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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Falsely Claims He's "Signed More Legislation Than Anybody"; Truck Blocks CNN Cameras From Capturing Trump On Golf Course; Flynn's Brother Makes Pardon Request To President Trump. Aired 7-8pm ET
Aired December 27, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:02] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: -- the senate at stake, 2018 is sure to present unprecedented political headlines of its own. I'm Jake Tapper. Stay tuned.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar. Thank you so much for watching. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.
PAMELA BROWN, OUTFRONT HOST: And up next, President Trump speaking just moments ago, saying he has, quote, signed more legislation than anybody. We'll check the record.
Plus, Michael Flynn's brother makes a personal appeal to the President. Will Trump pardon Flynn?
And new evidence that North Korea may have developed deadly biological weapons. Could Kim Jong-un launch an anthrax attack? Let's go OutFront.
And good evening to you. I'm Pamela Brown in for Erin Burnett. And OutFront tonight, President Trump today touting a record for achievement in his first year in office, saying he has, quote, signed more legislation than anybody. His claim coming just days after the passage of his tax cut plan, a bill that is widely recognized as the only major piece of legislation signed by Trump this year. But the President speaking a short time ago to a group of Florida first responders painted a very different picture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you'll have to ask those folks, but I think they know the real answer. We have more legislation passed, including -- the record was Harry Truman. That's a long time ago. And we broke that record. So we have a lot done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, so here's the problem with that statement. It's just not true. In fact, Trump has signed fewer bills in his first year in office than any administration in decades. Trump has signed 96 laws this year. Truman signed more than 200, about 250, according to the Truman presidential library. Ryan Nobles is OutFront tonight in West Palm Beach near Mar-a-Lago. And Ryan, the President was there to thank the first responders and firefighters. Which he did, but he quickly pivoted to his legislative achievements, accomplishments. What are you learning? Is he conflating bills he signed with executive orders? What's going on?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's what we're trying to figure out, Pam. And we should point out that this was a nice effort on the President's part to reach out to these first responders here in West Palm Beach. He did it earlier in the week where they -- he personally paid for a number of Christmas dinners for the first responders that putting in some extra effort to take care of him and his family while they were in West Palm Beach.
But you're right. Just a very short period of time, thanking them at this fire station in West Palm Beach, he started talking about his long list of accomplishments from this year. And that's what we're trying to figure out.
When he says that he has passed more pieces of legislation than any president since Truman, it is simply not true. Now the President has signed a number of executive orders. His administration has done a fair amount of regulatory action. They've had success with judicial nominations.
But in terms of bills signed into law, the raw facts are that the President has signed in the fewest since the Eisenhower administration. So, we're not exactly sure where he's coming up with this figure. But so far, speaking to these first responders from what we can tell, the President just isn't accurate.
BROWN: And it's just something he keeps repeating. Also, Ryan, over the past few days, CNN has video of President Trump golfing, but today, an unmarked white truck was blocking the view of CNN's cameras. What have you learned about why it was there and how is the White House responding?
NOBLES: Well so far, Pam, nobody seems to want to take credit r for this unmarked box truck that showed up just outside the Trump international golf course. This is a public space that our cameras have been positioned for the past couple of days and were able to catch a quick glimpse of the President while he was golfing.
But today, this truck showed up out of nowhere and we don't know where it came from. It actually moved at one point when our photojournalists attempted to try and get a different angle, to make sure to block the view of whoever was golfing at that time. And then it moved away pretty quickly.
We did ask the Secret Service. And this is what a spokesperson told us. She said, "The U.S. Secret Service is not in the business of -- is in the business, I should say, of protection and investigations, not in commissioning vehicles to block the media's view of the President's golf swing."
And the other thing, we reached out to the Palm Beach sheriff's office, which is helping with the protection of the President. They, too, could not tell us where this box truck came from. But, Pam, it seems pretty clear that someone did not want us to get any pictures of the President on the links today.
BROWN: That's for sure. All right, Ryan nobles, thanks so much.
And OutFront now, former Director of Black Outreach in the Bush White House, Paris Dennard, and former Philadelphia Mayor, Michael Nutter. Gentlemen, great to see you. As yesterday, in our discussion yesterday was any indication, I think tonight we're going to have a very lively discussion as well.
I want to talk to you, Paris, first. Because as we were just talking about, look, no doubt the President has had accomplishments in his first year of office, but he's saying repeatedly that he has surpassed Truman for the most legislation signed in the first year. That isn't true. He has signed 96 bills, but that's behind several presidents going back decades. Should he stop repeating that he has signed more bills than past presidents when the facts show otherwise?
[19:05:02] PARIS DENNARD, FORMER W.H. BLACK OUTREACH DIRECTOR UNDER PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, you know, I think if the President is saying this, it's because he's probably been told this. And I think that if White House staff has told the President that this is the case, then they should be able to back it up with the evidence supporting the claim. If they are including executive orders, if they're talking about things like that, that go into that 96 I think pieces of legislation that he has actually signed, then that might factor into it.
But, again, that goes back to the staff. I believe the staff has told him that and I think they should just clarify it for him. But I think it is true that the President should articulate the things that he has done and the achievements that he has signed because sometimes that gets missed and articulated (ph) what he's done.
I don't care about the number, the quantity. The quality of what he's done in terms of deregulation and the substance of the things that he has and especially this tax cut, which going to really impact middle class Americans come February and already, that we've seen thus far is good for him to talk about.
BROWN: Michael, you agree?
MICHAEL NUTTER (D), FORMER PHILADELPHIA MAYOR: No. I think it just shows continued incompetence and general default to lying by Donald Trump. He clearly doesn't know the difference as any executive in public office should know between the piece of legislation, executive order, regulation. Appointing someone or nominating someone then they get confirmed by the Senate to some post.
So Donald Trump continues to demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of government and governing. And just, you know, pretty much anything he -- I mean, he'll lie about lying. I mean, he just lies. I mean, that's his thing. BROWN: Well, I mean, and Paris, you know, he has -- look, he has appointed the most appellate judges than any president's first year. He has issued many major executive order. He's made several foreign policy changes.
So it's just make you wonder why does he need to say he signed more bills than, you know, anybody as he said today when he could point to other things that are true. You know, it just raises that question.
DENNARD: Well I think if you look at the totality of his life of being a business man, he has been a very, very or he was a very, very successful business man. In many cases, he was the first. He did lead. He was number one. And I think that's important to him.
When he talks about making America great again and wining and being number one, those are things that are metrics that he looks to in terms of how he deems himself as being successful. So I think he wants to have those things. I think maybe somebody has told him.
But, again, he can't point -- like you said, Pamela, he can't point to some really tremendous things that he's doing for the country that are unique to his presidency and that are going to have a tremendous impact on the nation both right now and in the future. So, I think he should just -- and it's not just the President. It's the White House. It's people like me. It's his supporters. It's the members on the Hill.
Should go out and articulate what it is that administration has done because it's going to be very important going into the midterms, 2018, to say we have done the following things that are going to be good and he should say that. He should champion it. And I think that he will and I know that the Congress will as well.
BROWN: Well, let me talk to you about --
NUTTER: Pamela --
BROWN: Go ahead.
NUTTER: Yes. The problem here is that, you know, and I want to be respectful to Paris. You know, he probably knows more about Donald Trump's record than Donald Trump does. So, you know, I think it's disingenuous to just blame it on the staff or what people told him or, you know, maybe some kid running around Mar-a-Lago told him.
He should know it. He's the President of the United States of America. He's the Chief Executive. These are noble things. It's not a mystery, right? And he should stop saying things that are not true. But that has been his history.
And whether it's been sued for racial discrimination, whether it's, you know, four, six, whatever the number is, bankruptcies, whether it's the birther movement, whether it's the Central Park Five, Donald Trump is a habitual, sociopathic liar. And all of these was about his own ego. Then we've got trucks trying to, you know, block people from seeing him golfing, play badminton, you know, tiddlywinks with manhole covers. Do whatever you want to do. It's Christmas time. It's holiday time. You're off. It's OK to do these things. What's not OK is to lie about them. That's the problem.
BROWN: Let me just ask you. Because I know -- look, golfing is OK to do. Lots of people are off right now for the holidays. But the President tweeted on Christmas Day, Paris, I hope every one is having a great Christmas, then tomorrow it's back to work in order to make America great again.
Since then, he's been back on the golf course I think every day. I mean, again, nothing wrong with golfing, but why didn't he just admit, hey, I'm taking a few days off to enjoy the holidays. Why doesn't he just say that?
DENNARD: I don't see that whatever he said in that tweet was wrong. Look, I think the President understands --
[19:10:03] BROWN: Well he said I'm getting back to work, but yet he's going to the golf course. So that's where it doesn't really square.
DENNARD: Right. With the last time --
BROWN: Nothing wrong with going to the golf course if that's what you want to do on your holiday. It's just the tweeting I'm going back to work, but then going to play golf every day.
DENNARD: Yes. So the point I was trying to make before I was cut off is that you have 24 hours in a day and so the President doesn't golf for 24 hours. And so in the time that he does have, he may golf for six, but there's a lot of other time that he has that he can do things. He can multitask.
Remember, President Obama was sitting on a stage talking to, cutting jokes with the press corps, the correspondents' dinner when they were -- and going after Osama bin Laden. So remember, President George W. Bush was sitting in a classroom.
DENNARD: He was sitting in a classroom during the 9/11 attacks and then was on a plane while the things were happening and unfolding at lightning speed. Because where ever you go when you're the President, the staff goes with you and so you can and you are able to govern, to do things that the President does even if he was sitting in the Oval Office.
Where ever the President goes, the White House goes with him. I think President Trump realizes that now. But to say that just because he might be golfing for a period of time does not mean that he is not doing other things in that time there.
BROWN: And I'm not trying cut you off here, except the President did say during the campaign he wouldn't have time to play golf and he was repeatedly critical of then President Obama about his golf outings. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Obama ought to get off the golf course.
I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.
He's played more golf than most people on the PGA tour. He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Was he being hypocritical now, Paris?
DENNARD: Look, President Obama said you could keep your doctor. And that wasn't the case. Look, the things -- you say on the campaign trail, the things that you say during on the run up to something then it actually comes law or it actually becomes reality for you as being president. I don't think the President fully understood all of the trappings that went into being the president in the sense that you can golf for a period of time and that the White House, the entire staff goes with you. They take the entire team.
So anything happens, it's as if the President is literally sitting in the Oval Office. And I don't think he realized it then. He realizes now. And that's why he's golfing and that's why he still going great things.
When he comes back in January and goes to Camp David, he won't be at the White House. He won't be in the Oval Office. He'll be at Camp David which is a retreat center meeting with the Speaker of the House as well as the Senate Majority Leader and then they talk about infrastructure.
So, again, that could be seen as a relaxing retreat setting or it could be seen as he's also working for the American people. So I don't think they're mutually exclusive.
BROWN: Do you agree with that, Michael? Look, that he can play golf and do work in a day?
NUTTER: He can do whatever he wants. I mean, you know, he's Chief Executive. As I said earlier, it's not that he's doing these things. There's nothing wrong with golfing or playing tennis or do, you know, skydiving.
Do whatever you want to do. Just don't lie about it or try to deceive the American people as to what's going on. I don't think President Bush actually knew that some lunatics were going to fly planes into the Twin Towers in New York. You know, President Obama was doing whatever he was doing, the example that you laid out. That's not the issue. Donald trump lies all the time about what he's doing versus what he tells the American public that he's doing. That's why it's an issue. Not the what. It's how he talks about it and he just lies.
BROWN: OK. Thank you, gentlemen --
DENNARD: Well, he hasn't lied about trying to make America great again because he's doing that and that's a fact. Thank you so much.
NUTTER: Well, Paris --
BROWN: You guys are both going to want to have the final word. I'm not going to let you do it. But thank you both for coming on. Appreciate it. Thank you.
And up next, Michael Flynn's brother has a public message for Trump. Pardon him. Is the president listening?
Plus, a GOP congressman not backing down from his controversial comments about the FBI and Justice Department? Did he really use the word purge?
And brutal cold clobbering large parts of the country. Tens of millions of people in the path of back-to-back arctic blasts.
[19:17:53] BROWN: New tonight, pleading for a pardon. Michael Flynn's brother urging President Trump to pardon his former National Security Adviser. Joseph Flynn responding to Trump's tweet claiming the FBI is tainted by writing, "About time you pardon General Flynn who has taken the biggest fall for all you given the illegitimacy of hid confessed crime in the wake of all this corruption." Well that tweet was later deleted, but that was not the last that we heard from Flynn's brother.
Jessica, so what else -- Jessica Schneider is here joining us. What else is Flynn's brother saying about a possible pardon from the President?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Pamela, that first post deleted after about 15 minutes. But then Joseph Flynn took to twitter again around 9:00 last night with this, saying, "Mr. President, I personally believe that a pardon is due to General Flynn. Given the apparent and obvious illegitimacy of the manner in which the so-called crimes he pleaded guilty to were extracted from him. I ask for quick action on this. Thank you and keep up the good work."
Now Joseph Flynn did tell Newsweek that he tweeted that reply to the President Trump tweeted Tuesday morning about the dossier being bogus. Joseph Flynn told Newsweek that he hope the President would see his tweet and listen. But, of course, President Trump has brushed off questions of a Flynn pardon before as he did on the South Lawn on December 15th. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?
TRUMP: I don't want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We'll see what happens. Let's see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So the President there not exactly dismissing the idea of a pardon. And Joseph Flynn, Michael Flynn's brother, he has been fairly vocal about his brother's legal battle. In fact, he's organized a legal defense fund for Michael Flynn.
And of course, Flynn did plead guilty to lying to the FBI on December 1st about his conversations during the transition with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And Pamela, of course, we know that Michael Flynn has also disclosed that he is cooperating with the Special Counsel's office. Pamela?
BROWN: All right, Jessica Schneider, thanks so much for that report.
And OutFront now, former White House Ethics Lawyer for President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, and former White House Counsel for Richard Nixon, John Dean. Great to see you both.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
[19:20:08] BROWN: Richard, if President Trump would pardon a cooperating witness like Michael Flynn as his brother is requesting on that tweet, could that be seen as an attempt to keep him quiet?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER W.H. ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. If the President were to pardon General Flynn at this point, that could be perceived as an attempt to interfere with a testimony. It likely would not be very effective because General Flynn is probably already given Bob Mueller and his team a significant amount of testimony and information in interviews in order to get such a good plea deal.
He only pled guilty to one count of lying and had had exposure to multiple counts of very serious crime. So he's likely already given up the information, but it would look terrible for the President to do that. If the President wants to give pardons in connection with the Russian investigation, the appropriate time to do so is when the investigation is completed and really, the best time is after all the criminal proceedings have been completed.
And if he feels that something was not fair, he does have that power under the constitution to either reduce the sentence as President Bush did in the case of Scooter Libby who is Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff or to issue a complete pardon. But that really ought to come later on. At this point, I think it would be viewed as obstruction of justice and would be a very, very bad idea for the President.
BROWN: So John Dean, you look back at the President's rhetoric through all this. He has gone out of his way to praise Michael Flynn, saying he's a good man, that he has been treated unfairly right after he was fired and months after. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media.
This man has served for many years. He's a general. He's, in my opinion, a very good person.
I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life and I feel very badly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So as you heard there, Trump is praising Flynn even after it was announced he's helping Robert Mueller's investigation. What do you make of that? Why do you think he's doing that, John?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I think he's trying to stay friendly and throw out feelers that are warm and friendly whether it will work or not. I think as Richard said, this man has unloaded in front of the Special Counsel. He's told them everything he knows to get the deal he's gotten and at some stage if Trump thinks that he's giving too much or has too much information, they're going to start roughing him up. That's inevitable.
BROWN: What do you think? Do you agree with that, Richard?
PAINTER: Well, that's the usual strategy in criminal trials. Is that the defendants who did not plead guilty turn on the others who did plead guilty or turn state's evidence then accuse the one turn state's evidence of lying in order to get a reduced sentence or those charges. That's standard procedure for criminal defense lawyers in these cases.
It's really tragic though that we are already talking about the President of the United States possibly deploying a strategy used by criminal defendants in conspiracies and mob trials and other contexts. We would hope that our President could focus on being President and not the worries of a typical criminal defendant.
DEAN: And I can assure you, presidents do it. I experienced it. One who testified against the President, I can tell you, the White House is a formidable institution when it starts trying to discredit witnesses and make life difficult for witnesses. They have all their surrogates. They'll have the people on the Hill and it will be relentless if it starts.
BROWN: And to be clear, we have no indication at this point that there's any strategy from the White House to go after Michael Flynn and other witnesses or other people who have been charged in this case. But I want to ask you, John, President Trump, the White House, they have also faced questions about whether there may be a party for former campaign chairman Paul Manafort or campaign aide, Rick Gates. And they have dodged that question for them just like Flynn. Listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to pardon Mr. Manafort?
TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your reaction to George Papadopoulos?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I haven't had conversations with him about that. I think we should let the process play through before we start looking at those steps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, John, what does that tell you, they're refusing to roll out pardons?
DEAN: Well, it tells me they're playing it safe. They don't want to throw out any negative signals to these people, so by keeping that dangling, they're certainly keeping them friendly. And that's a smart strategy.
I think that they recognize that if the President were to pardon a slew of people involved in this, that he would be in real hot water and that this would be likely obstruction. This is what happened to Nixon.
[19:25:11] The fact that he promised pardons to people hinted at them. They were all over the tapes. Having Ehrlichman, his top domestic guy send out signals to people that he would consider them and this later came back to haunt him with the House Judiciary and the impeachment bill that was prepared.
BROWN: And to be clear here, as we know, Richard, Ty Cobb, the lawyer in the White House, insisted there's no consideration for a Flynn pardon. He's also said the same about Manafort and Gates. He told The Washington Post after the indictments, "No, no, no. That's never come up and won't come up." Do you take him as his word, Richard?
PAINTER: I think the President's going to make that decision and it's very difficult to predict what President Trump is going to do. He is very much driven by his emotions. And he may respond of this emotionally, he's already pardoned this sheriff in Arizona, Sheriff Joe, who's a really pretty crazy guy.
So he is, going to use the pardon power the way he wants to and I don't think any lawyer is going to be able to limit that. So I wouldn't take any White House lawyers at their word. We'll just have to see what happens.
BROWN: We sure will. We'll see what 2018 brings. All right, Richard Painter, John Dean, thank you so much.
And up next, a Republican congressman explaining and standing by his call for a purge at the FBI and the Justice Department.
Plus, a report that anthrax antibodies were found on a North Korean defector is stoking fears tonight about a biochemical attack. So how worried should the world be? We'll be back.
[19:30:49] PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Well, new tonight, doubling down. A Republican congressman defending his call for a quote purge at the FBI and Justice Department. His comments come after messages emerge after two FBI agents part of Robert Mueller's team, criticizing President Trump during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Are you sure you want to be throwing a word like purge around?
REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL), VICE CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, it might be a pretty strong word. I'm not maybe the most nuanced political person in the world coming from a career the in business, but I'm pretty frustrated. As an American citizen, I'm nervous and discontent that people would have those kinds of lack of impartiality and bad an mouse as displayed in those e-mails.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, OUTFRONT with us tonight, Democratic congresswoman from California, Karen Bass. She sits on the House Judiciary Committee.
Congresswoman, great to see you. Great to have you on.
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you.
BROWN: Bottom line, what do you say to your Republican colleague, Congressman Rooney and his call for a purge at the FBI and DOJ?
BASS: Well, I actually think it's very frightening. And I have to tell you that Representative Rooney and I are on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and when I get back to Congress in a couple of week, I want to sit down and talk to him about the McCarthy era because I'm not sure if he remembers the Cold War. He's old enough to have, but the type of purges he's talking about harkens back to the Cold War when there was a purge by McCarthy to find communists that were hidden in the federal government.
It sows distrust in our institutions and I think it's irresponsible and maybe he needs a history lesson. Maybe that's what would be helpful in this time period.
BROWN: To the congressman's point, there are members of Robert Mueller's team that have contributed to Hillary Clinton or other Democrats. By our count, nine out of 15 lawyers in the special counsel's office. There are agents who temporarily worked for the investigation, who exchanged messages, texts, that were critical of President Trump.
Do you think it's fair to question the objectivity of this investigation? BASS: Well, I mean, I don't think it's unfair to question the
objectivity, but I will say that when there was inappropriate contact, text messages, et cetera, Mueller took action. He took action right away. I think when you become an FBI agent, you don't lose your right for freedom of speech or to participate in terms of giving contributions.
I think my Republican colleagues, what they are doing is laying the foundation, they are clearly very afraid that indictments are going to come. And so, they're laying the foundation for there to be mistrust in the process. And I think that's very sad. I think we should allow the process to move forward.
BROWN: So, by attacking the FBI and individuals such as deputy director, FBI Director Andrew McCabe, do you believe that Trump is committing on struck of justice or witness intimidation?
BASS: Well, I'm not a lawyer, I can't speak to that. But what I can say is it certainly seems as though he is very frightened and one thing that we know. We've all had an experience with the president now for a year. And his behavior is very predictable.
So when things get close or when he is criticized, he reacts and he tries to divert the attention, and I think that's exactly what he's doing now. They are sowing this -- they are sowing essentially concern and disbelief and making people doubt the validity of the investigation. But Mueller has a very long reputation and I think he's fulfilling that reputation in this investigation.
BROWN: But you say they're trying to sew sort of distrust in the investigation.
BROWN: But President Trump if you've noticed, he has largely avoided going after special counsel Robert Mueller. What do you make of that?
BASS: Well, I mean, I don't think -- I think what he's doing is all about that. And I think the thing that has been different and again, I sit on judiciary, so I've watched this whole process. And in the past, there hasn't been a number of Republicans that have stood up and really defended him.
But this is their way of defending him now. When we have the head of the FBI, when we have the assistant attorney general come before our committee, the entire Republican side of the committee was asking questions along the same lines.
[19:35:02] Their talking points were the same. They're clearly doing this in conjunction and collaboration with the White House and they are in the White House as well as in the House laying the foundation when indictments come to say they're not valid because the investigation wasn't valid. I don't think --
(CROSSTALK) BROWN: But you say there's clearly coordination with the White House. What makes you say that? I mean, is there evidence to support that beyond the tweets?
BASS: Well, no, it's not the tweets, it's sitting and listening to hours and hours of questioning by my colleagues. Where they're talking points are completely in sync with the White House. It is sowing the mistrust, it is sowing doubt, and it is raising questions about the investigation. Instead of allowing the investigation to move forward on its own, and let the chips fall where they may, they are attempting to influence if not the outcome of the investigation, they're attempting to influence the public opinion about the validity of the investigation.
BROWN: All right. Let me just quickly ask you, President Trump is preparing to turn his attention to infrastructure after his victory on tax reform legislation. Legislation that not one single Democrat supported in the House or the Senate.
BROWN: But Trump seems to think Democrats will work with him on infrastructure. He recently tweeted in part, quote: At some point and for the good of the country, I predict we'll start working with the Democrats in a bipartisan fashion. Infrastructure would be a great place to start.
Do you agree?
BASS: Well, I think infrastructure is a very critical issue. And if you remember, he wanted to do that in the beginning of his presidency and he declared infrastructure month and I think that lasted for about two days. So, I don't think that that is a genuine interest. We just finished blowing a huge hole in the deficit, something that the Republicans religiously say they're against.
And so, a few days ago, they talked about entitlement reform as a way of filling that hole. So, if they plan to do infrastructure in a way that continues to blow a hole in the deficit, I don't know that there would be an opportunity for much unity.
The devil is always in the details. Democrats absolutely want to do infrastructure, but want to do infrastructure in the right way.
BROWN: All right. Congresswoman, thank you so much for coming on the show during the holiday week. We really, really appreciate it.
BASS: Thanks for having me on.
BROWN: And up next, North Korea's biological weapons threat. Is the regime planning an anthrax attack?
Plus, millions of people bracing for epic winter weather that's already dumped record amounts of snow in some spots.
We'll be back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BROWN: Well, tonight, a North Korean soldier who defected to South Korea had anthrax antibodies in his system, sparking new fears that Kim Jong-un has access to biological weapons. This according to a South Korean television report.
Now, you might remember this shocking video of a soldier escaping last month, dodging gunfire and getting shot before being dragged to safety across the border. It's unclear if he's the soldier referred to in the report with South Korea's national intelligence service could not confirm to CNN.
OUTFRONT tonight with us, CNN intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer, and CNN military analyst, Major General James "Spider" Marks.
Spider, first to you. How significant is this what does it tell you about Kim Jong-un's access to anthrax as a biochemical weapon?
MAJ. GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Pamela, thank you for having me on.
I will tell you that we're really not surprised. We have known for the longest time that the Kim regime has access to chemical weapons. They now have access and they've developed nuclear weapons and they certainly have biological weapons. All those are put together into a budget. We shouldn't be surprised by this finding.
I think it's premature and maybe inaccurate for us to even posit that this would now be a capability that Kim would use offensively, that he is now at the forefront or he is now leaning forward in an effort to use anthrax or other forms of WMD in an attack against the South. I think I see this as an intelligence analyst as a defensive measure on his part and his soldiers, we can also assess, that these soldiers are immunized for anthrax. That means they are now capable to a certain degree of operating in a contaminated environment were they to choose to use it.
BROWN: But you have this incident, you have the attack on Kim Jong- un's half brother as you'll recall this year. That attack was with a chemical agent. So, what do you think, Bob? I mean, Spider seemed to say he didn't think this means that it's going to be weaponized on a larger scale. Do you agree with that?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I totally agree. He's absolutely right. We have to know what kind of strain the ricin is. If it's weaponized strain in this man's system, that tells us a whole story. And, by the way, we'll be able to find out where the ricin was weaponized.
We suspect they may have an offensive capability, but no one is sure. That would involve for instance bursting a ricin, you know, explosive that would protect the ricin because it's killed by heat over something like Seoul and you could close the city down. But that's the nightmare scenario. We do not know whether they've done that. But I agree with general, you know, they're so advanced on the
chemical, nuclear, sort of anything is possible at this time and it's something that makes it very difficult for us to do a preemptive attack against North Korea.
BROWN: That's sort of frightening.
Spider, just this week, more sanctions were placed against two key North Korean leaders and Trump has escalated his rhetoric. Here's what he said just a few weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As part of the campaign of maximum pressure on the vile dictatorship of North Korea, we have imposed the toughest ever sanctions passed by the United Nations Security Council and a lot of other sanctions. But, you know, I don't know that sanctions are going to work with him. We got to give it a shot. We'll see. Who knows? I'll just tell you, folk, you're in good hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, what do you think, Spider? Do you think knowing Kim Jong- un has access to a biological agent will deter Trump from making a preemptive strike against North Korea?
MARKS: Well, I think as Bob indicated, certainly, that goes into the calculus about what we want to try to do. We do, the United States, and the coalition, our partner in the south would want to try to do to get our arms around this developing nuclear capability.
The fact that he has established a nuclear capability, he's had these six tests. The fact that we have acknowledged that he has this capability of both chemical and biological weapons is not new. This is not a new red line. We have to acknowledge that Kim Jong-un has been and the Kim regime, they've been living across that red line for years.
MARKS: So, this is nothing new. This is nothing new.
BROWN: So, I mean then it brings you to the question of how prepared is the U.S. military for something like this? Are they immunized and equipped to handle this? Spider?
MARKS: Yes, they are. Absolutely. I mean, the United States military understands what the threat looks like. And the soldiers that are potentially going to be involved in a conflict on the peninsula have reached a level of readiness and preparedness for this kind of environment. The short answer is yes.
BROWN: All right. Final word to you, Bob.
BAER: The question is what would it take for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and right now, I don't see anything and threatening them has done no good at all. And sanctions at the end of the day, probably is going to do very little.
BROWN: Yes. It seems like every time we impose sanctions, then North Korea has another test and you know, it's just an ongoing cycle. So, gentlemen, thank you so much.
Bob Baer, Spider, appreciate it.
MARKS: Thank you.
BROWN: And up next, tens of millions of people in the grip of bone- chilling temperatures and record breaking snow. We have the latest forecast.
And 2017 in one word. Covfefe. Remember that word?
[19:50:54] BROWN: Tonight, bone-chilling cold and snow gripping large swaths of the U.S. National Guard troops put on active duty in Pennsylvania as the state digs out of record-breaking snow. A disaster emergency declared in Erie, Pennsylvania, where more than 5 feet of snow has fallen and more is expected tonight.
CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins us with the incredible pictures -- Allison.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right. Yes. And on top of that, now, you have to worry about the incredible cold air that's in place. And the concern with that is how much frostbite could set in and quickly.
Now, in most of these areas, you're talking 15 to even 20 minutes of being outside if you are uncovered. Take a look. Again, we've got from West Virginia all the way up to Maine, these folks under a wind- chill advisory or wind-chill warning.
Now, you have to keep in mind, we've got folks out there enjoying that snow. This gentleman going out in very little clothing to enjoy the snow that was there, diving in. After he did this, I think he thoroughly regretted that decision. You start to notice he jumps back up and will make his way over towards a hot tub. Again, that's also not necessarily a great recommendation because of that contrast, temperature contrast against your skin.
But folks are trying to get out there and enjoy the snow that they had. This young lady trying to shake some of the branches. Notice all of the snow that falls on top of her.
The problem is being outside for long periods of time as these temperatures get cold is not good for your skin, again, because frostbite can set in. We have the first round of arctic air that's already moved through. It retreats a little bit before returning yet again as we go into the weekend. Here's the concern with that. The good news is, it may actually help
prevent lake-effect snow going forward. The first point we are about 9 percent of Lake Erie covered. By Monday, by New Year's Day, we should be at 40 percent covered.
And, Pam, believe it or not, this is actually good. The more frozen Lake Erie is, the less likely those folks are to get more snow.
BROWN: OK. That's good to know.
But several areas have already received over 50 inches of snow. How much more is on the way?
CHINCHAR: Right. So we talked about that being a good thing. The problem is that won't occur until at least Monday. We have more snow in the forecast before Monday.
Take a look, widespread across areas of the Midwest and the Northeast, you're talking up to, say, about 4 inches. But notice these purple areas here, including Erie, Pennsylvania, where we could see an additional eight to 12 inches, Pam, of having some extra snow on top of what they have already had.
This is an image, by the way, one of the satellite images showing all of the snow. We call them cloud streaks. You really have a hard time of seeing the lakes. Now as we said, Pam, now, you're going to be adding more snow on top of what these folks have already had.
BROWN: All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.
And up next, this Wednesday, Jeanne Moos and covfefe.
[19:57:27] BROWN: Well, tonight a look at one of the most memorable and viral moments in Trump's first year as president. That baffling late-night half tweet involving, you guessed it, covfefe or is it covfefe?
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gibberish goes presidential. It wasn't even a complete sentence tweeted out by President Trump just after midnight. Despite the constant negative press -- what's that word?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Covfefe.
NIDENTIFIED MALE: Huh?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Covfefe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Covfefe.
MOOS: Professionals could only guess at how to pronounce it. In the public --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is hilarious.
MOOS (on camera): But how do you say it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Covfefe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Covfefe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been saying it covfefe.
MOOS (voice-over): We're sure the president meant to type negative press coverage.
But the covfefe tweet stayed up for almost six hours. It was then deleted, and the president tweeted, "Who can figure out the true meaning of covfefe? Enjoy."
Which the Internet did. It was turned into a "Wheel of Fortune" puzzle. A "make America covfefe again" mocked up T-shirt.
Eventually, the White House press secretary only confused things more.
SPICER: The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.
MOOS: Hillary Clinton probably wasn't part of that group.
HILLARY CLINTON, (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought it was a hidden message to the Russians.
MOOS: Tweeted one joker: Are you suffering from small dysfunctional hands? Ask your doctor if covfefe is right for you.
Tweeted another: I thought covfefe is what you say when someone sneezes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounds French, covfefe.
MOOS: Covfefe was turned into an Ivanka fragrance. A California man bought the license plate as soon as he noticed the non-word trending.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR: What is a covfefe?
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: A Yiddish term for I have to go to bed now.
MOOS: Franken enemy Ted Cruz tweeted, Covfefe, hard to say, but I hear Al Franken's new book is full of it.
Many assumed President Trump just fell asleep --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounds like, e, e, e --
MOOS: -- mid tweet.
TRUMP: I know words, I have the best words.
MOOS: The best non-words, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Covfefe.
MOOS (on camera): You say that with such assurance.
(voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Covfefe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Covfefe.
MOOS: -- New York.
BROWN: Everyone seems to have their own take on it.
Well, thank you so much for joining us on this Wednesday. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime anywhere on CNN Go.
"AC360" with Jim Sciutto starts right now.