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Grand Jury Has Now Approved The Very First Charges In Russia Investigation; White House Is Not Commenting On This Major News About The First Indictments In Mueller's Investigation; ; Strong Words Today By The U.S. Defense Secretary Aimed At North Korea; Eight Prototype Walls Commissioned By The Trump Administration Officially Unveiled This Week; Secretary Of State Nikki Haley Says Extremism In Africa Could Be A Real Threat To The U.S. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired October 28, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Top of the hour. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. So glad you could join us.
We begin with a major development in the special counsel investigation being led by Robert Mueller. CNN was the first to report that a grand jury has now approved the very first charges in this investigation and that anyone indicted could be arrested as early as Monday. Again, this is the investigation that was launched after President Trump fired former FBI director James Comey.
Mueller's team has been looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and whether President Trump obstructed justice. We also know Mueller has been investigating key Trump associates.
I want to get the latest now from CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz. He helped break this story first on CNN.
Shimon, do you know who has been charged? Could it be more than one person?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes, it could be more than one person, Ana. We don't know exactly who is facing charges, who has been indicted and who will likely appear in court on those charges on Monday. We have reached out to various lawyers, different lawyers that are involved that are representing clients who are under investigation, and they have told us some of them have told us they have not been asked to surrender their clients. So they don't know what's happening. And others we have called have not returned our calls. So it's really a mystery, somewhat of a mystery to us as to who is going to face these charges.
We have heard some names, but because we have been unable to verify them with their attorneys and some other people, we have chosen not to report that. So it is sort of a mystery. And hopefully, we are hoping with maybe perhaps tomorrow night or early Monday morning we will learn who is facing charges. CABRERA: You are reporting that arrests could come as soon as Monday.
Why the delay if these charges or this indictment we know happened yesterday?
PROKUPECZ: Yes. That's probably -- so one of the reasons, and that's a great question, Ana. One of the reasons is because these charges were filed yesterday, we believe from what we have been told that the charges were filed yesterday, there has to be a process put in place to, a., arrest someone and then b, also the court process needs to begin. And usually when there's an arrest, it's followed by the court process.
Friday, we don't know when the indictments were handed up. We don't know when they were exactly filed. So it would seem that on Friday it would have been too late to make an arrest and then also to have the court proceeding. Once someone is arrested, there's a process. It takes a few hours. There's process, there is fingerprints, there is photos taken. That all takes a couple of hours. And then you need to set up a date for court. And usually that happens in the same day. And then you go through an arraignment and what they call a presentment. And you are formally told what the charges are. And then they just go ahead and move forward with the case and there will be a trial date set presumably, you know, sometime in the future.
But, you know, it's hard to do something to have an indictment on the same day as an arrest and then a presentment. It usually takes a few days to set up.
CABRERA: Boy, a lot of anticipation for Monday.
Shimon Prokupecz, amazing reporting. Thank you very much.
PROKUPECZ: You are welcome.
CABRERA: The White House is not commenting on this major news about the first indictments in Mueller's investigation. Instead, the administration is focusing on Hillary Clinton this weekend.
Let's get right to Boris Sanchez outside the White House.
Boris, what is the administration saying about Clinton in the midst of this big news about the forthcoming indictments?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Ana. Very quickly I just wanted to mention the President just returned to the White House from Trump national golf course in Sterling, Virginia, where he spent the day. No public events for the White House today.
But as you said, there is no comment so far on these developments coming out of the special investigation led by Robert Mueller. Any mention of collusion with Russia is being directed, as you said, toward the President's former adversary in the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton.
Sarah Sanders tweeting this out earlier today, writing in part quote "Clinton spokesman just said he is damn glad Clinton campaign colluded with Russia to spread disinformation about the President and to influence the election. The evidence the Clinton campaign DNC and Russia colluded to influence the election is indisputable."
That damn glad quotation comes from Brian Fallon, former campaign spokesperson for Hillary Clinton. He was talking about the hiring of fusion GPS to gather opposition research on Donald Trump by one of Clinton's campaign attorneys.
Beyond all of that, Ana, the House announced this week, some house Republicans that there would be an investigation into a uranium deal that was made with Russia when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. The President is not only accusing Hillary Clinton of taking bribes from the Russians in order to make that a more favorable deal for them, CNN has learned that the White House is going a step further and they are pressing staffers to work with the department of justice to allow for a former FBI informant with knowledge of that deal to testify.
And on top of that, the President is now pushing for any remaining emails that are still sealed from Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state to be released. So while the White House you would imagine would be on the defensive from the news coming from the special investigation, they are fully on the offensive, focused on the opponent that they defeated only 12 months ago.
[16:05:58] CABRERA: Boris Sanchez at the White House, thank you.
I want to talk more about this special counsel indictment, what it could mean. Joining us CNN legal analyst Paul Callan. He is a former New York City prosecutor. And also with us is CNN contributor and Donald Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio, the author of the book "the Truth about Trump."
So, Paul, let's talk about this indictment. What could it mean? What is the burden of proof to get to this point?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, a grand jury has to find that there's probable cause that a crime was committed and that a certain person committed the crime. And if that's achieved and a majority of the grand jurors -- usually there are 23 sitting grand jurors. And if a majority of those choose to vote the indictment, then an indictment is handed down. Now, it's different than proof beyond a reasonable doubt at the time of trial, which is a much higher standard.
CABRERA: So that would be the next step?
CALLAN: Yes. The case will go forward to trial, unless, of course, that the purpose of this indictment is to put pressure on people to flip or turn or cooperate with the prosecutor. The prosecutor may now say, you see, I wasn't bluffing. I was -- when I said I was going to indict you, I meant it, unless you are willing to cooperate with us and give us useful information. So deals may still be negotiated before a final trial occurs.
CABRERA: Michael, it's interesting that the President has not made any comment on this when we have seen him tweet so seemingly unrestrained way throughout the Mueller investigation, trying to poke holes in his credibility. Do you find it interesting that he's been silenced on this?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm not especially surprised because this is the one thing that President Trump and prior to that businessman Donald Trump dreaded, the idea of getting into a legal proceeding where there is actually judgment based on fact and there's fact finding done by prosecutors and the court. These are all things he has avoided very carefully his entire life. He likes to advocate for himself in a salesman's kind of way, but not in the legal realm. So it may well be that his attorneys are finally talking some sense to him and saying, look, this is very dangerous territory for you to explore.
CABRERA: Paul, what do you think this means about where the investigation is at?
CALLAN: Well, I think it's possible that when this indictment is handed down, we will see a road map as to where the investigation is going. But I will say that the special prosecutor here, special counsel Mueller, has only been operating for about five months. So to be handing down an indictment after only five months means he is moving with rapid speed. That suggests to me that this may be a special prosecutor investigation that's going to wrap up within the next six months or so, maybe certainly sometime in 2018. You know, some of them have gone on for years. There was one that went on for five years. So this means Mueller is working hard and he's pushing forward quickly with the investigation.
CABRERA: I want to ask you about the timing, Michael, because all week as Boris reported, the White House has been trying to change the narrative and Republicans too who are even part of some of these Russian investigations in Congress, they have been now honing in on Hillary Clinton and controversies involve her and the past administration. Do you think the timing is just a coincidence?
D'ANTONIO: You know, it might be, but this is a method the President has used all of his life. So if you can use an enemy, in this case Hillary Clinton, and a word like Russia and investigation, you mash them all together and whether they make any sense or not when you examine them closely is not the point. It's all about distracting and raising some doubt in the public mind.
And he is very good at this. We should not under estimate the effect of this. You remember there was lying Ted and then there was lying Hillary and he wrote those messages right into the White House. So in this case I think there is a political agenda at work. I don't see how it helps him legally, but where the public is concerned, it's probably an effective strategy.
[16:10:19] CABRERA: Paul, what is the range of information we might actually get from this indictment? Is it just going to be a name and a charge or might we get more?
CALLAN: Well, that's a great question. And I will tell you that federal indictments customarily are very, very detailed. They kind of lay out the whole story with a lot of detail. Much more so than you see in state cases. Now, is he going to be coy about this and do a bare bones indictment because the only reason he is indicting is to put pressure on the suspect or maybe to send a message to others. For instance, let's say there's an indictment for lying to the FBI, which is a federal crime, or lying to federal investigators. Maybe Mueller is sending an investigation to others in the White House, you would better be telling me the truth when you submit to interviews or the grand jury because you are facing perjury or lying to the FBI charges. So it depends on what Mueller's strategic reason is for landing down this early indictment.
CABRERA: So more information might signal.
CALLAN: More information might signal that it is not a send the message indictment. It is just he has put his case together. He was ready to indict this suspect. Maybe he was getting close to the statute of limitations running on some early suspects. I was looking at the statute of limitations last night. And, you know something? Some tax charges that could be brought against some of the suspects will expire very soon. So he was under pressure to move against some suspects earlier than others. So there are a lot of possibilities here, and we won't really know until the indictment is handed down.
CABRERA: And hold your thought on that because I want to come back to that timing and the possibility of charges.
But first I do want to ask you, Michael, because you know the President so well, what do you think his best case scenario he would wake up to on Monday?
D'ANTONIO: I think he would like to see a charge against someone on a lower level of the campaign. Even if it is Paul Manafort, who many have talked about, and he was briefly the campaign chairman. If it's related to taxes, related to something prior to the campaign, that would be his best case.
But I agree with Paul that it does look like Mueller is moving very rapidly. And in some ways that does deprive the President of some of his political criticisms. You know, they have been talking a bit in the Republican realm about, well, this is costing too much.
D'ANTONIO: It's going on and we're worried. This goes against that.
CABRERA: Suggesting that it was going nowhere and they're just throwing a bunch of money at this investigation.
CABRERA: That was the cost piece that we heard this week.
But Paul, when you talk about the statute of limitations, remember that was something that came up initially about how broad the scope of the investigation could possibly be. So are you saying -- I mean, it is possible that we might see a charge -- and again, this is just theoretical -- against Paul Manafort from, you know, a decade ago, so not something he did during the campaign and perhaps not even specific to Russia. Maybe other financial crimes.
CALLAN: Yes. That's absolutely true, Ana, because remember, the charge that was given to the special prosecutor was to investigate possibility of collusion with the Russians in interfering with the American election or matters arising from the investigation. So if you come across a crime while you are investigating something, it can become relevant.
Remember the Monica Lewinski - remember, the Clinton investigation began as an investigation of a land deal. And it wound up with impeachment proceedings based on Monica Lewinski.
CABRERA: Who wasn't even part of the picture when that investigation began.
CALLAN: No one had even heard of her. And I think the thing the President is going to be worried about, if Manafort is indicted let's say for tax reasons or for money laundering or something like that, something that was part of Manafort's business before he got involved with Trump, does that mean that some of Trump's businesses, which were in operation before he ran for President, may now become the subject of the investigation arising from? And are they looking at, for instance, were Russian oligarchs putting money into Trump golf courses or real estate and did that create a relationship that enabled the Trumps to reach out to the Russians when they ran for office. You can see how you could stitch together a picture that would make it relevant.
CABRERA: And that could all be tied into eventually the election itself in terms of leverage --
CALLAN: Exactly. And the President has said, you know, his red line is if you start investigating the family business, you know, he thinks Mueller has crossed the red line. So I have a feeling Mueller is going to cross that line.
CABRERA: Where this goes is anybody's guess at this point.
Paul Callan and Michael D'Antonio, thank you both. What an interesting conversation, no doubt. We'll have you both back as we continue.
Coming up, President Trump taking credit for coining that term fake news. Ahead, I will talk to an author who says he sees signs of authoritarianism in the President's attacks on the media.
[16:19:24] CABRERA: Strong words today by the U.S. defense secretary aimed at North Korea just ahead of a visit by President Donald Trump to Asia this week. James Mattis declared any attack by North Korea on the U.S. or its allies will be defeated.
During a visit to Seoul, South Korea, the defense secretary insisted the U.S. will not accept a nuclear North Korea. Mattis warned that any use of nuclear weapons by the north would be met with a quote "massive military response that is effective and overwhelming."
Now, as the President prepares to head to the region, North Korean officials say they will not give up their nuclear program.
CNN's Will Ripley is in Pyongyang to explain.
[16:20:04] WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Asia preparation for President Trump's landmark visit, North Korea has been uncharacteristically quiet. No missile launches in a month and a half. No nuclear test, at least not yet. Only North Korea's promise to send a clear message after Trump's menacing speech at the U.N. last month when he threatened to totally destroy North Korea.
At the time North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un vowed to tame the U.S. President with fire. (INAUDIBLE) is chief engineer of a baby food factory, trying to maintain production levels despite U.N. sanctions over North Korea's nuclear program. But he says the nukes are here to stay.
President Trump knows nothing about the Korean nation, he says. Now he is asking us to give up our nuclear weapons. Ask anyone on the street and they will say he is a lunatic.
His words echo North Korean propaganda. Anti-Trump posters are all over Pyongyang. U.S. and North Korean officials say diplomacy has broken down as the rhetoric has revved up. Pushing two nuclear powers further down a dangerous path. Both sides not ruling out talks altogether, but their positions couldn't be farther apart.
On a visit Friday to the demilitarized zone dividing north and South Korea, U.S. defense secretary James Mattis said America's goal is not war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
RIPLEY: But for a nuclear free Korean peninsula. With Pyongyang closer than ever to achieving what it considers a nuclear balance of power with the U.S., giving up nukes is a nonstarter.
But, you know, there are a lot of people around the world who think that by accumulating nuclear weapons your country is putting itself at risk of total destruction.
PAK SON OK, PYONGYANG RESIDENT: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
RIPLEY: They have the wrong information, says Pak Son Ok. Tell them to come to my country and see for themselves.
Do you have hope that someday your leader Kim Jong-Un could meet the U.S. President Donald Trump?
PAK SON OK: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) RIPLEY: No, not at all, she says. That meeting cannot happen. It will not happen because our Marshall promised to deal with that deranged lunatic with fire.
Ominous words slowly simmering ever since as Trump's visit to the region looms, many wonder if the situation is about to Boyle over.
Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.
CABRERA: All right. Take you to Spain now. Separatist in Catalonia have been dealt a crushing blow in their attempt to win independence from Spain. On Friday Spanish officials dismissed the autonomous region's President, cabinet and dissolved its parliament.
A spokesperson for the Spanish government told Reuters quote "it looks as if they proclaimed the Republic of Catalonia. But 24 hours after, who has actually recognized it? No one. That's it."
Spain's deputy prime minister has officially been placed in control of Catalonia. And the country's prime minister is calling for new regional elections now on December 21st.
Still ahead, the department of homeland security unveiled several prototype for the President's proposed border wall with Mexico. But will they actually work?
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[16:27:46] CABRERA: A wall or should we say walls have gone up along a short stretch of the U.S. border with Mexico. Eight prototype walls commissioned by the Trump administration officially unveiled this week. And one of them could serve as the blueprint to carry out President Trump's vision for the border.
CNN's Miguel Marquez explains.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump said he wanted a big fat beautiful wall. These are his 30 by 30 foot options.
One of these eight contestants could soon stretch 2,000 miles across the border.
CARLOS DIAZ, SPOKESMAN, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: There's a chance that one of them gets selected. Eight of them get selected or a mix of their characteristics get selected for construction.
MARQUEZ: They sit like giant tombstones just east of San Diego in the no man's land right on the U.S. Mexico border. The President has consistently said a wall will be built along the entire border. He says 2,000 miles a border wall. You say --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll put it up where we need to.
DIAZ: Well, there's testimony already out there. There was a testimony by the former.
DIAZ: Chief of homeland security, which was General Kelly in which he in testimony said that you won't see a wall from sea to shining sea. We will put the wall where it makes sense.
MARQUEZ: Customs and border patrol deferring to the same John Kelly who is now the President's chief of staff. The cost for just these test walls, $20 million. Building any one of them can cost the entire 2,000 mile border could cost more than $20 billion.
Beyond this, whether the 20 billion to build the entire wall comes, that's for another day.
DIAZ: So right now our focus is to complete the process of construction of the prototype.
MARQUEZ: So the prototype or the contestants or the President's big beautiful wall, they are done, but it's going to take another month for the cement to dry and for the walls to settle before they can be tested. And then they will go at them, seeing whether they can be scaled, climbed, dug under or breached.
You will test these walls to their maximum.
MARQUEZ: On the Mexican side of the border, building of the prototype met with disbelief.
So when you see these, what do they represent to you?
[16:30:02] VICTOR CLARK ALFARO, MEXICAN CITIZEN: For our country, we think it's --
MARQUEZ: Victor Clark Alfaro, a Mexican citizen who teaches border issues at San Diego State University says a 30 foot wall would deter migrants, but not everything.
Will a 30 foot wall 2,000 miles long stop drugs coming into the U.S.?
ALFARO: Well, drugs enter through the U.S. in different ways, through port of entries, through sea, by land.
MARQUEZ: And tunnels. Lots of them.
If we can take a picture of the land, of the ground underneath us, what would it look like?
ALFARO: With a lot of tunnels, obviously. Probably in this moment somebody is building a tunnel.
MARQUEZ: At least some of these walls come with tunnel deterrence too. Big beautiful walls above and below ground.
Miguel Marquez, CNN, Mexico (INAUDIBLE), California.
CABRERA: Coming up, secretary of state Nikki Haley says extremism in Africa could be a real threat to the U.S. These comments come as we are learning new details about that deadly ambush in Niger that left four American soldiers dead. Why they were there and how they got separated when heavily armed militants attacked their convoy.
[16:35:19] CABRERA: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has now wrapped up a three nation tour of Africa amid escalating concerns of extremism in that part of the world. Her visit follows the ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers.
In an exclusive interview with CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott, ambassador Hailey talks about how extremism in Africa could impact the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: These African countries and all countries, if they take care of their people, if they respect the voices of their people, then you get true democracy. If they don't listen to the voices of their people, conflict will erupt, extremism will happen, and the United States will have to deal with it. This is all about making sure we don't get to that point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: This as we are learning more details now about that deadly October 4th ambush in Niger. Sources tell CNN the U.S. troops became separated during the fire fight and attempted to mount a counter attack.
CNN's Ryan Browne has been following all the details.
And Ryan, what have we learned now about what these U.S. troops were up against in this battle?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Ana, we know that they were up against a larger, better armed force of some 50 ISIS affiliated fighters. U.S. intelligence believes it's a group called ISIS in the greater Sahara and they were armed with rocket propelled grenades, mortars, heavy machine guns facing a smaller U.S. Nigerian force arm primarily just with their personal rifles. Yet despite this forces were able to mount a counter attack and kill some 20 ISIS militants. But during the attack early on one of their vehicle was disabled. The U.S. force was de-split in two. They lost communication with one another, adding to the confusion of this battle. And we are told that one of the groups that was separated has some of the casualties the U.S. suffered in it. So it get a lot of confusion here in this very intense fire fight in this remote part of Niger.
CABRERA: What about the timeline on sergeant La David Johnson? Have you learned any more about why he was missing for a whole 48 hours before his body was recovered?
BROWNE: Well, that's the main question that the investigation, which is being led by a two star general from Africa command, is looking at. Now, one thing we know is actually the White House was initially told that all four soldiers could be missing. That was in the initial reports. That was later revised by the military to three killed in action with only one missing, and that's, of course, sergeant La David Johnson.
So, again, what they are trying to find out is how -- there was some movement between the two groups. They were on foot. They were in vehicles. So they are just trying to find out how he was missing for that length of time.
CABRERA: And there was coordination, obviously of the ISIS affiliated fighters seems to suggest that they are well trained and organized. Is the U.S. currently prepared to counter the ISIS factions in Niger and other African regions?
BROWNE: Well, that's something U.S. military planners are looking at. You know, they have done about 30 patrols in this area without encountering enemy contact. The force was not a hunted, you know, capture kill operational force. They were not given that mission. This was a reconnaissance patrol force. Not expecting enemy contact.
The U.S. military has requested armed drones for Niger. It's a request that has not been granted yet by the Nigerian government. That's something they have been working on for some time because of this threat. And they are working on it with even greater urgency in the wake of this attack.
CABRERA: Ryan Browne, thank you for that.
Still ahead, I will talk to one author who says he sees signs of authoritarian in the President's attacks on the media and others.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go away.
[16:43:25] CABRERA: President Trump is patting himself on the back for quote "this whole fake news thing." The President says one of his biggest accomplishments since taking office 280 days ago is convincing everyday Americans that news media reporting is fake. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have really started this whole fake news thing. Now, they have turned it around and now they are calling, you know, stories put out by Facebook fake and they are fake. What can be more fake than CBS and NBC and CNN when you look at some of these stories and you look at the level of approval of media, of general media. If you look at it from the day I started running to now, I'm so proud that I have been able to convince people how fake it is, because it has taken a nosedive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Freedom of the press, established by our founding fathers, as a key pillar of American democracy. What happens when the nation's leader encourages disbelief in a fundamental American institution?
Let's talk it over with Yale history professor Timothy Snyder, the author of the book "On Tyranny, 20 lessons from the 20th century."
Timothy, thanks for being here. You say you see signs of authoritarianism in the President's attacks on the media. Explain.
TIMOTHY SNYDER, HISTORY PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: Well, it's interesting in the words that he just used he actually provided us with fake news because the idea of fake news comes from Russia. That very term fake news existed in Russia and Ukrainian years before it came to the U.S. So his very idea that he invented it is wrong. But of course, that gives us a tip to where the real problem is.
The real problem is that anytime a leader says that journalism is not important, factuality is not important, he is undermining all of the other institutions. He is making it impossible for us to have a rule of law state, impossible for us to have civil society. This is the first move that authoritarians always make.
[16:45:17] CABRERA: Interesting. But yet we have seen other administrations in the past take issue with media reports. So what makes him and his administration different?
SNYDER: Yes. Great question. It's normal if you are a President or if you are in the Congress to have controversy with the media. The founding fathers foresaw that. And from Washington onward, every single President has had tension with the press.
What's different about Mr. Trump is that he says the entire press is a bad idea, referring to the press as the enemies of the people and suggesting that the press should just go away is actually unprecedented in American history. It is different.
CABRERA: Do you think, though, part of the difference comes with the fact that it's the age of social media, so I mean, there are so many outlets out there and streams of information?
SNYDER: Yes. That's a big difference, because it's very easy for us now to just look on the screen and find the stuff that we like. And it's very easy to be confused between what we want to hear and what the truth actually is. Because the truth is always a little bit uncomfortable. It always teaches us. The there's always a little bit of friction. But that's all the more reason for a President and all responsible politicians to insist on just how important real journalism is rather than doing the opposite.
CABRERA: Are there other actions that you've seen this President take that concern you?
SNYDER: Absolutely. I mean, in addition to being against the freedom of the press and factual itself, we have a President who is unconcerned with the use of language. We have a President who is willing to use language to turn one group of Americans against another group of Americans. We have a President who refers to judges as so- called judges. We have a President who admires foreign dictators and say that the way that things are done in places like Russia or North Korea is better than the U.S. Of course there are many reasons for concern.
CABRERA: And yet has he really done anything to erode our democratic institutions? I mean, he may tack a big game, throw out a lot of threats, tweet at people these attacks, but at the end of the day he largely hasn't been able to dictate his agenda. I mean, isn't that a sign of democracy working?
SNYDER: Well, the fact that he hasn't made policy I don't find all that reassuring because what Mr. Trump has been able to do is change the nature of government. We no longer expect that the federal government will make policy. What we expect is a constant stream of more or less artificial emergencies. So what we spend our time doing is getting excited by this foreign emergency, this domestic crisis, this violent use of words. We are getting accustomed to a new political reality where the job of government is no longer to help us but to get us upset. I would say that is actually a change in our system.
CABRERA: That's fascinating. That just kind of blew my mind.
Now, this week when the President was up on the hill meeting with members of his party discussing tax reform, he was asked about that meeting and this was his take-away. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I called it a love fest. It was almost a love fest. Main it was a love fest. But -- standing ovations. There is great unity. I mean, if you look at the Democrats with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, that's a mess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: He seems to care a lot about praise and what people think of him.
SNYDER: Yes. That's extremely dangerous because the last thing the press can do is praise a leader. The reason why we have the first amendment is that the founding fathers understood that there has to be constant factual reassessment and criticism. That will be personally annoying for the President, but the President is not a person. The President is the head of state and the head of government. And so it's the job of the President not to have those personal feelings. In fact, it's the job of the President to use what he learns from journalists rather than to criticize them.
CABRERA: And yet just this week we talk about people falling in line, praising the President. We saw a couple of Republican senators, members of his own party speak out strongly against the President. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly the daily Sunday erg of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flag rant disregard for truth and decency. The reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So that's Senator Flake expressing concerns about the democracy, but safe to say that sort of thing doesn't happen in authoritarian regime.
SNYDER: Right. Which is exactly why it's a very good thing there's a free press. If members of the opposition, if people in the resistance and if members of Mr. Trump's own party didn't have access to the press, we wouldn't know about those words. Those words wouldn't be the beginning of a discussion.
The reason why heads of state try to tamp down on the press and try to replace the free press with their own press is so that they can margin eyes dissenting voices so they can hog the middle and make criticism seem irrelevant. It's a very good thing that that hasn't happened yet. What you have shown is just one little reminder of what it wouldn't be like if we didn't have that. If we didn't have that, we wouldn't know where to begin.
[16:50:31] CABRERA: I want to ask you about what we are focusing on today. Today's news about this grand jury indictment related to the special counsel investigation that's focused on the President and his campaign and obstruction of justice potentially. You know, it has come up the idea of the President either pardoning people who may be indicted and or even firing the special counsel. What do you make of this?
SNYDER: This is one more reason why it's very important we have a free press. When you are facing a constitutional crisis with unprecedented problems, it's a very good thing we're free to discuss it. One unprecedented problem is that a foreign nation interfered in our elections, interfered directly in our sovereignty. We are still getting used to that. We need the press to be able to talk about that. Second unprecedented problem, the notion of a President pardoning
himself, which is a little bit like borrowing money from yourself. It doesn't make that much sense to me. But it's clearly the first step towards a constitutional crisis and without the press and without the lawyers talking in the free press, we will have no idea how to deal with that.
CABRERA: Timothy Snyder, thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
Coming up, the President and the first lady aren't known for public displays of affection, but things seem to be warming up. We will have the details next.
First it all started with broken luggage at the airport and now these two entrepreneurs are building a travel brand millennials seem to love. But the trip isn't without challenges.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our first product, the suitcase, came from a personal pain point. So my luggage broke. I was at the airport and all of my clothes just spilled out everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she called me to explain and she started being like, you know, why isn't there a brand that makes really high quality products that's not going to break and that doesn't cost more than the trip I'm taking it on.
We surveyed hundreds and hundreds of people who could potentially be our customers and that really drove the design. The suitcase has a hard shell, really durable zippers, perfect wheels, and the phone charger in the carry on.
We have had so many failures with the way we've under amend our growth potential so many times and then we are completely out of inventory. Early on we didn't have a totally dialed interview process. We ended upbringing a few people on to the team who weren't the right fit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have built something and are now responsible for all of these peoples' lively hoods. That kind of responsibility is really overwhelming at times, but it's also what inspires us to keep the company growing.
[16:57:31] CABRERA: The President and the first lady were quite affectionate with each other this week at the White House opioid event. They exchanged warm smiles. There was some back touching. There was even kissing.
Here is our Jeannie Moos.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNIE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The President and first lady were all smiles at each other. No big deal, you say in well, have you seen Melania un-smile after her husband turned his back at the inauguration. But as the first lady added some empathy to the opioid announcement, she and the President repeatedly exchanged smiles. He patted her back.
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been participating --
MOOS: Again the proud smile, the exchanged glance.
M. TRUMP: I'm so proud to support him today.
MOOS: And then the outstretched arms, the warm kiss on the cheek and some nuzzling, another kiss, a pat. And just when you thought it was over, a lingering gaze and a nod and another touch.
This was a Presidential PDA never before seen in this administration. Usually comedians are making fun of body language like the Trump's marital handshake.
M. TRUMP: Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He shut her down like a robot from west -- you can go sit down.
MOOS: And if it wasn't the handshake, it was the infamous hand swat.
Steven Colbert's late show then added its own handy work. This cat and mouse hand play has now given way to him touching her back and her reciprocating the gesture. Melania still looked like a model, but not a mannequin.
Jeannie Moos, CNN, New York.
CABRERA: We are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for spending part of your weekend with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
No comment. That's the official response from the White House to a landmark moment in the Trump Russia saga as reported first right here on CNN.
A federal grand jury in Washington has now approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Plans have also been made for anyone charged to be taken in the custody as soon as --