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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Trump Doubles Down On Attacks Against New Tell-All; Trump: "I Would Qualify As Not Smart, But Genius And A Very Stable Genius At That"; North Korea, South Korea To Hold Face-To-Face Talks Tuesday; White House: President Believes In Importance Of Accuracy. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired January 6, 2018 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[08:00:40]

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Happy Saturday. We're always grateful to have you with us. Very smart, very stable, maybe, even a genius, that's how President Trump is defending himself this morning as he unleashes on his critics.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Just minutes ago, the president sent out a trinity of tweets that say attempting to reshape the narrative after the scathing tell-all about his administration was released.

Let's start with CNN's Abby Phillip live in Washington. The president says that he is like really smart.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. A trinity of tweets, I really like that one, Victor. The president has been very busy on social media this morning starting with the Russia collusion story. Here's what he wrote, "Now that the Russia collusion after one year of intense study has proven to be a total hoax on the American public."

The Democrats and their lap dogs and the fake news media, mainstream media are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence. Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being like really smart.

Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and as everyone knows went down in flames. I went from very successful businessman to top tv star to the president of the United States on my first try. I would think that would qualify as not smart but genius, and a very stable genius at that."

So, the president is really taking this head on and addressing some of the chatter that has, frankly, predated this book by Michael Wolff, which delved pretty deeply into the some of the president's habits. His reading or lack thereof. His repetition of words.

We also know that Democrats on the Hill have gotten a briefing from a psychologist on this very subject and some of that is penetrating the west wing. Now, the president is actually today in Camp David, which is just north here in Washington, and he's supposed to be meeting with members of his cabinet and Republican congressional leaders.

These meetings are intended to be all about the 2018 agenda and what they want to accomplish on policy, immigration, DACA, infrastructure, for example. But instead, we've heard quite a bit from the president about this book, the Michael Wolff book that has clearly gotten underneath his skin.

The president is very angry with the revelations tweeted overnight about them and about his former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon who is quoted repeatedly in the book trashing the president and his family.

BLACKWELL: All right. Abby Phillip for us in Washington. Thanks so much.

PAUL: With us now, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times," Lynn Sweet, CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, Republican New York City Councilman Joseph Borelli, and former White House ethics lawyer, Richard Painter. Thank you all for being with us. We appreciate it.

Councilman, we'd like to start with you. Councilman Borelli, your reaction to the tweets this morning?

JOSEPH BORELLI, COUNCILMAN, 51ST DISTRICT OF NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: Well, you know, I think he's absolutely right. This is something that was used against President Reagan to try to undermine and discredit his presidency, and as someone who has actually spent time around the conference time with Donald Trump over the past two years, I can say that not only is this false, but it's false, incorrect, and it's a shame that this is a tactic that some in the Democratic Party are using to undermine the president.

PAUL: Is it necessary, Councilman, though, to talk about how smart you are, to talk how genius, how stable your mentality is? I mean, is that for him to say? Would it be better for somebody else to say it?

BORELLI: Well, I think it's not for a psychiatrist who was hired by a Democratic politician, who has never even met the president say certainly not that. But I think for the president taking the attacks head on and that's his right to do so. As far as him being a little bit of an exaggerator, that's not something the president is not known for, right?

PAUL: Richard, your reaction.

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, this tweet is indicative of the president's mentality. That saying if a public corporation, if the chief executive officer were sending out tweets like this at this time of the morning. The board of directors would have him removed from office by noon.

And yet, we tolerate this time of erratic behavior from the president of the United States, while he's in control of nuclear weapons. We have lap dogs of the Republican Party going to defend him. [08:05:09] I've been a Republican for 30 years. I used to be active in New York as a Republican, in Illinois and now in Minnesota, and this is exactly why the Republican Party is in trouble if we're going to tolerate this type of immature conduct from the president.

I'd have to say Ronald Reagan would be disgusted at the idea of people meeting with the Russians to collaborate and get dirt on their political opponent. He would be absolutely disgusted and it's really shameful where we are now in our country.

PAUL: Paul, is there an understanding, however, let me play devil's advocate, that this book by Michael Wolff, there had been a lot of people, a lot of journalists, who's come out and said there are things in this book that are factually untrue. Does the president not have a right to defend himself?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He certainly does have a right to defend himself, but it's unusual for a president to do so. There are going to be a lot of books written about Donald Trump during the course of this presidency. By the way, he's an old hand at this.

You know, there have been books written about him in the past and he's sued the authors of those books. So, he should know that kind of the smartest thing is just back off and let the story settle down and you may want to take shots at the qualifications of the journalist as to whether he really did have the sources he claims to have had.

And there's been some pushback out of the White House from a lot of people saying, hey, we never said that to Wolff. And I think it would be much smarter doing that than saying I'm a really smart guy and by the way, I'm not crazy.

If I were a lawyer defending this case, and I put a witness on the stand and the first two questions were how smart are you and are you mentally stable? They'd take my law license away. So that's not a really good way to begin your defense.

PAUL: Secretary of State Tillerson has come out and said there's no reason to question the president's mental stability. Jeff Flake from Arizona said overnight the same thing. He doesn't think there's a mental issue with the president. He just wants him to get on with the work that he does.

I want to read to you, though, if we do have the sound, producers, please let me know. Michael Wolff did an interview overnight with the BBC and he talked about the fitness, the mental fitness the president may or may not have for office. We have that. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY": Over this period that I witnessed the seven or eight months, they all came to conclusion, gradually at first and then faster and faster, that something was unbelievably amiss here. That this was more peculiar than they ever imagined they could be. And in the end, they had to look at Donald Trump and say, no, this man can't function in this job as president. He may have been elected president, but that does not turn him into president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Lynn, do you get the sense this is really about mental stability, per se or about a mental mind-set? That this is a businessman in political shoes. That he's just not used to walking in?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, I would say, I have an analysis that's a little different and that is -- this is why the tweets are so valuable because we don't have to guess to what the president is up to this morning. We've had six tweets on a variety of subjects that tell us that he is consumed with this idea of letting -- of his -- how this vulnerability, he's consumed that he's either not smart or not stable.

I think these words don't have mass distinction at this point. Psychiatrists are not making any clinical diagnosis. But the skill that allowed him to become president is not the same skill set that allows you to be president. And I think, in essence, that's what this debate is about and it's the essence of the Michael Wolff reporting here.

PAUL: So, Councilman Borelli, she makes a good point about what's happening right now. We know that the president is at Camp David. He's got the majority of his cabinet with him. They're supposed to be having conversations about 2018, the agenda, the policy, where they go from here. Would you have encouraged him to send out tweets like we've seen this morning?

BORELLI: Well, I think this is what the media is talking about right now. I mean, I certainly think the president at Camp David with all of the elected leaders of our country are discussing the policy issues of 2018, but I want to point out just how bizarre the audio was you that played.

This is a person, an author who is on television trying to convince the American public that everyone who in in the White House that works for President Trump thinks President Trump is unfit for office. That's plausible on (inaudible. Nobody actually believes them. I think the fact that we're taking the fact that in the introduction of it the author gives a disclaimer saying that everything (inaudible) it might fall.

[08:10:07] I think the fact that we're even treating this as gospel is somewhat bizarre to me.

PAUL: No, I don't think -- not everybody is treating it as gospel, let's be honest. We have journalists who are saying and as we pointed out many times this morning, a lot of people are saying I did not have the conversation --

BORELLI: Sure. I just looked "The Daily Mail" cover page of their website. There were about five or six top articles pulling excerpts from this book. That's driving the narrative, unfortunately.

PAUL: OK, but -- Lynn, go ahead.

SWEET: I just want to say, sir, it's more than that. We also have the president this morning weighing in really heavily. This is not just one string of quotes out of a book. It's layered on all of the events of the past year, all of the other analysis, and also, we have this massive now treasure trove of the tweets of President Trump which lets us know what he's thinking, sir.

And I think without those added on and in complement to the book, we wouldn't be having this discussion. And yes, when you have a book with provocative and even explosive charges, we're sorting through it. People are trying to verify and all that. So, I think let's look at this as it comes. OK. This is a first draft here of history, and the book is part of it.

PAUL: OK, but --

PAINTER: Let me just say and interject that the president --

PAUL: Go ahead, Richard.

PAINTER: I mean, people have written books about presidents, critical books, movies. George W. Bush had books written about him "Fahrenheit," "911" and so forth. Lots of things we didn't think was true. What did President Bush do? He didn't comment on it. He did his job. He didn't run around putting out public statements --

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: Councilman, let him finish. Let him finish and I'll let you respond.

PAINTER: Absolutely, childish. George W. Bush acted like an adult so did President Obama and every other president. We have a president that is acting like a 5-year-old child on Twitter. This is embarrassing for the United States. I don't care about the book. I care the Twitter feed shows in and of itself that this president is not mentally fit for office.

PAUL: Councilman Borelli, I'll give you a chance to respond.

BORELLI: Thanks. Well, we are talking about the book. I think you're well-read, Richard. Can you tell me one other book in this introduction that's a nonfiction book that has a disclaimer that saying that things are not true? You can name one other non-fiction book --

PAINTER: I'm not interested in disclaimers or books.

PAUL: Nobody here is saying that everything in this book is true. We have Maggie Haberman saying the details are often wrong and I can see several places in this book that are wrong. We have "Washington Post" reporter, Mark Berman this morning, or overnight tweeting that he was not at the Four Seasons Hotel for breakfast as was written in this book.

So, there are people who are coming out and saying, look, there are a lot of questions about the credence of what is written in this book and some things are outright wrong. I do want to move on real quickly because we only have a couple minutes, to the president at Camp David today and noticeably absent is Jeff Sessions.

We understand that a good part of the people in his cabinet are there. They're talking about legislation and policy, as well as immigration, and DACA, we believe on the agenda there. Why would Jeff Sessions not be? Is it because of everything that we've seen in the last couple of days in terms of what has happened with Jeff Sessions?

Paul Callan, your assessment there.

CALLAN: Yes, I think it certainly, Christi, demonstrates a distance now, a very vast distance between the president and his attorney general. You would expect the attorney general to be there. Sessions was one of the major moving forces behind immigration reform when he was a U.S. senator and early supporter of Trump, of course.

So, his absence just speaks volumes about the fact that I think the president wants him out. I think the president remains angry that he recused himself from the Mueller investigation and possibly, he already has in the back of his mind substituting a new attorney general if he can.

PAUL: Paul, I want you to add something for me, if it is true that people lobbied for him to stay in his position, meaning Reince Priebus and former press secretary, Sean Spicer, did anybody cross a legal line when asking Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself?

CALLAN: That line would be crossed if Mueller put together an obstruction of justice charge and he claimed that one element of the charge was the attempt to get Sessions out of the investigative chain of command because Sessions was a pro-Trump advocate.

I don't think in and of itself that makes out an obstruction of justice. I think in coordination with a lot of other things, depending upon what the special prosecutor comes up with, it could be part of a case.

[08:15:09] PAUL: All righty, Lynn, Paul, Joseph, Richard, I know your time is precious. We appreciate you giving some of it to us. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: North Korea agrees to face-to-face talks with the South, but some skeptics have their doubts that Kim Jong-un has peacemaking on his mind.

Also, we'll take a closer look at this statement by the White House this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president absolutely believes in the First Amendment, but as we've said before the president also believes in making sure that information is accurate before pushing it out as fact when it certainly and clearly is not.

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WHITFIELD: Well, new this morning, South Korea says it has spoken by phone with North Korea once again. Seoul has given Pyongyang a list of delegates who will attend talks between the two countries that happens on Tuesday.

BLACKWELL: It will be the first high-level face-to-face discussions between the North and South in two years. Some are asking could this pave the way for a future sit down with the U.S. CNN spoke exclusively with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He said it's too early to tell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Some are speculating that this may be their first effort to open a channel. But as you know, we've had channels open for North Korea for some time and so, they do know how to reach us when -- if and when they're ready to engage with us as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Will Ripley is following the very latest from Seoul, South Korea, for us. Will, there's a lot to talk about. Set the parameters, frame everything for us.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is certainly significant that these talks will be happening on Tuesday and what's particularly interesting to me is the timing here. From the moment that Kim Jong-un mentioned in his New Year's address that he's willing to potentially have talks with South Korea, South Korea made the offer.

And in five business days, an extraordinarily quick amount of time they actually set a date for talks. North Korea normally isn't so keen to schedule these talks that quickly and it shows they have motivation here to speak.

And some experts that I've been talking to here in Seoul say that that motivation could very well be the increased pressure that they're facing because of the sanctions. Sanctions that have been pushed in large part by the Trump administration.

So is this maximum pressure leading North Korea to feel that they have to sit down and try to start to talk with South Korea, in hopes that perhaps the South will try to convince the United States to ease some of these sanctions and economic pressure before things really go downhill in 2018 and beyond.

CNN did speak with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talking about the climate right now and where these talks could potentially lead, even though there's still a lot of skepticism.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll, of course, be watching those talks on Tuesday. Will Ripley for us in Seoul. Will, thank you so much.

PAUL: So, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the Trump administration backs Iranian protesters including their calls for a peaceful transition of government.

BLACKWELL: He says the U.S. is also considering additional sanctions on Iran if they do not change their behavior. The secretary is the latest in a string of White House officials to condemn the Iranian government since demonstrations that you see here broke out across the country last week. Now, this is coming nearly a year after then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn put Iran on notice following a ballistic missile test launch.

All right. So, the White House says the president believes in deciphering the accuracy of information before it's put out. Next, something a little different. We'll take a closer look at that claim by revisiting one of my childhood frustrations.

PAUL: President Trump is saying Steve Bannon has been dumped like a dog after Bannon was quoted slamming the president in the book "Fire and Fury." We'll tell you what else he's saying about his old ally.

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[08:25:46]

BLACKWELL: Do you remember this party game at kids' birthdays and baby showers. There's a big jar of candy, everyone tries to guess how many pieces are in a jar. I'd stare and try to estimate based on size and shape, but in the end, it really was just a guess.

And the person who guesses correctly or gets closest wins the jar. Now I was way off always. I was so bad, but something happened this week that led me to this, a jar of gum balls. Interestingly it was something that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: The president absolutely believes in the First Amendment. But as we've said before the president also believes in making sure information is accurate before pushing it out as fact when it certainly and clearly is not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: A commitment to making sure information is accurate before speaking it as fact. Listen, objectively, that simply does not correspond with the president's record and there are hundreds of recent examples.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what's happening last night in Sweden, Sweden. Who would believe this, look back there, the live red lights turning those suckers up fast?

In Florida, getting hit eye were the strongest winds recorded.

If you look at President Obama and other presidents most of them didn't make calls.

It's the largest tax cut in the history of our country.

We have essentially repealed Obamacare.

We have signed four legislations than anybody. We broke the record of Harry Truman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Now, that's just a few of them. According to the fact- checker blogger of "Washington Post" President Trump has made 1,950 false and misleading statements since January 20th, 2017, inauguration day. Think about that, 1,950. That's an average of more than five a day.

At this pace, he'll hit 2,000 the first year in office. That's stunning but also hard to grasp. So, I thought how do I make something conceptual like a false statement, concrete, tangible, and then I remembered that game I hated as a kid, the jar of gum balls, 1,950. Stand by.

Two jars, have we reached yet, 1,950? Not yet. Watch. I move it over here. Three. Are we there yet? Stand by. When I was a kid, I never knew how many gum balls were in those jars, but in these four 1,950, I know because I put them there. I just wanted you to know what that looks like.

So, when the White House touts the president's commitment to accuracy and facts. Remember his record, 1,950. All right, joining me now, Joseph Borelli. Trump supporter and Republican commentator, Richard Painter, former Bush White House ethics lawyer, and CNN contributor, Michael D'Antonio, author of "The Truth About Trump."

And Michael, let me start with you, you're the Trump biographer here, the number itself is pretty stunning, but there's a difference between deception and just free wielding with no care for details or facts. Which one is this here from the president?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he began his life deceiving. You can talk about the number of floors in Trump Tower, which he's always overstated or his wealth which he's also always overstated. That was proven in a lawsuit, you know, he made the mistake of subjecting himself to a deposition and had to reveal that he wasn't even half as rich as he claimed.

So, this is a fellow who started out deceiving people and then, I think he lost any contact with the need to be accurate. So, he's now in an office where people count on him to speak factually. He's not accustomed to that. It's really something that's not important to him. So we're now facing a president who is a public official and leader of the free world whom we can't trust to speak accurately because I'm not sure he knows what that is.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this morning, Joseph, he tweeted out that he's, like, really smart. And that's a quote. That's not me throwing in the light. You can check the president's tweets.

Now I know you support the president's agenda. But on track according to "The Washington Post" to have made 2,000 false or misleading claims in his first year in office, that has to give you pause.

JOSEPH BORELLI, REPUBLICAN COMMENTATOR: Well, by narrow standard you would have just committed a little falsehood because it's 1950 just to be clear.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: No, exactly what I said was on track in his first year since the past 2000.

BORELLI: OK.

BLACKWELL: Which is accurately at 5.6 per day. But go ahead.

BORELLI: What "The Washington Post" is saying that are misleading statement. The number one would be repeated claim -- repeated 81 times, was them saying is the number one false statement is that the stock market is an all-time high, it needs to go up. And they're saying that's misleading because Trump had previously dismissed Obama's stock market as a bubble.

I don't think that's misleading at all. I mean, maybe it's exaggerating but then when you look at the chart of the stock market you see that the little lines are pretty much higher than they've ever been. The second most repeated --

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: You don't think there's -- that an exaggeration is misleading?

BORELLI: No, I think they're nothing compared to the whopper like if you like your doctor you can keep it on people's health care or that we're not spying on American citizens when it came to Snowden. But I just want to point out, the number two most repeated also that "The Washington Post" pointed out is that Trump saying that individual mandate that effectively killed Obamacare. That's an argument that CNN's own Chris Cillizza has made in an op-ed he gave for CNN.com on November 15th.

So, I mean, sometimes, the president can exaggerate, sometimes he can overstate. That's his personality. So I don't think that "The Washington Post" is being pretty clear about what they're actually tracking. BLACKWELL: Richard, to you, and the discussion of legislation, as I

pointed out Joseph supports -- or councilman, I should say, supports the president's agenda. But there are of course these concerns about the president's relationship with truth. How does that number, that growing number of false statements and misleading statements impact his ability to get legislation passed?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: I think it will. Because people know that he doesn't tell the truth. In his home state of New York alone where they exact another pathetic remnants of what used to be a great Republican Party in New York, nobody trusts Donald Trump. The bankers don't trust him. That's why they won't lend him any money. $900 million or so worth of casino bonds unpaid on that Atlantic City project when he said he was confident he could pay back the investors.

People do not trust Donald Trump. We wonder where he's getting his money because Americans in the financial community, the business community, do not trust him. And we knew about this before the election. And we now have our president who people don't trust.

You've just been keeping track of the lies that have been told since he entered public life in the political arena. But he's had a serious problem with the truth for a very, very long time. And I think the Republican Party is going to be very, very big trouble, if we don't face up to the fact that that he is not fit for office. We need to put Mike Pence in there and give this another try. This is not working out.

BLACKWELL: When you say unfit for office, do you mean mentally, psychiatrically unfit for office? Because we did learn this week that there was this briefing back in early December from a Yale psychiatrist with members of Congress and she has said that the president is unraveling, having not examined him herself. What's -- from what perspective are you saying he's unfit for office?

PAINTER: I think psychologically. And I don't need to rely on the opinion of the Yale psychologist or psychiatrist. I just look at the Twitter feed. When he is crawling about his button is bigger than that of North Korea, I mean, that's the way 5-years-old talk. You don't give 5-year-olds the nuclear weapons.

This is insane with the situation we're in right now. And for Republican politicians to be defending the president and his conduct instead of telling him to grow up or get out of there, it is going to be a travesty for the Republican Party and it could end in a nuclear war or something really tragic. We need to get ahead on this situation very, very quickly. Once again, I don't agree with Mike Pence on a lot of issues but he would be a lot more stable in that office than Donald Trump.

BLACKWELL: Councilman?

BORELLI: I just don't know how we can let Richard take this stand. I mean, we're talking about a "Washington Post" fact checker. And somehow he's raveled that into we're going to be facing a nuclear Armageddon.

[08:35:08] Again, I just want to go back, the number one most (INAUDIBLE) statement according to "The Washington Post" is that the stock market is at an all-time high, it continues to go up. Does Richard over there -- does he think that's -- does he think that's actually a false statement?

PAINTER: I don't care about how high the stock market is if there's a nuclear war because we have somebody in the White House who is tweeting out that his nuclear button is bigger than that of North Korea. We cannot have someone like that in the White House.

BORELLI: Right. Right.

PAINTER: And it's not going to matter where the stock market is when things go sky high. And you keep talking about fact-checkers at the "Washington Post" and so forth. We can debate each and every one of those lies. We can also talk to the casino bond holders, $900 million worth of bonds went down that he said he was confident he could pay off but the really important thing right now is, are we safe as a country with this man in the White House, in his state of mind?

BLACKWELL: All right. Let me --

PAINTER: That's what's matters.

BLACKWELL: Let me get Michael back into the conversation.

Michael, you are a Trump biographer. I want your reaction to "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House." You know, there are several concerns from people who are either quoted in the book or having been described as being in places who say they were not there or did not say certain things.

Your reaction to just the last 72 hours, after the first quote came out about what Steve Bannon had said about the president.

D'ANTONIO: Well, there are a few things going on. And I think, where the book is concerned, I think Michael Wolff gets the tone right. I think that he paints a sketch of the president that's about as accurate as it could be. And this is a man who's presented himself as what he calls a comic book character. That's the president's own words. So it's very hard to get more than a sketch of him.

Where Wolff fails is when he offers details that he doesn't support well with the facts or doesn't reveal his sources. And I think that's a disservice to journalists because what it does is it opens up this crazy debate where someone could say, well, yes, there are 2,000 -- we're on track for 2,000 lies and distortions. But this one particular thing, take the stock market, for example, I'm going to argue about that for five minutes so that we all ignore the pattern of what's going on.

This is a technique. It's like saying well, President Obama lied three times. Actually it's been fact-checked that he's lied about four or five times a year. So you've got one president who lied four or five times a year. And he did, this claim about keep your own doctor. That's true. But this is a technique. It's like saying, hey, there are 50,000 head of cattle over there, but look at that sheep. This must be a sheep farm.

It's ridiculous. But it's a thing the president has done his whole life to avoid responsibility.

BLACKWELL: All right. We got to wrap it there. Michael D'Antonio, Richard Painter, Joseph Borelli, thank you so much for speaking with me this morning.

D'ANTONIO: Thank you.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So we're going to talk more about the shots the president is taking at Steve Bannon after Bannon of course was quoted slamming the president in the book "Fire and Fury." What is next for Steve Bannon? What does the future hold? We'll talk about that.

Also, the Winter Olympics 33 days away. And there was some drama at the figure skating championship. So what does that mean for the people representing the U.S., women's figure skating team. We'll talk about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:42:01] BLACKWELL: All right. It is a war of sorts in Washington. President Trump versus Steve Bannon. The president now lashing out at his former ally, saying that Sloppy Steve Bannon cried when he got fired and begged for his job. And that he's been dumped like a dog by everyone.

Now Bannon was quoted by "Fire and Fury" author Michael Wolff as saying that Trump has lost it.

PAUL: So Kurt Bardella, a political commentator and publisher of Morninghangover.com with us now.

Kurt, good to see you. Thank you for being here. First and foremost, where does Bannon go from here?

KURT BARDELLA, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Bannon is going to be on a bit of a contrition tour for the immediate future. His fate at Breitbart is being decided. The Board of Directors apparently has been meeting, discussing whether to keep him or not. The big, you know, thing to keep track of, too, is how do the Mercers feel about not just Bannon but Bannon staying at Breitbart? Does Mercer's financial support of Breitbart, is that contingent upon getting rid of Steve Bannon or are they OK with him being there and funding Breitbart and keeping that layer of separation?

You know, that's what everyone is really waiting for. It's been reported that Rebecca Mercer has been very deliberate about this. Not making any rash, quick decisions. She's already publicly spoken out about Steve, severed financial ties directly with him and his specific projects. But that doesn't mean that she wants to still support Breitbart. So I think a lot of the attention is where that goes next, what the Mercers want. And Steve is going to lay low and probably try to avoid talking about this as much as possible.

PAUL: OK. I want to read a quote from you, you said, "Some might have expected or even hoped for Bannon respond to Trump's tantrum in kind to give Trump the Breitbart treatment, which usually consists of a blitz of negative stories and commentaries on its home page. That's not happening."

Why do you think it's not happening?

BARDELLA: I think it became very clear very early that Steve put himself in an incredibly precarious spot. He was clearly blindsided by the Wolff excerpts coming out when they did. I think everybody was frankly. And instead of wanting to create a war with Trump, remember, people call it a war, but it's kind of one-sided right now. It's Donald Trump pummeling Steve Bannon and Bannon is not returning fire which is incredibly uncharacteristic of the Steve Bannon that we've come to know.

PAUL: Is he trying to save himself?

BARDELLA: Absolutely he's trying to save himself. He's just kind of try to wait it out, hope that he can get another second lease on life here. And by not engaging --

PAUL: But that's my question. Save himself for what? What is his plan? Where does he want to be?

BARDELLA: To keep his -- to preserve his spot at Breitbart. And I think right now he knows that as long as he has that platform at Breitbart he can still try to be impactful, he can try to rebuild, he can use it to try to kiss up to Donald Trump and make amend. If one thing that we've learned over time is that Trump is very susceptible to making up with people. He blasts people. He attacks them.

His own attorney general, half the Republicans in the Senate. But at over time that can evolved and just because he hates you today doesn't mean he won't embrace you tomorrow. And I think Steve is banking on that.

PAUL: So I want to read another quote from you. You said, "Breitbart's savvy treatment of its own reporter as a sop to Trump with whom the news outlet was closely aligned was a major wakeup call but it took the reality of the Trump administration to force me to confront some of the ugly realities about the GOP that for years I completely ignored because that was my team."

[08:45:13] Explain that to us.

BARDELLA: Well, one of the things I've learned in my own professional career, I've been in D.C. now since 2006. And I've worked for Republicans in the House, the Senate, and was a consultant as you know of Breitbart. And when you're in it every day, it's very easy to think about what's going on almost as a competition. It's us versus them. It's us trying to beat them. Our bosses, their future, their success is our success.

And it took me to removing myself from that to really understand that. And then to have the ability to think outside of my own comfort zone, to explore what I personally feel about different issues, you know, after spending almost a decade talking for other people it was incredibly liberating to wake up one day and not have to do that. And I have the luxury and the freedom to be able to explore what I believe. And that's really why I left the Republican Party and joined the Democratic Party.

PAUL: OK. So when it comes to what is in the future for Bannon, we kind of have to look backwards. Do you believe there was an inevitability that these two were going to break apart? And how will President Trump's agenda look moving forward without Bannon?

BARDELLA: I think it was inevitable that these two larger-than-life forces and egos collided with one another. And you look back to last February when Steve was on the cover of "TIME" magazine. And then shortly after that, he got code billing in a different book about Trump and the campaign that was written by Bloomberg's Joshua Green called the "Devil's Bargain," and those things set Trump just crazy that his subordinate was getting equal billing with him.

Steve is a boss. He's not meant to work at the pleasure of anybody, he's not meant to serve anybody. And during his time at the White House, it became very clear that that was not a role that he was going to do well or succeed in. And that's why this friction ultimately erupted.

I think going forward Trump is going to look like Trump. I mean I think one of the real takeaways from this period of time right now is that with Bannon kind of sidelined and neutered, Republicans won't have the well, Steve Bannon is an (INAUDIBLE), he's steering Trump this way, he's playing to Trump's worst instincts and that's why so many of these crazy things happen. People will now see it's Trump being Trump. Trump is this crazy. He is this unfit for office. There's no one else you can put that at other than Donald trump and Republicans are going to own that.

PAUL: All right. There's a base of people that think otherwise.

Kurt Bardella, thank you. We appreciate your input and your insight in this. Thank you.

BARDELLA: Thanks so much for having me.

PAUL: Sure.

BLACKWELL: All right. Two commercial airplanes collide, and this was in Toronto. We've got information about the people on those planes and we'll tell you how this happened.

PAUL: Also, are the New England Patriots on the brink of breaking up, Andy Scholes?

(LAUGHTER) ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, exactly, Christi. Could this be the last year of Brady and Belichick? I'm going to tell you what the team had to say about reports of dissension in the ranks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:51:09]PAUL: All right. This could be a frightening situation when two commercial jets collided on the ground at Toronto International Airport last night.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And imagine the weather. Look at this. We've got some video here of these two planes that collided. Good news, no one was injured. There was a small fire, forced them to evacuate dozens of passengers. This happened when one of the planes backed out while the other was being towed. Now there were 168 passengers and six crew members on one of the planes. The other one, fortunately, was empty.

PAUL: So the NFL playoffs start today. Could this be the final run for the New England Patriots?

BLACKWELL: Say it ain't so. Hear the (INAUDIBLE). Andy Scholes is here with more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

SCHOLES: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, the trio of quarterback Tom Brady, coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft, they've really built the -- you know, one of the greatest dynasties we've ever seen in NFL history. But according to an article by ESPN, despite five Super Bowl trophies, their relationship has soured. So much so that the article suggests that this could be the final year for the trio and either Belichick or Brady may move on after this season.

Now the Patriots released a statement in response to the article saying they remain unified and that stories about dissention among them are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat-out inaccurate. Now the Patriots have a bye in the first round of the playoffs this weekend.

All right. It looks like Jon Gruden is finally leaving the "Monday Night Football" boot to return to coaching and he's doing it to return to his former team, the Oakland Raiders. According to ESPN, Gruden is going to get the richest deal ever for an NFL head coach, 10 years, $100 million. Now Gruden coached the Raiders for three years from 1998 to 2001 before moving on to Tampa Bay where he won a Super Bowl.

All right. Monday night's National Championship game in Atlanta between Georgia and Alabama is the most expensive college football ticket ever. And it kind of makes sense considering, as they say, home game for Georgia and the Bulldogs are playing for their first national title since 1980.

Right now the cheapest ticket just to get into the stadium is going for more than $1400. That's actually down from earlier in the week when the cheapest ticket was nearly $2,000. Just to sit in the nose bleeds as Georgia and Alabama, they hit the field Monday night at 8:00 Eastern. All right. The USA Skating Selection Committee announcing the three

women that will representing Team USA at the Olympics. 19-year-old Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu, who will be going for the second time, and 18-year-old Karen Chen will be this year's trio. They finished first, second and third at the U.S. Figure Skating Championship last night.

Now Ashley Wagner who took home bronze in the team event in Sochi. she said she was furious with the judges after she finished fourth in the competition. Despite finishing fourth, the 26-year-old said she deserved to be on the Olympic team. The Selection Committee, they decide which three athletes will represent the U.S. in the Olympics. And four years ago, the committee actually picked Wagner over Nagasu even though she finished fourth in the event.

But not this year, guys, they went with who went finished first, second and third. Four years ago, there was some controversy when they put Wagner in even though she wasn't in the top three.

PAUL: Yes, that would. All right. Thank you, Andy. So much.

All right.

BLACKWELL: Well, one --

PAUL: Just numbers?

BLACKWELL: Yes. One --

PAUL: Are you going to sing it?

BLACKWELL: No, I'm not. I was going to and then I heard the first note, that's it. Bad idea.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKWELL: One cannot be the loneliest number after all especially if you're the lucky person who won the mega millions jackpot last night.

PAUL: Yes. The winning ticket sold in Florida.

BLACKWELL: Hey, Florida.

PAUL: Yes, look at him. Hey, Florida.

BLACKWELL: Hey, Florida.

PAUL: I know, a lot of people there. Are you going to share? No word on who won the jackpot or where in Florida it was sold. But it lasted, this jackpot, 23 straight drawings and no winner until last night.

BLACKWELL: Mega Millions pot may be relatively empty right now and relatively because it's still millions of dollars.

PAUL: Yes. BLACKWELL: But you still have a shot at more than a half billion

dollars, $570 for the Powerball Jackpot. The next drawing for that game is tonight at 11:00 Eastern.

[08:55:07] PAUL: So, you see, there's a chance.

BLACKWELL: So, you say there's a chance.

PAUL: There's a chance. Yes, there is.

BLACKWELL: All right. For those who are, you know, not so lucky, you may want to work from home this weekend, given the frigid temperatures.

PAUL: Yes, it's that cold that was President Trump's justification for beaming into the White House press briefing via video. Yes.

BLACKWELL: A little chilly.

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: I know. Even though the Oval Office is just down the hall.

BLACKWELL: It is.

PAUL: Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump crossed --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The final frontier --

MOOS: Getting beamed up to the White House briefing?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have a message from a special guest that I'd like to share with you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for being with us today.

MOOS: There he was on the video screens, pre-recorded, reciting benefits from the tax cut.

TRUMP: These great results are just the beginning.

MOOS: As Sarah Sanders stood by a bit awkwardly.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Here he is pops up on this giant video screen behind Sarah Sanders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like 200 steps from the Oval Office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two hundred steps if you have a small stride. MOOS: "Trump so afraid of questions he appears at the press briefing

via pre-taped video?" Taunted a critic on Twitter. Well, he did avoid some zingers.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- that he's mentally unfit to serve as president?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are there mental acuity tests that go along with that?

MOOS: Read one tweet, "Trump's giant head at this presser makes me think of the Wizard of Oz. Somebody, pull down the curtain."

But there was no curtain-grabbing Toto.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The great Oz has spoken.

MOOS: To disturb the stage craft at the briefing.

TRUMP: Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you, Mr. President.

MOOS: Instead of making the trek from the Oval Office, the president made like "Star Trek."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready to beam up, Jim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Energizing.

MOOS: Hail to the star chief.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Like only Jeanne Moos can.

BLACKWELL: Only Jeanne Moos.

That's it for us. Stay with us, though.

PAUL: Yes, "SMERCONISH" starts right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)