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Trump Again Takes Aim at FBI, Blasts Russia Dossier; Interview with Representative Jackie Speier; Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:28] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar. Wolf Blitzer has the day off. It is 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 8:00 p.m. in Jerusalem and 9:00 p.m. in Moscow. And wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you so much for joining us.

President Trump gets back to work and back to tweeting from his Florida resort. What he says about the future of health care and his latest tirade against the FBI.

The president is also blasting the Russia dossier on Twitter and his lawyer predicts that President Trump will soon be cleared in the Russia investigation. Is that just wishful thinking?

And Russia is offering a helping hand. The Kremlin says Moscow is ready to act as mediator on North Korea. The escalating nuclear standoff made North Korea one of the biggest international stories of 2017.

And up first President Trump getting back to work and back to criticizing the FBI over the Russia investigation. He's also putting his own spin on the health care debate.

White House correspondent Sara Murray is joining us now from West Palm Beach, Florida, near where the president is spending the Christmas holiday.

So, Sara, the president started the day tweeting about health care. What's he saying?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Brianna. And it's interesting because that is not one of the top legislative items the GOP was hoping to tackle in January. Obviously they have a spending bill they need to deal with. The White House has talked about doing infrastructure and they're still finding this fix for the Dreamers, but that's not where the president's head was at this morning.

He tweeted, "Based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular individual mandate has been terminated as part of our tax cut bill which essentially repeals over time Obamacare, the Democrats and Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new health care plan."

And there is little sign of any appetite for Democrats and Republicans to come together on health care this year. Maybe he's hoping for a more bipartisan 2018. As for the hard work the president said he was going to get to today, that might be coming later. Last he was spotted was on the golf course at his resort here in Florida.

KEILAR: All right. Well, Sara, one of the other tweets he took aim at the FBI. He took aim at the Russia dossier. Fact check that for us.

MURRAY: That's right. Look, we know the president has been side- tracked by this Russia investigation time and time again. That certainly seems to be the case today. He was apparently watching cable news this morning as they were discussing the Russia investigation as well as this dossier that documented some contacts between Trump and Russian officials.

Now much of that is uncorroborated and Trump has called it -- he called the FBI tainted. He said the dossier is a pile of garbage. He said they -- referring to the FBI -- used this crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump campaign.

Now a couple of things we have to note there. This dossier is certainly not the basis of Robert Mueller, the special counsel's investigation into allegations collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. And yes, investigators have corroborated some aspects in the dossier, not the most salacious ones, but some of those contacts -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And you mentioned the president is on the golf course today, at the golf course today. What do we know about that?

MURRAY: We do know the president headed this morning to one of his properties here in Florida to a little bit of golfing. CNN has spotted him on the course. He has a couple of golf partners with him today including Senator David Perdue, a Republican from Georgia and someone who has been focused on immigration on the Hill so it remains to be seen, maybe they'll cast this as a working round on the golf course today.

KEILAR: All right. Sara Murray near Mar-a-Lago, thank you so much that.

I want to get more now from our CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.

So, Jessica, you just heard Sara Murray there talking about the president's tweet, blasting the dossier. What more can you tell us about it?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president saying, Brianna, the dossier is bogus. Now that's not entirely true. It is true that certain claims, most of the salacious allegations those in the dossier, those have not been verified. However, the broad assertion in the dossier that Russia waged a campaign to interfere in the U.S. election in 2016 that is accepted as fact by the U.S. intelligence community and it's important to note that U.S. law enforcement and the intelligence officials, they did their own work separate from the dossier to support those findings that Russia tried to meddle in favor of Trump.

Plus it was CNN that reported earlier this year that other aspects of the dossier like communications between senior Russian officials and other Russians mentioned in the memos. Those, too, did take place.

[13:05:02] And of course the FBI last year used the dossier as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor former Trump campaign associate Carter Page. Sources familiar say that the dossier was cited in the application to monitor Page.

So, Brianna, the president today calling it bogus, but as we saw there have been claims in it that have been verified.

KEILAR: And he seems to be on this campaign to delegitimize what the special counsel is doing. Today he was saying that the dossier was the entire basis for why he is being looked at, why the Trump campaign is being looked at, for possible collusion. But what's that really about?

SCHNEIDER: Right. So that as well is not entirely true. It is not the entire basis of this investigation. Well, the FBI and special counsel, they have used the dossier as part of the investigation, it again is not the entire basis for Mueller's inquiry. His team has its own investigation. In fact in the four people who were charged so far, in those indictments there has been no reference to the dossier or its findings.

So Mueller's team, though, it did meet this past summer with the author of the dossier, former British spy, Christopher Steele, that's according to sources, and it is possible that some of the information they got from Steele, it could help investigators determine whether contacts between people associated with the Trump campaign and the suspected Russian operatives, whether or not they broke any laws.

Now the intelligence community has been very careful to keep Christopher Steele's research out of its publicly released report in January about the Russian meddling, you know, so this dossier, it continues, Brianna, to be a Republican talking point. Republican members of Congress continues to seize on this, saying that it's false as well. But as we've seen here, parts of it have been corroborates, other parts, those salacious allegations haven't been.

And of course this investigation into collusion, it continues and Mueller and his team have not based it entirely on the dossier -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Thank you so much. Great explanation, Jessica Schneider. We do appreciate it.

President Trump's lawyer is predicting that the part of the Russia investigation involving the president is soon going to be over. Attorney Jay Sekulow is standing by that assertion despite some recent indictments and guilty pleas. He tells the "Wall Street Journal," quote, "I know we collectively, the lawyers, are looking forward to an expeditious wrapping up of this matter." And joining us with more on the Russia investigation is Democratic

Congressman Jackie Speier of California. She's a member of both the Intelligence and the Armed Services Committee.

So you hear Jay Sekulow there, Congresswoman, saying that the expectation collectively of his personal legal team is that this part of the investigation is going to wrap up soon. What is your anticipation and is there really any indication coming from the special counsel about when this will wrap up?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I think that is just talk that any lawyer would say when they're representing a client in which they are very uncomfortable about what is happening. So their anticipation I don't think is founded in reality. I don't think the Mueller investigation is anywhere near being completed. And so I think we will just wait and see on that regard.

As for the House Intelligence Committee, I think there is a very significant effort under way by the majority to try and shut it down.

KEILAR: The president -- and I'm sure you've noticed his tweets today. One of the other tweet that he fired off attacking the FBI. He specifically targeted this weekend multiple times the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe. What is your take on the criticism of McCabe and of the agency?

SPEIER: McCabe came and spoke to us for more than eight hours, answered every question that we asked. I was very impressed by his responses. He was very forthright. And I think that the president has always used the same tactic. When he is being attacked, when he is being scrutinized, he takes aim at someone else. And that's what he is doing right here.

Let's be really clear. This president does not respect the rule of law nor does he respect the various agencies -- excuse me -- that are charged with responsibility of protecting us in terms of law enforcement, in terms of the CIA, the FBI and the judiciary. So I think that if you see the pattern, if you think about the pattern over the last year, he is constantly putting down the very institutions that keep us free.

KEILAR: Do you worry about the effect of that especially before we get findings on these various Russia investigation from the special counsel and within Congress?

SPEIER: Well, I'm worried about, you know, anyone in the position that the president is in trying to take down the very institutions that we hold dear and that are precisely what keeps us from, you know, falling like many other countries do to dictatorships.

[13:10:17] KEILAR: The president has been criticized, as you know, for his praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and at times his lack -- his often having a lack of criticism of Russia. Now, though, you have some Democrats who are actually applauding some recent actions by the president when it comes to Russia. Those actions include some new sanctions and then also this decision to give Ukraine anti-tank weapons in its fight against Moscow-backed militias that are -- that have seized Crimea, part of Ukraine.

Do you think the Trump administration is making progress against Putin here?

SPEIER: Well, I would love to say that he is, but let's be clear. The sanctions that have been imposed he objected to and the only reason why he signed the sanction legislation was because it was overwhelmingly supported by both the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike.

What's interesting about those sanctions, they have not yet been imposed and he has until February to actually follow-through on that. If he is not consistent in following the law, we will -- we'll be able to look at that as well.

KEILAR: But this -- the anti-tank weapons to Ukraine which is clearly a message or a way of reinforcing an ally of the U.S. against Russian aggression. I mean, is that something that you commend?

SPEIER: I do, but I just want to, you know, clarify that the sanctions were not ones that he embraced. I think his actions on Ukraine, we should applaud.

KEILAR: OK. And -- I mean, why do you think that is so important and why is that something that Democrats are certainly welcoming after so much frustration with the Trump administration when it comes to Russia?

SPEIER: Well, Russia took very provocative action in Ukraine and Crimea and has, you know, done very damaging things to the eastern part of Ukraine and its efforts to try and bring it under its sphere of influence. So I don't think that Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular is interested in overtaking Ukraine. He just wants to control it as part of his sphere of influence. He wants to recreate the USSR without all of the responsibilities associated with that, but have them within his sphere in terms of regaining the kind of international acclaim that the USSR had and that Russia does not.

KEILAR: I do, while I have you, want to talk about the status of sexual harassment legislation in the House. The plan to unveil legislation was delayed until after the New Year. You're one of the lawmakers who's working on this bill. Tell us why there's been a delay and when you're expecting the legislation to be introduced and what you think the fate of the legislation will be.

SPEIER: Well, the legislation is being developed right now. It's being developed very quickly actually. I think it was somewhat ambitious to think that it was going to be introduced before we went into the holiday recess. But I'm working closely with the Republicans. They're taking most of the elements of the MeToo Congress act that I introduced with both Republican and Democratic support in both Houses, and now creating a bill that will be a committee that has all of those elements.

So I think we're going to be very pleased once that bill is introduced and it's going to enjoy bipartisan support as well. KEILAR: Do you feel confidently that this is something that will make

it through Congress?

SPEIER: I feel very confidently. It must make it through Congress. We cannot allow Congress to continue to operate in a manner that protects the harasser and not the victim.


SPEIER: And this legislation is going to will change all of that.

KEILAR: Yes. And we have learned along with many members of Congress just how outdated and really I guess you would say not up to the task of meeting the challenge. The process has been. So we'll be watching that legislation along with you.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, thank you.

SPEIER: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up, are pardons still on the table for the president when it comes to the Russia investigation? We'll discuss that with our panel.

Plus Republican Senator Orrin Hatch gets burned by his home state's paper and Russia makes a push for peace between the U.S. and North Korea.


[13:18:38] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Well, President Trump said that he's back at work after the Christmas holiday, but his the first order of business, well, it was going after the FBI again and blasting the Russia dossier on Twitter.

I want to talk now more about this with Karoun Demirjian. She's CNN's political analyst and congressional reporter for "The Washington Post." Also, Juana Summers, who is CNN politics senior writer. And we have Manu Raju as well, CNN's senior congressional correspondent.

SO, Karoun, what's your reaction to this as you look at the tweets that we have seen here in the last few days. This was supposed to be a Christmas break, but there's been a lot of criticism that we have seen.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, especially as he is just latching on to these reports about FBI officials and he's bring up the dossier again. It's both the standard issues that he likes to bring up when he's trying to discredit the Russia probe and also seizing on the news of the moment because Andrew McCabe was on Capitol Hill for I think a total of 16, 17 hours or more talking to congressional investigators. And there's been a focus on whether there was political bias from some members of the FBI team that looked at both the Clinton e-mail probe and were temporarily on Mueller's squad.

So the president's not really taking a break for the holidays for bringing this up and trying to shake out of it what he can in terms of sympathy I guess and connecting dots that investigators aren't necessarily connecting yet, but the president has fixated on as proof in his estimation that the Russia probe is unwarranted.

[13:20:05] KEILAR: He also is getting backup from members of his party in Congress. You have Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who has been attacking and continues to attack Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Here's some of what he's said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have faith in Mueller?

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: No, I have no faith in Mueller. I haven't from day one. And, in fact, back -- I don't know if you can see that, but that was taken in June by somebody else. I was telling the president, you have got to appoint a special counsel to investigate Mueller, Comey, McCabe, Lynch.


KEILAR: I want to address that, holding up the cell -- OK, we'll put that aside. That just seemed funny to me.

But you look at Louie Gohmert and then other Republican who seem to be jumping, Manu, on this bandwagon with President Trump taking aim at the special counsel. I mean this could have potentially a big impact on how the findings of seen in the end.

MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, presumably, depending on what, of course, they ultimately decide. You know, Louie Gohmert, of course, is one who's long been the outlier of the House Republican conference. But at the same time, increasingly, you're hearing more members voice concerns. Maybe not going as far as what Louie Gohmert is saying as saying he doesn't have faith in the special counsel, but you have people say he needs to clean house, raising questions about the partisanship among the prosecutors on the Republican side.

Now, the one thing that I would look out for next year is this joint investigation that's happening among two House panels, Republican-led House panels that are looking into concerns of potential FBI bias and decision-making in the 2016 campaign. If you -- you start to hear revelations come on of that -- from that probe, expect Republicans to seize on that, expect Republicans to try to undercut Bob Mueller's investigation. But -- because a lot of them are not going to let up now.

KEILAR: That's a very interesting point, Manu.

Juana, we heard from Jay Sekulow, one of the president's -- one of the lawyers on the president's personal legal team, not to be confused with the White House, and he is sticking to this prediction that we're heard that, hey, this is all going to be wrapped up rather soon. We don't quite understand where that's coming from, but this is what he said. He said, I know we collectively, the lawyers, are looking forward to an expeditious wrapping up of this matter. Well, we just heard from a Democratic congresswoman on the House Intel

Committee. That's not, it appears, based in any sort of fact, right, that this is definitely wrapping up.

JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: That's absolutely, right, Brianna. And, in fact, what we know about investigation of this type is that they are often very thorough and very, very lengthy. There's nothing to suggest, at least from what I've seen, that this is going to be coming to an end soon. But I think it makes a lot of sense that a lawyer for the president would say this.

As you and Manu have both pointed out, this is a president who does not like what is going on, who himself has made negative claims about the course of the -- the scope of this investigation, who has had his allies and Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have also disparages the investigators involved, as well as the investigation itself and its merits. So it doesn't surprise me that Jay Sekulow would say that about his client, but does not seem to be any facts to back that up right now.

KEILAR: It is the end of the year, right, so we like to look back on 2017 and we like to look ahead to the next year. So I'm wondering, when you guys look at the Russia investigation, we've asked you to prep a question that you have.

Juana, I'll start with you. What is the question that you have about the Russia investigation as we move into this new year?

SUMMERS: Sure, Brianna. So my biggest question is, whether or not the president plans to pardon any of his current or former aides who are swept up in this investigation. As we were just talking about, this is an investigation where you've seen many Republicans and those around the president who have had kind of this relentless string of attacks against the credibility and the integrity of this investigation. So my question is, if the investigation does continue, and it does continue for a long time, then what happens? Will the president move to pardon? And, if so, how will that be received?

KEILAR: What do you think, Manu? What are you wondering?

SUMMERS: Well, I'm looking at the Senate Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation and wondering whether or not they can actually continue on a bipartisan basis. The Republican chairman, Richard Burr, the Democratic vice chairman, Mark Warner, have publically projected a sense of bipartisanships, saying they're going down and going -- working in unison.

But, increasingly you're seeing some divisions about bringing back witnesses for a hearing. Something that Mark Warner wants to do. Richard Burr has been non-committal on a lot of these things. And it's much different than what's happening in the House, which is almost certainly going to break down along party lines. In the coming weeks expect the two sides to issue competing reports, probably have completely opposite conclusions. So we'll see the Senate Intelligence Committee also eventually break down. Right now it's uncertain because we know that they're probably not going to wrap up as quickly as the House investigation.

KEILAR: Do you have any indication if it will break down or it's just really this open question?

RAJU: I think it's an open question. My sense of it, just knowing the institution and covering the place, eventually it probably will, particularly on the issue of collusion just because the two sides are just seeing the same evidence in a complete opposite manner right now.

[13:25:06] KEILAR: All right. And, Karoun, what do you think? What's your question?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, I mean those are all very good questions and many others. But I guess the -- I have a new question based on just some of the things we were just talking about a minute ago, which is that, you know, Trump's legal team is very, very assured still that this is all going to go away, there's not going to be anything to see here. And if they're right, then that's great for the president. But if they're not, we've seen in the past how the president has grown very frustrated with people who he doesn't feel like are necessarily telling him that -- giving it to him straight or in the right as far as he's -- his own perception of where he is.

So if this does circle in closer to the Oval Office, if Mueller decides to start looking at President Trump, what does that mean for what he does with his advisers? Do they -- does his legal team change their tact? Does he start to lash out at them? Because that can actually have a really big effect for everything, everyone that's looking at the president and the president's advisers, excuse me, right now, and these allegations of potential collusion and other contacts with Russian officials.

So when you're talking about the congressional probes, the Mueller probe, everything else, I mean this is all been a series of painstaking negotiations, to get people in for interviews and all the rest of that. If there is a shakeup from the center, if those predictions are wrong and then this gets closer to the president than he thinks it will, that could have a ripple effect throughout those probes. And so that's now a very open question given how resolute the legal team is being in saying, there's not going to be anything to see here, when all other indications suggest that this is not stopping any time soon in the new year.

KEILAR: Yes, that is a very good question.

And, Juana, I want to ask you the final question to do with this sexual harassment legislation that we're expecting in the House in the new year. Congresswoman Jackie Speier said that she is convinced this is going to make its way through Congress, it's going to change what is really a quite lacking process for reporting and prosecuting sexual harassment that occurs on Capitol Hill. Is that what you think that this is going to move through? What do you think?

SUMMERS: I have to say, as someone who's spent quite a bit of time covering the House, most of the provisions in this forthcoming bill are things that Republicans and Democrats agree on, the top of which is that taxpayer money should not be used by members of Congress to settle harassment, other workplace related claims. Something that many people didn't even know was happening up until this most recent reckoning that we've seen on Capitol Hill and across so many other industries.

The lawmakers working on this bill come from both sides of the aisle, including Congresswoman Speier, as you mentioned, as well as the heads of the House Administration Committee, the Committee that kind of oversees this often secretive process. So I do think that there is a good chance that this does make it through the House. I think the question will be whether or not we'll see a full package come out that can get to the president's desk and ultimately get his signature.

KEILAR: All right, Juana, Manu, Karoun, thank you so much to all of you.

And coming up, good and bad news for retailers. The holiday season boosted year-end sales, but it was also a record year for store closings. We'll explain what that means for you.