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Updates on the Russia Election Interference Investigation. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 25, 2017 - 11:30   ET


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was another interview with a very long time Trump associate, Rhona Graff, who was a long time personal assistant of the president in the Trump organization, someone who works in Trump Tower and someone who was referenced in an e-mail exchange between Rob Goldstone, the British publicist who set up that meeting with Trump Jr., and Trump Jr.

The question is, did she inform then-candidate Trump at the time of this meeting about this effort to -- to meet with Donald Trump Jr. and these Russian officials. Now this all comes as new investigations are taking shape on Capitol Hill, expected to become more partisan in the coming year with Republicans pushing in the House side to investigate the Clinton e-mail scandal, looking into decisions of what Republicans believe were FBI bias, impartiality in this probe, something they believe gave Hillary Clinton some favorable treatment and then led to her exoneration from any charges last year.

This is going to be a big focus for Republicans going forward to (ph) the new year. Even as Democrats, it is a lot more to investigate on the Russia issue, many more witnesses to -- to bring forward to their respective committees. The House committee, however, looks like they may try to wrap up this investigation in the coming weeks.

Uncertain how long the Senate Intelligence Committee will last, but the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell saying he's not going to step in. He's going to let the committee work it's -- work itself out so they can decide themselves exactly when they want to wrap up their investigation. But clearly a big focus on Capitol Hill when they get back into session in January when this investigation wraps up and what they ultimately conclude. Manu Raju, CNN Washington.


BASH: CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero joins me now for more on the Russia investigation. And Carrie, you just heard Manu Raju talk about the fact that the House committee, at least, is planning to try to wind up the investigation that they're doing in a matter of weeks. Now, you've also heard Democrats on that committee pre-judge the findings, saying that they have seen collusion. I want you to see an example of what I'm talking about here.

The Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We have all of these facts in

chronology. You have to believe that these are all isolated incidents not connected to each other just doesn't make rational sense. We do know this, the Russians offered help, the campaign accepted help. The Russians gave help and the president made full use of that help. And that is pretty damning, whether it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of conspiracy or not.


BASH: Is that helpful?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think what we've seen, Dana, is that the Senate intelligence investigation and the House intelligence investigation have gone off in fairly different directions. On the Senate side, Chairman Burr and Ranking -- and Vice Chairman Warner have tried to conduct things in a bipartisan way and really have focused on Russian election meddling and looking forward on cyber security for election security going forward.

On the House side, we're seeing much more partisanship. The House Republicans really starting to seem like the goal of their investigation is to tack (ph) discredit onto the special counsel's investigation. And meanwhile, Ranking Member Congressman Schiff is still trying to focus on the Russian election meddling. So very different goals and it's very unclear at this point what the outcome or what type of report or follow up the House side is going to produce.

BASH: That's a really important point, Carrie. The Senate side has been working in a -- seems to be a genuine bipartisan manner and plans to issue a bipartisan report at the end of their investigation. Although on the House side, which we've been talking about, there could be two reports, one from Republicans and one from Democrats.

Where does that leave things and where does that leave the American people? Should they just ignore the House after all this work and just focus on the Senate or will there be valuable bits of information in those reports?

CORDERO: Well, the question is -- is -- is what type of report do they produce. The House side, we really don't know what they're going to produce at all. It seems very unlikely that they will have any sort of consensus based on the public statements that members of that committee have been making recently. On the Senate side, Chairman Burr actually recently sort of floated an idea in an interview he did a couple weeks ago, where he said that there might be on the Senate side a factual report where the committee members can all agree on.

And then there might be sort of two different variations of majority and minority views. So even there, it is a little bit unclear, even though they've been trying to portray themselves conducted in a bipartisan way, it's a little unclear whether there will be a comprehensive narrative for the American people of what happened and what the threat is of Russian intelligence meddling in elections going forward. BASH: Even so, agreeing on a set of facts across party lines doesn't

seem like a complicated notion. But these days, it is. And if they can get there, that's pretty good. Carrie Cordero, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

CORDERO: Thank you.

BASH: And still ahead, China is calling for calm this morning after North Korea calls the latest round of U.S. sanctions an act of war.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: China is calling for restraint in the nuclear tensions with North Korea. After the North Koreans declared new sections, quote, "are an act of war." Today's China's foreign ministry spokeswoman called for dialing back the rhetoric.

She told a daily news briefing, quote, "in the present situation, we call on all countries to exercise restraint and make proactive and constructive efforts to ease the tensions on the peninsula and appropriately resolve the issue, let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent (ph) Barbara Starr. So Barbara, calling sanctions an act of war, translate that for us. What does it mean coming from the North Koreans?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well this is Kim Jong-un's rhetoric. He knows these sanctions are some of the toughest, if not the toughest hitting (ph) spacing (ph) the U.N. passing sanctions that will restrict North Korea's ability to earn currency, to earn cash to keep its weapons program going, so how do those sanctions work? We'll have to put up some information we have about all of this. There will be restrictions on fuel exports, gasoline exports, industrial machinery and equipment. And one of the most interesting ones perhaps, restrictions banned on North Korean workers going overseas to other countries and working outside of North Korea. That's a huge money earner, their wages going back into the regime.

So you see there, a whole list of things now being banned. All of this tightening up the diplomatic front, this is something the US very much wants to do. The Russians and the Chinese also looking for diplomacy to work, they both want to see talks with the North Koreans. President Trump giving no indication he's interested in that, so we entered 2018 much the way we started 2017. North Korea a huge security challenge for the President and very unclear what the next steps may be. Dana.

BASH: Barbara Star, thank you for that report and let's get some perspective on North Korea's latest prov- excuse me, provocative proclamation, Shawn Turner is a CNN National Security Analyst and former Director of Communications for the US National Intelligence. Now, Shawn thank you so much for being here.


BASH: You too. So North Korea is responding that anything that the UN has done is a "act of war". What do you think that means? TURNER: Well I think as Barbara said, that is the rhetoric of Kim Jong-un, but I also think that, what- what North Korea recognizes, what the international community recognizes is that the United States is kind of running out of runway with our regards to impose sanctions that will have an impact on- on- on North Korea. So I think that as he kind of calls this an act of war, continues to escalate the rhetoric, he's doing so because he recognizes that this administration will continue to impose sanctions and use rhetoric that will maybe back us into a corner.

I think that he believes that ultimately, The United States will blank and that as long as he continues to escalate we will do that in kind(ph), and that ultimately we will get to a point where they will get what they want, and that's recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power.

BASH: And look, that's happened, so the past, you know, two and a half decades with presidents of both parties. So there's reason for him to think that play will work. But these- these sanctions they appear to me that they are different. Just the one that Barbara honed in on there, the idea of not allowing North Korean workers to go abroad and work because when they do that, it's not like they go home and they can use it for their family, they have to give it over to the regime. It's a big money maker for them.

So it is, you know, trying harder to choke the North Korean government on economics, but I guess the question is to what end? What's the end game?

TURNER: First of all, you're absolutely right. These are some of the most crippling sanctions the UN has ever levied on a country and if you look at what's happening in North Korea with regards to people attempting to leave North Korea at the peril of their own life, I think that the instate(ph) here is that ultimately the United States, the international community hopes that the sanctions will be so crippling that they will have the impact of changing Kim Jong-un's behavior.

Now to be candid, there are very few national security experts that believe that will happen, particularly as this goes on longer. The thinking is that ultimately he will continue to hold and that they will - they continue to have ways to bring money in and continue to work on that nuclear program. So I think the instinct here is to ultimately continue to push the United States, to hold the line and ultimately see if they can get to a point where we will blink and ultimately give them what they want, which is the recognition.

BASH: And look, there are no good options with North Korea, these are diplomatic options - diplomatic moves. In the mean time the military is - option is very much there. And Corey(ph) Shockey(ph) who is a defense analyst, she wrote a book with defense secretary James Mattis. She worked for George W. Bush, she recently wrote that what she's hearing from the Trump Administration echoes what she heard from the Bush administration in the run up to the Iraq war.

Here's what she said. She said officials make similar arguments about the necessity of acting against a gathering storm, and proudly claim understanding of the adversaries motivations, except it turns out that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons and we're pretty sure that Kim Jong-un does.

TURNER: For all other reason the similarities are startling. I mean this is a case which we have two world leaders who are not really behaving in a diplomatic way. You know the rhetoric back and forth is rhetoric that's really backing both of the countries - both of these countries into a corner. It's exactly what we saw with the lead up to Iraq and what we found once we brought it to the United States is we found ourselves in a situation where we had certainly made declarations with regard to what would happen if Saddam Hussein did not change his behavior, very - very much like what we're doing right now with Kim Jong-un.

And as we made those declarations and he did not change his behavior, just like what we're seeing now, we found ourselves with only -- only two options. If you think about the options we have right now, we have the military option, which everyone universally agrees is not a desirable option for multiple reasons. There's also the option in which the United States ultimately stops and says, OK, North Korea is going to go forward with this and we actually have to come to the table and offer them something to change their behavior.

Obviously from a political perspective, that's not desirable to this administration and to the president and to the people that the president made promises to with regard to handling North Korea once and for all.

BASH: There are definitely no easy answers, especially when you're dealing with a regime that is determined to have nuclear capability to any end, even starving its - its people, which they've been doing for decades. Thank you so much for your insight, thanks for coming in, we appreciate it.

TURNER: Thanks.

BASH: And coming up, presidential politics and sports seemed inseparable in 2017, from the anthem controversy in football to drama with the family called ball (ph). We're looking back at the year that was.


[11:50:00] BASH: Welcome back. If you find yourself feeling empty today now that you've opened all those presents, there are seven NBA and NFL games to keep you and your family entertained, but athletes have really kept us entertained all year long. CNN's Andy Scholes has a look at the year's biggest moments in sports.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: 2017 will go down as one of the most memorable is sports history. We had controversies on and off the field, dynasties rule, and one of the greatest comeback every.

Starting with number seven on our list for not winning a Grand Slam since 2012, Roger Federer beat his arch rival, Rafael Nadal, to win his fifth Australian Open. The 35-year old Federer then dominated Wimbledon winning the tournament without dropping a set, extending his record to 19 Grand Slam titles.