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Plea Hearing for Alleged Russian Spy Maria Butina; Pompeo, Mattis Brief House on Saudi Arabia, War in Yemen; Melania Trump Opens

December 14, 2018



<Date: December 13, 2018>

<Time: 09:00>

<Tran: 121304CN.V11>

<Type: SHOW>

<Head: Plea Hearing for Alleged Russian Spy Maria Butina; Pompeo,

Mattis Brief House on Saudi Arabia, War in Yemen; Melania Trump Opens

Up about Life in the White House; British Prime Minister Survives Vote

on Her Leadership; Interview With Rep. Tom Reed and Rep. John

Garamendi. Aired 10:30-11a ET>

<Sect: News; Domestic>

<Time: 10:30>

<End: 10:59>


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So, we’ll see what they’;; reveal inside the courtroom in just few minutes. Jim and Poppy?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you Jessica. We will indeed. Keep us posted.

Ahead for us, lawmakers finally coming together on Capitol Hill. Right now, a bipartisan push in the Senate to stand up to the Saudi Crown Prince.

Meantime in the House, some members are uniting to try to avert a government shutdown. We’ll talk to two of them.


HARLOW: Guess what? A Republican and a Democrat working together. Seriously, it happens - sometimes.

[10:35:01] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Same room, next to each other.

HARLOW: Even in Washington. Right now, lawmakers -- some of them reaching across the aisle in hopes of averting a government shutdown.

SCIUTTO: On Tuesday, the president told top Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, that he would welcome a shutdown, even own it if he did not get $5 billion for his border wall.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Tom Reed, Democratic Congressman John Garamendi. They’re part of this bipartisan push. They join us now. Thanks so much to both of you for taking the time this morning.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Great to be with you.

REP. TOM REED (R), NEW YORK: Great to be with you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, to -- Congressman Reed, I’m going to start with you, if I can. You’re working on a bipartisan solution to this. Is part of that solution in your view lowering the figure from $5 billion for the wall but also crucially is part of the deal for you adding in a quid pro quo as it were, and a compromise on DACA, on Dreamers?

REED: Well, you know, there has been, I think, broad agreement that that could be a deal put together. But I think we’re maybe not in the position here over the next week to get that done. What I think the negotiations need to center around is, what is the number that we can agree to. And it’s not just about a wall. Border security with a number somewhere within that $1.3 billion to $5 billion range.

HARLOW: All right. So, let’s talk about a number. Congressman Garamendi, let’s get to a number before this interview is over, OK? And then you can figure out the rest of the folks there in Congress to get it done.

We had Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier on the program yesterday, and she said, as Democrats, she’s willing to give $2.5 billion, so to meet the president halfway here on this, if he gives some DACA relief. Congressman Garamendi, is that a number you’re comfortable with, $2.5 billion?

GARAMENDI: The numbers are going to be tied to the rest of the story. The rest of the story has to be, OK, what are you going to use the money for? And there are numerous things that need to be done to enhance border security. Certainly, fences and walls are a piece of it, actually a very, very small piece of it, other types of border security, observation systems of various kinds and communication and the like, all of those things. So, what are you going to use the money for? That has to be determined.

And also, is there a DACA deal involved in this? Could be. It’s possible. Certainly, we know how to do that. That’s been discussed nine ways to Sunday. And you pick some of the bipartisan ideas that were presented several months ago, add that in, sure, you’ll get a number, $2.5 million, who knows what it will be, but it will be somewhere in the middle.

SCIUTTO: I hate to point out a difference already, but Congressman Reed said DACA not now, can’t do it, and Congressman Garamendi said, well we may want that. How are you guys going to reach agreement if you don’t have that essential point?

REED: Just to clarify, I think maybe we’re too close to the deadline here of next week in order to start negotiating on DACA and things like that. I think with the heart of the negotiation - I mean we have negotiated this before. There’s been large bipartisan blocs that are willing to put DACA, the Dreamers, with a border security package. So there’s a foundational amount of work done there, but I think what we’re looking at is a number negotiation, and a border security, to John’s point - about border security.

HARLOW: Well -- we got about five minutes left and I want to get to a number before that time is up. We have other issues to talk about, but do you two have an agreement. Are you two on the same page on something that you would both vote yes on today, Congressman Garamendi? GARAMENDI: I think there’s -- the answer is yes. There’s a number. That number associated with the appropriate use of the money. We can come to an agreement on that -


HARLOW: What is it?

REED: I think -- there’s been some prior votes out there where I think you know $4 billion, $20 billion over five years has been discussed. And we’re talking even less than that. And we can get there. I’m very confident, John. I can get there. And I think we represent members that want to get to a number. But to say a number right here, right now, you know we got to talk to the rest -- everybody else to see where we can get that dialed to.

GARAMENDI: A number somewhere between -- a little more work and discussion, and unfortunately, we’re quickly running out of time. But we got another week.

SCIUTTO: Would either of you be willing to shut down the government if you don’t get to a point that you’re happy with?


REED: That is something we need to work across the aisle to avoid. That’s not an outcome that would be good for the American people.


HARLOW: All right. We want to talk to you about Saudi Arabia, as well. And let me begin with you, Congressman Reed. What penalties do you believe that Saudi Arabia and specifically the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, should face for the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, given what the Intelligence Community, the CIA, has assessed with high confidence about his knowledge of this entire operation?

REED: You know, in my opinion, what could be appropriated is obviously a public censure from us as a country to say we oppose the killing of this journalist, and we oppose the killing of any individual as outlined or that took place in this situation.

And then economic sanctions, that needs to be on the table. Some type of penalty needs to be imposed on Saudi Arabia, and the good news is we’re in a position to do that.

[10:40:05] You know we have our energy resources in America now. It used to be used as a threat to us when we talked about these conversations, but we can move forward and do the right thing and send the message to the world, we don’t accept this type of behavior.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Reed, if I can just follow-up because as you know, the president is against that. The Secretary of State is against that. The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is against it. Are you and other Republicans willing to defy this president and impose penalties, including sanctions that this president opposes?

REED: And this is where I’ll have a disagreement with the administration. I think given the nature of the circumstances here, it would be appropriate to impose those types of sanctions. And I would split with our party, if you would, in order, but I think there’s many Republicans as well as Democrats that would agree, some type of penalty needs to be imposed here.

GARAMENDI: Tom is on the right track. Clearly, very tough sanctions against all of the players, including the Crown Prince, need to be put in place. Also, the Yemen situation has to be, in my view, part of this. We simply cannot allow the continuing humanitarian crisis there, and this Khashoggi situation seems to me to be in some ways very directly connected to actions that we should take, pulling away from just the support that has been heretofore available to Saudi Arabia as they carry out what is a very serious humanitarian crisis in Yemen. So I would tell you those two things together.

There’s also another one that we need to think about and that’s Saudi Arabia wants to go full out with a nuclear program and not be under the same requirements of a civil nuclear program. That also should be tied into this.

HARLOW: Right, they want to have full control of the uranium process.


HARLOW: Congressman Reed, on this point, though, what Congressman Garamendi just said regarding the Yemen situation and the U.S. not backing -- continuing to back Saudi Arabia there. The House Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokeswoman, Ashlee Strong, came out with this statement just yesterday given what some Republicans in the House have been doing in terms of deprioritizing the bill.

She said, “The U.S. is no longer providing the very support that this bill seeks to cut off, thus making it unnecessary. It’s based on a factually faulty premise.”

Do you agree with the Speaker’s Office on that?

REED: I believe the Speaker’s Office is accurate in that assessment, but on the Yemen situation, we also need to make sure we’re looking at the bigger picture here in that region. Iran is obviously part of this conversation, and their aggression in regards to expansion and also the sea lanes and other economic movement that occurs in that area of the world has to be taken into consideration here. So, you know, maybe this is where John and I will disagree on the show today in regards to the sanctions being imposed using Yemen as the platform to dispense with those.

GARAMENDI: Before the new year coming - yes, go ahead.

SCIUTTO: Before we let you go, I want to ask you about the intelligence on the Crown Prince’s involvement in the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi. You’ve heard Republican senators say no doubt, Lindsey Graham, smoking saw. HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: And yet the president and again, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, again said yesterday, well, the intelligence not certain. You have been briefed. Is that false?

GARAMENDI: Well, let me take this, first of all. We just left a classified hearing, so I’m not going to tell you what we heard at that, but I would say that one should listen very carefully to what the Republican senators have said. They came out of that hearing and they spoke very clearly about their understanding of the situation. And frankly, I would not disagree with their understanding. The Crown Prince, in my view, and based upon their view, is most directly involved.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Reed, do you agree?

REED: Yes, you know, based on my information and what I have come to the conclusion where you know the Crown Prince’s involvement here -- is accurate. And I understand the concern of the sensitive nature of our relationship, but at the end of the day, accountability needs to be imposed here and I think there are appropriate sanctions that can be deployed.

SCIUTTO: Well, you heard it right there from a Republican and a Democrat fresh from their briefing on it. Listen, Congressman Reed, Garamendi, thanks so much.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: We’d love to have you on together again.

HARLOW: With a number and with the government open, so that our colleagues can go enjoy Christmas at home and you guys can as well. Thank you very much.

GARAMENDI: That would be a good goal.

REED: We’ll continue to work towards it.

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

HARLOW: The first lady, Melania Trump, taking on critics speaking out about what she says is the hardest part of her job. Her answer might surprise you. It’s next.


[10:54:15] SCIUTTO: First lady Melania Trump is talking about her life in the White House. She spoke to Fox News while visiting troops on the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier.

HARLOW: She did a rare sit-down television interview and she pushed back at her critics. She describes what she calls the toughest part of her job. Listen to this.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS: What’s been the hardest thing you have to deal with?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: I would say the opportunists who are using my name or my family name to advance themselves.

They like to focus on the gossip. And I would like to focus on the substance and what we do, not just about nonsense.


HARLOW: Ms. Trump, the first lady, went on to say she’s not going to shy away from promoting her objectives, doing what she thinks is right for the country.

[10:50:05] Kate Bennett who covers all things, first lady and White House correspondent is with us from Washington with more. It’s rare she sits down. Obviously, Hannity very friendly to the president, to the administration, but that answer certainly caught a lot of attention.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: You know it’s interesting. It was sort of ironic, I thought, too, because you know an opportunist using the name, the family name, when of course the Trump brand is all about the Trump name. But this is a first lady, and we have seen it before, we heard it before, who fights back when she feels as though she’s been maligned or things are not honest about what she’s been doing or saying. We have watched her punch back a couple times you know when Ivana Trump wrote that book, her spokesperson said that Ivana was just out there to sell books, and same thing with “Fire and Fury.”

I think those are the things that Mrs. Trump was referring to yesterday when she said opportunists but certainly it’s interesting to hear that this was her biggest struggle, not just being in the public eye, not having to sort of endure some of the headlines of the past year. And I do think it’s interesting that on a day when we all discussed Michael Cohen’s sentencing that she was talking about gossip and nonsense and how the media focuses on that. I sort of wish Hannity had followed up and said do you mean specifically stuff like today or what exactly are you referring to.

But you know, it’s notable, she spent yesterday at three separate military events. She was the first first lady to fly on an osprey yesterday to the aircraft carrier. She certainly made military and military families a priority, especially this holiday season. But yes, whenever she does speak and give an interview, it is always interesting because she’s still quite mysterious for a first lady.

HARLOW: Indeed. Well, it’s interesting to watch. She’s also been you know very vocal on the opioid crisis and made that a priority as well. We’ll keep following it. Kate Bennett, nice to have you. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And on bullying as well.


SCIUTTO: She survived a confidence vote and will stay in power for at least another year in Britain, but can the British Prime Minister Theresa May save the Brexit plan? What happens if she doesn’t?


[10:56:36] This just in to CNN, new developments in the plea hearing for the alleged Russian spy, Maria Butina.

HARLOW: Our Jessica Schneider outside the courthouse. So, what just happened?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, Poppy and Jim. So the headline right now is that Maria Butina has been in court for 20 minutes and she’s just revealed that, yes, she has signed the plea agreement. Now, the reason it’s taken about 20 minutes for her actually to get to the issue of the plea agreement and her guilty plea as to this conspiracy charge is there was a little bit of back and forth between the judge and Butina as well as her attorneys. The judge revealing that all the while, while Maria Butina has been locked up in jail, she actually has been having at least one phone conversation with a journalist. That phone conversation was recorded and prosecutors reviewed the tape. And what the judge said was on that tape is Maria Butina talking to this unnamed, undisclosed journalist about the fact that her lawyer may have been acting as a go-between, passing on messages to journalists.

So that is interesting because earlier in these court proceedings, the judge had appointed a public defender as an advisory council because of this potential conflict of interest with her lawyer potentially passing on messages to journalists. You know there’s a gag order in this case. No one here can talk to the media, so the judge saying I’m not finding any wrongdoing with your lawyer, but it’s still a bit of a problem. But we’re waiting to see what else happens -- transpires in court. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Right. Thank you, Jessica. Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: After facing a serious challenge to her leadership at home, this morning, British Prime Minister Theresa May, she is in Belgium. She’s asking other European Union leaders to help her save the troubled Brexit deal. Lawmakers in London remain deeply divided. So does the country.

Erin McLaughlin is in Brussels with the latest. Tough question to ask and answer, but what happens now?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, very much remains to be seen at this point, Jim. You know that old saying, out of the frying pan, into the fire. Well, that very much applies to the predicament Theresa May now finds herself in. She survived that vote of no-confidence last night there in London, but she had to make some concessions in order to make that happen. She had to pledge not to run in the next general election, and still, 117 of her own MPs voted against her.

Now, she arrives here in Brussels for a summit that’s in part focused on Brexit. She needs to convince 27 EU leaders to make further concessions, not only that, but she also needs to convince them that she has the political clout to be able to take these concessions, take this deal, and push it through Westminster. It’s a tall order, a tough ask, an uphill battle for the prime minister, and there’s growing concern here in Brussels of a potential no-deal scenario, that cliff edge that they’re very worried she may be barreling towards.

SCIUTTO: No deal possibility. Is a second referendum a possibility or is that totally off the table?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, at this point, Theresa May has ruled out the possibility of a second referendum in order for that to happen, keep in mind, she would also have to go to the EU leaders and ask them to extend that Brexit deadline, which currently is March 29th, 2019.

HARLOW: Very soon, right around the corner. Erin, thank you for being live for us in Brussels. Thank you all for joining us today. I’m Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I’m Jim Sciutto. “At This Hour” with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

(Byline: Poppy Harlow, Jim Sciutto, Jessica Schneider, Kate Bennett, Erin McLaughlin)

(Guest: Tom Reed, John Garamendi)

(High: Maria Butina in court for 20 minutes. Pompeo, Mattis briefing House on Saudi-led war in Yemen as Senate meets to discuss restricting U.S. involvement. Mrs. Trump: Hardest part of job is “opportunists” using my name. British PM wins confidence vote, Brexit still in crisis.)

(Spec: Donald Trump; Politics; Government; Middle East; Europe)

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