tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN January 2, 2019 11:00pm-12:00am PST
but we do know winter isn't just coming. it's already here on the ridiculist. the news continues. i want to turn things over now to don lemon and "cnn tonight." don? this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon. happy new year, everyone. we're just hours away from the democrats' takeover of the house. with the clock ticking till the start of day 13 of the partial government shutdown, hours away from a whole new reality for this president, when nancy pelosi officially takes the reins. but the speaker to be is wasting no time flexing her muscles over president trump's pet project, telling nbc she'll give, quote, nothing for the wall. and saying this after congressional leaders met with the president about the shutdown behind closed doors in the white house situation room. >> we're asking the president to open up government. we are giving him a republican
path to do that. why would he not do it? why would he not do it? >> why? simple. a source telling cnn that senator chuck schumer asked the president not once, not twice, but three times to give him just one good reason that he won't take the democrats' offer. the president's response, quote, i would look foolish if i did that. that should probably be the least of this president's worries. like i said, the clock is ticking. as of tomorrow, his party will no longer have total control of the government. he will no longer have a majority in the house, and democrats are salivating at the idea that they could eat his lunch. he can't even count on senate republicans like new senator
mitt romney, who told our very own jake tapper this tonight. >> after he was elected president, it was very much my hope that he would rise to the occasion, rise to the mantle of the office. i don't think he's followed through on that front the way he's followed through on some of his other promises. >> in a matter of hours, things are going to get real for this president, who said today that he'll keep the government shut down for as long as it takes, who shocked his own military and our allies with his sudden announcement of a troop withdrawal from syria, and who is facing some 17 investigations -- 17 -- into pretty much every aspect of his life, from his campaign to his administration to his businesses. and with all of that looming, the president held one of his televised cabinet meetings today. you got to look at the pictures from that meeting because they pretty much told the story of this administration, okay? true story here. acting defense secretary patrick shanahan. acting.
acting attorney general matthew whitaker. acting. acting epa administrator andrew wheeler. acting chief of staff mick mulvaney. acting interior secretary david bernhardt, who you probably won't be surprised to learn is an ex-oil lobbyist. and the president, well, in a way, he's acting too. acting like some kind of action hero. you got to see this. with some sort of "game of thrones"-style poster prominently displayed on the table. acting like a tough guy. acting. by the way, no one in the room bothered to explain why the poster was there. is this like a movie or something that's coming soon? but seriously, though, this is no game. this is the eve of the day that
could change everything for this president. but he's doing what he's been doing since day one, making false statements, misleading claims, downright lying again and again and again. the biggest whopper of all may have been this that he told about the defense secretary -- former defense secretary james mattis, who resigned last month. >> i wish him well. i hope he does well. but as you know, president obama fired him, and essentially so did i. >> there's no essentially about it. mattis was not fired, okay? he wasn't fired no matter how many times this president says that. he quit on december 20th in a letter that made his feelings about this president's policies pretty clear. right now let me quote from that letter, okay?
so he says here, he says, quote, my views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with your in these and other subjects, i believe it is right for me to step down from my position. i believe it is right for me to step down from my position. was there a quote about essentially fired? step down. that's not being fired no matter what the president claims. and speaking of the president's foreign policy, there is this heaping helping of word salad. >> russia used to be the soviet union. afghanistan made it russia because they went bankrupt fighting in afghanistan. russia.
the reason russia was in afghanistan was because terrorists were going into russia. they were right to be there. the problem is it was a tough fight, and literally they went bankrupt. they went into being called russia again as opposed to the soviet union. you know, a lot of -- a lot of these places you're reading about now are no longer a part of russia because of afghanistan. >> i hope you have some time here because there's a lot to unpack about what he just said. the soviet union did not literally go bankrupt. the economy collapsed, which is not the same as going bankrupt. hat tip to our friends at "the washington post" for that one. afghanistan may have been a part of that, but it certainly didn't cause the soviet economy to collapse. and as for the soviet invasion of afghanistan, the united states government was all about
keeping a friendly socialist government on its border, okay? but wait, there's more. >> i think i would have been a good general, but who knows? >> wow. to be a general, you'd have to be in the military. you'd have to be in the military if you want to be a general and a good one. i remind you it was just last week that the daughters of a queens doctor said that he had diagnosed donald trump with bone spurs to have help him avoid the vietnam draft as a favor to trump's father. you have to be in the military to be a general. and just listen to what the president says about bashar al assad's brutal war on his own people, a war that kills so many that the u.n. says it's virtually impossible to come up with an accurate death toll. >> syria was lost long ago. it was lost long ago. and besides that, we're talking
about sand and death. that's what we're talking about. we're not talking about, you know, vast wealth. >> well, i guess it should be no surprise that vast wealth appears to be the deciding factor for president trump. to this day, he has refused to condemn saudi arabia for the brutal murder of "washington post" journalist jamal khashoggi. the president also had a lot to say about his promised wall. this is mind-blowing. >> look, look, when they say the wall's immoral, well, then, you got to do something about the vatican because the vatican has the biggest wall of them all. >> yes, there is a wall around the vatican, which has absolutely nothing to do with a wall on our southern border. and by the way, a whole lot of vatican city is entirely open to the public, wall or no wall. and listen to what president trump says about the executive order by president obama
creating daca. >> if the supreme court rules that president obama was wrong, which they should, because by the way, if he was right, then i've been given tremendous power. can you imagine me having that power? wouldn't that be scary, right? >> right? that would be scary. the president also had this to say about christmas when he says he was home alone in the white house. >> i was here on christmas evening. i was all by myself in the white house. that's a big, big house except for all the guys out on the lawn with machine guns. nicest machine guns i've ever seen. but i was there all alone with the machine gunners, and i felt very safe. >> all alone. now, let me think who else was at the white house on christmas evening. oh, yeah, well, melania trump, the first lady, who flew with the president to iraq.
but all those, let's call them misstatements, they're kind of besides the point because like i said, the clock is ticking. in just a few hours, this president is going to wake up to a whole new reality, a world where he can't just threaten congress into giving him what he wants. that's going to be a tough one for him. so there's lots to talk about. molly ball is here, matt lewis, april ryan. we're going to dig into it next.
we are in the 12th day of the partial government shutdown. no end in sight. tomorrow evening, changes in washington when democrats take control of the house. tomorrow everything i should say changes in washington when democrats take control of the house. molly ball is here. matt lewis, april ryan. april is the author of "under fire, reporting from the front lines of the trump white house." this is going to be interesting to watch starting tomorrow. i mean today, you know, the democrats hadn't even taken over. by the way, good evening to all of you and happy new year. april, the president met with congressional leaders in the white house situation room discussing border security and the shutdown. both sides are digging in. >> yeah. >> what is this president's strategy in the days ahead because, you know, house democrats officially take control in just a couple of hours. >> yeah, just in a couple hours. you know, what we're going to see tomorrow is the new movie "checks and balances" coming to a flat screen and a computer near you.
that's what's going to happen tomorrow. we're going to see nancy pelosi and chuck schumer are going to go after the president when it comes to issues that they don't feel that this president is right about. we've seen that already. but what the strategy is by this white house is to take down anyone, anyone, even if it's that person in the party who goes against them on this issue in particular. you hear many people very upset about this because once you get into january, that first check that they could actually not receive happens. and we are in january now, the middle of january. so you have to remember this, that this is something the president said he would carry the mantle for. he said today this is going to be a long government shutdown even as nancy pelosi and chuck schumer have kind of somewhat tried to compromise with the president on this $2.5 billion wall -- or not wall, but billion dollar border security effort,
and the president doesn't want it, and it's a republican effort. so this administration is digging in, and they are going to go after anyone and make sure this stays as long -- make the president look as good as he can. they're going to go after anyone, republican or democrat, who doesn't want it. >> he's got to look tough. it's important that he looks tough and like he's standing strong when it comes to the border wall, matt, because that was one of his signature campaign promises. matt, a source is also telling cnn that president trump told democratic leader chuck schumer that he would, quote, look foolish if he accepted the democrats' offer to end the government shutdown. does that show you that this is about ego or -- >> well, yeah, definitely. >> -- even national security. >> it's definitely about ego because, remember, donald trump was ready to sign. in fact, the mitch mcconnell, republican-led senate passed a continuing resolution that did not fund the wall. donald trump was ready to sign
it until ann coulter and rush limbaugh started calling him names, calling him a scaredy cat. so he changed his mind. obviously it's about image. i just don't know where this ends, though, because both sides have to save face. democrats have to feel like they're winning in the court of public opinion. but donald trump has to feel like he's winning with his base as long as he does this. so i don't know when it ends. >> that's an interesting one. molly, let's look at this tweet and follow up on what matt said. this is from the president this morning where he says, mexico will pay for the wall through the new usmca trade deal. the deal hasn't even passed congress yet. that's not how these trade deals work. also if mexico is paying for the wall, why does he need $5 billion from congress? >> well, apparently -- >> well, uh -- >> it's hard for me to read the president's mind, but, look, there is a logic to what he's saying even if it isn't
technically true. the logic is that because this hypothetical revision of nafta, which, remember, doesn't exist yet. it's just been drafted and hand-shaken, but it hasn't been ratified. but if it were the case that this hypothetical minor revision of nafta had happened and were such a big success for the economy that it was causing the economy to grow and more revenue then to come into the united states government through tariffs or taxes or increased economic activity, then you would have a case to say because we have this much more money in the government thanks to this trade deal, that is the money that we're hypothetically drawing on to build this wall. it just doesn't happen to be true, but you know what trump said today, going back to what matt was saying. every once in a while the president does say something true, and he would look foolish if he were to back down. that's why we're in such a dead end with these shutdown negotiations or lack thereof. he did this to himself, and he didn't have to.
he was right on the cusp of getting this done and not starting the year like this, and he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as it were by reversing himself. and, you know, you say he has to build the wall to keep a promise to his base. but he has repeatedly tried to lead his base in a different direction, right, by creating different definitions for what the wall is. >> right. >> by tweeting pictures of alternatives to the wall and talking about fencing. given his ability to lead the trump base wherever he goes, you have to think that if he wanted to make the argument to them that this is enough, this is just like a wall, he could. he's chosen not to, and that's why he's painted himself into this corner. >> i was just going to say, molly, couldn't he just say, okay, look, with what they give me, i'm going to make it into a wall and be done with it because they'll believe anything he says. >> he's been saying that the wall is under construction at the same time as he sulks about the wall not being funded. he's been claiming that this fencing and perimeter stuff that's being done does constitute the wall. >> do you know where the fencing
that -- this is just fencing that's being redone, right, or updated. >> right. >> but the money is coming from the previous administration as i understand it. this has nothing to do with the funding for this administration. this is from -- >> this was something that was -- >> i think it was the obama administration. >> yes. it was already in the works. and the problem is this president is talking about protecting the american people. he's actually hurting the american people with this stalemate, this shutdown that he says he would carry the mantle for. and you cannot forget that he said it in the oval office. and part of the problem is this goes into the economy that he used to talk about was so great. this is now the trump economy. hundreds of thousands of federal government employees will be affected, and not only that. small businesses and others. there's a trickle-down theory here. this president, again, wants to protect the american people, but he's hurting them financially. >> matt, nancy pelosi's daughter was on cnn earlier today, alexandra pelosi.
you know her. here's what she said about her mom. >> she'll cut your head off, and you won't even know you're bleeding. that's all you need to know about her. no one ever won betting against nancy pelosi. >> so, again, house democrats take control tomorrow. we know president trump likes to have a foil, but is he ready to go toe to toe with nancy pelosi and democrats, not just in a shutdown fight but also in all these investigations? >> look, she's a formidable adversary, and i think republicans, they've got a pretty tough senate majority leader. i think they'd like -- secretly they would love to have a house speaker just as tough as nancy pelosi and effective as she is. it's going to be hard for democrats to actually pass any of that legislation for obvious reasons, but it's a game-changer having this ability, the subpoena power, the ability to investigate. it's really hard to say where it may go, but i think if there's a big game-changing moment that comes from democrats taking over, it's not legislatively.
it's going to be in this oversight capacity. >> matt, basically what she's saying is don't mess with my mother because she does not play. she will cut you off at the knees. >> i wouldn't mess with nancy pelosi. >> can i ask you something, matt? you're not a conservative or not a republican. i don't know. we talk about -- >> i am a conservative, not a republican. >> okay. does this administration have any leverage right now when it comes to this wall? as a conservative, how do you read it? >> well, i think that the thing -- right now, the problem of course is that you need 60 votes in the senate. so, you know, if mitch mcconnell had -- and i think it was smart that he didn't. but the only shot they had at building the wall, i think, the $5 billion, the full wall, just ended. >> when they had control of every aspect of the government. >> they would have had to have
control of everything, and mitch mcconnell would have had to have gone nuclear, blown up the filibuster. i actually think it would have ultimately hurt republicans, but that was probably the only shot they had. >> okay. so, molly, let's talk about mitt romney, senator-elect now. his op-ed on trump. this is what he told jake tapper earlier today about 2020. >> i haven't decided who i'm going to endorse in 2020. i'm going to see what the alternatives are. by the way, i acknowledge the president was successful, and i was not. he did something i couldn't do. he won, and i recognize that and appreciate that. but, no, i'm not running again. and we'll see whether someone else does in a republican primary or not, but time will tell. >> what do you make of what he's saying there and the president's response to the op-ed? >> i'm sorry. i didn't hear the question. >> what do you make of what he said there, mitt romney, and then the president's response to mitt romney's op-ed? >> look, the president spent part of a so-called cabinet meeting talking about this. i thought it was great what april said earlier about how trump has a strategy for responding to anybody who takes
a shot at him. he doesn't have a strategy for getting out of a federal government shutdown and funding the entire american federal government. this is what he spends his time on, and i guess we kind of know that about him at this point. look, i thought the romney op-ed was really interesting because i really thought it was aimed primarily not at everyone else, but primarily at his fellow republicans because he was making an -- he wasn't just criticizing trump. he was making an argument that character matters, that words matter, that morality matters. and that is a direct rebuttal to what you hear from so many republicans when they rationalize trump, when they say, well, sure, you know, he says a lot of things that i don't like. i don't like the tweets. i don't like the tone. but we can compartmentalize that. we can put that aside, and what matters is the policy. and romney is basically saying that isn't what matters, or that isn't the only thing that matters because leadership is everything put together, and character matters too. >> but he's just coming to that realization? i mean let's be -- >> no.
>> let's be honest because he wanted to be the secretary of state. he took the guy's endorsement. i'm just being -- not just to criticize him for criticizing him, but it's true. is he just now realizing what people have been saying since 2015? >> he also had a lot of sharp words against trump in 2016, even after a lot of the party had fallen in line. i'm not trying to defend romney, but he -- and it's true that he did want to be secretary of state. i think his allies would say it was because he thought that he could do some good and be -- and push back against perhaps the president's negative tendencies. >> i got to run, but that picture of him having dinner with john george right across the street with him was just wow. okay. thank you, guys. happy new year. good to see you. >> happy new year. >> here we go tomorrow. get ready. get some sleep. >> happy new year. in yet another lie, the president falsely claiming that he fired general mattis, but in reality, mattis resigned. and you've got to hear what else the president said if he were a general.
amazon prime video so when you say words like... show me best of prime video into this... you'll see awesome stuff like this. discover prime originals like the emmy-winning the marvelous mrs. maisel... tom clancy's jack ryan... and the man in the high castle. all in the same place as your live tv. its all included with your amazon prime membership. that's how xfinity makes tv... simple. easy. awesome. so let's discuss now with lieutenant general mark hertling
and major general james "spider" marks. gentlemen, good evening to you. happy new year. so glad you could join us here. >> good evening to you. >> general marks, i'm going to start with you. i want to play this moment from president trump's cabinet meeting today where he just flat-out lies about the departure of his defense secretary james mattis. here it is. watch. >> what's he done for me? how has he done in afghanistan? not too good. not too good. i'm not happy with what he's done in afghanistan, and i shouldn't be happy. i wish him well. i hope he does well. but as you know, president obama fired him, and essentially so did i. i want results. >> so it's tough, by the way, to say the president lies. don't think i just say that willy-nilly, but it is the truth, general. >> right. >> first mattis departed as head of central command under obama in part over disagreements over
iran. mattis resigned from the trump administration to protest the policy in syria. he wasn't fired. he quit. it's one of many lies today. i mean is it lies, or do you think he -- do you think he actually knows what the truth is? >> well, that's a much bigger question, don. clearly the thing that's troubling in that statement from the president -- and i apologize. i'm losing my voice because i'm an absolute wild man on new year's eve. i'm joking. i shouldn't even say that. but the issue is, is the president starts with what has he done for me, which i find -- i'm incredulous that the president of the united states would make it about me, that a president. but this president does. this has become very personal. that's the narcissistic side of this president that i simply do not understand as i guy who's been immersed in leadership like mark from the age of 18 on. mark and i have been in this world where leadership and character matter in everything.
consistency in how you behave and what you say matters every moment of every day. and for the president to say, i essentially fired him is simply not true because what jim mattis did at the end of the day, after two years, jim mattis realized my voice is not being heard. i'm not providing sound counsel to the president. i'm getting pushback as a matter of routine. i'm trying to have these conversations. they're not working. so in a term that mark knows very, very well, is jim mattis stole a march on the president. he said, mr. president, you're burning daylight on me. this obviously isn't working. i've reached the decision point before you did. i'm going to leave. then the president then takes credit for his departure. that i simply don't understand. >> let's bring in general hertling now. what's your reaction to the president just trashing mattis like this? >> it's a smear, don, and it's a type of influence technique that those of us who do study leadership, you know people --
i'm sure you know people like this that try and make themselves look stronger by making other people look weaker. >> yes. >> in this case, it didn't work. it doesn't work. jim mattis was not fired as the head of central command. the guy actually had a total of six years as a four-star general in two different commands. he had put in his retirement papers a year before he actually left central command. he did have some disagreements with president obama over iran policy, but he was not fired. and everyone knows that jim mattis put in this letter of resignation because he disagreed with the policies, and he made it very pointed. >> general hertling, can i ask you a question? >> it's just throwing stones and smearing a guy. sure. >> can i ask you a question? what is wrong with saying that general mattis and i had a disagreement over policy, which happens? and as he said in his resignation letter, i deserve to
have someone who is on the same page as me. i respect him. i wish him the best, whatever. he's a great leader, and now i'm going to get someone in who is more in line with my thinking. what's wrong with that? >> that's what normal people do. that's what good leaders do, don. and that's why it didn't happen in this case. and it's why the president trashes everyone that disagrees with him and tries to provide counsel. that's what mattis was trying to do over the last two years. think about this, though. the guy was in office for two years as the secretary of defense, probably one of the largest bureaucracies in the world with 2 million employees, a huge budget, and unbelievably complex requirements. and yet after those two years serving the nation, trying to bend the will of the president to help him understand the complexities of the military environment, he's trashed the day after he leaves. it just -- it's counterintuitive to anything that good leaders do. >> and you know, don, what's
really important on the heels of what mark just said -- >> i want you to -- i think this will go into what you're saying. let me play this sound bite, and then you can respond the way you want to respond. but let's watch this, and then we'll get general marks in. >> it's the craziest thing i've ever seen. i think i would have been a good general, but who knows? >> okay. >> yeah, i'm not sure. i'm not sure what that means. i really don't. >> i'll tell you, but it's a good time to remind our viewers that president trump did not serve in vietnam after receiving a draft exemption for bone spurs. so anyway, go on. what did you want to say? >> well, the sad thing is that every one of those cabinet secretaries and acting cabinet secretaries that are sitting around the table are waiting to be the next shoe to fall. you know, it's like the scene from "austin powers, international man of mystery" when dr. evil starts hitting the button, and everybody is in the chair that falls into the pit of
fire. those secretaries are waiting for the president to just turn around and dump them as well. that is not how you engender trust, how you build trust, how you follow up in terms of creating this dynamic environment where people wake up in the morning and are enthusiastic and can't wait to get to work to do the nation's bidding. >> an important question here for you, general hertling. pentagon officials told the president today that his order to withdraw troops from syria within 30 days was really physically impossible without significant risk to u.s. forces. a pentagon official told our very own jake tapper that this new 120-day withdrawal plan is a way to still please president trump and, quote, not get everyone killed. this goes to what that -- you know, that we've been talking about here, just talking about too, right? >> yeah. we have an expression in the military, don. it's ready, shoot, aim. that's what -- it's normally ready, aim, fire.
some people do ready, shoot, aim, because they take action before they've thought about the consequences. we've seen that repeatedly. in this case, we've had a president who has taken advice from people like lindsey graham and rand paul and the president of israel, and the president of turkey. he hasn't turned to the processes involved in an unbelievably good national security environment with intelligence officers that know the country, with military people who are supposed to by goldwater/nichols, an act of congress, give him advice on what to do, the secretary of defense, who's supposed to influence him on decision-making. he's ignored all of those people who are part of his security council, and instead has gone to outsiders and taken the most recent phone call to decide what to do. when that happens, you confuse your allies, you confound your foes, and sometimes they like it. but most of all, you really put a hurt on the people who have to execute the mission, and that's
the military in this case. i would have hated to be a commander on the scene finding out that the president just said we're leaving very shortly. now, he tried to walk that back several times over the last couple of days, and he did it again in his cabinet meeting today where he said, i didn't say that. i didn't say that. no, he indeed did say that. again, it's another opportunity to lie and try and walk the lie back. it just doesn't make sense, and you can't run a huge superpower like the united states is under those kind of conditions. >> that's got to be the last word. i'm out of time, but it has to be frustrating for folks like you to sit back and watch this. you have to be saying, what in the world is going on? it's got to be mind-boggling. thank you, gentlemen. i appreciate it. >> thank you, don. >> thanks, don. russia detaining an american and accusing him of spying. is this a putin power play, and will it work?
kind of an amazing moment in president trump's cabinet meeting today. it seemed like he was trying to defend the soviet invasion of afghanistan. >> russia is there. russia used to be the soviet union. afghanistan made it russia because they went bankrupt fighting in afghanistan. the reason russia was in afghanistan was because terrorists were going into russia. they were right to be there. the problem is it was a tough
fight, and literally they went bankrupt. they went into being called russia again as opposed to the soviet union. >> okay. so let's discuss now. steve hall is here as well as susan glasser. good evening to both of you. susan, can you please provide a brief history lesson for this president. >> don, you know, historians may look back on this as the 63 seconds that brought them to their knees when it came to donald trump. he's often ahistorical, but today's rant, which included both appearing to endorse the soviet invasion of afghanistan in 1979 and flash forward a decade, claiming that the afghan war was the reason for the collapse of the soviet union are both wrong monumentally when it comes to the historical record. trump's own government, the u.s. state department, just published a 954-page history of the soviet invasion of afghanistan in december that he would have been well advised to check before making this claim. you know, it wasn't about
terrorists. and, in fact, i think he really belittles, you know, in many ways the sacrifice by so many american military personnel as well as allied personnel over the last decade and a half after 9/11 in afghanistan by making it equivalent to the soviet invasion of a sovereign country in 1979. it's called the soviet union's vietnam. more than 2 million afghan civilian casualties estimated as a result of that war. tens of thousands of russian and soviet military killed and injured in the course of that war, which had nothing to do with terrorism and was all about the soviets seeking control of a satellite country. we canceled u.s. participation in the 1980 olympics as a result of the soviet invasion of afghanistan. you know, this bears no resemblance to the weird historical account that donald trump gave us today. >> i can't even sort of put together what he said.
but when he says, steve, that the soviets were right to be there, he's essentially endorsing the soviet invasion of afghanistan. why would he say that? >> don, god only knows why the president says what it is that he says. susan makes a really interesting point, though, and it's a very good one, this equivalency that this administration or this president seems to be drawing between things that the former soviet union and now russia does and did and things that the united states does and the motivations. and that's -- it's difficult to explain how wrong that is because of the motivations involved. i mean the soviet union was trying for world domination. russia is trying to reassert itself on the geopolitical scene despite the fact that it's really a small country -- or a small economy with a lot of difficulties although it does have nukes. but these equivalencies are really problematic because anytime you hold up the united states and its values and what it stands for as well as our western allies to things that
russia and the soviet union did in the past, that comparison does not stand up well. and i have no idea why the president would try to do something like that. >> yeah. susan, i want to get your take on paul whelan, the arrest of paul whelan, a 48-year-old arrested in russia on charges of spying. the arrest comes 15 days after the alleged russian spy maria butina pleaded guilty in u.s. federal court. is this payback for the butina prosecution? >> well, look, the timing obviously of these two events strongly suggests there's some sort of a linkage. this is a very unusual spy case compared to those we've seen recently play out in the sense that the russians have not given us more specific details. they allege that this american was caught in the midst of some sort of an espionage act, but they haven't given us any more evidence. when i was in moscow as a correspondent and there was a case involving british diplomats, they immediately trotted out on television
videotape footage, extensive allegations about what the alleged spies did. that's not been the case here. new details are still emerging about the biography and background of paul whelan and, you know, it doesn't really add up for me right now. someone suggested to me earlier tonight that perhaps president putin would prefer to have someone who wasn't a classic spy in order to trade them for someone who might be a more valuable asset like maria butina. one person has made a comparison back to nick danoff, the american journalist from u.s. news who was nabbed by the soviets in the 1980s and then traded for soviet intelligence assets. now, nick danoff was not an american spy. is that what we're looking at here? i don't really know, but it's a very unusual case, i think. >> steve, ambassador jont huntsman has already visited whelan in prison. is that sending a signal to the russians about how seriously this is being seen? >> yeah, absolutely. i think it's the right thing to
do. ambassadors rarely, as a matter of fact, in my recollection, never in my 30-year career did i see an ambassador go in for something that is normally, you know, a very low-level type of visit just to make sure that the american prisoner is okay. but, again, getting back to something that susan was just talking about and why this would be so important for the ambassador to go in, it's because this isn't a spy case. paul whelan is not a spy. just as maria butina is not actually a staff intelligence officer herself. she's simply somebody that is being used by the kremlin. i think the real reason that we have this poor american in lefortovo prison by the way, where unspeakable things have happened and the best case scenario for him is that if he gets out of there, he's only got the beginning case of tuberculosis. that's how bad russian prisons are. but he's not a spy, and maria butina was somebody who was simply doing the kremlin's business. i do think that putin wants there to be some sort of quid
pro quo so that he has some leverage over how quickly butina can be released and probably deported back to russia as soon as possible. but this isn't a spy swap because it's not intelligence really that's going on. these are more geopolitical and policy and political issues that putin is wrestling with and trying to gain leverage over the united states with. >> we'll have to end it there. thank you both. i appreciate your time. the supreme court is getting ready to vote on the mueller-related mystery case. what we know so far, and what we could learn very soon. one hour pickup order? >>got it. ran out of ink and i have a big meeting today >>and 2 boxes of twizzlers... yeah, uh...for the team... >>the team? gooo team.... know what's better than overnight shipping? free one hour pickup when you order online... or on our app. at office depot officemax
be right back. with moderate to severe crohn's disease, i was there, just not always where i needed to be. is she alright? i hope so. so i talked to my doctor about humira. i learned humira is for people who still have symptoms of crohn's disease after trying other medications. and the majority of people on humira saw significant symptom relief and many achieved remission in as little as 4 weeks. humira can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. serious, sometimes fatal infections and cancers, including lymphoma, have happened;
as have blood, liver, and nervous system problems, serious allergic reactions, and new or worsening heart failure. before treatment, get tested for tb. tell your doctor if you've been to areas where certain fungal infections are common, and if you've had tb, hepatitis b, are prone to infections, or have flu-like symptoms or sores. don't start humira if you have an infection. be there for you, and them. ask your gastroenterologist about humira. with humira, remission is possible.
let's discuss, jack quinn, garrett graff, the author of "the threat matrix, inside robert mueller's fbi and the war on global terror." gentlemen, good evening to both of you. hope you had a good new year. >> happy new year. >> the supreme court is very selective which cases it takes. what does it say to you that they're going forward with this case involving this company own by a foreign country. >> it's an important case. believe it or not, this arises in a context that the supreme court has never considered. so it's not wholly surprising that it's taking this case. specifically, we have a law called the foreign sovereign immunity act. this is complicated. let me try to boil it down. beak a sovereignen government has immunity from civil lawsuits against it, but there's a list of exceptions to that immunity. one of them is when a sovereign government engages in or owns
another entity that engages in commercial activities. so that kind of activity is at the core of this dispute. what we're dealing with here is a state-owned enterprise, in other words, a company that is owned by a sovereign government and so they're saying we belong to the government, therefore, we can make use of this notion of sovereign immunity. but the supreme court has never said that these -- these concepts of sovereign immunity andive deed, of the exceptions to the sovereign immunity in the act have application in the context of a criminal proceeding. that's what's at issue here. it's complex, it's technical. and it really defies simplify indication. >> there's a lot of legalese what you just said. >> yes, and i'm sorry for that, but here's the point.
there are really good reasons why the supreme court is taking this case. and they don't necessarily have to do with the particulars of the mueller investigation. however, the outcome of this case will be significant. this is a state-owned enterprise. it's probably been engaged in commercial activities. it could be a bank. it could be a technology company. and it is resisting a subpoena mightily. and no doubt for good reason. >> okay. so garrett, i want ooh bring you in here. sources tell cnn that the incoming chairman jerry nadler is planning to reintroduce legislation to protect robert mueller tomorrow. first day of the new congress. this is isn't the first time a bill like this has been introduced. do you think this one will do any better than the other ones did? >> well, it's going to run into the same problem that the bills ran into the last congress which is it's going to be tough to get out of the republican-controlled senate. remember jeff flake in sort of his final days in the last
session tried to hold up all of the judicial appointments absent a bill to protect mule earn mitch mcconnell wouldn't budge on it. i think we're really in a situation where until we see the president or the acting attorney general who may or may not be in his position legally, matt whitaker, make a move on mueller, republicans are going to try to continue to sit on the sidelines about whether to protect him. >> uh-huh. jack, democrats will take over the house just hours from now giving them power to launch all sorts of investigations into this president. how do you think democrats should handle this new power? >> of carefully. with enormous discipline. look, i lived through the clinton investigations. i was white house counsel during that time. the republicans vastly overplayed their hand. they will looked like they were -- they looked petty, like there were out to get him.
it's really important that this -- that these investigations, however many there are, be conducted professionally. >> yeah. >> with discretion, without show boating and a disciplined fashion. you know, leader pelosi just hired a fellow named doug letter to be counsel to the house of representatives. i don't think she could have made a better choice. this is a fellow with 40 years of experience in the department of justice. we overlapped somewhat in the white house. he's a really, really -- he's a lawyer's lawyer. >> i want to get garrett in before i run out of time. i'm quickly running out of time. the republican-controlled congress has been extremely friendly to this president for past two years. do you think he's prepared for this potential onslaught of investigations and a check on his power? >> he is absolutely not.
and that's been true for most of this last year. i mean, the white house is severely understaffed. he's underlawyered even to just face the mueller probe. i mean rudy giuliani is not up to the task of defending the president. and that this is true inside it the white house counsel's office. there is no, you know, there's no powerhouse brilliant mind like jack quinn sitting on the other side right now and this is a white house that is really not prepared for the subpoena power of the democratic house. >> what did you say? powerhouse? wow, jack. >> could we please let garrett speak some more? >> we need to get you one of those posters too like a powerhouse like trump had on his desk. thank you. thank you both. we'll be right back. >> i love you, garrett.
this is cnn tonight. i'm don lemon. thanks for joining us. it's not every day a former republican presidential nominee who is now an incoming republican senator takes on a sitting republican president. but these are extraordinary times. senator elect mitt romney wrote an op-ed for the west saying, for the "washington post" sayi