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Trump Tweets Displeasure With Book, Declares His Genius; Trump: White House Officials Tried To Stop Sessions' Recusal; Trump On Russia Probe: There's Been No Collusion, No Crime; Trump: Everything I've Done Is 100 Percent Proper; Three Conservative Republicans: Sessions Should Resign; Inside The Journalistic Career Of Michael Wolff. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 6, 2018 - 17:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I am Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with us.

One hundred percent proper, those words from the president talking about his handling of the Russia election meddling investigation, 100 percent proper. The president is hosting Republican leaders at Camp David right now.

It is a weekend dedicated to map out the new year's legislative agenda, but a reported asked the president about reports he tried to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia probe.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Everything that I have done is 100 percent proper. That's what I do is I do things proper and you know, I guess, the collusion is dead because everyone found after a year of studying, there's been absolutely no collusion. There has been no collusion between us and the Russians.

Now there has been collusion between Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Russians. Unfortunately, you people don't cover that very much, but the only collusion is between Hillary and the Russians and the DNC and the Russians and one of those things.


CABRERA: That was the public President Trump earlier in private and on Twitter, he lashed out again at that new book that paints the oval office in a not flattering light. A report suggested himself that he's not a mentally stable person. In one tweet, the president refers to himself as a quote, "very stable genius."

CNN's Boris Sanchez is at the White House. Boris, the president's reaction to this book seems to be overshadowing the politics plan for this weekend at Camp David.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. The president making news on multiple fronts and not only backing his attorney, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the same week that several Republicans in the Freedom Caucus called for a new attorney general.

But, also appraising the direct talks between North and South Korea sending a message to Democrats saying that there would not be a legal solution for DREAMers, a solution to the issue of DACA without funding for a border wall and talking about the Russia investigation.

All of that overshadowed by the president being forced to defend his own sanity. Clearly, he's taking some of the statements in that book "Fire and Fury" by Michael Wolff personally and not just the anecdotes in the book, but also some of the statements that Wolff has made in promoting the book saying that the president has quote, "lost it."

And going a step further saying that a hundred percent of the people around the president have questioned his fitness for office. In turn the president responded by painting Michael Wolff as a fraud saying that it is not true that he had access to the president in the three hours or so that Wolff said that he spent interviewing President Trump.

He also took an opportunity to take a shot at his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, calling him Sloppy Steve and saying that Wolff was somebody that Steve Bannon had brought in. So, the president again taking the comments from Michael Wolff and others personally.

The question of the president's sanity, though, is not something that's exactly new. Just a few months ago, you actually had Steve Bannon reportedly saying that there was a 30 percent chance that those around the president would not vote in the 25th Amendment and force him out of the White House because of his mental state.

You also had last month this Yale psychiatrist briefing lawmakers in both chambers of Congress as to the president's mental state. We have never really seen this kind of forceful reboot from the president again defending his own sanity -- Ana.

CABRERA: Boris, the president made it clear as well today that he stands by the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but Sessions is not at Camp David this weekend. And a growing list of Republicans we know want Sessions to resign. What is the White House response to that?

SANCHEZ: They are saying that this was something that had long been planned and the focus of the weekend was more on the legislative agenda. That the members of the president's cabinet and some of the other lawmakers that were there were really drawing on a plan for 2018.

And that before any of this past week's hoopla about Jeff Sessions had come up, that had been the plan. They're saying that essentially the Justice Department is part of the executive branch is the focus this weekend is on the executive agenda.

Despite all of that, it is certainly telling that the president is standing by his attorney general, though, he would not say whether stories about the White House putting pressure on the attorney general to not recuse himself from the Russian investigation were true, he did say that everything that the president has done so far as we've heard has been proper.

CABRERA: When asked if he still have confidence in the attorney general, he said, yes, I do. Boris Sanchez, thank you. President Trump's comments come on the heels of this "New York Times" reporting about Jeff Sessions suggesting he was ordered by the White House's counsel, Don McGahn, to stop, I guess, recusing himself from the Russia investigation. That Don McGahn was ordered by the president to talk to Sessions about this.

CNN has now learned that three White House officials in fact were part of this effort. CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz is joining us now. What does this mean, Shimon, for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe?

[17:05:07] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, I don't think that this would come as a surprise to Bob Mueller and the investigators as part of his team because the people who were perhaps feeling pressure from the president or who went and did speak to the attorney general about not recusing himself as far as we know have all met with the investigators on Bob Mueller's team.

That's Don McGahn, Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer so those three from everything we've been told have been interviewed by the special counsel and certainly, some of this would have come up in those meetings.

Now as to whether this helps in a potential obstruction case or whether it is just one big, another political issue for the president, that remains to be seen because it is just not clear how this would play into the obstruction case.

And keep in mind, Ana, and I have said it a couple of times today is that when Jeff Sessions was the attorney general, this was a very different investigation. This investigation was being headed by James Comey and the Russia investigation itself was different. It was looking at different things.

Now, once the president fired the FBI director, the investigation completely changed that's where the obstruction started coming in and other issues that were not initially investigated by the FBI had begun.

CABRERA: And so now, there is this growing list of Republicans calling for Sessions to step down. What is the mood like inside the Justice Department regarding his future?

PROKUPECZ: Right. So, I think the career prosecutors who have been with the Department of Justice through several administrations, you know, they are going to keep doing their job, you know, just keeping it safe and moving forward on prosecutions and dealing with search warrants and subpoenas and investigations.

The real issue I think in it from folks that I've certainly talk to is what the impact that this relationship sort of this conflict between the president and the attorney general is having on law enforcement certainly people at the FBI, which works very closely with the Department of Justice.

This I think is definitely continuing to have a negative effect on maybe even moral within the FBI or with some of the people who worked with the Department of Justice. But, look, I think career prosecutors are going to keep doing what they need to do and still, you know, despite what the president said that today he's saying he's behind the attorney general, tomorrow we can hear something else.

There is just not enough consistency from what comes out of the president's mouth, he changes day-to-day really.

CABRERA: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you.

International security and legal analyst, Susan Hennessy is with us. Susan, before we talk more about Sessions, I want you to hear what the president said when he was asked if he would be willing to sit down with Robert Mueller's team?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, if Robert Mueller asks you to come and speak with his committee personally. Are you committed still to doing that?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Just so you understand, there has been no collusion. There has been no crime. And in theory, everybody tells me I am not under investigation, maybe Hillary is, I don't know, but I am not. There has been no collusion. There has been no crime.

But we have been very open. We could have done it two ways. We could have done it very close and taken years. When you have done nothing wrong, let's be open and get it over with because honestly, it is very, very bad for our country. It is making our country looks foolish.


CABRERA: Susan, the president says when you've done nothing, let's be open. Let's get it over with.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: All right. So, the president has a history of sort of saying things to reporters about his intentions and not necessarily following up. So, just because he's indicated a willingness to meet with Special Counsel Mueller, we'll see whether or not that plays out.

It will be significant if he actually was willing to sit down with Mueller's team. It is a crime to lie to a federal investigator so it's sort of (inaudible) testify under oath. That's not really the end of the story, though, it is not just whether or not the president is willing to sit down with Mueller, but also whether or not he's willing to answer all of Mueller's questions. All right. So, Trump gets in there and invoke executive privilege and national security reasons as prior presidents have to not actually give a full account that would certainly make that kind of interview a little bit less significant.

CABRERA: The president has also said today that he's done as far as the reporting this week about Sessions' recusal and Don McGahn and other White House officials pressuring Sessions not to recuse himself. He has done everything 100 percent proper. Do you agree?

HENNESSEY: No. So, it's incredibly improper for the White House counsel to ever pressure the attorney general to recuse or not recuse on any investigation, right. So, that is a decision that the attorney general is supposed to be making not for political reasons at all, but because there are DOJ regulations that tell him when he is required to recuse.

[17:10:03] So even in a regular investigation, that would be highly improper. For the administration to have done that in an investigation in which the president himself, his family members and his senior officials are potentially targets or people of interests in that investigation, it really takes it from out of the realm of just improper and into something sort of really shocking in terms of the level of impropriety.

CABRERA: Could this bill the case for obstruction of justice?

HENNESSEY: Probably on its own, you know, saying that the fact that Don McGahn called or Sean Spicer or Reince Priebus, you know, is that obstruction of justice? No or I guess, it would be premature to say that.

That said, you know, it is pretty clear that whenever we are talking about obstruction here, we aren't necessarily thinking about a single act. It's more about sort of the course of conduct of the president and his senior officials in response to sort of this Russia investigation.

So, it is sort of another piece of evidence that maybe part of that course of conduct, part of how we might understand the president's mental state as he has these highly unusual and highly improper interactions with the Justice Department.

CABRERA: Now, Susan, the "New York Times" is also reporting that Sessions was trying to dig up derogatory information on then FBI Director James Comey to discredit him. Is that appropriate?

HENNESSEY: It really speaks to a pretty astounding level of hypocrisy. Remember that Attorney General Sessions and President Trump, the reason they gave for firing FBI Director James Comey in that original memo was that he had lost the confidence of the FBI and lost public confidence. That's what they said that he needed to go.

Now, we find out at the very same time that they were actively working to undermine that public confidence. Reportedly Attorney General Sessions was asking for one negative story about Comey each day in the press. So, I really do think that it demonstrates sort of a level of duplicitousness and also that, you know, the reason that they provided to the American people is just wasn't honest.

CABRERA: Susan Hennessey, as always, thank you for your expertise. We appreciate you joining us this weekend and what a beautiful picture behind you. Go enjoy the sunset there in D.C.

Now Republicans are calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. These calls are growing louder. Two leading members of the Conservative House Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, wrote in an opinion piece, quote, "It is time for Jeff Sessions to go." Now the next day, a Utah Republican joins this call. Here is what Congressman Chris Stewart had to say. Watch.


REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: We have been weakened in our investigation into very important concerns at the Department of Justice and at the FBI because Jeff Sessions is not able to take the reign into the direct investigation. I for probably different reasons than Mr. Meadows and Mr. Jordan, I believe we are -- if we have not approached it, we are rapidly approaching the time when Mr. Sessions for the good of this investigation looking at the FBI, looking with the Department of Justice, we need a director there that could take the reins and could be assertive in that. He cannot do that when he's recused. I believe it may be time for him to step aside.


CABRERA: Let's talk it over with David Gergen, former presidential adviser to Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. David, the vast majority of legal experts including the counsel for the Justice Department itself have said Sessions did the right thing with his recusal from the Russia probe. What do you think is behind this outrage now from Republicans?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the Republicans are very anxious to end the whole investigatory process. We see that on Capitol Hill and various investigations out of the three investigations that were under way. At least two have becoming highly partisans. They seemed to have stalled out.

We are still waiting for the Intelligence Committee on the Senate to see if they can pull through up and make a bipartisan report at the end of this. They're impatient because they want to get on with things. They see this continuing investigation as a cloud over 2018 midterm elections.

I think this is all about politics and the fear, Ana, is that their pressure and knowing how displease the president has been with his recusal. Jeff Sessions would try to do a number of things to please the hard right simply to, you know, go after -- we've already seen this recent crackdown on marijuana, for example.

Reversing what Trump had said the administration would do, if the state heading to a referendum to allow marijuana that the federal government would interfere. Sessions comes along and reverse that and says we are going to crackdown so that pleases the president.

What about this investigation of Hillary that we have now learned that the Clinton Foundation is yet again under investigation, has been under way for a while. But, it seems to be stiffening, Sessions responding to the pressure that's coming, we don't know. It is not a healthy situation.

CABRERA: So, the president, though, on the other hand today when he was asked if he stands by Session, you know the history between the two.

[17:15:07] He still said, yes, I still standby Sessions. What do you make of that? I think he is actually happy with what Sessions actions have been taken.

GERGEN: I think he stands by him in public and I think Jeff Sessions ought to keep an eye on his back in private.

CABRERA: Now, we have Senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsay Graham urging the Justice Department to investigate Christopher Steele, he's the author of the dossier. Does that make sense to you?

GERGEN: Well, I think it makes sense from the point of view of the Republicans wanting to confuse and cloud the picture so that we lose sight of what the original point of this whole investigation was about and that is whether the Russians meddled, and we now know that the rest of the U.S. government thinks they meddled in the elections.

But the question is, was there some sort of collaboration within the Trump team thereafter. Overall, I think what you can see is from various points on the spectrum, but especially coming from the hard right, tough right, is let's get this shut down and move on and I got another victory or two. Keep the economy coming and we can hold the House in 2018.

This is hard work. We are hitting in a hardball period. We've been there for a while. It's getting really hard now.

CABRERA: So, could that have a reverse effect, though, if there is this new investigation into the investigation that's currently under way and this piece of evidence that maybe part of the investigation that the FBI and the special counsel is conducting, could it draw out the investigation further?

GERGEN: Well, it could, but I think what the -- you know, clearly what a lot of the Republicans want is let's get separate investigation and a separate special counsel going after Democrats. All of the things we alleged about what they did.

Was the Clinton Foundation somehow trading -- if you gave money to the Clinton Foundation that you then get a chance to buy a company in the energy field, our uranium. I think Republicans are more interested in taking the focus off and discrediting Mueller before he does anything and coming out of the box.

But also, putting a lot and everybody does affect the Democrats even more. The president today in the press conference, he says there is no collusion on the part of Republicans, but the Democrats, they colluded, and Hillary colluded, and the DNC has colluded. That's a clear attempt to smear Hillary and to pressure the Justice Department.

CABRERA: When you talk about the Justice Department, potentially, taking action because of the call of the president and just kind of moving back to what we started and calling for Jeff Sessions to resign, do you see a legitimate case for Jeff Sessions to step aside?

GERGEN: Well, I think that, he may find himself in a politically impossible situation with, you know, dislike by the president in private and Republicans pushing on it. He may feel comfortable to step aside or if he wants or his party is calling him out to step aside, he may do it. I think this is entirely unpredictable.

What I do think is it goes way beyond of boundaries of traditional independence of the Justice Department and the traditionally we had is you don't criminalize political differences, you don't go after your opponents with criminal charges, and try to put them away in jail.

These cries to jail Hillary we heard a long time ago, that's what we are now seeing, the new ripples of that. That goes way beyond the pale of what's been acceptable in the past. Criminalizes, Justice Department, the people that do law enforcement is what authoritarian countries do and not the United States.

CABRERA: Meantime, the president's tweet today calling himself a very stable genius, clearly, he is trying to clear his name defending himself against the Michael Wolff book that question of mental fitness. I want to point out some of Wolff's reporting has been corroborated, but some errors have been identified.

You put it this way, I was going to ask you is President Trump helping or hurting himself, and you put it in your Twitter feed, did proclamation of stable genius make him look smart or foolish, which is it?

GERGEN: Well, listen, I understand the president's desires to clear his name. But typically, presidents when they have somebody who's so beneath him in the power structure, this fellow Wolff, if you sort of dismiss him and walk away, it is a bunch of nothing and we know all of this before.

[17:20:09] That's usually is the way presidents sort of put some distance and also try to kill the story. By using his (inaudible) coming after Wolff the way he did, hard out and then talking about he's a very stable genius, he gave legs to the story. The story is going to go on for the next several days about his mental health.

And it is causing -- you know, there have been questions about his mental health before, but they are now front and center. When Europeans woke up and open up the most respected conservative newspaper in Germany, the big headline was, is Trump still sane?

You know, a Murdoch own "Times" in London, they were running big mental health story. So, this has become an international story. I think when he's using word "genius," he does have a six sense of running things and he's been very smart of running his campaign.

When you call yourself a genius, other people think, wait a minute, calling yourself a genius makes you look like a fool. I can tell you that the writers at "Saturday Night Live" must have been smiling and you can imagine they're scrambling and redoing the scripts.

CABRERA: Thank you very much, David Gergen. Great to talk to you. Have a great weekend.

GERGEN: OK. Ana, take care.

When we come back, the president is calling the author of a new tell- all book about his administration a fraud and he says the book is a work of fiction, but who exactly is Michael Wolff, the man behind it all.

And the president is now saying he won't sign any amnesty deals for so called DREAMers unless he gets $18 billion to fund his wall, the same one that Mexico is going to pay for? So, are lawmakers any closer to a deal on immigration? We'll discuss, next.



CABRERA: Welcome back. Earlier, the president again went after Michael Wolff, the author of this explosive new book, "Fire and Fury" calling him a fraud.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: (Inaudible) so many people I talk about in term of fake news came to the defense of this great administration and myself. I know the author and I know he's a fraud.


CABRERA: But if that's the case, how did Wolff get access to Trump's inner circle. Here is what he told NBC's "Today" show yesterday.


MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY": Well, I absolutely spoke to the president whether he realize it was an interview or not. I don't know, but it certainly was not off the record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you flatter your way in?

WOLFF: I certainly said what was ever necessary to get the story.


CABRERA: So, who is this guy, this Michael Wolff? CNN's Randi Kaye has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WOLFF: This is the most extraordinary story of our time.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once a coffee boy for the "New York Times," Michael Wolff is now media's favorite bad boy. At 64, Wolff is immersed in the world of media and money and power and politics.

MICHELLE COTTLE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": He's been always been very up front about the fact, but that's who he wanted to be. He doesn't have an interest in being kind of a shoe leather reporter. He uses media reporting or in this case political reporting as a way to hang out with the elites that he really is fascinated by.

KAY: Michelle Cottle, a contributing editor for "The Atlantic," who interviewed Wolff years ago describes him as part gossip columnist and part psychotherapist, whose writing is so distinctive, it is more like art.

COTTLE: It is his very peculiar writing style where he will set the scene, so he does not say someone is said and then a quote. He will say this is what they would have said or should have said in the circumstances. So, it is a little bit of art that he's sticking in there that makes it not quite a hard quote.

KAYE (on camera): In fact, Wolff has been accused of inaccuracies in his reporting over the years and his style is anything but conventional. Cottle says that Wolff does not work the phones like most reporters. He does not go on the record or off the record either. In fact, she says, he frowns on conventional reporting instead choosing simply to observe and take in the atmosphere.

(voice-over): Wolff has had a long and polarizing career. In the 1990s, he started an internet company, since then, he's written for "Vanity Fair," "New York Magazine" and "The Guardian." Most recently he worked as a columnist and media critic for the "Hollywood Reporter" and "USA Today."


KAYE: Wolff once wrote a scathing book about billionaire media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, calling him the whore master of the tabloid business. Niceties are not his specialty.

COTTLE: He will go where other reporters generally won't and that earned him quite a reputation.

KAYE: And it's that buzzy catty way of reporting and writing that readers gobble up.

COTTLE: He would make really cutting personal observations about the rich and famous and their wives and their children. He once sent his child as a spy to Steve Ratner's house when he was writing about Ratner and people were appalled, but he knows that readers love that stuff and controversy is his friend.

KAYE: And that means, he's in friendly confines now. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


CABRERA: Let's discuss Author Michael Wolff and the fallout from his controversial book, "Fire and Fury." Joining us now David Smith, Washington correspondent for "The Guardian," who got the first excerpts of Wolff's book and Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Brian, we now know who Wolff is. We need to point out a lot of what is in his book has in fact been corroborated and there have been some errors, however.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I would say there is a lot more facts than fiction in terms of my read of the book and what comes through. You had Michael D'Antonio, one of Trump's biographers on CNN earlier today say, in general, it is an accurate portrait of the now president.

With that said, there are some errors and there are some sloppiness. That's disappointing because we need to hold Wolff to a high standard, but the White House --

CABRERA: Errors like?

STELTER: Errors like, you know, Mark Berman, "Washington Post" reporter's name when actually it was a Mike Berman, a lobbying (inaudible). That's probably the best example of an error that's been noticed today.

With that said, the White House is trying to tarnish his book saying it is full of fiction and it is a fantasy. The White House is known for faults on a daily basis. President Trump made a number of errors just today when he was speaking. So, I don't think their complaints about credibility hold a lot of water.

CABRERA: David, you got your hands on this book first. When you read it, did you expect to trigger as much as we have seen?

DAVID SMITH, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: I knew there it would create a big stir and the book has been much anticipated, but not quite on the scale, as we should have guessed, knowing Michael Wolff's reputation, it was going to be a bit hum dinger. The access he got was extraordinary by any standards. And just the notion that someone likes Steve Bannon would spill the beans the way that he did, and vividly describing Donald Trump Jr as treasonous and unpatriotic, and it became evident that this is political dynamite. The overall portrait is not surprising for journalists who have been covering the White House for a year, but certainly putting flesh on the bone what we suspected of the factual in fighting and alleged ineptitude of the president himself.

CABRERA: And now there is really has been a tangible impact of this public feud between Bannon and President Trump.

Brian, we are learning that Bannon was going to put out some kind of statements before and he changed his mind. What more can you tell us about it?

STELTER: This was drafted by Bannon and intended to smooth the water a little bit and try to walk back some of the inflammatory statements, and not denying all the quotes, but trying to smooth things over with Trump. Once Trump comes out and disowning Bannon. The comments from Bannon, the reason why the focus is on Bannon is the Bannon's quotes are nothing we have never seen before between the former chief strategist to say that Trump is like a 9-year-old and the presidency is over and is taken down by Robert Mueller. That's extraordinary. It is one thing for Trump's critics to be saying it and having Steve Bannon on the record to say it changed a lot for Washington. If anyone through 2018 would be quieter than 2017, these Bannon quotes disprove that.

CABRERA: David, did you get a sense that Bannon had some kind of ulterior motive for talking to Wolff in terms of how provocative these quotes were?

SMITH: It's been part of the game in Washington just to try to guess what was Steve Bannon's motives, why was he so candid. Some of the theories is pure ego or some kind of revenge because, according to the book, he was marginalized by the White House and out by August. I think it was also, towards the end of the book, Steve Bannon does think Donald Trump has lost it, and not only necessarily in the sense of his mental capacity for the job, but also as a vehicle for Steve Bannon's ideas of nationalism, some say white nationalism, and he's ready to move on to other vehicles, to other candidates.


STELTER: CABRERA: Yes, literally -- yes.


STELTERS: He wants to find another vehicle for his nationalism. This book portrays Bannon like he thinks he's really the president. Beyond Bannon, consider that Michael Wolff was hanging out in the West Wing, overhearing conversations and watching people come to and fro. And for him to conclude that 100 percent of Trump's senior officials and aids all think that Trump is incapable of being president, that's really, really disturbing. That's really troubling. To the extent that other reporters have confirmed some of that, that's the take away of the book, and even more of the sensational Bannon's quotes, and Trump's aides are worried about his mental health.

[17:34:22] CABRERA: Brian Stelter, David Smith, thank you, both. I appreciate the conversation.

And be sure to catch Brian on his show tomorrow morning. "Reliable Source" begins at 11:00 a.m. eastern on CNN.

Coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM, take a look at these incredible pictures. A deep freeze. The bomb cyclone has left cars that were in flood waters complete frozen. This is in Massachusetts. It is also triggering a travel nightmare for those arriving and leaving New York's JFK Airport. We'll have a live report for you, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Forget snow globes, most of the northeast and Midwest feels more like an ice box right now. Temperatures are staying near the single digits and bitter winds are making it feel even colder. This was a scene in Massachusetts where record ties froze cars and in places ice roads became icy rivers. And across the country, officials say at least 21 people have died.

CNN correspondent, Polo Sandoval, is joining us from Situate, Massachusetts, one of the coastal areas hit by the flooding.

Polo, what are you experiencing out there right now?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It is bone-chilling cold. Now the sun is out. We'll see temperatures beginning to drop. Here, we are looking at 11 degrees Fahrenheit. The forecast is calling for a low of about zero degrees. It is going to feel much colder. Right now, we are feeling negative 11. Almost everything here is frozen or covered with ice and snow. The fishing boats here are covered with snow. The dark figure down there, that's a bunch of ducks huddled together. It is going to be a cold night here. Take a look at what this harbor area looks like. You can see some of these fishing boats look like ice fishing boats that you may see in the arctic though. This is a scene in Massachusetts. Folks have been delivered a pretty wicked dose of winter weather here when some of these record highs pushing these icy mess on the streets. The only threat that remains, again, those temperatures you mentioned and several of those weather- related fatalities that we have seen across the country. Officials are recommending people, if you don't need to be out and about, stay home, and stay in doors with your family. It is extremely cold, particularly here in the northeast. And the next couple of days when we get some of that relief, according to meteorologists, where we see those temperatures begin to rise.

[17:40:15] CABRERA: Polo Sandoval, go get warm. Thank you for your report.

SANDOVAL: Take care.

CABRERA: We'll continue to update our viewers on the situation right there.

Right now, not a great time to be flying in or out of New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. A lot of people, angry passengers, taking to social media today, showing long lines trying to depart JFK, trying pick up their baggage. That's another issue as well. Even stuck for hours on flights that have already landed.

CNN's Dan Lieberman is outside one of the JFK terminals there.

Dan, this is all because of this blizzard that's stopped at the airport two days ago, right?

DAN LIEBERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is thousands of delays and cancellations and there is still hundred s of them happening around the country. The most delays right here followed by Chicago and a big issue here at terminal 4 is international flights. A lot of delayed flights coming into the country. Passengers are very upset because they are being held out of the tarmac and not allowed to get off the plane because of these delays. A lot of families inside waiting for loved ones. The board of authority did release a statement a couple hours ago saying they're trying to work with the airlines and opening up gates to ease some of that pressure.

We did speak to one passenger who definitely did not dress warm enough for these temperatures, listen to what he had to say.


MARK KIRBY, AIRLINE PASSENGER: Yes, I was going to the Bahamas. And I am supposed to be here for an hour and 50 minutes, and were stuck on the runway for three hours and getting our bags for two hours. And now I don't think the flight will be until probably tomorrow.

LIEBERMAN: What's the airline telling you here and how has the airline responding?

KIRBY: They're doing everything they can. It is the airport's chaos.


LIEBERMAN: There you have it. People are really unprepared for these temperatures. And a lot of family members are still waiting for their loved ones to arrive. People have taken to social media talking about waiting on the tarmac for five hours after spending 10 hours in the area flying around the world. Ana, it is upsetting for a lot of people tonight.

CABRERA: That poor guy, going to the Bahamas, what bad luck to be stuck here. A shock to the system, no doubt about it. Dan --


LIEBERMAN: It is really cold out here, and inside is really cold and people are bundled up. It is harsh conditions.

CABRERA: Hang in there, Dan Lieberman. Thank you for the reporting.

I want to talk about new revelations today about the gunman who killed 58 people at that outdoor music festival in Las Vegas last October. MGM Resorts now saying the staff at the Mandalay Bay interacted with Stephen Paddock, the gunman, more than 10 times in the days leading up to the massacre, including on the day he opened fire on the crowd below his window. That day, a room service delivery was made to his suit. A call to housekeeping was made, according to MGM. A member of Congress from Nevada we spoke with after the shooting said it appears that no one noticed anything suspicious, even though 23 guns were found in Paddock's room.

Coming up, President Trump now says he will not sign any deals on immigration unless he gets $18 billion for his wall, the one that Mexico was supposed to pay for. Where are bipartisan negotiations on immigration? We'll discuss, next.


[17:47:03] CABRERA: After months of negotiations, are Republicans and Democrats any closer to a deal on immigration reform, including what to do about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, known as DACA. The January 19 deadline for a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown is approach, and the big sticky point right now is immigration. The president today standing by his demand for funding a border wall and punishment for so called sanctuary cities. He says Democrats should be willing to compromise.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The wall is going to happen or we're not going to have DACA. We want to get rid of the chain migration. Very important. And we want to get rid of the lottery system. In addition to that, we want some money for funding. We need some additional border security. These are great people. And we need some border security. We need ICE. But we want to make sure that in terms of what we want. And we want DACA to happen. We all -- everybody -- I think I can speak for everybody. We want -- John Cornyn, from Texas -- we all want DACA to happen, but we also want great security for our country.


CABRERA: Bipartisan talks are expected on Tuesday. But Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, a Democrats, says that the president's demand could doom any deal.

CNN's Tal Kopan is reporting extensively on this, and is joining us.

Tal, how likely is it that the president gets what he wants?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, the only way a deal gets done is if nobody gets everything they want. That sort of the only way this works out is everyone has to be a little bit unhappy and Democrats and Republicans both acknowledging that. You know when you talk to lawmakers on the Hill which I do daily on these issues. They acknowledge there is some of a sweet spot that this deal is small enough that it can pass and big enough that you can give everyone something.

One of the significant things that we heard the president say is him saying that he wants to make it happen. That's something that lawmakers negotiating are going to take it as a positive sign. They're going to keep on working on details to deliver something for the various side of negotiations.

CABRERA: I spoke with Congresswoman Nita Lowey, of New York, about how confident she is that DACA will be reach or some kind of legislation to protect the DREAMers. Here is what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NITA LOWEY, (D), NEW YORK: We have got to pass DACA. There is over 800,000 hardworking young people - I've met with them, I have gone to our universities. There are lawyers and doctors, and businesses dependent on them for their jobs. Everything should be on the table so we can talk about it.

CABRERA: So you're willing to at least facilitate that? You're not going to -- no hard nose at this point.

LOWEY: Sure.


CABRERA: And how confident are you that this is going to happen before the end of this month?

LOWEY: I don't think the Republicans want to shut down the government. They know, and the public knows that they're in charge, with the White House, the House and the Senate. If the government shuts down, it's the Republicans who are doing it.


CABRERA: Tal, what are the chances for a shutdown?

[17:50:08] KOPAN: They still exist, that we could have a shutdown on January 18th. Keep in mind, the House wasn't even in session last week. So in the Senate was in session for like a day and a half. So lawmakers have a very short time to work out some very thorny issues, DACA is just one of them. At the same time, negotiations on this particular issue do seem to be picking up steam in the Senate and to an extent in the House. The hope is they could have a deal ready to go. There's still a major wild card of what Trump will sign. It's possible we get another short-term extension. There's still a lot to work out. So a shutdown is on the table, but it doesn't feel like, right now, it's what we're barreling towards for sure.

CABRERA: Tal Kopan, thank you. Keep us posted.

Coming up, from cars frozen in floodwaters in Massachusetts to one of the stranger things we've seen during the deep Arctic blast along the east coast, frozen iguanas, falling from trees in Florida. We're back in a moment.


[17:54:57] CABRERA: Hollywood's award season gets under way this weekend and political statements are likely to take center stage again this year. Talk show host, Seth Meyers, will host the 75th Golden Globes on Sunday. And he won't be the only one taking a political stand. Expect to see lots of celebrities wearing black to raise awareness of gender and racial equality. The "Me Too" movement founded by many of Hollywood's most prominent actresses and executives is aimed at combatting sexual harassment and assault. The show of solidarity for sexual misconduct victims follows a wave of scandals involving sexual assault allegations by some of Hollywood's biggest stars, producers and executives. The Golden Globes airs Sunday night.

The winter blast sweeping the nation has impacted a lot of people, including wildlife as far south as Florida. Iguanas are getting hit hard. People in Florida have been posting pictures on social media of the reptiles sprawled on the ground after dropping out of trees. They may appear to be dead but, in many cases, they are still alive, yet quite literally frozen. A reptile keeper at Palm Beach County Zoo said iguanas get cold-stunned when temperatures drop below 45 degrees. They can still breathe, but their bodily functions slow to a crawl.

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thank you for being with me. I'll be back in one hour, live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I hope you'll join me.

"SMERCONISH" is next.