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Trump Talks about Security Fears During Trip to Iraq; Giuliani Unclear on Whether Trump Will Talk to Mueller First, Says Receiving Hacked E-mails Not Criminal. Aired 6:30-7p ET

Aired December 27, 2017 - 18:30   ET


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: -- what the president had to say yesterday, in respect to the security issue he talked about.

[18:30:07] REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It seems like it jarred him a little bit and got his attention. I mean, it's probably not an approach that he has ever made before in any airplane he's ever traveled in. You've made that approach. I've made it many times. You know, the first time, it gets your attention.

But you know, what I would say is welcome to Iraq, Mr. Trump. And welcome to the mission that you're putting these troops through. And try to understand that it is still dangerous territory and this is why his decision to move troops out of Syria, so precipitously, with no announcement, no coordination was so reckless. Because the situation on the ground there is still -- is perilous enough that you have to take those kind of precautions.

Now, there's always precautions when the president travels, but when you go to a place like that, you've got to make sure that you're really covering all the bases.

But it is a reminder of how dangerous Iraq still is. Now the fight against ISIS is still going on there, and how -- and how reckless, I think, his decision was to pull those troops out.

ACOSTA: And David Swerdlick, I mean, one of the things that have stood out to a lot of people when we watched president's remarks is what is essentially, you know, we don't love to use this word here on CNN, but it was a lie, for the president to say to the troops yesterday in Iraq that he's delivering the first military pay increase in -- in a decade.

Let's listen -- if we have that sound, we can play it -- but we can put this up on screen. This is what it shows. Military pay raises have been happening for years in this country, and they've been in that ballpark -- you can see it up on screen -- between 1 and 3 percent every year for the last ten years.

It's kind of baffling for the president to make that false claim in front of the troops and, presumably, some of the troops believed him, believed a falsehood that the president uttered to the troops over there in Iraq. DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It seems baffling. I have

two theories about that statement, Jim. One is, is that the president makes so many false and misleading statements day after day after day, that he's banking on the fact that it will just get lost in the shuffle of all the other false and misleading statements.

The other thing, I think in the president's mind, it's that he almost wants to be challenged on that number. Because you can almost hear the rebuttal percolating, which is, "Oh, we only gave the troops 2.4 percent last year? I wanted to give them 10 percent. But it was those Democrats and Nancy Pelosi who didn't give them the 10 percent, that in my mind that I communicated to nobody that they should have." That's how the president operates.

KIRBY: He just didn't need to go there. I mean, they were glad to see him. It's important to have them there over the holidays. He didn't need to go in.

And look, they can look at their leave and earnings statement, as I every month, and you can see exactly how much you're making. They knew about the pay raise and what it was, exactly. They didn't need him to go there at all. Even if he had told the truth about the pay raise, it was immaterial and irrelevant to the visit.

ACOSTA: There's no need to gaslight the soldiers when they're in that kind of situation --


ACOSTA: -- putting their lives on the line and serving their country.

Thanks very much. We'll have more to talk about this.

Just ahead, Rudy Giuliani said Robert Mueller would only interview the president over his dead body. Has that changed or not? We'll read between the lines of his conflicting pronouncements.

And we'll get a legal fact check on Giuliani and his claim that it wouldn't be a crime if the Trump campaign received stolen e-mails from WikiLeaks.


[18:37:52] ACOSTA: Hey, we're back with our analysts. And there's aa lot of fact-checking. The president's lawyer gave a couple of conflicting and confusing interviews about the Russia investigation.

Let's talk about all of that back with our panel here. Guys, let me go to Abby Phillip first.

You know, Rudy Giuliani said, you know, first "Over my dead body" when the president talked to Mueller's team. And then in this interview with "The Daily Beast," he kind of left the door open, didn't he, Abby, in terms of being able to talk to Mueller? It might -- he kind of said, "OK, maybe it will happen in the future." ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think the back

and forth from Giuliani on this issue is just par for the course in terms of what he's been doing as, basically, a spokesperson for the president's legal defense. But it's not clear that we can really take it to the bank at this point. Because as you pointed out, he said basically the opposite not that long ago.

So I think we're kind of back to where we've always been, which is whatever they need to do in order to get the president out of this situation that he's in, they will probably end up having to do that.

But I also can't really see the president speaking with Mueller being something that is in their best interests. I think they have, from the very beginning, been trying to limit that in scope as much as possible.

And so it's not surprising that, on some level, they would want to kind of shut the door to that, if at all, they probably could. The only reason they might do it is if they felt, for some reason, that the president could do it by speaking with Mueller; and just give in everything President Trump has said and done, his inability to keep track of his own statements and things that happened in the past. It's not clear to me that that would be particularly helpful to them.

ACOSTA: And Jeffrey Toobin, Giuliani also doubled down on the legality of receiving hacked information. Let's listen to that, and we'll have your comment on that.


RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP (via phone): If a campaign gets that material from them, either indirectly, which they did, through the media, or directly, even, as long as they're not involved in the hacking, I don't see where those people would be liable.


ACOSTA: Jeffrey, what is Rudy Giuliani doing here? What is he talking about?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think he's -- he's preparing for news that there was more contact between people affiliated with WikiLeaks and people in the Trump campaign.

[18:40:07] And you know, the evolving position seems to be -- well, it started at, "We had no contact with anyone who knew anything from Russia. No contact with Russia. No collusion, no nothing."

Now is, "Well, there was contact between people from WikiLeaks and people with the campaign, but it's not a crime simply to know that other people were engaged in hacking."

And that's true as far as it goes, but what's -- you need to know a lot more facts to know if any crime took place. Was there encouragement? Was there facilitation? Was there planning of the use of hacked material? Were there false statements made about the -- the hacked material? All of that still needs to be resolved.

But this does seem to be preparing the ground for disclosures that would be, at least, embarrassing for the president, if not actually legal.

ACOSTA: Is that your takeaway, also, David?

SWERDLICK: Yes, Jim, I think Jeffrey set that up exactly right. Mayor Giuliani wants to set up an idea that this is -- just like the Pentagon papers case, right? WikiLeaks is a journalistic outlet. They can publish what they want. Maybe then there's no crime, according to that theory of the case.

The question, though, as Jeffrey said, is what are the other facts? What was the relationship between this communication between Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone, and WikiLeaks? What was the relationship between WikiLeaks and Russia? What was the relationship between all of these people and the Trump campaign? We don't know yet.

ACOSTA: And John Kirby, I mean, putting aside all the legal arguments on all of this, I mean, just getting to the national security implications --

KIRBY: Right.

ACOSTA: -- of a new disclosure that shows that there might have been some kind of conversations going on between Trump associates and WikiLeaks about these e-mails that were hacked out of the DNC and the Clinton campaign and John Podesta and so on. What -- what new could that tell us, if we -- if we do have new revelations in that regard?

KIRBY: Well, it certainly could speak to coordination and cooperation with the Russians to try to affect this election. That's one thing.

No. 2, remember, this is, you call it hacking. Whether it's a crime or not, I'll leave that to the lawyers. But it was the weaponization of information in an election in American politics to benefit one candidate over another by a foreign government; and that's what I don't think we can afford to forget here. That -- the seriousness by the involvement of Russia in this.

And I also think, if I could just jump on something David said, I think the jury should still be out about WikiLeaks as a journalistic institution.

SWERDLICK: Yes, we don't know.

KIRBY: I just don't know that --

ACOSTA: You saw Giuliani kind of slide that in there?

KIRBY: Yes. He just kind of foisted it off and said, yes, like it's "The Washington Post."

ACOSTA: The press.

KIRBY: And it's not. It's not. And I -- I'm totally with David on that.

TOOBIN: And no less a person than Mr. Pompeo, when he was the director of the CIA, said very explicitly that WikiLeaks was not a journalistic outfit; was essentially an organ of the Russian government. So the status, the legal status of WikiLeaks is very much an open question, which -- which may change the First Amendment analysis of WikiLeaks' role in these disclosures, as well.

ACOSTA: And Jeffrey, before you chimed in there, I was going to ask you. Do you think Rudy Giuliani is serving his client well? I mean, just -- it seems not a day goes by or a couple of days go by where he does something that just makes us all scratch our heads, "Well, what is he -- he just contradicted himself. What is he talking about?"

TOOBIN: Well, and you know, I had spoken to him at great lengths. I've written about him. And I always feel a little churlish when, you know, we seek out comment from someone, and then we say, "Boy, they were stupid for talking."

But it is sometimes hard to see what the point of these disclosures are, because just keeping the story in the news, telling a new version of the facts, a new version of the president's legal position, it's hard to know what value that serves.

PHILLIP: But Jim, I do think one role that Giuliani does play in all of this is really putting ideas out there. Just like we were just discussing, the idea that WikiLeaks is a journalistic institution, that these kind of comments are not necessarily just coming out of thin air from Giuliani's head. They're also designed to change the narrative and public opinion about what's going on in this case.

The problem is, it's not going to change the narrative if this ever gets to a court of law. But it certainly does change what we talk about every day and what people who are watching the news are hearing from the president's lawyers about what's going on here.

ACOSTA: That's a very good point.

TOOBIN: And I mean, to be very clear, he sets the party line for FOX News.


TOOBIN: That once Giuliani establishes the position -- there was that great exchange about Sean Hannity about the payments to Stormy Daniels, where Hannity says, "No, no, no, that's not the story." I mean, he had a party line, and Giuliani was changing it before his very eyes.


TOOBIN: That's another purpose.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it should bring the topic of the deep state and the establishment being against President Trump back to the front burner of our discussions. [18:45:03] Look, if these weren't some of the same congressmen who had

already made efforts or made moves to try and get Rosenstein impeached earlier or introduced legislation to get him impeached, then there might be a little more credibility with the idea that, look, we just want to bring him in to ask about this limited instance where according the "New York Times" he talked about wearing a wire when he went to talk to President Trump. But since it is some of the same congressmen, you have to wonder what the real motivation is.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Phil Mudd, how do you see it?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I mean, credibility? Are you kidding me?

In one place, the Congress says media reports from the fake news like "New York Times" and CNN are so lacking in credibility that we tell multiple women who have accusations with some detail about a Supreme Court nominee that we're not even sure they need to be heard because we can't stand the media.

Now, there's media reports on Rod Rosenstein and those are so compelling that we think without investigation that the deputy attorney general, who has been confirmed by the Senate, needs to come down immediately. So, I think I know what's going on here. This is a witch hunt. We're in Salem and Rod is the warlock. They're going after him.

BLITZER: It's pretty amazing, Susan, when you think about it. The Attorney General Jeff Sessions, nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate, the president clearly doesn't like him. The deputy attorney general nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate, the president clearly doesn't like him. Now, these House conservatives are going after him.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY: Right. So, this is the president's own Justice Department. So, he wants the paint this as there are people, political actors out to get him. The thing he doesn't like is the institution of the Department of Justice, the rule of law. That's the thing that he is chasing against here.

And I think what we're really seeing is a breakdown of congressional oversight. Ordinarily, we expect members of Congress, even Republicans, to discharge their legislative responsibilities and check the executive branch. What we are seeing Republicans in the House essentially aligning themselves with the president in order to offer these pretense reasons to impeach Rod Rosenstein, bring him in, attempt to get this testimony they think obviously is going to result in his firing. I really think it's something we haven't quite seen before.

BLITZER: You know, the president has set the stage for this big meeting he's going to have when he comes back to Washington. He's at the White House Thursday, meets with Rod Rosenstein, and a lot of us are going to be watching what is happening in the Senate Judiciary Committee with the Kavanaugh hearing. But, all of a sudden, we might get word on the future of Rod Rosenstein and the impact on the Russia probe.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Just from our own reporting, my reporting, my colleagues' reporting, it seems to me that the president has been convinced not only from his friends over at Fox News but from other -- from other attorneys that this would not be a great time to fire Rod Rosenstein.

We all know he's going to do it. It is not if but when. And will that be after the election? That was always my presumption.

Then I think Rosenstein kind of got out over his skis yesterday and sort of ran in with whatever he had, offering to resign, verbal -- we're not sure how it occurred. But I think that he and the president are going to have a come-to-Jesus meeting where the president is going to ask him about this.

We know that Donald Trump doesn't like to fire people in person. So it may remain completely unresolved. Rod Rosenstein doesn't want to leave his job right now. He's overseeing this Mueller investigation.

And maybe his friends on Capitol Hill will help him say, I have no choice, I have absolutely no choice because look at the congressional hearing. Look at what they found. So, we'll have to watch it play out.

BLITZER: We'll see what the president tweets following that meeting. We'll learn a little bit more.

Guys, stick around. There's more news. There's breaking news. The comedian Bill Cosby now transferred to prison tonight after being sentenced for sexual assault.


[18:53:31] BLITZER: Breaking news, the comedian Bill Cosby in custody and sent to prison for sexual harassment following a dramatic sentencing hearing.

CNN correspondent Jean Casarez, and CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson, they're both in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where the sentence was handed down.

Jean, tell our viewers what happened.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was inside that courtroom and it was packed courtroom, and before the sentencing began, it was just eerily silent. Andrea Constand, the victim and her family in the front row, accusers all throughout the courtroom. Bill Cosby really huddled with his attorneys near the end talking, and then the judge came in to begin to pronounce the sentence.

And he gave his reasons why, saying this is an extremely serious felony, this is a serious sexual harassment. And he talked about the planning of Bill Cosby, getting pills, knowing he had those pills applying them, giving them to Andrea Constand, rendering her unconscious and then sexually assaulting her. He told Bill Cosby no one is above the law and he said, you will be required to take a sexual offender's course in prison.

He then talked about the victim impact statements and they said that they valued him greatly in his sentencing decision. He said that Andrea Constant included that he had taken her young life, her young spirit and absolutely crushed it. In the end, he said, three to ten years, meaning he cannot go before the parole board before three years, you may not get out on that third year, but he should be arriving at state prison right now.

[18:55:10] And he took off his jacket, he took of his tie in the courtroom, we were all ushered out and then that's when they handcuffed him and took him out the door and to initially the correctional facility right here in Monroe County.

BLITZER: Yes, he's 81 years old, going to spend at least three years in prison, maybe as much as ten.

Joey Jackson, tell us what the sentence means.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, an icon has fallen. Just think about it for a minute, America's dad is in jail. And to be fair, it means different things to different people.

If you're Andrea Constand, certainly, this is vindication. This is not only for Andrea Constand and her family and what they endured and suffered, think about the magnitude of what this means and to all the victims who stood on her shoulders throughout this proceeding and who uplifted her, you know, this is just the culmination of such a long battle. Remember, it occurred in 2004.

If you're Bill Cosby, you heard the press conference from his team talking about there being tremendous racism here, talking about the lack of fairness and multiple witnesses who were allowed to testify for prior bad acts. But from a practical perspective in the #MeToo movement, this is a tremendous victory in general.

And think about our times, think about the accountability that #MeToo was able to bring about and think about the accountability in that courtroom. It is a historic day indeed for Bill Cosby to be going to jail, and to be going to state prison.

And so, you know, Wolf, it's just a tremendous day, compelling court testimony, compelling court experience. And you know what? Accountability has come to Bill Cosby as he goes to jail today.

BLITZER: Yes, pretty amazing sight to see him handcuffed and escorted on the way to prison for at least three years.

Joey Jackson, Jean Casarez, thanks very much.

Other important news we're following at the United Nations today, extraordinary moment. The French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron sharply revoking President Trump who addressed the world body earlier in the day.

Let's go to our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski. She has details.

Michelle, in his speech, Macron, he reproached the Trump administration's policies on Iran, on climate change, on migration and a whole lot more.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right, right. And if there was anybody here who was going to openly troll Donald Trump on his speech and not shy away from just bluntly hitting him on specific points, among U.S. allies that is, it was going to be French President Emmanuel Macron. Even though the two of them seemed to have a nice meeting together yesterday, he likes to stand up to Trump.

He's done it before, done on Twitter. Today, he did it in this fiery speech, during which at times he was just hammering his hands on the podium saying things like unilateralism only leads to isolation and conflict, that protectionism is not the way to solve the world's problem. At one point, he said, we are not stronger by closing our borders.

And just as the U.S. tried to used the kind of theme of this U.N. gathering to make into sovereignty and protecting nation's sovereignty, well, Macron and his speech said he upholds sovereignty but almost mocked the way that Trump uses the term. Listen.


PRES. EMMANUEL MACRON, FRANCE (through translator): I shall never stop upholding the principle of sovereignty, even in the face of certain nationalism, which we are seeing today, brandishing sovereignty as a way of attacking others.


KOSINSKI: Macron also urged nations to stop doing trade deals with countries that don't support the Paris climate agreement. Well, there is one country in the world that does not support it, and that is the United States. So, there was no doubt who he's talking to here.

This is one more example of how the U.S.'s closest friends at the U.N. here are using this time together to find workarounds and counters to some of the things U.S. is doing, most notably the Iran nuclear deal, they are working to try to hold together, keep doing business with Iran even in the face of continued U.S. threats and sanctions even against U.S. allies -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there was really an awkward moment at the beginning of the president's speech at the General Assembly, when he said, that he was talking about how great everything is here in the United States, the economy and a lot of world leaders started laughing at him, as opposed to with him. He clearly wasn't happy about that.

KOSINSKI: Yes, you heard the rumble start up in the crowd. It takes a few seconds for the translation to go through but once it did, you heard laughter. He seemed to be taken back, handled it well, though, saying he didn't expect that reaction but unmistakable how many felt about those words, Wolf. BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure the president of the United States not very

pleased that all these leaders who had gathered at the U.N. general assembly, nearly 200 countries, so many of them started chuckling and laughing when he was boasting about the strong U.S. economy, as if it was some sort of campaign rally, and he handled it as you pointed out.

Michelle, thank you very much, Michelle Kosinski, for covering the president in New York.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.