Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Jr.'s Mystery Phone Calls Explained?; Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Trump Expresses More Doubts About Intel Chiefs; Twelve Dead, Millions Trapped in Historic, Sub-Zero Temperatures; GOP-Led Senate Rebukes Trump's Syria, Afghanistan Withdrawal Plans. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 31, 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: Happening now, breaking news: wall or nothing. President Trump is rejecting any deal with Democrats unless he gets funding for his wall, even as negotiators are trying to find a compromise. Is there any hope of avoiding a second government shutdown?

Rare rebuke. A new vote by the Republican-led Senate shows overwhelming opposition to the president's push to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, this as Mr. Trump is making surprising new claims about his differences with his own intelligence chiefs.

Voluminous and complex. As Roger Stone is about to return to court, the special counsel lays out the vast amount of evidence against the invited ally of the president. Tonight, we're also learning that calls that Donald Trump Jr. made around the time of the Trump Tower meeting were not with his father.

And still fighting. CNN has exclusive new video of ISIS in action, battling U.S. forces and undermining President Trump's claim that the terror group has been defeated.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the president's disputes with members of his own team on global policy.

Tonight, he's trying to paper over his disagreements with his intel chiefs, claiming they were misquoted during public testimony in which they clearly contradicted him, this as the Republican-led Senate showed overwhelming support for a rebuke of Mr. Trump's troop withdrawal plans in Syria and Afghanistan.

At the same time, Mr. Trump is growing more entrenched in his battle with Democrats over his border wall, dismissing any compromise that doesn't include wall funding.

Also breaking, CNN has learned that Senate investigators have obtained new information. It shows that Donald Trump Jr.'s mysterious phone calls around the 2016 Trump Tower meeting were not with this father, as so many had speculated.

I will get reaction from Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a member of the Judiciary and Armed Services committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.

Pamela, you were in the Oval Office with the president just a little while ago. What's the latest?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And so, tonight, President Trump said to me in the Oval Office that his intel chiefs were misquoted and taken out of context during their recent congressional testimony that contradicted him on several key issues.

I pressed him on that because video shows that testimony. So it's unclear how he can say that they were misquoted. And he also dodged that and says the fact that they didn't bring up the border during the national security assessment to Congress does not undermine that it's a crisis, as he says.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump is saying that he is back on the same page with his intelligence chiefs, claiming they told him they were misquoted and taken out of context, after contradicting the president earlier this week.

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you talk to your intelligence chiefs today about the displeasure you had with their testimony to Congress?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did, and they said that they were totally misquoted and they were totally -- it was taken out of context. So what I would do is, I would suggest that you call them. They said it was fake news.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Well, we just ran exactly what they said to Congress.

TRUMP: Excuse me.

BROWN: But the intelligent chiefs were not misquoted, their testimony aired publicly.

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: ISIS into intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.

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.

BROWN: President Trump taking exception Wednesday morning, expressing his displeasure with what they said, even calling them -- quote -- "naive" on Twitter.

That rip, for now, seems to be patched up, and President Trump is digging in on his fight for a border wall.

TRUMP: I'm not saying this as a Republican. I'm not saying it as anything other than a fact stated. Without a wall, it just doesn't work.

BROWN: Calling out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while the bipartisan negotiations for funding border security continue.

TRUMP: If you go to Tijuana and you take down that wall, you will have so many people coming into our country that Nancy Pelosi will be begging for a wall. She will be begging for a wall.

BROWN: Trump responding to Pelosi's earlier declaration Thursday.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There's not going to be any wall money in the legislation.

BROWN: The powerful pair engaged in a back and forth, both defiant.

TRUMP: If there's no wall, it doesn't work. She's just playing games. So, if there's no wall, it doesn't work.

BROWN: The president already discounting the negotiations just two days in. White House officials say the president continues to make preparations for a national emergency order to get the wall built.

[18:05:01]

TRUMP: I'm not waiting for this committee. And I have told a lot of people I don't expect much coming out of the committee. I don't think they're going to make a deal. I see what's happening. They're all saying, oh, let's do this, but we're not giving one dime for the wall.

BROWN: And over 3,000 active-duty troops will be deployed to the southern border, in addition to the 2,300 troops already there, multiple defense officials tell CNN.

Some Republican leaders are also splitting with the president on foreign policy matters.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The threat that ISIS and al Qaeda pose are global.

BROWN: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's amendment calling for U.S. troops to stay in Syria passed today, an acknowledgement that ISIS continues to pose grave threats to the U.S., despite Trump claiming otherwise.

The president juggling another potentially grave threat, North Korea, hyping the much-anticipated second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: For the meetings with North Korea, we're going to a certain location. I think most of you know where the location is. I don't think it's any great secret. But we will be announcing the location and the date, the exact date. It'll be at the end of February.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And the White House has released this picture today of President Trump with his intel chiefs, Gina Haspel of the CIA, Dan Coats of DNI.

This is a typical scene during the intelligence briefing. But, of course, what makes this so unique is it comes a day after the president tweeted that those intel chiefs need to go back to school and called them naive.

Today, he is now saying that actually they were in agreement. And, Wolf, I have been speaking to intelligence sources today who said, of course they don't like it when the president makes comments about their intel chiefs like he did yesterday. But I'm told that they are pressing forward. And it's certainly not as demoralizing as it was when the president compared the intelligence community to Nazi Germany a while back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I remember that as well.

Pamela, I want you to stay with us as we turn to breaking news on the Russia investigation.

We're getting new information about the mysterious phone calls made by Donald Trump Jr. around the time of the now infamous Trump Tower meeting in New York with the Russians back in 2016.

Pam, I want to bring in our CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

Evan, what are you learning right now?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is one of those tantalizing mysteries for certainly during the past year that Senate Intelligence investigators have been trying to get to the bottom of these mysterious phone calls that were exchanged between Donald Trump and someone with a blocked phone number around the time that he was arranging this June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians.

We now know the Senate investigators have obtained information explaining at least some of those phone calls. And the phone calls apparently were not to Donald Trump Jr.'s father, to then candidate Donald Trump.

This was something that certainly Democratic lawmakers were trying to figure out, because they thought that this might explain that Donald Trump Jr. might have given his father an indication of what was happening with this Trump Tower meeting. We will show you again the record, the phone records. These are from June 6 of 2016. There were a couple of phone calls around the time that Donald Trump Jr. was talking to Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop star who had played a role in helping to set up these meetings.

And then there was a third phone call on June 9. This is the day of the Trump Tower meeting. Again, these phone records show these phone calls to be private, to be blocked numbers. And so the Democratic lawmakers, Wolf, that have been trying to get to the bottom of exactly what was happening here were asking the question, who were those phone calls to?

Were they phone calls to Donald Trump -- to his father, to Donald Trump, the candidate at the time? And according to the information that the investigators have now received, we now know that it wasn't to the then candidate Donald Trump.

We do not know the identity of who these people were. We are told by sources that these were to Donald Trump Jr.'s business associates at the time. Again, we don't know exactly what was discussed in those phone calls. And we don't know whether they had anything to do with the Russia investigation.

But we certainly now know that it didn't have anything to do with then candidate Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Because we do know Democrats were focusing a lot of their attention on those mysterious phone calls.

So what are the implications of this?

PEREZ: Well, look, this is an important detail to try to figure out, because, again, they have been trying to figure out -- the investigators in the Senate have been trying to figure out whether or not there's any proof that Donald Trump Jr. or anyone who was involved in that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting told then candidate Trump about what was going on.

Did he know in advance that they were having this meeting with Russians to try to get dirt on Hillary Clinton and to try to get dirt on -- for the help of the campaign? And so this at least puts the rest this one possible explanation.

It does not, Wolf, fully explain whether or not there was any other way in which people who participated in the meeting were able to get word to Donald Trump, the candidate.

We should note that Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyers have declined to comment on this. And we should also note that the president has always said that he didn't know anything about the Trump Tower meeting at the time that it was happening.

[18:10:01]

BLITZER: Pamela, the -- why is all this coming out right now? Because, clearly, this issue could have been put to rest a long time ago.

BROWN: That's right. And that's been one of the questions raised because, of course, Don Jr. testified to Congress a while ago.

But what we are told from sources is that it was the Senate Intel Committee that went to the telephone company to try to uncover these numbers, these blocked numbers that were showing up on Don Jr'.s call logs.

And they just received that information from the telephone company just recently. So that is why it is just now coming to light. We should note that Don Jr. just tweeted about this recently too, retweeting my colleague Manu Raju, who worked on the story with me, saying: "More of the Democrats' fake news narrative disappearing before their eyes. I wonder how many more false leaks will pop now to keep their dreams alive?"

So no doubt about it, Wolf, this is a good story for Don Jr. It does put some of that speculation to rest. But as Evan pointed out, there are still some outstanding questions. As he pointed out, there are other ways that the meeting could have been communicating to Donald Trump.

And we still don't know what the substance of those conversations were with those two business associates that have not been identified -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good reporting. Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, guys, thanks very, very much.

Now to another angle of the Russia investigation, the indictment of the president's longtime adviser Roger Stone. As Stone faces another court hearing tomorrow here in Washington, Robert Mueller's team is revealing the extensive amount of material collected for its criminal case.

Let's go to our political correspondent, Sara Murray.

Sara, the special counsel describes the evidence as -- quote -- "voluminous and complex."

How damaging could this extensive cache really be?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't think we know the answer to that, Wolf.

I mean, obviously, they had a lot of evidence before they brought this indictment against Roger Stone. But then when they were arresting him, when they brought this indictment, they also searched his properties in Florida, as well as an office space he has there, as well as an apartment in New York.

And now they're saying look, there is voluminous and complex evidence in this case before he appears in court on Friday. They're saying that there are terabytes of data and there are Apple iCloud accounts, there are e-mail accounts, there's bank and financial records, there are computers and phones, hard drives, other electronic devices.

And so I think it'll be a while before we get a sense of exactly how much evidence the government has in this case, but it certainly gives you a sense of what the government as well as Roger Stone's attorneys are going to spend the next couple of weeks and months poring over -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How was Mueller's team trying to prevent leaks of all this information?

MURRAY: Well, they're moving forward as you would in a case like this, which is to push for a protective order when it comes to sharing this evidence with Roger Stone's attorneys. And this is something that both sides are poised to agree to. It's something that judge has to sign off on.

But it's something you would expect. They don't want to be in a position where Mueller's team is sharing evidence with Roger Stone's attorneys to prepare for a trial, and then see that evidence showing up on the news or elsewhere on the Internet.

And so this is what we expect will be something that the judge signs off on and would agree to. And, again, Roger Stone is going to be in court here in Washington, D.C., tomorrow afternoon. So we will get a better sense of sort of what other issues both the defense and the government are already grappling with in this case, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And we will obviously have a lot of coverage of that tomorrow.

Sara Murray, thanks very much.

Joining us now, a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Russia investigation, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. He also serves on the Armed Services Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for coming in.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you.

BLITZER: So what's your reaction to the news that CNN broke that Donald Trump Jr.'s mysterious phone calls before and after the Trump Tower meeting were not -- repeat -- not with his father?

BLUMENTHAL: It really deepens the mystery. Who was called?

But also it's hardly the only occasion that Donald Trump Jr. had to communicate the before-and-after facts to his father.

BLITZER: We're told, by the way, that those phone calls were to business associates, two business associates that Donald Trump Jr. had.

BLUMENTHAL: And the question is, whom did they tell possibly about the Trump Tower meeting that was going to occur or after it occurred? It was in Trump Tower. And Donald Trump, the father, was in Trump Tower on that very day, at that very time. So he may have been told about it some other way.

But here's the main point. The American public deserves the full story. And Robert Mueller will be developing that full story. The report that he is compiling should be made available to the American people. That's the reason that I have submitted legislation, along with a Republican colleague, Senator Grassley, to make fully public the report that special counsel Mueller is doing.

BLITZER: He testified, Donald Trump Jr., before your committee. I assume you were there.

BLUMENTHAL: I was in the room when Donald Trump Jr. appeared, and he could not recall whom he called. He denied that he had told his father about that meeting.

But then, subsequently, he and Donald Trump, the president, compiled a very deceptive false statement explaining the meeting as dealing only with Russian adoption.

[18:15:07]

So, the communication between father and son here has yet to be fully...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Oh, so he never said these phone calls were with business associates; he simply said he couldn't remember who he called?

BLUMENTHAL: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on to Roger Stone.

The special counsel now has a ton of new evidence that they have collected, cell phones, computers, e-mails, financial records. What does that tell you about where this investigation is heading?

BLUMENTHAL: What that report tells me is that Robert Mueller is nowhere near done.

This investigation has a ways to go before there is any conclusion, not to mention any report. Special counsel Mueller is uncovering a lot of evidence from Roger Stone. And there may be more, because that locale was only one of the places where Roger Stone may have evidence and that may have been recovered, not to mention others who may be indicted.

And I would predict, although I have no inside information, I should emphasize, that there will be other indictments, very significant ones.

BLITZER: Soon?

BLUMENTHAL: I would guess soon.

But, again, the only one who really knows, for better or worse, and probably for better, is Robert Mueller.

BLITZER: Who do you suspect might be indicted?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, I think speculation here is inappropriate, but perhaps members of the president's family, other members of his campaign team.

BLITZER: Do you know of others who may have lied to your committee?

BLUMENTHAL: I believe that there are serious questions about Donald Trump Jr.'s appearance before our committee.

I was in that room. I heard his responses to questions, not only on who was called in those blocked conversations, but also other questions about what his father knew, when he knew it, and similar questions about arranging the Trump Tower Jr. meeting, and remember also his conversations with WikiLeaks, the direct messages to WikiLeaks, in advance of the release of the stolen information by the Russians through WikiLeaks.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting the Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, lied to your committee under oath, which is obviously a crime, and potentially he could be charged?

BLUMENTHAL: I'm suggesting there are serious questions. He needs to come back before the committee. He ought to be subpoenaed to come back.

I have asked the chairman of the committee, Senator -- Senator Graham -- it was Senator Grassley -- to subpoena him if necessary. I think there is a serious possibility. He certainly faces exposure for some of the answers that he gave our committee.

BLITZER: But do you think Robert Mueller and his team are thinking, are considering indicting Donald Trump Jr.?

BLUMENTHAL: I would not be at all surprised if there is consideration.

He is a potential target. He may have lied before our committee. And a number of the other indictments, no secret, pertain to lying to Congress, whether it's Flynn or Cohen or now Roger Stone.

BLITZER: But Mueller would go to a whole different level, with all due respect to Manafort and Flynn and Michael Cohen and Roger Stone, all of them.

You start indicting the president's son and going after the Trump Organization and his family, that raises the stakes dramatically.

BLUMENTHAL: And that's why I'm not suggesting that he is on the verge or that he will in fact ever indict Donald Trump Jr. But those responses that he gave to our committee certainly raise

questions about his credibility. And, ultimately, Robert Mueller in his report to the American people -- and I want it to be made public -- will have the full story, or at least as close to a comprehensive story as we can have.

This latest report, while important, simply deepens the mystery.

BLITZER: Very significant statements you're making, indeed. And we're obviously going to follow up.

Let's get to the other major news we're following. All of a sudden today, the president says his top intelligence chiefs, in his words, were totally misquoted by the reporting that emerged when they testified before the Senate on global threats, worldwide threats facing the United States, and clearly differed with the president and some of the most sensitive issues out there.

The president now says they told him those reports were fake news, even though it's all on camera and it's all videotape.

BLUMENTHAL: It's all there in living color.

And many of those statements were made reading from a text that, as you well know, had been cleared at multiple levels within the intelligence community.

So these were carefully crafted statements made in real time by the very heads of our intelligence community as part of the annual worldwide threat assessment, a yearly assessment made about the threats to this nation.

[18:20:07]

And they said ISIS is a continuing threat, the Russians are continuing to meddle, Iran is complying with the JCPOA. And the other kinds of statements made by the president are subject to serious question.

I don't know how they could have said they were misquoted.

BLITZER: Very quickly, I want your reaction.

The Senate today voted 68-23, 68-23, and the Republicans were voting in favor of this resolution to not withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, a total rebuke of the president's position.

Your reaction to that, because this is pretty dramatic? Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, the majority leader, was leading this effort to go -- to go against the president's position.

BLUMENTHAL: A stunning rebuke and a bipartisan one, showing, I think, some cracks in the Republican armor that maybe the president is relying on, because what they are facing is a chaotic and confused non-policy from the president that changes from day to day, and a common apprehension that our alliances and our troops may be in danger from this claim that ISIS is completely defeated. What this resolution asks is very simply that there be a strategy and a plan. It's lacking now. And it puts our alliances and our allies in danger, particularly the Kurds. It undermines our fight against terrorism around the world.

And that's why it was bipartisan, and such an overwhelming and stunning rebuke.

BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks so much for coming in.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead: the breaking news on Donald Trump Jr.'s mysterious phone calls. Even if he didn't call his father around the Trump Tower meeting, could the president have known about it anyway?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:26:27]

BLITZER: We're following a lot of breaking news, including exclusive new information about the Senate's Russia investigation.

Sources now telling CNN that investigations have -- investigators have been told that Donald Trump Jr.'s mysterious phone calls around the 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York were not, those phone calls were not with his father.

Let's bring in our analysts.

And, Gloria Borger, how significant is this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is good news for Donald Trump Jr., I would have to say, because those phone calls were considered very problematic, because the big question is, what did Donald Trump know about the Russia meeting and when did he know it?

And since those calls came from a blocked number -- they were with a blocked number -- there was a lot of presumption that it was with then candidate Trump.

And so the reporting from Pamela and Manu really shows that in fact it wasn't. It doesn't mean that he didn't walk upstairs and talk to his father. It didn't mean that they never had any conversations about it, but it does -- it does settle this mystery.

BLITZER: You heard -- and, Jeffrey, you heard Senator Blumenthal suggest it's possible that Mueller might in the end go ahead and actually indict or charge Donald Trump Jr. potentially for lying when he testified before the Senate.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that is possible. And one thing that's been certainly very noticeable is that the Mueller team has never asked to interview Donald Trump Jr., which seems like a very significant omission. Another person that they never sought to interview was Roger Stone, and now we know because he was going to be indicted.

One of the customs of the Justice Department is, you don't interview or try to interview targets. Now, that doesn't mean that Donald Trump Jr. is going to be indicted. But it certainly suggests the possibility.

But I do think we should emphasize, we talk a lot about incriminating things that went on with the president and with his family. This is a very important exculpatory piece of information that came out today.

This is, you know, something that a lot of us had a lot of suspicion about. Isn't this something that Donald Trump Jr. reported to his father about the Trump Tower meeting on the phone? He had a blocked phone number.

And this is not what happened. Now, this doesn't settle all the issues, but I think we need to be clear that this is good news for Donald Trump Jr. and this is good news for Donald Trump.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: You know, Kaitlan, you cover the White House for us.

What do you think would happen if Mueller decided to indict the president's -- so how would the president react if Donald Trump Jr. were charged?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think we have actually had that hypothetical conversation with White House officials, people close to the president, and they said it would essentially be a red line for the president, they think, because he has communicated as much.

Clearly, we know the president has been irritated by this probe, frustrated about it. He lashes out at it, sometimes very early in the morning.

But they do -- most people around the president do believe that, if it came close enough to where it affected anyone in his family, especially including Donald Trump Jr., that then it would be -- kind of like you never know what could -- it would be hard to predict what the president's reaction would be, because people do believe it would be so explosive.

BORGER: But I also think it's important to keep that there are a couple -- there are -- there's more than one investigation right now.

There's the Mueller investigation, and then there are the Southern District of New York investigations that are going on about, for example, the Trump Organization.

[18:30:00]

So, you know, if there are any issues with -- with the children, for example, it might -- it might not -- it might be that Mueller believes that that's not within his charge. And that - and you - we've seen that he is - he shuttled a bunch stuff off to other prosecutors.

BLITZER: Yes. And also investigations going on, the U.S. attorney in the district of Columbia as well. So how do you see it, David?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: So, again, clearly, this is good news from the point of view of Donald Trump Jr. That being said, there was still a meeting in Trump Tower with him, Natalia Veselnitskaya, that was based off of an email he got from Rob Goldstone about information that Donald Trump Jr. said in emails, "if it's what I think it is, I love it." Right. that's the quote, right.

And then so you have that. You have the fact that Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner at this meeting, reportedly. And then you have the fact that we still don't know exactly what went on on Air Force 1 with the statement that the White House gave in response to this initially. So I don't think - so no crime has been proven but I don't think Donald Trump Jr. is out of the woods.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, as far as Roger Stone is concerned, Mueller has charged him. He's going to be appearing in a federal courthouse in Washington tomorrow. We now have been told that there are multiple hard drives, cellphones, emails, financial records that - Mueller has a ton of information, terabytes of information involving Roger Stone. The President on an interview with The Daily Caller said, Stone's crimes are just process crimes. And if you don't recall something the President says, and I'm quoting him now, a lot of people can understand that. So do you think the president is really concerned about what's going on with Roger Stone?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's been a tactic the President used before. Essentially, he believes that investigators try to trick people into lying, asking about the weather. That's an example the President uses. And, of course, they're asking, did you contact with this person? Did you have an email about this?

And as they said, and they laid out in that indictment, they alleged that Roger Stone not only lied about it but he totally mischaracterized things. He said he didn't talk to someone over email, but then they had the emails, things of that nature. But that's an argument that the President is making.

And you can continue to expect the President not only to make that but also we have seen Roger Stone mount a big defense coming out publically after he was indicted, speaking to the crowd, saying as much after that first court appearance. And you can expect that to continue along with a slew of interviews.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeffrey.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, can I just say this phrase, process crime. I've been around the criminal justice system my whole career. I never heard this phrase until about a month ago. This idea that, well, that's just a process crime. That doesn't count. What is that? I mean, that doesn't make any sense.

And you know what a process crime is? It's a crime. There are people in prison for it. The idea that these are somehow like little baby crimes and they don't count. I mean, it's just ridiculous.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, you have covered Roger Stone for years, that film, that documentary about Roger Stone. You appeared throughout that entire film. So you know this guy. You know him well. Where they say they have terabytes of information, tons of information, is he the type of guy, knowing he is being investigated over the past year or two, he would keep anything all that sensitive?

TOOBIN: One of the things that is true of all people these days is we keep a lot more than we think we keep. And the difficulty of getting rid of anything electronic, an email, a record, backup, it's just very difficult. I don't know. I mean, I have pity on the people who are going to have to go through all of that. They are going to have to listen to Roger Stone's abuse of other people and all the terrible sexist, awful things he always says.

But whether there is actually incriminating stuff there, I really just don't know. And they're going to have to - and it's just another example why this investigation isn't over. Think how long it's going to take the FBI to go through all this.

BLITZER: Yes, it's going to be a ton of information. Everybody stick around. There is more breaking news we're following right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:00]

[18:38:36] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts. As the president is trying to paper over his disagreements with his intel chiefs claiming they were misquoted during public testimony up on Capitol Hill, in which they clearly contradicted the President.

Gloria, I want you to listen to this exchange that our own Pamela Brown had in the Oval Office with the President just a little while ago. It's jaw dropping.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, did you talk to your intelligence chiefs today about the displeasure you had with their testimony?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did. And they said that they were totally misquoted and they were totally - it was taken out of context. So what I do is I would suggest you call them. They said it was fake news, so which frankly didn't surprise me.

BROWN: No. We just ran exactly what they said Congress. TRUMP: Excuse me. It didn't surprise me at all. But we're here to talk right now about China.

BROWN: Did the fact they didn't bring up the border as the world threat assessment, did that undermined or undercut what you have said that there's a crisis at the border?

TRUMP: We didn't undermine anything. We need a wall. And if we don't have a wall, we're never going to have security for our country.

BROWN: But they didn't bring it up as part of the national security assessment.

TRUMP: Next.

BROWN: Does that undercut --

TRUMP: Please --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He cut her off. And let me play a few clips. This is what the intelligence chiefs actually told the Senators. And remember, you lie during congressional testimony, that's a crime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria. North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.

[18:40:02]

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Not only have the Russians continued to do it there 2018, but we have seen an indication they are continuing to adapt their model.

BLITZER: Clearly, that's not fake news. That's what they said.

BORGER: Right. And can you imagine all these people saying that was fake news, first of all, to the President?

BLITZER: No.

BORGER: And it's alternative facts. There is no other way to describe it, so I'll quote that phrase. We watched it. You just watched it on television, where that ISIS is not going to give up, it's still a threat. North Korea is not going to denuclearize. There is no way to misinterpret those words. They could not have been clearer.

Now, the President, who watches a lot of television, may have just watched clips of this and not the entire hearing and he was angry about it, as Kaitlan has reported. But it's nonsensical to say that this is fake news and that they were taken out of context. We just watched it. It wasn't out of context.

BLITZER: And when the President, Kaitlan - when the President, Kaitlan, heard it, he said these guys, these intelligence chiefs are extremely passive and naive and perhaps these intelligence chiefs should go back to school. Now, all of sudden, he is saying they were misquoted and it's fake news.

COLLINS: And so how that all came about is that the President didn't watch their actual testimony in full. He got up the next morning. He was watching coverage that said, intelligence chiefs contradict trump on North Korea, Iran and ISIS. And then they played those clips that you played, not the full context, but they still played the clips. That gets the message across. Dan Coats is saying North Korea is unlikely to completely denuclearize has not changed by anything else he said in his testimony. He said that, yes, they have halted some of their most provocative behavior, but he couched it saying, they are still unlikely to give up Weapons.

So the President is saying that and our reporting showed that essentially the President was more irritated with the coverage than the idea they contradicted him, because these are people who brief the President on a daily basis. He knows what Dan Coats thinks about Iran, North Korea and ISIS.

BORGER: Well, does he listen?

COLLINS: But the idea that there's a headline in The New York Times, The Washington post that says they contradicted him, that's what irritated

him.

BLITZER: Well, they clearly did. Jeffrey, you wanted to say --

TOOBIN: No. Well, no. I just - I hate to disagree with Ms. Gloria. But she said there's no way to describe this except alternative facts. I think there is another way to describe it. It's just lying.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: It's lying about what went on yesterday. It's lying about what he was told that day by his subordinates. I mean, the idea that these intelligent, respectable people would say that was fake news, I mean, that's got to be a lie.

BLITZER: David?

BORGER: It's nonsensical, I always called it, right?

SWERDLICK: Yes. I mean, the President has tried to spin and dissemble so much over time on so many issues that now when he's there with Pamela in the Oval trying to spin this, it's hard for anyone to take that seriously. There are the specific disagreements about Syria and Iran and about North Korea. But the bigger problem in addition to what Kaitlan was just reporting is also that this completely undercuts the President's narrative going all the way back to 2016 that he was going to fix everything quickly and all his predecessors were stupid and these things were easy to solve.

COLLINS: And I think the real thing is not just the President, what he said today that they were misquoted. It's that what we saw is what these intelligence chiefs laid out. We saw how that differs from the President and what he tells the nation. And, clearly, even though they brief the President regularly, this is our intelligence, this is what it shows, the President's mind has not changed on these subjects.

BORGER: And these are his people. Let's point that out that they didn't fall from somewhere and just get those jobs. He replaced them with the people he --

BLITZER: But earlier in the day, the President said, I disagree with certain things they said. I think I am right, but time will prove that. Probably time will prove me, right, probably.

BORGER: So you'd like to know --

BLITZER: Right. Standby and hold your thought for a moment because there's more news we have to get to.

Millions of Americans are forced indoors as a deadly deep freeze keeps much of the country in its icy grip. Is there any relief in sight?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:48:40] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: At least 12 people are dead from the historic and brutal cold blasting much of the United States. Millions of Americans trapped indoors or potentially risking their lives in subzero temperatures in the negative double digits.

Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is in CNN weather center for us.

Jennifer, so what are the conditions like now and what can we expect in the hours ahead?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, temperatures are inching closer and closer to that zero mark, getting a little bit warmer. Chicago should finally hit zero by 9:00 or 10:00 tonight for first time since Tuesday. And so, beyond this, we will continue this rapid warm-up over the next couple of days. In fact, we are going to see possibly more than a 70-degree temperature swing in Chicago, in about five days. So, its' going to be very dramatic.

Chicago feeling like 2 below by 9:30 tonight, even though the actual temperature should actually be above zero. Minneapolis, 20 below is what you will feel like later tonight. Still feeling very, very cold. But compared to the temperatures we've had over the last couple of days, it will be a bit of an improvement.

By tomorrow evening, Chicago should feel like 13 degrees. Minneapolis finally feeling like temperatures are above zero. Cleveland, 13 by Saturday morning.

And so, look at this warm-up. Chicago, today was 2 below. And then we have 22 on Friday, 42 on Saturday. [18:50:00] That's about a 20-degree warm-up each day. It's going to

be extremely rapid. Minneapolis was 3 below today, will be 20 on tomorrow, and 37 by Saturday.

Take Chicago, for example, Wednesday's low was 23 below zero. Coldest since 1994. We will be at 51 degrees by Monday. That is a 74 degree climb in just five days.

And so, with that, Wolf, not only will it be incredibly refreshing, it will feel like summer in Chicago. But we could have some problems. Like ice jam with such a rapid thaw like this and then also if those streets don't warm up, and get above freezing, and they get rain in the next couple of days, that could freeze on the surface.

So, a couple things to look out for, but all in all, temperatures are going to be warmer and I think people will be rejoicing for that.

BLITZER: They certainly will be. All right, Jennifer, thank you very much.

Just ahead, an exclusive new look at ISIS fighters. They are waging war in Syria and not, repeat not, appearing defeated as President Trump has claimed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:55:41] BLITZER: Tonight, as the Senate rebukes the president's plan to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, we're getting an exclusive new look at the ongoing ISIS threat in Syria.

Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is joining us from neighboring Lebanon right now.

Ben, we have some extraordinary new video of U.S.-backed forces battling die hard ISIS fighters. Update our viewers.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. This is footage we obtained from a cameraman who we've been working with for quite some time. And what you see is that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which one stretched from western Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad has now been reduced to a tiny spot of land along the Euphrates River. But this last battle is very difficult as you will see in this footage.

But we must warn our viewers that some of the images in this report may be disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): They're planning their next move in the final showdown with the last remnants of ISIS. Commander (INAUDIBLE) of the Syrian Democratic Forces is leading his men on a night operation. Their progress lit by flares into the last stronghold of what was the so-called Islamic State, now reduced to a remote and ever shrinking sliver of land along the Euphrates River in Eastern Syria.

At first light, coalition aircraft begin to bomb. As troops venture into the town of Sosa (ph) or what's left of it.

With the help of artillery and airplanes, we were able to take control of the base, the soldier tells the cameraman (INAUDIBLE) who shot this exclusive video for CNN. The soldier vows within ten days God willing, we'll finish.

It may take longer than that. ISIS isn't giving ground easily. They counter attacked.

Heavy machine gunfire didn't stop them.

(GUNFIRE)

The troops had to retreat.

By day's end, reinforcements arrived and they were back on the offensive. Not, however, without cost.

The next day starts with a mortar bombardment. The adjacent town of Marajda (ph) the objective.

On the edge of town, a soldier carries a baby. The family follows.

But the soldiers are weary. These last villages are full of ISIS's most hard core supporters. Everyone is treated with suspicion.

They order the young men to take off their shirts to show they're not concealing weapons or explosives.

This family's next destination, one of many camps out in the desert filling up with tens of thousands who have fled the fighting.

Civilians want to escape to safety, says this soldier, but ISIS threatens them with their weapons to go back so the coalition airplanes won't (ph) hit them.

Those who defied ISIS paid the ultimate price. Under these blankets, the soldiers say are eight children and two women killed while trying to escape. The images too gruesome to show.

The ISIS fighters did escape leaving behind weapons and ammunition. Yet the battle rages on. ISIS's last stand, its last battle, its last bastion will go down in a torrent of fire and blood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: And, of course, this is the last battle, perhaps, but the war against ISIS, wolf, is far from over.

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman reporting for us, thanks very much.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.