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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Meets Intel Chiefs After Publicly Insulting Them; Trump Vows No Deal without Wall Funding; Trump Jr.'s Mysterious Calls Before Trump Tower meeting Not to His Father; Mueller Releases Info on Roger Stone Evidence; Interview with Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT). Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 31, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: -- comfortable that President Trump is withdrawing from the world stage when terrorists are gaining strength -- Jake.
[17:00:07] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much for that report. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show, @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Emergency possible? President Trump says if there's no money for the border wall, there will be no deal to prevent another government shutdown, and he suggests he's ready to declare a national emergency when the current agreement expires in six weeks.
"I'm right." The president keeps insisting he's right and his intelligence chiefs are wrong about global threats. He now claims they were misquoted when they publicly contradicted him in public testimony.
Blocked numbers. A CNN exclusive, as sources say Senate investigators have new information showing Donald Trump Jr.'s mysterious phone calls ahead of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting were not with his father. So who did he call?
And years of evidence. Robert Mueller's team describes the evidence collected from Trump ally Roger Stone's computers and phones, including financial records. The special counsel now looking for a protective order to keep the evidence confidential.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, President Trump meets at the White House with top intelligence chiefs after publicly insulting them for contradicting him on global threats. He's just claimed that the intel chiefs were misquoted, even though their comments that angered him came in public on-camera testimony.
He seems more focused on his feud with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who says there will be no wall money in any legislation to avert another government shutdown. The president says a deal without wall money doesn't work and insists Pelosi will eventually -- and I'm quoting the president now -- "be begging for a wall."
Also breaking, a CNN exclusive. Senate investigators have new information showing Donald Trump Jr.'s mysterious phone calls before the 2016 Trump Tower meeting were not -- repeat, not -- with his father. Sources say phone records appear to contradict Democrats' suspicions about the blocked number -- number involved.
I'll speak with Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by with full coverage.
Let's get right to the breaking news and our CNN senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.
Pamela, the president is still obviously very angry over being contradicted by his intelligence chiefs, but now, he's trying to blame it all on the news media.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In fact, the president was in the Oval Office, taking questions about this. And I asked if he talked to his intel chiefs about their contradictory congressional testimony. He said he had and that they claimed that they were misquoted.
I pressed, Wolf, and said, "How can that be, if this was congressional testimony that was caught on camera that we played?" And the president went on to say it was fake news.
He also says the fact that his intel chiefs didn't bring up the border during the national security assessment to Congress undercuts his argument that there is a crisis at the border. The president says no, it doesn't undercut it. This, as negotiations continued for border wall funding today.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not saying this as a Republican. I'm not saying it as -- as anything other than a fact-stater. Without a wall, it just doesn't work.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump is digging in on his fight for a border wall, calling out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while the bipartisan negotiations for funding border security continues.
TRUMP: If you go to Tijuana, and you take down that wall, you will have so many people coming into our country that Nancy Pelosi will be begging for a wall. She'll be begging for a wall.
BROWN: Trump responding to Pelosi's earlier declaration Thursday.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There's not going to be any wall money in the legislation.
BROWN: The powerful pair engaged in a back and forth, both defiant.
TRUMP: If there's no wall, it doesn't work. She's just playing games. So if there's no wall, it doesn't work.
BROWN: The president already discounted the negotiations just two days in. White House officials say the president continues to make preparations for a national emergency order to get the wall built.
TRUMP: I'm not waiting for this committee. And I've told a lot of people, I don't expect much coming out of the committee.
I don't think they're going to make a deal. I see what's happening. They're all saying, "Oh, let's do this, but we're not giving one dime to the wall."
BROWN: And over 3,000 active-duty troops will be deployed to the southern border, in addition to the 2,300 troops already there, multiple defense officials tell CNN.
This, as President Trump's rift with his intelligence chiefs continues to play out publicly.
TRUMP: I disagree with certain things that they said. I think I'm right, but time will prove that. Time will prove me right, probably.
[17:05:06] BROWN: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel arrived for a meeting at the White House today for the president's intelligence briefing, one day after Trump publicly admonished his intelligence chiefs over their testimony contradicting many of his foreign policy statements.
Trump, furious, singled out Coats by name in a rant yesterday. The president downplayed those disagreements.
(on camera): Mr. President, did you talk to your intelligence chiefs today about the displeasure you had with their testimony?
TRUMP: I did, and they said that they were totally misquoted and they were totally -- it was taken out of context. And what I do, is I suggest that you call them. They said it was fake news. So -- which frankly didn't surprised me.
BROWN: Well, we just ran exactly what they said to Congress.
TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me.
BROWN (voice-over): Pelosi poking the president for his public fracture with the intelligence community.
PELOSI: That the president just doesn't seem to have the attention span or the desire to hear what the intelligence community has been telling him.
BROWN: Some Republican leaders are splitting with the president.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The threat that ISIS and al Qaeda pose are global.
BROWN: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's amendment calling for U.S. troops to stay in Syria passed today, an acknowledgement that ISIS continues to pose grave threats to the U.S., despite Trump claiming otherwise.
The president juggling another potentially grave threat, North Korea, hyping the much-anticipated second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
TRUMP: For the meetings with North Korea, we're going to a certain location. I think most of you know where the location is. I don't think it's any great secret. But we'll be announcing the location and the date, the exact date it will be, at the end of February.
BROWN: And we just received this photo of President Trump with his intel chiefs, getting the intelligence briefing. And this is a common occurrence. But what makes this so unique is it comes one day after the president said his intel chiefs need to go back to school and called them naive for contradictory testimony.
But now the president is changing his tune after this meeting, saying, "Just concluded a great meeting with my intel team in the Oval Office, who told me what they said Tuesday at the Senate hearing was mischaracterized by the media; and we are very much in agreement on Iran, ISIS, North Korea, et cetera. Their testimony was distorted by the press."
Again, Wolf, it is worth emphasizing that the media just played exactly what these intel chiefs said during the congressional testimony. So it's unclear what he means by misquoted. As you saw, I pressed him on that in the Oval Office, and he dodged that question -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You certainly did. And it was only yesterday -- yesterday, Pamela, when he said the intelligence people seemed to be "extremely passive and naive," and then yesterday he also said, "Perhaps intelligence should go back to school!"
So even yesterday, as recently as yesterday, he was blasting the intelligence officials. Now he's claiming it was all fake news.
Pamela, I want you to stand by, because there's more breaking news. I want to bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.
Manu, you and Pamela have some exclusive reporting that Senate investigators are learning more about those mysterious phone calls placed by Donald Trump Jr. before and after the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. What's the latest, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This meeting, of course, has been heavily investigated by multiple congressional committees, by the special counsel, because Donald Trump Jr. tried to get dirt from the Russians on the Hillary Clinton campaign. Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort also in attendance in that meeting. And there have been a lot of questions about whether then-candidate
Trump knew about these efforts by his son to set up the meeting. And, in particular, the Democrats have pointed to phone records that had been turned over to congressional investigators that had blocked phone numbers. And it was uncertain whose number that actually belonged to.
There were two phone calls that occurred, three days before the June 9 meeting that occurred as Donald Trump Jr. was communicating with Emin Agalarov, who is a Russian pop star who was involved in setting up the meeting. Those two phone calls had blocked identities. And two hours after the June 9 meeting, Donald Trump Jr. had another phone call with another blocked phone number.
Now, when Donald Trump Jr. was asked in his testimony before Capitol, whose number that was, he said he could not recall. And Democrats pointed out the fact that others had testified that his father, candidate Trump, had a blocked number at his primary residence.
Well, we have now learned that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating this, has new information saying this was not Donald Trump's number. In fact, it was Donald Trump Jr.'s business associates, two of his business associates who had been communicating with Donald Trump Jr.
Now, we have not been able to confirm the identity of those business associates and whether this has anything to do with the Russian investigation going forward. But Wolf, this does answer one question that investigators had going forward, about the president's knowledge of this beforehand.
[17:10:10] Maybe this phone call may not have occurred with Donald Trump Jr. Whether other conversations occurred, we'll have to see. But at least these -- this phone number we've now learned, according to Senate Intelligence Committee's information, is not belonging to Donald Trump Jr.'s father -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Democratic lawmakers, Manu, they've zeroed in, as you well know, on these calls. And now we know the calls were not to the president. So what are the implications of all of this?
RAJU: Well, one of the things that Adam Schiff, House Intelligence Committee chairman, wanted to do as part of his new responsibility overseeing this powerful committee after the Democrats took the House, was to get these phone numbers. He had sharply criticized Republicans' refusal to subpoena for more information about that blocked identity.
He had questioned whether or not this belonged -- this number had anything to do with the president himself. But the fact that this is business associates, who these business associates were, whether they had any knowledge about other issues relevant to this investigation, that will be part of the investigation going forward.
This will not stop Democrats, of course, looking further into this issue, looking further into things that they believe the Republicans, when they were in charge, did not look into fully. But at least at this point, we now have -- we understand from what the
Senate Intelligence Committee has learned, that Donald Trump Jr. -- Donald Trump did not have that phone call with the president.
But Wolf, there's also one other point, was that after this had been revealed by "The New York Times," Donald Trump had a conversation with Donald Trump Jr. about the response -- that may have been about the response to the revelation of this report in "The New York Times" about this meeting.
Donald Trump Jr. told the House Intelligence Committee that conversation was protected by attorney/client privilege. Democrats want to get more information about what they talked about in responding to the press, the revelation about that Trump Tower meeting and why it was misleading initially to the public.
BLITZER: Very interesting, Manu. Pamela, you and Manu, you've done both some great reporting on all of this. But why is it just coming out now? Presumably, they could have put this to rest a long time ago.
BROWN: Yes, particularly around the time that Don Jr. testified, a while ago, Wolf.
But at that time, the House Democrats who were really focused on this weren't in the position, didn't have the ability to get this information.
We are told that the Senate Intel Committee, this was the committee that reached out to the telephone company recently to try to get this information, to uncover the numbers. And so that is why this is just now coming to light, Wolf, because the Senate Intel Committee just received, recently, the information from the telephone company, showing what exactly these numbers are and that they belong to business associates of Don Jr.
Now, Don Jr. just retweeted my colleague Manu talking about our story. This is what he says, as you see on the screen. "More of the Democrat's [SIC] #fakenews narrative disappearing before their eyes. I wonder how many more false leaks will pop up now to keep their dreams alive."
Of course, this is a baseless accusation here from Don Jr. But certainly, it is something, a story that is good for Don Jr., Wolf, given all the speculation surrounding those blocked calls before the Trump Tower meeting and whether he was talking to his father.
But I would say it's unclear to us whether investigators are laying -- putting this to rest or are they still pursuing this, trying to learn about what those conversations with those business associates were about. It's unclear at this point that this is a settled matter -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Excellent reporting, Pamela. Thank you very much.
Manu, thanks to you, as well. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, has released details of evidence
seized from Trump ally Roger Stone, including computers, phones and the data they contain.
Our crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Shimon, the special counsel describes the evidence as voluminous and complex. How damaging could this cache potentially be?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's hugely damaging for Roger Stone. When you think about it, when this arrest occurred on Friday, the FBI searched -- we found out was searching three locations. They were at his house for hours. And now we're getting an idea of some of the things that they found and some of the information that they have already obtained through search warrants and other measures.
So you have cell phones, e-mail accounts, Apple iCloud accounts, information. And they say that there are a lot of documents that they need to go through, and it's going to take some time to hand this over to the defense attorneys.
One other thing that I found very interesting in all of this is that they also have bank and financial records. Now, Roger Stone is not accused of breaking any laws at this point involving bank or financial records.
So it's not entirely clear why the FBI, why the special counsel's office would have this information. Clearly, they were looking for something there. We don't yet know what that is.
And the other thing they said, that this information goes back several years. They have, in these documents, in these cell-phone records and the other stuff that they have, this goes back several years. Another thing that's going to take them some time to go through.
[17:15:07] BLITZER: How is Mueller's team trying to prevent leaks of all of this sensitive information?
PROKUPECZ: So they've asked the judge to give them a protective order. And interestingly enough, we've seen this in other parts of this investigation.
The biggest concern is that any of this information could possibly leak. So they don't want the attorneys sharing the information that the Mueller team, actually now the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., which is going to be overseeing this investigation and this trial, they don't want this information getting out somehow.
So they're asking the judge, "We're fine. We are going to give this to the attorneys, but we would like you to put in place a protective order so that this information and the documents don't get shared with people who should not have it."
BLITZER: Important information indeed. Shimon, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Democratic congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good evening, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's begin with your reaction to CNN's exclusive new report. You just heard it. Does this new information about blocked phone numbers not belonging to then-candidate Trump throw cold water on the notion that Donald Trump was looped in on that high-level talk with Russian officials at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign?
HIMES: Well, if CNN's reports are right and, in fact, those were calls to, I guess, business associates, that would certainly tick off one of the items on our list, which is not a short list, of follow-ups that we had, certainly on the House Intelligence Committee, with respect to the interviews that we did.
Now, it wouldn't necessarily prove that there hadn't been communication between Don Jr. and his father. And frankly, if the call had been to his father, it wouldn't prove that they'd necessarily had discussed the meeting with the Russians, which -- which was of such interest, of course, to the committee.
So it strikes me as mainly just ticking off one of the things on the list that we wanted to see, assuming that we get to see that. Remember, there were all sorts of people. There were other follow-ups that we wanted to see. And now of course, that the Democrats do control the House, we will have an opportunity to go through and not just get that but follow up on all of the other items that we thought -- any comprehensive investigation would want to look at.
BLITZER: Have you received similar evidence in the House Intelligence Committee, along the lines of what the Senate has received?
HIMES: We have not yet. In fact, the House Intelligence Committee has only yesterday really been re-created for this Congress when Minority Leader McCarthy appointed the Republican members. So we actually have yet to meet as a committee on the House side in this Congress.
BLITZER: Have you seen any evidence, Congressman, that Donald Trump Jr. did contact his father in some other way, perhaps?
HIMES: Not specific evidence. In other words, you know, again, if the CNN report is right, that those phone calls are not to his father, that rules out that he used that phone to call his father.
But that doesn't mean that there wasn't communication. Remember Steve Bannon, in his famous statement in his book said the probability that Don Jr. didn't run upstairs to his father's office to talk about this was -- I think the word he used, the probability was zero.
So there's lots of ways to talk to your dad. The right way to find out whether that communication happened, of course, would be to get Don Jr. to actually answer the question, something that he refused to do, as you point out, because he claimed privilege.
BLITZER: Let's move on to Robert Mueller's investigation. He says that prosecutors have now collected voluminous and complex evidence on Roger Stone spanning years. What does that tell you about the case he's building against Stone in the overall Russia investigation?
HIMES: Well, I guess what you can conclude is that there is more going on than we know, based on the charges that were leveled at Roger Stone, chief amongst them, of course, being lying to Congress.
Warrants, search warrants and seizures are usually very specific in what it is that you can take. The police can't go into your house and just take everything because it might be interesting. Warrants are usually very specific, and they say you can take the following things because there is the following logic for you having those things as law enforcement.
So the fact that it's as broad as it is certainly piques my interest. Because you know, the charge is lying to Congress and interfering with an official investigation; but if that's true, why are bank records and all these other things that apparently were seized necessary?
So that raises some pretty interesting questions. And, of course, chief amongst those questions is, is this really a lot broader than simply lying?
BLITZER: Let's move on to some other breaking news. The president now claiming that his intelligence chiefs say, the president claims that they told him they were misquoted when they publicly contradicted him during congressional testimony yesterday.
What's your analysis of this latest development, this rift that has developed between the president and his top intelligence chiefs?
[17:20:09] HIMES: You know, Wolf, it just could not be more embarrassing for the president or for the country. You know, Gina Haspel, Director Coats, these are some of the most serious people out there, people who oversee other people, who risk their lives every single day.
So to trot them into the Oval Office for this -- this photo shoot today during the intelligence briefing, and then to have the president say that they said that it was fake news -- that is not language that Gina Haspel or Director Coats uses. So the president is simply lying to the American people here. And he said go read the transcript. Look, you even don't need to go read the transcript. Look at the video of what they said.
They said that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon. They did not mention the supposed crisis on our southern border in a threat, worldwide threats hearing. Didn't even mention it. Did not say that ISIS was defeated. In fact, said that ISIS continued to be a threat. North Korea, not denuclearizing.
Again, it's like -- it's like watching a 4-year-old boy say that what is evidently and obviously true to everybody else is not true.
So I think what's happening here is that the president is just speaking again to his base, in which there is no objective reality except what President Trump says; and then also hoping to move on. Because, of course, it's not comfortable for Republicans in Congress to be asked the question, you know, "Who do you believe? Do you believe the president or do you believe the director of the CIA?"
I think this is the president's attempt to get past that very embarrassing, very frightening moment in which he said, "My intelligence people are wrong."
BLITZER: And he said yesterday they should go back to school.
But I just want to be precise. You're suggesting -- and correct me if I'm wrong, Congressman -- that the president is now lying when he says that Gina Haspel or Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, claimed in this briefing they gave the president this afternoon that the news media made all of this up, and this was all fake news.
HIMES: There is no way -- and I know these people. There is no way that, in the Oval Office, they said, "This is fake news. The media made this all up." I can't imagine what they said. Can you imagine that moment?
And again, these are very serious professionals, the most serious professionals we have in the United States government. And there they are, with a president, you know, who told them that they need to go back to school and that he disagrees with them.
There is no way on God's green earth that the director of the CIA said, "Oh, Mr. President, that was all fake news." The president made that up.
And again, look, you know, this is not a -- this is not a contestable argument, right? We know exactly what they said, and we know exactly what the president has said; and those two things are pretty radically at odds. And so, under those circumstances, there is no way that a serious person sides with the president and says, "Oh, everything I said yesterday in front of the United States Congress was misinterpreted, was fake news." That did not happen.
BLITZER: Yes. Maybe the president forgot that everything that the leadership of the intelligence community said yesterday was on camera, and we have the actual video precisely of what they said.
Congressman Jim Himes, thank you so much for joining us.
HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, breaking news. Our CNN exclusive: Senate investigators get new information showing Donald Trump Jr.'s mysterious phone calls ahead of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting were not with his father.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:27:49] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including sources now telling CNN that investigators have evidence that Donald Trump Jr. called his business associates, not his father, before and after the 2016 Trump Tower meeting he and top Trump campaign officials held with Russians who had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Let's discuss the implications of all of this with our legal and political experts. And Laura Coates, give us your analysis of this exclusive new CNN reporting.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the fact that he did not call his father in one particular discreet telephone call speaks nothing about what else transpired.
It's very nice that this is helpful to Donald Jr. Yes, it wasn't to his father. That's fine.
But remember, this is somebody who asserted the attorney/client privilege with respect to communications with his father regarding that particular meeting time and time again, as one of the many things that they wanted to check back with him about in front of the Senate and their committee.
So the idea that, yes, he did not contact this person, that's fine. But he actually held the meeting. And that's what actually captivates Mueller and his team. The notion that maybe there wasn't somebody who was conspiring with you additionally beforehand to get a foreign nation to give dirt on a presidential election in America. Or actually afterwards. But in the actual meeting, you did just that.
And so it's one of those things where you say, "Well, that's great. That's maybe one dash mark in your favor." But if you compare that to the hundreds in the other direction, particularly the one that says "Why did you assert the privilege about a conversation that you knew wasn't even with your father at the time?" That just raises more suspicion for me.
BLITZER: Because it doesn't necessarily negate the possibility, Steve Bannon himself wrote in his book that Donald Trump Jr. went upstairs, went to his dad's office and briefed him on it.
COATES: Exactly. I mean, I know that everyone in this generation is very lazy, but he could have put the phone down and walked somewhere, Wolf. He could have actually spoken to him when he was with him at some point in time. There could have been a conversation in a car.
I'm not speculating about all the different ways you could have done so, but the discreet notion that one telephone call does not link you to corresponding about the meeting does not say it didn't happen or that there wasn't additional conversations about it. And we know there was because he pled -- he tried to assert the privilege about that very notion.
BLITZER: Let me get Bianna to weigh in. What do you think, Bianna? BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, let's be
clear. This is not the one issue that's holding up the Mueller investigation. It's pretty easy to figure out and to call the tech company and the phone company and find out who in fact he called. So, this is something that investigators and Mueller's team in particular probably knew a while ago. But there is reason tot speculate and question their word. Anybody in this administration or in the Trump camp, particularly when it comes to any meetings or communications with Russians.
It's fair to say they have not been forthcoming when initially asked about communications and meetings with Russians. And only after they would be Trumped by news organizations who actually had more details would they then fall back and have an answer in response to the initial meeting, which wasn't in line with what their initial response was, too. So, one can understand why taking them at their word, particularly when it comes to meetings with Russians was something that most people didn't take at face value.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You know, Mark Preston, immediately after our CNN reporting, Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted this, "More of the Democrats #fakenews narrative disappearing before their eyes. I wonder how many more false leaks will pop now to keep their dreams alive?" Your reaction?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple things, one is, if he is innocent and let's say he's innocent until proven guilty, why is he taunting people right now? If I was innocent -- I had been charged or at least people had been accusing me of working closely with the Russians, I would be out there, screaming from, you know, the rooftop saying that's not true. Let me tell you everything that you need to know. Butt can we just boil this down to one little simple fact? And Laura, you said this, he held a meeting with the Russians. Going into the meeting, he was told he was going to get information that would be detrimental to Hillary Clinton's campaign. So, he knowingly went into a meeting with a foreign government to try to get information it appears.
GOLODRYGA: And going back to my point, the initial response when asked about this meeting was, oh, it was about Russian adoptions. Only later did we figure out, oh, you know, in fact it was about getting the dirt. Once again, questioning their initial motivations and the initial answers they gave when asked about these interactions with Russians.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: And just to add, the only reason we know about the meetings was because The New York Times reported on it and Donald Jr. gave a statement that we then later learned was dictated to him by the President of the United States despite the White House saying, well, yes, he may have looked at it. I mean, this is the problem, I think, Laura mentioned it, which is, yes, this is a tick mark that says, OK, Don Jr. didn't make this call, and yes, he's -- there's no question, many Democrats said who was he calling right before and right after these meetings? I bet it was his dad, no question. But this is -- this is mistaking a small part for the whole, right? Just because this -- and I'm not saying the whole is true or anyone here is guilty, but just because this one thing that some people speculated might be a phone conversation between Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. isn't true, doesn't mean that they didn't tell the truth about the nature of the meeting, they weren't -- they never really were candid until they had to be repeatedly. The President of the United States and the people around him didn't tell the truth as it relates to what they knew when. I mean, this is the problem, there are so many other things here. This phone call, you can -- it's a little bit of red herring. Sure, OK, he didn't call him. But that doesn't negate all that stuff we know.
BLITZER: You know, it's very interesting, Mark. The two days after the top intelligence chiefs briefed Congress publicly about national security threats facing the United States and clearly differed from the President on several very sensitive issues. And a day after the President rebuked them for doing that, now all of a sudden, he has got some new excuse. Listen to this exchange he had today with our own Pamela Brown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, did you talk to your intelligence chiefs today about the displeasure you have with their --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did, and they said that they were totally misquoted and they were totally -- it was taken out of context. So, what I do is I suggest that you call them. They said it was fake news. So, we frankly didn't --
BROWN: Well, we just ran exactly what they said to Congress.
TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. It didn't surprise me at all. But we're here to talk right now about China.
BROWN: Did the fact they didn't bring up the border as the world threat assessment did that undermine or undercut what you have said that there's a crisis at the border?
TRUMP: They didn't undermine anything. We need a wall. And if we don't have a wall, we're never going to have security for our country.
BROWN: But they didn't bring it up as part of the national security assessment. Does that undercut --
TRUMP: Next, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: An interesting exchange. Let me play a couple of clips of what the top intelligence chiefs actually said publicly and on camera before the Senate. You can't lie when you're engaged in Congressional testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria. North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities, and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: Not only the Russians continue to do it in 2018 but we've seen indication that they're continuing to adapt their model.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:35:02] BLITZER: All of those points and several others totally in disagreement with what the President has said.
PRESTON: Well, I think I probably said at this table that when Jim Mattis was forced out that that would be the coming to Jesus moment here in Washington, D.C. because he was really the steady hand in Washington as the Defense Secretary. Well, guess what, he has left. And we are still where we're at right now. So I don't know. What I fear most right now is the likes of Dan Coats, who whether you like his politics or not, is actually a very distinguished man, he spent a lot of time serving his country.
CILLIZZA: Two separate times in the Senate.
PRESTON: Separate times in the United States Senate, and then, of course, as an Ambassador over in Germany that he says I've had enough and steps out. It concerns me that Christopher Wray could say, you know what --
PRESTON: Yes, FBI Director -- I've had enough of this. This is nonsense. I'm out. Gina Haspel says, you know what, this is outrageous, I've had enough of this. I am out. When are we all just going to acknowledge that when we talk about what the President says on T.V., when they're flat-out lies are just flat-out lies instead of just dancing around it?
CILLIZZA: Yes, it's not -- it's not -- I mean, the thing that's so hard about -- well, it's not so hard. It's actually really simple about it is go read the threat assessment report to the extent that we can. Go watch the testimony. Go read the quotes. It's not complicated. It's not as though what we just played, like, that wasn't fake. That was Dan Coats talking in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. So, what's so -- He does this all the time. He lies about stuff that's so easily proven false.
CILLIZZA: It's just -- he cannot like what the intelligence community, whether it was Dan Coats or Wray or Gina Haspel said, but that doesn't mean it was wrongly reported or misquoted. And my guess is they didn't say I was misquoted. They probably said, well, you know, the threat assessment report offers a more nuanced perspective because they may want to keep their jobs, they don't want to make the President angry. But the idea that the media had some -- it was literally a camera on people talking. I don't know how -- I don't --
BLITZER: They're not the type that would call this fake news. Go ahead, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: And don't forget that they were all appointed by the President of the United States, right? I mean, this is not an intelligence community which he inherited. We know how he felt about them and what he called them. But these were all appointed by the President. They are used to and very familiar with these intelligence hearings. And to call them naive, out of all things, in ways to describe them was just absurd for the President to have done. And not only are their reputations at stake, but think about the thousands of people who work for them. I mean, what this does for morale at all of their agencies when they go out and report on the information they spent countless hours putting together for them only to be told, yes, that was fake news and a photo-op with the President in the Oval Office, you know, we don't know what they discussed in the Oval Office. I can probably bet that they weren't talking about the fake news that was reported, though.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, this is what's so important and critical for the American people. The President just made the case as to why there needs to be transparency in testimony. Because you cannot allow there to be a filter of somebody who has a credibility issue, whether that be from a press room, whether that be through a report that's filtered through Congressmen or women or not or the President of the United States. The American people deserve to be able to hear it from the horse's mouth. In that case, it was a whole slew of horses who were speaking in an unfiltered way. And so, it really makes the case time and time again as to why we need to have unfettered and unfiltered access to information about the national security of this nation, as it's told particularly to the President of the United States. And that rings true for a collusion based report as well.
BLITZER: And let's not forget, yesterday, the President called the intelligence chiefs passive and naive, and suggested they should go back to school. Earlier today -- earlier today, during a Q&A with reporters, he said he disagrees with them, he will be proven right, they will be proven wrong and then later he says, you know what, it was fake news. They never said any of those things. It's a very weird situation.
CILLIZZA: And he's done it -- by the way, Wolf, he has done -- I mean, just -- he does this before. Remember that speech to The Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City in the summer of 2018 in which he says, don't believe what you see, don't believe what you read, don't believe what you hear. This is the same thing. He's saying I'm going to create a reality that runs directly against subjective facts.
BLITZER: But he --
CILLIZZA: -- you believe whatever I say, you'll believe it.
BLITZER: He himself believe what he saw. All right, guys, stick around. There's more news we're following, including some new revelations about an accused Russian spy's connections to a Russian trip by top officials of the National Rifle Association. And new details also emerging on the deaths that are now blamed on the bitter cold wave as millions across the United States endure another day of freezing and subzero weather. Stay tuned. We have the latest forecast.
[17:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Tonight, at least a dozen deaths are blamed on the brutally cold weather gripping much of the nation. 216 million people endured another day of freezing temperatures with 84 million dealing with subzero weather. Let's go to our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. Jennifer, when will this deadly cold wave end?
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, we are warming up as we speak. In fact, this time yesterday, we were looking at windchills in the minus 20 to 30, even 40-degree range. Now, Chicago is six below, is what it feels like, as well as the actual temperature. And they should finally hit zero for the first time since earlier this week by about 9:00 or 10:00 tonight.
[17:45:10] So, things are going to slowly warm up over the next 12 hours, and then really rapidly warm up over the next couple of days. We set about 40 or more record lows this morning all across the Midwest, the northern plains. Illinois could have hit an all-time record low. It still has to be verified. Back in 1999, Congerville was minus 36. Mt. Carol hit minus 38. So, once that's verified, that could be the all-time record-low temperature for the state. So, we'll be waiting to hear back about that.
So, here is what the feels-like temperatures will be as we go forward in time. Chicago, 10 below. But then three below is what it will feel like by Friday morning, even though temperatures will actually be a little bit above zero. Minneapolis, 15 below by tomorrow morning. Boston, still feeling like below zero tomorrow morning as well. But this extreme wrap-up, Wolf, Chicago is going to have about a 78-degree temperature swing in just a matter of about five days. So, it's going to feel balmy by the weekend.
BLITZER: Good. We could use some balmy weather. All right, thanks very much Jennifer Gray for that. Coming up, new questions about a Russian trip by top leaders of the National Rifle Association, a trip we now know was arranged by an admitted Russian agent.
[17:51:00] BLITZER: CNN reported recently that special counsel Robert Mueller has been interested in the Trump campaign's ties to the National Rifle Association during the 2016 race. And now, new details have been emerging about a trip to Russia by NRA leaders organized by an alleged Russian agent. Brian Todd has been looking into this for us. So, Brian, what is the very latest? What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have new information tonight, a newly-obtained e-mails obtained by CNN showing the NRA may have been more involved with that Russia trip than the organization has so far admitted. This comes as the NRA is now trying to distance itself from that trip while Congressional investigators close in.
TODD: When they landed in Moscow in 2015, the accused Russian spy Maria Butina welcomed VIPs from the National Rifle Association. With this sign reading, "Welcome to Russia, Comrads," followed by the NRA logo. The five-day trip planned by Butina reportedly included sightseeing, a visit with a gun manufacturer, and even got a meeting with one of Russia's deputy prime ministers.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Tale a look at the people who were in those pictures. They were pretty powerful officials.
TODD: Up until now, the NRA has refused to comment on the trip or to say it was involved. But tonight, there are signs that NRA staffers may have played a direct role. One of the Russian organizers referred to it as an official NRA trip. And internal e-mails obtained by CNN show an NRA staffer worked with Butina on planning and paying for some of the travel, including visas and gifts. Top Trump supporter, former Sheriff David Clark, who posted pictures about the trip had his $13,000 flight and visa reimbursed, records show, personally by the future NRA board President. And in an e-mail obtained by CNN from former NRA board president David Keene to Maria Butina, months before the trip, he says I'm thinking about Moscow visit. And Keene was hoping to meet Putin according to an organizer's e-mail obtained by The Daily Beast. Keene who was on that trip has not responded to CNN's calls for comment.
But tonight, after reporting from ABC, The Daily Beast, and CNN, the National Rifle Association is now going on the record, distancing itself from that 2015 trip. An NRA spokesman tells CNN, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre was against the trip, did not want any misconception that it was an official NRA trip and convinced the NRA's President not to go. But Democratic Senator Ron Wyden who's investigating the trip, says that doesn't wash with him.
WYDEN: It's just not credible to say that this was not an official trip. If you just look at the pictures, which have come out, it's got official trip written all over them.
TODD: The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are investigating because of concerns that Russia may have been using the NRA to support Trump.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: We heard credible allegations that the Russians may have been funneling money through the NRA. So, yes, we wanted to pursue this.
TODD: Robert Mueller's team has also been asking recently about the Trump campaign's ties to the NRA during the campaign. A witness tells CNN they asked about how Trump wound up addressing the group in 2015.
TRUMP: I love the second amendment.
TODD: And getting its endorsement in 2016.
TRUMP: To get the endorsement, believe me, is a fantastic honor.
TODD: Tonight, the NRA is now making a distinction, saying its board members, who it says are not NRA staffers, went on the trip independently on their own. The NRA spent upwards of $30 million to help Donald Trump win in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But the NRA tells Senators that they received no significant money from Russians. And that they do not use foreign funds for election purposes. We also have to say law enforcement has not accused the NRA of any wrongdoing. Now, to be clear, while Butina is sometimes referred to as a spy, a shorthand. She was accused by the U.S. government of being a Russian agent. But Wolf, she pleaded only guilty to conspiracy to infiltrate Republican circles to influence U.S. relations with Russia.
BLITZER: Great reporting, Brian. Thank you very much. Very interesting story indeed. Coming, the breaking news. The President now claims his intelligence chiefs were misquoted when they openly contradicted him in public on camera testimony before the Senate.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Wall or nothing. President Trump is rejecting any deal with Democrats unless he gets funding for his wall, even as negotiators are trying to find a compromise.