tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN December 31, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
♪ happening now, new year, old fights. president trump is spending the final hours of 2018 tweeting and taunting his opponents. is there any hope for the shutdown stalemate to be broken as house democrats are ready to ring in a new year of power? american held in moscow. the kremlin arrests a u.s. citizen on suspicion of spying weeks after a confessed russian agent pleads guilty to spying on the united states. is vladimir putin seeking pay back. pressure on paul manafort to pay a multi-million dollar debt
at the same time he was running donald trump's 2016 campaign. what could it mean for robert mueller's investigation? in the race, democrat elizabeth warren takes a major step towards a white house bid, declaring she is in the fight to oust president trump all the way. tonight the 2020 race is heating up as 2019 is about to begin. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states. wolf blitzer is off, i'm brianna keeler and this is a "the situation room" room report. ♪ tonight cnn has learned that house democratic leaders settled on a strategy to rye to reopen the government and use their new power to force president trump's hand. they're planning to call votes just hours after the party takes control on thursday, but there's no indication that the president is willing to budge on his central demand for border wall funding. on this new year's eve, mr. trump is stuck at the white
house missing his own party at mara las vegas y mar-a-lago and taking out his frustration on witter. i will talk about it with congressman david cicilline and our corner and analysts are standing by. to cnn's jessica dean at the white house for us. jess, what are we hearing from the president tonight? >> reporter: we are hearing a lot on twitter. he says he is willing to negotiate but he also is saying he is keeping his demand for the border wall and he wants the money to fund it. ten days into the partial government shutdown, sources involved with negotiations say president trump is privately telling lawmakers and officials he will not sign a bill with only $1.3 billion for border security, the current democratic offer. today the president sending out a flurry of tweets on the shutdown, taking shots at the democrats saying, quote, i'm in the oval office, democrats, come back from vacation now and give us the votes necessary to border security including the wall. but democrats appear equally dug
in, taking control of the house on thursday they plan to vote on a package that maintains the $1.3 billion for border security but no wall funding. still, following a two-hour lunch with the president on sunday, senator lindsey graham remained optimistic a compromise could be reached in the next few days. >> the president didn't commit, but i think he's very open minded. >> reporter: meantime, new details about the administration's attempted rebranding of the trump wall. outgoing chief of staff john kelly telling "the los angeles times", quote, to be honest it is not a wall. he went on explaining the president still says wall, oftentimes, frankly, he will say barrier or fencing. now he's tending towards steel lats, but we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it. the comments led trump to fire back, tweeting, an all-concrete wall was never abandoned as has been reported by the media. some areas will be all concrete,
but the experts at border patrol prefer a wall that is see-through, thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides. makes sense to me. the president also brought the obamas into his border wall fight, tweeting, president and mrs. obama have a ten-foot wall around their d.c. mansion compound. i agree, totally necessary for their safety and security. the u.s. needs the same thing, slightly larger version. the u.s. secret service did erect a barrier gate in front of the obama's home before they moved in. the house is located on a residential street in washington, d.c.. he also brought the deaths of two migrant children at the border into the fight, blaming their deaths on democrats, tweeting, any deaths of children or others at the border are strictly the fault of the democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally. they can't. if we had a wall, they wouldn't even try.
as trump seems unmoved on the money he needs for the border wall, his decision to remove u.s. troops from syria may be slowing down. senator graham telling reporters the president agreed to re-evaluate to find the best way to move forward with the withdrawal. >> i think we're slowing down in a smart way but the goal has been the same, to be able to leave syria, make sure isis never comes back, our partners are taken care of and iran is contained. i think that's possible. it is going to take a little longer than everybody thought, but hopefully we can get there. >> reporter: president trump also tweeting about syria today, saying that his plan is to slowly bring the troops out of syria while also fighting isis. brianna, he says it is just a campaign promise he is following through on, this is what he always said he was going to do. >> jessica dean at the white house. thank you. i want to get more on the democrat strategy for taking on the president and trying to break this shutdown stalemate. we have cnn congressional correspondent phil mattingly here with that. so the democrats are actually
planning on voting shortly after they take over control of the house. is this going to work? >> it is not going to work if they think this is going in isolation to reopen the government. look, here is what they're going to do. they're going to pass -- right now there are seven funding bills that haven't been passed, one is the most con ten shol, the homeland security bill, where border security is. what democrats will do is pass that bill at current levels of funding until february 8th. the remaining appropriation bills they will package together, the bipartisan senate proposals that the senate already passed most of. here is the issue. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell has made very clear if the president doesn't sign off he is not going to put it on the floor. the house democrats can pass whatever he wants. if the president is not on board, senate republicans will not move it. the president has made clear, he's not on board. his threshold is the same, billions for border wall. democrats are saying 1.3 billion for border security, not a dime more. therefore lies the issue and the
area that needs to be bridged. things are frozen. what we will see on thursday is the first legislation action in days and maybe it kick starts something into gear, but at this moment there is, a, no clear pathway out of here and, b, no end in sight. what does it mean when i talk to people on capitol hill? they acknowledge if things start to happen they could happen fast, but at this moment people are still talking about weeks, not days sha, in terms of how l the shutdown will last. >> weeks and many lunches, for weeks, phil mattingly. thank you so much. to tensions between the united states and russia are ratcheting higher tonight after the arrest of an american citizen in moscow accused of spying. cnn's senior international correspondent matthew chance joining us live from moscow. a lot of questions tonight about whether the arrest is connected to the recent guilty plea here in the u.s. to alleged russian spy mariia butina. >> reporter: well, i mean it is a good question. we don't really know the ants to that definitively.
the fact is mariia butina pleaded guilty two weeks ago and here we are with a suspected american spy announced being arrested in the russian capital. the details are sketchy, of course. buff i think what is increasingly clear is that as 2019 starts, so too does a potentially new and damaging crisis in the relationship between moscow and washington. tonight a u.s. citizen detained by russia, caught spying according the a short statement read out on state television. the country's main counter espionage agency, the fsb, has named the american as paul whelen but has given no other details. the u.s. state department hasn't shed of light on the case either, saying it has requested consular access to the prisoner and expects russian authorities to provide it. but due to privacy considerations, we have no additional information to
provide at this time, the state department added. this after russian gun rights activist, mariia butina, who is being held in the united states, pleaded guilty to conspiracy. u.s. prosecutors say she act as an unregistered foreign agent, attempting to infiltrate the national rifle association and the republican party to lobby influential americans. she now faces up to six months in jail. russia vehemently denies butina is their agent, but at his annual news conference a few weeks ago the russian president went out of his way to say retaliation will not take place. >> translator: we will not arrest innocent people simply to exchange them for someone else, he insisted. but there are press au dents for
slurch u.s./ru u.s./yush swap. anna chapman was returned along with nine others in exchange for four prisoners in russia, one was sergei skripal, recently poisoned in salisbury. the latest arrest comes after russian president vladimir putin sent a holiday message to president trump confirming that russia is open for dialogue with the u.s.. the arrest of this u.s. citizen for espionage though so soon afterwards sends a very different message. brianna, it is a message of defiance and of hostility. we don't yet know the circumstances of what happened with this american citizen, but, as i mentioned, it is almost certain to set that relationship between washington and moscow on a very rocky path indeed. back to you. >> it sure is. matthew chance in moscow. thank you so much. joining me now, congressman david cicilline. he is a democrat who serves on
the judiciary and foreign affairs committee. thank you for being with us on this holiday eve. >> my pleasure. happy new year. >> happy new year to you. what do you make of this development? >> the development with respect to our budget proposal or -- >> no, i'm so sorry. you just heard being on the foreign affairs committee, when you hear about this russian spy, alleged -- sorry. pardon me. when you hear about someone the russians are saying is an american spy being detained and it seems like it could be in sort of payback for the butina plea, what do you think of that? >> yeah. i mean i think it is obviously very concerning. i think this is further evidence that russia is not our friend. they're adversaries of the united states. we know that they attacked our democracy in the last presidential election. we have really seen a tremendous amount of evidence about the sophistication of that attack on our democracy and it is ongoing and very serious ways. so it is not surprising that
they're attempting to retaliate from the rule of law in our country, and we have to learn a lot more about this. but, you know, this is conduct you would expect from a despot, from a tyrant, from a leader of a country that's an adversary of the united states that doesn't share our values. >> time magazine is reporting that a russian oligarch through a middle man was pressuring paul manafort to repay his debts. we are talking about millions and millions of dollars in debts, and this was all happening during the 2016 election. manafort offered, according to an e-mail that "time" refers to in this report, briefings to a russian oligarch in order to, quote, get whole with the russians. what is your reaction to this rather stunning bit of news? >> well, i mean it is breathtaking. i mean to think that a person who is leading an american presidential campaign is in debt to a russian oligarch and is trading access, briefings by the
campaign in exchange for relieving some of the debt, i mean it is very, very concerning. for those who think that the russian effort to compromise and attack our democracy isn't serious, this is further evidence of that. our elections ought to be decided by the american people, free from any interference by foreign adversaries. this is, again, part of a growing amount of evidence about the russians' campaign to attack our democracy, to help elect donald trump and undermine hillary clinton. whether you are a republican, democrat, trump supporter or clinton supporter, we ought to be united to protect the integrity of our election and punish any foreign government that attempts to interfere in any way and hold people accountable in positions of mr. manafort who may have compromised the integrity of our elections for his own financial advantage. >> i want to ask you about the shutdown because we're in day ten. there doesn't seem to be an end
in sight. house democrats when they take control of the house will vote on funding bills, including one with $1.3 billion for border funding. you know that's not going anywhere outside of the house, so what is the end game here? >> well, i think what we hope will happen is, look, there's broad consensus on the six funding bills. they're bipartisan. the senate already approved that spending 100-0. so those departments we ought to just fund them to the end of the fiscal year, which is what one package will be. let's isolate the disagreement, the department of homeland security. we will propose and pass a piece of legislation providing current funding of $1.3 billion for border security until february 8th. that will give us an opportunity to engage in additional discussions with the republicans, but let's isolate the problem. the other six departments, let's open those up, let's act like adults, as speaker designee pelosi said, we will do that right away and reopen the government. those six bills hopefully will pass the house and senate. the president should sign them. there's no dispute on those issues.
the remaining department of homeland security where there's a disagreement, keep the current level and engage in discussions to see if we can reach agreement. it is a perfectly sensible way to approach it that will reopen the government and ensure over 800,000 employees affect by this can have their lives back and the president can engage with the democrats and the republicans in the senate and try to come up with a solution. >> you say it is sensible but mitch mcconnell is going to say, no, it is not, the president won't sign it, i'm not putting it on the floor. are you comfortable -- >> the president -- >> the president is not going along with this plan, so it is dead in the water. it won't be taken up by the senate. are you comfortable in the place where you are that your supporters, that your constituents believe you're doing the right thing to not capitulate on this? are you sure and comfortable that you have the support you need to not blink on this? >> look, it is not a question of not blinking. we supported border security.
we have a bipartisan agreement. it was 100-0 in the senate. the president said he would sign it. >> okay. but that's over. i hear what you're say ironing, there was something and the president walked back on it. >> but the other -- right. my point is there's no disagreement on those six bills. let's do that. i disagree that the president wouldn't sign it. he should sign it. >> they don't want to decouple it. they're not going along with that. so knowing that, as you move forward on that, it is clearly a messaging vote. are you comfortable with where you are, that you have the time to kill that your constituents will stick with you? >> no. i disagree. i don't think it is a messaging vote. it is reopening the vote. it is passing a bill with bipartisan. >> it is only reopening if the president signs it. >> and then we have to put pressure on them to do that. it is isolating where the conflict is, that's one department. let's be very clear. democrats supported almost $1.7 billion over the last two years in border security. we support securing our borders. we think it should be done in a
smart way using technology, drones, satellites, cargo inspections, things that will actually work, more personnel. we don't think a concrete wall, which is a 19th century solution for a 21st century problem, makes sense. i think, again, the suggestion that democrats somehow don't support border security is not true. the president's own chief of staff, the outgoing john kelly and the incoming mick mulvaney, both said a border wall will not solve the problem. both acknowledge that. but the president has shut down the government because he wants a fight over this so we will distract from the other problems he is facing, his defense secretary leaving, the isis coordinator leaving, his foundation being shut down for persistent corruption, the mueller investigation proceeding, mr. flynn's sentencing hearing. all of these things. instead, he is distract. he said, i'm shutting the government down because it achieves an objective. we are no longer talking about all of the problems the administration faces. we are talking about the government shutdown. this was done purposely.
it is an easy problem to solve if the president is really interested in reopening the government, but so far it hasn't expressed an intention to do that. >> we are hearing weeks from our phil mattingly. it is stunning, congressman. thank you so much. congressman david cicilline. >> thanks for having me. >> happy new year to you. >> thanks. same to you. just ahead, more on paul manafort and whether his financial debt to the russians left his compromised big time while he was in charge of president trump's campaign. and as elizabeth warren makes her white house hopes clear, president trump is weighing in tonight, talking about her chances of bringing him down. first, take look at tonight's celebration in paris where they just rang in the new year moments ago. ♪ happy new year 2019 around the world brought to you by farmer's insurance. visit cnn.com/rearinreview for a
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brighten your new year with a britbox annual plan and get two months free. are you kidding? bring it on. this year, escape to britbox. sign up for an annual plan and start your free trial at britbox.com. a book that you're ready to share with the world? get published now, call for your free publisher kit today! tonight as paul manafort awaits sentence ignore his crimes, there is new reporting about his russia connections while he was president trump's campaign chairman. time magazine says manafort owed millions of dollars to the russians at the time, multi-millions, and they were pressuring him to pay up. let's bring in cnn's certain justice correspondent evan perez to talk about this. it is the question, was he compromised? he was certainly vulnerable to
being so. >> right. this is the essence of compromise, which is the word that's become part of the lexicon since this investigation began. the amount of money is a large sum. it is $19 million that allegedly paul manafort was in debt to one of the most connected oligarchs in russia, connected to the kremlin. so the center of the story is victor, a former intelligence agent for the russians, and he was in touch with paul manafort, trying to lean on him over this amount of money that he was allegedly -- that manafort allegedly owed. so here is a part of the "time" magazine story in which they quote him in which he said, quote, he owed us a lot of money and he was offering ways to pay it back. i came down on him hard. again, he is a former intelligence agent with the russians and he's in touch with the chairman of the trump
campaign during the key period when trump is about to become the republican nominee. >> what is interesting is there are e-mails in the report and it is paul manafort offering briefings to the oligarch to become whole, to make him whole, which means to pay off his debt. >> right, and that's what boyarkin has been referring to. there have been e-mails published by the associated press, "the washington post" and other news organizations and they show according to the e-mails manafort was offering to settle the debt by putting people in touch with people in the campaign. >> selling access. it is pretty stunning. there's a mystery case in the mueller probe. >> right. >> the russia probe that has been challenged to the supreme court. tell us about it. >> it is on the doorstep of the supreme court. right now the chief justice will decide, frankly, whether or not this gets a full airing before the supreme court. he asked for the government to submit a brief. we don't know a lot about what
is going on behind the scenes here. we know that it is a company, it is a private company and that it is owned by a foreign government. everything has been done under seal, so much so that during one of the hearings they sealed off the entire floor of the federal courthouse in order to allow the lawyers to come in and out and the reporters not be able to see who exactly was coming in. so we know that it is connected to the mueller investigation, but beyond that we don't know very much more, brianna. so now we're keeping an eye on the supreme court, possibly into the new year here to decide whether or not this gets a full airing in the supreme court. >> we will wait, evan perez. thank you for the report. just ahead, senator elizabeth warren takes a crucial first step towards a likely presidential campaign. is she a top-tier contender? we will hear what president trump is saying about that tonight. yeah, i've had some pretty prestigious jobs over the years. news producer, executive transport manager, and a beverage distribution supervisor. now i'm a director at a security software firm.
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. tonight president trump is wrapping up 2018 of as he started it, facing controversy over his border wall and mounting pressure in the russia investigation. let's bring in our analysts to talk about all of this. phil mudd, to you first. you worked at the cia and the fbi. i wonder what you think about this "time" report that paul manafort was getting pressed by the russians, a russian oligarch through a middle man, to pay back a debt. he was at the time the chairman of trump's campaign and he was
being pressured to repay this while he's head of the trump campaigns? >> what do i think about this? like new year's, i'm irritated. >> this is new year's, not festivities. >> excuse me, serious news here. when you're going through this, there's an appearance of impropriety. for example, visa cards, did you get involved in domestic violence. we had people at cia involved in shoplifting and they couldn't get a security clearance, not because they were connected with the russians but because there's an appearance of impropriety. somebody walks in and says i'm going to expose your domestic violence without something of value. in this case there's not the appearance of impropriety but there is impropriety. he is vulnerable to foreign power because he owes money. we give this guy this position of power? i wouldn't have gotten this if i were in government. >> he said he would give briefings to this ol oligarch
deripaska to make himself whole on these debts. >> that's why -- >> he offered them. >> because he thought it was a national security interest? because he was vulnerable because of the financial debt. >> i think it is not the former, fair to say. >> i think it is fair to say. if you are a security expert, you look at this and say not only should he not be a campaign manager, he shouldn't have a security clearance because he's vulnerable. >> what does it mean for the mueller investigation? we believe it was $19 million in the hole. this is not small change, it is big money. >> right. and one of the key players in all of this is this guy by the name of kaleminick. also how he is connected to other people they are interested in. one of the things we expect in 2019, we will hear more of the fuller story here. some of these emerged during paul manafort's trial in virginia. i think we will hear a lot more
of this when the mueller report comes out or whatever new charges might be coming from mueller, too. >> jack, you were in the middle of a shutdown. it is going on. there doesn't seem to be any closed door negotiations trying to wrap this thing up. there's just no movement, but democrats will have these votes when they take over control of the house. to what effect though? what is the end game here? >> it feels like they're sort of moving things around, right? >> just doing something to do something? >> right. only president trump knows the end game because mitch mcconnell is waiting for president trump to say what he will sign. and even if he says it, there is no guarantee until his signature is on the paper -- i mean how many times have we been in a situation where there's a deal in the house and the senate and the president undermines, cuts the legs out of his own republicans. now we have democrats, he's going to have to come to them with something because they're not going to be bullied by him, frankly. >> ron, check out what the
outgoing chief of staff, john kelly, told "the l.a. times". because, of course, the shutdown is all about the border wall but he said this. to be honest, it is not a wall. the president still says wall. oftentimes, frankly, he will say barrier or fencing, now has tended towards steel slats, but we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration when he asked people what they needed and where they needed it. then president trump responded on twitter. an all-concrete wall was never abandoned as has been reported by the media. some areas will be all concrete, but the experts at border patrol prefer a wall that is see through, thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides. make senses to me. wall or no wall, ron? >> well, look, i think no wall. even the president's tweet kind of acknowledges what, you know, what the outgoing chief of staff was saying. but the moment for the wall, you know, really has i think come and gone for the president. i mean he had a deal a year ago. people forget that last february all but three senate democrats and eight -- only eight of the
senate republicans voted for a proposal from mike rounds and john man chin thchin that would given him $25 billion in return for a pathway to citizenship for the so-called dreamers, young people brought here illegally by parents. ultimately the white house torpedoed that deal and demanded the largest cuts in legal immigration since the 1920s. i don't think that if the president offered that deal again tomorrow the democrats would accept it at this point, because they are now -- you know, they have a house majority that overwhelmingly views the wall as unnecessary, expensive and a symbol of racial animosity, and they have a coalition that overwhelmingly oppose it. all of the groups that oppose the wall in the house at 60% plus. it is not clear what leverage the president has in this fight. you know as well as i, the history of government shutdowns is they don't provide enough
leverage the make the other side do what you want. i think it will go into the ledger when all is said and done. >> it is so frustrating to watch it has become so normal. there's a story that's just developed. there was a video put out on twitter by strategic command which controls -- it actually controls the nuclear weapons in the country, right? so that's pretty alarming. here is what the original tweet said. times square tradition rings in the new year by dropping the ball. if ever needed we are ready to drop something of, of bigger. i'm hoping we can show, oh, yes, it is a stealth bomber casually dropping very large bombs in what is kind of making light of this situation. so shortly after this we had an interview with congressman ruben gaigo and he criticized the message. here is what the apology that was tweeted out that says. our previous nye tweet was in poor taste and does not reflect
our values. we apologize. we are dedicated to the security of america and allies. phil mudd? >> that perfectly sums up 2018. >> before anybody tries to make light of this, let me offer a serious perspective on this. the president gets off a plane from a conversation with a nuclear power that is north korea and says we're safer with no evidence. it turns out months later he was incorrect. the president makes a decision to withdraw u.s. forces from syria -- by the way, after lunch with lindsey graham says maybe i didn't consider that well. let me be clear, these decisions about whether to put american forces at risk and whether to kill somebody overseas involve potentially the death of a child. maybe don't joke about it. that could be a new year's resolution. >> it is the casual nature of something that's so serious. and it isn't funny, phil, you're right, but it is almost -- it defies belief. >> it really does. again, i go back to the fact that this year we've seen so many things that would under normal circumstances defy
belief, and yet they happened, right? so this is just another one, and i just -- you know, it is something that this strategic command should not be sending out messages so casually, joking about bombs. >> do you think in another administration, jack, that would be sent out or do you think it is taking the lead from the president? >> you know, you shouldn't have to tell those folks, think before you tweet. but, you know, the president doesn't follow that and clearly -- clearly someone, someone, some adult decided that maybe it wasn't good to put something that -- for give the pun -- incendiary on the internet, with allies, adversaries on new year's eve looking on. >> ron? >> you know, i'm still trying to get over the strategic air command tweeting at all. >> you're three steps behind us. >> you know, it is sort of like -- it is sort of like the kind of thing where, you know,
you expect -- you know, what is it? talk softly and carry a big stick? that would be the ultimate suppression expression of that, you would expect your nuclear planners to up hold. but it is kind of a reflection of the way the boundaries are disappearing. it sound like they learned a quick lesson though. >> all right. ron, thank you so much. phil, evan, jackie, really appreciate it. >> happy new year. >> happy new year. >> happy 2019, you guys. just ahead, insights into robert mueller and the russia investigation as we expect the special counsel to drop his final report in the new year. you're watching "the situation room" special report.
. >> tonight special counsel robert mueller is wrapping a busy year in the russia investigation, and as he heads into 2019 he is keeping the trump team and the nation guessing about what to expect in his final report. cnn chief political analyst gloria borger has more on mueller as a man, an investigator and a thorn in the president's side. ♪ >> reporter: special counsel robert mueller is a mystery man, perhaps the most private public figure in washington. but as the leader of the russia investigation, he and his team have become a political piñata after squeezing indictments, jail time and plea deals from former trump advisers, including the president's ex-fixer, now singing and facing prison, and his ex-campaign chair, now
indicted and accused of lying. >> they should have never been any mueller investigation because there was never anything done wrong and there was no collusion. there never has been. >> reporter: it's been a frame job, says one of his lawyers. >> they are a group of 13 highly partisan democrats that make up the mueller team, excluding him, are trying very, very hard to frame him. >> reporter: an angry president fired his attorney general and hired someone more to his liking on the investigation, and now delights in calling mueller a conflicted prosecutor gone rogue. ♪ >> reporter: it is hard to remember that at the start -- >> i think he's the right guy at the right time. >> reporter: -- mueller was a bipartisan favorite. >> he would have been on anybody's list of, let's say, the top five people in the country to have, you know, taken on this kind of a responsibility. >> reporter: the resume is long. at 74, he's been involved for decades in some of the justice department most celebrated
cases. mobster john gotti, panamanian dictator man yu el noriega and the pan am bombing in lockerbie, scotland in 1988. a ace that still remains personal. >> i will never forget the visit i made to lockerbie where i saw the small, wooden warehouse in which were stored the effects of your loved ones, a white sneaker, a syracuse sweat shirt, christmas presents and photographs. >> he's been effectively the same bob mueller in every place he has ever worked, whether it was the u.s. attorney's other in san francisco in the 1970s, whether that was the george h.w. bush administration in the 1980s, whether that was the d.c. homicide prosecutor's office in the 1990s or the fbi in the 2000s. he is hard-driving. he is tenacious.
he is incredibly thorough and has a very strong sense of right or wrong. >> reporter: a registered republican, but it is hard to tell. >> four-and-a-half years of whatever 2,000 meetings, i didn't hear him say anything political. >> really? in washington? >> yeah, i know it sounds weird. he might have said, that guy's a jerk. i didn't see it as a partisan issue. >> how would you describe his politics? >> no. >> as in there are none? >> he's apolitical. he's not -- non-partisan. he is, as has become clear, a law-and-order guy, but he doesn't speak of things in political terms. >> ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states accompanied by -- >> which is partly why president bush picked him to run the fbi in 2001. >> the fbi must remain under of politics and uncompromising in its mission. >> reporter: mueller arrived at the fbi just seven days before
9/11. he served most of his term under bush, and when president obama asked him to stay for two more years it required an act of congress. the senate approved 100-0. his mo, a by-the-books guy even after hours. >> people told me after that christmas party, wow, we're going to the director's house, a guy that never really interacts at us, that at the end of the party he would flick the house. at 9:03, he would flick the lights, it was 7:00 to 9:00. >> married to a former teacher, the father of two daughters, there was not of small talk about family at work, a literally buttoned up and buttoned down boss. >> i remember telling him, director, you wear a white button-down shirt every day. can you wear tattersall or something? >> i asked him what was the deal with the white shirts when you were at the fbi? he said, i understood i was
leading the fbi through a wrenching period of change. i wanted to wear the white shirt because i wanted the other fbi agents to be able to know that this was still the agency that they had signed up to join. >> his dress code as unforgiving as his work ethic. >> he was in the office at 6:30 every morning. he would plop his briefcase down, not shoot the breeze, immediately, what's happening, what's going on many. >> very quickly, you're going to go through the details of the case. >> would you assume he's managing the special counsel investigation the same way? >> oh, yes. what's going on today? what do you got, what do you got, what do you got? i don't want to hear a lot of noise, what are the facts, what's your judgment? what do you any?
here's our decision, let's go. >> i never saw insecurity or nervousness many. >> never ever? >> never. >> he grew up in the philadelphia suburbs and attended an elite boarding score. a classmate of john kerry, then to princeton. >> a friend was wounded in combat, shot through the leg. received the purple heart and was right back in the fight a couple weeks later. >> in some sense, you feel you've been given a second lease on life, you want to make the most of it to contribute in some way. >> after graduating the university of virginia law school. mueller found his way to the department of justice, and remained there for nemost of th next four decades. >> bob mueller has been
notoriously unhappy every time he's been in private practice, he can't defend guilty people. he'll meet with a client, they'll explain his problem and he'll say, it sounds like you should go to jail. bob mueller sees the world in very black and white terms. >> just ahead, more of gloria borger's exceptional report on bob mueller. along with his relationship with james comey. (burke) parking splat. and we covered it. talk to farmers. we know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two. ♪ we are farmers. bum-pa-dum, bum-bum-bum-bum ♪
we're looking at robert mueller's investigation and how his life and career prepared him for this moment. gloria borger picks up her report with a look at mueller's history with james comey. by 2004, mueller was running the fbi when his phone rang. it was james comey, then deputy attorney general. it was the first time mueller and comey would find themselves in a very controversial legal drama. >> i was very upset, i was angry. >> comey was worried the bush administration was determined to keep a warrantless eavesdropping program that mueller, comey and their boss thought was illegal. but ashcroft was in the hospital
recovering from surgery. leaving comey in charge. >> i was concerned given how ill i knew the attorney general was, there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that. i called director mueller, who had been a great help to me. he said, i'll meet you at the hospital right now. >> they had to literally race administration officials to ashcroft's bedside. >> the director instructed the fbi agent's present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances. >> in the end ashcroft backed comey and mueller. >> he enlisted bob mueller because he knew that bob mueller had this incredible nonpartisan reputation in washington. >> that was then, now trump compares mueller to joe mccarthy, and a trump ally warns there's trouble ahead.
>> i think the report is going to be devastating to the president. >> after months of haggling, team trump has provided answers to mueller's questions about collusion. and trump's problems will be more political than legal. >> the decision is going to be impeach, not impeach. members of congress are going to be informed by their constituents. the jury is the american people. >> now that jury awaiting mueller who is already letting his work speak for itself. as his office wrote to the court recently, senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards. bob mueller believes in american institutions, so i think he wants to set the insti fusions up to make the best decisions they can. >> thanks to cnn's gloria borger for that report. i'm brianna keilar, thank you so much for watching, for wolf blitzer and everyone on camera
and behind the scenes here in the situation room, we want to wish you a happy and healthy 2019. we bring you a cnn special report, all the best, all the worst, 2018. that starts right now. happy new year. buckle up, keep your hands inside, and hold on tight. 2018 was a rip roar iing heart pounding ride with the highest highs, the lowest lows, and we'll go through all the big stories, politics, pop culture, sports, music, movies and more with our guests. sports illustrated senior writer charlotte wilder, the stuff you should know guys. the amazing violent chatchke. standup comedian vondie