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State of the Union

2020 Democratic Contenders; White House Chief of Staff Leaving; Trump Implicated in Crimes; Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Interview With New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler; Trump: Chief Of Staff John Kelly Leaving The White House By End Of Year; Prosecutors Implicate Trump In Two Crimes In 2016 Campaign; Dozens Of Democrats Weighing Whether To Launch 2020 Bids Dozens Of Democrats Weighing Whether To Launch 2020 Bids; President Trump's Phone Calls In This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 09, 2018 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Trump implicated. Federal prosecutors say Donald Trump directed his former fixer to break the law, an accusation that could set the stage for an historic clash. Will House Democrats push to impeach the president?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: His period of being able to lie incessantly and not being called to account is coming to an end.

TAPPER: We will talk exclusively with the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, next.

Plus: mounting tensions, as the president lashes out about the Russia investigation.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's absolutely no collusion.

TAPPER: Some of his fellow Republicans are set to rebuke him on foreign policy. Might a White House shakeup help him get back on course?

TRUMP: John Kelly will be leaving.

TAPPER: Republican Senator Marco Rubio will be here next.

And taking on Trump.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Hello, New Hampshire!

TAPPER: Democrats are looking ahead to 2020.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: There are some really good people out there.

TAPPER: But with a very crowded field of potential candidates, did some of those hopefuls already miss their moment?


Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is attempting to connect the dots.

President Trump seems to be trying his best to change the subject, announcing Saturday he will be replacing his chief of staff, John Kelly, an announcement that was supposed to be made tomorrow, this after some of the most significant clues yet into President Trump's potential political and legal vulnerabilities in the ongoing special counsel investigation, as well as the Southern District of New York's probe into his former associate Michael Cohen.

The president is also trying to put his own spin on the story, falsely claiming that he is -- quote -- "totally cleared" and saying this on Saturday:


TRUMP: On the Mueller situation, we're very happy with what we are reading, because there was no collusion whatsoever. There never has been. The last thing I want is help from Russia on a campaign.


TAPPER: It is difficult to imagine how the president or any of his supporters could be -- quote -- "very happy" with these new legal filings from Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors.

For the first time, prosecutors implicated President Trump in two crimes, saying that he directed Michael Cohen to make these hush money payments to two women in order to impact the 2016 presidential election.

The filings also offer new insights into the depth of the special counsel's Russia investigation, including previously unknown attempts by the Russians to infiltrate the Trump campaign during 2016 and reveal that both Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen have been in touch with people closely connected to the White House as recently as this year.

Let's go straight to the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, soon to be Mr. Chairman.

Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

NADLER: Thank you.

TAPPER: I want to read a key line from the Southern District of New York filing from Friday.

It says -- quote -- "With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election in particular. And, as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual 1."

Individual 1, of course, is President Trump.

So, that's crystal clear. Federal prosecutors are saying that the president ordered Michael Cohen to commit two federal campaign finance felonies. In your view, does that rise to the level of an impeachable offense?

NADLER: Well, I think what these indictments and filings show is that the president was at the center of a massive fraud -- several massive frauds against the American people.

And it's now our job, the job of the Justice Department, the special prosecutor -- the special counsel, and the Congress to get to the bottom of this, to find out exactly what was going on, to find out the extent of the president's involvement, to find out basically what the president knew and when did he know it, so that we can then hold him accountable.

TAPPER: If it is proven that the president directed or coordinated with Cohen to commit these felonies, if it's proven -- and I understand it has not yet been -- it's been alleged by the prosecutors, but has not been proven.

If it's proven, is -- are those impeachable offenses?

NADLER: Well, they would be impeachable offenses.

Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question. But, certainly, they would be impeachable offenses, because, even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office. That would be the -- that would be an impeachable offense.

But the fact of the matter is that what we see from these indictments and charging statements is a much broader conspiracy against the American people involving these payments, involving an attempt to influence the campaign improperly, with improper payments involving the Russians trying to get influence in the campaign, involving the president lying for an entire year about his ongoing business arrangements, business dealings with the Russians, involving obstruction of justice.


All of these have to be looked at very seriously by the Congress, by the special counsel, and by the Justice Department and to see what actions we should then take.

And what is clear also is that the Republican Congress absolutely tried to shield the president. The new Congress will not try to shield the president. We will try to get to the bottom of this, in order to serve the American people and to stop this massive conspiracy -- this massive fraud on the American people. TAPPER: Can you explain what you mean when you differentiate between,

maybe these are -- if it's proven, it's impeachable offenses, but that does not necessarily mean that the offenses themselves are important enough to actually begin proceedings of impeachment?

There seems to be a difference there, in your view. Why?

NADLER: It's not necessarily a difference.

But it's simply two different considerations. You don't necessarily launch an impeachment against the president because he committed an impeachable offense. There are several things you have to look at.

One, were there impeachable offenses committed, how many, et cetera? And, secondly, how important were they? Do they rise to the gravity where you should undertake an impeachment?

An impeachment is an attempt to, in effect, overturn or change the result of the last election. And you should do it only for very serious situations. So, that's always the question.

TAPPER: But you just said that the president seems to be in the middle -- seems to have been in the middle of a massive fraud against the American people.

That doesn't sound like somebody who thinks that these alleged crimes don't rise to the level of needing impeachment.

NADLER: Oh, I didn't -- I didn't say they don't rise -- I said we have to get to the bottom of all of this.

We have to find out exactly what was going on. We have to look at these crimes, and what did the president know and when did he know about these crimes? You have to look at the Russian interference with the campaign, and what did the president know about that, and to what extent did he cooperate with that, if he did?

We have to look at his business dealings and his lying about that. We have to look at the fact that he surrounded himself with crooks. His campaign manager, his deputy campaign manager, his national security adviser, all of them, and a host, a bunch of other people, they all were meeting with the Russians. They all expressed interest in meeting again.

None of them reported it to the proper authorities. They have all been indicted for one crime or another. The president invent -- created his own swamp and brought it to the White House. These are all very serious things.

And we have to get to the bottom of this, find out what all the facts are, we and the special counsel, and then make decisions.

TAPPER: You have said you're considering legislation that would pause the statutes of limitations for any crimes a president might commit while he's in office. The current Justice Department guidelines are that a sitting president, although they're in dispute, but whether or not they say -- suggesting that a current president cannot be indicted.

Do you think a current president cannot be indicted? And, if so, do you think President Trump should then be susceptible to be indicted after he leaves the White House?

NADLER: Number one, I disagree with the Office of Special Counsel and the Department of Justice. There's nothing in the Constitution that prohibits a president from being indicted.

And I think it's very important that the -- we originated, this country originated in a rebellion against the English king. We didn't -- we did not seek to create another king. Nobody, not the president, not anybody else, can be above the law.

And there's no reason to think that the president should not be indicted. The reason given by the Office of Legal Counsel is that it would take up too much of his time, he couldn't do his job.

But, you know, the Constitution specifically allows an impeachment. That certainly takes up a lot of time for the president. So, I don't agree that a president can't be indicted.

But insofar as the Justice Department refuses to indict a president, no matter what the evidence is of whatever crimes, because they think he can't be indicted, we should certainly hold the statute of limitations, so that, if he does something before he's president or while he's president that should be indicted, and the Department of Justice will not consider inviting him, whatever the facts, while he's president, he can be indicted afterwards.

TAPPER: But you said...

NADLER: Because nobody may be above the law.

TAPPER: You said on Friday you're going to end the investigation into whether bias influenced FBI decisions during the 2016 election. You have called it a waste of time. You have called it nonsense.

There are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who were alarmed by the texts between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok of the FBI at the time, by some of the actions from then Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, by some of the actions by FBI Director James Comey before and during the 2016 election.

Are you not concerned at all that, by ending that investigation, you will be shirking the congressional oversight responsibility over the Justice Department and the FBI?


NADLER: No, I think that that was thoroughly investigated by the inspector general, who found that -- that while a couple -- some of the agents inside the FBI had their personal opinions about candidate Trump, which they're entitled to, he -- the inspector general, in his very thorough report, found that they -- that those opinions did not in any way influence the actions of the department.

The department, remember, is prohibited by law from asking after the political opinions of anybody they hire. There are plenty of people who were supporting Trump and the FBI and the Department of Justice, plenty of people who didn't like him. That's their personal opinion.

And the fact that one of them said it to another on the -- is OK, as long as they didn't bring any bias to any of the decisions. And the inspector general found that they did not.

And if the -- and this has been thoroughly investigated. And, frankly, it's not a question of ending the investigations. There's nothing left to investigate. It has been done several times.

TAPPER: I think -- just in point of clarity, I think the inspector general said that about the investigations of Hillary Clinton's e-mail server through the summer of 2016.

But I don't think that they reached the same conclusion necessarily about decisions made after that.

NADLER: He said -- he said there was -- for the second one, he said there was no evidence that he saw.

TAPPER: All right.

Soon-to-be Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler of New York, thank you so much, sir. We appreciate your time.

NADLER: Thank you.

TAPPER: The president says, by the end of the year, his chief of staff will be gone. Will John Kelly's replacement try to impose order, or will it be more and even more let Trump be Trump?

Plus, we're going to see something unusual in Congress, leading members of the president's own party breaking with him on foreign policy.

We're going to talk to Republican Senator Marco Rubio about that next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Republicans in the Senate are poised to do something unusual this week, break with President Trump over his Saudi Arabia policy.

This comes as new insight into the scope of the Mueller probe is putting more pressure on both the White House and on Republican lawmakers who have been supportive of the president.


TAPPER: Joining me now is Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Rubio, thanks so much for joining us.


TAPPER: I want to -- I want to get to all those issues I talked about in the -- in the open in a moment.

But, first, I want to ask you about retiring Chief of Staff John Kelly. Speaker Ryan called him a -- quote -- "force for order, clarity and good sense."

If the last year was an example of order, clarity and good sense, are you at all concerned about what happens next with a White House without John Kelly?

RUBIO: Well, it depends who they put in as a replacement.

As I said, I'm a huge John Kelly fan. I have known him since his time he served in Florida in Miami. He was -- his last assignment before retiring from the military was running Southern Command. And he did a great job there. He did a great job at Homeland Security. And we had a great working relationship with him as the chief of staff.

There's always turnover in that position, obviously. It's -- every president has at least a couple. And so, obviously, it's a loss to see him go. And now we will see who they put there as a replacement, and we will go from there.

But, hopefully, it'll be someone -- he's hard to replace, there's no doubt about it. But, hopefully, it'll be someone just as qualified, just as strong, that gets -- it's good for our country to have someone like that in that post.

TAPPER: Let's turn to new court filings this week from the Southern District of New York.

Here's what they wrote about former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen -- quote -- "While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the 2016 election knocked on doors or toiled at phone banks, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments" -- unquote.

Now, prosecutors say Michael Cohen made the payment -- quote -- "in coordination with and at the direction of" then candidate Donald Trump.

You were a candidate for president in 2016 running against Donald Trump. Does it bother you that they were breaking campaign laws, allegedly, in order to win the election? RUBIO: Well, not from that -- not about me.

I mean, when that happened, I was well outside of the race. It's about the country. It's about what our laws are and about the fact that no one should be above the law.

From the very beginning of all of this, I have said, what we deserve is the truth. No one is beneath the law, meaning no one is not entitled to the protections of it, but, also, no one is above it.

So, I would just say that we want to know everything, and we will know everything that's happened here at some point. Mr. Cohen has a version of it. Obviously, those who are accused or potentially accused as part of it have another. And we don't know what additional information the Justice Department has to corroborate some of this. They don't necessarily have to put that in the -- in these filings, because they are sentencing filings.

So, my interest from the very beginning in all of this is for all the information to be out there before the American people, so that the court system can make judicial and justice decisions, and the American people can make political decisions as a -- and Congress as well.

So, I'm going to wait for all of that to come forward. Obviously, this is relevant information and things that -- that cannot and should not be ignored.

TAPPER: If it is proven that the president directed an aide to commit felonies to influence the election, what should the repercussions be?

RUBIO: Well, again, we're speculating, right, because we don't know what additional information the Justice Department have.

You have someone here who's facing criminal charges, who is facing sentencing, and is looking for leniency saying one thing. And it's not atypical people to be very cooperative and sometimes to stretch the truth. I'm not saying that's what's happened here. And you have someone who denies it.

But your -- the answer to your question is, if someone has violated the law, the -- the application of the law should be applied to them, like it would to any other citizen in this country. And, obviously, if you're in a position of great authority, like the presidency, that would be the case.

I don't know if it's going to reach that point or not. We have to wait and see. But my -- my decision on that or my position on that will not be a political decision. It'll be the fact that we are a nation of laws, and no one in this country, no matter who you are, is above it.

TAPPER: Yes, it's -- just a point of clarity.

It's not just Michael calling saying this. The Southern District of New York U.S. attorney is asserting this. And that was what was stark about the different language. They weren't just saying, according to Cohen, such and such. They were saying, this -- this happened.

RUBIO: Well, that's why -- and that's why I think people should reserve judgment, because we don't know what additional evidence they have that has not been introduced in the public record to corroborate taking that position.


And there may be additional evidence presented at the sentencing phase later on. We don't know. There may not be any more. It may just be on based on his testimony.

But because we don't know, we can't make decisions or make pronouncement on things that we don't know yet.

TAPPER: Your fellow Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has called for the president's pardon his former campaign chair Paul Manafort. That's part of the Mueller investigation, not the Southern District of New York.

Would that be a mistake? Or do you think that's a good idea, to pardon Manafort?

RUBIO: Yes, it would be a mistake. It would be a mistake. And I would strongly counsel against it.

I don't think that the -- in my view, the presidential pardon power was not created for these sorts of purposes. I just think it would be the wrong thing to do. And I think it would be a huge political mistake as well. So, I hope that doesn't happen. And that would be my position on it.

TAPPER: Let's turn to Saudi Arabia.

You introduced a resolution that finds the Saudi crown prince -- quote -- "complicit" in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which the president has not done, asserted that he was complicit.

Now "The New York Times" is reporting that the president's son-in-law adviser, Jared Kushner, has reportedly been coaching the crown prince on how to withstand the blowback over the murder of Khashoggi.

Do you think the White House is -- is standing up for American values here?

RUBIO: Well, I don't know if that story is accurate or not.

Here's what I can tell you. The American -- this story is as much about America as it is about Khashoggi. Obviously, what happened to that man is terrible. But it's also about who we are as a nation.

The alliance with Saudi Arabia is a very important alliance. Our alliance is the Saudi alliance, not an alliance with the crown prince, with the Saudis. And so it is an alliance that has limits, like any alliance would. This is a crown prince that is a reckless individual. He's young. He's immature. But, in addition to that, he is reckless. And if we -- he's going to continue to test the boundaries of what he can get away with internationally and within our alliance, until those boundaries are set.

As far as knowing that he's engaged, look, here's the bottom line. And I don't -- we don't need direct evidence that he ordered the code red on this thing. The bottom line is that there is no way that 17 people close to him got on a charter plane, flew to a third country, went into a consulate, killed and chopped up a man, and flew back, and he didn't know about it, much less order it.

And we don't need any other -- those -- it just stretches credibility to believe that, in a country like that -- this is not some decentralized country -- that, in a country like that, a man with his power, his influence and his control did not know it and did not order it. It's just not believable, and especially knowing what we know about that -- that -- that government.

So, that's why we filed that resolution. I feel strongly that it is as much about who we are as a nation as it is about the gentleman who was killed here. And it's a terrible thing that happened to him and his family. And I'm not diminishing it. But I'm telling you that, as a country, we cannot basically be a nation that says, when our allies do something horrifying, we're going to look away.

I'm not saying shatter the relationship with Saudi Arabia. It's an important alliance. But there has to be accountability for what happened here, and it has to be clear to the world that America is not a supporter of it and is not going to be a facilitator of these sorts of crimes.

TAPPER: Is -- is President Trump looking away? Is he facilitating a crime?

RUBIO: Well, I don't know about facilitating, because it's after the fact.

But I do think that, if we're not strong and the administration's not strong about this, he could do this again, he could do something worse in the future, or someone else could. That's the point we're trying to make here, is that U.S. foreign policy and our alliances are important, but they are not without limits.

And it's in our national interest to care about this, because human rights violations -- and if someone's chopping people up in a consulate, you know they're going to violate human rights at home and around the world. It leads to mass migration and leads to instability. It's the fuel behind radicalism in many cases.

Sometimes, it gets these governments overthrown, and the people who take over hate us because we were the people defending those who were abusing them. So, it's not in our national interests to be a defender of human rights violations. TAPPER: Lastly, sir, I want to ask you, there are allegations that a

Republican campaign operative in North Carolina's 9th District threw out Democratic votes, altered absentee ballots.

Both the Democrat and the Republican in North Carolina are now raising the possibility of a new election there.

As I'm sure you remember, in Florida a few weeks ago, you were very outspoken about the fear of Democratic lawyers trying to -- quote -- "steal" the election during the recounts in Florida. Ultimately, Republicans won both of the recounts.

Are you concerned at all about what's happening in North Carolina, which seems to have very concrete examples of election fraud? And if you are concerned, how come you haven't said anything about it yet?

RUBIO: Well, because, in the case of Florida, it isn't just Florida. It's one county, Broward County, an elections official that I'm very familiar with, everyone in Florida is very familiar with, including our state press, who was not just -- was incompetent.

And that incompetence created an opening for lawyers to go to court and have state law reinterpreted in a way that could have impacted the election. And that's -- that is what I characterize as stealing. Elections should be decided by voters, not by courts.

Now, in terms of North Carolina, I don't know nearly as much about it, only what I have read in the press. If someone did something like that, I don't care who it benefited. That -- that should not count. That should not happen.


The individual responsible for it should be potentially prosecuted, should be removed from their office. Elections should be decided by voters, not by judges, and most certainly not by election officials violating the law.

So, if that's what is happened in North Carolina, then I think that's what the penalty should be. That person should be held accountable, and whatever remedy that's appropriate should be applied.

I just don't know as much about the North Carolina cases I do about the Florida one, because we have been living the Brenda Snipes saga for over a decade now here in Florida in Broward County.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it, as always.

RUBIO: Thank you.


TAPPER: President Trump is wrongly insisting that he's been exonerated in the Russia investigation. But, at this point, is it a little too late for damage control? Everyone, stay right here. We will be right back.




TRUMP: John Kelly will be leaving -- but I don't know if I can say retiring. But he's a great guy.

John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year. We'll be announcing who will be taking John's place. It might be on an interim basis.

I'll be announcing that over the next day or two.


TAPPER: President Trump announcing yesterday that chief of staff John Kelly is leaving, which means that in fewer than three years of being president, he will have had three chiefs of staff and, of course, there really is a tweet for everything.

Take a look at what President Trump as private citizen Trump tweeted in 2012, "Three chiefs of staff in less than three years of being president, part of the reason why Barack Obama can't manage to pass his agenda" -- unquote.

A tweet for everything, as always. But let's talk about John Kelly. Are you concerned about his leaving?

People think that he brought some measure, obviously limited to a degree but some measure of stability.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think the lockdown tough general that Trump respects didn't work, didn't work in controlling Trump.

I like the idea of someone who is a politician, someone who is respected by the president for his political instincts. Because that, to me, is sort of the secret sauce of how you get the president to focus more on his agenda and the things many of us have been telling him to focus on.

You appeal to his -- the political side. John Kelly could never make that argument. Mr. President, politically, you can't do this.

Well, who is John Kelly to say whether -- whether something's smart politically?

Yes, someone like a Nick Ayers or others who have a real strong political background I think he can be much more influential.


SANTORUM: No, not Rick Santorum.


TAPPER: Well, whoever the next chief of staff is going to be they're going to have to deal with a lot of incoming from Mueller and from the Southern District of New York.

Despite the Southern District of New York's assertion President Trump directed Michael Cohen to commit two felonies, the president thinks he's in the clear. On Friday immediately after the prosecutors released their findings the president tweeted -- quote -- "Totally clears the president. Thank you." To which conservative lawyer and Kellyanne Conway's husband, George Conway, tweeted, "Except for that little part where the U.S. Attorney's Office says that you directed and coordinated with Cohen to commit two felonies. Other than that, totally scot-free."

How is this being received by Republicans in Congress, Congressman? Are you worried about this?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Of course we're worried. Anytime anything like this is happening you're worried. What does this lead to?

And what I've said from the beginning as somewhat to what Marco Rubio said earlier we just want to see when this is all done what has laid before Congress, what the evidence is, and what we're doing right now is taking every new filing and we're extrapolating what that means in the long run. We don't know.

So is this something bigger? Is this a campaign finance violation, which would obviously -- I don't think be anywhere near impeachable. That's what we want to find out at the end of the Mueller thing.

But I tell you the Democrats run a major risk by automatically right now as we heard Jerry Nadler earlier talking about impeachment. Impeachable offense is we may not impeach but it's an impeachable offense. I would be very careful if I was them because that's going to derail, I think, the next two years of their agenda which frankly I would be find derailing their agenda.

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course, you will, Congressman, of course.

TAPPER: State Senator, what do you think?

TURNER: No, I mean, on the point of going too far I definitely agree but if there's something there, Congress' job is to be the check and the balance. And it was obvious that the Republican controlled Congress was not the check and balance on President Trump. So the Democrats should definitely do their jobs in that regard but they should also show a vision for America and not just only be anti- President Trump. They should be able to do both.

TAPPER: So let's just take a step back because even without everything laid bare, this is what we know of all the people that have been pleaded guilty or been convicted since President Trump took office.

Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, Trump's former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, Trump former national security adviser and campaign adviser, Michael Flynn, Trump's former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, Trump's former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates.

I mean, that's a lot of people very close to the president.

GRANHOLM: And ironically -- not ironically but perhaps because of who the president is all five of those have been -- have been convicted of lying. This is like a confederacy of liars. And, of course, Trump being the primo of them all, given the volume of lies that he has told since he has been president.

When I -- when I woke up this morning feeling so relieved about was that Bob Mueller is like the -- he's there, putting his flag in the ground for truth. When you think about the next generation of kids and looking at this president going it's OK to lie. It's OK.

Bob Mueller is having none of that. He is bringing truth and honesty, nobility, integrity back just by virtue of these -- of these statements through documents and I'm happy really about that.


SANTORUM: Here's the problem. The problem is that if you look at the other two major impeachable events that we've had in modern times, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, there was a crime. There was a crime.

Richard Nixon, there was a break-in at the -- I mean, the Pentagon papers, a break-in at Watergate and then -- and then there was a crime, Whitewater. The governor of Arkansas --

GRANHOLM: But that's not why he was impeached.

SANTORUM: I'm getting to that.


SANTORUM: But there was a real crime that the special prosecutor really investigated. We have no real crime here. We don't have a crime --

GRANHOLM: You don't know that.

SANTORUM: But so far there is no evidence that there was a crime between the Trump campaign which was the basis of this investigation.

If this investigation produces a -- the crime as he paid off a stripper as that's the basis of all of this --

TAPPER: A porn star.

SANTORUM: Or a porn star as you may, a porn star. He paid off a porn star -- (CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: A very important distinction.

TAPPER: And potentially a Playboy model through --

SANTORUM: OK. But the bottom line is there's no major crime here. Certainly not for the thrust of the investigation --

TAPPER: We're not there yet.


SANTORUM: Yes. But I'm saying they haven't got that. Unless they do all of these other things are simply not rising to the level of --

GRANHOLM: When you were senator you voted in favor of impeaching Bill Clinton on the basis of a lie which was about his personal conduct. It wasn't about Whitewater. It wasn't about something -- now that being said I think there's going to be a lot more there --

SANTORUM: We'll see.

GRANHOLM: -- in addition to these payoffs. But be careful about history.

KINZINGER: This is what I -- this is what I think has been unfair and I have said from the from -- I called for an independent investigation before one was named. I want answers. I want people that broke the law to be held accountable, period.

I don't care if you're Republican, Democrat or anything. But what's been unfair is that for two years, this president, by his political enemies, has been discredited. They say he's a -- I see it all the time.

Whether it's on Twitter, whether it's in mainstream media or anywhere he is a stooge of Russia. He is actually one of the most hawkish presidents against Russia I've seen since Reagan and probably including Reagan from sanctions to lethal aid to Ukraine, to bombing and killing 200 Russian mercenaries and taking them out in 10 minutes. It's amazing. But for two years he has had to deal with being discredited and it's happening with every new piece of information.

Let's get answers and see what happens.

TURNER: Jake, I mean, two things here with the Mueller investigation. One is legal and the is political. And I think both the governor and the senator is bringing that up.

On the legal end, maybe, maybe not. We still have to wait. But politically, the president is the lion king and all the king's men or most of the king's men that you have just displayed up there have been caught lying.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone stick around. We have some -- more to cover. Some discouraging news for possible presidential candidates, Democrats, whose campaigns haven't even gotten started, and some encouraging news for others. Stay with us.




SANDERS: And there's some really good people out there, many of them personal friends of mine, who are thinking about running as well. And I'm trying to ascertain, quite honestly, going beyond ego, a, which candidate has the best chance to beat Trump. I think Elizabeth Warren is a wonderful, good dear friend of mine.

You know, and there are a number of others. Cory Booker is a good friend of mine.


TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, laying out the state of play in the ongoing invisible 2020 Democratic primary which seemed to truly get under way over the past few days. Check out some of the headlines from this week and let's discuss.

First of all, Senator Turner, you worked for Bernie Sanders in 2016.

TURNER: I did.

TAPPER: Is he running? Do you want him to run again? Are you still feeling the Bern (ph)?

TURNER: I'm still feeling the Bern (ph). I mean, he's seriously thinking about it. I mean, all that he has said, he has not, you know, totally made up his mind. But I think he is probably one of the very few in that mix who would say still looking to see who might be the best person to actually do this job.

I think what Democrats and this country can expect is lots of variety in 2020 on the Democratic side. Variety is often said to be the spice of life. We're going to spice it up in 2020 on the Democratic side. Lot of spice.

TAPPER: You're going to have lots of spices.

TURNER: A lot of spice.

TAPPER: Thirty-five spices.

TURNER: Well, at least 20 in 2020, we know that for sure, or more. But we didn't have that in 2016. And so although I am very supportive of Senator Sanders I am also supportive of anybody who wants to run should get out there.

TAPPER: Is there anyone you like? Anyone you're looking at? GRANHOLM: One of the people that I totally love dropped out this week who is Deval Patrick. I was hoping that he would do it. Because want someone who can cause our hearts to soar and who has experience and grounded.

But I'm all about the spice. I just don't want the heartburn. I do think that we are going to have an incredibly robust and wonderful example of democracy. And I'm excited about it.

TAPPER: Is there any Democrat you think that you're afraid of, that you don't want to run?

GRANHOLM: Be honest.

SANTORUM: Here is where I come down. When the Democrats win, they pick someone unexpected or someone who is not the favorite.

TAPPER: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama.

SANTORUM: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter. When they pick John Kerry or Al Gore or Hillary Clinton, they lose. And so I'm hoping for Bernie or Elizabeth or somebody like that, someone tired old -- Joe Biden. Put them out there, we'll win.

If they pick someone new then I think they have a chance.

TAPPER: Elizabeth Warren, speaking of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. Story in the "New York Times" skewered her decision to release a DNA test to try to show that she actually does have Native American ancestry. Her hometown newspaper "The Boston Globe" this week wrote quote -- "Warren missed her moment in 2016 and there's reason to be skeptical of her prospective candidacy in 2020. She has become a divisive figure. A unifying voice is what the country needs now after the polarizing politics of Donald Trump."


KINZINGER: Yes, I think the country needs a unifying voice. It's period.

I mean, I think the country is unbelievably divided. It's frightening to me. I would admonish the president on some of that as well.

So, hey, better rhetoric. Let's unite people. I think I think with the Democratic Party in 2020 is they're going to end up with a far left candidate.

Right now you see -- even the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, they're begging for their far left, they're turning to the far left. It's not going to be a centrist party. If it was a centrist party I think they would put up somebody up like Joe Biden and unlike Senator Santorum, I think that Biden would be a really tough candidate. But if you go farther to the left -- I think Americans are going to look at that.

TURNER: What's far left? (CROSSTALK)

KINZINGER: Bernie Sanders. He's far left.

TURNER: Wanting -- wanting people -- let me tell you something.

KINZINGER: Yes, he's far left.

TURNER: Wanting people to have to have a $15 hour minimum wage. Wanting to make sure that people have --

KINZINGER: $25 trillion --

TURNER: -- Medicare for all. The same budget you guys gave to the military industrial complex. There is no far left. So don't paint --


KINZINGER: No, there is a far left. Senator Sanders is far left. You can like it.


TURNER: This is the thing though as far as tired --

KINZINGER: I'm not going to talk over you. Go ahead.

TURNER: I appreciate that. As far as people being tired, you know, whoever runs will be running against President Trump most likely and the last time I checked, he wasn't a spring chicken. So once we start getting into ageism we have a problem. Because today's 28-year-old --


TAPPER: Who are you afraid of?

KINZINGER: I said Joe Biden.

TAPPER: Joe Biden you think could beat Donald Trump?

KINZINGER: Yes, I think so because he's -- you know, he's kind of run as a centrist. I think he can attract the kind of people that are voting for Donald Trump, the middle class, the blue collar workers. I think he's the one that can take that away.

You put somebody like Bernie Sanders over at the middle --

TURNER: You'll get (ph) run (ph) over in the middle.

KINZINGER: Let me -- please. Thank you.

If you put somebody like Bernie Sanders up it's just out of the stream what people wants. We are not a liberal country I would say. We're probably a moderate country.

TAPPER: Another 2020 possibility Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York. She tweeted this week -- quote -- "Our future is female, intersectional, powered by our belief in one another. And we're just getting started."

A number of conservatives rebuked her from that. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted -- "Good to know. My girls will be excited about this. When is it appropriate to let my boys (9, 7 and 6 years old) that there's no future for them? Not sure this is a winning platform but you be you."

Forgetting Don Junior's part of this for a second what do you think of the idea the future is female, the future is intersectional?

GRANHOLM: Well, I think -- I definitely think this midterm shows that women rose up in incredible numbers. Bur we're still not half of Congress. We're still not half of the Supreme Court, we still -- we hold up half the sky and more than half of the votes but we're still not represented. So I think it is time for a woman to be on the ticket.

SANTORUM: I disagree with that that the agenda is going to be as important, the far left. I think they're all far left.

But I think what we saw from the governor's race in Georgia, what we saw from the governor's race in Florida, we saw from the Senate race in Texas with Beto, is they were all ran far left, they were unapologetically broad and they almost won in some really tough states.

It's the messenger. The best communicator wins.

Donald Trump is a great communicator. You may not like him but he's a great communicator. They got to find someone who's a great communicator --


GRANHOLM: I actually agree with you on that.

What is going on? Struck by lightning here.

TAPPER: I have heard House Democrats talking about Beto O'Rourke and saying that he should run for president. They think he's inspiring.

GRANHOLM: You know, he is inspiring and he is courageous.

TURNER: Well, so is Gillum and so is Abrams. OK? Let me just --


TAPPER: Them (ph) as well?


TURNER: I mean, they ran very strong races so you know Beto is one side of it. Gillum and Abrams is the --

TAPPER: Them (ph) as well.


GRANHOLM: All part of the mix.

TAPPER -- House Democrats talking about them. But absolutely.

TURNER: I want to throw them out there.

TAPPER: Now they're included.


TAPPER: Thanks one and all for being here.

You can call him on his cellphone. President Trump might be looking for somebody new to someone to talk to now that he is not making late- night phone calls to Roger Stone anymore. That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion." Stay with us.



TAPPER: There's just some things you can't or shouldn't say over texts or tweet, which is why phone calls remain an important part communication for President Trump and that's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."


TAPPER (voice-over): This week President Trump praised his former associate Roger Stone for his guts and loyalty.

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: There's no circumstance under which I would testify against the president.

TAPPER: Perhaps they're both longing for those late night chats they would have during the 2016 campaign.

TRUMP: Well, I think Elton John is great, I think the Stones are great, the Beetles I love.

TAPPER: But now according to "The Washington Post" Robert Mueller is zeroing in on those late night phone calls between Trump and Stone.

TRUMP: We're going to win so much.

TAPPER: It's not the first time Trump's cellphone habits have come under scrutiny. "The New York Times" reported a few weeks ago in this presidential game of telephone Mr. Trump's frienemies (ph) are also listening in. Are they overhearing anything useful?

Hopefully instead of state secrets it's just a play by play of the president talking to his pal Hannity about his nightly broadcast.

TRUMP: This is the biggest story. This is a big, big story.

TAPPER: Perhaps instead of geo-political secrets they're hearing the president talking to say Patriots quarterback Tom Brady about, I don't know, Kanye West.

TRUMP: Kanye has been a friend of mine for a long time.

TAPPER: But that's just the best case scenario.

TRUMP: I'm on the phone screaming at people all day long for weeks.

TAPPER: One can only imagine White House chief of staff John Kelly having to take extraordinary measures to limit the president's iPhone privileges.

TRUMP: Hello.

TAPPER: And then again at least it is an e-mail.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one wants their personal e-mails made public.


TAPPER: Tonight marks a very special CNN tradition, CNN heroes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're humans helping humans and they need our help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are truly giving the gift of mobility.

ANNOUNCER: Through the best the world has to offer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're building something that matters a lot more than we do.

ANNOUNCER: They're heroes today and every day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Teaches girls how to program. It's all about solving problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We serve anybody who has ever raised their hand to defend our constitution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My vision was to have a home where women could find safety and find themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our first goal was just to create this hospital based intervention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want each and every one of them feel special.

ANNOUNCER: Join Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa live as they name the 2018 CNN Hero of the Year.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Here once again celebrating the best of humanity.

KELLY RIPA, ACTRESS: Don't we need this tonight more than ever?

ANNOUNCER: CNN Heroes, an all-star tribute tonight at 8:00 Eastern.