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New Twist in Russia Investigation; "Fire and Fury" Hits Bookstores as Instant Best Seller; U.S. Authorities Reactivate The Clinton Foundation Probe; U.S. Secretary of State on Relations with North Korea; Michael Wolff's Colorful and Controversial Career; Strong Words at U.N. Security Council Meeting; Britain's Latte Levy. Aired 4- 5a ET
Aired January 6, 2018 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): There is a new twist in the Russia investigation. We're learning how far the White House was willing to go to keep the attorney general on the case.
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, one-on-one with the U.S. secretary of state: Rex Tillerson talks exclusively to CNN about North Korea and how long he sees himself in the job.
HOWELL (voice-over): And extreme weather conditions from bone- chilling cold in the United States to Australia's scorching heat wave. Hot weather --
KINKADE (voice-over): Definitely hot back home.
Good to be here with you, George. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. NEWSROOM starts right now.
HOWELL: 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast.
There is new reporting and there's new fallout from a book that had the Trump White House on the defensive. Both raised two key questions.
Did the president the obstruct justice?
And is he fit to serve in that office?
KINKADE: Big questions and a lot at stake. So far, CNN has learned that at least three top White House officials were involved in an effort to persuade attorney general Jeff Sessions to remain in control of the investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Former press secretary Sean Spicer, former chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Don McGann all worked to get Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russian probe. That's according to CNN's sources.
Our Jim Acosta has more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I talked to a source familiar with these conversations just a short while ago. That senior administration official told me, quote, "I think it is fair to call it pressure."
That is a quote from this official, describing these conversations that went on between top White House officials and staff members in the attorney general's office, including the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
And I should also point out, according to the senior administration official, this person described what was going on and the conversations regarding Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself -- or not recuse himself -- as being, quote, "chaos."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: That's Jim Acosta speaking to our colleague, Anderson Cooper. Now Priebus is decline to go comment on our reporting. Spicer told CNN he called Sessions' office but that was just about a news conference.
KINKADE: CNN's Jessica Schneider has been following Don McGann's role and has more now from Washington.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A source close to attorney general Jeff Sessions tells CNN White House counsel Don McGann personally reached out to Sessions in early 2017 to try to dissuade the attorney general from recusing himself from the Russia probe.
"The New York Times" reports Mueller has learned about that outreach and that it was a direct order from President Trump, who reportedly erupted in front of several White House officials when Sessions announced his recusal in March.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-ALA.), U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Therefore, I have recused myself.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Sources put it this way to "The Times": "Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy as attorney general had done for his brother, John F. Kennedy, and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama." Reached for comment, White House lawyer Ty Cobb declined.
Former ethics czar and CNN contributor Walter Shaub says at the time, he recommended recusal and expressed outrage upon learning McGann was personally lobbying Sessions against it.
WALTER SHAUB, CNN CORRESPONDENT: While I was on the phone talking to Department of Justice officials, telling them that Jeff Sessions had no choice but to recuse in order to resolve a criminal conflict of interest, we now learn that Don McGann was pressuring Jeff Sessions on behalf of the president to do just the opposite.
I think that we are in a neighborhood where I hope Mueller is looking at this very seriously for obstruction of justice, because it could be.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Obstruction is part of Mueller's probe, prompted in part by the president's firing of FBI director James Comey in May. In this letter to the president from deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, the reported reasoning for removal centered on Comey's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's e-mails.
But shortly after firing Comey, the president admitted he had Russia on his mind.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The president spent the weekend before the firing at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where sources say the president drafted a letter he intended to send Comey but never did.
In it, President Trump, according to "The Times," described the Russia investigation as "fabricated and politically motivated." The paper reports Mueller knows about this letter. A source tells CNN the special counsel has also obtained handwritten notes from former chief of staff Reince Priebus. They document the president --
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): -- telling Priebus that Comey had assured the president he was not under investigation.
"The New York Times" also reports that days before James Comey was fired, one of Jeff Sessions' aides asked a congressional staffer whether there was any damaging information on Comey in an effort to undermine the FBI director.
The DOJ has denied this account. The new evidence relating to Mueller's obstruction of justice probe also raises new questions about Jeff Sessions' future as attorney general. He's offered his resignation before but the White House suggests he's still safe.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Right now, he's focused on doing his job. We're focused on doing ours. We don't have any reason to see that there's anything different today than there was yesterday.
We feel like we're in a great place and we're moving forward and the attorney general is going to continue showing up to work this week and next week, just like he has every day since we started, and keep doing good work and moving the president's agenda forward.
SCHNEIDER: The White House has even started calling out the press amid questions about Jeff Sessions' future. Sessions was not invited to Camp David this weekend, despite the fact that eight other cabinet members will be joining the president for meetings on the 2018 legislative agenda.
When CNN asked why Sessions wasn't invited, a White House official issued a stinging reply, saying this, "The press should stop using a long-planned meeting with congressional leaders to take cheap shots at the attorney general."
So now it seems the White House is defending the attorney general, despite the fact that the president has often taken shots at him, even calling him "beleaguered" months ago over Twitter -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
KINKADE: The tell-all book about the Trump White House hit bookstores Friday as an instant best seller. "Fire and Fury" is extremely unflattering to the president, portraying him as selfish and incompetent. Mr. Trump has dismissed it as "phony" and "full of lies."
HOWELL: Earlier, he tweeted this, quote, "Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell his really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad," says the President of the United States.
Linda, keeping in mind, the president just months ago complimented Steve Bannon but now he has a new nickname for him.
KINKADE: He certainly does.
HOWELL: It is interesting, yes.
So as we mentioned, Mr. Trump is at the presidential retreat at Camp David this weekend. He's meeting with congressional leaders and some of his cabinet.
KINKADE: And the author of "Fire and Fury" credits Mr. Trump for helping to boost interest in the book. For more on that, here is CNN's Jim Acosta.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA (voice-over): It was perhaps the only on-message moment of the week for the president, touting his economic record as he was leaving for Camp David.
TRUMP: The tax cuts are really kicking in far beyond what anyone thought. The market is good. The jobs reports were very good and we think they're going to get really good over the next couple of months.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president, who boasts he always punches back, made it clear there would be no on-camera comments about the book, "Fire and Fury," written by author Michael Wolff and starring his former chief strategist and sudden Trump critic, Steve Bannon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, have you read the book "Fire and Fury"?
ACOSTA (voice-over): Mr. Trump saved his fury for his Twitter feed, tweeting, "I authorized zero access to White House. Actually turned him down many times for author of phony book. I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist.
"Look at this guy's past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve," a new nickname for Bannon.
Appearing on NBC, the book's author did not hold back, hammering the president's mental fitness for the job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to your reporting, everyone around the president, senior advisers, family members, every single one of them questions his intelligence and fitness for office.
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY": Let me put a marker in the sand here: 100 percent of the people around him.
ACOSTA (voice-over): And Wolff thanked the president for driving up interest in his book, which was released early due to the heightened demand.
WOLFF: What I say is, where do I send the box of chocolates?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think he's helping you sell books?
WOLFF: Absolutely. Not only is he helping me sell books but he's helping me prove the point of the book. I mean, this is extraordinary that a President of the United States would try to stop the publication of a book. This doesn't happen -- has not happened from other presidents, would not even happen from a CEO of a midsized company.
ACOSTA (voice-over): As for the attacks on his book, Wolff was ready for that one.
WOLFF: My credibility is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than perhaps anyone who has ever walked on Earth at this point. I will quote Steve Bannon, "He's lost it." ACOSTA (voice-over): But the White House and the president's friends have fanned out across the air waves to condemn the book.
SANDERS: Look, we said they spoke once by the phone for a few minutes. But it wasn't about the book. They had a very short conversation. But he --
SANDERS: -- never interviewed the president about the book. He repeatedly begged to speak with the president and was denied access.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Slamming Wolff's key takeaway that the president is not mentally fit for office.
CHRIS RUDDY, CEO AND PRESIDENT, NEWSMAX MEDIA: This is just like so absurd. It's so ridiculous. So 100 percent, I'm around the president. I've been around him quite a bit through the past year. I met him 20 years ago. He is not psychologically unfit. He has not "lost it," as he claimed.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Secretary of state Rex Tillerson told CNN's Elise Labott he's never raised the issue of the president's mental state.
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I've never questioned his mental fitness. I have no reason to question his mental fitness.
ACOSTA: The president will spend the weekend meeting with Republican congressional leaders and his cabinet up at Camp David, to go over his party's agenda for 2018. One cabinet member who won't be present is attorney general Jeff Sessions, who has frequently been the subject of the president's fury.
But the White House says there is no message being sent to Sessions. An official here says the White House stands firmly behind him -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
KINKADE: Let's get some perspective now from Leslie Vinjamuri, she teaches international relations at SOAS University of London.
Good to have you with us.
LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you.
KINKADE: The first thing I want to start with CNN's reporting, sources that tell us at least three top officials -- Trump's former press secretary, former chief of staff and White House counsel -- were all part of a campaign to pressure attorney general Jeff Sessions to maintain control of the Russia investigation.
If that directive came from President Trump, is it obstruction of justice?
And if so, what will it mean for Donald Trump?
VINJAMURI: Well, I think there's obviously a very serious concern and this is one that the lawyers are going to be looking at very carefully, that Mueller's team is going to look at very carefully.
I think the key consideration, of course, is that it raises further questions for the public, for everybody, about whether or not or what the extent of the interference was. But remember, this is a -- you know, Sessions made the right decision, right?
He had to recuse himself, once it became clear that he hadn't disclosed his meetings with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearings.
I think that was very widely seen as the appropriate decision. There was a question at the time of whether he would also resign. But of course he did not. And the optics were good.
It's concerning I think to those who are now hearing that there was an attempt to reverse that decision. And it certainly looks like interference and it doesn't play well for this broader concern about whether or not the investigation is being given the independence that it needs, that it must have.
And it's continuing to be just a tremendous source of distraction. This is an incredible important time for the president, for the White House in terms of pushing forward a legislative agenda. It's the start of the new year and we've seen just tremendous distraction coming out of the White House in a way that's not uncharacteristic of the past nearly one year now.
KINKADE: Some of that distraction is coming from the book about the president's first year in office, called "Fire and Fury," and it seems we are seeing that now being unleashed from the president on Twitter.
Just a few hours ago, I hope we can pull up this tweet, the president used the words "total loser" to describe the author of the book and "Sloppy Steve" to describe his former chief strategist, a man who Trump spoke once spoke very glowingly of. Trump said he hire only the best people.
He's now sacked quite a few of his team.
What does that say about the president's judgment?
VINJAMURI: Well, you know, I think there are a couple of things here. One is that the tweets are degrading to the office of the presidency. They're very disturbing, I think, to many people. But, of course, people are also acclimating to the tweets.
And there's an ongoing discussion of, you know, do we ignore the tweets?
Do we take them seriously?
What do we do about the tweets? There's a justification coming out of some sources for why the president's tweets aren't being screened or questions about that. So the method of communication is just deeply problematic, I think.
But, of course, yes, it raises a broader question about this very public back-and-forth between those who the president has sought at one time to have as his close advisers; even once Bannon left the White House, there was an ongoing relationship and even in the past day it's been a bit back and forth.
So it's -- again, it's a very bad sign for a president, who, again, has a very important legislative agenda to pursue. He came back, he had a success, not a popular success with the American public but a success in getting the tax plan through. He needs to push through --
VINJAMURI: -- with a spending bill, with infrastructure, all sorts of things that he wants to achieve in and very serious foreign policy issues at stake. And instead of seeing that focus and seeing that discussion, we're waking up to tweets from a president, who is in a public spat with somebody who, yes, as you say, was very, very close to him and perhaps still is.
KINKADE: And there's no doubt there is a lot on the agenda for President Trump going forward. But if you look at some of the claims in this book, Michael Wolff, the author, says those around the president treat him like a child because he acts like a child and they say he is not fit for office.
The president just a few days ago was comparing the size of the nuclear button to North Korean leader's nuclear button.
What do we make of those juvenile comments in light of the revelations in this book?
VINJAMURI: There's several things here. The book, I think, for many people, confirms what they've been feeling and seeing through the Twitter feed, through the dysfunctionality in the White House, through the public distractions, through many of the president's own comments.
As to the veracity of the specific details and stories in the book, very hard to know. The author has a checkered record. Some of the data that he uses in the book are contested by experts with respect to, say, the campaign data.
So one has to tread with a degree of caution. Nonetheless, the broader story is one that people aren't surprised by. And it raises the ongoing concern that there are very, very high-stakes foreign policy issues currently in play -- North Korea, Pakistan, Iran.
The president has been tweeting about them very erratically. The North Korean tweet, I think, is seen to be inflammatory and potentially really creating more -- making a very difficult situation perhaps worse than it needs to be. And there's an outstanding question as to what extent are foreign leaders taking these tweets seriously. We're being told that, in fact, they are taking them seriously but that they're translating them; they have teams of people translating them into local language --
KINKADE: That's a little bit of a worry, really, isn't it?
VINJAMURI: It is a worry.
KINKADE: All right. We will have to leave it there. Leslie Vinjamuri, great to have you on, thanks so much for joining us.
VINJAMURI: Thank you so much.
HOWELL: Linda, these tweets are official record of the White House.
KINKADE: Official statements from the President of the United States.
HOWELL: The Clinton Foundation is back in the spotlight as U.S. authorities are once again investigating allegations of corruption.
KINKADE: They're looking into whether the charity improperly engaged in pay-to-play politics with its donors. Our Laura Jarrett reports now from Washington.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: After months of the president clamoring for an investigation into Hillary Clinton, CNN has now learned that one does exist. But it's actually about the Clinton's family charitable foundation.
A U.S. official tells me that the FBI and federal prosecutors in Little Rock, Arkansas, are looking into whether donations to The Clinton Foundation were made in exchange for political favors while Clinton was secretary of state and whether any tax exempt funds were misused.
But this inquiry isn't entirely new. CNN reported in 2016 that FBI agents in different field offices had opened preliminary inquiries into whether there had been any improper dealings with donors but they didn't get very far and the inquiries fizzled out before Election Day and the Justice Department did agree that FBI agents could move forward if and when more evidence emerged.
Well, something changed and now there's an active probe, one the Clinton camp pretty swiftly dismissed, calling it a politically motivated sham and a spokesperson for the foundation telling us that time to time, The Clinton Foundation has been subjected to politically motivated allegations and time after time the allegations have been proven false.
But the tricky part to watch here is how the Justice Department navigates this situation as it tries to maintain independence from the president, on the one hand, while investigating his political rival on the other. (END VIDEOTAPE)
KINKADE: That was our Laura Jarrett reporting there from Washington.
HOWELL: The United States is skeptical about negotiating with North Korea but South Korea is set to meet face-to-face with their long time enemy Tuesday.
What's on the agenda?
We'll have that story for you.
KINKADE: Plus, large parts of the U.S. blanketed in snow and forecasters are warning the arctic blast is not over.
KINKADE: Welcome back.
The U.S. is reaffirming its commitment to defend South Korea against any threat from North Korea. That is the word from the U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who spoke with his South Korean counterpart on Friday.
HOWELL: That's the same day the North agreed to hold official talks with South Korea. On Tuesday, envoys will meet in the room you see here near the demilitarized zone for their first high-level meeting in more than two years.
As that face-to-face meeting between North and South Korea looms, CNN's Elise Labott spoke exclusively with the U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
KINKADE: She asked the top U.S. diplomat what it would take for the U.S. and North Korea to come to an agreement.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: North Korea now. Coming to the table.
Is that an opening maybe for talks with the U.S. or nuclear talks?
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think it's too early to tell. We need to wait and see what the outcome of their talks are. President Trump had a good call with President Moon yesterday morning, which I participated in.
Their intent is to talk about the Olympics, obviously very important upcoming event for South Korea. And the potential participation of North Korea in those Olympics. So our understanding is that's the content of the meeting. So I think it's a little early to draw any conclusions at this point.
LABOTT: But it could be a positive sign maybe that North Korea wants to engage a little bit.
TILLERSON: Well, we'll see. We'll see, perhaps. I know some are speculating that this may be their first effort to open the channel. But as you know, we've had channels open to North Korea for some time. And so they do know how to reach us if and when they're ready to engage with us as well.
LABOTT: Explain a little bit about what the policy is on North Korea because I think Americans are a little bit confused.
Do the North Koreans have to give up their nuclear program before committing to talks?
TILLERSON: Our policy is the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That is a policy that is commonly held by everyone in the region as well. The Chinese have that as a stated policy; Russia has it as a stated policy.
So regionally, all of the countries in the neighboring area as well as the international community are well aligned on the policy. How we achieve the ultimate endpoint, the final full denuclearization, the verification of that and the irreversibility of it, clearly that is going to take some time. So how we begin the talks is yet to be determined.
But we clearly need a signal from North Korea that they --
TILLERSON: -- understand these talks must lead to that conclusion.
HOWELL: So potentially thawing relations between North and South Korea.
Where does the United States fit in with all of this?
Let's bring in our international correspondent, Will Ripley, live for us in Seoul, South Korea.
Good to have you with us, Will. So from U.S. leaders, we're hearing notes of skepticism, we're hearing reminders that military options always available. Now this statement, "we'll see" from the secretary of state regarding possible talks.
But are we seeing North Korea and South Korea sideline the United States, Will, to make progress?
Or is there a sense that the U.S. pressure has played a role in this?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we've been speaking with experts who do believe that the situation, the maximum pressure on North Korea, may have been a trigger for North Korea to so quickly agree to these talks.
From the time that North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, indicated he might be willing to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics to the time these talks were agreed upon was the span of a week. That kind of speed is quite usual and it does show the North Koreans clearly are wanting to talk for a reason.
They want to get something out of this and what they want to get out of it obviously is the lifting of these increasingly tight sanctions, really unprecedented sanctions on their economy, which are limiting almost all of their legal exports and also limiting what they can bring into the country, including something very vital, especially during the winter months, which is their supply of oil.
Whether or not the United States deserves credit for that, we'll just have to see where these talks lead. These discussions on Tuesday, we're expecting to be very focused about the logistics for getting North Korean athletes and a North Korean delegation here to South Korea, just over a month from now, to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
But will they agree to further talks on other, bigger issues?
And as you heard from the U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson, there's a lot of skepticism, not just from the United States but Japanese officials and many around the world, that these talks could actually lead to some sort of a breakthrough on North Korea's nuclear program.
Because they've really dug in their heels. Conversations I've had with North Korean officials, the messaging from Kim Jong-un during his New Year's address is that, yes, they're willing to participate in the Olympics but they're also still going full speed ahead on developing ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.
HOWELL: And Will, you touch on that. Let's talk about your background for our viewers, who may not know, of course; you've been to North Korea numerous times, extensive reporting, you've talked to people there. You have a good sense of what the leadership is thinking there, Will.
This question to you for context, you've always pointed out in your reporting that North Korea wants to talk, is open to dialogue.
So is that what we're seeing here?
RIPLEY: Yes. We've been hearing for several years from discussions with the North Koreans that they do want a dialogue. They want to normalize relations with the United States. This is a goal that dates back to Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder and president, and then his successor, Kim Jong-il, and now Kim Jong-un, although he hasn't publicly stated it.
We've had discussions with officials and they've said, yes, they'd love to have normalized relations with the United States. But the rhetoric from the Trump administration, the joint military exercises that are now scheduled to begin sometime after the Olympics, makes it very difficult for North Korea to engage directly.
But given the fact that they now feel that their nuclear program has come to a certain level, where they think they have some semblance of leverage, perhaps they will be willing to sit down and try to make a deal.
But from all indications, that deal will not involve denuclearization. The North Koreans have said that perhaps they would consider denuclearization if the United States and China and Russia and the other nuclear powers gave up all of their warheads.
Obviously that's not going to happen. So there's vast differences in what each side wants to get out of this. The United States and its allies want no more nuclear weapons in North Korea. North Korea wants to be recognized as a nuclear power and they want sanctions lifted.
That's a pretty tall order, which is why perhaps that's why the focus on Tuesday is going to be very narrow, just on the Olympics for now and hopefully an agreement for future talks down the road. But whether there will be a major breakthrough, there is certainly a lot of skepticism about that.
HOWELL: Will Ripley, with the geopolitics there of what's happening. But I do want to note, Will, we're getting some information that North Korea saying they are likely to participate in the Winter Olympics. That information just crossing our newsroom. So a lot of things developing there on the peninsula.
Thank you for your reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.
KINKADE: Still to come, we'll tell you more about the author of the bestselling book that President Trump calls "boring."
HOWELL: Michael Wolff's career has been anything but boring. We'll have that story ahead. CNN NEWSROOM, live coast to coast this hour here in the United States on CNN USA and around the world live on CNN International. More news on the other side of the break.
KINKADE: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.
HOWELL: Michael Wolff is not a conventional journalist. In fact, many of his critics would argue that he's not a journalist at all.
KINKADE: But love him or hate him, Wolff does know how to generate the buzz that sells books. CNN's Randi Kaye takes a look at his colorful and controversial career.
WOLFF: This is the most extraordinary story of our time.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once a copy boy for "The New York Times," Michael Wolff is now media's favorite bad boy. At 64, Wolff is immersed in a world of media and money, power and politics.
MICHELLE COTTLE (PH), CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": He's always been very up front --
COTTLE (PH): -- about the fact that that's who he wanted to be. He doesn't have an interest in being a shoe leather reporter. He uses media reporting or, in this case, political reporting as a way to hang out with the elite, that he really is fascinated by.
KAYE (voice-over): 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'll set the scene. So he doesn't say "someone said" and then a quote. He will say, this is what they would have said or should have said in these circumstances. So it's a little bit of art that he's sticking in there, that makes it not quite a hard quote.
KAYE: In fact, Wolff has been accused of inaccuracies in his reporting over the years and his style is anything but unconventional. Cottle says that Wolff doesn't work the phones like most reporters. He doesn't go on the record and off the record, either.
In fact, she says he frowns on conventional reporting, instead choosing simply to observe and take in the atmosphere.
KAYE (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 columnists and media critic for the "Hollywood Reporter" and "USA Today."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a Michael Wolff here to see you. (MUSIC PLAYING)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Read Michael Wolff and thank your lucky stars he's not writing about you: "USA Today."
WOLFF: This is off the record.
KAYE (voice-over): Wolff once wrote a scathing book about billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, calling him "the whoremaster 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 (voice-over): 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 Rattner's house when he was writing about Rattner. And people were appalled. But he knows that readers love that stuff and controversy is his friend.
KAYE (voice-over): And that means he's in friendly confines now -- Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
KINKADE: The U.S. Secretary of state says he is sticking around for 2018.
HOWELL: Rex Tillerson recently spoke to CNN's Elise Labott and dismissed reports that President Trump wants to replace him. Here is more of what he said in that exclusive interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TILLERSON: We had a very successful, in my view, year, 2017, pivoting our policies and helping our partners understand those policies. We're now into the implementation and execution against those policies. I think we're going to have a very productive 2018.
Again, the State Department gets stronger every day, understanding what we're trying to do and I look forward to having a very, very successful 2018.
LABOTT: For the whole year?
TILLERSON: I intend to be here for the whole year.
LABOTT: Has the president given you any indication that you won't be around for a while?
LABOTT: None whatsoever? TILLERSON: None whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Tillerson also spoke at length about Russia. He admits ties have been strained with the Kremlin but thinks they can improve.
HOWELL: Here is more of what he said about Russian election meddling and areas where Washington can work closer with Moscow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TILLERSON: Well, it has been a difficult year with Russia. We clearly -- and I've said clearly, the president's stated clearly, our two nations should have a more productive relationship. Today, it's very strained for all the reasons that I think the American people will understand.
Having said that, we have maintained a constant engagement with Russia, very active engagement. We have to be very open and candid and frank with one another about what both of us -- and I think foreign minister Lavrov is as committed to trying to improve this relationship as I am.
These are difficult issues. And we have made it clear that the keystone is really Ukraine. Having said that, we have found areas of cooperation in Syria that have led to the near defeat of ISIS in Syria.
LABOTT: President Trump said that this whole Russia investigation has been a kind of drag on your foreign policy, that it hurts you with allies, that there's a lot of confusion.
How has that impacted your dealings with world leaders in terms of this cloud, if you will?
TILLERSON: It has had no impact.
TILLERSON: And I say that -- it's had none. It never comes up in our conversations or in my bilats or my dialogues with world leaders elsewhere. The domestic issues --
TILLERSON: -- around the Russia involvement in our elections are not part of our dialogue elsewhere. I think the rest of the world recognizes it is a domestic issue. It's an important one. The Russians and we talk about it and we have said to them, look, it's a problem.
LABOTT: You think they're going to try to meddle in 2018?
TILLERSON: I don't know. I hope they don't.
LABOTT: Do you have evidence (INAUDIBLE)?
TILLERSON: We have none yet. But we do know that Russia has involved themselves in other elections in Europe and elsewhere. So it is a message we convey to the Russians. The way I convey it is I don't understand why you do this. I don't understand what you think you're getting for this.
Because it's not evident to me as to how is this benefiting you --
LABOTT: Well, chaos in the United States benefits them, right?
TILLERSON: -- how is it damaging -- but it damages Russia because we're not making progress and they're not making progress with others. So we try to stay focused on the really big issues between us, which is Syria and the situation there, the situation in Ukraine and Eastern Europe and creating stability in Eastern Europe and recognize what Russia's concerns are.
And we have very important talks coming up on the START treaty and the IMF treaty as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: The U.S. secretary of state speaking with our Elise Labott there.
At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday, some very strong and very harsh words were exchanged.
The U.S. requested the session to discuss the recent anti-government protests in Iran. While most nations agreed with the U.S. ambassador's stance on human rights, others including Iran itself accused Washington of meddling in Tehran's affairs and having alternating ulterior motives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: In 2009, the world stood by passively while the hopes of the Iranian people were crushed by their government. In 2018, we will not be silent.
Once again, the people of Iran are rising up. They are asking for something that no government can legitimately deny them, their human rights and fundamental freedoms. They are calling out, think of us.
If the founding principles of this institution mean anything, we will not only hear their cry, we will finally answer it. The Iranian regime is now on notice. The world will be watching what you do.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHMO (PH), IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: It is unfortunate that, despite the resistance on the part of some of its members, this council has allowed itself to be abused by the current U.S. administration and holding a meeting on an issue that falls outside the scope of its mandate, putting on display the failure of the council to fulfill its real responsibility in maintaining international peace and security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: The Russian ambassador also chimed in, questioning whether, according to U.S. logic, the council should meet to talk about the Occupy Wall Street movement several years ago in New York.
KINKADE: Still to come, two planes collide at a Canadian airport. How passengers got out -- next.
HOWELL: Plus better bundle up. The bomb cyclone has moved on but bitter cold weather is still forecast for large parts of the United States -- and it is cold.
KINKADE: Incredible pictures. Stay with us for that.
KINKADE: Passengers returning from vacation had to rush to safety on Friday after their plane and another aircraft collided at Toronto's main airport. This orange Sunwings plane with no one on board was reportedly being towed from a gate when it burst into flames after it clipped a Westjet plane that had just landed from Mexico.
HOWELL: The 168 passengers on that Westjet plane had had to use emergency slides to get off. None were seriously injured.
All right. It is colder than anyone wants to think about in this part of the United States. It is freezing.
KINKADE: The long time host of "Jeopardy" is on medical leave after undergoing brain surgery. Alex Trebek has been the face of the popular TV quiz show since the 1980s and is familiar to fans around the world. He posted a video to update his fans on his condition. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY": During the holiday break, I had a slight medical problem, a subdural hematoma, blood clots on the brain caused by a fall I endured about two months ago. Surgery was performed. After two days in the hospital, I came home to start recovery. The prognosis is excellent.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: All right. And though the type of brain injury Trebek suffered is much more serious than "a slight medical problem," he assures his fans that he'll be back to record more "Jeopardy" episodes very soon.
We, of course, wish him very well, a quick recovery.
KINKADE: He certainly looks like he's doing well there.
Still to come, if you live in Britain, going to the coffee shop could become a little more expensive.
HOWELL: Here is why some lawmakers say that's a good thing. We'll tell you about it. Stay with us.
HOWELL: Right now in the United Kingdom, good morning to you. It is nearly 10:00 in the morning. It's freezing outside so a cup of coffee might be in order.
But what if that cup of coffee had an extra tax on it?
KINKADE: That is what a group of British lawmakers want. They want to charge the equivalent of around 34 cents of disposable coffee cups; the aim, to reduce waste.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a huge problem. Something like 2.5 billion coffee cups thrown away and not recycled each year in Britain and the number is nearly 50 billion in America.
So in Britain, there's enough cups to go around the world 5.5 times and in the United States enough to go back and forth to the moon five times. And the trouble is that these cups are both plastic and paper so can't be recycled.
So we want to put pressure on the manufacturers to produce disposable recyclable cups and consumers to reuse reusable cups. There are incentives, of course, to go to coffee outlets but only 1 percent of people use those because they're given the double incentive of having to pay, more would bring their own cups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: We took to the streets of London to see what coffee drinkers thought about this latte levy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tried to recycle them but I found out that they're not actually recyclable, which is a bit of a shock, because I thought that they were. So I'm a bit disappointed that it's not actually recyclable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They feel completely recyclable, right, they just -- they feel like cardboard. So, no, I didn't know that. And anyone that is doing what I'm doing, stop now. And if you have coffee, enough coffee, get a cup that you can recycle. And if not, stop drinking coffee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know that they were not recyclable at all, no. And that seems bonkers, absolutely mad.
But what can you do?
There's no point in penalizing the people who sell the coffee. They need to penalize the people who make the coffee cups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: That's a fair point. Although the tax would raise the average cup of coffee by 10 percent, lawmakers say the money would go towards building better recycling facilities.
Thanks so much for watching. I'm Lynda Kinkade.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Let's do it again. More news right after the break. Stay with us.