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American Accused of Spying Appears in Russian Court; TSA Makes Plea for Backup as Shutdown Drags on According to Internal Email Obtained By CNN; Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 22, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rudy Giuliani claims he heard audio evidence related to the president and Michael Cohen, and then abruptly denies tapes exist. Is the president getting fed up with his lawyer's gaffes and loose lips?

Speaking for himself. The White House is moving forward with plans for a State of the Union address, ignoring Nancy Pelosi's request for a delay. As the original speech date approaches, it's not clear what Mr. Trump might say or do next Tuesday.

And held for spying. A U.S. citizen is denied bail in Russia, as his state-appointed lawyer claims Paul Whelan had state secrets when he was arrested. Is there hope for a fair trial, or has the case been rigged by the Kremlin?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news on the Russia investigation. Tonight, we are learning for the first time that the special counsel has expressed interest in the Trump campaign's relationship with the National Rifle Association.

This information emerging just weeks after alleged Russian spy Maria Butina pleaded guilty to attempting to infiltrate the NRA.

Also breaking, the Senate sets votes on competing Republican and Democratic bills to reopen the government. But both are expected to fail. Hopes of ending the standoff remain slim, as the president escalates his power struggle with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

The White House moving forward with plans for Mr. Trump's State of the Union address, despite Pelosi's request for a delay.

I will speak with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our political correspondent, Sara Murray.

Sara,what are you learning about the special counsel's interest in the NRA?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we already knew that lawmakers had been scrutinizing the NRA and its role in the 2016 election.

But now we are learning for the first time that special counsel Robert Mueller had his own questions and wanted to better understand the relationship between the early Trump campaign and the National Rifle Association.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): For the first time, a sign the special counsel is interested in the Trump campaign's relationship with the National Rifle Association during the 2016 election.

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Part of his appeal was that this guy was going to win at all costs.

MURRAY: Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, telling CNN: "When I was interviewed by the special counsel's office, I was asked about the Trump campaign and our dealings with the NRA."

DONALD TRUMP SR., PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Great honor to be here. I love the NRA.

MURRAY: The questions from Nunberg's interview in February 2018 are the first indication Mueller has been probing the Trump campaign's ties to the powerful gun rights group and was still asking questions about it as recently as a month ago, CNN has learned.

While the NRA hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing by law enforcement, it has come under scrutiny for its ties to Russians and massive support of Trump in 2016.

MARIA BUTINA, DEFENDANT: That freedom is very important and the basics of any freedom is, of course, gun rights.

MURRAY: One Russian who had dealings with the NRA, Maria Butina. She recently pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy against the U.S. As part of her deal in December, Butina admitted she tried to build relationships with NRA members as a way to infiltrate Republican political circles and influence U.S. relations with Russia.

She worked at the behest of Aleksandr Torshin, a former Russian banker and lifetime NRA member, who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department last year. Years prior to her arrest, Butina even managed to ask Trump about his views on Russia at a political event.

BUTINA: If you would be elected as the president, what would will be your foreign politics, especially in the relationships with my country?

DONALD TRUMP SR.: I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK?

MURRAY: Despite Trump's prior support for a ban on assault weapons, he still became a darling of the NRA. The gun rights group shelled out more than $30 million to boost Trump in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

DONALD TRUMP SR.: To get the endorsement, believe me, is a fantastic honor.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MURRAY: Mueller's investigators were interested in how Trump and his early operatives first formed a relationship with the NRA and how Trump wound up speaking at the group's 2015 annual meeting just months before announcing his presidential bid, according to Nunberg.

Trump was helped along by his son Donald Trump Jr., an avid outdoorsman who played a role in his father building ties to the NRA?

DONALD TRUMP SR.: They love the NRA more than anyone I know. They happen to be my sons. They're lifetime members.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, what we don't know is if this is just an effort by the special counsel to make sure that they have checked all their boxes, or if this is part of some kind of deeper probe into the relationship between the Trump campaign and the NRA.

Wolf, the special counsel declined to comment. The NRA did not return requests for comment. But one thing that is notable is that President Trump, when he received these written questions from the special counsel's team, he did not have a question about his relationship with the NRA on that list.

[18:05:11]

BLITZER: All very, very interesting and intriguing, indeed.

Stay with us.

Shimon Prokupecz, our crime and justice reporter, is with us as well.

Shimon, we're also getting some new details about this mystery company, a foreign-owned company. And all of a sudden the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing in.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, 100 percent foreign-owned company. That's something we learned in the new filing today that was redacted. But we have been able to learn some information.

I think one of the things that's most interesting and I'm keep being obsessed about is how much money is being spent by this company, essentially this country, to try and fight this subpoena. And what we learned in the filing was that they were served with a grand jury subpoena as a witness.

That is that the Mueller team wants information from them in a criminal proceeding. The company is arguing that they should not have to comply with this because they are not affected by American criminal procedure. And, therefore, they should not have to comply with this subpoena.

One of the things that may happen is that we may never learn what this country is who owns this company. We may never learn what this subpoena is about. But the fight continues. Most people think they're going to lose in the end, and they're going to have to comply with the subpoena.

BLITZER: Yes, and, meanwhile, they are being fined a lot of money every day.

PROKUPECZ: Fifty thousand dollars a day.

BLITZER: Fifty thousand a day until they comply with the Mueller grand jury subpoena.

Also, there are more comments coming from Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. And people are raising all sorts of questions. Does he really know what he is talking about?

PROKUPECZ: I mean, you would think he does, because he does speak to the president. He does communicate with the other members on the legal team.

Whether or not they are happy or satisfied with how he is handling things, I think they do feel that whatever he is doing, the way he is doing it is working, at least politically. He does raise a lot of questions. He does say a lot of things that in the end he winds up obviously changing his story. We're now on day three of him changing his story or trying to clean up whatever he said on Sunday.

But they do feel that it's working. There are people who do think whatever he is doing is working. Certainly, the most important person in all of this is the president. He doesn't seem to have a problem with what he is doing. So it looks like Rudy Giuliani is going to be around.

BLITZER: You are doing a lot of reporting on this as well, Sara. What are you hearing about the contradictions? One day, he says this. The next day, he backs away from it, tries to clarify, all of these interviews that he's doing.

MURRAY: It certainly keeps us very busy.

And I think, as Shimon points out, it maybe causes a little consternation among people around Trump. But I also think the bigger question is whether Rudy Giuliani is creating any legal problems by doing all these verbal backflips.

When he talked to "The New York Times," he seemed at one point to be quoting a conversation with the president. This raises a whole question about whether Rudy Giuliani may have somehow pierced his privilege as the president's lawyer and whether Mueller might come back and say, OK, we now have more questions about this Moscow Trump Tower project.

Rudy Giuliani talked to Dana Bash earlier today and said if Mueller has a specific question about this, maybe we will answer it. We don't have any indication, though, that Mueller has come back with more questions.

But it's certainly not the kind of wrinkle that the Trump legal team is looking to endure right now.

PROKUPECZ: I think the Mueller team is wise enough to know what Rudy Giuliani here is doing. He is not the attorney that is behind the scenes working with the Mueller team, answering some of these questions. He is in on some of this. But he is not directly involved, at least from everything we know.

I think it's safe to say that the Mueller team here knows what's going on.

BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed.

Guys, thank you very much, Shimon and Sara.

We are going to be talking about all the breaking news on the Russia probe.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, there you see him, Congressman Adam Schiff, he is standing by on Capitol Hill.

Congressman, we are going to get to you in a moment.

But, first, we have some breaking news on the shutdown stalemate.

I want to go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, what is the very latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, yes, that's right.

There's some movement to speak of on the shutdown, as the Senate has scheduled votes on plans to reopen the government for later this week. The problem is, is that neither plan at this point is expected to pass. That's why there is this big confrontation brewing between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The White House says it's still planning on the president to deliver his State of the Union one week from tonight, but without an invitation from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, it's not exactly clear how that is going to work.

But as one senior White House official told me earlier today, contingency plans for the State of the Union are now being considered, including possibly having a speech outside of Washington, which means the big question will likely be, where is the speech?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): It's a question the White House is struggling to answer. Exactly where will President Trump deliver his State of the Union address in just one week?

HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: There are many ways he can deliver the State of the Union address. I'm not going to get ahead of anything he would announce.

ACOSTA: Even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the president to delay his address to Congress scheduled for next Tuesday, the White House sent a letter to the House sergeant at arms requesting a planning session, as if the speech were still on the calendar, writing, "Given we have lost valuable time over the past week, my team would like to reschedule the walk-through for this Monday, if at all possible."

[18:10:10]

The White House has even considered the possibility of holding a rally outside the Washington if both sides can't reach an agreement. The brinksmanship is escalating as Senate leaders bicker over rival plans to reopen the government and all seem dead on arrival.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The opportunity to end all this is staring us right in the face. That's why we will vote on this legislation on the Senate floor this week.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The American people know that President Trump is responsible for the shutdown. And now they have learned that Leader McConnell is a co-conspirator in the shutdown.

ACOSTA: Meanwhile, some of the federal employees actually dealing with the impact of the shutdown, like FBI agents, are warning real- world consequences may be looming.

THOMAS O'CONNOR, PRESIDENT, FBI AGENTS ASSOCIATION: The failure to fund the FBI undermines essential operations such as those designated to combat crimes against children, drug and gang crimes and terrorism.

ACOSTA: With the shutdown now more than a month-long, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the World Economic Forum in Davos that he hopes the standoff will be over soon, even though there appears to be no end in sight.

QUESTION: When is the shutdown over?

(LAUGHTER)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We all hope that it will end quickly. I hope that we get this one resolved in relatively short order.

ACOSTA: A new book written by a West Wing insider is painting a picture of White House dysfunction even when the government is open.

In his book "Team of Vipers," former White House aide Cliff Sims describes a situation that is out of control, including one moment when Mr. Trump lashed out at former House Speaker Paul Ryan for criticizing the president's handling of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville.

According to the book, the president claimed he had helped the speaker in the past, saying -- quote -- "You were out there dying like a dog, Paul, like a dog."

The book appears to be the kind of leaking the president has blasted in the past, like when he tweeted last year: "Leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are."

One White House official who isn't offering much information these days is White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who hasn't held a briefing in more than a month. The president says he is behind that decision, tweeting: "The reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the podium much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely and inaccurately, in particular, certain members of the press. I told her not to bother. The word gets out anyway. Most will never cover us fairly, and hence the term fake news."

QUESTION: The last we checked, there has not been one held this year, Hogan. Is there any plans to start that back up again or see Sarah Sanders back up at the podium?

GIDLEY: She's going to come back when she finds a reason to do that, because so often it's so funny, because the media often tell us that when Sarah Sanders stands right behind me at this podium, why can't we hear from the president?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And there was not a White House briefing earlier today.

Now, the White House did lose a bargaining chip in its battle over the wall when the Supreme Court declined to get involved in the legal fight over the fate of the young undocumented immigrants known as the dreamers.

Had the Supreme Court gone along with the president's plan to end that program, he could have leveraged that decision to obtain funding for his wall. But that didn't happen.

Meanwhile, estimates are coming in that the cost of the shutdown will soon exceed the price tag for the president's wall on the border. The financial research firm S&P says the cost of the shutdown to the economy will hit $6 billion by the end of this week. That's more than what the president has requested for his wall -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All very, very sad.

Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Let's get back to the Russia investigation right now.

We are joined by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

And let me start with the news that we have been reporting, that the special counsel is investigating the relationship between the Trump presidential campaign and the National Rifle Association.

Here is what you wrote in March of last year. Let me read it to our viewers.

"The majority refused to investigate whether Russian-linked interest intermediaries used the NRA to illegally funnel money to the Trump campaign, to open lines of communication with or approaches to Trump or his associates, and how those approaches may have informed Russia's active measures campaign as it unfolded throughout 2016."

You were then in the minority in the House Intelligence Committee. You're now in the majority. Have you seen any documents or heard any testimony that confirms those suspicions?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we certainly have had grounds for concern about how the Russians were using the NRA as a back channel.

And we never had the opportunity to look into some of the financial issues that you mentioned. The majority at the time took the view, essentially, that this was too hot for them to handle, that there was nothing to see here.

Well, we now know, via the special counsel's office, there was plenty to see here, that a Russian agent, a Russian asset in Maria Butina was, in fact, charged with making inroads for Russia through the NRA, one of the most influential organizations within the GOP sphere of politics, that is.

[18:15:05]

And there was a lot to learn in terms of those contacts. So this is something that we do intend to pursue. We ought to know everything we can find out about how the Russians have used some of these organizations as vectors of influence.

And, of course, it may be that this Russian gun rights counterpart -- because there's really no interest in gun rights in Russia -- was set up for the very purpose of infiltrating the NRA and showing some kind of like-minded organization on the Russian side of things.

BLITZER: So, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, specifically, what are the next steps you plan on doing to investigate this?

SCHIFF: Well, there are certainly documents we have wanted to obtain and there are witnesses that we have wanted to bring before our committee.

We will now have the opportunity to do both. And we're drawing up our investigative plan. The committee is not yet constituted. We're still waiting for the Republican members to be named. But we are eager to get started.

BLITZER: Maria Butina, the alleged Russian spy who infiltrated the NRA, she's now cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Have you asked for access to her or transcripts, for that matter, of her testimony?

SCHIFF: We have not taken that step yet. There are a number of people that have been cooperating with the special counsel that we would like to talk with.

But there are other witnesses also that have been implicated in this effort, some of whom are U.S. persons, and we certainly want to have the opportunity to talk with them.

BLITZER: Let's turn to the issue, Congressman, of Michael Cohen's false testimony to Congress. The president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani now says President Trump never directed Cohen to lie to Congress.

And Giuliani told "The New Yorker" magazine that he reviewed tapes, texts and e-mails to confirm that. But then he immediately said there were no tapes.

Are you aware of any tapes that would reveal the truth on this manner?

SCHIFF: Well, I don't know if there are tapes that go to whether the president coached Michael Cohen in any way in terms of his testimony.

But I have to say, if any other lawyer were doing what Rudy Giuliani is doing, it would be ample grounds for legal malpractice. But I think the reality is, he's not acting as the president's lawyer. He is acting as a spokesperson for the president's legal defense.

And I have to tell you, in my point of view, he is doing a terrible job. He seems to be in this perpetual cycle of, Trump never did X, then saying, well, even if he did X, what's the big deal, and then saying X is not a crime, and then saying, OK, even if X is a crime, what's the big deal about that, and then circling back to, I never said the Trump didn't do this.

I mean, it's just a crazy quilt of arguments. And I don't know if it reflects that he isn't talking to the president or he is, and the president continues to change his story, which we have seen in other aspects during the investigation. So either could be true.

BLITZER: As you know, Michael Cohen is set to testify before the House Oversight Committee on February 7.

But two key Republicans on that committee, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, they say they have been told that Cohen won't answer questions related to the issues that are still under investigation. So how much will Cohen's testimony actually resolve?

SCHIFF: Well, we plan to have him come before the Intelligence Committee in closed session. And it's our hope that we will be able to inquire into those areas he's not able to discuss in open session.

And, obviously, those are some of the matters that are core to the Russia investigation. We know that there are a couple areas that the special counsel has identified where he has provided important information that is central to our inquiry as well that goes to information he gleaned from people or documents at the Trump Organization, as well as contacts he had with the administration while all this was ongoing in 2017 and 2018, while the White House was, among other things, concocting false statements about the -- not the Russia Trump Tower deal, but the Trump Tower meeting in New York.

So there's a lot we want to ask him about. And it's our hope that we will get answers to this. After all, it's all too clear, from Bill Barr's testimony last week, there's no guarantee that the Justice Department is going to provide this information to Congress when the special counsel is concluded.

BLITZER: You say that you have set a date for Michael Cohen to come testify before your committee, either voluntarily or by subpoena, if necessary.

Have you heard back from Cohen and/or his lawyers?

SCHIFF: We have been in continual conversations with Mr. Cohen's lawyer.

And, at the end of the day, we would like his voluntary cooperation. But if we don't have a commitment in those -- in that regard, then we will use a subpoena. I can certainly understand the concern that he has, when the president of the United States is essentially threatening his family, which to me is another act of potential obstruction of justice.

[18:20:07]

But, at the end the day, we do need to get answers, either voluntarily or through subpoena.

BLITZER: Well, tell us specifically what you mean when the president is potentially involved in obstruction of justice by threatening Cohen's family.

SCHIFF: Well, the president of the United States is basically saying that the father-in-law -- Michael Cohen's father-in-law should be investigated.

This is an effort, I think quite simply, at witness intimidation, the witness being Michael Cohen. We have seen the president urge the Justice Department to investigate people. We have seen Bill Barr, his nominee for attorney general, at times suggest that it's OK for the president to suggest that people should be investigated. Well, when the purpose of that is a malign purpose, to intimidate or interfere with a witness who is being brought before Congress, that's a problem. To me, it just adds to the growing body of evidence that this president is attempting to obstruct justice.

BLITZER: Giuliani has also reversed course and denied that President Trump was involved in Trump Tower Moscow discussions all the way through Election Day, November 2016.

Is Giuliani having trouble getting his story straight, or do you see a specific strategy behind all of his conflicting comments?

SCHIFF: Honestly, I think at the root of this is a president who keeps changing his story.

So you had Giuliani saying that essentially Trump had told him that his talks on the Moscow Trump Tower deal went all the way from the beginning of the end to the end of the campaign.

Well, either that was true or it wasn't true. If that is true, it may very well be the president came down on him and said, why did you say that publicly? You need to go and clean that up somehow. And now Giuliani is saying that what he said was concrete is now hypothetical.

But let's not lose sight of this fact. Regardless of when that deal ended, at a time when Donald Trump was running for president, he was negotiating or attempting to negotiate a deal that, according to the special counsel, would have made him hundreds of millions of dollars. That would have been the most lucrative deal Donald Trump ever made.

And at the same time and during the same campaign, while he's denying these discussions are taking place, he is advocating relief from sanctions on Russia that would make Putin billions and Russia billions.

That is a staggering conflict of interest. For anyone else, it would be catastrophic. It ought to be catastrophic for this president as well.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, Congressman, I want to get you to respond to something that the president's son Donald Trump Jr. accused you of last night.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: Come out of testimony at about 8:00 at night looking, and CNN is running quotes from noon on about my testimony in the House Intelligence Committee.

I mean, that has to say something about what's going on in there. Since he's never met a camera he didn't love, I would bet a lot of money that it was him.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, you heard -- you get the point.

You want to respond?

SCHIFF: Sure. He's been making this claim all along.

What upsets Don Jr. -- and I can understand why he is upset -- is he was saying publicly, I'm fully cooperating with Congress, I'm answering all their questions.

And then he goes before our committee and refuses to answer a whole host of questions, making completely fallacious claims of privilege. And we called him out on it, as we have done with other witnesses.

Now, he calls that a leak, because we exposed the fact that he refused to answer questions and was making up some attorney-client privilege to cover conversations between he and his father, when neither is an attorney nor the client of the other.

So that's his upset. That's not a leak. It is exposure of his non- cooperation and his stonewalling of our committee.

BLITZER: So, specifically, when he says -- when he accuses you of leaking his testimony, leaking information, you're saying? Go ahead.

SCHIFF: Well, what I'm saying is, we have always maintained the position that, while we won't talk about the substance of a witness' testimony in closed session, we will reveal where they're non- cooperative, so that they cannot mislead the public into thinking that they're coming and answering all of our questions.

And that is not only a practice that we have had, but also my colleagues in the GOP have from time to time used the same practice. For example, when Steve Bannon came in and stonewalled our committee, they were more than willing to go out publicly and say, he's not answering our questions.

So that's been our practice, both Democrats and Republicans. Don Jr. may not like it, because he wants to maintain a facade of cooperation, but that is the reality.

BLITZER: So, just to be precise, yes or no, did you leak any of the information from his testimony?

SCHIFF: No, I don't leak.

But I do talk about witnesses who are not willing to cooperate. While I don't go into the substance of what they have this say, I do expose when they're making fraudulent claims of privilege.

[18:25:04]

BLITZER: Congressman Schiff, thanks so much for joining us.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I should say, Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it very much. We will get back to you.

Just ahead: What might the special counsel have learned about the Trump campaign and the NRA? Stand by for more on this breaking story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The breaking news tonight: a significant new revelation about the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, investigation.

Former Trump campaign Sam Nunberg tells CNN that when he was interviewed, Mueller's team expressed interest in the Trump campaign's relationship with the National Rifle Association during the 2016 race.

[18:30:09]

Let's get some more with our correspondents and our analysts. And, Gloria, what are the main concerns about a Trump-NRA relationship?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think that what Bob Mueller was interested in is finding out a little bit more about the NRA's ties to Russian nationals. We know that Maria Butina, who tried to get in with the NRA and cultivated relationships there, has now pled guilty essentially to being an operative on behalf of the Russians. We know that the NRA has raised $30 million on behalf of the Trump campaign. We know that the then candidate Trump spoke to the NRA in 2015 when he was running for office.

And so I think what the Special Counsel is trying to find out is was there any link between Russian nationals, the NRA and the Trump campaign.

BLITZER: And what else do you think Mueller and his team are investigating trying to probe?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: So nothing in that report that Sarah did earlier suggest that they have accused the NRA of any crimes. But Maria Butina and Aleksandr Torshin or Russian politicians were at that NRA convention 2015 when President Trump spoke before he was a candidate. They were at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2016. They popped up at lot of these republican events. And then, of course, Maria Butina was given a question in December of 2016 at one of President Trump's campaign or pre-campaign speeches specifically about the U.S. relationship with Russia. How in the world did that happen?

BLITZER: Yes, very intriguing indeed. Kaitlan, we're trying to make some sense out of Rudy Giuliani's recent statements over these past few days that his assertion that President Trump never told Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, to lie to Congress. Giuliani told the New Yorker Magazine this. I have been through all the tapes. I have been through all texts. I have been through all the emails and I knew none existed. The reporter for the New Yorker then followed up. "Wait, what tapes have you gone through?" Giuliani, "I shouldn't have said tapes." Giuliani then later in a separate phone conversation with our own Dana Bash said, "The President isn't pissed at all about Giuliani's confusing comments." So he's just trying - he just wants him to clarify all these comments. What are you hearing?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There aren't many things that the White House and Adam Schiff agree on. But as he just said to you, he doesn't think Rudy Giuliani is doing a good job and White House officials do not think Rudy Giuliani is doing the President any favors either. Comments like this have been happening ever since Rudy Giuliani was first brought on to make remark and he needs to go back and either clean up the mess or sometimes he's planting a seed, as he did with the hush money payments, because that's information that's going to be revealed later on.

The confusion over this remark to The New Yorker about saying that there're tapes, and then going back and saying, there aren't tapes, well, there are tapes but they don't concern this raise questions about Rudy Giuliani's other remarks where he'll say, well, I reviewed all of the evidence including the tapes that he's representing here that he says has nothing to do with Michael Cohen. But then when he's asked questions about the Trump Tower and Moscow timeline, he says he doesn't know all the details and can't answer. So it raises the question, if he's seen all this evidence and he has gone through all of this, how can he not answer pretty simple questions like what the timeline is.

BLITZER: Yes. Mark, your colleague at the New York Times also spoke with Rudy Giuliani and he described the term, tower-Moscow, conversations. And they're quoting the President, Rudy Giuliani is quoting the President as going on from the day I announced to the day I won, from the day I announced to the day I won. Giuliani later tried to clarify that in The New Yorker interview saying, "What I was talking about was if I had those conversations, they would not criminal." He didn't have the conversations lawyers argue in the alternative. If we went to court, we would say we don't have to prove it's true or not true because even if it's true, it's not criminal. That's confusing but does any of this add up?

MARK MAZZETTI, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think the significance is, first of all, that he's extending the timetable by months from what we knew about the Trump Tower negotiations. At first, it was, well, they ended before any republican primaries. Then they ended sometime in the summer, according to Mueller documents, when Cohen was involved in having these discussions about furthering the deal. Now, he says the - it went all the way up to the election.

And then the question, of course, is did they actually ever end? Did anything officially end or they put on the backburner, we still don't know. And, of course, the bigger picture, and this is what Adam Schiff raised, was you have the President a candidate trying to negotiate a very lucrative deal, at the same time, he's calling for sanctions relief, he is calling for - echoing Putin's talking points and so - and he's calling for hacked emails to be released. So it's quite significant, the sort of mix of personal and public.

[18:35:03]

BLITZER: Because he is speaking the first person, Rudy Giuliani quoting the President, going on, from the day I announced to the day I won. That would be in November 2016, not just through the summer but all the way until the elections.

MAZZETTI: And he is saying, this is what the President said to him.

BORGER: And you also have the President's attorneys who have done written answers to Bob Mueller and you don't know whether their written answers actually match with what Rudy Giuliani is now saying, and I think that's a headache for them.

But let me just say one thing about Rudy Giuliani. People at the White House may think he's doing a lousy job. There is one person at the White House that matters and that's Donald Trump. And Donald Trump trusts Rudy Giuliani, he likes Rudy Giuliani, he thinks he's out there fighting for him, no matter what he says, and if he stirs the pot and creates chaos. Well, who thrives in chaos? Donald Trump.

COLLINS: Yes. They don't seem to have a problem with them mudding the waters, just as what we've seen Rudy Giuliani do.

BLITZER: Everybody stick around, hold your thoughts for a moment. We've got to take a quick break. Much more on the breaking news, Kaitlan has some new information on what's going on inside the White House right now. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:49] BLITZER: There's more breaking news. We're following right now votes in the U.S. Senator that is scheduled for Thursday on two competing bills that will end the government shutdown, but neither is expected to get the necessary 60 votes needed to pass. And, Kaitlan, you're getting some new information on how the White House is dealing with all of this and some dissention inside.

COLLINS: So the government - the White House has had a communications problem for months now, but this government shutdown is really laying bare all the tensions that have existed. And a lot of that based on our reporting with nearly a dozen current and former White House officials goes back to the President not empowering one person to really lead the messaging strategy at the White House. And when we asked the White House about our reporting today, Sarah Sanders told me, the guy that's in charge of this messaging here is the President himself.

But behind the scenes, you have this kind of four-way rat race going on between not only Sarah Sanders but also Bill Shine, Kellyanne Conway and Mercedes Schlapp kind of all running around, they're all present in the meetings with the President holds, even from pretty mundane hurricane briefings to the meetings that they've had, these three meetings in the situation room with democrats trying to negotiate their way out of this shutdown.

But what we're told by sources is regardless of the fact that these four senior communications aides in these meetings, they don't feel that they have been able to develop some kind of cohesive strategy to help them really with the optics of the shutdown. And as you know, the President has been irritated by those polls that show most Americans are holding him responsible for the shutdown and not democrats.

So, really, that's been an existing problem they have had. Some of our reporting shows that the president thought bringing in Bill Shine, his former television executive, to be his communications director essentially was going to solve that. And the president thought he was going to get better coverage. But, of course, that's a thought that the President has had several times during his time in office.

And he's been complaining lately saying he doesn't think that Bill Shine has helped him. And even aides who thought perfect comms director for the president would be a former television executive have been somewhat disappointed by Bill Shine, because they say his strategy is largely consisted of calling Fox News host, booking officials on those shows, but they don't feel he is helping to expand their support outside of the people who already support the President.

BORGER: Sometimes when you have a message problem, you really have a problem problem. And the problem, it seems to me, is not the message and the communications strategy. It's the fact that the President of the United States came out and said, number one, he'd be happy to own any shutdown over the wall, and number two, there haven't been any real kind of negotiations or movement and the president is still insisting on this wall, which a majority of the American public doesn't support. Yes, you can blame Bill Shine, you can blame Sarah Sanders, you can blame anyone you want, but the President won't look at himself, of course, and he does have a problem because of the substance of what's being discussed.

BLITZER: The buck stops with everybody, Gloria, not with like - but this president, he is really the communications director. He wants to control everything. He tweeted today that Sarah Sanders is not doing her briefings because the press covers her so rudely and inaccurately. She doesn't talk to the press from that podium anymore in the West Wing of the White House. But the President, he is pretty available. He goes out there and talks all the time.

MAZZETTI: Right. And as Gloria said, he has taken ownership of the shutdown and its ripple effects, the ripple effects are real. The longer it goes on, the longer it has actually economic impact, not just in Washington, but in missed paychecks, in loss of consumer confidence. I mean, this falls right at the doorstep of the White House. So however you want to communicate, you've got a problem here if you've already owned the problems. And so that's something that the longer this goes on, the bigger the problem is.

BLITZER: Do you think the President has lost confidence in Sarah Sanders that's why for a month now, she hasn't gone out and briefed the press from the White House briefing room?

SWERDLICK: I think it's a couple of things, Wolf. I think the President still thinks he is his own best spokesperson even though he does rely on Press Secretary Sanders sometimes. I also think it's the case that he knows and the entire White House staff knows that every time you go in front of the White House press corps, you are not just going to get questions about what you want to message on, you're going to get questions about what Giuliani said, you're going to get questions about Special Counsel investigation, and they haven't had good answers for those.

[18:45:06] BLITZER: Yes.

COLLINS: Yes, and to that, when Sean Spicer was the press secretary, the president told him to stop doing briefings because he thought every time he did it, the coverage got worse. But the president likes Sarah Sanders. It's a very good relationship and he likes seeing her on TV, just not in briefings.

BORGER: Where else would it be?

COLLINS: Television interviews.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around. There's more news we're following.

An American man appears in a Moscow courtroom as his lawyer reveals the alleged evidence that has Russia calling him a spy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:50:13] BLITZER: We're learning new details of the case against an American man accused by Russia of spying.

Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is joining us live from Moscow.

Fred, you were there when Paul Whelan appeared before a Russian court today. What happened?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was the first time, Wolf, that we saw Paul Whelan since he was arrested here in Moscow at the end of December. He seemed to be in half decent spirits, trying to smile every once in a while, but certainly, very much aware of the gravity of the situation which has now become a lot tougher as Russians denied him bail. Here's what we learned.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Tonight, American Paul Whelan remains in Russian detention, forced to stand in a glass cell as a judge shot down his request for release on bail while he awaits his espionage trial.

REPORTER: Are you being treated okay, Mr. Whelan?

PLEITGEN: Paul Whelan not allowed to answer CNN's questions behind bullet proof glass in the high security courtroom.

Whelan was detained by Russia intelligence service, the FSB, in his hotel room in central Moscow in late December and charged with espionage. His lawyer saying he was given a classified flash drive. VLADIMIR ZHEREBENKOV, LAWYER FOR PAUL WHELAN (through translator):

Paul received information and I confirm the information is classified as state secretive information on a flash drive. In reality, Paul was expecting to receive from an individual information of a cultural nature, him attending one of the cathedrals, Paul's vacation photos.

PLEITGEN: Paul Whelan's lawyers says he was misled into taking the classified information, but the attorney defending the investigation.

REPORTER: Do you think it's going to be a fair trial?

ZHEREBENKOV: The process was very constructive and professional. Whelan's rights were observed.

PLEITGEN: But the attorney also admitted that so far the defense has only been able see about 5 percent of the evidence available in this case.

ZHEREBENKOV: The investigators failed to prove Paul's position, specifically, he did not view this information as state secrets.

PLEITGEN: Some are speculating Russia pay have taken Paul Whelan as a possible bargaining chip, perhaps to exchange him for a high Russia profile in American detention, like Maria Butina, who has admitted to working as a foreign agent inside the U.S. Russia vehemently denies the allegations, but Paul Whelan's family continues to call for his release.

While we still lack any details from the Russian government about why Paul is thought to be a spy and who provided him with the alleged state secret the family statement reads, we are certain he was entrapped and is not guilty of espionage.

After being denied bail, Paul Whelan's hardship in a Russian jail continues. His attorney saying it could be months before his trial even begins.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: The State Department coming out tonight as well, Wolf, calling on Russia to provide for a swift, fair and transparent judicial process, Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us, thank you.

Just ahead, a new sign of how severely the government shutdown is impacting the TSA. It's a CNN exclusive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:58:01] BLITZER: Now, a CNN exclusive, a disturbing sign the TSA is being stretched thin as the government shutdown continues.

CNN's Rene Marsh is working the story for us.

Rene, the agency is, what, now, pleading for help? RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are. CNN

obtained this e-mail obtained by a TSA executive Monday morning. In this e-mail, TSA is making a plea for 250 volunteer officers who were deployed to airports struggling with the excessive callouts due to the shutdown. Now, the e-mail says the volunteers are needed for deployment over the next week. And the e-mail was sent to TSA officials in more than ten states with more than 100 airports.

And this is a clear indication that the agency is bracing for staffing shortfalls to get worse as federal employees prepared to miss a second paycheck, and that will happen on Friday. Now, the volunteers would presumably come from airports that haven't faced the strain from callouts in order to help airports that have. As you know, CNN has already reported many back-up TSA officers have been deployed to Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta, Newark, as well as New York's JFK.

But this is just the latest example of increasing anxiety within the agency about the rising number of callouts the number of TSA officers calling out from work has grown in recent days. Over the weekend, we saw that it was more than three times what it was a year ago. And so far this week, more than double the percentage of what it was a year ago.

So, clearly, staffing is still top of mind for this agency as this shutdown continues.

BLITZER: Where are they going to get the money to pay for these employees, these TSA employees, to travel from airport to airport? They have to stay overnight. It's not cheap.

MARSH: Exactly. It certainly is going to cost them thousands of dollars to deploy this force to help with staffing. TSA says that they have money that's appropriated specifically for situations as far like life and death. And they consider this one of those security situations.

BLITZER: They've got to end the shutdown, they've got to go quickly, because there is a lot at stake.

Rene, good reporting. Thank you very, very much.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.