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In New Filings Lawyers Insister Manafort "Did Not Lie" to Special Counsel; White House Still Won't Say if Trump Will Sign Border Deal; Interview with Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX); Trump Has List of Options to Get Wall Funding Through Executive Powers; U.S. Charges Former U.S. Air Force Intelligence Specialist with Spying for Iran; U.S. National Debt Passes $20 Trillion for 1st Time; Federal Reserve Sounds Alarm on Amount of Personal Debt in U.S. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 13, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:07] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning about former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. His legal team filing critical new documents ahead of a hearing later today, all related to the allegation that he violated his plea deal with the special counsel.

Let's get over to CNN's Kara Scannell. She has the details on this.

Kara, what are you hearing right now?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Kate, there's a new filing in this ongoing saga of whether Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement. Manafort's lawyers say unequivocally that he did not lie. One of the issues the special counsel's office says he lied about has to do with conversations Manafort had with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian who has ties to Russian intelligence. At the heart of their case was Manafort's conversations with Kilimnik about a Ukrainian peace plan. Manafort's lawyers, in the filing, have said that when Paul Manafort and Kilimnik discussed this idea in 2016, during the campaign, Manafort told him, it was a quote, "crazy," unquote, idea.

Now we're back in court this afternoon at 1:30,another sealed hearing. We do expect the judge to rule possibly as soon as today on whether Manafort breached his plea agreement and what implications that may have on his sentencing -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Every think with this, Kara, every filing raises more questions about what it means and then where it redirects this entire, as you called it, saga. I guess we'll stand by to stand by to see what comes later today.

Thank you so much for bringing it to us. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, the deadline to avoid another government shutdown is now just two days away. Where do things stand with the deal lawmakers reached? What did the president do with it? We're going to ask the top Republican negotiator in the House who brokered the deal. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:37:20] BOLDUAN: We are watching both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as we are now just two days away from another government shutdown. On Capitol Hill, we're told the legislative text hasn't yet been completed for the deal. "Things are fluid," seems to be the phrase of the day. Or maybe that should describe this entire year so far. The White House at the moment still won't say definitively if the president is going to sign it. So where do things stand with the central negotiators in this?

Joining me right now is the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Kay Granger, of Texas.

Congresswoman, thank you for coming.

REP. KAY GRANGER, (R), TEXAS: Hi, to you.

BOLDUAN: Is this a done deal?

GRANGER: No. It's not a done deal. It's not a done deal until everyone votes and the votes are counted.

BOLDUAN: Have you received any assurance from the White House that if it makes it out of the House and Senate --


BOLDUAN: -- if it passes, that the president will sign onto this?

GRANGER: The president has said he's disappointed in the number of miles. We were, too. He said he has seen a printout of the high points. He likes those. But, no, he hasn't said affirmatively what he's going to do, but I'm certainly hoping he'll sign the bill after it's passed.

BOLDUAN: I know he spoke with Senator Shelby. Have you heard from the president directly?

GRANGER: No, I haven't.


GRANGER: Senator Shelby is really taking the lead on this. He's the one that's talked to the president, brought back, after his meeting with the president, what the president was most important to him. He had a meeting yesterday that talked about the high points, some of the sticking points, and how we reached the decisions we did.

BOLDUAN: Are you more or less confident today this will be approved?

GRANGER: I'm more confident.

BOLDUAN: What leads you to that? Is it conversations you're having with fellow Republicans? GRANGER: It is. And Democrats. After this was finalized. Remember,

when it came out, we said it was a tentative agreement because we reached a point, after negotiations, we reached the point where we needed to know can we come to an agreement on the most important issue issues. At that time, it was the number of miles and the type of miles. The type of miles means is it miles in the places that have the most urgent need? It turned out what the Democrats had given to us was not that. We had priorities, one through eight, and we got six, seven and eight instead of one, two and three. So we got through that.

The other thing was an understanding about, you're talking about miles, are they new miles? Are they reworking miles where fence was used that wasn't secure enough? In many places, it wasn't. It was old miles, redoing those old walls or fences. And that was not acceptable at all. The fence that the president talked about in his State of the Union message is the fence we need. Call it a wall, call it a fence, but you can't drive through it, you can't cut through it, you can't blow it up. It has technology that allows the Border Patrol to get there in time to stop people from crossing the wall. So we wanted language in there that made sure those issues were considered and we got the miles we needed.

[11:40:33] Then we had the issue about ICE. The issue about ICE came up late in the negotiations. The Democrats were saying put a cap on what ICE could do, the types of cases ICE could do, and also limited their beds so that we had a finite number that could be, should be taken into custody because we had no place to put them. We disagreed with that and we fought it out, and we got what we wanted on the ICE and on the numbers and no cap. For that, we gave up some miles.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, what is your reaction to this? It's kind of an ongoing threat or promise -- I'm not sure how to describe it -- from the president that he wants more money for what he calls a wall. And he is prepared to and they're drawing up plans to go around Congress, even after this deal, go around Congress to get that money.

GRANGER: The president had been very, very clear from the time he was campaigning, we need a wall, we need a wall that's secure, we need a wall that keeps us safe. And that's been number one. I went to the border. I've been there many, many times. But I went this last week, arrived back in Washington literally an hour before the State of the Union. I came back to tell people what the president is saying is exactly right. It is a crisis at the border. We do need a wall.

BOLDUAN: Do you support him going around Congress?

GRANGER: If that's what he has to do.

BOLDUAN: You think it's within his constitutional rights?

GRANGER: From what I've known, I believe that. I'll say it very clear. He's going to get the miles he needs to keep us secure. We got as many as we could do on this agreement. We fought for those miles, many new miles, good miles in the right place. But the American people deserve that wall. BOLDUAN: If you're taking bets today, are you taking a bet this gets

through Congress and the president signs your deal?

GRANGER: I would bet yes.

BOLDUAN: Before you Congresswoman, I want to ask you, as the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, you and the chairwoman, you mark the first time women have held the top spots on a House committee since the '70s. My colleague, Dana Bash, highlighted this history making moment in her series "Badass Women."

I want to play for our viewers just a moment from that piece.


GRANGER: We've always said, we're going to be friends, we're going to show how well two women can get this done. We're going to disagree but not be disagreeable and work things out, do it on time, do it the right way.


BOLDUAN: I am really struck how you two can make it work on really important issues. This is one of the most important committees in the House. And so many other leaders on Capitol Hill can't. Why is that?

GRANGER: Because we -- what I said I meant. We agreed to disagree when we had to but not be disagreeable. We each decided to make it work in every case, any opportunity we had to make things work. And we've worked together. There's a great deal of respect. Our relationship is based on a mutual respect. I respect a hardworking woman who stands up for what she believes and gets things done and she feels the same about me.

Thank you for doing that piece.

Thank you, Dana, for doing that piece. It was a great piece.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Congresswoman, thank you very much for coming in. Let's hope your bet works out on this deal.

Thank you so much.

GRANGER: Thank you.

[11:44:05] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, new this morning, the U.S. government has charged a former Air Force intelligence specialist with spying for Iran. Details on that, next.


BOLDUAN: This just in to CNN. A former U.S. Air Force intelligence specialist is now being charged by the federal government with spying for Iran. That's according to a new indictment just unsealed in federal court.

Let's get more on this. Joining me right now is CNN's Jessica Schneider and CNN's Fred Pleitgen, who is in Tehran at this moment.

Jessica, first to you.

On this indictment, what are you learning about this person and what she's charged with?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is a 39- year-old American woman who has now defected to Iran. She was a former Air Force intelligence specialist. She's now been charged with spying for Iran.

The indictment alleges, in the years after Monica Witt left the Air Force, she traveled to Iran for a conference sponsored by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the Treasury Department. In the months following that conference, after 2012, she was allegedly targeted and recruited by the Iranian government, even as much as they provided housing and computer equipment for her. And then prosecutors allege that she handed over classified information to an Iranian government official. That classified information included the code name and classified mission of a Department of Defense program. In addition to that, Monica Witt also allegedly provided research on her former coworkers in the Intelligence Community to four Iranian nationals who actually targeted those individuals through their computer accounts. And they did it by using imposter social media accounts and working to deploy malware that would provide access to the computers and networks of these members of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

[11:50:17] Now, Monica Witt, 39 years old, she's in Iran. She's charged with spying. In addition, the four Iranians who she coordinated with, they're actually charged with targeting at least eight U.S. government agents who had worked with Monica Witt at one time.

Kate, Monica Witt, at this point, is in Iran. She defected there in 2013. But they do have a warrant out for her arrest. They're trying to get her back to the U.S. to face charges.

BOLDUAN: Some pretty stunning charges they've laid out.

Fred, has there been reaction from the Iranian government?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. So far, what we've been doing is we've been scanning Iranian state media, which is where these things turn up first. So far, we haven't seen anything yet. They are already quite late in Tehran. It's 20 minutes past 8:00 p.m. in the evening. And we've reached out to the Iranian foreign ministry and they haven't heard about this yet. They asked us to send them some information. And they say they're looking into it but they haven't come back with a response yet.

One of the things that's key in all this is what Jessica was saying, is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to the U.S., seems to be involved in this. And that, of course, is the elite unit of Iran's military and it doesn't answer to the Iranian government. It answers only to Iran's supreme leader. Whether or not the Iranian government would have known about this is certainly something that's in question.

Also the timeframe is also very interesting, 2012, 2013, the years of the Obama administration. A time when tensions were going down between Iran and the United States. But the one organization that was still very critical of the U.S. and still very much, obviously, keeping up operations to try and counter the U.S. was the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. So that would be the organization that would conduct operations like that.

But we're still waiting to see what the Iranian government is going to come back with and we are staying on top of that tonight -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: If anything, a great point all around.

I really appreciate it.

Thanks, Jessica.

Thank you, Fred.

Coming up for us, when was the last time you've heard anyone really talking about the national debt? Well, it's just rose to a staggering new high. Not like it's gone down any time recently. And $22 trillion, and it's only going higher. What this means for you, next.



[11:57:15] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll start paying down debt. We have a lot of debt. We're going to start paying down debt. We have such potential in this country.


BOLDUAN: So how is that going? Not great, to say the least, as the national debt passed $20 trillion for the first time ever on Tuesday. The national debt began to level off in the beginning of the Trump administration but jumped again after the 2017 Republican tax cuts went into effect.

Joining me for more on this and what it really means is Alison Kosik.

Great to see you, Alison.

In 2016, the president did very famously promise to pay off the national debt in, I think, his timeframe was eight years. That's not happening. Is it possible he could be turning this around now?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's a really good question, Kate. It's hard to see how this trend could be reversed at this point now that President Trump has set some wheels in motion which expand the national debt, like proposals for border wall funding and tax cuts. Just to give you a little perspective, the nation's debt level was around $19 trillion when Trump took office but has now topped a record $22 trillion for the first time.

And the ballooning national debt isn't only tied to this administration. So a little perspective there for you, as well. It's really been rising and increasing over the last century, but it's been rising at a faster clip since the financial crisis in 2008 when the Obama administration and Congress approved the stimulus funding to prop up the economy. And interestingly enough, you see how it leveled off here right when President Trump took office, but then it jumped again after his tax cuts took effect in 2017. And the lower corporate tax rate, reduced revenues coming into the Treasury.

And now the question is, unless the fiscal tide is reversed through higher taxes and massive spending cuts or an explosion in economic growth, the prediction is public debt will balloon by 2029, climbing to 93 percent of the U.S. economy compared to 78 percent where it is right now.

What's the significance of that? In the long run, it could mess with growth. Large public debt can drive up interest rate, which makes components of economic expansion more expensive. I'm talking about loans like mortgages and business growth. That affects every consumer in this country.

BOLDUAN: There are new numbers out about personal debt that the Fed is now sounding the alarm about, why?

KOSIK: These are actually pretty disturbing when you look at this. It's troubling because we've got such a strong economy. The amount of debt that Americans are carrying moved higher to a record $13.5 million at the end of last year. This includes housing debt, student loans, auto loans and credit cards. The Fed warns it could signal a downturn is on the horizon. A whopping seven million Americans are 90 days or more behind on their auto payments. That's a million more than during the financial crisis. And the sky isn't falling, Kate, but this is something to be aware of that this is happening now.

BOLDUAN: Especially in this economy and that's the point.


BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Alison. Thanks for that.

KOSIK: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Really, appreciate it.

Thank you all for joining me today.

[12:00:08] "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.