Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Intel Chiefs Contradict Trump on National Threats; Roger Stone Pleads Not Guilty to 7 Charges; Poll: Majority of Americans Would Not Vote for Trump; Interview with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 29, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show, @TheLeadCNN. We actually read them. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, contradicting Trump. The nation's intelligence chiefs publicly contradict the president on threats posed to America by ISIS, North Korea and Russia. And the Senate Republican leader publicly calls for U.S. troops to stay in Syria and Afghanistan. Does the president have an answer?

Roger and plea. Roger Stone pleads not guilty to seven criminal charges ranging from witness tampering to obstruction. Could the long-time Trump loyalist still break with the president and cooperate with the Mueller investigation?

Voting for someone else. President Trump brags about his popularity among Republicans, but he may want to take another look. A new poll shows one in three Republicans and those leaving Republican would like the GOP to nominate someone else.

And below zero. Tens of millions face sub-zero temperatures as Arctic air brings misery and danger to a quarter of the U.S. population. Why the worse is yet to come.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

One after another today, America's intelligence chiefs contradicted President Trump on the threats facing the United States. From Russia to Iran, North Korea and ISIS, the intelligence community's assessment, outlined in public testimony, differs sharply from the president's own declarations.

Even the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, today issued a sharp rebuke to the president by pushing an amendment urging that U.S. troops stay in Syria and Afghanistan.

That comes a as President Trump's long-time ally, Roger Stone, appeared in a federal courtroom, pleading not guilty to criminal charges stemming from Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, ranging from witness tampering to obstruction.

I'll speak with the House majority leader, Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by with full coverage.

Let's begin with our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the president is facing some very public repudiation from his intelligence chiefs and a leader of his own party.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He sure is, Wolf.

The president stayed behind closed doors today for the fourth straight day. The White House has not yet responded to members of the president's own intelligence community, pointedly contradicting Mr. Trump over and over, as you said, on critical national security issues from ISIS, to North Korea, to Russia.

The contradictions raised the question, a critical question: who should the public believe, the president or the leaders of the intelligence community?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): The nation's top intelligence chiefs delivered sobering warnings on global threats to the U.S., contradicting President Trump at nearly every turn.

Director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, told lawmakers the terror group ISIS remains a potent threat.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Remaining pockets of ISIS and opposition fighters will continue, we agree, we assess, to stoke violence. ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.

ACOSTA: The reality-based assessment stood in stark contrast with the president's rosier claims.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have won against ISIS. We've beaten them, and we've beaten them badly.

ACOSTA: Coats also seemed to differ with the president on North Korea, six months after Mr. Trump tweeted that "There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea." Coats told Congress that's not quite the case.

That reality check coming just weeks before the president is set to meet once again with dictator Kim Jong-un.

COATS: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.

ACOSTA: On Russian interference in U.S. elections, FBI Director Chris Wray said Moscow has yet to curb its behavior, inspiring other countries to follow the Kremlin's lead.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Not only have the Russians continued do it in 2018, but we've seen indication that they're continuing to adapt their model and that other countries are taking a very interested eye in that approach.

ACOSTA: Don't tell the president, who sided with Vladimir Putin on that question last July.

TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

ACOSTA: The president is also meeting resistance from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who warned the White House its plans to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan could backfire.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We're not the world's policemen, but we are the leader of the free world.

ACOSTA: Part of the problem for the president: his sagging poll numbers, with 56 percent of registered voters in a "Washington Post"/ABC News poll saying they will definitely not vote for Mr. Trump. And one in three Republican and GOP-leaning voters wishing the party would pick another candidate.

[17:05:12] The president's political team is advising him to hold his ground on his border wall, even as a former Trump Organization official told CNN not to expect "The Art of the Deal" to save the day before another government shutdown next month.

BARBARA RES, FORMER EVP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: There's no documentation that says Donald Trump was a great deal maker. He's made good deals, and he's made bad deals. He's caved more often than I can tell you.

ACOSTA: Former White House aide Cliff Sims says in his new book that Mr. Trump has a tendency to exaggerate.

CLIFF SIMS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: When you're around the president, everything seems bigger, everything seems grander. You know, and that could be -- there could be good things about that. But there is also kind of this -- this atmosphere that gets created that's extremely cutthroat.

ACOSTA: The president appears to have had enough of White House tell- alls, tweeting about Sims that "He pretended to be an insider when, in fact, he was nothing more than a gofer. He signed a nondisclosure agreement. He is a mess!"

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: He is a mess.

SIMS: There it is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And there it is. The Trump campaign sounds like they're ready to throw the book at its former aide with one former official tweeting, the campaign is preparing to file a lawsuit against Sims for violating that nondisclosure agreement with the campaign.

But that seems to be the least of the president's problems right now, as his own top intelligence officials are simply telling the Congress and really the rest of the world, Wolf, that they simply don't agree with the president's world view on an array of very important and critical national security issues -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. What a day on Capitol Hill. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Let's turn to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

Jim, the nation's intelligence chiefs publicly, repeatedly contradicting the president on so many of the key national security issues facing the country. How significant is that?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's really hard to imagine a bigger void between a sitting president and the U.S. intelligence community. And keep in mind: these are all Trump appointees that were sitting across that table there during those hearings.

And beyond contradicting, what may be more disturbing is that it exposes many of Donald Trump's claims about the most serious national security threats to this country. Exposes those claims as just not based on intelligence or the facts as the U.S. intelligence community sees them.

Let's go through the list. ISIS, the president says it's defeated. U.S. intelligence community says its intelligence is that there are thousands of ISIS fighters still in Iraq and Syria, and that they will exploit any reduction kin pressure on them to strengthen.

North Korea, not just that it is not denuking today, but that it will not denuke. That it sees nuclear weapons as essential to its survival.

Iran, the intelligence community saying that Iran, still to this day, complying with the nuclear agreement, despite the U.S. withdrawal, despite the president's many claims that it is not. Intelligence community contradicting him on that.

On Russia, as you know and we've said many times, the president has doubted the intelligence community's assessment about Russia's interference in the 2016 election. But set that aside. You had Dan Coats there today, saying forget 2016. They're interfering in 2018 and 2020 again. And you're not seeing the response from this president to that.

Finally, on climate change, you're well aware the president often raising doubts about climate change, but the I.C. way ahead of the president on this, saying not only is it real but it's already causing national security threats to this country.

One thing, Wolf, I don't have to tell you, missing from that list today from those intelligence chiefs, what they were briefing about as the primary threats, was the southern border. They did not list that anywhere as a major threat, despite the president's claims of a national emergency. So what was behind this truth-speaking to those senators and to the

nation? Listen to what Dan Coats said, the director of national intelligence, at the start of his comments, because it was telling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COATS: I have told our work force over and over that our mission was to seek the truth and speak the truth. And we work to enhance, to agree with and enforce that mission on a daily basis.

I want our people to get up in the morning to work to think that this is what our job is, despite the swirl of politics that swirls around not only the capital but the world. Our mission is to keep our heads down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Didn't mention the president in that swirl of politics around the capital, but we know presidents direct a lot of his ire at the intelligence community.

Just one final thought, Wolf. Another thing that those intelligence chiefs talked about is that America's closest allies adjusting to America's positions here, seeking to be more independent, because they can't rely on the U.S. in the same way as they did in the past. That also a concern they cited today. It was a sobering briefing, for sure.

BLITZER: Yes. So many areas, as you point out, Jim, where the president and the intelligence community, the U.S. intelligence chiefs, are on very very different pages, raising the question, is they any area where they significantly agree on anything? It's a real problem.

SCIUTTO: It is. Well, the one it may be is China, frankly, because China often at the top of the list. And that is where you see this administration being very tough, going after Huawei, a Chinese state enterprise; certainly in trade negotiations, as well.

On the other threats, though, on very different pages.

BLITZER: It's amazing when you think about it. All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

President Trump's long-time ally,ro friend and confident Roger Stone, he was here in Washington in a federal courtroom today, pleading not guilty to seven criminal charges tying to Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. So what happened in court today, Evan, and what's next for Stone?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: As advertised, Roger Stone pleaded not guilty, Wolf, to these charges, these seven counts that he's facing. Very serious charges ranging from obstruction, witness tampering, to false statements.

He was very respectful once he got inside the courtroom. We saw a little bit of a smirk on his face as he was entering the courtroom there. You see video of him.

And then there was this plan that he and his lawyers had set up for him to speak to the media. You know, one of his favorite things, as we've seen in the last few days, since he was arrested on Friday is to do this media tour. He wanted to speak to the cameras. But there was a bit of a circus atmosphere outside.

He managed to get his trademark Nixon victory sign. That's about all he managed to do. But he was being sort of overcome by the crowd, shouting "Lock him up" and other things like that. So he decided to forgo that and ended up going to speak to some conservative media. But we expect that he's going to be back in court on Friday.

BLITZER: The former Stone employee, a guy by the name of Andrew Miller, he's fighting a subpoena from Mueller and his team to appear before a federal grand jury. And we learned that Mueller still wants him to appear, so what does that suggest? More indictments on the way? Maybe some more problems for Stone himself?

PEREZ: Right. I think that there is a very high possibility there's more to come for Roger Stone. The lawyers for Andrew Miller, who has been fighting this subpoena from the Mueller investigation, said that they were told that they are still seeking his testimony.

Now, what this means -- this could mean is that they're still trying to gather evidence that they believe, the prosecutors believe, will be used in a superseding indictment. More charges against Roger Stone.

We've seen this. They did this in the Paul Manafort case, for instance. They brought initial charges and then they superseded it with additional charges. So that is a very, very big possibility here for Roger Stone.

Obviously, we're going to get a better idea, perhaps, on Friday when he sees this judge for the first time that's going to be handling his case, whether or not he's going to be allowed to continue his media tour, whether -- how long this trial, how long it will be before he goes on trial. Perhaps it will be months, maybe a year.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a pretty tough federal judge that's going to be presiding on Friday at this hearing.

PEREZ: She does not -- does not take kindly to this kind of a display.

BLITZER: She doesn't indeed. All right. Thanks very much, Evan, for that report.

Joining us now, the House majority leader, Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

Leader, thank you so much for joining us. REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: You bet, Wolf. Glad to be

with you.

BLITZER: All right. Let's begin with today's global threat -- threat assessment from the nation's top intelligence chiefs. On several occasions, they directly contradicted the president. Do you believe President Trump is deliberately ignoring what the intelligence leadership of the United States is telling him?

HOYER: Frankly, what I think the president does is he states facts to conform to his beliefs, as opposed to having his beliefs based upon facts. That's very disappointing, and it's also very dangerous.

And I think Director Coats's presentation today and your reporter just pointed out how, on almost every national security challenge, the president is in denial or has a different view than the intelligence community. And that's unfortunate. I t's not good for the country. And, as you pointed out, it's not good for allies, because they don't think they can rely on us, which is dangerous for them and for us.

BLITZER: You've been in Washington for a long time. I've been around for a long time. I don't remember a time where a president has so publicly disagreed with what the intelligence leadership is telling him. Do you remember a time like that?

HOYER: I do not. Under either Republican or Democratic presidents, I think they all respect it. That doesn't mean they agreed on every policy move that resulted from the facts, but at least they agreed that they were the facts that the intelligence community, in good faith and with very careful research, had advised the country and the president of. Again, it's very disappointing, and I think it's unprecedented.

BLITZER: I suspect it is unprecedented. But let's turn to the ongoing negotiations to try to avoid another government shutdown. Would House Democrats offer any amount of funding for some sort of border wall or steel barriers or significant fencing, if it meant significant concessions for -- from the president?

HOYER: Well, first of all, obviously, this is going to be up to the conferees. But Ms. Roybal-Allard, who is the chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, has put proposals on the table which would be billions of dollars to try to beef up security at the border.

[17:15:06] We want border security. We support border security. And obviously, the other side is going to put on the table their proposals, which are going to include some sort of barriers that they believe are necessary. And the conferees are going to discuss that. I don't want to prejudge what they're going to do.

But I am convinced, knowing the people who are on the conference committee, that they're going to look at each other's proposals honestly and with a view towards coming to agreement.

Because I think we all agree that shutting down the government is not a good policy. It undermines the committee, obviously, federal employees, but it undermines the economy and undermines the confidence of business community and the confidence of our allies.

So I believe there's going to be very good faith negotiations. and I think one of the things that we know in a democracy, you've got to get to a compromise. Both sides have to feel like they've gotten something that they think is important.

So we'll see what happens. I don't want to prejudge it. But I think the conferees are going to be open to discussion of the other's view.

BLITZER: Let's see if they can work out some sort of deal.

The White House, as you know, does not have a representative at these -- these negotiations that are underway right now. Bicameral, bipartisan. Do you worry that the president might, in the end, shoot down a potential compromised hammered off by these Democrats and Republicans?

HOYER: Well, I think, Wolf, you have to worry about that. Because the United States Senate plans the resolution that would have kept the government open and funded the government through February 8. And they thought the president was for that. And by the time it got to the House, the president indicated he was not for it and, unfortunately, the House did not pass it. Therefore, I don't think you can be sure.

But what the process is, the legislature makes policy. And it sends that policy to the president. He can agree with it or he can veto it and send it back to us for further action.

But there is no doubt that the president is going to be in touch with members of the conference committee from his side of the aisle, I'm sure, and his legislative people are going to be in touch. That's the way it happens.

As you know, I was on the Appropriations Committee for many many years. And obviously, you're in touch with the administration, and you know, if it's not your administration, that they're in touch with the conferees and, very frankly, many times in touch with you.

So I'm sure the White House is going to be watching this. The issue is whether or not, if they say they agree, that they stick with what they agreed to.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens. The stakes are clearly enormous right now. The House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, thanks for joining us.

HOYER: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, from ISIS to Iran, from Russia to North Korea, the nation's intelligence chiefs publicly contradicting President Trump on the global threats to the United States. Is he listening?

And President Trump's long-time ally, Roger Stone, pleads not guilty to seven criminal charges in the Mueller investigation. Does the special counsel have more charges to file?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:22:27] BLITZER: During a rather sobering hearing up on Capitol Hill today, top members of the U.S. intelligence community gave lawmakers very candid assessments of the threats posed by ISIS, North Korea, Iran, Russia and China. Time and again, their warnings contradicted claims made by President Trump.

Let's ask our political, legal, and national security experts about what we heard.

And Samantha Vinograd, it was really stark. I'm going to play some clips right now from what we heard over these past few months from the president and what the intelligence leadership said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have won against ISIS. We've beaten them, and we've beaten them badly.

COATS: ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.

TRUMP: Chairman Kim, we have a great chemistry. And we're well on our way. You know, we signed an agreement. It said we will begin the immediate denuclearization.

COATS: North Korea will seek to retain the WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.

TRUMP: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

WRAY: Not only the Russians continue to do it in 2018, but we've seen indication that they're continuing to adapt their model.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what do you think, Sam? What do you think of that disconnect?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it really reaffirms to our enemies that their strategy of going straight to the president and not not working with the rest of his team is probably a pretty good one to continue following.

But Wolf, intelligent policy relies on intelligence. That's why every National Security Council meeting that I sat in with the president started with an intelligence briefing to set a baseline of facts so that the president could decide what to do on a policy perspective and whether to make any adjustments.

We learned today that the intelligence community does not think several of President Trump's policies are working. North Korea is not denuclearizing. ISIS is still strong. And a responsible president, in this situation, wouldn't criticize his intelligence community. He would sit back and say, "How should I change what I'm doing based upon what was publicly unveiled today, in the interests of national security?"

I don't expect that from this president, but that would be the responsible move right now.

BLITZER: This is a president, though, Gloria, we all know he has said, "I know more than the generals."

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And he knows more than his intelligence officials, obviously. Don't forget: he also agreed -- disagreed with them initially on Russia and whether Russia was hacking the election. So that's kind of the context of all of this.

But you look at, for example, Syria. The president didn't consult anybody, or so it seems.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Erdogan.

BORGER: And now -- Right. And now you have a move in Congress led by Mitch McConnell to undo -- Mitch McConnell, of all people, the leader of the Republicans -- to undo what the president did in Syria.

[17:25:19] So I think this was kind of par for the course here. I don't know what the president thought, watching these people. They decided to tell the truth to Congress.

And one thing they did not mention was any huge threat at the southern border, if you'll recall. That was just completely not a part of this threat assessment.

BLITZER: How do you think, Bianna, foreign adversaries like Kim Jong- un or Vladimir Putin, they're watching what's going on here in Washington? How do you think they are reacting?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this works right into their play books. I mean, look, you could really categorize today as Helsinki, part two, just in reverse.

You heard from the intelligence community their reaction to what the president said last summer in Helsinki. In addition to Mitch McConnell and his security advisors contradicting him on whether they view the U.S. should right now leave Syria and pull troops out of Afghanistan. None of his advisers agree with him either, whether it's his national security advisor, defense secretary. Defense secretary actually resigned in protest.

The only person who seems to agree with that policy would be Vladimir Putin, and I was interested in the fact that Dan Coats today, when asked about that two-hour private meeting in Helsinki, said that he wouldn't answer it in a public hearing; that he would give more detail in a closed hearing.

BLITZER: What did you think, Laura?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, just think about the idea that the notion of public hearing that they did not show deference to the president of the United States, because they were that against policies. You could foresee people like that saying, "You know what? Let's not address it publicly. Let me not, essentially, shame in public," and saying "what the president has said is so off-kilter that I don't want to disrespect them."

Well, they were very adamant, probably because they knew they had a responsibility and also because the reasons they're talking about: that it was important; it was more important to tell the truth than to placate the president of the United States. That's very telling about what their view of him is.

BLITZER: You've to give these intelligence chiefs a lot of credit for saying what they said, knowing that the president disagrees with them. Everybody, stick around. There's much more coming up. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We are back with our experts. You know the Russia investigation, the special counsel, is still trying to get testimony before a grand jury for a Stone employee, a guy by the name of Andrew Miller.

[17:32:13] What does that signal to you? He's resisting. Mueller wants him to appear. Does that suggest more indictments, potentially, are on the way?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It absolutely does to me. The idea that -- remember about a year and a half ago, 17 months ago, you had Ty Cobb thinking everything was going to wrap up quickly. We are still in the midst of people being optimistic that this is going to end quickly, but as long as you have people that Mueller still wants to question; and they are still fighting subpoena power and still fighting the opportunity to go in front of the grand jury, it leads me to believe that, one, Mueller still has an interest in the information and he will give and he can't get it otherwise.

You still know that rick someone like Rick Gates has an outstanding cooperation agreement. Meaning his time under their thumb has not ended.

You've got Jerome Corsi who at one point, declined a plea offer a couple of months ago to one count of perjury. And we realize that, if a prosecutor is going to give you a plea offer, they had information to convict you in some way. They're doing you a favor. So there's an elongation of all of this.

And of course, Andrew Miller gives another example of somebody where you know if Mueller is still interested, then there must be more information to come.

And finally, Roger Stone, when they raided his home and they pulled out electronic devices and communications, that takes time to review. The idea that they would have everything in advance and still issue and execute a search warrant on someone's home, to have it all wrapped up neatly in a bow in a matter of days, is really a fare. We are in for a longer period of time. And largely because of the missteps of the people that he's interested in talking to.

BLITZER: Do you think there could be more charges against Stone?

COATES: There could be. There also could be a superseding indictment, which is a way of correcting the initial indictment to add more charges, sometimes to take away, to allow the grand jury, who has new evidence of a claim, to change their charges. When you have the acquisition of new material, like search warrant documents, electronic data, e-mails, telephones, whatever it was tucked in from the home, there may be more information and more opportunities to charge that person. That's all forthcoming. The combination of an indictment and an executed search warrant says that they still know there's more out there, and they're going to find it.

BORGER: And don't forget: Miller used to work for Roger Stone. So that's why they want to talk to him. I don't think they want to indict him. I think it's all about Roger.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Gloria, because yesterday, Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general, said that the report from Mueller -- and he says he's been fully briefed on the investigation -- is close to being completed. So what does that mean?

BORGER: It's hard to say. First of all, we're not used to anybody in charge of an investigation or involved in an investigation talking about the state of the investigation. So we're all kind of surprised when he answered the question.

Then he started to answer the question. And you could see him sweat, because he realized he shouldn't be answering it. And he was talking about his previous writings on the investigation, which he said was from public documents and that -- and that that would be reviewed perhaps, but we -- if he says it's going to be over, the question that I have is why was he briefed?

[17:35:14] You know, did Rod Rosenstein brief him and for what reason? Or was he sending a message to the -- to Mueller, "Hurry this up," a little bit of pressure? Or was he sending a message to the president, "Don't worry. It's going to be fine"? We just don't know --

BLITZER: We don't know if Whitaker briefed the president.

BORGER: We have -- we don't know. And we don't know why Whitaker got briefed.

BLITZER: Yes, you wanted to --

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I was going to say, all the more reason not to have not on acting attorney general at the Department of Justice right now. Right?

BORGER: Because Barr is going to be the one --

BLITZER: Should the Democrats allow the speedy confirmation pf Bill Barr to become the attorney general?

VINOGRAD: I think that all members should let this go forward. It's in line with the Constitution, for starters. We should not have acting cabinet secretaries of these various departments and agencies.

And there's also, as you both just referenced, the very real fact that Whitaker has made public comments that really color how he's treating this investigation and a serious misstep yesterday: commenting on an ongoing investigation --

BORGER: Oops.

VINOGRAD: -- a counterintelligence investigation, is more than an "oops" moment, yes.

BLITZER: It's a big "oops" moment. Bianna, go ahead.

GOLODRYGA: It was an awkward moment, to say the least. And you look at Chris Wray, who's a professional and was attempting to have a poker face there, but you can even see his sort of surprise by what Whitaker had said.

And if I could just go back to Roger Stone, what will be really interesting in following this case, particularly his ties to WikiLeaks, is remember what then-CIA director Mike Pompeo said and what he called WikiLeaks. And he said it was a nonstate hostile intelligence agency.

So when you have somebody who's now the secretary of state, someone who's in the president's inner circle, saying things and categorizing WikiLeaks in such a way, it's going to be really interesting to see how the president reacts.

BORGER: Well, we have the president saying, "I love WikiLeaks." Remember that?

COATES: And urging them to provide what they actually did.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: Do you think he knew at the time that the U.S. intelligence community saw WikiLeaks as a cutout of the Russian military intelligence unit, the GRU?

COATES: Well, I think the president would be very clear that WikiLeaks was not a friend of the United States of America. He was running for president at the time. He said this. You would wonder if somebody who was running for president wouldn't be aware that there was a tumultuous relationship between the United States and WikiLeaks. He invited them to influence the election by providing information of an e-mail sort of e-mail dumps or even to go out and find deleted e- mails from Hillary Clinton's server. He invited a foreign entity to influence the United States elections. And so even that moment, if he didn't realize what Mike Pompeo, how he

would characterize it precisely, surely he knew in his gut and his mind and his common sense vessel it was a problem.

BORGER: Well he was getting intelligence briefings.

VINOGRAD: Right. He had an intelligence briefing. It was public sector information.

But let's also just focus on the now -- then-CIA director Pompeo made that point about WikiLeaks. We know that at least the special counsel believes that members of the Trump campaign were directed to tell Roger Stone to communicate with that hostile intelligence service.

There's a very strong chance that Secretary of State Pompeo is currently in classified meetings in the situation room with people that may have been involved in that effort to contact WikiLeaks. That is a huge counterintelligence risk, coupled with the fact that we have multiple people at the White House who have top-secret clearances that shouldn't have them for counterintelligence purposes. This is a perfect storm from a counterintelligence standpoint.

GOLODRYGA: And you talk about -- and you talk about the president publicly saying, "I love WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, release the e-mails," what have you. Imagine the outrage, had none of that been public, if we just found out later that this was all happening privately and not in the public.

So the fact that this is something that the president announced during the campaign and on television may make it seem a bit more benign, but it still is shocking, to say the least.

BLITZER: And Pompeo, when he was CIA director, minced no words that Russian military intelligence, the GRU, was using WikiLeaks as a so- called cut-out.

All right. Everybody stand by. There's more news. Millions across the United States are at risk right now, due to a life-threatening cold wave. Stand by for the latest forecast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:46] BLITZER: Tonight, the coldest air in a generation is pouring across the upper Midwest and heading South and East. Eighty- three million people, about a quarter of the U.S. population, will face subzero temperatures as the week goes on.

Let's get the latest from CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar.

Allison, where will the worst cold be tonight?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's going to be mainly focused across areas of the Midwest. Just what you talked about.

Here's a look at our current temperatures and current windchills. Keep in mind, these numbers are only going to keep dropping. Minneapolis right now, the temperature is minus 15. The feels like temperature is minus 44.

Chicago, the temperature is 2, but it feels like it's minus 19.

That frigid air is is going to continue to push South and East over the next 48 hours, allowing more people to really get in on some of that cold air.

You're talking about potentially 15 cities with record lows. Tomorrow morning, that expands into over 20 cities once we get to Thursday morning.

Now, again, here's a look at where we have the windchills. We're talking wind chills of minus 30 to minus 60. Keep in mind, Grand Forks has already recorded a wind chill reading of minus 61 already. And you have to understand that those temperatures are just going to go down over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Here's a look. You already mentioned, Wolf, about temperatures below zero. You've got 83 million people. But to show you how widespread this is, look at the blue area.

That's all the locations where temperatures will be at or below freezing. That's over 200 million. That's about three-quarters of the population. And, yes, you're even going to have below freezing temperatures for portions of Florida tonight, including Tallahassee.

But it's the long term. Look at Minneapolis, for example. Tomorrow morning's low, minus 26. Thursday morning as well, minus 31. Chicago, very similar, both in the minus 23 to 25 range over the next couple of days.

That feels like temperature is so important because when we get to those numbers of minus 30, minus 40, frostbite can set in in as little as five minutes. Again, that's why a lot of these schools out there have been closing, not so much for the snow. It's because they don't want those kids standing out at those bus stops, Wolf, for 10, 20 minutes when that frostbite could set in before that time.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it's a serious, serious situation even here in Washington. The federal government has told workers they can leave two hours early today because it's going to get really, really cold here in the nation's capital as well.

Allison Chinchar, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, a top U.S. intelligence official sounds an ominous new warning about Kim Jong-un's weapons of mass destruction. Is President Trump being fooled by North Korea's brutal dictator?

And as Trump ally Roger Stone goes to court to plead not guilty to seven crimes, the Special Counsel's team signals Stone could face even more charges.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:18] BLITZER: President Trump has been touting progress on North Korean denuclearization ahead of an expected second summit with Kim Jong-un next month, but his own intelligence chief seems to take a sharply different view.

Our Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us. A rather surprising public break with the President?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, surprising that it is so public and stark a contradiction. But as we know, the intelligence community has been opposing the President on other security issues.

Today, America's top-ranking spy delivered a sobering take on Kim Jong-un and the likelihood that he's going to hold on to his nuclear weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In a bold break with President Trump, America's intelligence chief Dan Coats said, today, the violent North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, will probably have weapons of mass destruction at his fingertips for the foreseeable future.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently assessed that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.

TODD (voice-over): It's an assessment which comes just days after one of President Trump's more optimistic pronouncements about his efforts to get Kim to give up his nuclear weapons and missiles.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No rockets. There's no rockets. There's no anything.

We're doing very well. I've indirectly spoken to Chairman Kim. And when I came here, this country was headed to war with North Korea, and now we have a very good dialogue going.

TODD (voice-over): Coats told senators today that dialogue does seem to be paying off.

COATS: North Korea has not conducted any nuclear-capable missile or nuclear tests in more than a year, and it has dismantled some of its nuclear infrastructure.

TODD (voice-over): Weapons experts agree, saying there are indications that Kim may have halted, at least temporarily, his production of some nuclear material, like plutonium. But they believe he is charging ahead with other capabilities.

KELSEY DAVENPORT, DIRECTOR OF NONPROLIFERATION POLICY, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: There are indications that North Korea may still be enriching uranium. Uranium can be used as a fuel for nuclear weapons. North Korea is also likely continuing to develop ballistic missiles. There is significant activity at North Korea's ballistic missile sites. TODD (voice-over): Recently, Kim declared that his country would no

longer create or test nuclear weapons. Analysts say that could simply be because he's already built an arsenal that could threaten the U.S. and his other rivals.

DAVENPORT: It's likely that North Korea has produced enough fissile material for about 30 to 60 warheads and has perhaps assembled about 20 of those into actual weapons.

TODD (voice-over): As for the assessment that Kim views nuclear weapons as critical to his regime's survival, analysts say that's in the dictator's DNA, that he believes those weapons enable him to intimidate his neighbors and protect his regime from attacks. And they say, for that reason, total denuclearization of North Korea is a bit of a pipe dream.

JOSHUA POLLACK, SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES AT MONTEREY: I think they are interested in getting to zero at the same time that the rest of the world gets to zero.

TODD (voice-over): Meantime, the CIA Director is hinting Kim and his circle could be playing a double game, building their weapons in secret while talking to President Trump.

GINA HASPEL, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I think our analysts would assess that they value the dialogue with the United States, and we do see indications that Kim Jong-un is trying to navigate a path toward some kind of a better future for the North Korean people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But with Kim Jong-un, with dialogue will also come deception. U.S. officials have told CNN that no matter what comes of his nuclear negotiations with the United States, Kim will always try to hide his nuclear weapons capability and his nuclear infrastructure.

[17:55:03] Now, today, responding to that stark assessment from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a White House spokesman told CNN their goal is to get Kim to completely draw down his nuclear arsenal as he agreed to in Singapore. They're hinting this is really a continuing dialogue, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much for that report.

Coming up, the nation's intelligence chiefs publicly contradict the President on the threats posed to America by ISIS, Iran, and Russia. And the Senate Republican leader publicly calls for U.S. troops to stay in Syria and Afghanistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:00:00]