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Mueller Team Says Manafort Violated Bail by Contracting Russian; Trump Announces U.S. Embassy Move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; Bannon, Trump, RNC Support Roy Moore; Conyers Announces Retirement from Congress Effective Today. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 5, 2017 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Laura, explain what Manafort did wrong and how, potentially, it could affect his bail agreement.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Wolf, the biggest implication could be that Paul Manafort's chance to revise his bail conditions could be out the window. It was just a month ago that the judge ordered all parties not to make any statement to the press that could prejudice the case in some way. They uncovered a draft editorial that related to the political work in the Ukraine and he was writing it as recently as last week. He was working with a Russian business associate believed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service. They didn't reveal the content or the name of the publication, but they said it was clearly done to influence the public's opinion of Manafort. This comes just after Manafort's lawyers were working on the verge of a mail agreement that could have freed him from House arrest.
Let's look at the details. By putting up over $11 million worth of property in Virginia, Florida, and New York, he would be allowed to travel freely to among those states and come off of GPS monitoring. Now prosecutors are pushing back on the deal. They consistently argued Manafort is a flight risk, and both sides are gearing up for a court appearance on December 11th -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Laura, how much is this Russia investigation costing so far?
JARRETT: According to figures provided by the Justice Department, nearly $7 million has been spent on the Russia investigation from May to September alone. There are different buckets at play here. There's roughly $3.2 million in expenses for Robert Mueller's team, everything from printers to salaries, as well as additional $3.5 million spent by other law enforcement personnel who don't work directly for Mueller, but have been working on the investigation. That would have been incurred anyway. We expect another update on these figures in the spring -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Laura Jarrett, reporting for us.
Let's dig deeper into some of the threads of this Russia investigation. Joining us now, Congressman David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat and a key member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE, (D), RHODE ISLAND: My pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's get to the sensitive issues. The private attorney said there is no case for obstruction because the president is the highest law enforcement officer in the United States. What do you think of that conclusion?
CICILLINE: It's absurd. We have been taught since we were young children that no one in America is above the law. There is no exception to commit the crime of obstruction of justice because you are the president. There is no basis to claim that the president is no required to not obstruct justice. There is no basis for it. The fact that the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer and have been guilty of obstructing justice in the past. There is no basis. The president is not permitted to interfere or impede or stop an ongoing investigation, period.
BLITZER: What the White House counsel said there is no such interpretation that he supports, even though John Dowd, the private attorney, made that case. The president has we have reported, Congressman, knew that his former national security adviser Michael Flynn misled the FBI in his interview before he went ahead and fired James Comey, the FBI director. Does this stoke the fires from your perspective of possible impeachment?
CICILLINE: It's important information. If the president knew an individual had lied to the FBI and after learning that, suggesting that the FBI director ought to lead this go or stop the investigation, that has the makings of obstruction of justice. The special counsel has more work to do and it's to make sure his investigation continues uninterrupted with no interference and has the resources in necessary to do this work and get to the facts where they lead us. This is very, very disturbing that the president of the United States, according to his own tweet, although he later said he didn't tweet it, acknowledging that he fired Michael Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. After learning that, he had a conversation in which he asked the FBI director to let this thing go with Flynn. Those have all the markings of obstruction of justice. And Mr. Mueller's team will continue to generate the evidence surrounding this. That seems like obstruction of justice to me.
BLITZER: Do you believe the president and House Republicans are actually interfering with the investigation?
[13:34:55] CICILLINE: As we know, Wolf, there has been reporting that the president reached out to Senators in an effort to try to stop this investigation. We know that the president's public pronouncements have been to diminish or ridicule or attack the FBI and they are doing this work to raise uphill on Hillary Clinton. He doesn't want this thing to perceive that he fires Director Comey and said in a candid mission that the Russia thing was on his mind when he did it and yucks it up in the Oval Office with Russian officials after he fired the director responsible for the investigation. These are all pieces you start putting together that feel like the president does not want this investigation to continue. You have to wonder why. What is he afraid of? Mr. Mueller is professional and has a great team. They will demonstrate they live in a country that respects the rule of law and the responsibility that the special counsel has to get to the facts.
BLITZER: On another issue, you're a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And President Trump called the authority today and indicated he intends to keep this campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Angry reaction from Turkey. They joined Saudi Arabia, France, Jordan and others, to voice serious concerns about any such move. How do you see it? What would this change mean?
CICILINE: I think for me, Jerusalem is the cap on Israel and the American embassy should be there. One day, I hope that is the case. What I think this will be viewed as is a unilateral move. And the State Department sent out warnings to the embassies around the world anticipating reaction to this. We are in a moment when the president has spoken of restarting the peace process. You are not going to restart the peace process successfully when you make a move like this at the beginning. People perceive the United States of taking a position on an important issue. This will be resolved in a negotiation when there's a resolution between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I think undermining our role as an honest broker is not in the interest of the United States. It's not in the interest of the world. It's a mistake to take this role, particularly as you try to restart the peace process. And I think it's very concerning.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
CICILLINE: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: In other news we're following. He is accused of molesting a teen girl and harassing other young women. One week from today, Roy Moore may be elected to the United States Senate. He just got back a major supporter. Stand by for new information.
Plus, President Trump declaring the Republican Party is united as he sits next to one of his biggest critics, Senator Jeff Flake. That awkward moment and more, when we come back.
[13:42:12] BLITZER: The Alabama Senate race is about to get more contentious. The former White House strategist advisor, Steve Bannon, will be campaigning for Republican Candidate Roy Moore later tonight. And sources tell us he plans to bring, and I'm quoting, "fire and fury." Despite multiple allegations of sexual assault and pursuing relationships with teen girls, Moore is receiving renewed support today from President Trump and the Republican National Committee.
Just moments ago, the president criticized Moore's opponent, the Democrat, Doug Jones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he will do very well. We don't want a liberal Democrat in Alabama. Believe me. We want strong borders. We want stopping crime. We want to have the things we represent. And we don't want to have a liberal Democrat that is controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. We don't want that for Alabama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president's words didn't deter Doug Jones, who takes aim at Roy Moore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG JONES, (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: And I damn sure believe I have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail and not the United States Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's discuss. Joining us, Chris Cillizza, a reporter, editor-at-large at CNN Politics. And Julie Hirschfeld Davis, a CNN political analyst, White House reporter for "The New York Times."
Chris, only a few weeks ago, they said no Roy Moore and they decided they were not going to spend any money. Now there is a reversal.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, this is a flip flop that is easily explained. The election is in a week. Roy Moore is not going to drop out of the race. I don't think he ever was. Mitch McConnell's efforts to push him out were a little bit of a poser given what we know about Roy Moore. This is a guy twice removed as a state Supreme Court chief justice, one time removed, and ran again and won. He is not walking away. I think there's a real possibility that he is going to win. You see the RNC trying to get right with both Donald Trump and Roy Moore at some level and not wanting an enemy. And Mitch McConnell who has survived and gotten to this point in his political life and his leadership by being a political pragmatist. This is not the scenario Mitch McConnell wants, but it's the scenario he has, and he is trying to make the best he can with it.
BLITZER: Julie, the president fully supporting Roy Moore right now.
[13:44:47] JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. First, we heard he was going to decide and not going to Alabama, and he is going to Pensacola, Florida, which is the biggest media market in Alabama, the Friday before the election. I would be shocked if he doesn't talk about Roy Moore. He was throwing his weight behind him and he said go get them. Clearly, he made the decision about before the RNC did. What they are seeing is that, if you look at the poll, all but a couple, Roy Moore is going to win. If you talk to Republicans, they think, listen, Roy Moore is going to win, and he will get in and he will be expelled from the Senate and Republicans will have the opportunity to name another Republican. That's a lot of ifs. The fact is by throwing in the lot with him they are throwing in their lot with --
BLITZER: It's an awkward moment for a lot of Republicans.
Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, tweeted this. He said, "Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate would be a stain on the GOP and the nation. Lee Cohran (ph) and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity."
He says it publicly, but a lot of other Republicans feel the same way.
CILLIZZA: Yes. If you gave -- there's 52 Senators. If you gave 48 of them truth serum, they would say something along the lines. Wolf, a bunch of them have said something similar to that, including Mitch McConnell, who is now saying we will let the voters of Alabama decide. Romney is in a position where he can say we should never do this. McConnell doesn't have the luxury. Roy Moore may well be coming to the Senate in, let's say, eight days a time after the election. I'm with Julie on this. The idea, there's some idea, particularly in Washington, where if Roy Moore wins, we will expel him. We've talked about this before. Let me remind viewers, the last Senator expelled was in 1862 for support of the Confederacy. Maybe that will happen, but it is very difficult for Republicans to lead an expulsion effort right after voters in the state that Roy Moore is representing, let's say they give him a victory, there is no way they can say they didn't know the whole story. They got the information and they will choose what to do with it.
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Right. That was the turnabout for Mitch McConnell, we will let the voters of Alabama decide. If they're letting the voters of Alabama decide, then --
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: -- let the voters of Alabama decide.
To your point earlier, it is not a matter of principal. There are a lot of Republicans, and Mitch McConnell said a lot of things along these lines, Richard Shelby, that he wouldn't vote for Roy Moore. They decided that is not going to be the governing factor here. It's about politics and getting a Republican in the Senate.
CILLIZZA: I think some of it, too - Julie is right. I think some of it, too, is just the train is coming down the tracks. Are you going to stand in front of it? Are you going to hop on and say you were aboard the whole time? That's the calculation Republicans are making. If you talk to people on the state, you are hard pressed to find someone, Wolf, who says Roy Moore is going to lose. He still could, but.
BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There's more we need to discuss.
In a surreal interview, Democratic Congressman John Conyers announces his retirement from the U.S. House of Representatives as he faces more sexual harassment allegations. Stand by for what happened.
Plus, Billy Bush is speaking out about the infamous "Access Hollywood" videotape, telling the president of the United States, quote, "enough is enough." You will hear why.
[13:53:01] BLITZER: Breaking news coming into CNN. International Olympic Committee has decided to ban Russia from participating in the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. Individual Russian athletes may be invited to compete under very, quote, "strict conditions." This, after investigators found systematic doping problems. A big story coming out of the International Olympic Committee. We'll follow up on that.
Other news, Congressman John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, the longest-serving African-American in history, says he will be retiring and will not seek re-election in 2018. Retiring right away amid the allegations of sexual harassment by several female employees. Conyers called into a Detroit radio show earlier today to make the announcement. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CONYERS, (D), MICHIGAN (via telephone): I am retiring today. And I want everyone to know how much I appreciate the support. Whatever they are, they are not accurate, or they are not true, and I think that they are something that I can't explain where they came from.
My legacy can't be compromised or diminished in any way by what we are going through now. This, too, shall pass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's get some reaction.
Julie, what do you think of announcement?
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, given he's the longest-serving member. Nancy Pelosi called him icon. It's clear they decided there had to be an exit for him because of the allegations and because of the fact that he hadn't said anything to defend himself, despite what he said on the radio show today. He was being prodded out. And by saying he was retiring, not resigning, trying to maintain dignity. But a wheel surprise that he responded to what were cues from colleagues.
BLITZER: He's 88 years old and said he wants his son to take the seat.
[13:55:10] CILLIZZA: Yes. I thought it was relatively tone deaf, candidly. He talked about the first half of the interview saying how his family is doing well, that's great but not the point. Then talked about how the clip you played there, well, it's not going to taint his legacy in any way. Well, certainly be part of his legacy. Because, as Julie points out, he was moved out. The speaker -- House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, the head of the Democrat congressional campaign committee, asked for him to resign. And then the son, endorsing the son, his son is 27 years old, never held elected official office. Maybe he would be great. But that would not be great. That would not-- to borrow from Donald Trump -- not actually a drain-the-swamp move. Say, OK, I'm resigning amid scandal, but my son here is great. It's just sort of odd.
BLITZER: Well, there are a lot of odd things going on right now.
Thanks, guys, very much.
Once again, we're awaiting the White House briefing. White House briefing any moment now. This amid new revelations in the Russia investigation, and the president's endorsement of the accused child molester, Roy Moore. Stay with us.
[14:00:08] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Brooke Baldwin.
And just in, new polls showing just how unpopular President Trump continues to --