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Trump Says I Never Worked for Russia; "The Washington Post" Says Trump Took His Interpreter's Notes After A Meeting with Putin; Democrats May Subpoena Trump's Interpreter; TSA Struggles with Short Staffing at The World's Busiest Airport; Democrats Warned the GOP of The Trump and Putin Bromance In 2016; Max Boot writes Op-Ed About 18 Reasons Why Trump May Be A Russian Agent. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 14, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Let's just take a moment because today, the President of the United States denied that he's a Russian agent. And by the way, how extraordinary is this that the question even had to be asked in the first place? This is where we are.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never worked for Russia and you know that answer better than anybody. I never worked for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even asked that question because it's a whole big fat hoax. It's just a hoax.


BALDWIN: That is President Trump today pushing back against the bombshell reporting over the weekend that the FBI opened an investigation into whether or not he was working on behalf of Russia. Specifically, after the President fired James Comey as FBI director back in May of '17 and as Trump tried to respond to that claim, he could offer no answers for the question consuming 800,000 federal workers struggling to get by. When will there be an end? When will there be a deal to get this shutdown to a close now in day 24?


TRUMP: I don't know if we are closer to a deal. This should be the easiest deal that I've ever seen. We're talking about border security. Who could be against it and the Democrats don't want to do anything about it? They say oh, it's immoral. But it wasn't three years ago, five years ago, six years ago and ten years ago when they raised their hands to approve a wall.


BALDWIN: We'll get you to the shutdown and our coverage of that, again day 24, in a second, but first, to the FBI opening an investigation into whether President Trump was working for Russia. CNN has obtained transcripts from closed door Congressional interviews detailing the debate within the FBI, then FBI General Counsel James Baker told lawmakers there were two opposing views. On the one side, one was asking if Trump when he was fired James Comey was quote, somehow following directions somehow executing there, that is Russia's will.

On the other, the other view was that Trump was quoting Baker, completely innocent. And as we're learning about this internal debate, "The Washington Post" has this incredible reporting that President Trump has been hiding information on his face-to-face meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And in fact, on one occasion, President Trump reportedly even took the notes from his own interpreter. Let's start with Laura Jarrett. She's been breaking news left and right on this one. Let's talk about the FBI debate over Trump. What did these transcripts reveal?

LAURA JARRETT JUSTICE REPORTER: I think the big take away is how officials at the FBI were so puzzled and concerns about the President's behavior that they felt they had no other choice w but to open this investigation. And they really debated a range of possibilities after the abrupt firing of James Comey and the transcripts show how on the one hand, some officials felt they needed to investigate because they didn't know whether the worst-case scenario was true, meaning the President was compromised then if the President was totally innocent. It's something they grappled with even before Comey was fired, but it really took on a heightened sense of urgency. Ultimately, it all culminates in this case being opened that later then gets transferred to the special counsel Robert Mueller as we now know it.

BALDWIN: That's one bucket of the reporting. The other piece out of "The Washington Post." So, run through the various Trump Putin meetings and those specifically that have no detailed record.

JARRETT: It's pretty incredible reporting from Greg Miller of "The Washington Post." In that piece, officials say there's no detailed record. Even in classified files of Trump's interactions with Putin on at least five locations over the past two years and the report goes on to detail how the President has gone to really extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with put ben including on one occasion, taking possession of the interpreter tor's notes. Over the weekend, Trump dismissed this. Listen to what Kellyanne Conway said today on this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: The President at that time in 2017 was suffering from great number of leak as you remember I think week one or two of being here, his calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia had leaked. He had an oval office meeting in May of 2017. Contents of that leaked. There was great concern at the time. I haven't discussed this directly with him.


[14:05:00] JARRETT: So she is blaming it on leaks but of course that raises a question about the fact he doesn't have anyone he can trust at the most senior levels of the government, but lawmakers are raising the question of whether they should be subpoenaing the translator's notes about Eliot Engel, the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said he's going to get to the bottom of what happened and call ed it very disturbing.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much for that. Besides Trump and Putin, there's another person who knows what went on in those meetings. That's Donald Trump's interpreter. Now lawmakers have to decide will they compel the interpreter to testify. Committees meeting today to evaluate what options they have. Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee telling CNN quote unquote, all things are on the table. With me now, Gerry Connolly of Virginia. A senior member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and is on the House foreign affairs committee. So welcome, sir.


BALDWIN: So, the big question, will your committee subpoena the interpreter?

CONNOLLY: I hope so. This is a very grave matter. The fact we're asking the question as you began this segment is the President of the United States a Russian operative?

BALDWIN: Extraordinary.

CONNOLLY: Is itself extraordinary. And this is, this really getting to the truth frankly is more important than precedent or executive privilege. The only person beside Putin who witnessed and was privy to the conversation is Marina gross the translator. She has to be heard from. Under oath. Before our committee.

BALDWIN: So, you hope so. You hope that she is subpoenaed, but despite the circumstances, there's a former, he's also interpreted for Bush and other Presidents. This gentleman says that the idea of an interpreter testifying is his

word, atrocious. Suggesting it's a slippery slope, that the President should have the authority to negotiate with a world leader in private. To that, you would say what?

CONNOLLY: In the history of U.S. bilateral relations with the Soviet Union and now Russia, no President, no Secretary of State, no emissary from the President's office meeting with soviet or Russian leaders has ever met privately without notes, without some kind of record of what transpired. That's the slippery slope. We now have enough doubts about this President and about collusion with Russia that those doubts can only be cleared up by hearing from the only other witness to those conversations.

BALDWIN: In Hamburg, in 2017, President Trump reportedly even took his own interpreter's notes and said do not discuss this with his own administration. Why do you think the President didn't want those notes out there or even shared within his own people? CONNOLLY: Hopefully Mrs. Kellyanne Conway is right and it's an

excess of secrecy because of a sensitivity to leaks. But the dark, cynical view is that he had something to hide. He had something he didn't want people to know. He discussed with Putin. Could it have been Syria? Russian interference with the election? How and why he got rid of James Comey? Something he bragged about with the Russian foreign minister the day after he fired him. We don't know. And until and unless we hear from the interpreter, we're not going to know because there are no notes.

BALDWIN: You heard the President saying this morning that he has not worked for Russia. Do you think he's compromised?

CONNOLLY: Why did I have the Erie recollection of Richard Nixon saying to the national audience, you need to know if the President is crook and I am not a crook.

BALDWIN: Do you have any evidence? Do we have evidence?

CONNOLLY: We're about to get some, aren't we? That's another reason why I think we have to have the interpreter come before our committee. We don't know what Robert Mueller knows. I think we're going to discover this fairly soon. The, we do know from some of the alarm bells rung by the Senate Intelligence Committee there's this fire behind the smoke. I'm not going so far as to say Donald Trump broke the law or he in fact colluded with the Russians, we don't know that. But there's plenty of smoke leading to evidence that suggests a lot of people in and around him most certainly did collude with the Russians.

[14:10:00] BALDWIN: Congressman, thank you, sir, very much.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: Up next, did he really say that? President Trump's economic adviser compares the government shutdown to a vacation for government workers. Yes, yes, he did. That is as we get our strongest indication yet who the American public says is to blame for all of this. Also, the impact this is all happening at the world's busiest airport. Travelers in Atlanta met with epic security lines. Look at this. Time lapse. Stretching all the way to baggage claim. Part of the reason call outs from TSA screeners who are not getting paid. But is security being compromised? And just in, our first look inside the suspect's home where 13-year-old Jayme Closs was being held. You're watching CNN. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Imagine this. You're 14 days into a new month, your mortgage or rent is past due. Basic necessities like food, gas, medicine, are no longer a given because you can't afford them and you have no clue when your next paycheck will come. That is the uncertainty facing hundreds of thousands of federal employees today because of the long e government shutdown in U.S. history. Doesn't sound like a vacation, yet one of Trump's top economic advisers compared it to that. Just days after his own boss claimed he can relate to those who aren't getting paid. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISOR: Government workers were going to take vacation days say between Christmas and new year's and then we have a shutdown. And so, they can't go to work and so then they have the vacation. But they don't have to use their vacation days then they come back then get their back pay then in some sense, they're better off.


BALDWIN: Huh? Yes. He actually said that. And while the President says he can relate, I'm guessing he can't possibly comprehend things like this. Workers who now have to go to food banks like this. For the very first time. A different one in the Washington metro area says it has opened five pop up centers just to help government workers. On Saturday, distributed more than 30,000 pounds of fresh produce. And then there's the back up at the nation's airports with some I'm sure many of you have seen and dealt with. Travelers missing flights because of extra-long security lines. This was the scene this morning in Atlanta. At the Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, the world's busiest, where TSA staff shortages have forced some lines to be closed. Atlanta follows Miami and Houston which have had to shut down because so many are calling out sick. Some other examples, unemployment claims for furloughed workers jumped 400 percent the last week of December. The NTSB says it is putting investigations of fatal accidents on hold and the U.S. is at risk of losing its credit rating. Today the President again pointed fingers despite vowing to own the shutdown just couple of weeks ago.


TRUMP: I'm not looking to call a national emergency. This is so simple you shouldn't have to. The Democrats are stopping us and they're stopping a lot of great people from getting paid.


BALDWIN: So, what the President says Democrats are at fought and now new CNN polling suggests they think the opposite. Check out these numbers with me. A majority 55 percent say that Trump is the one responsible for this whole thing.

That is compared to 32 percent who do blame Democrats, and speaking of the Democrats, one of the newest members of Congress is not biting his tongue. He is

Colorado's Joe Naguse, here he is.


REP. JOE NAGUSE (D), COLORADO: We should all be outraged and we should call it what it is. This President is effectively taken our government hostage simply because he won't and can't get his way.


BALDWIN: CNN political director David Chalian is with me and a source familiar with Trump's thinking tells CNN he is digging in on his wall demand and quote not going to budge even an inch because he thinks he is winning the PR battle, but the numbers show the shutdown may be having an impact on his approval rating. What are you saying?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It depends on which PR battle he's trying to win. He's not winning the one overall with the American public. He's at 37 percent approval in our latest poll and take a look at this disapproval number. He's up five points to 57 percent of Americans disapprove of the job he's doing since before the shutdown. That was down at 52 percent. So that's clearly heading the wrong direction. But he clearly is not trying to win over America broadly with this argument. He is trying to fortify his base of support.

BALDWIN: What about the support among non-college educated white Americans? How's he doing?

[14:20:00] CHALIAN: This is an interesting finding in our poll. It's a subgroup and has about a 7 percent margin of error here but take a look at this. In December, among white non- college educated voters, part of Donald Trump's base of support, he was plus 15 points. 54 percent approve. 39 percent disapprove. Look at where he is now. He's under water. Minus two. 47 percent of white noncollege educated voters disapprove of the president's job performance. We haven't seen him under water with this group in about year.

BALDWIN: We played the clip a second ago, the tone-deaf statement from Kevin Hassett, the White House Economic Adviser. What did you make of that when you first saw that?

CHALIAN: One of the first things I thought was as I recall, when you're on vacation, you usually get paid for vacation by your employer. You're allotted some paid vacation time. That's clearly not the case. This is not vacation for federal workers. It's tone deaf. So, it becomes yet another statement that the White House sort of needs to do some cleanup work on. But as you see from these numbers, Brooke, this is a White House that is not broadly winning the argument about the shutdown with the American public writ large.

BALDWIN: Not at all. Thank you for that. Question. Is the President of the United States a Russian asset? That extraordinary question was always at the center of this investigation and Max Boot joins me live on the 18 reasons he says may lend credibility to that. We're also getting a first look at how Bill Barr will start off his confirmation hearing tomorrow. What he will say about the special counsel investigation. Stay here.


BALDWIN: After testimony transcripts revealed FBI concerns about whether President Trump was working against American interests and questions swirl over why the President would want to hide details of the meeting with Putin, Hillary Clinton is having a told you so moment tweeting quote, like I said, a puppet. She is referring to the infamous moment from the 2016 Presidential debate stage. But Clinton isn't the only one who issued a warning about the President's affection toward Putin. Here's a look back.


TRUMP: From everything I see has no respect for this person.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, that's because he'd rather have a puppet as President.

TRUMP: No puppet.

CLINTON: It's pretty clear.

TRUMP: You're the puppet.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: What Donald Trump is saying is that he would unilaterally surrender to Russian Putin. Give Putin a massive foreign-policy victory.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: This guy's already doing enormous damage to us. Around the world. This is a race between a man who praises Putin. Pursues Putin.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And he thinks Putin is a good guy. So, I just can't go there.

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: Donald Trump says he admires Putin. At the same time, he's called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping and good.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I do think a Trump victory is a gift to Vladimir Putin, it is like on their on the same page.

RE. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: And now you have Putin basically pulling out the old KGB playbook on how to manipulate Donald Trump and it appears he's fallen right into it.

BARAK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Mr. Trump's continued flattery of Mr. Putin and the degree to which he appears to admire many of his policies and approaches to politics on Mr. Putin is unprecedented in American politics.


BALDWIN: Fast forward to what will soon be the President's third year in office and we're reading headlines like this from my next guest. Max Boot is a columnist for the "Washington Post" and a CNN global affairs analyst. We are reading headlines like this" "Here are 18 reasons Trump could be a Russian asset." How many years in journalism have you been?


BALDWIN: Did you ever think you'd be writing this piece?

BOOT: No, this is like something out of the "Manchurian Candidate." This is the realm of spy fiction becoming reality. It would have seemed bonkers until Trump but it's not anymore.

BALDWIN: So, let's go through what is not bonkers, all 18 bunker items. Starting with your number one on your list of 18, Trump has a long financial history with Russia. This seems to be something so many people dance around but really, it's like follow the money, which is your point.

BOOT: Ifs how intelligence services ensnare foreigners. We know Donald Trump Jr. And Eric Trump have bragged about how much money the Trump organization has gotten out of Russia. In 2016, the Trump organization was pursuing a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. This is an entangling financial relationship that leaves him potentially open to blackmail.

BALDWIN: Number 13. Trump has praised Putin while trashing everyone else. Then you remind everyone about how he congratulates Putin on his rigged election when aides said do not congratulate him.

BOOT: He can't help himself. It's like Don Rickles in the White House. He's an insult machine but doesn't insult Putin even when Putin does something like expelling American diplomats. Donald Trump actually thanks him for that.

[14:30:00] BALDWIN: the conclusion, you say now that we've listen to 18 reasons Trump could be a Russian asset, let's look at the exculpatory evidence, brackets, this page intentionally left blank. You write this? Is there no, on the flipside, on the other hand, Max.

BOOT: There really isn't. If you listen to Trump himself, he says nobody's been tougher on Russia that I have. But that is just ridiculous. He has not been tough on Russia. There have been a few things tough on Russia that have occurred during his administration.