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Source: Trump Knew in January That Flynn Misled FBI; Interview With California Congresswoman Jackie Speier; Trump Endorses Accused Child Molester Roy Moore for Senate; Trump Orders Historic Reduction of National Monuments. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 4, 2017 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: What will this mean for the special counsel's obstruction of justice probe?

Questions of bias. Disturbing new details tonight about the FBI agent who was fired from Robert Mueller's team for apparently sending anti- Trump texts. CNN has learned about a pivotal change he made to Comey's public statement on Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation.

"Go get 'em, Roy." The president calls Alabama's embattled Senate candidate, fully endorsing Roy Moore, despite allegations he sexually abused teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Will that help or hurt Moore?

And land giveaway. Mr. Trump travels to Utah to drastically reduce the size of two huge federal monuments. CNN is on the scene for the biggest rollback of federally protected land in U.S. history.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight.

New information on when President Trump knew that Michael Flynn hadn't come clean to the FBI, information that could be crucial to the special counsel's investigation of possible obstruction of justice.

CNN has learned that the White House chief lawyer told Mr. Trump back in January that he believed Flynn had misled the bureau and should be fired as national security adviser. That was before the president's February meeting with then FBI Director James Comey, when Comey says he was pressured to back off of his investigation of Flynn.

Tonight, as more questions arise about Mr. Trump's legal risks, his personal lawyer is arguing that the president is immune to being charged with obstruction, reminiscent of Richard Nixon's claim after Watergate.

Also breaking, President Trump is now fully and publicly endorsing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, even phoning him to -- quote -- "Go get 'em, Roy." The president seeking a Republican victory, despite multiple allegations of past sexual abuse by Moore involving teenage girls, including a woman who says she was molested when she was only 14.

And CNN has learned that an FBI agent dismissed from Robert Mueller's team changed a key phrase in James Comey's description of how Hillary Clinton handled classified information from grossly negligent to extremely careless. The agent was removed from Mueller's investigation this past summer for sending private messages that appeared to favor Clinton.

This hour, I will talk with House Intelligence Committee member Jackie Speier. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, this question of when President Trump learned that Flynn misled the FBI clearly is critical.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. You can be forgiven for being confused about what the actual White House story is here. First, the president tweeted that he knew Flynn lied. Then the president's personal lawyer said he actually wrote the tweet.

And since then, CNN has learned that the White House counsel did in fact inform the president that Flynn had lied, all very critical and crucial questions for the special counsel's investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, the latest White House story on when the president knew his national security adviser had lied to the FBI. CNN has learned that chief White House counsel Don McGahn informed the president in January that he believed that Flynn misled the FBI and Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

But the source familiar with the matter said McGahn did not explicitly tell the president that his lying meant Flynn had violated the law. The president tweeted Saturday -- quote -- "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI."

However, soon after that tweet, the president's lawyer, John Dowd, told CNN that he, not the president, drafted the tweet. That account raises the question, what did Trump know when, soon after, he urged then FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I took it as a direction. I mean, this is the president of the United States with me alone saying, "I hope this." I took it as this is what he wants me to do. That's why I understood him to be saying was what he wanted me to do was drop any investigation connected to Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russians. SCIUTTO: President Trump has disputed Comey's account, most recently

in a Sunday morning tweet, writing -- quote -- "I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more fake news covering another Comey lie!"

Congressional Democrats aren't convinced.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.

I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of Director Comey. And it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice.

[18:05:15]

SCIUTTO: Pressed again today on when he was told about Flynn's lying, the president spoke mostly about his former opponent.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will say this. Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they destroyed his life. I think it's a shame.

Hillary Clinton on the Fourth of July weekend went to the FBI, not under oath. It was the most incredible thing anyone has ever seen. She lied many times. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and it's like they ruined his life. It's very unfair. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. President, when did you find out he lied to the FBI?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Of course, lying to the FBI is a federal crime and his lie is inextricably tied to the Russia investigation.

He was lying, after all, about conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. And, Wolf, the then acting attorney general, Sally Yates, you will remember, considered those lies important and damaging enough that she thought they opened the then national security adviser to potential blackmail from Russia.

BLITZER: You're also getting some new information from the courts right now about Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman who was seeking an opportunity to avoid being under house arrest.

SCIUTTO: That's right. A little more than a month after he was arrested for multiple crimes related to his work for Ukraine, for the pro-Russian government of Ukraine, he violated, the prosecutors argue, the terms of his plea agreement. He was allowed some freedom of movement.

He was allowed out of house arrest. He was allowed off of GPS tracking in exchange for him putting up $11 million in property assets. But during that time as well, the judge had instructed him not to make public comments related to the case that could prejudice the case.

And yet the special counsel found out that as recently as last week, he was working, ghost-writing an op-ed, an editorial, along with a Russian known to U.S. intelligence. Now, Wolf, you can make the argument even though he is now going on trial here that he has the right to make a living. This is paid work.

But the special counsel is arguing that this fell under the terms of that agreement because it would be making public comment. It might prejudice the case. It's an investigation of Russia, after all, and he was writing this editorial with a Russian known to U.S. intelligence.

So it will now be up to the judge to decide whether the terms of this plea agreement are rescinded.

BLITZER: Yes. As part of the bail agreement, he was not supposed to make statements to the media, and here he was drafting an op-ed, an editorial that would be for the media.

SCIUTTO: Newspapers are part of the media.

BLITZER: That's correct. Not exactly a brilliant move on his part. We will see what the judge decides.

All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Let's go to the White House right now for more on the president and his legal strategy against potential obstruction of justice charges.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is on the scene for us.

Jim, as we learn more about what President Trump knew about Michael Flynn's lies, the president has been speaking out about the man he fired.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is showing a lot of sympathy for his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.

The Russian investigation seems very much on the president's mind these days, as he officially offered an endorsement to an accused child molester, Roy Moore, in the Alabama Senate race

But it's the president's senior team that may warrant the most attention tonight for putting forward an argument that essentially the president is above the law.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Just as the president is sharing his personal feelings for his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn...

TRUMP: Well, I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life and I feel very badly, John. I will say this. Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they destroyed his life. I think it's a shame.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump's legal team is offering a preview of a potential defense, in the event the special counsel's office makes its way to the Oval Office. "The president cannot obstruct justice because he's the chief law enforcement officer," the president's outside attorney told Axios, "and has every right to express his view of any case," a case echoed by Professor Alan Dershowitz on FOX News.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, Attorney: You cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power to fire Comey and his constitutional authority to tell the Justice Department who to investigate, who not to investigate.

ACOSTA: That claim ignores the fact that one of the articles of impeachment brought against former Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon was obstruction of justice.

RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm not a crook.

ACOSTA: President Trump is also lashing out at federal investigators, tweeting that "The FBI's reputation is in tatters, worst in history, but fear not, we will bring it back to greatness."

As for the president's claim that Hillary Clinton lied to investigators, former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump, said that didn't happen at a hearing last year.

[18:10:03]

COMEY: We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI.

ACOSTA: With the Russia investigation apparently expanding, the president is out to preserve his party's majority in the Senate, tweeting his endorsement for Republican Roy Moore in the Senate race in Alabama.

According to the GOP candidate's campaign, the president talked to Moore over the phone and cheered, "Go get 'em, Roy."

The president no longer seems to be waiting on whether allegations of sexual abuse against Moore are even proven true, as the White House once indicated.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president said in his statement earlier this week that, if the allegations are true, then that Roy Moore should step aside. He still firmly believes that.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump all but said he believed Moore's denials late last month.

TRUMP: He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen.

ACOSTA: The president is facing new accounts of his own misconduct. Billy Bush, the "Access Hollywood" host who was with Mr. Trump when he made lewd comments about women caught on tape...

TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

ACOSTA: ... pushed back on reports that the president is somehow claiming he never made the offensive remarks. "Of course he said it,' Bush writes in "The New York Times, "and we laughed along without a doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America's highest-rated bloviator."

Black in October, the president defended the comments.

TRUMP: That's locker room.

ACOSTA: With so many controversies swirling, the president is trying to stay in the holiday spirit, announcing at a rollback of national monuments in Utah that he's looking to Republicans in Congress to pass tax cuts.

TRUMP: We are now one huge step closer to delivering to the American people the historic tax relief as a giant present for Christmas. Remember, I said we're bringing Christmas back? Christmas is back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, besides tax cuts, the White House and members of Congress are also working toward avoiding a government shutdown this month.

Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer say they are coming back to the White House later this week. Of course, that is after their recent meeting with the president was scrapped. That was when the president said Democrats were not interested in a deal.

Wolf, we will have to wait and see if they make that date -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see what happens later in the week. Jim Acosta, thank you.

Joining us now, a Democrat involved in the House Russia investigations, the Intelligence Committee member Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: After speaking with then acting Attorney General Sally Yates, the White House counsel, Don McGahn, told President Trump that he believed Michael Flynn, his then national security adviser, had misled the FBI in his interview.

If that's the case, and President Trump went on later, days later, to then ask the FBI director, James Comey, to drop his investigation into Flynn, do you believe that is obstruction of justice by the president?

SPEIER: I think that, if you connect the dots, you get to obstruction of justice, yes.

I don't think the American people are stupid here. They see what's happening. And I think, within a short period of time, there's going to be serious repercussions.

BLITZER: Do you believe this potentially could be grounds for impeachment?

SPEIER: I believe it could be.

Again, we have to wait for the special counsel, Mueller, to complete his investigation before I think anything can move forward.

BLITZER: Do you believe the statement by the president's personal lawyer, John Dowd, that the president can't obstruct justice because he's the chief law enforcement officer of the United States?

SPEIER: It's actually mind-boggling that a high-priced attorney with lots of smarts would say something so stupid.

We are a country of laws, not men. We have had a number of presidents, as you pointed out, that have had as part of their potential impeachment that they have obstructed justice. Obstruction of justice is against the law.

BLITZER: On Saturday, the president tweeted this. He said -- quote -- "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

Is that an admission that Don McGahn, the president's White House counsel, did tell President Trump that Flynn misled the FBI?

SPEIER: I think what it tells us is that the president is so focused on trying to keep Mike Flynn from spilling the beans.

I think he is willing -- the president is willing to throw virtually anyone under the bus. But for some reason, he went to Director Comey trying to get Director Comey not to take Michael Flynn out. And I think the result is that we see him now trying to get Michael Flynn to be very circumspect in how he proffers to the special counsel.

BLITZER: The president's personal lawyer, John Dowd, says he wrote that tweet, that controversial tweet, for the president. It went out in the president's name. Do you believe that?

SPEIER: You know, it doesn't matter. We have to take responsibility for anything that goes out under our name.

[18:15:01]

So, he either wrote it himself, the president, or he approved it. And, to me, it makes no difference who wrote the tweet.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news, Congresswoman, that we're following. I want to get your reaction to the news that Paul Manafort, who was the Trump campaign chairman, was working on ghost- writing an article for Ukrainians and Russians, especially a Russian with ties to Russian intelligence, as recently as last Thursday, was working on that article, an apparent violation of his bail agreement that he was not supposed to deal with the media.

SPEIER: Stunningly stupid. Stunningly stupid.

I think that the -- that all of the conditions of him being out on bail should be revoked. I think he should be on a GPS anklet, because I think he is a threat that would leave the country.

BLITZER: Why do you think -- why do you think President Trump over the weekend renewed his attacks on the FBI?

SPEIER: Because whenever he is attacked, the first thing he does is attack back.

He's done it about the CIA, he's done it about the FBI, and you know that he's in trouble when he always goes back to the campaign and tries to bring Hillary Clinton back into the conversation. He won the presidency. Act like a president. He doesn't seem to be capable of doing that.

BLITZER: What does it say to you, Congresswoman, that the FBI director, the new one, and the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, they have been silent in the face of these attacks?

SPEIER: Well, I do think that they on the one hand work under the president, but there is an independence that the Justice Department brings. They're not going to get into a mud-slinging match with the president.

And so the better part of valor here is just to be silent, I believe.

BLITZER: Your committee will be hearing from Donald Trump Jr. on Wednesday of this week. What questions do you have for him?

SPEIER: Well, of course, the first thing we're going to want to ask him is more about the meeting, because there is a lapse in the e-mails that he has.

I also want to know about his engagement with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, because clearly there is a relationship there as well. And I'm firmly convinced that Julian Assange was an operative for Russia in our election cycle.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news, Congresswoman Speier. I want you to stand by. We will resume the interview right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:22:13]

BLITZER: We're back with House Intelligence Committee member Jackie Speier, as we follow multiple breaking stories. Congresswoman, I need you to stand by for a moment.

We're getting some new information with an FBI agent dismissed over the summer by special counsel Robert Mueller and the agent's role in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is following the story for us.

What are you learning, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI who led the Hillary Clinton investigation, e-mail investigation, and then worked for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is now under scrutiny as the White House argues that there's political bias in the ongoing Russia investigation.

Peter Strzok was removed this past summer from the Mueller team after internal investigators found private messages that he sent that appeared to mock President Donald Trump. Now, we have learned, now learned that during the Clinton probe, he's the FBI official who changed a key phrase in how the FBI ended up describing Clinton's handling of classified information.

Electronic records show the changed draft language describing Clinton's actions as -- quote -- "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless." The change isn't a small thing because it could have had significant legal implications for Hillary Clinton.

The federal law governing the mishandling of classified information establishes that criminal penalties are due for gross negligence. We're told by officials that the drafting process was actually a team effort, Wolf, with a handful of people reviewing the language if any changes were made.

CNN has also learned that Strzok was the FBI official who signed the document that officially opened the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He worked as the number two official in the counterintelligence section and Strzok was considered again one of the top experts on Russia at the FBI.

All of this now of course is likely to add to the political firestorm over the Russia investigation. The White House and congressional Republicans want the FBI to provide more documents because they think that there could be some political bias in the handling of both the Clinton investigation, Wolf, and the Trump-Russia investigation.

BLITZER: The president has been tweeting extensively about this, as we know. Evan, thank you very much.

Let's get back to Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

Congresswoman, based on what you just heard from Evan, is this something your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, should investigate?

SPEIER: It's something that I'm hearing for the very first time, and it certainly is worthy of our review.

I will say the fact that Robert Mueller stepped in so swiftly last summer when he found out and evidently was doing internal reviews of many of the staff there, and swiftly had him fired, suggests to me that he's not going to tolerate any kind of bias within this investigation.

[18:25:01]

BLITZER: Does it concern you at all, Congresswoman, that we're just finding out about all of this now? He was dismissed over the summer.

SPEIER: Well, we do know that he was dismissed over the summer. That was something that was made public. No one really knew why.

And now it's coming out why. I guess this is a leak that we have gotten wind of, and that's something that obviously Chairman Nunes doesn't like. But here's a leak that has some value from his perspective. I certainly think we should review it.

BLITZER: President Trump tweeted: "Anti-Trump FBI agent led Clinton e-mail probe. Now it all starts to make sense."

Does it raise questions about the integrity of the entire Clinton e- mail investigation, which went on obviously for a long time?

SPEIER: So, the investigation and certainly the final statement that was made, gross negligence vs. very poor judgment, there's a difference there, there's no question about that.

That's a decision that was, I would believe, made by a number of people because the wording and the crafting of that was so key. So I don't think it was just one person making that decision in the end. But that's something we should look at.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thanks for joining us.

SPEIER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead: Is the president prepared if Robert Mueller makes a case for obstruction of justice? We will talk about the evidence and new questions about the Trump team's legal strategy.

And why would Paul Manafort put his bail deal in jeopardy by having contact with a Russian with ties to the spy world in Moscow? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following breaking news tonight. CNN learning that the chief White House lawyer told President Trump in January he believed that Michael Flynn had misled the FBI, should be fired as the national security advisor. And it's raising even more questions right now about what Mr. Trump knew when he met with the then-FBI director, James Comey, in February and actually urged him to drop his -- drop his investigation of Michael Flynn.

[18:31:34] Let's bring in our analysts and our specialists. And Gloria, what do you think about this new timeline that we're learning?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the timeline is everything, Wolf, because it really does raise questions about what Donald Trump was thinking about when he pulled Comey aside that day and said, "You know, I think you ought to go easy on General Flynn." What did he know at that particular time?

And also I might add that it raises questions about why it took so long to fire Flynn. I mean it took about three weeks, as we know, and if they knew this information, and they thought that he had misled the FBI, which would mean, by the way, that your own national security advisor would likely have his security credentials revoked, why did it take so long to make this happen and why did it only happen after it was revealed that he lied to the vice president in a piece in "The Washington Post."

BLITZER: Yes, he was fired after that "Washington Post" article...

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: ... came out.

Samantha, you served on the National Security Council during the Obama administration. How do you see it right now?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: From a national security perspective, if Trump knew that Flynn lied, he should have been fired immediately for at least two reasons.

First, historically, part of the job of the national security advisor is to be an honest broker between government agencies who are working on national security like the FBI. If -- if Flynn lied to the FBI, he was no longer an honest broker. He had a bias; he was no longer fit to serve.

And second, part of the FBI's job is to protect the American people from intelligence operations and espionage. If Flynn lied to the FBI, which we now know that he did, he directly undercut the work of a National Security Agency and, therefore, undercut the safety and security of the American people and can no longer fulfill his duties.

BLITZER: Yes. He's -- he's confessed to lying...

VINOGRAD: Indeed.

BLITZER: ... to the FBI, pled guilty. Jeffrey, the president's personal lawyer has put out this argument today that the president can't be found guilty of obstruction of justice because he's the president.

First of all, why make that case now, and do you believe it holds up?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, John Dowd is clearly floundering around and is making trouble for his client right and left. But as a technical legal matter, there is an unresolved question about

whether a sitting president of the United States can be prosecuted for anything -- obstruction of justice, stealing a car, anything -- because the president occupies a unique place in our constitutional structure.

What is quite clear is that a president can be impeached for obstruction of justice. Bill Clinton was impeached for, among other things, obstruction of justice. The House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Richard Nixon for obstruction of justice. So it's not clear -- it is clear that a president is not above the law, but whether he can actually be prosecuted for obstruction of justice, that's really something the Supreme Court has never resolved, and there are a lot of differing views on that.

BLITZER: Rebecca, I want you to listen to what Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Sunday. Listen to this even before CNN did report that Don McGahn, the president's White House counsel, told the president that he believed that the then-national security advisor, Michael Flynn, had misled the FBI. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE WEINSTEIN (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice. I think we see this in the indictments, the four indictments and pleas that have just taken place and some of the comments that are being made. I see it in the hyper-frenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets.

[18:35:25] And I see it, most importantly, in what happened with the firing of Director Comey. And it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So if you're in the White House right now, how concerned are you about those comments?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Well, they should be concerned. I mean, even though Dianne Feinstein is a Democrat, she is someone who's very careful with her words, tends not to buy into the whole partisan hysteria that you get with issues like this sometimes. She is really, really careful. And so when she says something like that, that's something that you want to take seriously.

But at the same time, Wolf, I'm sure the White House has contemplated these legal scenarios. They have a whole team of lawyers working on this, some of whom may be doing a slight disservice to the president at this stage like John Dowd, but even so, they are being paid to be thinking about these potential scenarios.

At the same time, if you take a step back, regardless of whether the president does face charges, ultimately, of obstruction of justice, whether he's able to be charged with that, if the debate we're having right now in the public sphere is whether the president could legally be charged with obstruction of justice, that is not the conversation that the White House wants to be having at any point. That means things are going very badly for the White House.

BLITZER: And there's another breaking story, Gloria, that we're following right now, involving Paul Manafort, who was the Trump campaign chairman who was charged, pleading not guilty, but he's out on bail. But all of a sudden, we're now learning that, contrary to that bail agreement, he's actually helping draft an op-ed for Ukrainians and Russians with ties to Russian intelligence, a potential violation of that agreement.

BORGER: I think you have to ask what was he thinking, and I think what he was probably thinking is that he's trying to earn a living, to be honest. And this is what he does for a living. And the, you know, the attorney -- the special counsel's office is making the case that it's a violation of their agreement.

TOOBIN: Only in Washington, D.C., is the only possibility of making a living doing Vladimir Putin's bidding. You know, there are people who make a living doing other things, and maybe Mr. Manafort should explore those.

BORGER: It's interesting -- it would be interesting to know how they found out about -- how they found out about this, since it was unsigned and it's, you know, it's not in his name.

TOOBIN: Well, there are still people...

BORGER: And it's ghost writing.

TOOBIN: There are still people in the United States government who don't view Vladimir Putin as a great friend, and they actually do surveillance of those things, and they actually learn things.

BLITZER: Surveillance of Ukrainians who are close to Putin and Russians who are close to Putin, as well.

Samantha, stand by, everybody stand by. There's much more coming up, including a voice of authority says there's no doubt about what President Trump said on that infamous "Access Hollywood" videotape. Why is Billy Bush now calling out President Trump?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're ready, let's go. Make me a soap star.

BILLY BUSH, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD": How about a little hug for The Donald?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:43:26] BLITZER: We're back with our political team as President Trump throws his full support right now to the Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore, calling him on the phone and saying, and I'm quoting the president now, "Go get 'em, Roy."

So, Rebecca, some mixed signals coming out, but all of a sudden all in for this Republican candidate.

BERG: Well, absolutely, Wolf. And part of that is because we are at a new phase in this election. When a few weeks ago Republicans thought there was still time for Roy Moore to get out of the race, still time, potentially, for a write-in candidate to mount a rival campaign to Roy Moore, you heard those statements from people like Mitch McConnell saying he should step aside; very strong anti-Roy Moore statements from Republicans.

Now it is too late in the game for a white knight to come in and save the Republican Party; and the choice for them now is down to Roy Moore, the Republican, and Doug Jones, the Democrat. And you're seeing that, given that two-person choice, many Republicans are looking past what Roy Moore has done, the allegations against him, and saying they need a vote in the Senate. And that's exactly what the president has said with his endorsement today.

BLITZER: What a difference, Gloria, between what the president said today, "Go get 'em, Roy," a total endorsement of Roy Moore. Ivanka Trump not that long ago in an interview with the Associated Press said, "There is a special place in hell for people who prey on children. I have yet to see a valid explanation, and I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts."

What a difference a few weeks make.

BORGER: Well, by all accounts, the president was not happy about that. And Ivanka has not retracted that statement in any -- in any way, shape or form. And you know, I remember interviewing her during the campaign, and she -- she said, you know, "I -- when I disagree with my father, I let him know.

[18:45:08] But I usually -- I don't take it public. Well, at that moment she made a statement first and then her father now clearly, clearly disagrees with her because he doesn't want to lose control of the Senate. He needs that vote for lots of things that could be coming up in the next year. And honestly, while there are Republicans who have said, you know, we should unseat him if he gets elected, count me as one of the people who would be very skeptical about whether they would do that.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST : And it comes, Jeffrey, as Billy Bush in this article, the op-ed article he wrote in "The New York Times" confirms that the then private citizen Donald Trump did in fact say all those words on that "Access Hollywood" videotape, even though the president apparently in private conversations is suggesting maybe that video was doctored.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, you know who else confirms that it was Donald Trump's voice, it was Donald Trump over and over again during the campaign. But now there was some apparently reporting that he's fantasizing that it wasn't him. But it's really quite a remarkable piece by Billy Bush in "The New York Times." Who knew he'd be so woke, this guy? I mean, he's like saying --

BORGER: Wow!

TOOBIN: He's saying, you know, Donald Trump is guilty of all the -- you know, he's not just talking about the tape, he's saying I believe that he abused all these women. You know, I guess unemployment does that for Billy Bush. He's like changed.

BLITZER: Samantha, on a very different subject, we're waiting for the president presumably on Wednesday to make a major announcement as far as the U.S. position towards Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, whether or not to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We're hearing that he will sign the waiver, not moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, at least this time. He's supposed to do it every six months. But he will declare, we're told, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I'm thinking about this from the perspective of what is the objective here and timing. If the objective is to promote stability within Israel and within the region, I don't see how this is a wise decision right now. We know that Arab states are against this. The king of Jordan has been quite public about that. We have wars raging in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and not even to mention the threat of terrorism. Undoubtedly, this would introduce more instability at a very tense time.

And also from a timing perspective, we're all very much aware that the State Department is under enormous pressure right now. We have personnel cuts, we have hiring freezes, we have budget cuts. And it's no secret that Secretary Tillerson's credibility is also under fire.

Now, typically the State Department would lead negotiations with Arab states if this kind of decision was being taken because they have experienced negotiators, they have years of experience working with countries in the region, and all of this pressure on the State Department makes me think that they weren't in the lead, that perhaps Kushner was in fact leading this discussion. And I don't think that that forebodes a positive outcome if this is announced.

TOOBIN: But why would you -- why would you need the State Department when you have a 36-year-old unsuccessful real estate developer to do --

VINOGRAD: Versus years of experience.

TOOBIN: Right, to do your real -- to do your negotiating about the most complicated foreign policy challenge in the world?

BORGER: Elise Labott and I did a piece on this today where it's very clear that the friction is strong between these two. And it's been strong for a very long time, because this is Jared Kushner's portfolio, when in fact it should probably belong to the secretary of state.

TOOBIN: You think?

BORGER: Yes.

VINOGRAD: For good reason.

BLITZER: The traditional way.

I will point out that back in April, the Russian government, the ministry of foreign affairs in Russia, put out a statement saying that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a new Palestinian state but then went on to say at the same time, we must state that in this context, we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

So, Russia a bit ahead of Trump if in fact Trump goes ahead and declares West Jerusalem the capital of the state of Israel.

All right, guys, stand by. There's more news we're following.

President Trump dramatically reduces the size of two huge national monuments in another effort to undo the work of Democrats.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:54:07] BLITZER: Breaking tonight, President Trump orders the largest scaling back of national monuments in the history of this country.

CNN's Bill Weir is in Utah for us, where the president made the dramatic announcement.

Bill, environmentalists, they seem to be outraged, right?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes they are, and along with them, the outdoor industry, and the five Native American tribes who call these sacred lands home. The folks who left here today, the president gave a speech at the capital rotunda, they were giddy. These are conservatives who see this as a thumb in the eye of big government meddling in the way they manage their land, but since this is your land, why don't we show you around?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: Let me show the epicenter of what is the biggest environmental fight of the day. Yes, there they are.

See those two buttes, those are the Bears Ears. But they are just a tiny piece of this huge fight because Bears Ears national monument is 1.35 million acres.

That is over 200,000 square miles of wild western vestige, holding a potentially fortune in oil, gas and uranium underneath tens of thousands of Native American ruins.

For folks like Mark Maryboy, these sites are worth more than any mineral. To the Navajo and Hopi, Zuni, and Utes, these canyons hold the spirits of loved ones.

MARK MARYBOY, FORMER SAN JUAN COUNTY COMMISSIONER: They live among us just like and I were communicating.

WEIR: These are your neighbors living here.

MARK MARYBOY: Yes.

WEIR: The person who carved this art 1,200 years ago signed all their work with a wolf paw. But equally striking are the modern bullet holes, just one sign of the tension that goes back to the first Mormon wagon trains.

MARK MARYBOY: They didn't want to work with us. In fact, one of the county commissioners says, you guys lost the war. You have no business talking about land planning process.

WEIR: For generations, natives sought protection for this land, but it wasn't until the five tribes put aside their differences, rallied the support of rich outdoorsmen like Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, and lobby the feds that they got their wish.

Weeks before leaving office, Barack Obama declared Bears Ears off- limits to any new drilling or mining. And while some cheered the prospect of a new tourist economy, others saw it as pure tyranny.

PHIL LYMAN, SAN JUAN COUNTY COMMISSIONER: It's like kind of a sucker punch.

WIER: OK.

LYMAN: It didn't feel right. And it hasn't felt right for a year.

WEIR: Phil Lyman is among the Trump supporters who spent the weekend cheering the president's decision to shrink Bears Ears by more than 80 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument by nearly half.

They point out that the biggest poorest county in Utah already has four other parks and monuments. They don't want elites using their backyard as a playground. They just want to control their own destiny.

LYMAN: By designating a monument, what you're doing is you're using a tool that will bring hordes of people to a place that is very sensitive. There is nothing that we want to unprotect. There's 13 layers of protection on artifacts and species and wildlife and vegetation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are loopholes in those rules that you can drive an oil rig through.

WEIR: Josh Euwey (ph) came from Nebraska to climb rocks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Painted (INAUDIBLE), that's a rim of a bull. WEIR: And feel so hard for the landscapes in history, he formed an advocacy group and is building a visitor center with whatever donations he can raise online.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this place was anywhere else but southern Utah, I don't care if it was Mongolia, or Zimbabwe, it would have been protected as a national park a long time ago. But because of the politics of Utah --

WEIR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- this place is still a debate.

YVON CHOUINARD, PATAGONIA CEO: Well, I think the only thing this administration understands is lawsuits.

WEIR: And the head of Patagonia says he's ready for a long, legal fight fp.

CHOUINARD: We're losing this planet, and we have an evil government. And, you know, not just the federal government, the wacko politicians out of Utah and places. I mean, it's evil. I'm not going to stand back and just let evil win.

LYMAN: What's his net worth? A billion dollars? Two billion dollars? So, you got Patagonia here, you know, waiving the flag of environmentalism while he's just completing exploiting the outdoors for industrialized tourism.

WEIR: If these rocks could talk, they'd tell us centuries of bloody human content before the United States decided to set aside the special corners for We the People.

This is your land, but Bears Ears is a reminder that how it is used all comes down to how you vote.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR: Just in a couple hours since the president left the rotunda, we've seen statements from the Navajo National Council, we've seen the National Trust for Historic Preservation all condemning this, all hinting at lawsuits.

And you heard from the head of Patagonia. Check out their Website right now, you go there, it is a black screen with the words "The president stole your land".

Now, for context, presidents create national monuments, Congress creates national parks. No one has ever challenged a president on shrinking or expanding. So, this one may end up all the way to the Supreme Court. This is a fight that will go on forever. But, of course, Wolf, they've been fighting over this chunk of lands since those Mormon wagon trains rolled in so many centuries ago. But now, they'll be fighting with lawyers and --

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: A beautiful report for beautiful land out there.

Bill Weir, thanks so much for doing that.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.