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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  December 14, 2017 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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special counsel or the broader russia investigation in any new danger tonight? i'll ask the ranking democrat on the house intelligence committee adam schiff. ryan to leave? the house speaker is doing soul searching about his political future. we're learning more about paul ryan's thinking and the president's concerns that he might call it quits. and russian jets intercepted. u.s. fighter jets send a warning to moscow's planes in a new confrontation over a war zone. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." breaking tonight, growing doubts about whether the president and the republicans have the votes to pass the newest version of their tax reform bill. gop senator marco rubio indicating that he will vote
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against the bill unless the child tax credit is expanded further. republicans can't afford to lose more than two votes in the senate. concerns that senator john mccain may not be well enough to cast a vote. he was hospitalized this week as he battles brain cancer and senate sources describe him as increasingly frail. tonight, president trump says he's still optimistic that the tax bill will be passed before christmas, adding that he believes senator rubio will come around in the end. new drama in the house as paul ryan is doing soul searching about his political future. some say he may leave congress after the 2018 midterm election. the white house says president trump called ryan to tell him he'd be unhappy if the reports were true. and breaking tonight, cnn has learned that president trump spoke with russian president vladimir putin on the phone just a little while ago to discuss north korea and other matters. this comes a day after a very
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tense new encounter between the u.s. and russian warplanes. two american stealth fighters intercepting a pair of russian jets over syria, firing multiple warning flares. we're covering all of that and much more at this hour with our guests including the top democrat on the house intelligence adam schiff. first, let's go to our cnn correspondent jeff sgrzeleny. what are you learning about this new phone call about trump and vladimir putin. >> reporter: we just learned that president trump and vladimir putin had a phone call earlier today talking about the threat of a north korea and other matters. this is coming on the same day as president putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference. he called them espionage mania. he credited president trump for the stock market and other
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successes here so i'm told there will be a readout in more detail of that phone call coming up here in the coming hours. but all of this is coming on a day when the white house is trying to push for tax reform. the president also working behind the scenes on the phone urging republicans to not let their questions about this bill get in the way of a victory. >> one, two, three. >> reporter: president trump grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the ribbon but deep questions remain over the prospect of the signature tax plan. >> it will be in a very short period of time the greatest christmas present that a lot of people have ever received. it will be something special. >> reporter: the $1.5 trillion tax plan is in its final stages but still not over the finish line as the white house and republican leaders scramble to ease last-minute skepticism. at the capitol, senator marco rubio of florida made a
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bombshell announcement, saying he will vote no unless it expands to the child tax credit. he's the second republican senator to voice his opposition. the president downplayed the concerns. >> he's a great guy, very supportive. i think that senator rubio will be there very shortly. >> reporter: the confidence from the president was not reflected in the raw math of the senate. two republican senators, john mccain of arizona, and thad cochran of mississippi are both ill and have been away from the capitol for a week. vice president pence said today he would delay a trip to the middle east next week and he'll be on hand to break a tie, if needed. >> the president asked the house and senate to stay here in washington and finish this bill even if it means bleeding into the christmas holiday. >> we're pretty confident that we're going to get there before them but this is something that both the house, senate and the president are all committed to seeing happen and we're very
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hopeful that it will take place at the first of next week. >> reporter: the white house is making tentative plans for the president to sign the bill into law before leaving for his holiday break at mar-a-lago. he's told aides he wants to sign what would be the biggest legislative achievement in the east room which is decorated in christmas decorations. the latest version is expected to low customer the corporate tax rate to 221% and the individual rate to 37%. concerns still hang over the bill, particularly whether it has more benefits for the rich or middle-class americans. a key sticking point, when the tax cut for individuals would expire. 2025 or even earlier. >> ain't going anywhere. >> all of this amid questions over speaker paul ryan's futures. some of his close friends say he's had soul-searching conversations about how long he may serve as the leader of the house republicans. at the white house, those reports caused alarm. press secretary sarah huckabee
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sanders said the president reached out to speaker ryan. >> made sure that the speaker knew and in no uncertain terms that if that news was true, he was very unhappy with it. >> reporter: that's a sign of how closely the president watches these developments here. when that first news report about ryan's potential of leaving, the president reached out to him. the president needs speaker ryan for his agenda. most urgently, the tax reform bill. they are still eyeing the hope of next week, monday, tuesday, wednesday next week so the president can indeed sign it but many hurdles need to be crossed before that happens. >> jeff zeleny at the white house, thank you. let's go now to concerns from marco rubio. phil mattingly is joining me. what are you hearing about the prospect of this bill in the senate? >> reporter: he refers to the tax reform policy as being a
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rubix cube and he's now dealing with this issue with his conference, most notably, marco rubio and cochran and flake all have different asks and needs to address. specifically on senator rub bio this is about the child tax credit. the republican plan doubles it to $2,000 but the refundability is the amount people would be able to get from that tax credit beyond their income tax liability. that's where he wants increased right now. i was just told a short while ago from several gop sources that gop leaders are working to address the concerns. they are working to give more money to the refundability aspect. they say it won't be everything that the senator wants and hope it will enough to get him on board and recognize they need his vote. it's the same type of deal with susan collins and jeff flake and it's worth noting, senator bob corker, a no on the iteration of this plan, i'm told don't write him off yet.
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his concerns are real and there have not been a lot of changes to address the deficit. overall, senate republican leaders feel like they can get there. house republican leaders feel like they can get there but they recognize there's still work to be done and, wolf, jeff mentioned the illness of senator thad cochran and senator mccain. kok gra cochran is expected next week. the bigger issue is senator john mccain. he's still in walter reed medical center and he's showing to be increasingly fail, a combination of the cancer he's dealing with but also the treatment as well. senator mccain's office put out a statement yesterday saying they expect him back as soon as possible. he's still recovering from that treatment. normal effects of things but there's no question about it, his illness is serious. they are trying to figure out when he'll be back and at this moment, wolf, they don't have an answer to that. with all of that put together, it shows there's still some uncertainty despite how fast some republicans have moved and
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the very quick timeline they want to complete this by early next week. >> senator mccain is at the walt t walt ter reed medical center. phil mattingly, thank you so much. there is a growing frustration and outright fears that republicans may try to shut down the russia probe one way or another. let's go to our senior congressional correspondent manu raju. what are you learning? >> democrats on this panel are raising concerns that there's an effort by the republicans to stack up these witnesses and move through these witnesses rather quickly and actually go ahead and try to shut down this investigation rather soon, before they are able to chase down a number of leads that have emerged from this witness testimony and saying, also, that some of these witnesses have come forward before they've gotten some of the adequate documents and been able to prepare for these witnesses who have come forward. now, another development that's
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prompted some concern is a decision by the committee next week to hold off clz site interviews with two witnesses who are tied to president trump. one is a russian-american businessman who was behind an unsuccessful project to build a trump tower moscow project. that's going to help in new york city next week and, also, a long-time personal assistant in the trump organization to president trump, also be will interviewed by the house intelligence committee staff next week in new york democrats say it's part of an effort to rush the bill through rather than waiting when members themselves could interview the witnesses. republicans are pushing back. they say this investigation has been going on for the better part of a year. they have done a very deep and thorough dive and democrats are upset because they have not found the evidence they want yet to tie the trump campaign to russia, a sign of some of the growing frustration on both
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sides of the aisle as the house intelligence committee looks to wrap up its investigation in the coming weeks, wolf. >> manu raju reporting for us, thanks very much. let's talk about all of this and more with the top democrat on the house intelligence committee, congressman adam schiff, joining us right now in "the situation room." thanks for coming? >> my pleasure. >> you just heard manu raju's report. do you fear republicans are laying the ground work to end the russia investigation? >> i do. and i think you can see, wolf, during the hearing yesterday with rod rosenstein, attacking bob mueller and attacking the credibility of his investigation and calling for an end to it. if they are willing to go to that length to discredit the fbi, the justice department, bob mueller, they will have no problem with shutting down the house investigation indeed. i think they view shutting us down as a prerequisite to shutting bob mueller down and we see very disturbing signs that that's what they intend to do.
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we are scheduled to have witness interviews out of state at a time next week when we will be voting to keep the government running and voting to potentially on this tax bill for the wealthy. and so we can't leave to do these interviews and nonetheless, even though these witnesses are very important and have been on our witness list for months and months and haven't been willing to bring them in until now, they are pulling these kinds of tactics which says to me they are trying to bring this to an end. >> yesterday rod rosenstein was in front of the house committee. listen. >> how, with a straight face, can you say that this group of democrat partisans are unbiased and will give president trump a fair shake? >> what do you have to see in terms of the actions of people with demonstrated bias against the president of the united states before you will appoint a special counsel to investigate the clear bias that has infected this investigation? >> this is unbelievable.
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and i'm here to tell you, mr. rosenstein, the public's trust in this whole thing is gone. you've got two things you can do. you're the guy in charge. you're the guy who picked mueller. you're the guy who wrote the memo saying why he needed to fire comey. you're the guy in charge. you could disband the special counsel and appoint a special counsel to look into this. >> we're beginning to understand the magnitude of this insider bias on mr. mueller's team. >> you get the point. what's your reaction? >> well, really, i have to say, horrified to have the republican party on this committee attacking the integrity of bob mueller and basically attacking the whole institution of the justice department, the office of the special counsel, the fbi itself, all in the service of the president, all to do his bidding, all to try to discredit what bob mueller finds. now, we know that the president weighed in with republican senators to urge them to bring an end to this. well, his cries are being heeded
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in the house where we see them attacking these institutions so they are making common cause with the president who is tearing down his institutions and it's enormously destructive and it's having an impact. the justice department released these private text messages in the midst of a department of justice and inspector general investigation. you never do that. and, indeed, rod rosenstein was so critical of comey for comey speaking out during the pendency of an investigation. >> do you have any evidence that speaker paul ryan is working behind the scenes together with these republicans to try to end this russia probe? >> well, at the end of the day, the buck stops with the speaker. he can say i want you to follow the evidence or you're getting too much pressure from the
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outside. you have to shut this down. >> he would sign off of that, right? >> at the end of the day, it's his responsibility and if they do shut this down, when there are dozens of witnesses yet to be interviewed, they bear the responsibility. and you know what will happen, wolf, the special counsel investigation will go on. they will reveal new evidence and then the speaker and chairman of our committee will have to explain to the american people why they shut us down. >> you're saying the special counsel robert mueller's investigation will continue but there are some, and i wonder if you're among them, who fear president trump may actually try to fire mueller. >> i am worried about that. this president is obviously capable of anything. what i'm more concerned about, frankly, is that they try to artificially sir couple describe what mueller can look at. the issues that ought to concern the americans the most is the most leverage over the president
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and if the russians were laundering money through the trump or zags and guaranteeing loans that the touch organization needed for banks like deutsch bank, i want bob mueller, because they are not allowing us to do this, i want to make sure that bob mueller is investigating every credible allegation that the russians are holding something over this presidency. >> you mentioned bank records. earlier i heard from senator woo wyden the words follow the money. >> i used to prosecute white collar crimes. that is a very good rule of thumb. follow the money. when you're looking for the motive, follow the money. here you can explain the president's conduct, this inexplicable affinity for putin and putin's affinity for him in one of a couple ways. it either flows from his fundamental security about losing the popular vote and the legitimacy of his win or flows
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from the fact that he's aware that the russians have something over him or that bob mueller will find things in terms of the many, many relationships between the trump campaign and the russians, much of which has come to light. >> do you have any evidence of money laundering? >> there are certainly credible allegations of it and that's been the subject of questions we've asked witnesses about. i can't go into the specifics of it but the allegations are great enough and the risks are great enough to the country that it needs to be investigated if we do due diligence when it comes to the national security of the united states. >> have you had access to bank records? >> we have not. we've asked the majority. there's a very quick way to get to the answer of whether there was money laundering or the russian guarantee of loans and that is to subpoena deutsch bank. they're not allowing us to do it. i hope bob mueller will do it in the scope of his investigation and it's the only way i think we'll get real answers. >> why aren't they letting you do that? i assume you're referring to mike conaway the top republican
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investigating? >> i think at the end of the day devin nunes was accurate when -- sg he w >> he was the chairman of the committee. he could take charge if he wanted to? >> he said last week, i never stopped running the investigation and that's all too true. so at the end of the day, the subpoena decision, which this is, is his decision with the approval of the speaker, i would presume. >> to get this -- to subpoena the bank records. you're saying that conaway, devin nunes and the speaker maybe are preventing that kind of -- >> the chairman. >> devin nunes? >> devin nunes. we have requested it and we have not gotten approval for it and we will not get the answers and i hope that bob mueller does because i think it would be negligent with our national security not to know whether that is a lever the russians are using. >> is it just your gut instinct
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or your sense or do you have evidence that the republicans right now, that the republicans right now are trying to shut down this whole russia probe? >> well, you know, i would say this. in the last three or four weeks, the majority without any consultation of us have been scheduling witnesses at a completely different pace than we've had, with multiple witnesses coming in each day, often at the same time so members cannot be in two places at once. we're now scheduling witnesses while we're in session to be interviewed in other states. we're doing a witness interview by video conference when that witness was more than willing to come in and be interviewed in person and when i asked the majority, you know, why are we doing this, this is not in the interest of the investigation, why are we bringing witnesses in before they give us the documents we've requested of them, that's no way to run an investigation. there is no answer except i think they're feeling the heat from bannon and the white house that they need to bring this to
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an end. bear in mind, our first hearing on this was in march and they already want to bring this to an end. they've spent 3 1/2 years investigating benghazi, by comparison. >> let's get back to the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein who faced a lot of questions about these text messa that were sent between two fbi officials. first of all, you raised this earlier but i want you to elaborate. what was the impact of the justice department releasing those text messages? >> from my point of view, it violates the fact that rod rosenstein took issue with with james comey. he's revealing internal department of justice materials during the pen den see of an investigation and providing it to the press. there's no real good explanation for that except a self-serving one from the department and i also think that when you look at the context of the allegations
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that the doj is investigating, they were very selective in what they released. there were multiple reports last year that the fbi was heavily predisposed against hillary clinton and in favor of donald trump. if there are text messages that run in the other direction, why have they not also been released? why only this selective release in that's the problem with doing it this way. and -- >> because the ones that have been released that are very anti-trump. >> the ones released are -- to the degree they bear it all, as far as i can tell, are anti-trump. does that mean they are not investigating the same allegation running in the opposite direction? does that mean that they have been selective in what they're releasing to the public? i think what this does mean, wolf, is the deputy attorney general and the justice department are feeling the pressure and they cannot allow themselves to be bullied this way. they allow themselves to be bullied by lifting the gag rule on this witness at the white
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house urging, that was a mistake. that violated policy, also. this is the second demonstration of the department of justice, i think, violating their own best practices because of pressure. and it doesn't lend itself to a neat ending if it they continue down this path. >> will democrats be in new york for those interviews with rona, felix, some of these individuals who played some sort of role in all of this? >> well, i can't comment on the specific names of witnesses, but i can tell you these witnesses are very significant and i can tell you we've been asking to have them come in for months. so i know that one of the gop staffers gave an excuse that one had an injury. >> i know democratic members won't be there. you have a vote and stuff going on, keeping the government running, got to pass legislation for that. but will democratic staff members go to new dwroyork to participate in those interviews? >> yes, we'll absolutely have somebody in the room but there's
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nothing like being in the room in terms of the members running the investigation and the critical point here is, none of this is necessary. these witnesses are willing to come in and testify in person in washington, d.c., and we have done this for no other witnesses during the investigation. so what has changed? the only thing i believe that has changed is they're operating on an injunction, based on the pressure from outside the building, from the white house, from bannon and from their base. shut it down. >> stand by, congressman. there's more we need to discuss, including late word that president trump had a phone conversation today with president vladimir putin. we'll get into that and a lot more right after this.
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we're back with the democratic of the house intelligence committee adam schiff. we're talking about the russia investigation and his concerns that the republicans are trying to shut down the probe right now. very quickly on that very controversial june 9th, 2016, meeting that donald trump jr. and other campaign officials had with russians at trump tower in new york city, when did -- do you know when donald trump jr. spoke to his father about that meeting? >> well, i don't want to go into the specifics of what don trump jr. said to our committee. i have acknowledged that he made a claim, which we think is a fallacious claim of attorney-client privilege and refused to tell us what he discussed with his father about that meeting.
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the only thing i disclosed in terms of when that meeting discussion took place was after it became public. so i think we have a right to know and a need to know about that conversation and, again, this is a discussion we have with the minority, which is, are you going to be supporting us if donald trump jr. comes back to the committee and tell us what took place in that conversation. >> i want to get back to ron wyden of oregon who told me in the last hour that he has seen what he calls evidence of intent to collude with the russians by the trump campaign. what does that say to you? >> well, look, there's clear evidence of an attempt to collude. the russians offered the campaign dirt on hillary clinton. >> set up the meeting at trump tower? >> they set up the meeting and the very highest level was, we would love to have that help. so there's clearly an attempt to collude in terms of the receipt of dirt on hillary clinton
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essentially opposition research from the russians but there's also evidence of kcollusion itself, beyond intent, when it came to michael flynn colluding with the russians to essentially nullify or undermine the sanctions that were posed over the russia meddling. when you look at this chronology, wolf, you have in april the russians telling the campaign through one of their few foreign policy advisers, george papadopoulos, we've got dirt on hillary clinton in the form of thousands of e-mails, so putting the campaign on notice that they have dirt. they have them approaching the highest levels of the campaign that we'll bring you the dirt and the campaign saying we'd love to get it from you and then you have the campaign saying, you know, we're really disappointed in the dirt that you gave us. can't you do better than that? and only days later you have the russians doing exactly that by publishing the stolen clinton and dan c. e-mails and then when the russians get caught and they
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get punished with sanctions, then you have the transition team -- >> you have plenty of lawyers who say collusion is not necessarily a crime. >> well, this is a strawman of an argument. we use that for essentially conspireing with someone to do something illicit. the crime is conspiracy. if the campaign conspired with the russians to violate u.s. election laws, that's a crime. if they entered into we have dirt on hillary clinton and we hacked this and do you want them and have our help and the campaign said, yes, we want your help and the russians said, here's how we're going to help you, we're going to publish these. we're not going to give them to you directly. the campaign said that's great, that's a conspiracy. >> so you're a former prosecutor, once again. have you seen evidence of
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conspiracy that potentially could be a crime? >> well, certainly we have seen evidence of conspiracy. now there's a separate question of is it proof beyond a reasonable doubt. but in addition to the facts that i've just mentioned in terms of a willingness to conspire to get dirt on hillary clinton in the form of these stolen e-mails, you have the repeated evidence of the officials lying about exactly these contacts, pleading guilt to lying about these contacts which is also powerful evidence of knowledge of wrongdoing and intent to deceive. so, yes, is there evidence? yes. is there proof beyond a reasonable doubt? ultimately bob mueller will have to make that determination. >> you have confidence in bob mueller? >> i have great confidence in him. >> let me ask you about this lengthy "washington post" report that says they were reluctant to
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talk about the election because it upsets the president and derails the briefing and doesn't want to hear about it so they don't talk about it. there's been no cabinet meetings, according to "the washington post," discussing any of this. the president a few times grudgingly has acknowledged this but then seems to regret having said that. is all of this detrimental to national security? >> unquestionably. it's almost unthinkable but we have a situation where our commander in chief cannot be told the truth about what the russians did. >> why? >> because it would upset him. >> why would it upset him? >> well, because he either fears it delegitimatizes himself and doesn't want to hear it, he can't stand to hear this, it's like that line from tom cruise, you can't handle the truth. apparently the president can't handle the truth or the president is in such deep fear of what might come out, he doesn't want to hear anything about it. >> explain that. what may come out? the suggestion is that the
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russians may have something. >> well, it certainly may be the case that is motivating for the president to behave that is otherwise inexplicable. if it's not just a pro fund insecurity about his election, it's the fact that he's worried that something is going to come out about his relationship to the russians or something the russians have over him. >> have you heard that from any serious official, any tell convenien generals official, that the president is worried that the russians have something that could come out? >> the intelligence officials are not going to tell me this is what the president fears but i can say this. the russians are doing their own psychological profile of this president. they learn that the president can't be told anything about them. it's the best possible world for the russians. it's the worst in terms of our own national security and more than that, what does putin do? he plays to trump's insecurities. why are they continuing in america, he says, to question
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the legitimacy of donald trump's election. we had nothing to do with it. they are disrespecting his voters. they play to what the russians know is his weakness and vanity and it is effective and that's deeply against our national interests. >> clearly during that 3 1/2 hour news conference today putin was trying to flatter president trump repeatedly during that news conference. they did have a phone conversation. we're learning more details and they spoke on the phone. a lot of people are concerned, i assume you are as well, that the russian sanctions which passed overwhelmingly in the house 419-3, overwhelmingly in the senate on july 27th, 98-2, which the president then reluctantly signed into law, he didn't want to see those sanctions against russia. they still have not yet been implemented. how do you explain that? >> it's very consistent with this reporting in "the washington post." do you want to be the guy in the
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administration to say, okay, we're ready to levy sanctions on russia over their interference in our election on your behalf? no one wants to make that announcement to the president because they'll be shunned by him or they won't get a promotion to some other position in the administration or jeopardize their relationship with him. i think the portrait that was painted in an article rings all too true. this is a president who cannot be given bad news and particularly that reflects negatively on him and coming to him and saying, mr. president, congress passed this. we've got to implement these sanctions, probably no one wants to be the bearer of that news. >> what happens if he doesn't? because the drop dead deadline is the end of january. that's what the law stipulates. >> well, congress will need to figure out what steps it can take to enforce its will, to unsure that these sanctions go into effect and there are ways that we can do that. >> adam schiff, congressman adam
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schiff, thank you for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. just ahead, the president's phone call with vladimir putin hours after the russian leader publicly defended president trump. and can the president afford to lose on his signature tax bill? talk about how much trouble the legislation is actually facing right now.
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we're following multiple breaking stories this hour,
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including a new phone conversation today between president trump and russia's president vladimir putin. phil mudd, let me talk to you about what we just heard from adam schiff. he lays out his fears that potentially deep concern that president trump might actually fire the special counsel robert mueller or republicans are aggressively trying now to shut down the entire russia investigation. do you believe those fears are justified? >> let's separate this out. should he be saying things like that? sure. he's concerned about the action of the president. is that likely? if the president chooses to go down that path, we're not talking about the special counse counsel, we're also talking about the attorney general who's recused himself in this case and if we want to shut down this investigation, we can't now because the president has just shown the american people that we can't trust what's going on at the department of justice. it also includes the fbi
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director. that's a trump appointee who would have to say what's going to happen with the investigation now that mueller is gone. i think there's a chance maybe that the president does this but the law of unintended consequences here, the number of people who would have to disappear as a result is too significant. >> will the white house really be willing to deal with the backlash of the president if he were to go ahead and fire mueller? >> it will be a political firestorm if he did that and i think his lawyers are cautioning him against doing that and the technicality would be a beast in and of itself because he can't fire him himself and he'd have to get rosenstein to do that and he's not likely to do that because he was defending his work this week and the president would have to work his way down the line at the doj and that would invoke the saturday night massacre with president nixon and the president does seem to
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be becoming increasingly concerned about it and he's been raging about it privately, worrying that it's coming in closer and closer to his own children and this is a president who acts out without worry of retribution. >> adam schiff also suggested, mark, that there are republicans who just want to end all of this and they're moving quickly in all sorts of, from his perspective, sorted ways to should it down. >> two reasons. one, they don't like the fact that their republican president is coming under attack and, two, they have their own electoral prospects going back to 2018. this is not a good thing for republicans to have to deal with going into a midterm election where the president has a 32% approval rating of him. they are going to have to go back and be asked by their constituents, by the voters whether or not they're with the president. as we've seen week after week, day after day, another shoe drops. >> you saw "the washington post"
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story, a very lengthy, detailed story that the president, the few times very grudgingly acknowledged that the russians interfered in the u.s. presidential election and expressed regret for doing so. it's something that he hated doing and even as national security briefings, they don't want to get into talking about that because it's so irritates him and angers him to even hear those kinds of words. >> it seems pretty clear to me, wolf, sitting here i follow the president's twitter feed and we follow his public statement. he has called any hint of russia interference a hoax, something that democrats have invented for political purposes. this is the sort of rhetoric that we hear from the president when it comes to russia and their interference in our election despite that there is agreement that this happened and you hear it on capitol hill fortunately democrats and republicans alike. i think it's clear that he regrets it and if you're inside
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the white house you have to be more attuned to that sort of thing. >> as national security advisers, not including any of this in his daily briefings, for example, no cabinet meeting on russia involvement in the u.s. presidential election. what does that say to you as a former cia officer? >> pretty simple. if you're making decisions, you can make whatever decisions you want but hopefully you make them based on the best facts that the u.s. government can bring to bear. for example, if you have opinions on the iran and nuclear deal program, hopefully they won't count the political views when they walk into the office and say the iranians are or are not complying with sanctions. hopefully if you want to squeeze the north koreans and somebody comes in and says the sanctions are or are not having an impact on what the north koreans do, the briefers won't come in and judge what you say based on what your reaction is. the bottom line is, wolf, the cia can't walk into the briefing room afraid that the president is going to say i don't want to hear the news. you've got to hear the news if
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you're the president and then decide what you're going to do. >> that's certainly the tradition. apparently if you believe "the washington post," they are not doing that. everybody, stand by. just ahead, the u.s. and russia clearly at odds over close encounters in the skies over syria. what really happened in those confrontational moments? plaque . ...isn't it time to let the real you shine through? maybe it's time for otezla (apremilast). otezla is not an injection or a cream. it's a pill that treats plaque psoriasis differently. with otezla, 75% clearer skin is achievable after just 4 months,... ...with reduced redness,... ...thickness, and scaliness of plaques. and the otezla prescribing information has... ...no requirement for routine lab monitoring. don't use if you're allergic to otezla. otezla may cause severe diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. tell your doctor if these occur. otezla is associated with an increased... ...risk of depression. tell your doctor if you have... ...a history of depression... ...or suicidal thoughts,... ...or if these feelings develop. some people taking otezla...
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new tonight, another tense standoff in the sky between u.s. and russian warplanes. our chief national security correspondent, jim sciutto, is following the story for us. what's the latest? >> russia has just come out with a statement denying the u.s. account but not denying u.s. and russian warplanes came very close to each other in the air over syria. the two f-22 fighters intercepted two russian fighters who were flying east of the deconfli deconfliction line. so the u.s. says that the russians went over that line in effect and that they were then intercepted by these two f-22s and the u.s. then registered a
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complaint via the hotline that commanders on either side have. russia is saying it's different. they're saying that the u.s. planes interfered with the russian planes who were doing the right thing on the right side of that line and the russians even implied that another russian fighter chased these american jets away, calling the american account wishful thinking. what is not in dispute, wolf, is that armed u.s. and russian aircraft came very close to each other over a conflict zone. that's been a real worry for u.s. commanders. they say this has happened six to eight times over recent weeks where russians have crossed that line. a u.s. commander said in plain words, the greatest concern is that we could shoot down a russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our error ground forces. >> we know presidents trump and putin spoke today but don't know if they spoke about this incident. >> we don't know but we know u.s. commanders took it up with their russian counterparts. >> thanks so much for that, jim sciutto reporting.
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also tonight the united states says it has evidence that iran is supplying weapons to rebel fighters in yemen, defying the united nations security council. the u.s. ambassador to the u.n., nikki haley, standing in front of the weapons debris called on the international community to unite against what she described as a global threat from iran. iran says the accusations are baseless, but there's no disputing the devastation caused by the war in yemen. our senior international correspondent, clarissa ward, is joining us once again with more on her exclusive reporting. clarissa, there's an urgent, urgent humanitarian crisis in yemen. you saw it firsthand. update our viewers. >> that's right, wolf. the u.n. is saying that 8.4 million people inside yemen are now just a step away from famine, that this will be the worst famine that the world has seen in many decades. we traveled to the front lines of yemen's hunger crisis and found that most of the victims
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are some of yemen's youngest citizens. i want to caution our viewers that some of this is hard to watch. this is how ahmed helmi spends his days, lying on the concrete floor, trying to swat away the flies with what little energy he has. looking at his tiny body, ravaged by hunger, you would never guess that ahmed is five years old. his brother died of malnutrition two months ago. we're in a war, there's no food, no water, his mother says. only god knows our pain. it's a pain shared by too many here in the same small village. we need abdul, an overwhelmed father of five. he's worried about his son. there's no doctor nearby and no
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scale, but he can't weigh more than 5 pounds. the problem is that my wife doesn't have a lot of breast milk, he says, she's sick too. and it's not hard to see why. there's almost no food in it. >> so they have some bread? some onions. no meat. >> reporter: hunger has always been a problem in yemen, but two and a half years of war has starved the country. three million people are displaced. many live in filthy camps, where disease and infection are rife and malnutrition difficult to combat. there is food in the markets, it's just that few people can actually afford it, and that's what's so tough to get your head around about this crisis. it's not caused by a bad harvest or a drought, it's caused by
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man. a saudi arabia-led blockade has cut the amount of food and medicine getting into yemen by more than half. what does come through is heavily taxed along the way. rural clinics struggle to meet the scale of the need. 10-month-old ali has gained seven ounces since his last visit, a welcome improvement, but he is still suffering from severe malnutrition. you haven't done anything wrong, the nurse tells his mother, but he's still weak so i really want you to focus on this problem. for ahmed, it may be too late. he's been sick for years now. he only speaks when the pain is too much. he tells me my tummy hurts, my head hurts. he cries. hardship and hunger. this is yemen's story.
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my whole life agony and i are like lovers, this yemeni song goes. why, world, do you only show us the terrible things? but the world doesn't hear his lament. while the silence of starvation tightens its grip on a forgotten people. now, wolf, the u.s. has come under a lot of fire because it is continuing to support saudi arabia politically, also of course that huge weapons deal. we saw president trump travel to the kingdom signing that deal for more than $100 billion worth of weapons. a lot of people very concerned that those weapons could end up in yemen's conflict. at the same time, we should note that the white house has in the past few weeks called on saudi arabia to lift that blockade. that is a blockade, by air, by
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lappe land, by sea. the white house also saying that the u.s. intends to give more than $100 million in aid. whether that will make a difference on the ground or not, wolf, remains very much to be seen. >> what does nikki haley's statements today mean for yemen, statements accusing iran of providing ballistic missiles, short-range ballistic missiles to houthi rebels in yemen and a couple of them went towards saudi arabia, including the international airport in riyadh? >> well, to those of us following this conflict closely, i don't think there's a huge amount of surprise that iran is likely arming houthi rebels. but i think to some people it was somewhat galling to hear the u.s. chastising iran for this when, of course, the u.s. is the biggest supplier along with the uk and some other countries of heavy weaponry to saudi arabia. when i was in the capital back in 2015, houthi rebels showed me
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bombs that were falling on the heads of people living in areas under their control. their weapons were u.s. made, wolf. >> clarissa ward, excellent reporting once again. thank you so, so much. that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in the situation room. erin burnett outfront starts right now. outfront next, braeaking news. marco rubio says he's a no on the tax bill and others asking serious questions. could trump's big tax cut go down in defeat? >> plus omarosa out at the white house. secret service taking her credentials. why are taxpayers still on the hook for her salary. and there's a 70% chance that the u.s. will attack north korea if kim jong-un con tests another bomb. a u.n. diplomat just back from meetings in pyongyang. i'm erin

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