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Trump: "I Had to Fire Flynn Because He Lied to VP & FBI"; Source: Kushner Directed Flynn to Contact Russian Ambassador; Russia Responds to Flynn Guilty Plea; General Mark Hertling on What's to Blame for Flynn Downfall; Senate Passes Tax Bill After Last-Minute Changes. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 2, 2017 - 15:00   ET



[15:00:13] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Glad you're with us. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.

Breaking news on CNN, an enormous revelation from President Trump that really changes the conversation about who knew what in the first weeks of this presidency. President Trump now saying in a tweet he knew Michael Flynn lied to the FBI, and that is partly the reason he fired him as national security adviser. Now this is huge. Because, as you know, Flynn pleaded guilty just yesterday to the federal crime of lying to the FBI. If the president's words are true, and he knew about this crime, the felony back in February, and it would mean that he knew this when he asked Comey, the former FBI director, to drop the investigation into Flynn.

Here is the president's tweet in full. "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

These are the first public comments from the president since the plea in court yesterday. The president's shocking words are suddenly overshadowing his victory lap he's been taking around New York City following the passage of his tax plan.

Boris Sanchez is in New York.

Boris, President Trump always said he fired Flynn for lying to the vice president, but he never said he knew Flynn lied to the FBI. Any more from the administration?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, but it certainly is a revelation, as you put it. And it is somewhat unexpected considering that yesterday the president was mostly quiet on the news that Michael Flynn not only admitted to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians, but also the fact that he is apparently now cooperating with Robert Mueller's special probe and investigation. The president was stopped by reporters at the White House and said there was no collusion and he is not worried about how this news are Michael Flynn cooperating with the special counsel to potentially affect the White House. We heard that echoed by sources at the White House yesterday. But then this afternoon here in New York at a lunch fundraiser he made no mention of Michael Flynn. That tweet was the only thing we heard from the president since he left Washington this morning.

Now, he's expected to be back in Washington today. There are two closed events here in New York. The press doesn't have access to the president to ask the question, but he will be asked almost certainly again when he returns to the White House later.

Look, it is certainly surprising, especially when you consider the way the White House tried to distance itself yesterday from Michael Flynn, at one point describing him as an Obama era official he's making the claim the president authorized his conversations with Russians. Let's not forget it was widely reported at the time of his firing that President Obama apparently warned Donald Trump about firing him and certainly after the inauguration then acting attorney general, Sally Yates, approached the White House with concerns that Michael Flynn could potentially be blackmailed by Russians. It certainly should not be a surprise that Michael Flynn is moving in this direction. They had apparently been warned previously about his potential links to Russians.

CABRERA: It begs the question how literal do you take that tweet? Because a lot of people are saying this is proof of obstruction of justice. California Democrat Ted Lieu writing this, tweeting, "This is obstruction of justice. POTUS now admits he knew Michael Flynn lied to the FBI. Yet, Trump tried to influence or stop the FBI investigation on Flynn."

So how are other lawmakers reacting to this? What else are you hearing?

SANCHEZ: As you can imagine, there have been several local critics of the president throughout this investigation that are now weighing in. The one of them, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, was on CNN yesterday and made the claim that the president has been less than forthcoming throughout this entire process. He tweeted just a little over a half hour ago writing, quote -- in response to the president's tweet, quote, "If that is true, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to fire Flynn. Why did you fail to act until his lies were publicly exposed and pressure Comey to let this go?"

Plenty of questions to be answered. Also by Robert Mueller's special investigation as well.

One last thing I wanted to point out. Earlier, I mentioned that Sally Yates approached the White House with concerns. We should note that it took several days for the administration to eventually fire Flynn. They did not respond to the accusations immediately -- Ana?

[15:05:04] CABRERA: All right. Boris Sanchez, in New York, thank you.

Let's head to Washington now and CNN's Kara Scannell.

Kara, take us back to February when the president fired Michael Flynn. What was he saying then?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Back in February, the president fired Flynn. It was only after a "Washington Post" story revealed publicly that Flynn had had conversations and discussed the sanctions policy by the Obama administration during the transition with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. It was after that was revealed that President Trump fired Flynn.

Here's what he told "People" back in February.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No I didn't. But Mike - Excuse me. I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence. Very simple. Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries. And his counterparts. So it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn't doing it. I didn't direct him. But I would have directed him because that's his job. It came out that way. And in all fairness, I watched Dr. Charles Krauthammer the other night saying he was doing his job. And I agreed with him. And since then, I've watched many other people say that. I didn't direct him, but I would have if he didn't do it. OK?


SCANNELL: That's a very interesting distinction, because the president is distancing himself from Flynn's lies, but the underlying conduct and having conversations with foreign governments during the transition is something that could potentially violate the Logan Act, a 218-year-old law that has rarely been used and not successfully prosecuted by the underlying theme in these allegations that Flynn pled guilty to lying about. So the question becomes what -- why was he lying. And in the documents filed as part of his plea, he does acknowledge he did this at the direction of a senior transition official, which CNN has learned is Jared Kushner. Another conversation he had involved another transition official, and others while down at Mar-a-Lago in late December 2016. In that call, Flynn said he discussed with K.T. McFarland, who was then going to be the national security adviser, how to handle sanctions with Russia as this was happening at the time, and she was there. According to the plea agreement, had discussed it with other members of the transition team. So it's -- with Flynn now cooperating, this is really just the tip of the iceberg for Mueller's investigators as they kind of dig into more of who directed these calls, and what else we don't even know about. These are just ones that were revealed in the plea agreement.

CABRERA: There's so much more to uncover here.

Kara Scannell, thank you.

I want to bring in the panel to discuss all of this. Joining me, opinion contributor, David Andelman. He is a visiting scholar at the Fordham Law School on Federal and National Security. Also with us congressional reporter for "The Washington Examiner," Laura Barron- Lopez. And the former counsel to the U.S. assistant attorney general for nation security, Carrie Cordero.

So, everyone, I want to show you this timeline. On January 24, Flynn had an interview with the FBI. We now know he lied about his call with the Russian ambassador. Three days later, President Trump invited James Comey to dinner. He asked him to pledge his loyalty. Now fast-forward a couple weeks. On February 13, after the public learns Flynn discussed Russian sanctions, President Trump fires Flynn. And one day later, Trump asks Comey to let the investigation into Flynn go.

David Andelman, if Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI when he asked Comey for loyalty and when he asked him to drop the investigation, is that obstruction of justice?

DAVID ANDELMAN, CNN.COM OPINION CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look I'm no lawyer although I'm affiliated with the law school. It strikes me there certainly is a lot of legal questions he's going to have to answer and that the administration is going to have to answer at some point when it finally gets to that point. What I think is interesting is how people abroad--I've been looking around the world. Media, talking to people this morning in a number of countries on how they're viewing this, and they see this in an extraordinary change in the American legal system potentially and a sense of how do they deal with a situation like this, where a country with a full democratic legal system finds one of its top people perhaps all the way up to the press of the United States involved in something so legally questionable.

[15:09:55] CABRERA: So you're saying people around the world are paying attention to what's happening in the Russian investigation.

ANDELMAN: Oh, there's no doubt about it. It seems already to be emboldening the American's enemies abroad. Weakening the will of our allies. It' it's very interesting. The president of France had lunch today with Obama at the palace. The Presidential Honor Guard in France welcoming him. It was very low-key in terms of its being publicized but they had this tet-a-tet. And people are trying to find a way into understand how to deal with the administration that it's clearly seriously damage and more every single day.

CABRERA: Carrie, back to the president's tweet, the president's own words. And the impact, do you think President Trump just admitted to obstruction of justice?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATION SECURITY: Well there's two different ways to look at the tweet. One way is that it is accurate, in which case it certainly provides another piece of information that would be relevant to the long-standing trail of obstruction that the president arguably has engaged in. So there have been many things he's done since last January that all could culminate in a potential case of obstruction for his efforts to thwart the Russia investigation. But, there is a significant other possibility that what he tweeted today is not true. It is contrary to the information that was released and things that he said early last winter, and unfortunately, the president has a long record established and been reported z on by many news organizations including CNN that he says or tweets things that are false. So on one hand, if it's true, then yes. It is another example of an effort that he took, if he had knowledge that Flynn had lied and then if he tried to stop that investigation, that would be part of a potential obstruction charge. But I think we need to weight a little bit to see if it turns out that what he tweeted out today actually is an accurate representation of what he knew at the time.

CABRERA: I thought about this with this tweet, like did he make a mistake in how he wrote it? But my question to you, Carrie, in follow-up is what he said wasn't true, what benefit would he have in tweeting it out?

CORDERO: Well, it would not be any legal benefit. Any of his tweets do not have any legal benefit to him or anyone associated with him. From a political standpoint, one might argue that this is another avenue that he took to separate himself from Mike Flynn, to distance himself, to explain why he fired him. But from certainly from any legal or counsel standpoint, any of his advisers, it's hard to see how there's any benefit to him, other than perhaps putting a little more distance between him and Mike Flynn through his tweet today.

CABRERA: Laura, the back half of that tweet, the president seems to think it's a good thing Flynn was only charged with lying to the FBI. This is the bigger question. Why would Flynn lie in the first place?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, sure. I mean we, you know, during this investigation, we have seen Mueller slowly by surely building this case, looking at where all of the points lead, to weather not Trump's campaign colluded with Russia and Flynn seems to be the focal point. If there is an obstruction case, he is where it's going to branch out from. All lines lead back to him and stem from him. With Trump's tweet e again, we know he is trying to distance himself, but Trump also likes to say what people want to hear. This is something that we know about the president. The he does this when he's negotiating with leaders in Congress. And so it isn't that surprising that he would want to weigh in beyond what he did earlier.

CABRERA: David, just a reminder that we learned Flynn was lying because apparently his conversation with Ambassador Kislyak was picked up in some surveillance. Shouldn't he have known these calls would be recorded? Why lie?

ANDELMAN: There's no doubt he should have known that. He was a very senior American general is connected with the national security agency and so on. He knows how the American security operations work. Many of us who have anything to do with the security operations understand these kinds of conversations can easily be picked up and monitored and transcribed. He should certainly have understood that. It seems to me there has to be some other motivation here behind that.

By the way, I'd like to talk about the tweets for one moment if I could. Trump's tweets have actually had legal ramifications. His tweets about immigration and so on have actually figured very prominently in the decisions regarding the immigrant ban, Muslim ban. So I think we can't look at things in an isolated situation. The and Trump not being a lawyer himself really seems to have very little understanding of the impact they can have on situations where he and his followers, potentially his son-in-law, could get involved. These are not by any means innocuous. We don't forget about them. Legal system doesn't forget about them. And the world doesn't forget about them.

[15:15:41] CABRERA: Permanent record now.

Carrie, Flynn is cooperating. He says I am cooperating. What are the chances Mueller already knows whether Flynn told President Trump that he lied to the FBI? Is that being one question, and bigger picture, what are the chances Mueller knows exactly what Flynn's going to give him in terms of additional information that could be valuable in his investigation?

CORDERO: Well, we don't know from are the plea documents and from the information that was released by the special counsel's office, whether -- we don't know exactly what Michael Flynn has now informed the special counsel's office. What we do know is my interpretation of his plea agreement, because he was charged with just one count of making false statements, which would carry a very low criminal penalty, when in fact he had apparently, based on all the information we know, publicly very large criminal exposure rage ranging from multiple false statements, misrepresentation to potentially other activities he may have been involved in. Based on the one count versus the larger arena of activities that he potentially is able to be charged with, it seems like he probably has either already given the special counsel's office a good deal of information about what he is knowledgeable about, what conversations he knows about, what more information about the extent of communications or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials or surrogates. And of course, then his plea agreement also provides that if the special counsel's office is to learn more information for example, they could come back to him and have him continue to cooperate. His plea agreement is contingent upon his continued cooperation, and providing information to the special counsel's office.

CABRERA: Another piece of this puzzle, of course, is Jared Kushner's role. CNN learning that the president's son-in-law is the very senior member of the transition team that directed Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador about a U.N. vote.

We need to get in a quick break. But when I come back, I want to get all of your insights into whether the president could have been trying to protect Kushner in all of this.

Stay with me. We'll be right back.


[15:22:17] CABRERA: Sources tell CNN that Jared Kushner is the, quote, "very senior member of the Trump transition team" that directed Michael Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador.

I want to talk more about how this could play into the investigation.

My panel is back with me.

David, there have been questions whether President Trump was trying to protect Flynn when he asked Comey to drop that investigation into him. Does it seem like he could have been trying to protect his son-in-law?

ANDELMAN: I think there's no doubt about that. As we begin to see this strings from one to the other to the other, it's very clear Flynn reported to Kushner and Kushner reported to dad, father-in-law. That's very clear I think. That string is unbroken and has been really all along. And this is very, very important because Kushner, remember, is not only the son-in-law and in those days, at least the intermediary between Trump and the national security advisor. But also, he is the lead negotiator for the Middle East. An extraordinary difficult moment.

I would just point out that this coming week, the word around is people have been telling me from inside the administration and from the Middle East that Trump is going to designate this week Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which is going to potentially destroy everything that Kushner and company have been working on to try to arrange something between them. So now drop this little hand grenade in the middle. Kushner potentially right in the middle of this very complex negotiation or incident or whatever. The string, shall we say, between Flynn indicted now, and charged, and Trump, very, very difficult period for the entire Trump administration, particularly it's very high level. It's kind of a path through wilderness, if you will. Very difficult and dangerous.

CABRERA: Not just to the Trump family but or President Trump administration but the President Trump family as well with Kushner are part of all this and, of course, Don Jr too has been a part of the overall discussion regarding the investigation in the meeting, for example.

But, Laura, the reporting for the last couple months has been Kushner's one of the people who pushed Trump to fire Comey. Right? So that seems problematic.

[15:24:50] BARRON-LOPEZ: It does. We know Kushner has had to update a lot of his disclosures to investigators when it comes to the meetings and contact he has had with Russian officials, and so, again, as you asked earlier, Trump, likely does want to shield his son-in-law as well as his family from this as much as possible. That's something that he has tried to do. It's something that he'll continue to do. And so again, with the Flynn guilty plea, we'll learn, sooner or later whether or not the fact that he was only charged on one count, that this could eventually lead to bigger fish within the administration. And as close to the president -- it could reach as close to him as his family.

CABRERA: Earlier this month, Mueller's team questioned Kushner. We were told that they wanted to make sure he didn't have any information that could exonerate Flynn. But now we've seen what has been laid out in these plea documents, could it have actually been a potential trap for Kushner to see if he would lie?

CORDERO: Well, I don't know that the special counsel's office would conduct an interview for the purpose of conducting -- sort of setting a trap, so to speak. But certainly, the relevance of the Flynn documents shows that a particular focus of the special counsel's office is the December meetings that were set up that Jared Kushner seems to have been involved in with the Russian ambassador, and that Flynn was also involved in. So certainly, information that Flynn has provided, and now, if the special counsel's office has conversation that he is being truthful will be measured against whatever information Jared Kushner provided in his interview. And certainly, so for Kushner, as is true for any individuals who are interviewed by the special counsel's office or by the Senate Intelligence investigators or congressional investigations going on. Any time these individuals are interviewed, they are potentially exposing themselves to charges of false statements if they are not truly to investigators.

CABRERA: Carrie Cordero, Laura Barron-Lopez, David Andelman, thanks to all of you. We appreciate your time on this weekend especially.

Coming up, some Russian lawmakers are dismissing Michael Flynn's guilty plea, calling it a sack of smoke. Why they say Flynn is just the scapegoat, next in a live report from Moscow. Stay with us.


[15:31:52] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: All these developments in the Russian investigation can be difficult to follow so we're going to try to recap what we've learned about Michael Flynn's dealings with Russia.

Here's what else we've learned. Jared Kushner is also involved in all this. He directed Flynn weeks before the inauguration to contact the Russian ambassador about a U.N. Security Council vote on Israeli settlements according to sources families with the matter.

Here's a timeline of Flynn's known contact with Russia. December 22nd, 2016, during the transition, according to court documents, General Flynn asked the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, to postpone the vote. Then, December 29, President Obama announced new sanctions against Russian, and Flynn asks Kislyak not to retaliate. December 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he won't retaliate against U.S. sanctions. January 20, 2017, President Trump is inaugurated. January 24, Flynn lies to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. January 26 was when then- acting attorney general, Sally Yates, warned the White House that Flynn was lying about his calls with Kislyak. And on January 30, President Trump fired Yates after she refused to defend the travel ban. Fast-forward to February. On the 13th of February, Flynn resigned after admitting misleading Vice President Pence about his conversation with Kislyak when he said they didn't discuss sanctions.

Well now, Flynn's bombshell guilty plea would seem to have thrown the White House into turmoil but, this morning, the president said he is not worried. No collusion, he says. So still unanswered, what was Michael Flynn trying to hide? Why did he lie? Who, if anyone, may have directed Flynn?

With Mueller's probe as close as it has ever been to the Oval Office, prominent Russian politicians are paying attention, calling the investigation, quote, "hype." And the case against Michael Flynn, quote, "empty."

CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, joining us from Moscow.

Matthew, what else are you hearing there in terms of reaction?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORERSPONDENT: Well, there's been something of an official silence when it comes to response to these dramatic developments unfolding in the United States. We've asked the Kremlin to see whether they can give us their comments on what's been taking place and we've had no response from them. The Russian foreign ministry has done nothing except say we don't see what this has got to do with us. It's just a couple of relatively senior Russian lawmakers taking to social media to voice their opinions about the confession essentially of Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor, to President Trump. One of them saying this is a case that is a sack of smoke, essentially, it is just hype. Another Senator saying that Flynn is a scapegoat, and this is really just an attack on the U.S. president. So the little reaction that we've had so far seems to be following the previous Russian insistence that nothing untoward happened, there was no collusion, and essentially to paraphrase Russia and U.S. officials, this is merely fake news. The truth is, though, that with all this evidence stacking up and this confession of Flynn, those stories, those lies are starting to gradually, in fact, very quickly unravel -- Ana?

[15:35:19] CABRERA: You, I recall went and tried to track down the former Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, to talk to him back in august. Remind us how that went. What did he say?

CHANCE: Well, I mean, he's very difficult to track down. We had to follow him all the way to a tiny city in the center of Russia and we sprung upon him unexpectedly to try to put to him some of the important questions that the people have been wanting to ask him from the time when he was the Russian ambassador to the United States. Previously, he told state media there was no contact that he'd had with U.S. officials about the issue of U.S. sanctions. We now know that not to be the case.

Back then in August, I put to him that he was a secret conduit from the Kremlin to the President Trump transition team. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.


CHANCE: Hi, Mr. Ambassador. Did you discuss sanctions with any members of the Trump team when you were in the United States?

SERGEY KISLYAK, FORMER RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: With your respect, I'm here to talk to Russian people.

CHANCE: I understand that.

KISLYAK: I said everything I wanted prior to this.

CHANCE: Did you discuss opening secret channels with the Kremlin with Jared Kushner, for instance?

KISLYAK: I've said many things. We do not discuss the substance of our discussions with our American interlockers, out of respect to our partners.


CHANCE: Again, in previous interviews, he insisted the U.S. sanctions were not discussed. Of course, again, we now know from Flynn that they were discussed. They wanted them to have a moderate response to the -- what was then the most recent round of U.S. sanctions against Russia. And the answer came back in the affirmative, that because of that Flynn request, Russia had taken a moderate line on its response to the what were then the latest U.S. sanctions against Russia -- Ana?

CABRERA: Matthew Chance, in Moscow, thank you for that report.

Coming up here on the CNN NEWSROOM, a retired U.S. general said Michael Flynn has left him embarrassed for the Army. He served with Flynn in Iraq and shares with us what he thinks is to blame for the downfall of the former national security advisor. That's next here on NEWSROOM.


[15:42:17] CABRERA: Michael Flynn's guilty plea is the latest bump in his roller coaster career, and it's not the first time he has been connected to controversy. Flynn, a three-star general was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 amid reports of mismanagement. He lasted just 24 days as Trump's NSA. Flynn first rose to national prominence after his stint as battlefield intelligence officer in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Let's talk it over with a man who served with Flynn in the Iraq war back in 2007, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, CNN military analyst and former Army commander general of Europe.

General, thank you so much for joining us.

You said last night, a powerful interview you had with Anderson Cooper. You said hubris and vengeance are to blame for Flynn's downfall. How so?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALSYT: Well, I can't exactly say what created the demons inside of Mike Flynn that caused him to do the things he did. I suggested it might be a part of or might have been created somewhat by hubris, a little bit of pride, and maybe vengeance on the part he was asked to depart. That's just conjecture on my part.

Mike Flynn did have a successful career as an intelligence officer. I did serve with him in combat. We were in partner units. He was with Special Operations and Stan McChrystal. He was an intelligence staff officer when I was a commander in northern Iraq. I saw his capability as a staff officer. It was very good. I think he lost his way somehow when he got involved in politics or with an individual, and it caused him to do the things he did. That's unfortunate.

What I said on Anderson Cooper last night it's a little bit of an embarrassment for the Army because most American citizens who have not served associate a general with the organization. There are a lot of fellow soldiers out there who say, gee-wiz, this is not the kind of individual that really exemplifies our values, code and oath to the Constitution. That's what caused the embarrassment I talked about.

CABRERA: What was Flynn's reputation when you both served in Iraq?

HERTLING: During that period of time, he was working for General McChrystal who had a great reputation himself. But, again, Mike was a staff officer. He was the intelligence staffer that pulled together human intelligence, signals intelligence and things like that. He was serving another commander who had a very good reputation. The staff doesn't get the reputation that the commanders do, and Stan McChrystal has had a great one. I knew him as a solid, competent, intelligence officer, and that's about it. Truthfully, he was very demanding, created a leadership of high pressure within his organization. I think that contributed maybe to a little bit of what was called his mismanagement. But I wasn't part of that organization, so I can't -- I shouldn't say for sure.

[15:45:22] CABRERA: I want to read part of Flynn's statement yesterday when he went and pleaded guilty in this court hearing, and we got the documents as to what he was needing for. He said, "My guilty plea, an agreement to cooperate rate with the specialty counsel's office reflects a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions."

What do you think about that statement that he's doing this in the best interest of the country?

HERTLING: Well, I wish he had thought of that earlier when he hadn't done the kinds of things that detracted from the best interest of the country. And I personally believe he did. Doing some the things that occurred before the inauguration are contrary to our laws and our code. Again, you serve the Constitution and it basically proclaims one president at a time. It doesn't do it in so many words, but there's one leader of a nation. I think what we're going to see as this unfolds is a lot of things were going on behind the scenes that were a lot more than just initial coordination with foreign governments. That part of General Flynn's comment yesterday I agree with. I think he should have said I'm sorry about what I did, I made mistakes. It was the first part where he was actually including his 33 years of service and his five years of combat that I took issue with. I don't think that should have been in the statement. That had nothing to do with what he had done. Only I thought attempted to bring a little bit more connection to the military, which I know a lot of my fellow soldiers don't want right now from General Flynn. CABRERA: And bigger picture, General, what impact if any does Flynn's

guilty plea have on the U.S. reputation on the world stage? Does it embolden enemies of the U.S., as we heard from David Andelman?

HERTLING: I think we're already seeing some of that on the world stage where there is a deterioration of trust from some of our allies and partners and even some of our foes are suggesting we can be beaten in many areas. I won't go into the details of that. I'm more concerned with the lack of trust that it's creating between our government, our peoples, and the military, because this was a former three-star general. To rise to that rank, you should have a whole lot of humility, a lot of empathy and an understanding of what requirements are of government and security. Both of those I think were failures in this case.

CABRERA: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, always appreciate your time. Thanks for coming on.

HERTLING: Thanks, Ana. I appreciate it.

CABRERA: Another story with big implications for every American, the Senate votes in favor of some of the biggest changes to the tax code in decades. Some changes were actually scribbled into the margins of the bill at the last minute last night. More details on what's in that bill that was passed in the Senate while you were sleeping, coming up here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:52:48] CABRERA: Today, President Trump is touting what he calls the largest tax cuts in history. He's referring to the Republican tax reform plan the Senate passed in the early hours of the morning. The vote, 51-49. Every Republican voted yes, except one, Senator Bob Corker, of Tennessee. He took issues with the trillion dollars this will add to the deficit. Every Democrat voted against it.

The push to pass the bill was so intense, provision to the bill were actually scribbled into the margins at the last minute.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADERS: With this reckless ram writing of the bill, Republicans, heretofore, are reaching here to unreached hypes of hypocrisy and the Senate is descending to a new low of chicanery. Read the bill? They're still writing it by hand and mere hours before voting on it. Is this how Republicans are going to rewrite the tax code? Scrawled like something on the back of a napkin and behind closed doors with the help of K Street lobbyists?


CABRERA: Republican leaders pushing back, saying Democrat will pay for their opposition after the ballot box.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: If you noticed, in the end, there is not a single Democrat who thought it was a good idea. We'll take this message to the American people a year from now. The House and the Senate have to find a compromise from the plan. That will mean the debate is not over.


CABRERA: The House and the Senate now have to find a compromise on their differences. That means the debate is not over.

Twenty-four hours of extreme highs and lows for the White House. Now a day after former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambassador, the president is tweeting that he knew about Michael Flynn's untruthful testimony to the FBI, and that was the reason of his dismissal. What this could mean for Mueller investigation going forward.

But first, voting is under way for CNN Hero of the Year. I want to talk to you about Mona Patel. She was just 17 years old when she lost her leg after she was hit by a drunk driver. Today, she's helping amputees on their own journey.


[15:55:07] MONA PATEL, CNN HERO: We are so much more than just a body part. We can either lay down and let our circumstances over take us or we can stand up and take charge.

AT age 17, I was struck by a drunk driver. I vowed that once I got back on my feet, I would start a support group.

Thirty to 60 amputees get together once a month and share stories and strength and resilience.


Doctor's case managers call me to provide individual support and we'll provide prosthetic limbs for those that have no access to other resources.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I met Mrs. Mona a day before my surgery.

PATEL: Can you stand and put pressure on it. Does that feel good?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: She tells me what I am able to do when I am done and how he climbs mountains with one leg. She's like a super hero.

PATEL: She's walking.


PATEL: We are stronger than any circumstances, truly.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Vote for Mona or any of our top-10 heroes right now at