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Backlash over Donald Trump Jr's Claims of Conspiracy at Highest Levels of Government; New information on Ivanka's Heated Exchange with Steve Bannon; Pence Ridiculed for Lavish Praise of Trump; Rhona Graff Interviewed by Lawmakers in Russia Probe; FBI Prevents San Francisco Terror Attack; Thieves Steeling Delivered Christmas Packages. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired December 23, 2017 - 17:00   ET




PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Saturday. I'm Pamela Brown in for Ana Cabrera.

And we begin with breaking news, the White House denying a bombshell report in the "New York Times" out today that says during an oval office meeting back in June, the president became so enraged by the number of people receiving visas to enter the United States, he began to unleash on specific immigrant groups saying of Haitians that they all have AIDS and that Nigerians would never go back to their huts once they have seen the United States.

Now the sources and the story requested anonymity, but I want to get right to CNN's Boris Sanchez in West Palm Beach near Trump's Mar-A- Lago estate. Boris, what can you tell us about the forceful response to the story from the White House?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Pam. The White House refuting this "New York Times" reporting. Let's dig deeper in the context here. This apparently took place during a meeting between Donald Trump and his cabinet discussing immigration and the president had just finished reading a document that was prepared for him by Domestic Policy Adviser Stephen Miller that detailed the number of visas granted to people of different nationalities.

And according to the "New York Times," sources that they had in that meeting and those that were briefed on that meeting, the president said the following about Haitians. Again, this is from "The New York Times," quote, "Haiti has sent 15,000 people. They, quote, "all have AIDS," he grumbled.

"According to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there." The report details the president's reaction to learning the number of Nigerians that have granted visas by the United States.

Again, from the "New York Times," quote, "Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never, quote, "go back to their huts in Africa," recalled the two officials who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the oval office."

CNN reached out to the White House for comments on this bombshell report, Sarah Sanders gave an identical statement to the one that she gave to "The New York Times." Here it is. The press secretary writing, quote, "General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen, and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims.

And it's both sad and telling "The New York Times" would print the lies of their anonymous sources anyway." This coming on the first full day of the president's holiday here in Mar-A-Lago. It was expected to be a relatively uneventful vacation for this White House.

Almost right away they are on the defensive at a time when they are really supposed to be basking in the glow of victory, after having passed tax reform legislation, signing it into law just yesterday. Not a good look for a White House that has previously been accused of insensitive to minority groups -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks for bringing us the latest there in West Palm Beach.

We are also following more breaking news developing in Washington at this hour. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe plans to retire and already President Trump is on Twitter attacking him.

He writes, quote, "How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge along with leaking James Comey of the phony Hillary Clinton investigation including her 33,000 illegally deleted e-mails be given $700,000 for wife's campaign by Clinton puppets during investigation?"

He put out a second tweet that says, "FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits, 90 days to go." CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz is working his sources.

You know, Shimon, normally it wouldn't be news if the deputy director of the FBI retires, but given the current climate, it apparently is.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: You know, it's certainly for people who have been looking into the Clinton investigation on the Hill where he has actually faced some problems, has come under scrutiny because his wife, as you may recall, the deputy director's wife ran for office for a state office in Virginia and basically on the Democratic ticket.

And since then, since that revelation, was revealed, the deputy director has come under fire by the president and by the Republicans on the Hill because they question his involvement in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

He was the man in charge, basically, of the investigation. He was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the FBI. He still is, in some ways, in charge of the day-to-day operations of the FBI. Nothing has changed since the new FBI director has come in.

[17:05:03] But, you know, for the president, Andrew McCabe has been a person that he has lobbed a lot of attacks against and not only against Andrew McCabe but others at the FBI and the FBI in general.

And, you know, it's important that we note this, Pam, that Andrew McCabe is not being forced out. He's going to retire on his own will. You know, it's about that time, around March or so is when he's eligible for retirement. He's been talking about this for months.

This is not just something he decided just this week, yesterday, today. It's been an ongoing discussion for months. He has told his team, he has told people at the FBI, senior members of the FBI that he plans to retire.

He told them this months ago. So, I think it's just important that people understand, this is not in response to anything that the president has done or folks on the Hill have done.

BROWN: Not a response to the political pressure according to our reporting. All right. Shimon, thanks so much.


BROWN: I want to bring in my panel now, David Swerdlick, a CNN political commentator and assistant editor at "The Washington Post," and Matt Viser, deputy Washington bureau chief for "The Boston Globe." David, first to you. Your reaction to Trump's tweets attacking McCabe about his retirement.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, Merry Christmas, Pamela, those tweets to me seemed a little bit desperate. I am someone who has resisted this idea that there is this overall method to the president's madness when it comes to his Twitter behavior.

But with the "New York Times" story breaking earlier today and the president all of a sudden jumping out with these sorts of pointless tweets about Director McCabe, I wonder if he is trying to change the subject.

That first week seems like a rehash of old grievances that the White House has brought about the FBI even though we'll recall that a little over a year ago in the last lap of the 2016 presidential campaign, the president was praising Director Comey for the way he sort of brought up the Clinton charges at the 11th hour in the campaign saying that it was courageous.

Obviously, we know what has happened since then. That second tweet about 90 days left on the clock, frankly, that sounds like someone needs to report President Trump to HR because that's really no one's business except the people who work for the government and Director McCabe.

BROWN: And again, just to reiterate, we've known that this was going to happen. He told people months ago and the FBI that he was going to retire in March because he's eligible. But Matt, what does the president gain from tweets like this, attacking the deputy FBI director?

MATT VISER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's furthering his campaign of trying to sow doubt in the FBI, that the president has done this repeatedly and this is another instance of some of his innuendoes and tweets about the partisan nature of McCabe because his wife had run for office in Virginia.

And I think it's an attempt, given what we know about the Mueller investigation into President Trump and his own history with the campaign and collusion with Russia potentially. So, I think it's a continuation of that campaign against the FBI, and so I think that's what he's trying to gain here.

BROWN: What's interesting here, you notice the FBI has stayed mum in all of these attacks but now former FBI Director James Comey can speak out and he certainly is on twitter. He spoke out in defense of James Baker, top lawyer at the FBI, who was recently reassigned to a different role under FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Here's what he said. He said, "Sadly, we are now at a point in our political life when anyone can be attacked for partisan gain. James Baker, he was stepping down as FBI general counsel served our country incredibly well for 25 years and deserves better. He is what we should all want our public servants to be." David, your reaction?

SWERDLICK: So, Pamela, there's been a lot of noise in the last couple of weeks as Matt points out about this campaign from members of the administration, you see it in some conservative media trying to undermine the credibility of the FBI and the various investigations of the president's inner circle.

But when you look at Comey's tweet, you realize, wait a second, these allegations have never specifically said that anybody at the FBI or anybody in the Mueller investigation has crossed over the line, has broken the law, has done anything untoward.

This would be a very different story if, for instance, some of these FBI officials have been reassigned for various comments they made on their phones and texts after it came to light, but this story came to light after these people were reassigned.

So, you know, I think the point that Director Comey or former Director Comey is trying to get across there is this idea that there are civil servants doing a job. If someone has to bring an allegation forth that they should do so but not just smear people across the board.

BROWN: And to be clear, we don't know exactly why James Baker was resigned. Of course, there is a new FBI director. He has every right to bring in his own leadership.

[17:10:08] But I want to talk about this "New York Times" reporting regarding Trump's comments about Haitians and Nigerians, in your view, Matt, is there any new ground here with Trump and race politics? VISER: I mean, the White House is pushing back on this claim, but at the same time, you know, President Trump on the day that he launched his campaign referred to Mexicans as rapists and murderers. So, it's not out of the realm of possibility of him denigrating people of different nationalities and different cultures.

I think the widespread and the nature of it now that you're sort of seeing it play out and continuing that offensive nature. So, I don't know that it breaks total new ground because we've seen this from the very beginning of his campaign.

But I think the overall article and the thrust of the story, you know, is about a fundamental shift in how the United States treats immigrants and refugees and that has shifted quite dramatically in his first year of President Trump in office.

BROWN: You know, David, normally the last 15 years before this president there has been this end-of-year press conference. Sources say the president wanted to hold the traditional end-of-the-year news conference, but that his top aides persuaded him not to out of concern he would be overwhelmed by questions about the Russia probe.

What do you think was that a smart move considering that he could come on and tout his tax bill? I mean, a major legislative accomplishment in his first year?

SWERDLICK: Yes. So, I think there's a pro and a con to that. On the one hand, it was probably good advice politically for the president to avoid a long list of questions from reporters on his last working day of the year about the Mueller investigation, FBI, Russia.

On the other hand, it was a lost opportunity to sort of put up an exclamation point on the tax bill at the end of the week heading into Christmas. That being said, the president when he gave that national security address on Monday, he did get in a lot of his parting shots about how good the economy has been in his view, about his accomplishments legislatively and appointing Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, and attacking his political opponents in that national security address.

That wasn't really quite a traditional national security address that he gave on Monday and so he got those things in before he left town.

BROWN: You know, something else as we look ahead to 2018 that the president said he wants to work with Democrats on issues like infrastructure and wants bipartisanship. Do you see that happening, Matt?

VISER: You know, I think the well is pretty toxic right now, you know, so I don't know to the degree that Democrats are eager to work with President Trump, and that's been one striking thing actually throughout this first year, is how little Democrats have felt boxed in by President Trump.

Even Democrats who are in states that President Trump won, you know, people like Joe Manchin, for example, did not feel compelled to vote for this tax bill. And so, I think heading into next year, you know, Democrats don't have a huge incentive for working with President Trump at this point.

So, to the degree that they switch to something like immigration, you know, the Dream Act and trying to do something with DACA kids and that -- I mean, maybe that's an area that they could work on. Infrastructure is another.

We're getting awfully close heading into that midterm election cycle and Democrats feel like they have the upper hand off of the tax bill and so it's hard to imagine too much kumbaya from President Trump and the Democrats right now.

BROWN: All right. Well, stick around, we have a lot more to discuss. David and Matt, thank you so much.

Coming up on this Saturday, the price of partying with the president on New Year's Eve. A new report about prices being jacked up for a swanky party at Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort.

Plus --


BROWN: A new ad from a pro-Trump PAC, thanks the president for bringing a holiday greeting back even though there was no ban on saying Merry Christmas. So, what's it all about?

And 'tis the season, our first look at President Trump's official Christmas card, who received it and why it's four times larger than any other Christmas card you'll see this year.



BROWN: Well, if you want to ring in the New Year with President Trump and the first lady, it's going to cost you. "Politico" is reporting tickets for the New Year's Eve party at Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort where he is spending the holidays are now $600 for members and $750 for guests.

That is a price hike from last year. A fact the critics argue helps the businessman turned politician boost the bottom line at the Trump Organization and Trump has spent 107 days of his presidency at one of his properties.

All right. My panel is back with me to discuss. So, David, does this raise any sort of conflict of interest concerns for you?

SWERDLICK: I think we have the same conflict of interest concerns, Pamela, that we've had all along. The president spending a lot of time at his properties and the line is blurred between him conducting official government business and profiting from having people gather at his various clubs and resorts. But the actual price hike itself, I don't think that really changes the equation too much for me. It was a good report and it's good to know and makes sense when you think about the overall big picture, but I don't think that really is a game changer.

BROWN: Matt, you know, looking at Mar-A-Lago which, by the way, has been sort of the center of a lot of big decisions made by the president this past year, there are no visitor logs or other systems to keep track of who visits Trump at Mar-A-Lago. Is that a problem?

VISER: Yes. I mean, I'm always in favor, I think, of the more transparency the better. I think under President Trump, you know, we've seen an erosion in the amount of transparency, not only at Mar- A-Lago but at the White House.

[17:20:12] You know, visitor logs of who is entering for meetings there, and I think that's valuable information wherever the president is, you know, we have as much information as we can possibly get about who is there and what they are paying, and if there are access issues, you know, that we need be -- have the information in order to do the investigative reporting that so many journalists are doing right now.

BROWN: You know, David, there is this pro-Trump nonprofit associated with a super PAC, America First Priorities. It just released an advertisement reflecting on President Trump's first year in office and the ad touts the tax plan as well as some other accomplishments. Let's play a piece of it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for keeping my family safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for putting America first.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for supporting Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As veterans, thank you for reminding us to stand for our national anthem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Thank you, President Trump for allowing us to say Merry Christmas again.


BROWN: President Trump allowing us to say Merry Christmas again? Didn't you just say Merry Christmas to me earlier in the show?

SWERDLICK: And I'll say it to you again. Merry Christmas, Pamela. Merry Christmas, Matt. Merry Christmas, everybody. Happy Hanukkah. There was never a prohibition on this. It's always been a fake issue.

That being said, the fact that the White House has been able to drag this with such affect over the last however many months suggests that they've gotten some traction with this among people who have this sort of grievance about what they perceive as politically correct language. I'll also say, happy holidays because that will cover everybody I just missed.

BROWN: Cover your bases. All right. Matt, what's your take?

VISER: Merry Christmas. Clearly to both of you as well. You know, I mean, I agree, and you know, I think President Obama often said Merry Christmas as well and said happy holidays. He covered all Americans in sort of whatever people are celebrating at this time of year and I think that President Trump also says happy holidays.

I've heard him say happy Hanukah. So, I mean, think it's something that is done to drive a wedge in people at a time when we shouldn't. We should be celebrating each other and each other's different holidays and enjoying this time of year.

SWERDLICK: Yes, good point.

BROWN: I can't let you go before we talk about this Christmas card that President Trump sent to lawmakers. Congressman Swalwell sent this picture out, a massive card. A source close to the congressman said it's bigger than my computer monitor. David, the bigger the better for Trump, it seems.

SWERDLICK: Yes. This is my first time getting a look at all and all I can say is it's glitzy and big and gaudy but that's par for the course here.

BROWN: All right. Matt, final word to you.

VISER: Same thing. I mean, the White House is decorated in a different way this year, too. It was more elaborate and more Christmas trees. I think that's fine. They are putting their stamp on how they want to celebrate Christmas.

BROWN: They got their own way of doing things. Nothing wrong with that. David Swerdlick, Matt Viser, thank you.

Coming up, like father, like son, Donald Trump Jr. taking heat after claiming there's a government conspiracy to bring down his father, something the president has also claimed. Why one former CIA director calls the comments scary.

And then later, controversy at Disneyworld. Was that you, President Trump?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: From the beginning, America has been a nation defined by its people.



[17:28:18] BROWN: Well, tonight, the backlash over Donald Trump Jr.'s latest conspiracy theory, the president's son says there are people at the highest levels of government who are trying to undermine President Trump and his political agenda, an accusation that the president himself has echoed.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden calling those comments, quote, "scary." But this is certainly not the first time Trump Jr. has pedaled conspiracy theories. CNN's Tom Foreman has more.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Call it another chorus for the conspiracy choir, this time led by Donald Trump Jr. who is once again suggesting there is a secret plot to take the president down.

DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: My father talked about a rigged system throughout the campaign and people are, what are you talking about? But it is and you're seeing it.

FOREMAN: This is about the impeachment of the president. At the center of the claim, the idea pushed by some of the president's supporters, that the probe into possible collusion with Russian meddling in the election is actually just an effort to delegitimatize the results of that vote.

TRUMP JR.: There is and there are people at the highest levels of government that don't want to let America be America.

FOREMAN: For a former CIA director, Michael Hayden --

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: That was a little scary. I mean, that is -- that is an appeal to the heart of hypocrisy and challenging the patriotism of those folks who work in the United States government.

FOREMAN: But this is not the first time Donald Trump Jr. has embraced the idea of sinister forces trying to hurt his father and help his foes especially Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. pushed a fake claim on Twitter that Clinton wore an earpiece during one debate for coaching during the back and forth.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The facts aren't known because the media won't report on them.

The politicians won't talk about them.



FOREMAN: Like his father, he routinely accuses the media of pushing fake stories to hurt the president, stories often allegedly concocted by Democrats, tweeting, "Journalists, couldn't care less about the truth." He has routinely suggested that Clinton broke laws and others have

covered her tracks, an advantage he claims his father never enjoyed.

DONALD TRUMP JR, SON OF PRESIDENT DOANLD TRUMP (voice-over): If he did the same thing she did, he'd be in jail for 30 years.

FOREMAN: He even resurrected old, false claims, linking the Clintons to the death of a White House aide.

(on camera): A common theme in all these conspiracy theories is the idea that there is a permanent clandestine group in D.C., a so-called deep state, to resist populist movements for change. The irony? The Russia investigators are considering the possibility that there was a conspiracy at work, and Team Trump, including Don Jr, might have been involved.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Our thanks to Tom Foreman for that reporting.

Joining me to discuss all of this, Trump biographer, Gwenda Blair, the author of "The Trumps: Three Generations that Built an Empire,"

Gwenda, on this issue of embracing conspiracies, it certainly seems like, like father, like son. Has it always been this way?



His father, you know, that's bread and butter to him, blaming somebody else, there's someone else who's responsible. Whoever it is, certainly, a lot of people think that's really why he won the presidency, channeling America's anger, saying someone else got in line in front of you, somebody's taking it away from you, somebody else is to blame. And he's done that consistently throughout the presidency so far. Whenever anything goes south, someone else is to blame, and his son is doing exactly the same thing.

BROWN: Going after the media for trying to hold the administration accountable. By the way, we do care deeply about the truth.

I want to talk to you about the president's daughter, Ivanka. There is this new reporting in "Vanity Fair" talking about this heated exchange that she allegedly had with Steve Bannon. She reportedly blamed Bannon for leaks. Bannon was then quoted as saying, "She's the queen of leaks," to which Ivanka responded, "You're an expletive liar."

We're used to seeing this composed and polished Ivanka, but is there another side?

BLAIR: She is very polished and very composed, absolutely. We did get a little bit of a crack in that facade during the campaign. She had an interview with "Cosmopolitan." When they asked her about the child care proposals that she was suggesting, and why was he embracing these now, what was the timing, what was going on? He hadn't always felt that way. And she got very chilly. She said, "You're being very negative," and didn't like that at all. So --


BROWN: I remember at the time --


BLAIR: Yes. We have seen that. She's -- there have been cracks occasionally, and here was another crack.

BROWN: So Vice President Mike Pence was criticized or made fun of online for lavishing praise on the president. In fact, according to "The Post," he praised him once every 12 seconds for three minutes straight. Here's a taste.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm deeply humbled as your vice president to be able to be here. Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of the leadership in the Congress of the United States, you're delivering on that middle-class miracle.


BROWN: As we see, Trump sitting there stone-faced, arms crossed. What do you see there?

BLAIR: He loved it. He absolutely loved it.


BLAIR: He's eating it up. But people who - people who support, they think that's loyalty. It's very important. An interesting thing about him, he also will sometimes pull in people that he's not sure of because he wants to see what they're doing, keep them close.

BROWN: It looks like Mike Pence feels that he has to continuously lavish praise. Is that how he makes people around him feel, like they have to boost him up all the time?

BLAIR: Well, in business, all throughout his career, which is what I covered in my book, and even during "The Apprentice," now that he's in the White House, chaos, conflict, having everybody at each other, fearful of their jobs, not -- never being quite sure, being unable to have really sort of horizontal alliances. Huh-uh.


BLAIR: No. Everybody has to be loyal to the main guy, to Trump. If there's any hint --

(CROSSTALK) BROWN: But he doesn't have to be loyal back?

[17:35:02] BLAIR: No. It doesn't go that way. It's only a one-way street. So Pence is a smart guy. He gets it.

BROWN: He's like, I have to keep, you know, lavishing praise.

It's interesting, too, what you point out. I was talking to someone recently who said that the president likes to make sure everyone is kept on their toes and he doesn't have job security. He's always questioning what they are doing so they can't ever feel sort of too comfortable.

BLAIR: I remember a woman named Blanche Sprag (ph), who said, really, her job is to go around and rile people up, make sure nobody was secure, nobody was really could sit back. That's what he likes to do. He likes that kind of conflict zone because that is Trump's comfort zone.

BROWN: Right.

BLAIR: He feels comfortable when things are riled up.

BROWN: Comfortable and --


BLAIR: He doesn't want things to go back to normal, to smooth. Huh- uh. He wants them to be riled up, everybody to be kind of fearful because then he's the strong guy in the room. He's the one in charge. And that's the role he likes.

BROWN: Gwenda Blair, thank you so much.

BLAIR: You're very welcome.

BROWN: She has been at Donald Trump's side for decades, always in the background until know. We're talking about Trump's long-time personal secretary, Rhona Graff, who gained a reputation as Trump's gatekeeper during her nearly 30 years of working for the real estate mogul. She's now been interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee in the Russia probe.

CNN's Alison Kosik has more.


TRUMP: Rhona, let me have the calls, please.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For three decades, Rhona Graff has been one of Donald Trump's key gatekeepers. If you want to get to him, you have to go through her.

TRUMP: Thank you. Good job.

KOSIK: Even on TV -- she summoned the apprentices to meet with Trump. RHONA GRAFF, PESONAL ASSISTANT TO DONALD TRUMP: Hi, this is Rhona. He asked me to call you and tell you to meet him tomorrow morning at the New York Stock Exchange.

KOSIK: In "The Art of the Comeback," Trump called her "my very loyal secretary."

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR & TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: She would have possibly heard some of the phone calls. She might have been present in his offices for some of the conversations that took place, even sensitive conversations.

KOSIK: Discrete, efficient, loyal, a Trump confidant. As senior vice president of the Trump Organization, Graff is so much more than his secretary, according to Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio.

D'ANTONIO: She's been keeping track of his schedule for 30 years. She's the go-to person if you want to connect with the president through his business enterprises. And even today, people will still go to her if they want to reach the president in a channeled way.

KOSIK: Originally from Queens, the same borough of Trump, Graff holds a Master's in Education. After working in sports marketing, an employment agency got her a job with Trump, according to what she told "Real Estate Weekly."

In 1993, she married Lucius Riccio, who was then the commissioner of transportation for New York City. The mayor presided over the ceremony at the Plaza Hotel, which Trump then owned.

Today, both in their 60s, they live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with a daughter in high school. She's the reason Graff chose to stay at her job in Trump Tower, even when her boss moved to the White House.

But as Trump's right-hand woman, she's caught in the crosshairs of a congressional investigation. Her name, mentioned in this e-mail from music publicist, Rob Goldstone, to Donald Trump Jr in 2016 promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. "I can send this info to your father by Rhona," Goldstone wrote, "But it is ultrasensitive, so I wanted to send to you first."

(on camera): Now, House Intelligence Committee staff want to know what she knows.

D'ANTONIO: I would say, if there are bodies buried somewhere in the Trump Organization and somewhere else in Donald Trump's campaign, or even his more distant past, Rhona Graff would be able to point out where they lie.


[17:39:07] BROWN: And that was Alison Kosik reporting.

Coming up on this Saturday, an alleged Christmas terror plot foiled. The popular American tourist spot that the feds say the suspect tried to target.


BROWN: A disturbing headline as millions of Americans travel for the holidays. The FBI says it foiled an alleged Christmas Day terror plot on a popular tourist spot in San Francisco. Authorities say the suspect, a former Marine, was inspired by ISIS.

CNN's Jessica Schneider reports.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The FBI has thwarted a plot that targeted San Francisco around the holidays. Authorities say Everitt Aaron Jameson was plotting to stage an attack on Pier 39 in San Francisco sometime over the Christmas holiday. And the FBI agents tracking him online saying he was modeling his attack over those in the past few years, including San Bernardino and most recently in New York City. In fact, Jameson voiced his support for that New York City truck attack on October 31, when eight people were killed on bike path. And then a report says Jameson recently became a tow truck driver in his hometown of Modesto, California, leading to concerns that he could attempt that same type of attack as in New York City.

The criminal complaint also details a letter the authorities found inside his home under a search warrant this week. The letter said things like, "You've all brought this upon yourselves" and "You've allowed Donald J. Trump to give away al Quds to the Jews," a reference to Jerusalem, and he also said, "We have penetrated and infiltrated your disgusting country."

Top officials in the U.S. have been warning, as recently as last month, about this danger of a possible uptick in ISIS-inspired attacks in the U.S., especially with the collapse of the Islamic State caliphate.

The FBI did a search of Jameson's home in Modesto, California, just 90 miles from San Francisco, and they found firearms, empty magazines, ammunition and fireworks. Jameson is now in custody.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


[17:45:35] BROWN: And coming up on this Saturday, it may be the season for giving but police say it's also primetime for thieves taking holiday packages right off doorsteps. What they are doing to stop these so-called porch pirates, up next.


[17:50:14] BROWN: This is a story for anyone who has ordered a last- minute holiday gift online. Police are warning so-called porch pirates are making the rounds, snatching packages right off your doorstep. CNN's Dan Lieberman reports.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: As you can see he's thinking about it, and he walks right up to the front there. And then goes ahead --


UNIDENTIFIED OLICE OFFICER: -- and takes the package.


LIEBERMAN (voice-over): It's something that's happening all across the country. Some of it caught on camera.

(on camera): Are you seeing more packages being stolen this year?

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Absolutely. I think it's -- it's becoming quite the epidemic.

LIEBERMAN (voice-over): One survey found 23 million Americans have had a package stolen. In this holiday season, maybe the biggest heist yet with more than a billion packages being delivered as more people do their shopping online.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: That one as well. We're going to be running two teams. Make sure everybody is vested up.

LIEBERMAN: This police unit is trying to catch package thieves in the act.

(on camera): You've got a flat screen TV.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: We have what's made to look like a player over here.

LIEBERMAN: Someone trying to steal this would be pretty disappointed when they open it up.


LIEBERMAN: There's nothing in here.

As you see someone trying to steal this, you'll jump out and arrest them?


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: We have two surveillance teams with packages placed on their doorsteps. The chances of one of them being stolen is possible

LIEBERMAN (voice-over): Lieutenant Reiner (ph) says it's all too easy for thieves to snatch up these packages. UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: This is a prime example of how easy it

is to commit one of these thefts. The package is clearly visible from the road on a high-traveled street.

LIEBERMAN: So far, his department has recovered more than 100 items this season that they hope to return to their rightful owners.

(on camera): What do we have here, blenders?

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: We have blenders, make up, sneakers. We have some higher-end items.

LIEBERMAN (voice-over): Packages have already been returned, but a lot of people are still missing their gifts.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: We all have families and we want to put smiles on your children's faces on Christmas morning, and just to find out that an individual stole a package is really -- it's heartbreaking.


LIEBERMAN: Now, the police didn't catch any package thieves while we were with them, but we did talk to some of the biggest shippers around the country and they say, if you have a packable stolen, to get in touch with them and file a police report.

But, Pam, this is a big issue and it's only growing.

BROWN: And it seems like the thieves are becoming more brazen.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, even with the camera that people have --


LIEBERMAN: -- outside of their homes. I don't know. How do we stop them?

BROWN: But police are clearly on it.


Thanks so much --

LIEBERMAN: You've got it.

BROWN: -- Dan Lieberman.

And coming up on this Saturday, Robot Donald Trump and Disney World's hall of fame of presidents? But why doesn't he look like the real thing? Jeanne Moos looks for answers.


[17:57:37] BROWN: Taking the stage tonight, a new likeness of President Trump that couldn't be more, well, unlike him. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Washington --


MOOS: -- introduced the animatronic Donald Trump at Disney World's Hall of Presidents.

DONALD TRUMP ROBOT: With three simple words -- we, the people.

MOOS (on camera): Yes, well, we, the people, all seem to be noticing the same thing, best described in two words -

(voice-over): -- Jon Voigt. There's an uncanny resemblance to this Trump supporter.

JON VOIGT, ACTOR: He will save our America. And he will certainly make it great again.

MOOS: Read one tweet, "Congratulations to Jon Voigt for being elected to Disney's Hall of Presidents.

"To be fair, someone noted, "every robot in the Hall of Presidents looks like they were designed by a guy who lost his glasses.

From Obama to Bush. Some imagined the other presidents' reactions to President Trump's presence.

DONALD TRUMP ROBOT: To stand here among so many great leaders of our past.

MOOS (on camera): There is one other theory on why President Trump doesn't quite look like himself.

(voice-over): "Looks like Disney World expected Hillary to win."

Noted someone else, "I'm not saying Disney made a Hillary robot and last-minute changed it into Trump clothes -- but.

A petition with more than 15,000 signatures asked Disney not to let Trump's figure speak. It was ignored.

The president recorded the audio at the White House.

DONALD TRUMP ROBOT: The best days of our great nation are still ahead of us.

MOOS: Tweeted one critic, "Anyone who can hack into this and replace the audio with the 'Access Hollywood' tape is a national hero."

While someone did dub in the "Access Hollywood" audio as well as sound from a Trump/Rubio dust-up over his hand size. TRUMP: He referred to my hands, if they're small, something else must

be small. I guarantee you there's no problem, I guarantee you.


MOOS: We can guarantee what Lincoln would say --

ABRAHAM LINCOLN ROBOT: That all men are created equal.

MOOS: -- but not all robots.

DONALD TRUMP ROBOT: Look at those hands. Are they small hands?

MOOS: Jeannie Moos, CNN, New York.


BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown, in New York. I'll see you one hour from now, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

"SMERCONISH" is next.