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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  December 11, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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maria butina prepares to finalize her plea deal, we are getting details on her cooperation with federal prosecutors. how much did she learn about the gop and the nra. what did she tell the kremlin? how manafort lied. a federal judge tells robert mueller to provide more information about the former trump campaign chairman's alleged lies to prosecutors. will more crucial clues about the broader russian investigation be revealed publicly? out like flynn. the special counsel says the president's former national security adviser deserves to stay out of prison because of his cooperation. tonight flynn is weighing in on his own fate and his role in the russia probe. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the siutation room". ♪ this is "cnn breaking news". breaking news tonight.
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a president who almost never accepts blame claims he doesn't mind taking ownership of the government shutdown. he's threatening to unleash it just days from now. mr. trump speaking a little while ago, doubling down on his demand for a border wall funding or else. his remarks followed an extraordinary confrontation with top democrats nancy pelosi and chuck schumer in the oval office with cameras rolling. we're also following breaking news on accused-russian spy maria butina and her cooperation with u.s. prosecutors. a federal judge delayed a hearing on her plea agreement by a day until thursday, but new details about the deal are emerging tonight. this hour, i'll talk with the former director of national intelligence, james clapper, and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. first, let's go to our senior white house correspondent jeff zeleny. jeff, the president says he would be proud to have a shutdown. >> reporter: wolf, good evening. the president said that more than once, he would be proud to have a shutdown, he says all in
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the name of border security. it was less of trying to reach a deal today in the oval office when the president met for the first time in more than a year with the democratic leaders of the house and senate, it was far more about putting on a show. that show offered a window into what divided washington may look like next year. >> i will shut down the government. >> fair enough. >> i'm proud. >> we disagree. >> reporter: a first look tonight at a divided government in washington. >> the fact is you do not have the votes in the house. >> nancy, i do. we need border security. it is very simple. >> reporter: a civics lesson short on civility, ending with president trump vowing to shut down the government if he doesn't get his border wall. >> i am proud to shut down the government for border security. >> reporter: the president trying to gain the upper hand by inviting cameras in for his first meeting with democratic leaders nancy pelosi and chuck schumer, got something else entirely, ownership of a potential shutdown. >> so i will take the mantle. i will be the one to shut it down. i'm not going to blame you for
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it. the last time you shut it down it didn't work. i will take the mantle of shutting down. >> reporter: they talked past each other. >> thank you very much. we have it easy one, the wall, that will be the one that will be the easiest of all. what do you think, chuck? maybe not? >> it is called funding the government, mr. president. >> reporter: and over one another. >> i think the american people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything and that you should not have a trump shutdown. you have the -- >> did you say trump -- no, in the senate we need 60 votes. >> but in the house, you can bring it up right now today. >> excuse me. but i can't get it passed in the house if it is not going to pass in the senate. i don't want to waste time. >> the fact is you can get it started that way. >> the house we can get past very easily, and we do. >> then do it. >> but the problem is the senate because we need ten democrats to vote. >> but the fact is, is that legislating, which is what we do -- >> right. >> -- you begin, you make your points, you state your case.
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that's what the house republicans could do if they had the votes, but there are no votes in the house, a majority of votes, for a wall, no matter where you start. >> exactly right. >> if i needed the votes for the wall in the house, i would have them in one session. >> then do it. >> it would be done. >> go do it. >> at times it seemed more like a new york street fight playing out in the oval office, taunts and all. >> nancy, we gained in the senate. excuse me, did we win the senate? >> we won the senate. >> when the president brags he won north dakota and indiana, he is in real trouble. >> i did. >> let me say this. >> we did win north dakota and indiana. >> reporter: as schumer confronted the president on exaggerations and mistruths. >> "the washington post" today gave you a lot of pinocchios because they say you constantly misstate how much of the wall is built. >> reporter: but it came back again and again to border security and the wall. >> we have to have border security. we have to have a wallace part -- wall as part of border
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security. i don't think we disagree so much. i also know nancy is in a situation where it is not easy for her to talk right now, and i understand that, and i fully understand that. we're going to have a good discussion and see what happens. >> mr. president. >> but we have to have border security. >> mr. president, please don't characterize the strength that i bring to this meeting as the leader of the house democrats who just won a big victory. >> elections have consequences, mr. president. >> reporter: taking a page out of the president's name-calling playbook, it didn't take long for democrats to brand a potential shutdown as trump's. >> the trump shutdown is something that can be avoided. >> was it any more productive behind the scenes, madam speaker? was it any more productive after the cameras left? >> we didn't want to contradict the president when he was putting forth figures that had no reality to them, no basis in fact. i didn't want to in front of those people say, "you don't know what you're talking about." >> reporter: a few hours later back in the oval office, the president called it a very good meeting, a rare view in
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washington. >> i don't mind owning that -- if we close down the country, i will take it because we're closing it down for border security, and i think i win that every single time. >> reporter: so at the end of a loud day here at the white house with all of that sparring back and forth, not much progress into whether there will be a government shutdown or whether they will find a way to keep the government open over the holidays. the funding will end a week from friday on the 21st of december at midnight, but, wolf, through all of this in a private meeting as well when the cameras were not there, we are told the president assured the democratic leaders that mexico will, in fact, pay for this wall, a campaign pledge he made again and again through the new version of a nafta. wolf, there's no truth or evidence that mexico has ever agreed to that. in fact, they have never agreed to that. so, wolf, at the end of the conversation back and forth, it is back to the drawing board here tomorrow and on capitol hill to see if that shutdown can be averted. >> yeah, and they only have a few days left. jeff zeleny at the white house. thank you. now to the breaking news on
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the accused-russian spy who cozied up to president trump's party and his allies over at the national rifle association. tonight we are learning more about maria butina's cooperation with the feds, as a federal judge has delayed a hearing on her plea deal by a day. now it will take place on thursday. our political correspondent sara murray is covering the case for us. sara, what are you learning tonight? >> well, wolf, as you pointed out butina is cooperating, and not just about the contact she had with her russian handler but also her contact with an american who helped aid her endeavors in the u.s., her boyfriend. accused russian spy maria butina is cooperating with prosecutors and offering a window in to how she worked at the direction of a russian official to ill fit trait political groups like the national rifle association. as part of a plea deal, she is poised to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy in d.c. federal court on thursday according to draft filings obtained by cnn. the documents show she worked with her boyfriend.
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>> we live in a time of a testing of public character. >> reporter: conservative political operative paul erickson and a former russian central banker. with erickson's assistance and at tortian's direction she sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with those having unofficial powers over u.s. politics. she sought to use it for the benefit of the russian federation according to the draft filing. she is telling investigators about erickson's role in her plot and offering intel about her contacts with tortian who left his post amid reports that she was nearing a deal with prosecutors. vladimir putin weighed in on her case today. >> translator: this poor girl is sitting here, our butina. she faces 15 years in prison. for what? when i heard that something was happening to her, i went and asked all the heads of our intel services, who is this. no one knows anything about her
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at all. >> reporter: a russian native, butina founded a gun rights group back home and used it to build ties with the nra. >> my story is simple. my father is a hunter. i was born in siberia. >> reporter: she became a regular at nra events and set out to meet politicians and document the encounters. in 2016 tortian requested she write him a note justifying his travel to the nra's upcoming meeting in kentucky. she did as he directed, encouraging his attendance partly because of his opportunity to meet political candidates according to the draft filing. they didn't score a meeting with donald trump then, but earlier in 2015 butina questioned trump about his views on russia at a political event. >> if you are elected as president, what will be your foreign politics especially in relationships with my country? >> i believe i would get along very nicely with putin, okay. and i mean where we have the strength. i don't think you would need the sanctions. i think that we would get along very, very well. >> reporter: butina's attorney
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has claimed erickson wasn't merely part of his plot, even releasing this video to show they were actually in love. ♪ beauty and the beast >> reporter: now, it is unclear what happens next in this love story. erickson is under scrutiny by investigators. his lawyer declined to comment today. as for butina, her plea deal knows as part of the agreement she is likely to be deported to russia. wolf. >> sara murray reporting for us. thank you very much. joining us, james clapper, former director of national intelligence, now a cnn national security analyst. general clapper, thanks for coming in. >> thanks, wolf. how rare is it for an alleged russian spy to flip, to cooperate with federal prosecutors, investigators? how important would that kind of cooperation be? >> well, it is pretty unusual, but i would also point out i don't think -- as ms. butina said, i don't think she is actually an operative of one of the russian intelligence services, but the russian's have many ways of extending their
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tentacles and attempting to exert influence. i think what is interesting about this is the russians singled out conservative right wing groups, notably the nra, and they certainly understand the death grip that the nra has on many of our politicians. so it makes every bit of sense from their standpoint to try to implant her in an organization like this that would have access and gain information as well as exert influence. >> was she being used by the russians unwittingly as someone to try to establish these kind of contacts? >> well, i don't -- it remains to be seen just how witting she was. i suspect she was -- she's witting. >> she is going to plead guilty as part of this guilty plea agreement with federal authorities, the u.s. attorney here in the district of columbia. >> right, which tells me the federal authorities i think have enough evidence against her that, you know, they could use leverage -- exert leverage over
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her and get her to talk. there is the connection with the russian oligarch who in turn i'm sure is connected with putin. so putin's public denial of her being an intelligence operative is probably technically true, but the russians use their citizens in many other ways, not necessarily formally connected to an intelligence service. >> because i know that -- this is what i have been told, federal investigators are following the money, as they say. they are trying to figure out where she got all of the money she used to travel all over the united states to establish these contacts. where was the money coming from and was she at least indirectly involved in getting russian money through rich billionaires, oligarchs, through various organizations to conservative pro-trump organizations. >> exactly. >> here in the united states like the nra. >> i think that's quite right, that the money trail will be very interesting here. i thought it was very interesting, an interesting
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coincidence that she showed up at that session with then-candidate trump in 2015 in las vegas and just happened to be called upon to ask a foreign policy-laden question. >> that he clearly was anxious to answer. >> and which he seemed to be -- he wanted to make a point. >> was that coordinated? >> about getting along with the russians. >> do you think it was coordinated, it was all staged, that he knew to call on this woman, knew she was going to ask a question about putin and the sanctions? >> that's certainly one possibility. i don't know. i don't have any evidence of that. but it just struck me as very curious, a coincidence that she was called upon at that session and gave -- afforded an opportunity for then-candidate trump to express his views about russia. >> i'm going to put on the screen, we have a graphic, of 16 trump associates who during the campaign or the transition had some sort of contacts with the russians. several of them wound up lying about those contacts with the
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russians, none of them notified the fbi or the authorities that russians were trying to deal with them on various aspects. what is your reaction to that? you were the director of national intelligence when this was all unfolding. >> well, exactly. i never did understand why all the focus, attention and outreach to russia, of all countries, our arch adversary. so now as we've certainly learned a lot more since i left the government in january of 2017 about these -- more and more knowledge about these contacts and what's, of course, curious is why there was so much lying to cover up those contacts. so i don't know if this -- you know, this is a foundation for collusion or not, but it has been bothersome to me since i was in the government. >> well, do you know -- without providing any classified information -- about all of these contact when you were
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director of national intelligence? >> i did not. most of them i learned since i left. i certainly wasn't aware contemporaneously at the time of the extent of the contacts. >> don't you think you should have known about these kind of contacts between trump associates? he was running for president. he eventually got the republican nomination. they were meeting with the russians pretty regularly. that seems to me something the director of national intelligence would be briefed on. >> well, we had an insight into some of these. we didn't exactly understand what was going on. we didn't necessarily have the content of the conversations, and we didn't -- and would certainly acknowledge we didn't know about all of them. we knew about some russian contacts which even then were bothersome to me. as i said before, our dashboard yellow warning lights were on. >> i suspect we are going to be learning a lot more once the mueller report is made available. where do you think all of this is heading?
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>> i would expect so, too. i certainly will be watching any court filings or deliberations in court that would be revelatory, absolutely. >> in the end, what do you think is going to happen, if you were to make a prediction right now? >> with? >> with the investigation with the president of the united states? >> well, i can't -- if i knew the answer to that i -- i honestly don't know where this is going to go. i don't think this is -- the last couple of weeks have been necessarily good ones for the white house. increasingly it looks to me as though special counsel mueller is kind of closing in. i don't think his investigation is going to end shortly, i'll put it that way. we'll see though. >> we will see what happens, but he obviously knows a lot more than we do right now with all of this. >> always. >> a ton more. general clapper, as usual, thanks very much. >> thanks, wolf. just ahead, after robert mueller tried to explain why he believes paul manafort lied, a
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federal judge isn't necessarily satisfied with his explanation. what more will the special counsel now have to reveal to the court and to the public? and we're also hearing tonight from michael flynn and his lawyers just days after robert mueller said the president's former national security adviser should not pay for his crimes with actual prison time. fact is, every insurance company hopes you drive safely. but allstate helps you. with drivewise. feedback that helps you drive safer. and that can lower your cost now that you know the truth... are you in good hands?
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campaign chairman paul manafort, a federal judge telling robert mueller to provide more information about the alleged lies manafort told prosecutors in violation of his plea agreement. i want to go to our justice correspondent jessica schneider. tell us more about today's hearing and what it all means for manafort and the russia au probe. >> well, wolf, the judge here wants more information, but she likely won't get it until at least late january. that's because paul manafort's team are now negotiating with mueller's team about how they'll proceed and whether or not manafort's lawyers will challenge the special counsel and its allegations that manafort lied in interviews when he was supposed to be cooperating. tonight paul manafort's legal team wants to keep the details of his lies out of public view for now. manafort's attorneys told a judge they have not decided whether they will challenge the government's assertions and will continue to confer with mueller's team about what specific lies are being alleged and what the consequences might be for manafort. prosecutors have already called off the cooperation deal and
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could potentially add more charges, given manafort's alleged breach. the request from manafort's team to hold off on releasing specifics about manafort's alleged lies came after the judge told the special counsel's lawyers she needs more details beyond what was laid out in that ten-page filing friday. besides a lot of blacked outlines, mueller's team specified five different subjects where manafort lied, including about meetings manafort had with his former business associate who has ties to russian intelligence and about his contacts with white house officials up to and including in february 2018, well after he had been indicted, and in may 2018, one month before he was thrown in jail for alleged witness tampering. while manafort's attorneys argued the 69-year old has been truthful, prosecutors argued in the papers they have proof to back up their claims. they cited text messages to prove manafort's contacts with administration officials including a senior administration official, as well
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as electronic communications and travel records related to kalemnik. questions have swirled around him giving his close ties to manafort and agencies meddling in the elections. mueller's team they believe that he had ties to russian spies in 2016, but the specifics have not been spell you had out as to why manafort was meeting with kalemnik after he was indicted. manafort has been the key to questions central to mueller's investigation. manafort attended the june 2016 meeting at trump tower with donald trump jr. and a russian lawyer who offered dirt on hilary clinton but never delivered. his time on the campaign coincided with russian hackers' efforts to steal democratic party and clinton campaign
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e-mail, eventually distributing them publicly. manafort was the campaign manager when they back off the stance to provide information. now with the deal called off, prosecutors are taking off the gloves and manafort could even face more criminal charges. manafort's lawyers plan to hold more talks with the special counsel in the next few weeks to negotiate what happens next. both sides will be back in court on january 25th for a hearing, at which point it is possible that mueller's team could call witnesses and even present evidence about how paul manafort allegedly lied. but, of course, until then we will be left wondering about the exact details of manafort's alleged lies. wolf. >> good point. jessica, thanks very much. jessica schneider reporting. let's bring in our senior justice correspondent evan perez. evan, manafort's attorneys can't say whether he lied or not. explain what is going on. how significant is that? >> what is going on behind the scenes, wolf, is paul manafort
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is facing ten years. that's the maximum here in d.c. after pleading guilty. so what they're trying to make a calculation on here is whether or not these lies really make a difference in that sentence. it appears that it may well not, so while they said in court today they still dispute whether or not he lied, they still say that he didn't lie, they want the evidence from the special counsel. they want to have a conversation with them, and they want to negotiate to see whether or not they can jointly agree to essentially disagree and whether or not that makes a difference in what he's facing, as i said. ten years is what he is facing here in d.c., and this is, you know, obviously for a man who is 70, he's already been convicted across the river in alexandria, virginia, where it is decades he is facing there. so that's the big question, is whether or not this makes a big difference in the long run for paul manafort, wolf. >> the federal judge, as you know, evan, he is asking for
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more facts. what more could we learn about the evidence the special counsel has in the russia investigation? i think the federal judge is a woman. i misspoke. >> that's right. she did ask for more information because she said, look, before i make a decision on sentencing, i want to know more. look, that's exactly what we were hoping to see today. certainly we wanted to see more glimpses of what the special counsel has found, especially on the central question, wolf, of collusion, of perhaps any kind of illegal coordination between people associated with the russians and the russian intelligence and people associated with the trump campaign. that we did not get today. we may get some of that beginning in january when the judge asks them to provide it. keep in mind, wolf, the sort of elephant in the room here is no matter what the sentence is that paul manafort gets, either in virginia or here in d.c., the big question is whether or not he'll end up getting a pardon from president trump. he's already -- the president has already said most recently
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to the "new york post" that that is still something that is on the table. so that is sort of the thing that is hanging over all of these court hearings and all of these filings in the end. >> evan, thank you very much. we will break all of this down with our analysts and our correspondents. they are standing by here. everyone stick around. we have lots to dissect right after this. [[clap, clap]] ♪ hey, jen, which tie says, "trustworthy but also fun"? gold down, oil up. oil down, gold up. this is too busy. we need to make sure people can actually use this stuff. which one says, "hours of free live streaming coverage without cable or subscription fees"? aluminum, aluminum? you ready, zack? oh, we're ready. welcome to the show. let's make finance make sense. ♪
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tonight, federal prosecutors are putting together a new piece of the russia puzzle as they get information from accused-kremlin spy maria butina. a judge has delayed a hearing on butina's plea agreement until thursday. we have gotten key details about the deal. let's bring in our analysts. gloria, what do prosecutors hope to learn from maria butina? >> i think according to sara murray's great reporting, what they want to know is how she conspired with russians to give them information about how organizations like the nra operate and how you can infiltrate. i mean she is not like a big spy. she is kind of a tool, a littler spy, spy-light, as you call it, susan. she is somebody they are charging, according to the plea agreement, who agreed and conspired with a russian government official and at least one other person to -- to spy
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about -- on, for example, the nra and to figure out how to infiltrate certain organizations that are very important to american elections. >> jeffrey, how do you see all of this? >> well, you know, the question is who told her to go infiltrate the american conservative movement, what information did she get, and who did she contact there and was there any connection to the trump campaign. it is worth pointing out that this case is being prosecuted by the department of justice, not the mueller office. so on the surface it doesn't have any connection to the mueller investigation, but certainly if she says she had any contact, including the still-mysterious reason why she was called on in 2015 at that news conference, whether the president -- or then-candidate trump had any advance notice or a tip-off that she was going to ask the question, that's what you want to know. it is like why was she doing what she was doing?
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who did she now? was there any connection to the trump campaign? >> we do know her handler was this former russian banker who is important. >> right. >> and, you know, i think the thing they're looking at is the relationship between the two of them and how she was directed by him. >> the important thing about cooperating is that means all of her phone records, all of her e-mails, it is pretty easy to see who she was in touch with. >> where was she getting money and if there was other money being funneled through various ways through the nra or other conservative groups. when she asked the question in 2015 and then-candidate donald trump, susan, he responded, i want to have good relations with putin, we don't need sanctions, stuff like that, it was at a time when his people were working on a deal to maybe build a trump tower in moscow which you need putin's support for. >> yes, that's one of the
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hallmarks of the ruin investigation. we have all of these unconnected pieces of evidence that all look pretty bad, sort of whenever they're all together. i think that's one of the core questions sort of in the butina case here. i think it shows it is another case that shows the depth and breadth and sophistication of the russian influence operation against the united states. we saw this social media propaganda, we saw hacking operations, now we've seen someone sort of actually on the ground trying to infiltrate these various groups. i think the big unanswered question is to what extent the various pieces are connected either on the russian side or the united states. >> david swerdlick, how do you see it? >> all of the dots are not connected yet, but it shows the russ russian's see soft spots. why was she at the rally with donald trump and how she was called on. maybe it is a coincidence. clearly she saw the nra has a way to infiltrate republican
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centers of power, even if it wasn't technically spying. it was a route into the politics. >> and they were willing to deal with her, which is another part of this. >> right. she talked to a bunch of people including donald trump jr., took a picture with him. >> and she also used, of all things, the national prayer breakfast. >> right. >> as a way to ingratiate herself with leading political figures, which, you know, sounds sort of wacky but is actually very savvy and very clever, because there are a lot of very important people who are affiliated with that group. >> right. there was an extraordinary moment, i should say 16 1/2 moments, minutes in the white house today when the democratic leaders of the house and senate, as the president calls them, chuck and nancy, they had an exchange with the president on the government -- looming government shutdown, if there's going to be a government shutdown, because the president wants $5 billion for the border wall. watch this. >> we're coming in in good faith to negotiate with you about how we can keep the government --
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>> open. >> we're going to keep it open if we have border security. >> the american -- >> if we don't have border security. >> i'm with. >> if we don't have border security we're not. >> we're going to have border security. >> it is the same thing that you've bragging about has been done. we want to do the same thing this year as last year. if it was good then, it is good now. >> we can shut down -- >> let's debate in private. >> it is devoid, frankly, of fact. >> we need border security. i think we all agree we need border security. >> we do. >> good. see, we get along. >> you will call for, i will shut down the government if i don't get my wall. >> you want to know something? >> you said it. >> i will take it. >> good. >> you know what i will say? yes, if we don't get what we want, one way or the other, whether it is through you, through military, through anything you want to call, i will shut down the government. >> okay. fair enough. >> absolutely. >> we disagree. >> i will tell you what. >> we disagree.
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>> i am proud to shut down the government for border security. >> what did you think? >> i think chuck schumer could not even look at donald trump. did you see the body language in that room? afterwards, you know, nancy pelosi was saying, you know, she wanted it to be private because she didn't want to correct the president on his facts publicly. welcome to divided government. this is the way it is going to be. maybe they'll get to "yes" at some point, but it is the new world order. these people don't like each other very much, and it was completely clear with all three of them. of course, mike pence sitting there and you're kind of wondering what is going on in his head. >> yes. >> because nothing, didn't even move. >> has there ever been a news event in history that is a more certain "saturday night live" skit? >> it is. >> right. just show the video. >> yes. >> speaker pelosi and leader schumer, complete -- they good copped/bad copped president trump into saying exactly what they wanted him to say, which
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was that he was all about having a shutdown. that's their opening bid. there may or may not be a shutdown, but they have it in their hip pocket and can use it. >> but it works for trump. >> i think it works for 40% of the american people. >> it was successful on allowing the framing that this wall is equivalent to border security. that's not true. security experts have said time and time again the way to secure the border is not to construct the wall. it is not to waste huge amounts of federal funding on it. so i do think he was successful in sort of leading them into the trap. >> but this argument that he made about the wall was his whole message leading up to the midterm election. >> true. >> i mean he kept talking about immigration, and it didn't work by and large. he's going back to it. we'll see whether it works. i mean i don't know, but it is certainly -- it just shows he is not changing direction at all. >> not at all. >> he is not. susan, you think the president led them into a trap? >> no. >> oh, okay. >> i'm saying whenever we
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analyze the various dynamics there were missteps on both sides. we focus on the theatrics of it, but substantively, as jeffrey said, we are in the exact same place, a place that should be an easy policy point for the dems to knock down and position themselves as smarter on security. >> i see your point. but i think there's a deal to be had and the democrats know what they'll give up, but it was not clear from that exchange that the president knew what he was going -- >> they have until the end of next week to figure it out, otherwise there could be a partial government shutdown. . everybody stick around. just ahead, cnn catches up with a key figure in the russia investigation, the former kremlin ambassador to the united states who had multiple contacts with the trump campaign. we are going live to moscow. as michael cohen braces for sentencing, we will trace his journey from the president's trusted fixer to a flipper who turned on his boss and confessed hess crime.
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we're standing by for a new court filing by michael flynn and his legal team ahead of his sentencing. the special counsel has recommended that the president's fired national security adviser get zero jail time because of his cooperation. flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the fbi about his contacts with then-russian ambassador to the united states, sergey kislyak. our senior correspondent fred pleitgen is joining us from moscow right now. fred, you had a chance to catch up with ambassador kislyak and
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you asked about flynn. what did he say? >> reporter: well, i certainly did, wolf. you know, sergey kislyak now today is a senator in the russian senate. we went over earlier this morning and caught him as he was trying to go to a session of the russian senate. you know, it didn't look like he was very keen to speak to us, but to his credit he actually did. i think there were two things that really stood out. on the one hand, not clear whether he is still feeling some sort of loyalty towards michael flynn, but he really wasn't too keen to go into details about what the two actually spoke about as pertains to possible sanctions relief at the time in particular. he still certainly does have a lot of hard feelings towards the u.s. for some of the things that happened, especially in 2017. here is what we heard from sergey kislyak today. >> reporter: general flynn is filing his plea today. do you have any comment on it? >> absolutely not. thank you. >> reporter: how do you feel about the way the mueller investigation is going forward? are you still following it? do you think it is a big hoax? >> i certainly read things that
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have been published, that's about it. >> reporter: how do you feel you have been treated in the whole thing? >> very disappointed. i think we could have done better in our russian/american relations. i would say russian/american relations have become hostage of your internal debates, and that's disappointing because we are losing a lot of opportunities to work on issues that are important to you and to us. >> reporter: there you have it, wolf. clearly he is frustrated about some of the things that went down, especially towards the time that michael flynn was getting into trouble there for those meetings that he had with sergey kislyak and for some of the things that they obviously spoke about. i think the last part of what he said was absolutely key to us because it is one of the things we have been hearing from a lot of officials here in russia, and really to us signals a changing mood here in russia, where a lot who had shown the optimism when president trump became president -- remember, sergey kislyak was in the oval office together with the russian foreign minister, so a lot had
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high hopes. you can hear that and feel it fading here in moscow as a lot of them don't believe president trump can deliver better u.s./russia relations, we have been hearing that and now from sergey kislyak who has been an important figure over the past year, wolf. >> certainly. thank you very much. just ahead, michael cohen soon will learn whether he is getting substantial jail time as federal prosecutors have requested. was his cooperation worth it? we are going to take a closer look at the president's former personal attorney and his decision to cop a plea. your insurance rates skyrocket after a scratch so small you could fix it with a pen. how about using that pen to sign up for new insurance instead? for drivers with accident forgiveness, liberty mutual won't raise their rates because of their first accident.
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tonight, former trump lawyer michael cohen is bracing for his sentencing tomorrow as federal prosecutors in new york are recommending he get a substantial amount of time in prison. our chief political analyst gloria borger reports on cohen's journey from fixer to flipper. >> the words the media should be using to describe mr. trump are generous -- >> reporter: he was the ultimate loyalist. >> principled. >> reporter: protector and defender. >> kind, humble, honest, and genuine. >> reporter: the trump fixer who said he would take a bullet for his idol, his boss. >> they say i'm mr. trump's pit bull, that i am his -- i'm his right-hand man. i mean, there's -- i've been called many different things
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around here. >> reporter: now, in a plot twist worthy of shakespeare, the fixer has flipped, with prosecutors saying he has provided relevant and useful information on contacts with persons connected to the white house and his own conversations with individual number 1, aka candidate donald trump, to criminally influence the election. in more than 70 hours of interviews, cohen confessed to his own financial crimes and past lies and stands to pay the price. >> he's a weak person. and not a very smart person. >> reporter: a betrayed trump says it's all a lie, the deceit only serving cohen's self-interest. >> michael cohen is lying. >> reporter: but wait. just this past spring -- >> i always liked michael and he's a good person. >> the man is an honest, honorable lawyer. >> reporter: so what changed? michael cohen. >> this man has turned a corner in his life, has hit a reset
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button, and he is now dedicated to telling the truth. >> reporter: no longer dedicated to being donald trump's mini-me as he was when he started working for the boss more than a decade ago. >> michael was, i'd always like to say, the ray donovan of the office. he took care of what had to be taken care of. i don't know what had to be taken care of but michael was taking care of it. >> he's the guy that you could call in 3:00 in the morning when you have a problem. >> reporter: do you know stories of donald trump calling him at 3:00 in the morning? >> donald trump has called him at all hours of the night. >> reporter: he's not calling now because cohen is singing, admitting negotiations about trump tower moscow continued during the presidential campaign while trump denied having any business interests in russia. he says he was in touch with trump's lawyers and white house staff as he prepared a false statement to congress. and cohen says at the direction of the candidate, he coordinated payoffs to women accusing trump of sexual relations.
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even releasing a secret recording about one of them. >> when it comes time for the financing, which will be -- >> what financing? >> reporter: all part of the job. >> my job is i protect mr. trump. that's what it is. if there's an issue that relates to mr. trump that is of concern to him, it's, of course, concern to me, and i will use my legal skills within which to protect mr. trump to the best of my ability. >> he's going to be my absolute pleasure to serve you with a $500 million lawsuit. >> reporter: often with threats as in this 2015 conversation with a reporter. >> i'm warning you, tread very [ bleep ] lightly because what i'm going to do to you is going to be [ bleep ] disgusting. do you understand me? >> this is also part of the trump-cohen method is you skate on the edge of what's reasonable and maybe even on the edge of what's ethical or legal. >> reporter: cohen, a sometimes democrat, first came to trump's attention after buying apartments in trump
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developments, then went to the mat for trump against one of his condo boards and won. >> trump loved him for it. i mean, that was the beginning of it, and then after that, they became close. it was much more than an attorney-client relationship. it was certainly -- it was something much deeper, almost father and son kind of thing. >> reporter: for trump, hiring cohen wasn't about pedigree. cohen, who was 52, got his degree from western michigan's coolly law school and eventually entered the less than genteel world of new york taxi cab medallions. >> if you look where michael came from in his legal career, before he started working for trump, it wasn't like he came from a white shoe law firm. he came from, you know, a hard nosed new york trial firm. >> i will faithfully execute -- >> reporter: but when trump became president, he did not bring his brash wingman to washington. do you think he wanted to be in the white house, be white house
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counsel or -- >> there must have been a part of him that was dreaming of a great job at 1600 pennsylvania avenue. but he's also the guy who not only knows where all the bodies are buried, he buried a lot of them himself, and that, ironically, disqualified him. >> reporter: maybe from working in the white house, but not from working with bob mueller. you know, i'm told that cohen himself pushed for this sentencing now because he wants to get on with his life but that does not necessarily mean that he's going to stop helping prosecutors as they continue to investigate the president. >> excellent piece. thank you very much, gloria, for doing that. finally tonight, on a very, very different note. the verdict is in, cnn attorney drew's new baby boy is healthy and adorable. drew and his wife patty welcome benjamin into the world overnight. he weighs in at just over 9 pounds. we're told mom and baby are doing well and that the
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shenkman's older brother can't wait to meet his little brother. congratulations from all of us here in "the situation room." we're here to celebrate another new member of the family. and thanks to all of our viewers for watching. "erin burnett outfront" starts "erin burnett outfront" starts right now. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com "outfront" next, live from the oval office, the president goes off the rails. cameras rolling as trump gets into a shouting match and says he's proud to shut down the government. plus republicans brushing aside accusations from prosecutors that implicate the president in two felonies. wait until you hear what they said when it was bill clinton. the tapes are stunning. no plan b for a chief of staff for trump. one man, though, reportedly on the list of candidates is "outfront" tonight. does he want the job? let's go out front. good evening, i'm erin burnett, "outfront" tonight, making a joke of the oval office, president trump turning a privat

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