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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  January 4, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PST

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good luck and god speed. be sure to follow me on facebook and twitter. tweet the show at the lead cnn. that's it for us today. back at 10:00 p.m. eastern for our last special prime time edition of the lead this week. i turn you over now to one mr. wolf blitzer, he's next door in a place i like to call the situation room. thanks for watching. happening now, breaking news, cease and desist. the president's lawyers push to shut down publication of a new book highly critical of president trump sending a cease and desist letter to it's author and publisher. they've also warned former trump stat gist steve bannon to stop talking or face a lawsuit. will they go to court? state of mind. a yale psychiatrist says she briefed a dozen lawmakers worried about the president's mental state. she says he's becoming very unstable very quickly, but the white house calls any concerns laughable. weed whack. the trump administration changes
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federal policy on marijuana enforcement in states where it's now legal. could you get arrested for smoking pot in your state? and who got played? after president trump taunts kim jong-un about the size of his nuclear button, the u.s. and south korea agree not to hold military exercises during next month's olympic games. did north korea win this round? i'm wolf blitzer, you're in the situation room. this is cnn breaking news. >> breaking news, the president's lawyers are trying to suppress the stunning new book which reveals chaos and dysfunction within the trump white house. they've sent a cease and desist letter to fire and fury author michael wolff in a letter warning steve bannon to shut up or be sued. bannon's comments in the book are among the most explosive but a day after accusing bannon of
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having lost his mind, the president has made his first public comments noting that bannon is now quote changed his tune by calling him a great man. the books shocking anecdotes raised more questions about the president's mental fitness. press secretary sarah sanders calls that disgraceful and laughable, but a yale psychiatrist says she and another psychiatrist recently briefed a dozen u.s. lawmakers, mostly democrats who were worried about the president's mental state. and amid the book's cataloging of stunning comments from insiders, a shell shocked white house is honkering down, banning the use of personal cell phones within the west wing, citing security concerns. but multiple sources say it's about limiting leaks to reporters. and with the special counsel already under attack, two conservative republican congressman are calling on jeff sessions to step down. saying he's lost control of the justice department and the russia investigation.
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i'll speak with democratic senator richard bloomen that will of the judiciary committth. >> the publisher doesn't seem nervous, just moved up the release of the book to tomorrow. >> reporter: president trump sounds like a man who couldn't care less about steve bannon. >> did steve bannon betray you? >> i don't know, he called me a great man last night, he obviously changed his tune pretty quick. >> reporter: but the president's lawyers are sending a different message to bannon threatening to sue the former white house chief
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strategist over his comments in michael wolff's book fire and fury saying legal action is eminent. add that to the cease and desist letter to the editor. publications about mr. trump gives rise to among other claims deaf mission by libel. >> should the letter aimed at steve bannon and the publisher being interpreted as a threat from the united states government, from this administration to not publish this book? >> it's a -- it's not from the united states government, it's from the president's personal attorney, and i think it is very clear what it's purpose is and there's nothing to add beyond that. >> reporter: only hours after interprets were made quote saying donald trump jr. may have engaged in treasonous activities. >> the president is a great man. i support him day in and day out. >> reporter: sitting with senators, the president claimed he doesn't speak with bannon.
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>> i don't talk to him. i don't talk to him. i don't talk to him. that's just a misnomer. >> reporter: but that's not quite true. the white house has said the two men have been speaking since bannon was fired last summer and as recentlies a last month. >> i'm not aware they were ever particularly close. i would certainly say they've spoken a few times since he left the white house, but it's not like there were regularly scheduled calls or certainly no meetings between the two of them. >> reporter: the other question is whether the president would actually follow through with his threat to sue. something he didn't do after the campaign. >> all of these lies will be sued after the election is over. >> reporter: white house frustration with wolff's book comes the access granted to the author. wolff wrote that he was given the access after the president approved of another story he had written about mr. trump. nondisapproval became a passport for me to hang out. checking in at the hey adams
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hotel. making appointments with staffers who put my name in the system and wandering across the street to the white house and plunking myself down day after day in a west wing couch. >> didn't this white house give michael wolff all the access he wanted? >> absolutely not, in fact there are probably more than 30 requests for access to information from michael wolff that were repeatedly denied including within that, at least two dozen requests of him asking to have an interview with the president, which he never did. he never discussed this book with the president. >> reporter: the white house also fired back at questions raised in the book about the president's mental fitness. >> it's disgraceful and laughable. if he was unfit, he probably wouldn't be sitting there. wouldn't have defeated the most qualified group of candidate the the republican party has ever seen. >> reporter: the president is trying to change the subject promising action on immigration. mr. trump is defending his decision to shut down a
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commission that failed to prove his claim that millions of undocumented people voted in the election, tweeting many, mostly democrats states refused to hand over data from the 2016 election to the commission on voter fraud. but that's misleading. dozens, republican and democrat, refused to cooperate. watching from the sidelines are the countless young undocumented immigrants known as the dreamers who now face deportation. the president wants a wall in exchange for sparing them. >> any legislation or daca must secure the border with a wall. >> reporter: now getting back to the wolff book, the white house is cracking down on staffer's use of personal cell phones with plans to ban them inside the west wing. white house officials say it's about security, but a source close to the west wing told cnn this is really about suspicion and stopping the kind of leaks that are making the president furious. the white house press secretary just sent a statement to cnn saying that no, that they would not be trying to limit the use of cell phones by the media inside the west wing.
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so important to report that as well, wolf, and another thing we should point out in just the last several minutes, our colleague brian stelter obtained a statement from the publisher of the michael wolff book fire and fury saying it is not halting publication of the book. if we have that, we can put that up on screen and read that to you. this is the publisher is telling contraction nunn. we have received a cease and desist letter from an attorney for president trump, we see fire and fury as an extraordinary contribution and the statement goes on to say here, to our national discourse and we are proceeding with the publication of the book. so despite these threats from the president, which the white house, wolf, pointed out was a threat from the president, not from the united states government, not from the trump administration, is apparently not affecting the release of that book, wolf. >> release of the book has been accelerated from tomorrow morning. 9:00 a.m., that's the official release of this new book. jim, thanks very much. meanwhile, yale psychiatrist confirms to cnn she has briefed lawmakers about the president's
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mental fitness saying, quote, he is becoming very unstable, very quickly. let's go to our congressional correspondent, what are you learn kpg. >> well wolf, this is a briefing that happened up here on capitol hill in early december. it was just a small group of lawmakers from the house and senate. only about a dozen lawmakers, mainly democrats and then at least one republican senator did attend this briefing. and the briefing was specifically focussed on the topic of donald trump's fitness, mental fitness to be president. i spoke with one of the psychiatrists, dr. bani lee from yale who is one of the briefers that spoke with lawmakers. lawmakers were very engaged, were interested, asking a lot of questions and she left that meeting with lawmakers feeling that they were legitimately concerned about his mental fitness. and to put it in her words, she says that lawmakers were concerned about the dangers that his mental instability poses to
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the nation. >> what was the substance of the briefing? what else do you know about it? >> well, this is interesting, dr. lee here tells me that she put her opinion of trump's mental fitness and really painted a very bleak picture of his mental fitness. she told lawmakers that she believes trump is showing signs of impairment. that he's becoming, in her opinion, very unstable very quickly, he's unraveling, that he seems to be in her opinion, losing his grips on reality. she made it perfectly clear when i spoke with her today that she is not in a formal position to formally diagnose the president, given that she has not seen him personally and that is an important note to make here. this is an unusual move for a professional to make, it breaks with a protocol of medical professions to not diagnose someone without having a formal examination, but certainly interesting briefing up here on capitol hill, wolf. >> extraordinary. all right.
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thanks very much. joining us now, democratic senator richard blumenthal of connecticut. senator, thanks very much for coming in. >> thank you, wolf. >> as you know, the white house is pushing back big time on the notion that the president may have a mental health issue. the white house press secretary calling these reports disgraceful and laughable, but his recent tweet about north korea and the nuclear button the size of the nuclear button that has raise aid larm bells. not just from democrats, but from republicans as well, have you heard republican lawmakers, at least personally, express to you similar concerns. >> my concern is principles about the instability of his policies. even more than his personality and certainly my republican colleagues have raised very serious questions about his taunts and threats to north korea, calling kim rocket man on the one hand furry and fire, on the other hand, trying to,
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sometimes spawn negotiations, it has been an ambivalent policy and like wise, his views on russia. he is probably the only senior official who really questions whether or not russia interfered in our election. and if he is denying it, and also refusing to hear reality about russian aggression against our country, attacks on our democracy, very, very troubling. >> i know you did not attend that meeting with the yale university psychiatrist, your colleagues did, was it appropriate, do you think, to have that kind of a meeting? because this psychiatrist never personally had any contact with the president, did not question the president at all? >> i have no knowledge about the background of the meeting, we requested it and how it happened to come about, members of congress have a duty to gather information and hear views from whoever particularly experts, has light to shine upon critical problems, and the meeting in
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itself was appropriate, what to do about it is something else. >> you don't know, maybe you do know who the republican senator who attended that meeting is, do you? >> i can't shed light on who. >> you don't know that. the president is scheduled to receive a complete physical examination, but the results of that are not necessarily bound to be released publicly. either his physical condition, mental condition, the results of that physical exam, others have, there's no indication that this president is going to do so. we'll see if he does. but should he be required to do so? does the american public deserve to know the physical and mental condition of the president? >> very clearly the american public needs and. deserves to know the physical and mental condition of the president of the united states. there may be certain parts of that condition that can be kept private, as has been done by previous presidents, but overall, the report should be
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released as should be his tax returns which have been the practice previously as well. this president's violated all the norms. and that really is deeply concerning. >> so in other words, we remember during the campaign, his personal physician released a letter, statement saying he's in great physical shape, but none of the specifics were there, you wanted to go a lot further after he gets this physical examine that's coming up in the next couple of weeks. >> as many of the details as are relevant to his physical condition and consistent with his privacy ought to be released. the public needs and deserves this. >> let's turn to steve bannon and he's quoted in this new bomb shell of a book and suggesting that that very controversial meeting over at trump tower in new york city in june of 2016 with trump campaign officials including the president's son, the president's son-in-law, paul manafort who was the campaign chairman. he suggested it was treasonous, unpatriotic, but richard burr who is the chairman of the senate intelligence committee
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does not believe it's really necessary to bring in steve bannon for questioning by the committee even though other members of the committee, mark warner, the ranking democrat, the vice chairman, he wants steve bannon to come in, where do you stand? >> steve bannon ought to be a witness before that committee as well as the judiciary committee where i sit -- >> has your committee asked for him to testify? >> we have not yet, but let's be very blunt, wolf, what steve bannon thinks about that meeting, whether he calls treasonous or not matters a lot less than what robert mueller thinks about that meeting. and robert mueller as special counsel can follow the law and pursue a criminal case based on treason or violation of money lawn e laundering statutes, fraud against the government or any of the other possible criminal violations that may be involved in that meeting which raises the serious prospect, it is chilling, shattering evidence of collusion with russians by
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the trump campaign. >> because in this new book, steve bannon suggests that there is a problem with the trump organization has with money laundering involving russia which of course would be illegal, by the way, the cofounders of fusion gps, the condition that russian, that dossier on russian connections with trump, they also think that money laundering is at the heart of all of this, based on what you know, is there a problem? >> very serious problem, wolf. and ironically, more than a year ago, i urged that the records of deutsche bank be subpoenaed by the attorney general of the united states, in fact, i advocates appointment of a special counsel because of the prospect of money laundering involving both donald trump jr. and senior involving deutsche bank and russian banks. so i think there is a lot of fire behind this. >> because my information is that members of congress, congress has not sought to
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subpoena the deutsche bank records, but what about robert mueller? do you know if he has those records? >> no one can confirm other than robert mueller whether he has subpoenaed the records and deutsche bank itself has been somewhat vague on the topic and responding to questions, but eventually, those records will be in robert mueller's hands. i would say with near certainty. >> what do you suspect they will show? >> what they will show is the reason why robert mueller wants them, that there have been dealings between donald trump and deutsche bank. it's the only bank that has loaned money to robert -- to donald trump in recent years because of his bankruptcies and because of the allegations of fraud against him. and it may feel as well there was money laundering and there is a complicated and tangled web here of financial dealings. and when steve bannon focuses on
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money laundering, he's definitely on to something, but robert mueller is following the traditional prosecutor man tra, follow the money. >> when president trump says, he's had nothing to do with russia over the years, your reaction -- except maybe russia bought condos. >> there's a lot more than donald trump admitted in his dealings. >> have you seen records to show this? >> i have heard secondhand about records, i have seen reports of records and so far as his dealings with the russians, there are indications in the testimony and the interviews that bev conducted on the judiciary committee that point to dealing. >> can you elaborate on indications on the testimony? >> i can't at this point elaborate on what is in those interviews. >> all right, stand by, senator, we have more to discuss including two of your republican colleagues in the house, mark meadows, jim jordan, they want the attorney general of the united states jeff sessions now
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to resign because he's removed himself from the russia investigation, much more on that, coming up. hi i'm joan lunden. today's senior living communities have never been better, with amazing amenities like movie theaters, exercise rooms and swimming pools, public cafes, bars and bistros even pet care services. and there's never been an easier way to get great advice. a place for mom is a free service that pairs you with a local advisor to help you sort through your options and find a perfect place. a place for mom. you know your family
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accomplish my goals, and my dreams. learn more at republicans step up attacks on the special counsel's russia investigation, two conservative
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congressmen key members of the house freedom caucus are now calling on the attorney general of the united states jeff sessions to resign saying he's lost control of the justice department. we're talking with snasht richard blumenthal, let's go live to our senior congressional correspondent mano. >> reporter: jim jordan of ohio, mark meadow's of north carolina who sit on the key committees that are investigating the fbi and decisions that were made in 2016 are raising new concerns about jeff sessions as attorney general, same day he has lost control over his law enforcement agency if he cannot get things under control, particularly as it comes to the russia investigation, then he should step aside. now one of the things that they are pointing to, wolf, is his decision to recuse himself from the russia investigation last year. and as we know, that set off a whole chain of events where rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general is now overseeing the investigation rosenstein appointing bob mueller, the
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special counsel who's investigating any potential collusion between trump associates and russians. now wolf, democrats who have largely opposed jeff sessions just one voted to confirm his attorney general last year now are taking a different position. he should not step aside as attorney general because they're concerned that if sessions does, trump will install a loyalist who will be in charge of the mueller investigation and they're concerned that that could undercut mueller's own investigation. earlier today, i had a chance to ask chuck schumer, the minority leader, if he still believes that jeff sessions should resign. this is what he said. >> last year, you called on jeff sessions to resign as attorney general, two conservatives called on him to resign as attorney general, in large part because it was the russia investigation. do you still stand on your call -- >> no, i voted against jeff sessions and said he never should be there in the first place given his record on civil rights, immigration, on so many other issues. my view now is very simple,
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nothing, nothing, nothing should ever interfere with the mueller investigation. he must be allowed to pursue that to wherever it leads. >> reporter: so clearly, wolf, stopping short of those calls from last year in which he said himself chuck schumer, that jeff sessions should resign and of course, as we know, wolf, sessions has had a rather contentious relationship with the president who has raised concerns repeatedly over sessions' decision to recuse himself, he's criticized the attorney general that the president himself could eventually fire sessions, but if he did do that, wolf, senate republicans almost certainly would push back a number of republicans who serve with jeff sessions when he was a senator from alabama say that would be a bad idea, including chuck grassley who is a chairman of the judiciary committee, no reason for him to step aside. house conservatives and demanding that sessions should step aside. >> thanks very much. very interesting development.
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we're back with democratic senator richard blumenthal of the judiciary committee, do you think he should resign? >> no, he should not resign. and i was probably the first member of the judiciary committee to say i would oppose his nomination. i voted against them there and on the floor of the senate. i differed with them on many, many issues, but the members of the freedom caucus, the hard right wing of the republican party and the house of represents has stated their agenda. they think he should resign because he hasn't gotten the russian investigation under control. that is exactly what jeff sessions should not be doing. he's recused himself, properly, because he was involved in contacts with the russians and potential collusion between the russians and the trump campaign. that is the subject of the mueller investigation, he should not be a part of it, he should not resign because it would disrupt the special counsel investigation and that is part
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of the concerted, coordinated, concentrated agenda of the trump sycophant defenders to demean and discredit the mueller investigation. >> if he doesn't resign, the president presumably, if he wants to, he could fire sessions, right? >> the president could demand his resignation, but it should be seen as a step discredit and sometimy and stop the special counsel of the investigation. i think it ought to prompt the uproar that followed the saturday night massacre, firing of the special counsel in that instance and then the attorney's general acting attorney's general who refused to fire the water gate special prosecutor. >> let me get your thoughts on a decision by the attorney general jeff sessions today to reverse an obama administration guidance back in 2013 saying you know what, those states that legalized marijuana, they can do what they want, the federal government is not necessarily going to interfere, but now,
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sessions is instructing a u.s. attorneys to go ahead and get involved and deal with this saying there are federal laws banning the use of marijuana from california just the other day legalized recreational use of marijuana. what approach do you believe that the department of justice should take? should it implement federal laws, there are laws, saying marijuana is illegal, even if the states go ahead and legalize it? >> in this area of prosecution, i think deference to the states is very appropriate as the obama administration sought to do. what's happened as a result of this initial announcement, which has been very vague and unclear is more uncertainty. and let's be very blunt about the threat of drugs in this country. there is an opioid epidemic, there is a plague of addiction and the focus of the federal government ought to be on interdicting, disrupting, prosecuting, anyone who deals in drugs and makes money from the trade of drugs. and the policy ought to focus on
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heroin, opioids, fentanyl, all of the drugs that are so deadly and where the federal government frankly has failed to fulfill it's duty and this policy creates uncertainty, threatens to override rights. as a formal federal prosecutor, the state attorney general, i think that more clarity than confusion is necessary here and this announcement seems designed more for political points and real prosecution. >> before i let you go, i know you came back from a visit to puerto rico, you're concerned the federal government isn't doing enough to help the american citizens in puerto rico, what's your bottom line assessment of what the situation there is like right now? >> puerto rico continues in humanitarian and economic crisis. it's economy is on the brink of total failure. it's energy company is bankrupt, more than half the island lacks
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drinkable water. almost half the island lacks electricity. the schools, many of them are still shuddered, and people are suffering. and the federal response has been anned a jekt, it's been a failu failure, we should do more for fell le americans there. the migration has been an exodus of unprecedented reports and that'll cost puerto rico the brains and talent and energy it needs to rebuild. the goal ought to be long-term, major recovery proposed, measure with sanders that would be a marshal plan-like program and that's the kind of commitment we owe our fellow americans. >> huge exodus in puerto rico moving to florida over the past couple months. and i assume that's probably going to continue. senator, thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you very much. coming up, after president trump taunts kim jong-un about the size of his nuclear button, the u.s. and south korea all the sudden agree to suspend scheduled military exercises. is that a win for north korea?
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stay with us, you're in the situation room.
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we're following multiple
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breaking stories in the wake of an revelations dysfunction and infighting in the trump white house. this first on-camera remarks about michael wolff's new book entitled fire and fury. let's bring in our political specialists and david axelrod, the portrait we see of an administration that is in turmoil in effect emerges from the book including the president's own mental health, what do you make of the excerpts that we've seen so far? >> first of all, it's good that you use the word portrait, wolff is known to be an impressionistic writer, even if there's embellishments, it's devastating importraitment and it gives people their fears of
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the unpreparedness and the nature of his personality in a job that requires steadfastness. and, you know, the real problem beyond reinforcing those fears, and i suspect by the way that those who love trump will continue to love trump, but the real problem is that it becomes a central story now and it will for some time at a time when, you know, this president was coming out of a break in which he was celebrating having passed a major piece of legislation, just tax cuts and seemed to be getting some footing and now this throws him right back again. >> one republican we don't know who that republican senator is.
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psychiatrists raising questions about the president's mental health. >> it's never good for the president when a question about his mental acuity is raised at a presser with his press secretary as happened today. and i think one of the most devastating parts of this is that this is now part of the national conversation. sarah sanders swatted it away and said it was ridiculous and part of the, you know, trash book et cetera, et cetera, but that has now become part of the conversation. you could make the political case that democrats are having this meeting because they want to raise the 25th amendment. there are bits of conversations that michael wolf quotes and talks about people who works for the president and couldn't focus for more than 30 minutes, it was difficult to have a conversation with him.
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ting takes it -- i think it does take it to a different level. the concerns we've always had in the past were about how engaged he was. how fluent he was on policy, et cetera, this is a whole different kind of concern which clearly the white house wants to swat away. >> chris, what are you hearing. >> i'm with gloria, there's two options any time, any administration, which is you either ignore it and hope it withers on the vine or you go full frontal assault on it. given who donald trump is and as david noted, given some of the allegations in here, he's not going to go the ignore it route. i thought sarah sanders made a fair point as it related to -- she was asked today, is there something in the book, specifically, you can say it's a book of lies, what's wrong, she cited what i took to be the thing that i found the hardest to believe which is that after the 2016 election, donald trump did not know who john boehner was. who the former speaker of the house. seems odd. i think we owe it to viewers to
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readers to ourselves as journalists to, when there are questions raised in these books, given michael wolff's history but broadly speaking when you have explosive allegations like this try and track them down. what i would say though is you can't just say, it's all wrong. it's all a lie because, david and gloria touched on this, you are dealing with something that this confirms a lot of what our reporting already told us. it's not as though the book says, donald trump was a calm presence in the white house -- we know a lot of what is being portrayed here is born out. there is a lot of truth in. pingst up to the white house to say these are the things that aren't true, beyond the john boehner thing. >> we know -- david axelrod, we didn't know that steve bannon believes that trump tower meeting in june of 2016 that the president's son, son-in-law, campaign chairman had with the russians was treasonous and unpatriotic, and we certainly only learned now that lawyers
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for the president, personal lawyers for the president have sent what's called a cease and desist letter to the author michael wolff and the pubbisher citing false, baseless statements saying they've got to stop production of the book in response they've accelerated production of the book, it's being released tomorrow morning as opposed to next week. >> yeah, i think they've done more for book sales than anybody could have imagined. this is like henry holt and the folks over there must be thanking their lucky stars for the president's lawyers right now because they've just hyped the thing beyond all imagination, but, you know, there are two questions you raised there, one is what was steve bannon thinking and what were they thinking generally when they let this reporter wander around the white house? you know every white house and mine included has this notion that they can repurpose books for their own story, that somehow if they're revealing and
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if they're ingenious enough that they can produce -- somehow produce the book they want -- it never works out that way. and it's just a terrible idea. i can't imagine allowing a reporter the kind of free reign that wolff apparently, apparently had there. and then finally, i would say this whole notion of whether or not they believe this to be wrong or -- i mean, how do you condemn bannon for the things that he allegedly said and then say the book is fiction? it reminds me of that yogi berra stories where nobody go tos that restaurant anymore, it's too crowded. >> stand by. on that note. other developments, we'll resume our discussion and analysis right after this.
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we're back with our political specialists and there are lots of developments right now. david axelrod, let me start with you, you served in the obama administration when marijuana was being legalized in some states, now more states are legalizing marijuana for recreational use. not just medicinal purposes, listen to what the president said as a candidate during the campaign. >> the marijuana thing is such a
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big, such a big thing. i think medical should happen, don't we agree? i mean, i think so. and then i really believe you should leave it up to the states. it should be a state situation. >> all right. that was then, the attorney general of the united states jeff sessions today says don't leave it up to the states, the federal government is going to reverse obama administration regulations and get involved and prevent this, what's your reaction? >> well, first of all, this is one case where jeff sessions' position as a senator was different than donald trump's position as a presidential candidate. he was always deeply critical of administration's policy on this issue, but sessions did tell senators when he was up for confirmation that he by and large would continue it or he suggested that he would because this is a touchy issue, but the justice department under the obama administration made the decision that they were going to respect the will of the voters in so far as they weren't going to prioritize these prosecutions
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in these states that they were going to allocate their resources differently. so this is a big, big leap and it's going to be very, very controversial in the states where voters have spoken. so, one wonders why, why he took this step at this moment. >> could it be that because as of january 1, california, big blue state, big blue state has legalized marijuana? and there are some other blue states, i would say maybe six or so of them, half dozen or so which have completely legalized marijuana. so this may be a way to kind of give it to them. >> only alaska is not in that category. >> exactly. >> one other thing that goes counter to this being smart politics is young people, young people do not care. they are 100% in favor of pot being legalized, all the way up to about 34 years old, it's termed big time. for a party that's trying to young itself, this will not go
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over well. donald trump probably doesn't care, but we'll see. everybody stand by, there's other news we're following including north korea. north koreans hold a huge celebration for kim jong-un. president trump claims credit for the new dialogue for north and south korea, who's the big winner? stay with us.
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we're following breaking news in the north korea nuclear standoff. former vice president joe biden says the united states has never been closer to nuclear war with north korea. this comes amid new dialogue between north and south korea. let's go to cnn's brian todd. who's the big winner in this propaganda war going on right now? >> wolf, we're hearing real concern in washington tonight that kim jong-un is the leader in this standoff who has got the optics working in his favor tonight. he has extended an olive branch to south korea offering talks to sending athletes to the winter olympics and he's rid of a giant maneuver which he has seen as a threat. this is all drawing warnings over how far the dick ate for is
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pushing the envelope with the u.s. and its allies. tens of thousands of north koreans paid tribute to their young dictator kim jong-un today rallying in pyongyang, in a square named after kim's grandfather. but tonight, some analysts say kim may have beaten back an even bigger challenge without launching a missile after president trump and south korean president moon jae-in agreed in a phone call not to hold joint military exercises during the winter olympics in pyeongchang, south korea. they were concerned that kim jong-un would launch some kind of provocation during the games. >> kim jong-un, all of a sudden now, offering talks in his new year's day speech really had a great and smart idea. what he wanted to do was hold south korea hostage.
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he was trying to offer these talks as a way to get a bribe more than anything else. >> trump took credit for the new dialogue between north and south korea, saying it was his tough stance that made it happen. but experts say it may be just the opposite, that with the south koreans resip tif to kim's offer for talks and now with military drills being put off, the tyrant in pyongyang is gaining the upper hand. >> kim jong-un wanted to see the south koreans bend. the south koreans are bending. the north koreans have gotten what they nt wawanted. >> reporter: but tonight the white house says trump and moon jae-in are committed to placing maximum pressure on north korea to scale back its weapons. defense secretary james mattis suggested the delay in exercises was primarily logistical. >> i would say for us it's a practical matter. we would call it deconflicting. >> reporter: analysts pointed
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out that kim jong-un gave up nothing and is getting exactly what he wants because he's always hated the joint u.s./south korea exercises, saying it's a practice for an invasion of north korea. >> in recent years they've taken on a sense of pre-emptive attack, decapitation of the north korean leadership and u.s. and south korean leadership have mentioned that. they have also included scenarios of seizing north korean weapons if there's a crisis. >> is kim jong-un having his keak and eating it too? he could launch another missile soon. while they believe recent sanctions are impacting kim's regime with fuel shortages, they are not sure that's his motivation for reaching out to south korea and they say there is no indication at the moment that the sanctions are affecting his missile and nuclear programs. wolf? >> brian, as you know, president trump went even further today reassuring the south korean president about the winter olympic games, right?
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>> that's right. the president told moon jae-in that he will send high-level representatives from his team, including even members of trump's own family, to the winter olympics. that's important to the south koreans. we cannot overstate how nervous they are about pulling off these games safely. >> for good reason. brian, thank you. coming up, breaking news. the president's lawyers sent a cease and desist letter and they are warming steve bannon to stop talking or face a lawsuit. will they go to court? you know what's awesome? gig-speed internet.
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you know what's not awesome? when only certain people can get it. let's fix that. let's give this guy gig- really? and these kids, and these guys, him,
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ah. oh hello. that lady, these houses! yes, yes and yes. and don't forget about them. uh huh, sure. still yes! xfinity delivers gig speed to more homes than anyone. now you can get it, too. welcome to the party. happening now, blocking the book. as new bombshells emerge from a white house tell-all, president trump sicks his lawyers on the publisher, the author and his former strategist steve bannon. will he actually sue and does he have a case? mr. trump insists he's not talking to taking steve bannon's phone calls anymore and not talking with i am had. the white house going to new lengths tonight to


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