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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  December 13, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PST

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inauguration spending and its spending being under federal investigation. our coverage on cnn continues right now. >> happening now, breaking news, room where it happened. cnn has confirmed that then candidate donald trump was in the room when his former lawyer michael cohen discussed illegal hush money payments with the publisher of the "national enquirer." embarrassed. the president falsely claims that the campaign finance violated in which he's implicated are not criminal charges, and he accused federal prosecutors of adding them to the cohen case just to embarrass him. russian agent. accused spy maria butina completes guilty to being a foreign agent trying to influence u.s. politics. now show's cooperating with federal prosecutors. what espionage secrets will she resfleel and melania meltdown in
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the first lady's poll ratings fall and she calls the heard of the part of the job opportunists who use her name, including journalists. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we're following breaking news. a source now telling cnn that donald trump was at a meeting referred to by federal prosecutors when his former fixer and lawyer michael cohen discussed illegal hush money payments with the publisher of the "national enquirer" david pecker. that would mean then candidate trump was aware that pecker offered to assist his campaign by buying the silence of women who said they had affairs with mr. trump, payments that violated campaign finance laws. also break moments ago, a major "wall street journal" report saying the president's inauguration spending is now
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under criminal investigation. i'll talk about all of that have with senator jack reid of the senate intelligence and armed services committee and our special correspondents and analysts are standing by. let's got to our cnn white house correspondent pamela brown and our legal analyst jeffrey toobin. pamela, we'll get to the new reporting from twurnl in a moment, but let's start with the new information about the hush money payment. what are you learning? >> reporter: well, wolf, tonight, just as donald trump tries to distance himself from the hush payments to these two women during the campaign, in an interview with fox news, we're learning more about central role that he played in the hush money, a source telling cnn tonight that donald trump was part of the august 20 is a meeting with david pecker, the ceo of ami, who paid off one of the women to suppress her story. trump's attendance was first report by "the wall street journal" in november, but this has added significance now in light of the recently disclosed
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non-prosecution agreement between federal prosecutors and ami. it was just disclosed yesterday. the company admitted making $150,000 payment in concert with the campaign. it says pecker, cohen and at least one other member of the campaign met in august 2015 to identify negative stories about trump, that they could then purchase and not publish, and according to the source the other member in that room was donald trump, and so this certainly is significant also in the wake of michael cohen, his former trir by playing off these two women and it's today that the president directed those payments with michael cohen who is now in prison for 36 months, for that issue and bank and tax fraud issues and this highlights central role that the president played in these hush payments.
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>> certainly seems, jeffrey, like a big deal. >> it is a big deal. first of all, let's just keep in mind that both the new inauguration investigation and this hush money investigation are being conduct by the southern district of new york, career prosecutors, not robert mueller's office, and what makes this significant, that is, if donald trump and david pecker and michael cohen got together and said, look, the "national enquirer" is going to write editorials and cover you and do great things for your campaign, that would be totally appropriate. that's protected by the first amendment. what makes this potentially criminal that they all apparently agreed that pecker, the american media, the "national enquirer," would go out and spend money on behalf of the campaign to keep quiet, that, according to prosecutors is a contribution to the campaign, hand that's unlawfulful it's done that way. it's not recorded and that's
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what michael cohen was indicted for. >> the idea of catch and kill which basically they acknowledged for doing as david pecker and the immunity as part of the cooperation revealed. does this bring the prosecutors closer to calling the president of the united states a co-conspirator? >> if it's true that donald trump said go spend money on my behalf for the campaign and don't report it as a campaign contribution. i mean, that is not legal. obviously all we have are news reports about it, and we have cohen's guilty plea, but if donald trump is implicated in this way, it is criminal. he is either a principal in violating the law or a co-conspirator in violating the law. >> it makes it harder for the president to deny any knowledge about this scheme. >> that's right. >> what's interesting is you see
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the change in his language today saying, look, i never directed my personal attorney, then michael cohen, to do anything wrong and part of statute is the president would have to willingly, knowingly violate campaign finance law but it's hard to imagine that the president wasn't privy to these payments were made and even the way in which trump was paid back by the trump corporation was all through the llc. if it's something they believe was lawful it raises the question why didn't they just cut a check to pay back michael cohen? it doesn't add up. one defense was it wasn't about the campaign. it was to embarrass him.
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that explanation is out the window because it is quite clear that pecker, according to these reports, that pecker, trump and cohen are talking about spending money to help his campaign. >> from a legal perspective, jeffry, does it make any difference if the president doesn't reimburse the "national enquirer" for the $150,000 for that hush money payment? >> makes no difference. >> why? >> because the money is spent on behalf of the campaign. and that's -- that's what the campaign laws are designed to enforce. money spent on behalf the campaign. if money later came in that might be a separate crime, but if you authorize, encourage, support, an illegal campaign contribution, you are guilt as well. >> i want both of you to stick around. don't go too far. the manhattan u.s. attorney's office is in the middle of a criminal probe examining the trump team's inauguration
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spending. i want to bring in "the wall street journal"'s reporter rebecca ball house. first of all, tell us what you and your colleagues are leverage. how did this start? this is a criminal investigation? >> so what we suns that this investigation came out of federal prosecutors in manan's investigation of michael cohen. we understand that in their raid of cohen he's hotel room and office and home earlier this year in april, they seized, among other things, a recording of a conversation that he had with an adviser to the inaugural fund and informer adviser to melania trump earlier this year, and twhe understand questions about how the inaugural committee was spending the >> unare some of the funds unaccounted for or just not pubically identified? >> they are not pubically
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identified. those top five vendors accounted for much of the expense but they are looking at whether top donors are paying for access to the new administration, to the incoming administration. tell us about that. >> we understand that the investigation basically has two prongs, one seems to be examining the spending side of the funds and the other is on the donor side of the funds. it's not uncommon in washington to have a situation where you have donors who then get some sort of preferential treatment, but what it appears to be that investigators are looking sat whether donors got real access to the incoming trump administration or administration positions or things like that, and among the donors they are
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talking about is a tennessee developer, frank hane works hired michael cohen earlier this year seemingly for help getting inside into the administration and also donated $1 million to the inaugural. >> just to be precise, some of the information that federal prosecutors are looking at are these secretly recorded phone conversations that michael cohen had with various individuals. they went and seized all those phone conversations, those taped phone conversations and presumably that's providing some of the information. >> that's right, yeah. we know that there was at least one conversation in which there was concern about how the spending was going down and the person expressing that concern was a firm that was paid $25 million, a firm formed 45 days before the inauguration. >> what about the prospect of foreign funds involved in this investigation? >> so that seems to be a separate issue, and i think we're not totally clear yet on how they intertwined. we know that mueller has looked
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at whether any foreign money came into the inaugural fund. he referred the matter to the u.s. attorney's office in washington earlier this year and entertained a guilty plea and as far as we know right now that's not part of manhattan investigation. >> what's the relationship between this investigation, i take it it's the u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york in manhattan and the special counsel robert mueller's investigation? >> that's another question that i think we're still trying to answer. we know that mueller and sdny have worked closely together in the past including on the cohen matter. prosecutors from both offices were there yesterday for his sentencing, but we're not clear for how the exchange of snfgs working on this probe. >> how is the inaugural committee, and you correctly point out they raised the record $107 million through donations and various other ways.
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how is the inaugural committee responding to your report in the "wall street journal," and has there been any response from the white house? >> we understand they have not been asked to turn over records. the head of the committee has not spoken with mueller since last year. he was asked a couple of questions about the inaugural fund. the inaugural fund so far seems unaware of any real investigation into them. as for the white house, they have not responded to our questions about this matter, and it's not clear that they would know about it either. >> and you correctly point how the in the third paragraph of your article, giving money next change for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws, diverting funds from the organization which was registered as a nonprofit could also violate federal law. rebecca, thanks so much for your excellent reporting. we appreciate it very much. >> thank you.
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>> jeff and pamela, let's discuss this. what does it say to you, jeff, that this criminal investigation as reported by "the wall street journal" resulted from the raid on michael cohen's apartment, his hotel room, his office? >> well, think about how much has come from michael cohen all right. first, we have all of these investigations related to the hush money, to karen mcdougal and his guilty plea in trump moscow hand nowy with a new bring of investigations. michael cohen was the fixer. he dealt with all the uncomfortable areas that donald trump was involved in, and it would -- it certainly would not surprise me that there's more to come. >> the "the wall street journal" is reporting this new investigation that we're just learning about and how it represents in their words another potential legal threat
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to people who are or were in mr. trump's orbit. >> right, because now we're learning about yet another investigation relating to president trump. while he's not directly implicated in this, you have now the mueller russia investigation. you have the sdny investigation into michael cohen and the payments to the women, and now this other sdny investigation that we're learning about that's in its early stages leading to the president's inaugural committee. this is certainly not good news for the president and will be -- will continue to be a distraction for him. i was just texting with someone who used to the work in the white house, and they basically said, look, this is not good. we know the president is already upset and preoccupied and now the nug rallitty is under scrutiny. jack kempry, i want your response. if the prosecutors have asked richard gates, rick gates, a
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former campaign aid who served as the inaugural committee's deputy chairman about the fund's spending and its donors. mr. gates has met with prosecutors from manhattan's u.s. attorney's office and the special counsel's office, so he's clearly cooperating as well. >> well, this is why it's so dangerous to have people close to you cooperating with. >> rick gates -- >> hi was paul. >> right. >> the many tame people rell cover and mets got previouslybly good inside. he's going to cooperate. same story. >> right. >> others are presumably cooperating as well, so at least
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there's material for the u.s. attorney in new york to go after this particular issue. >> that's right. what's unclear is that we know michael cohen has been cooperating to a grow with federal prosecutors, though they said in their recent filing he hasn't been fully cooperative. it's unclear how helpful his testimony to federal prosecutors has been on this investigation, but clearly the raid on his apartment and office was -- provided a critical piece of evidence used to launch this investigation. >> and i suspect they have a lot more information that we don't even know about. >> yes. >> i assume that's the case. >> we didn't know about this until today. that's just, you know, that's just how it goes. >> i suspect it's just beginning. let's see what happens. i want to go to our chief white house correspondent jim acosta. is the white house commenting at all on either of these major stories today? >> no, wolf. they are trying to get their story straight on the michael cohen case and president trump tried to dance around taking any responsibility in the case against his former attorney michael cohen who is now headed to president.
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the president is putting all of the claim on the former peckser saying cohen's climbs were not related to him and the president's facts were full of falsehoods. president trump who once bragged he hired the best people and in the case of michael cohen sometimes mistakes are made. i liked him and because he's a lawyered and because of that i did it. and in retrospect i made had a mistake. >> in an interview with fox, the president claimed federal prosecutors in new york were out to embarrass him by forcing cohen to admit he paid hush money to a porn star and play mate to give up the affairs just before the 2016 election. >> what he did was up related to me except for the two campaign finance charges that aren't criminal and they put those two charges on to empairs me, about. >> reporter: but that's not true
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as the payments were found to be crimes. the president same to have an ought as will insisting it was doe hen's job not to break the law. >> whatever he did he did on his own. he's a lawyer, a lawyer who raeps client is supposed to do the right thing. that's why you pay them a lot of money. >> reporter: yet, even as the president said he relied on cohen to stay out of hot water, he mocked his former fixer's legal skills. >> title of fixer. >> low-level work. >> he did more public relations than he did law. if you saw him on television, i was going on television. >> reporter: the president tends to downplay the roles of his former aides who find they will selves in legal deputy. a few people knew the young --
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and then there's paul manafort and michael flynn who is asking for no prison time in his saga. >> they took a general that they said didn't lie and they convinced him that he did lie and he made some kind of a deal, and now they are recommending no time. >> reporter: but that's not exactly true. flynn pled guilty about his contacts with the russians during the transition period in late 2016 yet the president repeat that had claim later that day. >> the fbi said michael flynn, a general and great person, they said he didn't lie and mueller said, well, maybe he did, and -- and now they are all having a big dispute. >> the president was spreading other falsehoods away from the russia investigation claiming once again-of-again that mexico will pay for the border law tweeting i often stated one way or another that mexico is going to pay for the wohl. this has never changed.
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just by the money we save, mexico is paying for the wall. democrats are saying hold on. >> what money is he talking about that is going to pay for the wall? it just doesn't moesh you're up. >> the president also claimed that he's making progress in his search for a new chief of staff telling the white house he's down to five candidates and the outgoing chief of staff, john kelly, is confiding to friends that he's relieved to be leaving that post. wolf? >> i suspect that's true. jim acosta, thanks very much. let's get more on all the news. democratic juror jack reid of rhode island is joining us, a member of the senate intelligence are and arm services committee the. thanks for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. >> federal prosecutors in new york city are now investigating whether the president's 2017 inaugural committee which raised
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a record $107 million, whether some of that money was received illegally or used illegally. there's apparently a criminal investigation now underway. >> well, i think what you're seeing is professional prosecutors who have evidence suggesting that there may be crimes and they are following that evidence and, again, it's another shoe that has dropped. it seems like every day there's another revelation of at least hey alleged improprieties by the trump administration or his campaign, and -- and all of this can't be just sort of made up. thereto seems to be a consistent finding of impropriety related to the administration. >> this is the u.s. attorney's office for the southern district of new york. this is not part of the mueller problem, the special counsel's probe. >> right. >> we also learned today, cnn confirmed, that president trump, then candidate trump, back in 2015, was in the room when his
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then personal lawyer and fixer michael cohen and the -- and the head of american media, the publisher of the "national enquirer," david pecker, were -- they were all together in a room where they were discussing ways to kill any negative stories that might emerge about trump's affairs with various women. how much of had a nightmare could this potentially be? >> one of his lines of acab against cohen was he was a rogue lawyer, didn't do anything and was essentially light. now you have the american media and mr. pecker apparently confirming many of the things that cohen has stated, in fact pleaded, to of making illegal payments, et cetera, so the corroboration of cohen by american media and others lends further credence and weight to his testimony. >> david pecker was once a very close friend of donald trump's. he's corporating and has
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received immunity from any prosecution and michael cohen was his lawyer and he's cooperating as well. does it make any difference that the president says he never reimbusinessed american media for that $150,000 payoff to karen mcdougal? >> so much turns on what was said at that meeting. if there was a representation that he would pay and later there was a decision not to pay, the simple fact at some point, and my legal train sag little bit out of date, that if you make that recommendation as part of the agreement, that that has great -- that has an element of an offense. >> reporter: the president argues, he did in a tweet, that he never directed, his words, michael cohen to break the law. he said cohen was a lawyer and should have known what the laws were, why he hired and paid cohen a lot of money. what do you make of that defense? >> it's not particularly compelling. i think, first of all, there's an obligation to -- on everyone
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to follow the law, not just to say my lawyer decided to break the law. that's not a very good defense in my view, and then, again, there's -- as all these details emerge of how much he was involved in discussions apparently with american media, that the whole purpose would be to take the story so it didn't become an election issue, that shows knowledge of something that you can't just dismiss as saying i was not involved and i didn't know anything about this. >> yesterday a democratic congressman adam schiff was going to be the chairman of the house intelligence committee and told me that the justice department he believes should xe examine its long-standing policy that you can't indict a sitting president. do you agree with schiff? >> well, i think, again, the president shut look at what their options are across the board. there is a strong sense that the proper action with respect to a president is not an indictment
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while he's a sitting president, but the impeachment process. again, i think it's completely legitimate to look at what the legal options are. >> i want to get your thoughts on a very different issue right now. saudi arabia and the crown prince. today the -- you and your colleagues in the senate passed two resolutions to punish saudi arabia, specifically the crown prince who you claim was involved in the murder of jamal khashoggi, the "the washington post" contributor. according to a new cnn poll that's just out, 58% of americans say the u.s. response to khashoggi's murder was not tough enough, so what else do you want the u.s. to do? >> well, there were sanctions against 17 individuals, but they were not directed at the crown prince, and the evidence that has been mailed public and verified by many of my colleagues, republican colleagues, is that -- and i sense the same thing, that he was directly involved, and so we should consider sanctions directed against the crown prince. i think also, too, we should use
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all of our efforts to try to stop the fighting in yemen. that was the other resolution, and apparently i think our efforts have at least provided momentum for talks in sweden that could lead to at least a crease fire so we have to do more. >> let's hope there is a cease-fire. >> indeed. >> the slaughter has been so, so brutal. thanks very much, senator, for coming in. jack reed of rhode island. two major stories that could place the president in legal jeopardy. cnn has learned that donald trump was in the room as illegal hush money payments were discussed with this former attorney and the publisher of the "national enquirer" and "the wall street journal" is reporting that president trump's inaugural fund is under criminal investigation right now. press, the accused rugt spy now cooperating with prosecutors after pleading filth to being a foreign agent.
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breaking news this hour. cnn has confirmed that donald trump was in the room when his former lawyer and fixer michael cohen discussed illegal hush money payments with the publisher of the known kwoirer executive david pecker. another story we're also following. "the wall street journal" reporting that the president's inauguration spending is under criminal investigation by the u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york right now. let's get more with hour correspondents and analysts. gloria, first to you on this ami story that the president was in the room with michael cohen and david pecker. how significant of a develop potentially is there? >> wolf, it's a far cry from i didn't know anything about it. now you are placing the president in the room with david
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pecker and michael cohen coming up with some kind of a scheme to pay off these women. we know that the president has said. his story has shifted dramatically over all the days and weeks, but now this puts him right in the middle offing is he said he knew nothing about, significantly. >> and he told fox news earlier today in the interview he doesn't know whether they reimbursed the tabloid, his words, the tabloid. it makes it more difficult for him to say i knew nothing about this haul along. >> absolutely, and -- and, you know, remember, when he was questioned -- well, first of all, this isn't directly related to the special counsel, excuse me, but when he was questioned about the special counsel, so far the only thing that he's directly been questioned on by anybody other than a reporter, not that we're not important, but, if he lies to us, it's not criminal, is about stuff that happened during the campaign.
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and so this opens a whole other avenue because the other issue that the trump legal team was fighting was obstruction. this is -- this is different. and so the question is whether or not the question is going to come back to him and ask more questions of him, because if he did know about it and if he was the campaign operative who was involved, who happened to be the candidate, what kind of potential legal problem is he in, and also it speaks to more evidence or -- it gives us more information about why we were talking when we got all of those files last friday, losing track of time, whether or not the president could be indicted after he leaves office because it was so significant what they found. >> legally speaking, does it make any difference whether ami, american media inc., the "national enquirer" whether they were reimbursed by the president or the then candidate,
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associates of the then candidate? >> not one iota. it doesn't matter at all, and i think to raise that is really a distraction. it's probably a useful political point to try to deflect from the reality of the situation. his former lawyer and now ami have both admitted to a federal court that the purpose of this whole deal, the purpose of the payments, the purpose of the structure was to keep embarrassing stories from coming out and affecting the election. if that's the primary purpose of the payment, that's the core of the violation of federal law and that's all that matters. >> michael cohen and david pecker, ha mi, they both say they knew at the time they were arranging these payments to the women, they knew it was illegal. >> right. let's take a step back of what we know, according to federal prosecutors. we now know that american media, "national enquirer," made this payment for the express purpose and in coordination with the frump campaign, right, which we believe is michael cohen at least. >> and the president. >> and -- and -- and did so, to
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lawyer's point. this is the important thing as it relates to the law and donald trump saying it's a civil private transaction. it's not when it is meant to influence the election, and that is -- in the ha mi settlement, southern district of new york announced yesterday, they are very clear. ami said they did it because they thought it would be bad if this came out before the election of donald trump that. gets into an in-kind contribution that's well above the federal limit and that's bad enough, but they also sought to totally 100% hide all of this through a complicated scheme. michael cohen setting up a shell company. >> cnn has confirmed the "the wall street journal" story, gloria, there's a criminal investigation of the trump inaugural campaign which raised more than $100 million, a criminal investigation that's now being conduct by the u.s. attorney for the southern district. >> right. there is a preliminary investigation i believe we're told, and there's a question of whether some top donors were giving money for access to -- to
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people inside the administration, and -- and what we do know is that the inaugural committee has not yet been asked for records or been contacted by prosecutors. the inaugural committee says they are not aware of any investigation, but what this does show, wolf, is that michael cohen is a big deal right now. >> yes, yes. >> because the tentacles are everywhere, and -- and this comes, according to "the wall street journal," from some of his recordings that were seized from his of course, and, you know, michael cohen has been singing and will continue to sing until he goes to jail on march 6th. maybe he can get his sentence reduced, who knows, but this is something the president needs to be worried about. >> go ahead. >> i'm sorry to interrupt. i was just going to say needs to be worried about if also because he campaigned on draining the swamp. this is the man who was poised to finally be the president and
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now there is an active investigation has we have confirmed that this is being investigate out of the u.s. attorney's office in new york about whether or not there was pay for play or, you know, however you want to put it, which is as swampy as it gets even before he's actually raised his hand and that is something that people will understand. >> guys, stick around. there's more news, if you can believe it. lots of news. >> we can believe it. >> pafr pleading guilty after p a russian spy, maria butina with her role on
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mom. ♪ the alleged russian spy maria butina is facing up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to act as an lyle foreign agent in the united states. our justice correspondent jessica schneider joins us. she admits she tried to influence republicans. >> she wrote out an entire proposal and somehow she coordinated her proposals with a russian official alexander torshin and now she's aid greed to turn over any evidence of a
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crime she's aware of and will sit down with law enforcement to tell them what she might know about russia's interference efforts. tonight alleged russian spy mara butina admits she conspired to act as an illegal foreign agent saying she was under the director of russian alexander torshin. >> she was satisfied with her lawyers who made the decision voluntarily. >> the 30-year-old once pore frayed herself as simply a graduate student in weese who had founded a gun rights group in russia. >> my store sell simple. my father is a hunter. i was born in siberia. >> reporter: prosecutors say butina's conspiracy kicked off in 2015 when she drafted a proposal for torshin and others entitled the description of the diplomacy project, the plot to infiltrate the republican party, specifically through the
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national rifle association, who had influence over the gop. butina worked more extensively than previously known with american conservative activist paul ericsson whom show describes as her boyfriend. ♪ ♪ beauty and the beast >> the two look lovingly at each other in this video released by ericsson's attorney, but prosecutors say ericsson allegedly gave butina information about prominent u.s. political figures and insight into the 2016 presidential election. as part of her ploy, butina proposed getting $125,000 from a russian billionaire to fund the meetings and conferences she attended where she hobnobbed with republican political figures. at one event, bounta even asked then candidate donald trump a question in 2018. >> if you would be elected as the president, what would be your foreign politics, especially in the relationships with my country? >> i believe i would get along very nicely with putin, pock? >> reporter: in april 2015
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butina attended the national rifle association convention where she met with current wisconsin governor scott walker who shortly thereafter announced his short lived presidential run and she also invited nra members to moscow where they met with high-level russian officials in december 20 is a and afternoon the trip told torshin we should let them express their gratitude quietly now and will put pressure on them later. as recently as 2017 bounta worked with a delegation to attend the national prayer brake fifth in washington and shared the list of attendees with ericsson and told him the group was coming to establish a back channel of communication. and the russian foreign ministry now says butina only pleaded guilty to survive, but in court maria butina said her mind was absolutely clear despite russian government claims that said she was tortured and while her lawyer said the solitary confinement was having negative effects on her psychologically, they say her mental state has been improved since she's been allowed to leave her cell at
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night for activities like church and meeting with a russian orthodox minister. but she will remain in that jail cell until her sentencing which is scheduled for february 12th, and at that point she does face up to five years in police-in and could be deported after her sentence. >> very dramatic stuff indeed. thank you very much, jessica, for that report. there's more breaking news that we're following. bomb threats e-mailed to dozens of institutions and businesses across the united states and canada. let's got to our crime and justice reporter shimon prokupecz. both the fbi and atf, i understand, are now helping in this investigation. >> reporter: yeah, certainly the fbi having a big role here because this is, as you said, nationwide. probably more than 100 e-mails have now been sent all across the country, and even as you said canada, the west coast receiving several dozen. new york city here receiving close to 30. there's really no specific target, police say. these e-mails are going at random to different companies, some schools, and really what this e-mail says is that there's
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a bomb that was placed in whatever building or whatever company was receiving this e-mail and that if the owners or the occupants of the building wanted to know where this bomb was placed, the person is saying send me $20 in bitcoins and i'll tell you where the bomb support. otherwise i'm not going to till, and it's going to explode. the important thing here, wolf, right now is that police say this is not a credible threat. unfortunately, it has caused some people to worry. there's been evacuationed across the country, but right now nothing has been found, and police are just treating this right now as not a credible threat. this is not something that they are overly concerned about, but certainly they are investigating because it is causing some panic across the country. >> that's a good point. thanks very much. we'll stay in close touch with you. coming up, the first lady melania trump's favorability rating has now dropped double digits in two months. details from an exclusive new cnn pot.
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-- new cnn poll.
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first lady melania trump's favorability rating has taken a nose dive from 54% in october down to 43% today according to a new exclusive cnn poll. what's behind the drop? >> to be honest, wolf, i think people are hearing more from her. for many months, almost a year, melania trump didn't really say that much and people sort of wrote their own story if you will, their own narrative about what she was like and perhaps is
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she throwing signals, is she trolling him, is she trapped in the white house unhappy, and it kind of made for more sympathy among democrats and women. we've seen in this poll today that those are the exact people who have dropped off significantly. melania trump in recent weeks has spoken more about her alliance with the president, her support of him, her defense of him, how her policies align with him, and in that sense i think she's very much become more aligned with the administration and therefore we're seeing the poll numbers dip off significantly, now just three points ahead of the president himself. she did talk a little last night, shared some more opening up if you will and she did talk about what she didn't like about being in the white house. >> i would say the opportunists who are using my name or my family name to advance themselves, from comedians to journalists to performers, book
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writers. >> does it hurt? >> it doesn't hurt. the problem is they writing the history and it's not correct. >> now, of course that comes with the turf. you know, if you're first lady, first family, she's sounding a little like her husband there, feeling a little insensitive about the media and the attention and focus on her. again, she's first lady. she's talking more, and as that comes so does the criticsm and i think we're just seeing some play out as she moves into her second year as first lady. >> she did that interview with bs aa abc and then fox and let's see if she continues. >> and what happens to her poll numbers if she does. >> when she does an interview she's got to defend her husband. that comes with the territory. >> exactly. >> appreciate it. breaking news, new potential legal trouble for president trump as cnn confirms he was in the room for talks about illegal hush money payments. also today we've confirmed that his inaugural committee is under federal investigation. your insurance rates skyrocket after a scratch so small
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happening now, breaking news, in the room, cnn confirms that president trump personally took part in a 2015 discussion about illegal hush money payoffs to women. we're going to tell you how it figures into the immunity deal given to a tabloid publisher and how it contradicts mr. trump's denials. criminal probe. new reporting tonight that
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spending by the trump inauguration is under investigation by federal prosecutors. did top donors give money in exchange for access to the new president? passing the buck. mr. trump is desperately trying to distance himself from michael cohen after being implicated in some of his former fixer's crimes. tonight he's breaking his silence about cohen's sentencing in a new interview that twists the truth. and kremlin cooperator. an alleged russian spy pleads guil guilty. we're going to tell you about the new revelations in her cooperation deal. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we're following two major breaking stories right now involving president trump and potential

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