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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Looking to Create His Own Secret Spy Network?; Interview With Washington Congressman Denny Heck; California Inferno; Trump Expected to Recognize Jerusalem as Israeli Capital; Republican Party Backing Accused Child Molester Roy Moore for Alabama Senate; Trump Orders Historic Reduction of National Monuments. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 5, 2017 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:02]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is he risking violence and the future of peace talks in order to keep a campaign promise?

Growing inferno. A state of emergency is in effect in parts of Southern California, as wind-driven blazes spread with terrifying speed. CNN is live from the disaster zone, where the fire is raging and thousands of people have fled for their lives.

More charges coming? Weeks after Paul Manafort and his longtime associate were indicted, a lawyer for co-defendant Rick Gates now says he's been alerted to expect more charges. What will be the next shoe to drop in the special counsel's investigation?

And conflicting strategies. The president's lawyers at odds over whether he's above the law when it comes to possible obstruction of justice. As Michael Flynn may be spilling secrets, is Mr. Trump's Russia defense in disarray?

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, some U.S. allies are warning President Trump that he's on the verge of a fatal mistake that may ignite destructive and destabilizing violence in the Middle East.

Sources tell CNN that Mr. Trump is expected to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. An announcement is scheduled for tomorrow. We're told the president will also signal his intention to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Palestinians already are calling for three days of rage and protest. Tonight, the State Department is warning of possible violence and U.S. troops in the region are preparing to respond if needed.

Also breaking, we're getting new information about an attempt to convince the Trump administration to create a secret private spy network of intelligence contractors. A U.S. official telling CNN that the founder of the Blackwater security firm, Erik Prince, and his allies made the proposal, lobbying their contacts within the Trump administration. But tonight, we're told, the idea is -- quote -- "going nowhere."

And we're also following a state of emergency in Southern California, where a fast-moving wildfire is burning out of control, growing to a whopping 78 square miles, consuming an area roughly three-and-a-half times bigger than Manhattan; 27,000 people are already under mandatory evacuation orders from that one fire alone in Ventura County.

Multiple fires are raging, including one erupting in recent hours.

We're covering all of that, much more this hour, with our guests, including the House Intelligence Committee member, Denny Heck. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president is poised to make a very big announcement tomorrow.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. That is coming up very soon, Wolf. And as well, President Trump is claiming there is unity in the Republican Party, like never before, but it sure doesn't seem that way when it comes to Roy Moore and the Alabama Senate race.

But the president is weighing another critical, divisive move, this time in the Middle East, as you mentioned, where U.S. allies are warning Mr. Trump he could be inflaming tensions in a troubled region.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is on the verge of announcing another controversial move, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a decision that could rock the Middle East peace process. The governments of France, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have all raised objections, noting that the Palestinians recognize East Jerusalem as their capital.

A spokesman for King Abdullah of Jordan said in a statement, "The king affirmed that decision will have serious implications that will undermine efforts to resume the peace process, and will provoke Muslims and Christians alike."

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president, I would say, is pretty solid in his thinking.

ACOSTA: On the domestic front, President Trump isn't backing down, he's tripling down on Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama, believe me. We want strong borders. We want stopping crime. We want to have the things that we represent and we certainly don't want to have a liberal Democrat that's controlled by Nancy Pelosi and controlled by Chuck Schumer.

ACOSTA: Sitting next to Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who has sharply criticized the president and is against a Moore candidacy, Mr. Trump insisted all is well inside the GOP.

TRUMP: There's a great spirit in the Republican Party, like I have never seen before, like a lot of people have said they have never seen before. They have never seen anything like this, the unity.

ACOSTA: Don't tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's called on Moore to aside.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: There's been no change of heart. I had hoped earlier that he would withdraw as a candidate. That obviously is not going to happen. If he were to be elected, he would immediately have an Ethics Committee case and the committee would take a look at the situation and give us advice.

ACOSTA: And conservative firebrand Steve Bannon, who's backing Moore.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: We have backed off the Republican establishment that was prepared to toss this seat to the Democrats.

[18:05:00]

ACOSTA: Bannon and the Moore campaign are portraying the Alabama Republican as accused of child molestation as the victim.

JANET PORTER, MOORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: I side, instead of the with the lynch mob media, instead of the Democrat liberals, instead of the convicted felons that George Soros is now registering to vote, I side with the man who stood for the Ten Commandments, who stood for God, who stood for his principles, has an impeccable character.

ACOSTA: The president's decision to endorse Moore comes as a critical time for the GOP.

(on camera): How can that vote in the Senate be that important that you would take a gamble on somebody who has been accused of molesting kids?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think that's something...

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: ... somebody who's underage?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: As I said, I think that's something for the people of Alabama to decide. And that's up to them.

ACOSTA: Is that something the president has wrestled with in any way? Has he wrestled with that question?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: As I said, we find the allegations very troubling. And, again, this is up to the people of Alabama to make that decision. I'm not a voter in Alabama and can't make that decision.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The other headache for the White House, the Russia investigation. One day after an outside lawyer for the president said Mr. Trump could not be guilty of obstruction of justice because he's in charge of the Justice Department, White House attorney Ty Cobb suggested a different legal strategy.

Cobb said the president's team would mount what he described as a "definitely fact-based defense." But the president would not answer a critical question he's facing, what to do about his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, after he pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.

QUESTION: Any plans to pardon General Flynn, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, as for Roy Moore, a GOP source close to the White House said there is still debate inside the West Wing over whether endorsing the Alabama Republican is a good idea.

As this source put it, there are those who share Ivanka Trump's view that there's a special place in hell for people who molest children. And, Wolf, as for the president's claims of unity inside the Republican Party, let's put this up on screen.

Here it is. Jeff Flake, who was over here at the White House earlier today, has written a check, get this, to Doug Jones, Roy Moore's candidate for that Senate seat in Alabama, for $100, not a lot of money, but a symbolic move there from the senator from Arizona, who has sharply criticized this president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Alabama. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you for that report.

Now on the very real threat of potentially widespread violence once the president announces his decision on Jerusalem. U.S. troops, we're told, in the region, they're on standby right now.

Let's bring in our senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. Michelle is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The administration seems to be well aware of the potential for some violence.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this has been a big concern among our sources for days, and now especially as we get down to the wire, before this decision.

So, of course, the White House was asked about this today, in fact, multiple times. And what the White House spokesperson said was a number of things are being looked at and considered. But now, as you mentioned, Palestinians are calling for three days of rage starting tomorrow, calling for people to gather in city centers, protest outside U.S. facilities, march in Ramallah.

And as a result, the State Department has had its diplomatic security on alert, so trying prepare for potential violence. They have also now put out some warnings. For example, in Jerusalem, they're telling government employees and families just not to travel at all to Jerusalem's Old City, or the West Bank.

If you have to travel for official business, it should be done with additional security. They're telling American citizens not to go to places where there are crowds. And I think the question is, Wolf, is there some reason for the White House and the deliberations that have been going on with other countries for them to believe that this is not going to be really a problem?

That remains to be seen. But what we are hearing from governments in the region doesn't indicate that. There does seem to be a concern at this point that there will be, you know, potentially violent protests.

BLITZER: Yes, potentially very dramatic, and potentially, as you say, violent situation erupting.

We will see what happens. Michelle, thank you very much, Michelle Kosinski reporting.

Now to some other breaking news we're following about a stunning proposal to create -- get this -- a secret private network of spies separate from the CIA.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has been digging into this story for us.

Jim, what are you learning?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I'm told this, Wolf, by a U.S. official with knowledge of this proposal. And that is that Erik Prince and his allies, including former intelligence officials, did lobby their contacts, existing contacts within the administration and within the agency, the CIA, about a proposal to somehow privatize intelligence gathering, create a network of contractors that would provide intelligence outside the intelligence provided by the intelligence agencies, among them, of course, the CIA.

I'm told by this official, however, this quote, that this idea is going nowhere. This official stress that neither the agency nor the director of the agency, Mike Pompeo, ever took this idea seriously. A similar message coming from the White House.

NSC spokesman Michael Anton saying -- quote -- "that the White House does not and would not support such a proposal."

[18:10:01]

Just a short time ago, via my colleague at CNN, we have Erik Prince, as well, commenting on this story, denying that he was involved. He says that any meetings Erik did -- or, rather, a spokesman for him, I should say, said, "Any meetings that Erik did have with members of the intelligence community, current or former, focused on his well- publicized plan for saving the U.S. taxpayer $42 billion in Afghanistan." That goes to privatizing security work, the fighting, some of the fighting, in fact, in Afghanistan. But, again, a U.S. official with knowledge of the proposal says that there were people close to Prince, former U.S. intelligence officials, that did reach out to existing contacts within the administration in the agency about this idea, that those meetings were taken, but that the idea, Wolf, I'm told, was never taken seriously.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto reporting for us. Thanks, Jim, very much, for that report.

Let's talk a little bit more about all of this. Congressman Denny Heck is joining us. He's a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: You're welcome.

BLITZER: So what's your immediate reaction to this report we just got from Jim Sciutto?

HECK: Well, I think what I would say, Wolf, is that tomorrow, "TIME" magazine will be announcing its person of the year award, and if they had a bad idea of the year award, this would get my nomination.

This idea is unquestionably, inarguably, absolutely, categorically, unequivocally unconstitutional on its face.

BLITZER: All right. So you hate this idea. And they're saying it's not going anywhere. Let's see. But, apparently, it was pitched, according to the information that Jim Sciutto and others are getting.

Let's get to some other issues in the Russia investigation right now, Congressman. The lawyer for Rick Gates -- he was indicted along with Paul Manafort, Paul Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign -- the lawyer saying that in court yesterday, federal prosecutors have told them that more charges could be coming.

So what does that tell you?

HECK: Well, no surprise here, Wolf.

I knew the instant that General Flynn accepted the plea bargain deal that it was a predicate to additional indictments and charges. I'm not surprised at all, either with respect to Rick Gates, nor what I will predict here and now, which is that other people will be indicted, and probably in the not-too-distant future.

BLITZER: Apparently, the lawyer was also suggesting that more charges against Rick Gates could be coming forward. Apparently, this is what legal experts suggest, to squeeze him more into pleading guilty, cooperating, and going along with the government's investigation.

HECK: The squeeze is on, Wolf. That's clearly what this is about. This is classic, textbook definition of how smart prosecutors and special counsels pursue their jobs.

It started with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, and then went on to General Flynn. And they're moving up the food chain. And as I have said on your network before, they're one thin membrane away from the president of the United States. They are, in fact, in the White House. They're interviewing employees in the White House.

They have now a convicted felon, for all practical purposes, in General Flynn, who is the national security adviser, inarguably, the highest security post in this nation. So, there's no surprise here.

BLITZER: Well, you're right. Once he pleaded guilty, he became a convicted felon right away. He no longer can go out and buy a gun, can no longer vote. He is already a convicted felon.

Your committee will be interviewing Donald Trump Jr. tomorrow. What questions do you have for him?

HECK: Well, look, you know, we neither confirm or deny the witnesses that have been in or will be in. I acknowledge that open sources indicate that Mr. Trump Jr. will be in.

And I think the questions that I would have for him are the same as anybody else. Ask -- stop any person on the street and ask what they would like to know from Donald Trump Jr., and they're going to say, they want to know more about that June meeting last year that took place in the Trump Tower and they're going to want to know more about his communication with WikiLeaks and on and on and on. What did he know and when did he know it?

BLITZER: Lots of questions I'm sure you will have for him.

President Trump's lawyer, private lawyer, Jay Sekulow, told our Jeffrey Toobin in an article in "The New Yorker" magazine, and I'm reading it now. Let me put it up on the screen.

"For something to be a crime, there has to be a statute that you claim is being violated. This is not a statute -- there is not a statute that refers to criminal collusion. There is no crime of collusion."

Congressman, do you agree?

HECK: So, this is the same administration that, fast-rewind, last January said the entire issue and allegation that Russia interfered in our election was a hoax and that it was a witch-hunt. There aren't very many people maintaining that at this point.

This is the same administration that for the longest period of time -- in fact, the president said it as late as last week, no collusion, no collusion -- that is now saying, oh, but collusion is not a crime.

The fact of the matter is, there's so much smoke, you can't see the hand in front of your face.

BLITZER: Well, have you seen actual evidence, Congressman, of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians?

[18:15:02]

HECK: See remarks above, Wolf.

What we have learned and discussed in the privacy of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence cannot be revealed until a later date.

BLITZER: So, does that mean the answer is yes? You don't want to say.

All right, let's move on to another sensitive issue. Do you buy the argument put out by the president's personal lawyer yesterday that the president cannot obstruct justice because he's the highest law enforcement officer in the country?

HECK: No.

In fact, his assertion thusly kind of reminded me, frankly, of when President Trump said on the "Access Hollywood" tape, when you're a star, you can get away with it, you can do anything.

That wasn't true then. And what his lawyer is saying now is not true. The president can be, in fact, subject to obstruction of justice charges. He is not above the law. And, oh, by the way, Mr. President, it's also against the law to engage in sexual assault or child molestation.

BLITZER: We will get to that a little bit later. Stand by.

But I want to get to the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein. She's expressed concern that there is a subtle effort, her words, subtle effort by the chairman of her committee, Republican Senate Chuck Grassley, not to go deeply into the Russia investigation.

Do you share that same concern about Republicans on your committee, the House Intelligence Committee?

HECK: Well, there are -- there have been times when I wish they could be a little bit more enthusiastic about this.

But at the end of the day, I'm confident that we're going to get at the truth. I think, frankly, most of the action here is in Director Mueller's office. And I think, thus far, he's demonstrated that he's pursuing this with the same level of professionalism that he always does.

And I actually think the roles of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee are contributing to this, irrespective of the varying degrees of enthusiasm.

But I think one thing is really important to say here, Wolf. And that is, we shouldn't paint all Republicans with the same brush. There are some who are deeply concerned about our country and the health of our civic well-being as a consequence of Russian interference. And so they're not all alike.

BLITZER: Congressman, stand by. There's more breaking news I want to review with you. We will take a quick break, resume the interview right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:50]

BLITZER: We're back with the House Intelligence Committee member Denny Heck.

We're following the breaking news on the Russia investigation, including a new warning for one defense lawyer that more charges may be coming, may be coming soon.

Congressman, I want to ask you, though, about this "New York Times" report on an e-mail written by K.T. McFarland. She was then going to be the deputy national security adviser, working right under Michael Flynn, speaking about American sanctions on Russia for its election meddling.

She wrote this, and I will put it up on the screen. "If there is a tit-for-tat escalation, Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia, which has just thrown USA election to him."

Congressman, the White House says that K.T. McFarland was just portraying how Democrats were portraying the election, but what do you make of that phrasing in that e-mail by her?

HECK: It's disturbing. In fact, it's deeply disturbing.

The first casualty here of the revelation of that e-mail, however, is that K.T. McFarland, who was nominated to be ambassador to Singapore, has had her nomination put on hold, and appropriately so.

But, Wolf, I have to tell you, as the co-chair of the Singapore Caucus in the United States House, I hope that the president will nominate somebody else so that we can resume the historic strong relations we have with the nation state of Singapore.

But, yes, the wording in that e-mail is very, very disturbing.

BLITZER: And during her confirmation hearings over the summer, she said she never spoke to Flynn about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Kislyak, but CNN has reported that she was the transition official who actually spoke with Michael Flynn from Mar-a-Lago, down in Florida, in December, about the phone calls and the sanctions.

Did she lie to Congress?

HECK: So, it remains to be seen, to be determined, but there is an indication that that may be the case, which is why I think, very appropriately, Senator Corker has placed that nomination on hold.

But if she lied, Wolf, if she did, in fact, lie, she has to get in line for the distinction of doing that, quite frankly, among representatives of the Trump administration. That's why four of them have been indicted.

BLITZER: Well, if she lied. Isn't that a crime, to lie before Congress, even if you're not necessarily sworn in?

HECK: Yes. Yes.

You're presumed to be sworn in anytime you testify before Congress. Doesn't matter whether you take the oath officially, formally, per se. You are presumed to have been sworn in. And, yes, lying to Congress is a crime.

BLITZER: Are you concerned that President Trump might issue pardons?

HECK: So, I'm a little bit surprised that he hadn't already, given his past pattern of behavior.

But the fact of the matter is that many of the crimes that are being discussed here, and for which individuals have already been indicted, are also state level crimes. And he cannot pardon them for state level crimes. So the truth of the matter is, there's really no escape hatch for President Trump and some of the people in his administration, if that's what he's thinking he's going to do. It's not going to work.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, Congressman, a quick question. Do you believe the president's expected announcement on Jerusalem tomorrow could close the door to what is called a two-state solution, Israel living alongside a new state of Palestine?

HECK: So, presuming he goes ahead and pulls the trigger on that, I think it's going to both literally and figuratively blow up the peace process in the Middle East.

[18:25:05]

We know it's a bad idea because every ally and friend we have is telling us it's a bad idea. But it's specifically a bad idea for two reasons. Number one, it's going to engender violence in the short- term.

And we have already had warnings to that effect. I think it's just a question of how long it lasts and to what degree it goes. It will either be protesters being cracked down on or protesters vs. counterprotesters.

But the second and more important reason why this is a terrifically bad idea is, it is tantamount to the idea of the United States getting up from the bargaining table and walking away.

Look, Wolf, having East Jerusalem as its capital is the Palestinian people's highest priority, as it is for people of Israel, having Jerusalem as its capital. We have now basically one side or another. We can no longer act as the honest broker. We can no longer enable or facilitate peace in the Middle East. And you know what, Wolf? When I go home, I just don't have a single

neighbor or friend who tells me what we don't want is peace in the Middle East. This world, that region desperately needs it, and we have dealt ourselves out of the hand.

BLITZER: Congressman Denny Heck, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

HECK: You're welcome.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including why a lawyer for Paul Manafort's business partner thinks his client is facing more indictments.

Plus, new blazes erupting in Southern California, as the wildfire emergency spreads and tens of thousands of people flee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking tonight, a new warning that more charges may be coming in the special counsel's Russia investigation. Federal prosecutors giving a heads up to the lawyer for Rick Gates, who was indicted along with former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

[18:31:24] Let's bring in our analysts and specialists to discuss. And Rebecca, what does that tell you if Rick Gates, who was the deputy to Paul Manafort, is going to be facing more charges?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things, Wolf. First, it suggests that perhaps Mueller is using the threat of more charges as sort of an incentive for Rick Gates to work with the special counsel, perhaps in hopes that he would be a cooperating witness, as opposed to someone they're indicting.

But, also, I think it's a great reminder that there is much more going on here than we currently know, than is currently public information. There are going to be more shoes to drop. Clearly, Mueller has more information. Not only on Rick Gates and potentially some of the others who have already been indicted, but there could be others out there yet to be indicted. There's a lot still to be revealed, to be made public.

BLITZER: Presumably -- presumably, they'd like Rick Gates to flip, to plead guilty, and then start to cooperate in this investigation.

Jeff Zeleny, you've been reporting a lot on the vice president's role, Mike Pence's role in all of this. Is he going to be called in for questioning? What are you hearing?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's sort of one of the central questions that we've learned so much more in the last few days about what we didn't know at the time, at the end of December, during those phone calls with General Flynn.

But one of the key questions here is, was the vice president really either in the dark or out of the loop? Was he intentionally so? How did he stay out of the loop? All these questions here. But we are learning from a Republican close to the vice president's

office that the office, at least, is preparing for the possibility that he will be called to testify and answer some of these central questions here.

Initially, we were told that he was lied to in a phone call right before the Sunday talk shows on January 15. The vice president went on and said there was no talk of sanctions. Of course, that wasn't true.

So, several people that we learned in the offer of proof last Friday, in the court documents, knew about this, in the month of December, during those phone calls there. So people who were close to the vice president's office say that, "Look, he did not know about this." We talked to seven officials in the orbit of the vice president's office. They said he did not know.

The question, though, is how could he not have known? Was he intentionally trying to stay out of the loop? He was heading the transition at the time, as well, here. So he was a central figure. So that is why there are many people who believe it will lead to him.

And Senator Richard Blumenthal, as you know, who was on earlier, was saying that he wants the vice president to come to Capitol Hill to the Judiciary Committee to testify on this. We'll see if that happens or not here.

BLITZER: It's also been intriguing that President Trump fired Flynn only after "The Washington Post" reported that he had lied...

ZELENY: Right.

BLITZER: ... about the sanctions issue in his phone conversation with Kislyak.

ZELENY: Exactly. And that is something that now we're led to believe that the president knew this in advance here. But could the vice president have been essentially the only senior person in the West Wing in the dark on this? If that's true, how could that be? Because he's also very politically savvy. Don't forget: he had more political experience than almost anyone else in the entire government at that point.

Perhaps he was trying to stay out of it. Perhaps he was just not in those conversations. But that is a question that many people think investigators will ultimately want to know about.

BLITZER: You know, Susan, you used to work at the NSA, the National Security Agency. You were a lawyer there. You heard Jim Sciutto's reporting now that Eric Prince, the founder of Blackwater, and others outside the government have been lobbying the Trump administration to create this extra non-governmental intelligence agency to work with the CIA to gather information. A NSC, National Security Council, spokesman said that the idea was never brought to the NSC or the White House. But what do you make of this pitch? SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I mean,

look, honestly, it's such a sort of disturbing and blatantly bad idea on its face that I think it really is incumbent on, at this point for people like Mike Pompeo, like DNI Coats to come out and really publicly disavow it rather strongly, to the extent this is some sort of trial balloon.

[18:35:08] You know, there is a reason why we have individuals within the government subject to that kind of oversight, training, ultimately accountable to the American people, who undertake these -- these really important functions. And the notion of privatizing that, it's certainly gone badly historically. And there's no reason why we would want to pivot to that at this point.

BLITZER: Because the argument is, apparently, they're making is you can't really trust the U.S. intelligence community. There's a deep state; there are enemies of the president in that intelligence community. That's why you need to create this private outside intelligence service. You've heard that argument.

HENNESSEY: Right. And that's one thing that's not clear. You know, why aren't we seeing Pompeo and these other individuals come out and actually defend their own workforces, the people who report to them every single day. You know, sort of allowing their reputations and integrity to be besmirched this way in public really, it has dramatic effects on morale at the end of the day.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: By Eric Prince, I must say, someone who may have had some issues with defrauding the government when he ran Blackwater. So that also is another layer to this, which is...

BLITZER: And there's an opportunity for these outsider contractors to be making significant money if, in fact, this idea were to go forward.

KUCINICH: Right.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Jerusalem, Jackie, for a minute. Because during the campaign, as you know, the president, as a candidate, repeatedly promised, if elected, he would quickly recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, move the embassy, the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

And he apparently believes right now, "You know what? I made that commitment, I'm about to live up to it."

KUCINICH: The devil is in the details here. And if he does this, this could destabilize the region. This could make Jared Kushner's life a lot harder, someone who's charged with bringing peace to the Middle East, as much as we all kind of chuckle at that. This really would enflame the region. We're already seeing, even putting this out as a trial balloon and then kind of going back and forth on it, it's already caused unrest.

So we'll see what's going to happen in the next couple of hours. But it does seem like -- we were talking about this in the green room, and Susan said the rollout has been kind of botched at this point.

BLITZER: It's no longer a trial balloon. This is a done deal.

ZELENY: Right, this is a done deal. I'm told the president will announce it tomorrow from the Diplomatic Reception Room around 1 p.m. or so. And -- but I think the key here is the timing. What timing is set for this to actually happen?

If he is simply announcing it's going to happen, this is already in U.S. law, since the Clinton administration, enshrined in law. So you have the intention to move the embassy here. But I think the timing is the most important thing.

But he is signaling that this is going to make him look stronger, as opposed to being concerned about all this blowback from allies.

BLITZER: How do you see it?

HENNESSEY: Whenever you -- whatever you think about sort of the process that's occurred over the past few days, so even if it is sort of a done deal, you know, the notion that you would -- you would sort of float it early over the weekend and then let it simmer and then go to sleep and then sort of let region -- let the consequences play out in the region, you know, that's really not the way that you want the United States, even if you agree with the underlying substantive decision, that's not the way to make these decisions. That's not the way to announce these decisions.

BERG: But it really reflects, I think, the president's thought process on these things. Which is that the political conversations, often for him, come first, before the policy considerations and the consequences he may face on that.

BLITZER: He signed that waiver not to move the embassy from Tel Aviv toll Jerusalem, already once, back on June 1, every six months. Every president since 1995, Clinton, Bush, Obama, every six months like clockwork, they've signed that waiver. Trump did it on June 1. Apparently, he hasn't signed it yet, but he still might sign it, even though he's declaring Jerusalem to be Israel's capital. He may still, at least for the time being, keep the embassy in Tel Aviv.

ZELENY: Exactly. He could sign it, and I mean, likely in the short- term, at least, that is what's going to happen with the embassy. Because we're a long ways from opening a new embassy. There's no ground broken or anything like that. And we don't know the blowback here.

But this is something, as Rebecca said, he's keeping a campaign promise, but the question is, to what end here, I guess. But we'll see if tomorrow he says anything beyond that: "I will open the embassy by 2019, by the end of my first term," what? I think the timing here is pretty important.

BLITZER: Well, what the president could do if he wanted to do it -- I don't think he'll do this -- is simply say the U.S. consulate in West Jerusalem is now the U.S. embassy in West Jerusalem. The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv is the U.S. consulate in Tel Aviv. If he wanted to do that, he could do that. That idea has been pitched. I don't think he's going to do that, but let's watch to see exactly what he does tomorrow.

Just ahead, are the president and his team hedging on their bets on whether Roy Moore will win one week before the Senate election dominated by sexual abuse allegations? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:44:28] BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents, our analysts exactly one week before the special U.S. Senate election in Alabama.

Rebecca, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, says the White House finds the allegations against Roy Moore, the Republican candidate, concerning, but they support him, because Moore supports the president's agenda. Can they have it both ways?

BERG: Well, they're certainly trying, Wolf. Some Republicans would say, no, they can't have it both ways. Jeff Flake, senator from Arizona, today tweeted a picture of a check he wrote to Doug Jones, the Democrat, in that race, in support of him.

And at the same time, Mitt Romney recently this week said Roy Moore's election would be a stain on the Republican Party. So there is still a segment of the Republican Party that says, "No, you can't have it both ways. If you're concerned, vote for the Democrat."

And, you know, I remember interviewing her during the campaign and she said, you know, 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.