Return to Transcripts main page


Manafort in Court for Hearing on Whether He Breached Plea Deal; Trump Says Up to A.G. Whether Mueller Report Will Be Made Public; Trump Says U.S. Troops Will Stay in Iraq to "Watch Iran"; Trump Says He "Doesn't Have to Agree" with Intel Chiefs; Ronny Jackson Appointed as Chief Medical Advisor Despite Probe. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 4, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Special Counsel Robert Mueller accuses Manafort of lying to investigators multiple times even after agreeing to work with them.

CNN's Kara Scannell is joining me now. She's been following this for, what feels like, forever at this point, I'm sure, for you, Kara.

What is expected to come out of today's hearing?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN: Kate, the judge is hearing from both sides today to decide whether Paul Manafort breached his cooperation agreement. So she is weighing concerns that the special counsel's office said Manafort lied about multiple occasions on five different topics. Manafort's team pushed back saying some of these were mis-rememberings and that Manafort quickly corrected them. When the judge set this hearing, she said some of Manafort's arguments seem to have force. Others, she said, it appeared he lied, plain and simple. She is looking to get to the bottom of that today, hoping to make the ultimate decision of whether he breached this cooperation deal. The judge said that she was doing this behind closed doors in a sealed hearing because of the ongoing grand jury investigation. She did say she wanted to make as much of the transcript of the hearing available and as soon as possible. So we'll be looking if we can learn anything more about the details of this hearing today -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Seems every time they are in court, we learn something wild about this whole thing. Stand by to stand by on that one.

On the investigation, the president is also talking about it, talked to CBS about really the big question at the end of the day, which is, will the final report from Mueller be made public? What is the president's take?

SCANNELL: That's right, Kate. This is a big question: Will Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report which he submits to the Justice Department, be made public? President Trump was asked this by CBS on "Face the Nation." Let's take a listen to what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED CBS CORRESPONDENT: Would you make the Mueller report public because you said there's nothing in there -- (CROSSTALK)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is totally up to the attorney general.


TRUMP: Totally up to the attorney general.

UNIDENTIFIED CBS CORRSEPONDENT: What do you want them to do?

TRUMP: Even the Mueller report said it had nothing to do with the campaign. When you look at some of the people and the events, it had nothing to do --


UNIDENTIFIED CBS CORRESPONDENT: You wouldn't have a problem with it being made public?

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. That is up to the attorney general. I don't know. It depends. I have no idea what it is going to say.


SCANNELL: So the question here is, what will the attorney general do? His nominee, William Barr, is back on the Hill today. He has said that he would do -- make as much of this as transparent as he could under the law. He has refused to agree -- he's refused to say he would make the report public. So Democrats on the Hill are still pushing him to lock in that he would make the report public. He is due for a vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee later this week before it goes to the full Senate for the vote. He has not committed to fully make the report public. So the open question of how much the public ultimately sees here remains to be seen -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: This is a rare point of bipartisanship, Democrats pushing for it to become public and some Republicans pushing for it to become public.

Thank you, Kara. We appreciate it.

Coming up for us, President Trump says he wants to keep troops in Iraq so he can keep tabs on Iran. So what does this mean for U.S. servicemembers? And what does this mean for the fight against ISIS?

We'll be right back.


[11:37:32] BOLDUAN: President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria in late December. He also asked the Pentagon to draw up plans to remove half the U.S. presence from Afghanistan, calling these, quote, "endless wars" over the weekend.

On Iraq, the president is pledging to keep troops there. And here is his reason why.


TRUMP: We spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it. One of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.

UNIDENTIFIED CBS CORRESPONDENT: Wow, that is news. You are keeping troops in Iraq because you want to be able to strike in Iran?

TRUMP: No. Because I want to do be able to watch Iran. All I want to do is be able to watch them.


BOLDUAN: Just watch, that's all. Is that really all?

Here with me now, CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, who commanded troops in northern Iraq from 2007 to 2009, and CNN national security analyst, Shawn Turner, former director of communications for the director of National Intelligence under President Obama.

Thank you both for being here.

General, you commanded troops in Iraq. What does watching Iran from Iraq do? Isn't there an implied threat there?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You know, Kate, when I heard the interview, I wasn't sure what he was talking about. I'm not sure you can watch Iran from inside Iraq. You can certainly monitor actions inside of Iraq.

Another thing is there's a sovereign government there now. They are not looking for having U.S. forces using a lily pad, if you will, within a country to support operations against other countries to include intelligence gathering. So we are there, United States military is in Iraq to provide support for their government in their fight against ISIS, not to be looking at other states in the region.

And also, there doesn't seem to be right now the equipment there to give us the ability to conduct strategic-level intelligence gathering.

BOLDUAN: Right to that point, Sean, the U.S. can only keep troops in Iraq with the permission of Iraq. Iraqi leaders already, according to Reuters, according to the Associated Press, are bristling at the president's words here. Does this implied threat about Iran, does this now complicate the U.S. fight against ISIS?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it does. As the general said, the president has to be very careful here because, for the past several weeks, the Iraq government has been negotiating in good faith with the United States based on the belief that any additional troops that are put in Iraq would be there to, as the general said, to fight ISIS. [11:40:06] BOLDUAN: Right.

TURNER: So that fight becomes extremely complicated in a relationship that is already complicated with Baghdad if we don't communicate clearly that those troops are not there to keep an eye on Iran but they're there to fight ISIS. I think we will find ourselves in a situation in which our host country has an increased level of distrust in us and our fight against ISIS, they will be impacted as a result of that. I think that the president should come out or his national security team should come out and clarify this.

I think the general would agree with this, but the mission that those troops will have needs to be clearly articulated. Are they going to be there to keep an eye on Iran, which is problematic, or will they be there to fight ISIS? That needs to be clearly articulated before they go. We can't just leave this with what the president said so far.

BOLDUAN: And, General, adding to this, the president also says that if ISIS regains strength after the U.S. leaves Syria, his point is that they are positioned, they are going to be positioned to quickly go back in. Let me play you what the president said.



TRUMP: You know what we'll do? We'll come back if we have to. We have very fast airplanes. We have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly.


BOLDUAN: Does that make sense to you, General?

HERTLING: No, it doesn't. It does make sense that we have good cargo airplanes and very fast jets.


HERTLING: The problem is that -- just state it. Clear articulation of mission. When you are talking about going back into a country -- remember, Kate, I'll take you back into 2014 when we first entered Syria to fight ISIS, and how we had such a lack of intelligence gathering, and it took us a long time to get up to speed. It took about two years to get that fight rolling because we didn't have bases there. We didn't have equipment there. We didn't have people there. Once you leave a nation, you have to come back in using basically a forced entry, landing on the beaches, supporting air fields, doing those kinds of attack missions. That would be very difficult to do in a nation like Syria once it is taken over by Russia or Iran or the government in Damascus. So, no, it doesn't make sense to me. Every time the president talks about military things, it appears that he is confused about what he is talking about. He is trying to be very forthcoming in what he says, but it doesn't relate to real complications in military missions and operational strategy. BOLDUAN: Talking about not being clear, Shawn, the president was

asked once again about the assessment from the intelligence leaders that contradicted the president's view on North Korea, Iran and ISIS, among other things. Initially, the president said their assessment was wrong. Then he said he had talked to them and there was no disagreement, that the reporting was fake news. Now again, in this interview over the weekend, he is back to disagreeing with them, saying, "I disagree with them. I have intel people, but that doesn't mean I have to agree."

You were a spokesman for the Intelligence Community. What are they supposed to do with this?

TURNER: This really puts our Intelligence Community in a very difficult situation, Kate, because you have intelligence professionals who understand that they need to continue to do the job that they have been hired to do on behalf of the American people. And you have this really strange scenario in which they are working with our partners and allies around the world and are having to reach out and say to them, look, I know you heard what the president said about how the fight against ISIS is over and how North Korea is going to get rid of nuclear weapons and so on, but we still need you, the U.S. Intelligence Community still needs your help. So you know, the president understands that he is an elected official. He has a base of support and he has to say the things that he needs to say in order for his base to support him. This is really problematic for the Intelligence Community because we know that the fight that the president is talking about being over is actually not over at this point.

BOLDUAN: He cannot decide if he agrees, disagrees or what, depending on the day. He says he read the assessment. He says he read the assessment.

General, thank you so much.

Shawn, it's great to see you. Thanks so much.

TURNER: Thanks, Kate.

HERTLING: Thanks, Kate.

[11:44:24] BOLDUAN: Coming up, the president has spent nearly 300 hours in, quote, "executive time" in the past three months. How the White House is explaining this huge gap in the president's daily schedule.


BOLDUAN: New reporting today about how exactly the president spends a majority of his time. Axios has obtained the president's day-to-day schedules for the past three months that shows more than 297 hours of executive time, about 77 hours scheduled then for meetings that include policy planning, legislative strategy and video recordings. That according to Axios. So almost 60 percent of the president's workday is dedicated to unstructured executive time, often spent in the residence, from things, we've learned from reporting, like watching TV and making phone calls.

CNN's senior political analyst, David Gergen, is joining me right now. He's former adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.

David, from all the presidential schedules you've seen, what do you make of this schedule?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: In the first place, I think we have to grab the fact that presidents in the past spent a lot of time doing things other than being executives. Calvin Coolidge famously slept about 11 hours a day, Kate, and then he took a nap during the day that he had remaining. President Eisenhower went out and hit about 18 holes of golf twice a week, about 800 rounds of golf in the eight years he was president. I fondly remember Ronald Reagan once saying, they say hard work never kills anybody, but why take a chance.


[11:50:23] So there has been, in the past, forgiveness on this.

But the truth is, the world has become a much more complicated place, and the work that the president does in the last few years has become much more intense, much more focused. Presidents, in recent years, spent about 65 percent of their time on international affairs because America is not just a major country in itself but the leader of the free world. It's complicated. And the difference is that if you don't spend your time in sort of -- what he does right now, Trump does, he does a lot of impromptu meetings. He calls people up, he has someone in quickly, but it's not systematic. The best presidents are ones whose White House is organized through the intelligence agencies, through the cabinet departments. Information and wisdom that comes in, in a very systematic way, is explored systemically by his top people. And then people sit down with the president, they take him the hardest problems to solve. But he is expected to know and understand not by hunch but by informing himself -- that is the job, to inform yourself to make good judgments.

BOLDUAN: The statement from the White House, David, responding to Axios, is that the president -- this from the White House: "The president has a different leadership style than his predecessor and the results speak for themselves."

Every president needs time to think, of course, no question. But the majority of his time?

GERGEN: Well, you do need time for R&R. There's no question about that. It's good for you. It's good for your wellness. But I think this president would be much better served -- and nobody yet, especially General Kelly, could corral him to settle down and do this more systemically. He's going to pay the price for it. He'll be bragging in the State of the Union address tomorrow night about what's been done and what's happened under his watch. But look how the country is judging his performance so far. The negative views of the president are at 58 percent, the positive views down in the 30s. The country does not see him doing the job that they want. BOLDUAN: It is also -- one thing it is called is good reporting,

getting this kind of detail out.


BOLDUAN: But also I do find it -- this is not the first time that there have been interesting -- people releasing information from this White House that we have not seen previously. Someone giving over three months of schedules to Axios reporters. What does that say about how the White House operates?

GERGEN: Well, in the first place, it's very clear that the person who leaked this intended to hurt the president. It was meant to hurt him, to chip away at his reputation, to undermine people's confidence in him. And what it says about the White House is they still haven't achieved the peace that they need to run a good organization. There's still too much chaos, too much chaos, just generally surrounding decision making, and what it means is there are teams that are out to get each other. There are people who are fiercely fighting. I can just tell you, being in various White Houses, if you have a civil war going on in the White House, you cannot get much done. It's just too hard.


It's great to see you, David. Thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, under investigation and up for a promotion. The president taps his former physician a new post, despite the fact the same guy resigned over allegations of misconduct from his last job. Next, the latest from the Pentagon.


[11:58:03] BOLDUAN: Dr. Ronny Jackson is back. You'll recall he resigned from being the president's White House physician and withdrew his nomination to be secretary of the V.A. over allegations of misconduct. Despite that, the president has put him up for a promotion and is bringing him back to the White House.

CNN's Barbara Starr has the latest from the Pentagon. She's joining me now.

Barbara, what's going on here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Kate, in that Admiral Jackson withdrew his nomination from being V.A. secretary when these allegations came out. None of them have been proven. The inspector general at the Pentagon, still after all these months, still investigating the entire situation. The allegations revolved around Admiral Jackson allegedly engaging in abusive behavior, treating dispensing drugs lightly, not taking all the regulations and precautions into account, and even allegations of intoxication. Again, allegation the I.G. investigating after nearly a year because they are unable to come to any conclusions. They're still interviewing people about all of this.

So in the meantime, President Trump has now put Admiral Jackson up for, once again, a second star. No Navy promotion board. The president just nominating him for that on his own. It does not look like Congress will take up that promotion, which it has to approve through the Senate, before the I.G. investigation is completed. And bringing Admiral Jackson back to be his personal physician at the White House.

Some raised eyebrows about that because you'll remember in that press conference about the president's health, when Admiral Jackson conducted his physical, there was a lot of very favorable talk about the president's health, which is a good thing, but not a lot of talk about some of the president's potential challenges in monitoring his weight, his exercise, that sort of thing. Admiral Jackson very publicly optimistic about the president's health. It got a lot of attention -- Kate?

[12:00:03] BOLDUAN: It sure did. And now he will serve as assistant to the president and chief medical adviser.

Barbara, thank you.