donald Trump. Now, Michael Cohen, the President's long-

time lawyer who is now cooperating with Robert Mueller's investigation, says he will not now testify to Congress as scheduled next month. The

reason for the cancellation, he says, is an even bigger surprise. In a statement, Cohen's lawyer says President Trump has made ongoing threats

against Cohen and his family. And not just President Trump, but Also Rudy Giuliani, as recently as just a few days ago.

[14:30:00] Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin. What do you make of this, Michael?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's interesting in political and legal terms. In political, there is the theater of Michael Cohen coming in,

testifying under oath and saying what we expect to be not so flattering things about the President. On the legal side, he refuses to testify about

things which are ongoing in the Mueller investigation. And so, it's that tension that I think caused him some pause overarchingly. On the

television this weekend, Rudy Giuliani, the President's public relations lawyer, essentially made threats to Cohen, saying, you know, if you

continue to talk badly about my client, the President, you should worry about the well-being of your father-in-law for further criminal inquiry.

That's pretty serious stuff. And Cohen took it as a legal threat and said, I'm not coming. If I'm going to have my family at risk because of the

President and his lawyer, I'm just not coming.


GORANI: I'm not familiar with who Michael Cohen's father-in-law is or why he should be concerned about, whether or not, there are criminal

investigations opened against him.

ZELDIN: Yes. Michael Cohen's father-in-law is a Ukrainian who has made a lot of money, apparently, in the United States. There are allegations that

have been circulating with no proof behind them whatsoever that his father- in-law may be connected to unsavory aspects of the New York taxicab and other businesses, and that's what the threat is about.

Essentially saying your father-in-law, the Ukrainian, with in my view, Rudy Giuliani's view, suspicious sources of funds should be very worried if his

son-in-law testifies. That's serious -- that's a serious matter and Cohen took it that way.

GORANI: That is remarkable. Well, in the statement issued by Lanny Davis, the attorney for Michael Cohen, he doesn't just say Rudy Giuliani. He also

says the president and as recently as this weekend.

ZELDIN: Right.

GORANI: I mean, for someone cooperating with the special counsel, would you expect that he has proof that the president himself is issuing threats

against him, if he's willing to make the statement through his lawyer?

ZELDIN: I think it is not correct probably that the president, for example, called up Michael Cohen and threatened him in any way. I think when he

says, the president and his lawyer, he means the lawyer speaking on behalf of the president. So that it all, you know, derives from the words out of

Rudy Giuliani's mouth.

But his view, Cohen's view is that Giuliani is not saying this of his own initiative. He's saying it at the behest of his client, the president of

the United States.

And so it's up to Congress -- sorry, go ahead. Go ahead.

GORANI: I was going to say, do you think this just references what Giuliani said in the Sunday talk shows and on television last week, not any

other form of communication?

ZELDIN: That's my surmise. We'll be surprised forever and ever about as this case unfolds, but that's my surmise.

GORANI: So what does this mean for the testimony? Because this was voluntary testimony on February 7th. He's saying, I'm not going to go

ahead with it. And then in the statement, Lanny Davis writes, "Mr. Cohen wishes to thank Chairman Cummings for allowing him to appear before the

House Oversight Committee and looks forward to testifying at the appropriate time."

ZELDIN: Right.

GORANI: Is he just kicking the can down the road? He's not really giving a specific date, maybe not making any decisions for now.

ZELDIN: Well, so there's a couple of things about it. First is, of course, it's a very short road before Michael Cohen has to report to a

federal prison. And so while he can be compelled by subpoena to come and testify, even while in prison, if Lanny Davis, his spokesperson is saying,

well look to a future date when Michael Cohen can voluntarily come in. That's between now and sometime in March. Because after that, Michael

Cohen has no voluntary access to anything except for his prison cell.

So this is theater in some sense. I think that they were making a point here in response to the Giuliani threats.

I think Lanny Davis, an experienced public relations lawyers is saying well, we'll threaten you back, which is to say you are engaging, you know,

sort of criminal wrongdoing, and you are intimidating us and therefore we are not going to -- we're not going to go forward. And you, the U.S.

government should look into whether Rudy Giuliani is violating the law.

So there's this bit of gamesmanship that's going on between the sides and we'll see whether it gets resolved in Michael Cohen testifying before he

goes to jail in March, which is, I think, what will happen if Elijah Cummings, the oversight committee chair, issues a subpoena.

GORANI: All right. And it's remarkable though, just reading that statement from Lanny Davis. I mean, that a U.S. -- sitting U.S.

president's former attorney, would say that the president through his attorney is threatening him.

ZELDIN: Yes. It's remarkable.

GORANI: And so therefore will not be testifying publicly.

And how does this -- lastly, how does this impact in any way, if at all, really the Mueller investigation here?

ZELDIN: Well, we don't know to the extent to which Michael Cohen is still cooperating with Mueller. We had, over the past couple of days, you know,

issues about what did the president know and for what duration did he know about the Trump Tower Moscow plan that Michael Cohen was putting forth?

Giuliani said some very conflicting things. Some of which, if true, would put the president in potential political and maybe even legal peril because

of other statements that he made to the special counsel.

[14:35:06] So it could well be that Cohen and Mueller are still talking about this Trump Tower Moscow deal, but that doesn't imply any, sort of,

break up in that relationship because he's not testifying before Congress. I think that stands separate and apart from the congressional testimony.

GORANI: Michael Zeldin, thanks very much. Always a pleasure. Thanks for your analysis.

ZELDIN: Thanks a lot.

GORANI: Let's talk to someone who knows Donald Trump personally, who's interviewed him many times. And reaction on the, of course, shutdown as

well, and how it's entered day 33 that it doesn't appear as though there's any kind of agreement or compromise in sight.

CNN contributor, Michael D'Antonio. He's a Trump biographer and the author of the "Truth About Trump." Michael, thanks for joining us.

First of all, what did you make of Michael Cohen's attorney issuing the statement, saying, "I feel threatened by Giuliani and Trump and so I'm not

going to speak publicly." What do you make of this?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this is a dynamic that I think is consistent with the Trump world and is something that I noticed in

studying the president's life and that I actually experienced moving the other -- in the other direction with Michael Cohen when I was just about

wrapping up my book, he called me to threaten me.

GORANI: Right, yes.

D'ANTONIO: So this is a crowd of people that enjoys throwing threats around in the case of the president he's now threatening a national crisis

with the shutdown and holding federal workers hostage.

These folks are extremists and they're the kind of people we haven't seen in charge in the United States ever. And we're sort of living through this

day by day watching really awful behavior play out on our television screens and in our newspapers.

GORANI: And how did Michael Cohen threaten you? What did he say when he called you?

D'ANTONIO: Well, his call to me was to inquire about what was in my book and to threaten a lawsuit if I didn't hand it over to him in advance and

let Donald Trump read through it and offer corrections.

Now, all of this is in violation of all kinds of American traditions of freedom of the press. And I wasn't going to go along with it by any

stretch of the imagination. But he put on this kind of tough guy show. And it's really an anachronism in our political life.

We aren't accustomed to people pretending to be mafia creatures and threatening people with harm because of their own interests. But these are

people in Trump and Cohen, and to some degree obviously, Giuliani, who feel very comfortable smearing people and threatening them just to get their


GORANI: Yes. They keep referencing his father-in-law as well, to possibly as a way to scare him or try to intimidate him, some have said.

So, what do you think is going through the president's mind now with this shutdown? There's this back and forth letter writing between him and Nancy


And when you say they act this way to further their own interests, in some ways, the shutdown is actually hurting Trump. Because in polls, a majority

of Americans are blaming him for this. Yet he's standing firm.

D'ANTONIO: Well, you're correct.

GORANI: No compromise. Yes.

D'ANTONIO: You're correct. A CNN poll found that roughly two-thirds of Americans blame the president and would prefer that the government be put

into operation and then whatever negotiations are to happen be conducted under normal order. So the president isn't winning this fight.

But it's all about theatrics and about the optics of this for him. He ran for office saying, I'm a winner. There's going to be so much winning.

You're going to get sick of it. It's really not about the national interest. It's about his ego.

And I think we have trouble accepting that this is true. That this is really about a petulant person who's having a fit of pique every other

moment and then just deciding policy based on that. But that really is the kind of person he is.

He had no prior experience working with others in any constructive way in his life. His businesses were all held by the family. He tried to bully

people in the conduct of those businesses. And he gained office by bullying the other Republicans in the race and screaming lock her up about

Hillary Clinton. So he's had very little experience that would moderate his behavior.

[14:40:15] GORANI: Well, now with the House in the Democratic hands, things might change.

Just lastly on this State of the Union Address, so Nancy Pelosi is playing her card. She's telling them for security reasons, maybe you should

consider delaying the State of the Union. He's written a letter today to her, "I look forward to seeing you on the evening of January 29th in the

chamber of the House of Representatives."

What is he trying to do here? Because she needs to -- is he trying to corner her, to force her into disinviting him? What is he trying to do?

D'ANTONIO: Well, somehow he imagines that by blustering and bullying her, he's going to get his way. And it has worked in the past, but he's not

encountered a figure in Washington who holds the kind of power that Nancy Pelosi holds and is opposed to him.

So she has the keys to the House Chamber, and she can lock the door --

GORANI: We have some breaking news. I apologize. In a letter to Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi is stating that the State of the Union is off. So,

it's not going to take place on January 29th. Just confirming with my producer, Laura. That's what she -- can you tell me? The State of the

Union is not happening on January 29th, Michael. We're hearing that just this second. I'm learning about it with you.

So, what's going to be Trump's next move? And, by the way, this is all happening while 800,000 federal employees are not getting paid. This is

the bickering that's going on.

D'ANTONIO: Well, and it's not -- the impact is not just on them. We have now Americans who are expecting to get refunds from their income tax

returns. Those are likely to be delayed. Our airports are getting backed up with lines because TSA agents aren't being paid and aren't showing up.

And Pelosi is doing precisely what she's empowered to do. She's doing what the president has not experienced before. She's standing up to him.

And as the CNN polls and others indicate, the American people are behind her. So this is not helping Donald Trump by any metric. I don't expect

him to have the wherewithal to retreat. So I suspect we're going to see a rally held somewhere and he's going to give his speech there.

GORANI: Yes. So, Michael, I'm just reading the Pelosi letter here for the very first time. So she's saying, "Dear Mr. President, when I extended an

invitation on January 3rd for you to deliver the State of the Union Address, it was on the mutually agreed upon date January 29th. At that

time, there was no thought that the government would still be shut down."

Skipping one paragraph through paragraph. "I'm writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution

authorizing the president's State of the Union Address in the House Chamber until government has opened."

So unless government is open again. And, Michael, if you can stand by, we're going to Manu Raju, our senior congressional correspondent can join

me now.

So this basically means, Manu, the State of the Union Address is not happening on January 29th in the House, at least.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's absolutely right. A remarkable development that underlines a state of play in the

longest government shutdown in the American history that the speaker of the House taking this unprecedented move and saying the House Chamber will not

be the venue for the president's annual address to the American public about the state of affairs in the United States.

She said in that letter that she would not take up and consider a resolution in the House to allow the State of the Union to take place on

January 29th.

Now, that is required, for the State of the Union to happen, the House and the Senate here in the United States need to actually pass a measure

allowing the president to come and address the chamber and deliver the annual speech.

But she's saying as she's the speaker of the House, she will not allow that vote to take place until the government is reopened. This came after the

president today he still planned to come and deliver his speech on January 29th. But she's saying, now way, that's not going to happen in the House.

Now, the White House will have to find another venue. Hala.

GORANI: All right. Manu Raju, thanks very much. Reporting on our breaking news that Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, is saying unless the

government reopens, there will be no State of the Union in the House on January 29th.

A lot more to come, Russia is warning Israel to stop airstrikes in Syria. Saying the country shouldn't be grounds for a proxy war. We are live in

Jerusalem and Moscow just ahead.


[14:45:39] GORANI: All right. Welcome back. I'm hearing that the U.S. President Donald Trump is speaking at a roundtable in the Roosevelt Room at

the White House. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats have become radicalized. They don't want to see crime stop which we could very easily

do on the southern border. And it really is a shame what's happening with the Democrats. This will go on for a while.

Ultimately, the American people will have their way because they want to see no crime. They want to see what we're doing, like today. We lowered

prescription drug prices, first time in 50 years. They want to see that. The Democrats would never have been able to do that. So we're all working

very hard. We'll have to respond to it. We'll respond to it in a timely manner. Thank you very much, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you going to deal with the Chinese next week?

TRUMP: China very much wants to make a deal. We'll see what happens. I like where we are right now. We're doing great as an economy. They're not

doing very well because of the tariffs.

But as you know, fairly soon that the deal that I made with them will come off. The tariffs will be substantially increased on China. They're paying

billions of dollars to the United States treasury. First time we've ever done that. First time we've ever had money coming the other way from

China. It's always been a one way street.

But I have a very good relationship with President Xi, and we'll see what happens. But we're doing very well in our negotiation with China. One way

or the other, doesn't matter. One way or the other we're going to do well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Cohen, he says he's been threatened by you and Mr. Giuliani --

TRUMP: No, I would say he's been threatened by the truth. He's only been threatened by the truth and he doesn't want to do that probably from me or

other of his clients. He has other clients also, I assume. And he doesn't want to tell the truth for me or other of his clients.

OK. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thanks, Jeff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody. Right this way.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

TRUMP: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bye, guys. Thanks.


GORANI: All right. So this was the U.S. president. It was a quick little Q&A with reporters there. This will go on for a while. He talked about

the shutdown, it seems like, or negotiations with the Democrats that he is accusing of being soft on crime, saying that a border wall would reduce


And also, he was asked about Michael Cohen, who through his attorney, said that he was being threatened by President Trump and Rudy Giuliani. And the

president replied, he's only been threatened by the truth, without expanding on that. So that coming from Donald Trump.

A lot of breaking news this hour. We'll be right back with more. Stay with us.


[14:50:01] GORANI: Russia is warning Israel to stop what it calls arbitrary airstrikes on Syria. Israel unleashed a wave of attacks against

Iranian targets around Damascus Monday and promised more to come. Vowing to never let Iran, quote, "entrench itself in Syria."

Israel says it was responding to an Iranian missile fired at the occupied Golan Heights. But Russia's serious powerful ally is making clear that

Tehran will have a role in helping shape Syria's future.

Today, Vladimir Putin said he's ready to host the summit with Iran and Turkey during a meeting with Turkish president. Mr. Putin also praised the

U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria, calling the American presence there illegal.

There is so much going on in those statements coming from countries that have themselves troops inside Syria that themselves are fighting proxy

battles in the country.

Let's bring in Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem and Fred Pleitgen in Moscow.

So, Oren, first of all, any action from Israel to this call by Moscow of asking the Israelis to stop targeting Syrian -- to stop attacking Syrian

targets in Syria? I'm getting it out finally. Yes.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Not a word from anyone here, Hala. No official reaction. Certainly not from the prime minister's

office. And that's not too much of a surprise. Israel has always been very, very careful when it comes to Russia and it won't do anything to

upset in any way, even in a slight way, Russia, the Kremlin, even the foreign ministry.

And that's because of the military coordination Israel has with Russia, military coordination that was used during these last strikes. And even if

this is essentially a smack down from the foreign ministry saying, don't do this again, Israel is likely to see this as rhetoric.

Even if it does see it as more than that, as more than just words what, I think, you're likely to see happen is Israel back off some of the strikes

and hold back for just a little bit. That's what you saw happen when Russia blamed Israel for the downing of a Russian military jet a few months


But then after some time, after Netanyahu leverages his good relationship with Russian President, Vladimir Putin. I suspect you'll see a return to

Israel's policies and Israel's red lines when it comes to Iran's presence in Syria.

GORANI: Yes. And it's interesting that Russia, Fred Pleitgen, would tell any country not to interfere in Syria when they themselves have been

involved so significantly.

What came out of that Erdogan-Putin summit, by the way, in terms of their Syria strategy?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was interesting because it seemed as though the two men really agreed that they

were going to work together to try and find some sort of way forward.

One of the things that the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, is that he said that the Russians were on board with a security zone that the

Turks want to create in the northeastern part of Syria. Of course, they're very concerned about some of the Kurdish militias that in the past have

been -- are still supported, right now, by the U.S. But when the U.S. leaves could then be alone.

The Russians for their part see things a little bit differently than the Turks. They say that the Syrian government should be the one that's in

control in that area. So that's one of the places where they're going to have to find some sort of way forward.

One of the things that could potentially happen is that to the Kurdish forces that are out there could potentially, if that's something that they

want to do, integrate into the Syrian military. And then you would indeed have the Syrian government takeover control over that area.

But today, I would say, looking at those talks -- and I watched them quite carefully, both the press conference and also the meeting before the talks,

you do recognize that Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin want to find a way forward. Both of them said they're very happy with the U.S. leaving

that area. And they now seem to see that they could possibly come to some sort of agreement to both stabilize Syria and then both politically

essentially get what they want.

The Turks obviously wanting the Kurds to be away from the border. And the Russians essentially want the Syrian government to take over control

overall of Syria. Hala.

GORANI: So many people have a say in what happens to Syrians, except it seems the Syrians themselves and the Israelis are probably not happy and

have expressed their dissatisfaction at the idea that U.S. troops will pull out soon. Oren?

[14:55:10] LIEBERMANN: Very much so. Though it wasn't said openly certainly not from the prime minister. But we heard it from some officials

in the military establishment, the security establishment. Because the U.S. presence there was, essentially, the only leverage Israel had over the

process of what will happen in Syria.

So that was not a good development for Syria -- for Israel that is. That was also a way for Israel to try to keep Iran's presence back in that

region to whatever extent that it could. So that wasn't a good development for Israel.

But again, you saw Israel being very careful when it comes to openly criticizing U.S. policy. Certainly Israel being very careful when it comes

to openly criticizing President Donald Trump. So there is dissatisfaction and there was dissatisfaction but it wasn't voiced really openly in that


GORANI: OK. Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, Fred Pleitgen in Moscow. Thanks to both of you.

Before I leave you tonight, I just want to recap our top breaking news story. There was a lot going on this hour. That dramatic turn and the

investigation into Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, the president's long-time lawyer, who is now cooperating with Robert Mueller's investigation, says he

will not testify to Congress as scheduled next month. Why? In a statement, Cohen's lawyer says it's because President Trump has made

ongoing threats against Cohen and his family.

Speaking just moments ago, Mr. Trump addressed the comment saying Cohen is only threatened by the truth. So another aspect of this, of course, is

whether or not the -- Michael Cohen will be testifying at a later date.

Oh. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who just told Donald Trump the State of the Union won't happen on January 29th is speaking. Let's listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I said very clearly that I came to him the second time to say this government

shutdown -- let's work together and reach an agreeable date and we can open the state Capitol for the State of the Union Address.

The government is still shutdown. I still make the offer. Let's work together on a mutually agreeable date, as the original date was mutually

agreeable. So that we can welcome him properly to the Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happens if he shows up on the 29th?


GORANI: OK. Let's work together on a mutually agreeable date. Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker, saying let's work together. We'll work

together. Try on a mutually agreeable date for the State of the Union. But she was clear in her letter to Donald Trump, it will not happen in the

House on January 29th so long as the government has not reopened. We'll see how the White House reacts in this tit for tat battle.

Thanks for watching. I'm Hala Gorani. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is in Davos.