Return to Transcripts main page


More Problems For Manafort?; Trump Administration Using False Claims to Prop Up Border Wall?; Trump to Deliver Prime-Time Address. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 8, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

We begin with the prime-time pitch from the president that is expected to send fact-checkers into overdrive tonight. In fewer than six hours, the president is scheduled to give an eight-minute national address from the Oval Office to push his need for his border wall.

The question is, will it be convincing enough to stop this partial government shutdown from turning into the longest in U.S. history? Eighteen days in now, it has just unseated the 1987 shutdown for second place, and if no deal to fund the government happens by this Saturday, it will take the top spot.

But just as the president's words are about to get simultaneous multichannel exposure, his credibility is indeed in crisis. He and his top deputies continue to use false figures and misleading messages to promote said border wall.

Case in point, the vice president on ABC.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists were apprehended attempting to come in to the United States through various means in the last year

QUESTION: Overwhelmingly at airports, not at the border.

PENCE: Yes, but 3,000 special interest individuals, people with suspicious backgrounds that may suggest terrorist connections, were apprehended at our southern border. Last year alone, 17,000 individuals with criminal histories were apprehended at our southern border.


BALDWIN: Let's start right there.

Here he is. Ryan Nobles is with me.

And so, Ryan, what the vice president just said, fact-check that for me.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, the vice president made a number of points in that interview with ABC this morning, and many of these points being made by members of the administration over the past couple of days to make the argument for why they need to put a wall on the southern border.

But let's take a look what the vice president said. He said nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists were apprehended attempting to come into the United States through various means in the last year. Now, various means is important, because, keep in mind, the president's going to make the case tonight for beefing things up on the southern border.

Now, roughly a dozen individuals out of that 4,000, only about 12, were on the terror watch list that were encountered on the U.S. southern border. That comes from Customs and Border Protection. And of that 12, Brooke, only half were arrested crossing the southern border illegally.

The other half were prevented from entering at legal entry points. And they even push this had back even farther. This is from the administration, a State Department report back in 2016 where they specifically say that there are no known international terrorist organizations operating in Mexico.

And there's no credible information that any member of a terrorist groups has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States. But yet the administration, the vice president this morning still pushing this number of almost 4,000 known or suspected terrorists trying to enter the U.S. in 2017.

And you heard Jon Karl from ABC challenge the vice president on this 4,000 number, and the vice president responded with this quote: "He said, yes, but 3,000 special interest individuals," he called them, "people with suspicious backgrounds that may suggest terrorist connections, were apprehended at the southern border."

That's what the vice president said in response to Jon Karl's fact- checking on the fly. And so we were thinking, what is a special interest individual? It does not necessarily mean they have a connection to terrorism and it also means that they could have come from a country like Iran, Afghanistan, some of these other places that are of concern to national security officials.

But it doesn't necessarily mean that that individual specifically has an issue with the federal government. But this all comes back again, Brooke, to the southern border. And that's the pitch that the president is going to make tonight.

When you get back to that 4,000 number, the vast majority of the folks that they're concerned about have nothing to do with the southern border. They're coming from points of entry all across the world, many of them entering through airports and other various means.

So, Brooke, there's a lot to unpack here, and the White House has been throwing out many different figures, many different claims, but this particular one is something to keep in the back of your mind as the president speaks tonight.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much for all that fact-checking, Ryan Nobles. Good to see you.

Let's get straight to a border expert.

With me now, John Sandweg, who was acting director of ICE, Immigrants and Customs Enforcement, under President Obama.

So, good to see you again.


BALDWIN: Just listening to Ryan Nobles rolling through -- and that was just what the vice president had said -- what do you make of how this administration, the president specifically, uses fuzzy numbers?

SANDWEG: Yes, we have seen some gross distortions.


SANDWEG: So, what you're seeing here with the -- for instance, the terrorism claims, it really is people coming through the airports.

Frankly, a lot of those people are stopped before they ever get to the United States. They're stopped in foreign airports. It's a real exaggeration to suggest that those are people coming across the southern border.

Look, we're focused on it. DHS is focused on it, as they should be.

The intelligence apparatus is focused on it. We have never seen the threat. We have never seen any numbers to back up that anyone is actually crossing, nor have we seen any intelligence to suggest people are.


Candidly, I think I attribute that to the fact that the high apprehension rates of Border Patrol -- Border Patrol does an excellent job between the ports of entry. And, currently, on most of the border, you're looking at a 90 percent-plus apprehension right, meaning if you enter that -- cross that southwest border unlawfully, over 90 percent chance you're being apprehended.

So I think for the terrorist groups, they feel like there are other ways that are more viable to try to infiltrate the United States.

BALDWIN: You don't think we need a wall?

SANDWEG: No, I don't think we need a wall.

BALDWIN: Tell me why.

SANDWEG: Well, look, it's a $5 billion expenditure to put -- it's much more expensive to build a wall throughout the border.

There's parts of the border where you absolutely need physical infrastructure, like a wall, parts like San Diego. But if you ever look at the infrastructure that currently exist in San Diego, you have triple-layer fencing, 15-foot-high with razor wire and demilitarized zone in between.

Where we need it, it's been built, and it's proven effective. But there's sections of the border like the Bootheel in Mexico, where it's 200 miles of desert on both sides of the border. Nobody crosses the border in those sections.

Our money, the $5 billion would be much -- if you're worried about drugs, if you're worried about terrorism...

BALDWIN: Hang on. Let me stop you the drug...


BALDWIN: ... because I do want to -- again, this is what the president just said a couple days ago, focusing in on drugs coming over.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a crisis at the border of drugs, of human beings being trafficked all over the world. They're coming through.

And we have an absolute crisis and of criminals and gang members coming through. It is national security. It's a national emergency.


BALDWIN: Is it a national emergency?

SANDWEG: Look, we have a drug epidemic obviously in this country, but the drugs are entering the United States not through -- between the ports of entry, where a wall could potentially effective. They enter at the ports of entry themselves.

If you look at just the seizure rates reported by CBP, it's 10 percent to 15 times higher for cocaine, heroin, fentanyl at the ports of entry than it is between the ports of entry.

Smuggling organizations do not bring large amounts of cocaine, heroin and opiates across the border themselves. They are coming through seaports, through airports all across this country.

BALDWIN: And, again, talking and fact-checking about coming through airports and back to the terrorism point, and the fact that this government shutdown is continuing, doesn't that then affect -- if you have folks who are showing up and not getting paid, isn't that sort of a double whammy there?

SANDWEG: Yes, I had some conversations with some former DHS counterterrorism officials.

BALDWIN: What are they saying to you?

SANDWEG: They're worried.

All this fixation on what -- look, 96 percent of the people crossing the southern border come from Mexico or Central America. More than a third of them today are family members with children or minor children.

And they're worried that this fixation and this incredible focus on that, have we lost our eye on the ball, which is potentially homegrown extremists, people who are in the United States plotting terrorist attacks.

The terrorist attacks we've seen have all been from U.S. persons who are radicalized after they're in the United States. And we're not hearing about that. There's very little focus on that. And the entire DHS apparatus has been shifted to focus on these Central American families that, candidly, it's a humanitarian crisis.

We don't have adequate resources to handle it, but don't pose any threat to the United States.

BALDWIN: So, lastly, as we will all be tuning in to listen to the president tonight -- and this is your wheelhouse -- what is the one thing that you think he should be doing?


SANDWEG: Well, to be fair to them, the wall is getting all the attention. They did request money for 75 more immigration judges.

I think that's a very good start. That's critical.

BALDWIN: There you go.

SANDWEG: Eight hundred million dollars for humanitarian relief to deal with this crisis, that needs to be done.

I don't disagree with them that we need to do more to deal with the Central Americans coming across. We do have a legal framework that works. We just haven't resourced that. I mean, beginning of 2014, we started seeing a real shift that the border, suddenly saw these families showing up from Central America in very large numbers.

We didn't have that big a problem before, so we didn't have the resources in place to deal with it. Unfortunately, we still don't have the resources. Drop the wall, focus on immigration judges, the things that will work and we could end this pretty quickly, this shutdown.

BALDWIN: John Sandweg, thank you very much. Thank you.

SANDWEG: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Let's open up this conversation.

I have with me now CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger and senior political analyst Josh Green, national correspondent for "Bloomberg Businessweek." Josh is also the author of "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Nationalist Uprising."

Gloria, let me just start with you.

Is the president's big P.R. push -- and I'm talking about the prime- time address tonight and the border trip on Thursday -- is that a sign that all of the pressure is getting him right now?


I think this is kind of a Hail Mary. They know that public opinion is against them, and the president hates that, of course. The majority of people in this country don't support the wall. They also blame Trump and Republicans more for the shutdown.

The shutdown is going to grow increasingly unpopular as the days progress, starting Friday ,when people don't get their paychecks. So they have to do something.

Traveling to the border, I don't see what that gets you, other than a photo-op with somebody who might agree with you. And, tonight, in a short speech, the president is going to have to make his case for what is now being called in every other word a crisis. And that's the new term of art for it.

BALDWIN: Word du jour. Yes.

BORGER: Yes. Yes, from the administration.

And he knows that he's got to try and convince the American public.

BALDWIN: Josh, I read one of the notes you gave my producers this morning was that this is all kind of deja vu to 2015. Explain that.



I told the story in my book of Trump's original trip to the border wall. Trump is a creature of habit. And when he does something, and it works out for him, he tends to return to that.

We all remember his famous inaugural speech, during which he said some of the Mexicans coming over the border were rapists. There was a huge fear, a big outcry, criticism from almost every Republican elected official.

And rather than do the ordinary thing, apologize, try and amend your remarks, Trump, taking advice from Steve Bannon, decided to travel down to the Mexican border, and to essentially say it to -- say it to Mexico's face, was Bannon's phrase to me at the time. And as soon as Trump left that border visit to Laredo, Texas, he was at the top of the polls. He never looked back. He won the presidency. It had great symbolic power. I think the problem though, this time, Brooke, is that Trump isn't trying to convince as hard-core base, as he was three years ago.

As Gloria said, he needs to convince independents and Democrats that there's a humanitarian crisis there. I don't see how he's going to be able to do that.

BALDWIN: How is he going to do that if he continues to spout misleading statistics, Gloria? Would he dare to do that this evening?

BORGER: Well, would Trump dare to do anything? Can you answer that question?




BORGER: But I do think that there are people inside the White House -- and we saw Kellyanne Conway today trying to walk back that statement about 4,000, which you spoke about earlier, right? You talked about that earlier.

And so you do see them now sort of trying to figure out how to get it right, particularly since the numbers all show that most of these people we do not want in these countries, the so-called terrorists, whatever you want to call them, are coming through airports, as you have also been talking about, and not from the southern border.

So if the president is going to use statistics, and we're all going to be doing fact-checking, you know, here at CNN.

BALDWIN: Of course.

BORGER: We will be doing a very robust fact-checking on this.

That -- and then you have Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer afterwards. So they have to get it right, because you are speaking from the Oval Office. I mean, there is something different -- and maybe not anymore after Kanye West was in there -- but...

BALDWIN: There shouldn't be. Yes.


BORGER: There be something different about a speech that comes from the Oval Office, and the American public ought to believe that you are telling them the truth about what you are calling a national emergency.

That's not too much to ask.

BALDWIN: You bring up -- you bring up Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer. And I was thinking about this.

And, obviously, they are such polarizing figures.

And, Josh, this is my question to you. And I'm wondering, in terms of -- you guys made this great point about, this isn't about his base. This is about, you know, changing the hearts and minds of folks who have yet to be convinced this is a good idea.

Do you think that that is the correct choice? Should it have been some Democrat from a border state, someone who would maybe have a better chance of persuading Americans?

GREEN: I don't think it matters a whole lot. But, no, I don't think it necessarily needs to be somebody from a border state.

I mean, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are the leaders of the Democratic Party until we have a 2020 Democratic nominee. And they tend to speak for the party. They're the ones that were in the Oval Office fighting with Trump.

I think the bigger problem here for Trump is that he's trying to do two things at once. He's trying to find a way to get himself a border wall, while also recasting this as a humanitarian crisis. And the problem is, is these numbers fall apart, the 4,000 terrorists that it turns out aren't streaming out over the border.

There may be a humanitarian crisis there, but the solution to that crisis is not a wall. So it's going to be difficult for Trump, I think, to make a case, especially a case it's going to be instantly rebutted by two Democratic politicians who are against the wall, that there is a humanitarian crisis that requires the wall as a solution, somehow have that pressure enough American voters for Schumer and Pelosi to collapse.

I just don't see that happening.

BORGER: And I think they will make the case that they have indicated that -- over and over again that they're willing to provide resources, resources for what they consider to be a real problem, and...

BALDWIN: Just not $5.7 billion for a wall.

BORGER: Well, but they even were going to cut a deal for more money a while back, remember?

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

BORGER: So I think that they can make that case, while they fact- check him. Who knows. They may fact-check him in real time.

I mean, Nancy Pelosi did say to the president, I don't believe your facts, so that I'm wondering whether they could do that. And they are the faces of the Democratic Party right now, as Josh points out. They were sitting in the Oval Office with the president when he said, I would be proud to own the shutdown. BALDWIN: Right. Right.

BORGER: And so I think actually they're kind of the most likely people to be doing this tonight.


BALDWIN: In the trenches, leading it.

Josh Green and Gloria Borger, must-see TV this evening. Obviously, tune in to CNN. We will be fact-checking it as well, Gloria, as you pointed out.

Guys, thank you very much.

I want to switch gears, breaking news in the Russia investigation today, after Paul Manafort legal team failed to redact portions of a document filed in court today, what it's revealing, these new details about meetings the former Trump campaign chair actually had with the Russians and what they talked about. We know this now.

Plus, federal investigators announcing charges against this Russian the lawyer who is at the center of that infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting -- details next.

You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: Here's the breaking news we have now in the special counsel investigation involving President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his communications with the Russians.

Manafort's legal team has just filed new documents in court today. And guess what? They failed to redact a portion of those filings. And as a result, we now are learning that Manafort met with Russia Konstantin Kilimnik in Madrid while he managed Trump's presidential campaign.

Before today, that Madrid meeting wasn't known. The filing says that Manafort discussed a Ukrainian peace plan with the Russian and shared political data related to the 2016 campaign.

Special counsel Robert Mueller accused Manafort of lying about five different topics during the cooperation interviews, including his communication with this Russian.

And in today's filing, Manafort's lawyers continue to insist he didn't mean to lie, but they say they do not want to challenge the accusations in court.

So, Garrett Graff is with me, author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."

So, Garrett, good to see you.

Why don't we start with the fact that he apparently shared with this individual polling data from the 2016 campaign as he was the Trump campaign chairman? How significant is that?

GARRETT GRAFF, EDITOR AT LARGE, "THE WASHINGTONIAN": It's quite significant, is the short answer.

And, boy, Paul Manafort, the story of Manafort's prosecution by Robert Mueller is the story of Paul Manafort not being able to use technology correctly. He's been tripped up by Microsoft Word track changes. He's tripped by backing his encrypted texts up to the cloud, and now today all of these details leaking out because his attorneys don't know how to properly redact documents before filing them with the court.

And this is a big new bombshell, because this is, you know, information that he very much didn't want us to know, you know, that in the midst of his time working on behalf of Donald Trump, he was in Madrid meeting with a Russian intelligence asset and sharing confidential polling information from the campaign.

And, remember, one of the things that we know that Russia was doing was very carefully tailoring their messages from the Internet Research Agency and even potentially from the documents that they were leaking via WikiLeaks to what was going to resonate with voters.

So this might be sort of step one in a collusion investigation. And this is a potentially very significant document, partially because Mueller says that he has evidence that Konstantin Kilimnik was an asset of Russian intelligence during the campaign in 2016.

We don't know what that evidence is. Mueller hasn't shared it, but Mueller has reason to believe Konstantin Kilimnik was working for Russian intelligence at this time.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm. Konstantin Kilimnik, I knew you would say it better than I did.

You also -- you raise the mystery around his grand jury appearances last year. What do we know?

GRAFF: Well, remember, he lied about a whole bunch of different things as part of this plea agreement.


BALDWIN: Although he says he didn't mean to lie, right, according to the news today.

GRAFF: Sometimes, he just didn't recollect things correctly.


GRAFF: And Mueller is saying, though, in his court filings that Paul Manafort was in front of a grand jury at least twice during the course of the fall of 2018.

And, again, that's significant, because you have to know from Mueller's court filings that Mueller was thinking that Paul Manafort was lying.

And so if he knows that he's lying, that means that he has documentary evidence involved in that grand jury to box in Paul Manafort's testimony. And we haven't actually seen what grand jury indictment or case that was tied to and sort of what the public fruits may be of Paul Manafort appearing behind that grand jury.

BALDWIN: What about this Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya? She's the one who tried to -- who helped organize that 2016 Trump Tower meeting

She was the one who set it up, right, to provide the dirt on Hillary Clinton. And now she's the one being charged, although it is a separate investigation, you know, by federal prosecutors in New York. How -- even though it's separate, how might this, Garrett, play into or affect the bigger Mueller investigation?

GRAFF: Well, again, you know, what you have is more color being added to this picture of the various ways that Russia was attempting to influence the campaign in 2016.

And so what we learn in these new court filings in this Southern District of New York case which relates to a 2015, 2014 civil money laundering investigation by the Southern District federal prosecutors in Manhattan, is that this Russian lawyer, who, as you said, was at the center of this Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, was just months prior working hand in hand with the Russian government, and was closely coordinating her actions with the Kremlin.


And so what it begins to do is underscore that this is someone who was very tightly connected to the Russian power structure and was unlikely to be freelancing by showing up at Trump Tower on her own volition to offer some help to the Trump campaign.

And, in fact, what we are beginning to see is that, in fact, she was probably there under the direct coordination of senior members of the Russian government, up to and in part possibly including Vladimir Putin himself.

BALDWIN: My goodness.

Garrett Graff, good to see you. Thank you very much for your analysis on all of those things.

GRAFF: Always a pleasure.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, I'll talk live to a federal corrections officer forced to work overtime, zero pay, because the government is partially shut down, and now he's taking the Trump administration to court. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)