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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Calls China "Red Handed" Amid Reports It Sold Oil To North Korea; Officials Deny Moore's Election Challenge, Certify Jones Win; Moore: Took Polygraph Test Over Sexual Misconduct Claims; Tillerson At Odds Once Again With Trump Says U.S. And Russia Have A "Poor Relationship." Interview with Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California .Aired 7-8pm ET
Aired December 28, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:01] ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: -- celebration in New York since the 1960s. So bundle up with layers upon layers upon layers.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: My goodness. All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you so much for that. We do appreciate it. And a reminder that, when you're all bundled up on New Year's Eve, you can watch Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohn ring in 2018 maybe right just from your coach hopefully as you're warm. Begins Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern only on CNN.
I'm Brianna Keilar. Thanks for watching. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.
POPPY HARLOW, OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, President Trump slamming China, charging the country with selling oil to North Korea and hinting the U.S. could be closer to war with Kim Jong-un.
Plus, Roy Moore charges of voter fraud in Alabama shot down in court. His opponent's victory is certified, so why is Moore still refusing to concede? And more than three months after Hurricane Maria, the power is back on for some in Puerto Rico. But for thousands more, the wait goes on. We are live in San Juan tonight. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow in tonight for Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, President Trump firing off an angry tweet at China, calling the country out for allegedly selling oil to North Korea. That would be a violation of U.N. sanctions and China's own promise to cut trade with the rogue regime.
The President tweet came as he was on the golf course near Mar-a-Lago. Earlier today, he wrote, "Caught red handed. Very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen."
Now, the reference of being caught red handed could be in response to these satellite images released by South Korean media outlets, appearing to show Chinese ships making ship to ship transfers of oil to the North Koreans. Now, the President has repeatedly blamed past presidents, his predecessors for failing to stop North Korea's nuclear program.
Well today, he tweeted out this edited video of himself on NBC's Meet the Press some 18 years ago. Look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me talk about some of the issues. One is North Korea.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have the nuclear weapons. They're going to have weapons pointed all over the world and specifically at the United States. You want to do it in five years when they have warheads all over the place, every one of them pointing to New York City, to Washington? Is that when you want to do it or do you want to do something now. You better do it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Sara Murray is OutFront tonight in West Palm Beach, Florida near Mar-a-Lago. And Sara, what can you tell us about why the President is issuing this warning to China today. I mean, these images aren't new.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a little bit of a mystery, Poppy, as you pointed out, there were these reports that were coming out of South Korean media. And by the way, the Chinese deny that they were taking part in any kind of sales of oil that would violate U.N. sanctions.
The Treasury Department also noted last month that there were North Korean shipping companies that were attempting these ship to ship transfers likely of oil to evade U.N. sanctions. But the President is on vacation here in Mar-a-Lago. He was on the golf course when that tweet was sent.
We've reached out to a number of his aides at the National Security Counsel as well as in the White House communication shop to try to get a sense of was there something new that set off the President? Was there some new piece of information he had confirmed? Did he know that there was a new transfer attempt? And we got no response.
And it's worth remembering, Poppy, that the President travels with a very thin staff when he goes on vacations like this. So it's possible that even his own staffers don't know what exactly it was that is prior the President to send this tweet today.
HARLOW: All right, Sara Murray OutFront, thank you very much.
With me now, the author of "Nuclear Showdown, North Korea Takes On the World, Gordon Chang. And CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst, Bob Baer. Nice to have you both here.
And Gordon, let me begin with you. The words from the President today in his tweet, partly, there will never be a friendly solution if China, you know, continues to carry this out. Now, this is nothing new. China is a large reason why North Korea's economy can function at all. Responsible for 90 percent of the trade, right?
But you're glad to see the President calling out China. What I wonder though is anything different in terms of action? In that video we saw from Meet the Press 18 years ago, he says we must act now. He's not acting yet. Is he?
GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: No, he's not. What you had, this is like evokes the June 20 tweet where he expressed disappointment with Xi Jinping of China. About five, six days after that, there were five actions that the Chinese didn't like, but they were light. I mean, they weren't real close. They were just sending signals to Beijing.
So President Trump needs to do more than just send signals now. And if he doesn't do it, the Chinese are going to say, this is all just empty talk.
HARLOW: I mean, what would really move China's hand? You are the expert on the region.
CHANG: OK. The thing that I think that would really move Beijing is if he -- if Trump declared Bank of China, one of China's so-called big four banks --
CHANG: -- a primary money laundering concern under section 311 of the Patriot Act. That essentially would be a death sentence for one of China's biggest banks and it would rock confidence in China. That's what get their attention.
[19:05:09] HARLOW: It also could have repercussions on the U.S. We've got our biggest trading partner there, you know, so you have to weigh. You have to weigh what is more important at the time.
Bo Bear to you, you note it's difficult to shame China into action. It's what the President's trying to do through essentially Twitter diplomacy here. What comes of this?
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you're not going to shame them. I mean, the fact is the Chinese are also in a corner. They don't want the collapse of the regime in North Korea. They worry about the rationality of Kim Jong-un.
I mean, what's he going to do if it does start to collapse? Is he going to let missiles loose on Seoul, on Japan? Chinese don't know for sure. But let me go back to what Trump said 18 years ago. And he was absolutely right. That's when it should have been done.
You -- you know, they're well armed. They're going to use those missiles. They can do a lot of destruction. The only way out of this situation now if the Chinese and the Russians by the way do not clamp down completely and there is no falling apart of North Korea, is regime decapitation. But that's hugely risky. It's a Hail Mary that could turn out very badly. So basically, the President is totally frustrated with North Korea. He promised to do something about it. And now he understands once he's seeing the intelligence and the reality, it's not going to be easy.
HARLOW: Let's listen to how the President has continued as President to call out China. Time and time again. Calling on China to cut off North Korea. Here are just a few examples.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: China can fix this problem easily and quickly. And I am calling on China and your great President to hopefully work on it very hard.
I called on every nation including China and Russia to unite in isolating the North Korean regime, cutting off all ties of trade and commerce, until it stops its dangerous provocation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So Gordon, I mean, President Trump is not the first U.S. President to call on China to do more. However, he does have an interesting sort of unique relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Friendly on many fronts. He's also said, you know, China's rapping this economy. So, do you believe that he could move China's hand more than his predecessors have been able to?
CHANG: Well, yes, because right the Chinese economy is fragile heading to a debt crisis. There are a number of things the U.S. can do to really put China in a very bad place with regard to its economy. A number of other things trump could do.
But the question is, does he have the political will. And so far, he's been trying to negotiate with the Chinese, get their cooperation. But, you know, these satellite images of ship to ship transfers, which by the way, are by themselves a violation of U.N. sanctions. Even if nothing came across those pipelines. So right now, the Chinese have been caught red handed and that puts Trump in very difficult position because he's got to do something.
HARLOW: But Bob, explain to the American people what it is that China gains from aiding North Korea. Because it is important to note the interest of the United States and China are not completely aligned when it comes to North Korea.
BAER: Well, Poppy, I think it's a thorn in our side. And don't forget that the Chinese and the Russians have essentially equipped North Korea to build this bomb. They didn't create all this. All these parts from, you know, scratch. They've been helping all along.
Eighteen years ago, they could have done something about this. So they like it that we're in a bind. They are not our friends. They are our competitors. He's right about that.
I do not know if a trade war is going to force their hand. I do not know whether the President of China is capable of caving into us on North Korea. So openly and after a threat like this. I would be surprised. Because that is, you know, it's the shame of that and would politically undermine the Chinese leadership.
HARLOW: And Gordon, just to be clear here. I mean, China does not see it as in its best interest necessarily. You know, they don't want to see nuclear war break out of course, but also, they don't see it as in their best interest to have a unified Korean peninsula.
CHANG: Well, Bob is actually right. You know, this is more than just a thorn in our side. You know, every time that North Korea does something provocative, we send a secretary of state to Beijing. We plead for cooperation. We don't talk about the things that are important to us.
And basically as one Indian general said a few days ago, look, you know, North Korea is the claw. China is the cat. The Chinese are enjoying this immensely. Now, they shouldn't because the long-term, China gets hurt more than any other country by North Korea because it forces the region to the U.S. But in the short-term, Poppy, the Chinese are really, really enjoying this dynamic because they get a lot from us.
[19:10:02] HARLOW: Gordon Chang, thank you very much. Bob Baer, we appreciate it.
So, OutFront next, it is official. Roy Moore lost officially the Alabama Senate election. Even with the results certified today, Moore is refusing to give up claiming voter fraud.
Also, Rex Tillerson at odds with his boss. The Secretary of State calling out Russia for election meddling going a lot further than the President has.
And New Year to remember buried under snow and blankets. The dangerous cold not going anywhere for 17 million Americans.
HARLOW: New tonight, Roy Moore, the accused child molester who lost the Alabama special Senate election, still not conceding the race even after Democrat Doug Jones is certified as the winner by state officials. Moore filed the last minute complaint citing voter fraud, calling for another special election. His spokesperson claiming the Alabama Secretary of State is ignoring their charges. Listen.
JANET PORTER, MOORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: That's where John Merrill is not doing his job. He's violating federal law by saying destroy the evidence. Don't let us save those valid images and if he certifies this election before we investigate this fully, then he is going to be accountable to those voters in Alabama.
HARLOW: By the way, you can watch the entire interview that Dana Bash did with her. It is important and fascinating.
Dianne Gallagher is OutFront in Montgomery, Alabama. Dianne, the last 24 hours have been high drama. I bet you thought 24 hours ago you would not be in Montgomery, Alabama, but there you are. What is Roy Moore saying about the options that he thinks he has left at this point?
[19:15:10] DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So Poppy, Roy Moore isn't really talking at this point. He also hasn't officially conceded yet, but he did issue a statement pretty soon after the election results were certified. I want to read you just a quick little excerpt from it.
He said, "Election fraud experts across the country have agreed that this was a fraudulent election." He then goes on to say, "I have stood for the truth about God and the Constitution for the people of Alabama. I have no regrets. To God be the glory."
Now, we just want to add to that there, these election experts across the country, he seems to be referring to the three individuals that are cited in his lawsuit. One of whom is a bit of a conspiracy theorist, who talks about the assassination of JFK, the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich. They thought that there was voter fraud, but this is something, Poppy, that the Secretary of State in Alabama has investigated.
We talked to him. There's more than 100 different cases that were complaints to him. They looked into them. At this point, they say they have found zero evidence of any voter fraud.
Some of the issues that were raised by Roy Moore with were talking about extra high voter turnout in counties that happen to be predominantly African-American and noting that seemed unusual. They talked about people maybe being bussed in from out of state to vote at the polls in Alabama. The Secretary of State says they investigated that, found zero truth to that at this point.
You know, it was something that as they went through here, they got through this lawsuit, it was put down by the court. A part in there that seems quite strange to many supporters even was the inclusion of Roy Moore claiming that after the special election on December 12, he chose to take a polygraph exam and said that he passed it when it came to those allegations against him. About going out with teenagers when he was a D.A. in his early 30s. And the women who said that he either molested or sexually assaulted them.
Roy Moore said that he passed a polygraph test after the election, but it was a Roy Moore affidavit, Poppy. It wasn't from the polygraph administrator.
GALLAGHER: So that was something else that was included there. Doug Jones should be sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on January 3rd.
HARLOW: All right, appreciate the reporting, Dianne. Thank you. With me now, former Federal Election Commission General Counsel, Larry Noble, who knows a thing or two about how these things work. CNN Politics Editor at Large, Chris Cillizza, and AL.com Editorial Board Member, Michelle Holmes. It's nice to have you all here.
And Larry, let me begin with you. As, you know, former General Counsel for the FEC, at this point, a judge has dropped this down. Even the Republican Secretary of State of Alabama who is the supporter of Roy Moore said there's just nothing here that shows a shred of voter fraud at this point. What options are left, if any, for Moore?
LARRY NOBLE, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, FEDERAL ELECTON COMMISSION: Well, in a normal situation, you would say there are no options left for him.
NOBLE: That he is, you know, gone beyond grasping at straws as grasping at air. But in theory, what he could do is try to bring this before the Senate. And the Senate has the ability to rule on questions of election fraud.
I think that would be the Republican's nightmare. They've gone from first saying they wouldn't support him or many Republicans went from saying they wouldn't support him -- to supporting him. And now if he brought this before them, then what are they going to do?
You know, I think he's pretty much out of options. I think he has to accept the fact that he lost. I don't expect him to concede. He doesn't seem to like conceding. But it's over. Now if he does try to pursue this in court, he could be subject to sanctions at some point for this case.
You know, there's a comes a point that you just have to say it's over and you know, in one way, his statement today may have been a sign that you know, he's saying I fought the best I could. That he's not going to take it further, but with Roy Moore, you never know.
HARLOW: Yes. And that would not exactly be out of the Roy Moore playbook to just let it go. Chris Cillizza, you just wrote a column on this and I know you saw that interview Dana did with Moore Spokesperson Janet Porter. Here's more of her claiming this widespread voter fraud.
PORTER: I think the President is also concerned about voter fraud. He's brought it up in his own election and I think that if he were to read through the 84 pages of evidence from independent experts and the best in the country by the way, who say one county, just 20 precincts in one county, Jefferson, is enough to overturn this election.
HARLOW: Dive into those so-called experts for us, will you? CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Right. I mean, this is someone who is -- one of their experts, the best in the country is someone who's regularly trafficked, excuse me, about conspiracy theories, including the Seth Rich DNC case. He is someone, a young Democratic National Committee staffer who was murdered.
Some conspiracy theorists on the right suggest that he was somehow involved in the Russia e-mails and the hacking. This is not the best and brightest that Roy Moore is citing.
[19:20:06] The simple fact here is that Roy Moore doesn't concede races. He did in 2006 when he lost governor's race. He got about a third of the vote in the primary against Bob Riley the Governor. He did it in 2010 when he came in fourth in a Republican primary.
It's not a campaign. It is a crusade for Roy Moore. This is not about a win or a loss. This is about a long sort of arc of what he believes to be a righteous quest. You saw it.
This is, again, put aside the allegations against him. Remember that this is someone who has been elected and removed twice as the --
CILLIZZA: -- chief justice of the Alabama state Supreme Court prior to the Senate race.
CILLIZZA: This is who he is. This is what he does.
HARLOW: But, Chris, I mean, there is something really important here, too, about the fact that his team is choosing to call out Jefferson County.
CILLIZZA: Right. Well, it's heavily African-American. And look, I think that you can play that Janet Porter interview. People should -- I'm with you Poppy -- urge people to watch it, but here's what you need to know. The Republican Governor, the Republican Secretary of State and the Republican Attorney General, those are the three people you see sitting at that table today who certified the election. This is not some sort of grand conspiracy.
By the way, the Republican Secretary of State was very clear that he supported Roy Moore's campaign, and voted for him.
HARLOW: Look --
CILLIZZA: So this is not a conspiracy. This is a small group of people insisting that the facts, not that we know, the facts that exist, are not the facts which is their right. But you don't have to believe it.
HARLOW: And the Republican President who, you know, who campaigned for him in final days not saying anything about it. Or Steve Bannon, the Republican Former Chief Strategist who put a lot on this race not saying anything about it and that silence is sort of deafening tonight.
Michelle, what about the people of Alabama? I mean, Roy Moore says that this is about them, the people of Alabama. That he stands for the truth and for God and for the Constitution. What do they want to see happen?
MICHELLE HOLMES, AL.COM EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: The people of Alabama want same thing that the people of across America want, which is access to free and fair elections, which is access to having their voices heard at the polls. The people of Alabama spoke. We want to move forward. We want to move into the future.
The people of Alabama are tired. It's like we've moved into some sort of third rate circus where we're being held here with no food, no water, just Roy Moore and his spokes people over and over making a mockery. I mean, the people of Alabama spoke at the polls.
HARLOW: It's a little through the looking glass at this point.
CILLIZZA: By the way, Poppy, can I just make one quick point just to add to that. Look, this is not a race that was decided by 500 votes.
HARLOW: Twenty-one thousand, yes.
CILLIZZA: This is a 22 -- yes, roughly 22,000 vote margin. He say, well, that's not all that much, true. But remember for Roy Moore to win, he would need let's say it's 20,000, 22,001 votes for Roy Moore that somehow have been discounted and zero votes for Doug Jones. These things don't happen.
HARLOW: Larry, let me ask you quickly about this polygraph test, OK. It's part of the affidavit. But none of the evidence, another results from polygraph are in there, nor is the name of the person who conducted it nor could the spokeswoman name, anyone who is in the room with Roy Moore when he says he took the polygraph. What do you make of it?
NOBLE: It's useless. You're right. It's an affidavit from him saying he took the polygraph, doesn't name the person who administered the polygraph. Normally, you'd expect to see some report.
What also it's interesting is that he says that it showed that he did not know -- and he named three women who he's accused of sexually molesting. He doesn't address the other six women. So we have no idea what went on, even if it was a polygraph test.
So I think as evidence in a case, if you can call this evidence, it's meaningless. And -- but I think it's aimed at his supporters. I think it's a way, a last ditch way for him to say to his supporters, oh, I took the test and --
NOBLE: -- you know, and I was found, you know, that I didn't molest anybody. But I don't think it has any weight at all.
HARLOW: Michelle? Final thought?
HOLMES: Final thoughts is Doug Jones will be sworn in as the Senator from Alabama. That's the voice of the people of Alabama. And Doug Jones will represent those who voted for him and all of the people of Alabama. It's time to end this charade.
HARLOW: Thank you all very much. Have a good evening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HARLOW: All right, OutFront next, the Kremlin using one of President Trump's favorite phrases. Why Russia is calling Secretary of State Rex Tillerson fake news.
And thousands of Americans without power in Puerto Rico for more than three months now. For some, that just changed.
[19:28:49] HARLOW: New tonight, a cold war of words. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson writing a New York Times opinion piece and he writes that the U.S. and Russia have a, quote, poor relationship. He also writes that Moscow has, quote, undermined the sovereignty of western nations by meddling in our election and others. But Russia's foreign ministry is firing back tonight, using one of the President's favorite phrases, calling Tillerson's words fake news.
Elise Labott is OutFront. And Elise, when you listen and you read what Tillerson wrote about Russia, it shows once again he's not really on the same page as the President, at least in the word choice on Russia. What's your read?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, I would say when it comes to Russia, that President Trump is out of step not only with everyone in his own national security team, but even with his own policies, OK? If you read that op-ed by Secretary of State Tillerson talking about election meddling, that's something that the intelligence community and every member of the President's cabinet has acknowledged to place, OK?
It's understandable the President, you know, for his own supporters, doesn't want to acknowledge that and say that he believes that that happened. Because I think for him, that goes to the heart of his own legitimacy and raises questions about whether he was legitimately elected. And nobody said he wasn't. They just said that Russia meddled in the campaign that they were able to affect the outcome.
So President Trump for all of his talks though --
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: -- heart of his own legitimacy and raises questions about whether he was legitimately elected and nobody ever said that he wasn't.
[19:30:08] They just said that Russia meddled in the campaign. Not that they were able to affect the outcome.
So, President Trump, for all of his talk about President Putin and for his rhetoric about the election, if you look at the policies of his administration, they're actually quite tough on Russia.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Right.
LABOTT: Just in the last few weeks, the president, his administration, listed a lot of prominent Russians for sanctions list for actions against Ukraine. And also last week, President Trump just approved for the first time the sale of lethal arms to Ukrainian military.
So, it seems to me that there's a total disconnect between the president's rhetoric and not only the rhetoric of his administration, but his own policies.
HARLOW: Yes, the national security strategy policy laid out on paper last week.
HARLOW: Good point.
Elise Labott, thank you very much.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic congresswoman from California, Jackie Speier. She sits on the House Intelligence Committee. She's been busy these days with that job and the rest of her work.
Thank you, Congresswoman, for being here. I appreciate it.
And let's begin with what Elise was just discussing, that's President Trump's secretary of state calling out Russia in this opinion piece in "The New York times" saying the U.S. and Russia have this poor relationship. Well, then at the same time, you have Russia firing back saying that's fake news.
Who do you agree with?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's very typical of the Russian playbook, which is all about denying when they've got their hands in the cookie jar. I mean, this was a serious offense that was committed by the Russians. Seventeen intelligence agencies confirmed that Russia had meddled. Actually, I don't even like using the word "meddle" because it sounds like it's just on the fringes. I mean, they were actively involved, using active measures to undermine the election.
HARLOW: So you agree with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on this one? Yes?
SPEIER: I do agree with the secretary of state. I do. Yes.
HARLOW: So, earlier today, I spoke with Republican deputy majority whip, Tom Cole, on my show this morning. He said it is nothing new that Russia would meddle in the U.S. election or other elections, try to interfere. Listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM COLE (R-OK), DEPUTY MAJORITY WHIP: If we think the Russians haven't tried to influence American elections in the past, we're naive and frankly, we think we don't try to influence transfers of powers in other country, we're pretty naive. So, it's part of international relations. The real question is, did it have much impact? I don't think so. I think --
HARLOW: Wait. Hold on. It seems like you're saying this is par for the course. This is OK. Is that what you're saying?
COLE: I didn't say it's OK. It is par for the course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Does he have a point? Congresswoman, do you think he has a point?
SPEIER: I'm sorry. Well, actually, he has a point to a certain extent. I mean, there have been instances when the United States has been engaged in the elections of other countries. I certainly object to that.
But what happened in 2016 that was so different was that the active measures used by the Russians were so deleterious. I mean, they actually got into the voting records in 21 states and it's not clear even today whether or not they were able to tamper with the actual voter machines. Even though the intelligence agency says that they have no evidence to suggest they had.
But this was a comprehensive campaign. They got on to social media. They were using RT. They were hacking into the DNC and into various other outlets, and then they were using WikiLeaks to do the dump of all of these e-mails that had been stolen for all intents and purposes.
So, this was unlike any kind of active measures that have been used before. And it really behooves us to recognize that Russia hasn't gone away. They are still here. They will do what they can in 2018 and in 2020 as well.
HARLOW: Well, as you know, that "Washington Post" editorial earlier this week from, you know, the former acting CIA director and former Republican chair of the House Intel Committee, Mike Rogers, saying Russia has done this and continues to do this. A grave warning from them on that.
Let's talk about the Mueller investigation, the special counsel investigation into Russia, and the Trump administration. I want to dig into something you said just a few weeks ago. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SPEIER: The rumor on the hill when I left yesterday was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week and on December 22nd, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: OK, that didn't happen. It is well past December 22nd. Do you regret at all sort of further spreading that rumor that was unfounded?
[19:35:06] At least so far?
SPEIER: Well, I first identified it as a rumor and I think it's really important --
HARLOW: But you talked about it.
SPEIER: I think it's very important to tamp down any kind of activity that may be going on behind the scenes. And if it has a prophylactic effect, which they have happened here, then we have done our work. It's my job as a member of Congress to call out what I see things that are dangerous to our Constitution, dangerous to our country and our democracy. So, I don't regret it at all.
HARLOW: But you told me earlier this year when we were interviewing in March, you said that it was at the time, that the president, President Trump acted recklessly in your words for spreading the unfounded allegation at the time that President Obama had ordered his phones wiretapped. You said that was reckless because it was unfounded. Then you came on television two weeks ago and said, well, the rumor is that the president's going to fire Bob Mueller on the 22nd of December. It didn't happen.
I'm just asking. Aren't they analogous?
SPEIER: No, they're not. Because I said it was a rumor. He didn't say it was a rumor. He said it was fact that President Obama had actually eavesdropped on him in Trump Tower. That's a huge, that's a very different kind of scenario. One was sending up a red flag, putting out a warning. The other, his statement, was basically that President Obama had done something that in fact, he had not done. Big difference.
HARLOW: Do you still think that's the case? Do you still have concerns, real concerns, that the president will try to oust Robert Mueller?
SPEIER: I do have concerns that he will try to do that. Look what he did with Director Comey. Look how he's maligning the assistant FBI director. Look how he's now turning to malign Michael Flynn when he was you know, praising him just a few months ago.
HARLOW: He hasn't said anything to malign Michael Flynn. In fact, he hasn't denied when people ask if he might pardon Flynn. What are you talking about? SPEIER: Well, what's being said now is that in the White House that
they are starting to set a scenario up so that in fact, if he does speak more to Mueller or to others, that they will you know, put on their campaign against Michael Flynn.
HARLOW: Just to be clear for our viewers, "The Washington Post" reporting that we have not confirmed or verified.
SPEIER: I'm sorry, Poppy. I didn't hear your last question.
HARLOW: I was just saying that's "Washington Post" reporting that we have not confirmed or verified.
Congresswoman, we will leave it there and we'll have you back. Thank you very much.
SPEIER: Thank you.
HARLOW: All right. So, OUTFRONT next, 100 days without power for some Americans following Hurricane Maria. CNN is there when the electricity finally comes back on for one town in Puerto Rico today. You'll see that live.
Also, 17 million Americans shivering in bitter cold temperatures. The president just weighing in. Tweeting we could use a little global warming. Seriously. That's next.
[19:42:16] HARLOW: Tonight in Puerto Rico, a shot in the dark. It has been 99 days since Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, yet one town the just now getting power. Thousands of American citizens across Puerto Rico still in the dark.
Our Leyla Santiago is OUTFRONT.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's more than just a flip of a switch. Finally, a hint of what life was like before hurricane Maria. After more than three months without power -- Ida is one of the lucky few who just got power.
(on camera): Hot water. She's able to take a hot shower. That's what she's excited about. A hot shower.
(voice-over): Yabucoa, in southeastern Puerto Rico, now has a massive generator to power its substation. It's enough to power part of the town. Not a permanent solution. Not enough to turn the lights back on for all 38,000 people.
(on camera): Yabucoa has always been known for its agriculture. Now, it's known for that area. Where hurricane Maria came in with 155 mile per hour winds, knocking out electricity immediately. The mayor says he doesn't know when power will be restored, so he believes they were the first to deal with Maria and they could be the last.
(voice-over): Mayor Rafael Surillo was born and raised in these mountains near the coast. He calls Maria a monster that destroyed them.
(on camera): He's saying the urban area could get power very soon. But this area, the mountainous area. He says it could be summer before they see it. Which take note, summer is when the hurricane season begins.
(voice-over): Miles away from town, high up in the mountains where the power lines are harder to fix, Cheryl de Jesus has little hope her home will be back to normal soon. Maria rushed in through the windows and doors and it ruined more than furniture. It ruined her life.
For now, new point is all she can afford to fix any of it.
(on camera): She has no idea when she's gel power back.
I'm asking her if she thinks it will be soon.
CHERYL DE JESUS, RESIDENT OF YABUCOA, PUERTO RICO: No.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): Without power, Cheryl and her children lost more than the lights.
(on camera): Without power, they don't have water.
(voice-over): The mayor says the problem, constant bureaucratic delays.
(on camera): For a month, they had power workers here, but not enough materials to actually carry out their work.
[19:45:03] (voice-over): Mayor Surillo calls this a start. He says they need more generators, power pulls, cables. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers admits a shortage of supply stemming from other natural disasters is part of the reason it took so long to get power back to people like Ida.
Back in town, Ida will spend tonight in a home overjoyed. Power is the best Christmas gift they could ask for, but for the families up in the mountains, the sun sets on another night. As they wait for their gift to arrive.
HARLOW: And Leyla Santiago joins me now.
Leyla, the look on those children's faces, the children of the families in the mountains, they're still waiting and we can obviously see behind you where you are now, in San Juan. There's light, but for families like that one in the mountains, how long have they been without power?
SANTIAGO: That family in particular has been without power since before hurricane Irma. So do the count. That's 114 days they have not had power. Now, that generator that is in town is powering a very small percentage of Yabucoa. We understand today the hospital as well received power.
But here's another number to throw out at you, and that is 69. Sixty- nine percent generation is what the government here is reporting, but, Poppy, you have heard me say this before. Sixty-nine percent generation does not equal distribution. So, the government right now still not giving a good idea as to how many people in Puerto Rico actually have power tonight.
HARLOW: Leyla, you've been on top of this story, OUTFRONT on it since the beginning. Thank you for the reporting. I'm so glad for those families that do have the power back after three long months. We appreciate it.
OUTFRONT next, parts of the U.S. locked in a deep freeze. The term "cold front" is not really cutting it these days, as the president takes to Twitter tonight tweeting about the arctic blast, while mocking climate change.
And Jeanne Moos on Trump, water and Rubio's revenge.
[19:50:56] HARLOW: Breaking news, President Trump just tweeted about the extreme cold, slamming more than 17 million Americans tonight. But here's the breaking part, his tweet also mocked the science of climate change.
The president writes: In the East, it could be the coldest New Year's Eve on record. Perhaps could use a little of that good old global warming that our country but not other countries was going to pay trillions of dollars to protect against. Bundle up.
This as a crushing cold front sweeps the country. Frigid temperatures had settled in from Massachusetts, through North Dakota.
Let's go to our meteorologist, Allison Chinchar from the weather center.
International Falls, Minnesota, my great home state, breaking records once again, 36 below or something crazy like that.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and other states are going to be breaking record lows, not just tonight but for the next several nights. Right now, it feels like it is minus 23 in Fargo, minus nine in Boston. It's going to be even colder as you're waking up tomorrow morning in Boston, where it feels like temperature is going to be minus 19, minus eight on Saturday.
Take a look at Chicago, by the time we get to Sunday, even colder at minus 16. That's because we have a second wave that will actually be arriving as we go into the weekend that extends even as far south as Texas, as well as Georgia. But here's the thing, this is why this is so dangerous when we talk about incredibly cold temperatures. Naturally, your body has a little bit of heat that surrounds the inside of your body. When you add wind to this, which we are talking about in a lot of states, over a dozen, take wind takes away that excess layer on the outside, making it very difficult for you to understand how cold your body actually is.
And, Poppy, the concern here is that for a lot of areas frostbite could set in 15 to 20 minutes of being outside.
HARLOW: People will have to be very careful. Thank you very much, Allison. Appreciate it.
With me again, CNN politics editor at large, Chris Cillizza.
And, Chris, we couldn't let you go home because -- look, I mean, the president has called climate change a hoax before. But tonight, he's making light of these extreme temperatures and making a nonsensical argument about it.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: You're right, Poppy. I shoveled my parents' driveway in Connecticut a few days ago and it's freezing, I can confirm that.
CILLIZZA: But what Trump is doing is conflating weather with climate. So, weather is the weather. It is cold, it's going to be cold for a lot of the country the next week or so. Climate is the long view, right? It's not next week or next month, it's long view. This is again going to be 2017, the warmest year on record.
So, whether he's doing that purposefully or he doesn't know the difference, I can't really say. But this is the same logic that led in 2015, remember Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe who say, very much a climate change skeptic or denier, to bring a snowball into the Senate floor late February as evidence that it's so cold, there are snowballs, therefore global warming or climate change isn't real.
Which again, that's like saying, well, it was really hot this past summer, therefore climate change is definitely real. That's not. That's weather. Climate is much longer term and more accurate frankly reflection of the science here.
HARLOW: Thank you for the facts tonight, Chris Cillizza.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
HARLOW: Now you can go home.
OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos and the sip of water that made headlines.
HARLOW: And finally tonight, look at one of the most unforgettable moments in Trump's presidency so far, that time that he got thirsty.
Here's Jeanne Moos. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump didn't have to eat his words he had to drink them. Eleven minutes into his speech his mouth got try.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Core principal to fairness.
MOOS: A few seconds later.
TRUMP: Seventeen thousand jobs.
MOOS: The president disappeared.
TRUMP: They don't have water. That's OK. What?
MOOS: Reporters pointed to a small table next to the lectern. To your right, sir, said one.
Now, the president stopping his speech to swig from a bottle of water would be no huge deal if he hadn't done this back during the campaign.
TRUMP: It's Rubio.
MOOS: Tossing water around the stage, he imitated Senator Marco Rubio and logged the entire bottle.
TRUMP: Ha, ha, ha. I need water. Help me. I need water. Help. And he's -- this is on live television.
MOOS: Then candidate Trump was mocking Rubio from the time Rubio desperately gulped down water while he was delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union.
So, what the Rubio say about Trump's parched moment? Similar but needs work on his firm. Has to be done in one single motion, and eye should never leave the camera. But not bad for his first time.
Pretty weak considering what Trump called him.
TRUMP: You're a choker.
MOOS: Rubio guzzled made in the USA Poland Spring while the president drank imported Fiji water. Noted one reporter, Trump drinks Fiji water while decrying trade deficits. This year, the U.S. has $119 million deficit with Fiji.
After Rubio ducked to drink, Trump imitated him.
TRUMP: I said, where is he?
MOOS: Where are you?
"The Daily Show" commemorated Trump's Rubio moment, tweeting, President Trump's official portion unveiled. You are looking at proof that water is never under the bridge.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
HARLOW: Have we got any water?
Thanks for joining us tonight.
"AC360" starts now.