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President Trump Criticizes Bin Laden Raid Admiral; Ivanka Trump Used Personal Account for E-mails About Government Business; President Trump Caves, Fully Restores Jim Acosta's Press Access; President Trump Slams Congressman Using Vulgar Tweet; President Trump: I Probably Won't Sit For Mueller Interview; Federal Air Marshals Accused Of More Than 200 Gun Mishaps. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired November 19, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:12] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: John Berman here, in for Anderson.

Remember the chants of "lock her up?" Well, someone else now has an e-mail problem, and she's close to the president, as close as his own daughter. We'll have that breaking news shortly.

First, think about your thoughts the day after the 9/11 attacks. Do you remember how you felt when the president, George W. Bush, stood at Ground Zero and said this?


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people --


And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.



BERMAN: How did you feel back then? And how about on this day, nearly ten years later?


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who's responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.


BERMAN: If you were as relieved and proud to hear President Obama say those words as you were angry and proud when President Bush spoke into that bullhorn, you wouldn't be alone. Osama bin Laden wounded this country in a way that could not fully heal until he was captured or killed. People haven't forgotten that.

We haven't forgotten this famous photo from the Situation Room as the raid on bin Laden took place. Nor the sacrifices that made this moment possible. Nor the work of SEAL Team 6 and our gratitude that they all came home safely -- gratitude for everyone who made their mission possible because it helped heal this horrible wound we all lived with so long.

You would think, therefore, that no one would have anything but a kind word for anyone involved with that operation. Let alone the admiral who oversaw it all.

However, there is an exception. He happens to be commander-in-chief. President Trump has a beef with retired Admiral William McRaven, the man in charge of SEAL Team 6 and all Special Operations at the time. And it really shouldn't be necessary to mention he literally wrote a fundamental textbook on Special Ops.

We shouldn't have to say that he retired a highly decorated commander, nor that he went on to become the highly respected chancellor of the University of Texas System. We shouldn't have to say that he left that job earlier this year to battle chronic leukemia. Or that he is widely regarded by Republicans, Democrats, civilians, soldiers, and academics as the opposite of a political animal.

We shouldn't have to say any of it, except the president of the United States has made Admiral McRaven a target of his ire.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Bill McRaven, retired admiral, Navy SEAL 37 years, former head of U.S. Special Operations --


WALLACE: Special Operations --

TRUMP: Excuse me. Hillary Clinton fan.

WALLACE: Who led the operations, commanded the operations that took down Saddam Hussein and that killed Osama bin Laden, says that your sentiment is the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime.

TRUMP: OK, he's a Hillary Clinton backer, and an Obama backer. And frankly --

WALLACE: He was a Navy SEAL --

TRUMP: Wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that? Wouldn't it have been nice? Living -- think of it. Living in Pakistan, beautifully in Pakistan in what I guess they considered a nice mansion. I don't know. I've seen nicer.


BERMAN: That's the president this weekend on Fox News. The apparent trigger? Admiral McRaven's criticism of the president's

attacks on the press.

OK. We know the president is a counter-puncher. That's what his defenders, that's how they frame it.

But keeping them honest, nothing the president hits back with in this case, if that's what he's doing, has the weight of truth behind it. Just the opposite.

His suggestion that Admiral McRaven's special operators were responsible for locating bin Laden? Not true. The CIA and others were. SEAL Team 6 got its orders on the 29th of April, 2011, less than two days later, bin Laden was dead.

As for his claim that Admiral McRaven is or was in his words a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer? Well, it's kind of the same thing as saying that the current head of special operations is a Trump backer.

Admiral McRaven served during the Obama administration and the Bush administration. He backed neither. Democrats and Republicans who know him know that and have said so. Yet, today, the Republican Party tweeted, worth noting after recent comments, retired Admiral William McRaven was reportedly on Hillary Clinton's short list for vice president in 2016.

He's been critical of President Trump even dating back to the 2016 campaign. He's hardly a non-political figure, they say.

Well, keeping them honest, part of that is true. Admiral McRaven was briefly mentioned as a running mate for Hillary Clinton. He was also mentioned as a possible national security adviser to President Trump. And again, colleagues of all stripes have praised him as being non- partisan.

So, is the president projecting here just a little bit? You can decide for yourself.

[20:05:00] Does the president project at times? Does he try to diminish in others the kind of qualities that he himself lacks? Well, take a look.


TRUMP: He's not a war hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a war hero, 5 1/2 years --

TRUMP: He is a war hero -- he's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured. OK? I hate to tell you.


BERMAN: The president has also mocked Gold Star parents. And today, he seemed to say that none of what those parents' child died for, none of the risks that SEAL Team Six took, none of the fighting, none of the dying, would have been necessary if the country had only listened to him.

Listen to what he tweeted today: Of course, we should have captured Osama bin Laden long before we did. I pointed him out in my book just before the attack on the World Trade Center. President Clinton famously missed his shot. We paid Pakistan billions of dollars and they never tell us he was living there. Fools.

He seems to be saying he warned us all, but no one listened. Think about that. As you remember how you felt on 9/11. Read the book, he says, then you'll see.

Well, keeping them honest, we did read the book. It's called "The America We Deserve." And here's the passage in question: One day we're told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin Laden is public enemy number one and U.S. jet fighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock and a few news cycles later, it's on to a new enemy and a new crisis.

That's all. That's it. Not exactly Paul Revere's midnight ride. Not even Mr. Toad's wild ride.

And there's more to the story. CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now with the very latest.

Jim, President Trump seemed to pivot from his attacks as the day went on, on Admiral McRaven. What is he saying now?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did because there was a lot of bipartisan criticism coming in, John, after he went after Admiral McRaven. He put out tweet as you mentioned a few moments ago going after Bill Clinton saying, well, the Clinton administration missed their shot to take out Osama bin Laden.

U.S. forces, U.S. intelligence as you know, John, they did try to take out bin Laden in the late 1990s, but the president neglects to mention obviously that 9/11 happened under President George W. Bush and the Obama folks would argue that they put the focus back on capturing or killing bin Laden when Barack Obama came into office.

And, John, I should point out this is just not outraging Democrats. It's also outraging Republicans. I talked to a GOP congressional aide, a key GOP congressional aide earlier this evening who said this is pathetic, quote, pathetic coming from the president. And as you mentioned, John, not even accurate as U.S. intelligence was in charge of finding bin Laden. But it was the Navy SEALs who are under the command of McRaven who got him.

BERMAN: And, Jim, it's important to note out, what the president is saying now is different than what he was saying when bin Laden was actually killed. Correct?

ACOSTA: That's right. We talked about this before. There's a tweet for everything. In this case there's actually a statement for everything. The president when he was then citizen Trump, then businessman Trump,

told our colleague Maggie Haberman over at "The New York Times" back in 2011 after the bin Laden raid was successful and took out Osama bin Laden, he gave a statement to Maggie had she was over at "Politico" saying, listen, I want to congratulate President Obama and U.S. forces on a job well done.

That is a pretty big departure from what he's been saying the last 24 hours, John.

BERMAN: A job well done overseen by Admiral William McRaven.

Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you so much.

Joining us now, someone who served with the admiral, retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Also, CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot, author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."

General Hertling, I want to start with you, because President Trump maintains that he has, quote, done more for the military than any president in many, many years and that nobody has been more with the military than he has as president. So how does that square with what he is now saying about Admiral McRaven?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'm not sure it does square. Certainly, there has been a key budget increase over the last year, not truthfully all that significant compared to past budget increases.

But I'm trying to kind of square that with, you know, the way he has coordinated with our allies, the ways he has made it tougher in some cases for our military to maintain those alliances, to counter some of the things that are going on around the world, the broadening of various threats and how we are addressing them from a national security standpoint, the Veterans Administration. There has been a lot of talk about fixing some of the shortcomings there, but not a whole lot of action. In fact, just this week I know you have seen the other scandal that's occurred with G.I. bill payments.

So there is this continued mantra of gee, the military is so much better. I'm not sure it is. And in fact, one of the concerns I have is the continued politicization of the military. Who's on the left? Who's on the right? That's all being generated by politicians, not the military themselves because they swear their oath to the Constitution.

But this is damaging to men and women who wear the uniform. They sign up to do a job.

[20:10:00] They don't fight for one individual. They support and defend the Constitution of the United States. And the politicalization of the military, the intelligence community and law enforcement is increasingly dangerous in my view.

BERMANN: I'll come back to that in just a second. Max Boot, to you. Because as the president somehow comes across and

comes up with this criticism of the bin Laden raid, you know this falls neatly into a pattern that this president has, which is making his career on second-guessing.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, he is a genius at decision making but only after the facts. He loves to come back and say, I would have done something differently. You saw it during the -- after the Parkland shooting where he said I would have run into the school and confronted the shooter. You saw him after the California forest fire saying it was mismanagement. They should have raked the forest.

You even saw it after game 4 of the World Series where he said the Dodgers made a mistake in yanking their starting pitcher. And the implication is that Donald Trump, omniscient, all-knowing, he would have done something differently.

And there is zero evidence of that in this -- in any of these cases including this one with Admiral McRaven because there is no evidence as you pointed out that he ever actually said we needed to be going after Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. All he said in that passage you correctly quoted was there's this guy out there named bin Laden and he's getting a lot of attention but then we move on to something else.

So, now, he's trying to suggest that -- almost as if I Donald Trump had given the CIA's GPS coordinates and they didn't do anything about it, which is absurd.

BERMAN: Yes. Sort of like Casey Stengel, Smokey Bear and Rambo all wrapped up in one when he's retroactively looking at --


BOOT: This is like the Walter Mitty of presidents.

BERMAN: Mark Hertling, General, when you talk about the politicization of the military, that's serious. No one thinks the military is above reproach and doesn't deserve criticism at times.

HERTLING: Absolutely.

BERMAN: However, the president seems to be looking at it exclusively through a political lens and in this place perhaps a very misplaced political lens when dealing with Admiral McRaven.

HERTLING: Yes. And some in the military are picking up on that and it is unfortunate that some are even gearing this way.

We're seeing people choosing left and right who are wearing the uniform. And having worn the uniform for almost four decades, John, I countered -- I counted this afternoon how many presidents I served under. I had to forcibly count that. It was five Republicans and three Democrats.

And Bill McRaven was in the same time I was. So I would guess he served under those same kind. It didn't make a difference to me during those times. We served the Constitution and at the pleasure of the president as long as they were giving legal and moral orders.

But, unfortunately, the president continues to use the military as props. He likes to stand in front of them. He likes to use them for parades or hopeful parades and change policy that seems to go along with an ideology that's not in line with what the military does and what we have built in terms of the strength of the military.

And what's dangerous in all this is less than 1 percent of America serves in the military. So people are commenting about what the military should and should be -- what they should and shouldn't think, who they should and shouldn't support, it's -- all I can say is it's dangerous because we built a very strong military over the last 40 years. And it's coming under quite a bit of criticism from our president right now which is unfortunate.

BERMAN: So, Max, General Hertling notes that president Trump likes to use the military as props. That's what he says. Critics over the last two weeks have noted that may be true except if it's raining in France or if it's Veterans day and he doesn't want to go over to Arlington, or if there is a general who has been critical of him. It's interesting.

BOOT: He is very quick to throw the military under the bus, at the first opportunity. He likes to posture, he loves "my military," and the primary evidence for that is the fact that he signed off on higher defense budgets that really came from Republicans on Capitol Hill. But he's not going to inconvenience himself by going to a war cemetery in France if it's raining. He didn't budge out of the White House on Veterans Day.

And the worst thing -- he also, by the way, has not visited the troops in the field. I mean, he spent over four months of his presidency at Mar-a-Lago, at Bedminster. He has not spent one day visiting the troops in the field, which all previous presidents have done.

But the worst thing he's done and to the point that General Hertling was making, is politicizing the military with this crackpot deployment of troops to the border for no reason other than to serve as a political stunt. And I notice today, the Army said those troops were going to go home even though the caravan has not actually reached the border, which underlines the fact that there was no military necessity for this deployment. And that is a very dangerous precedent, using the troops for political purposes.

BERMAN: It is interesting because as we started the segment with we noted the president seems to suggest, he's got the full backing of the military, he says "my military," "my generals." But he did backtrack on something today, and it was the fact that he did not visit Arlington on Veterans Day. He said he should have. You almost never see the president admitting a mistake. He admitted a mistake, in that case.

[20:15:01] And I do wonder if it's because he is starting to get some criticism from within this group of people whose support he's perhaps taking for granted.

HERTLING: That could possibly be true, John, but I also think it's an understanding that he's losing the trust and confidence of those who wear the uniform. An interesting factor is, you know, leadership is all about generating that trust. That only comes when you say the right things, do the right things and put yourself in harm's way. Certainly, a president wouldn't do that.

But the troops need to know that he is on their side. They need to know that they can trust him and that he has an integrity. And these continued incidents like this I think are wearing away at that trust. We are seeing that in some of the polls taken within the military in terms of percentages supporting Trump right now as opposed to when he was first elected and the different services. That also all concerns me, as well.

BERMAN: General Mark Hertling, as always we thank you for your time and your service. Max Boot, thanks for being here as well. Appreciate it.

Next, Ivanka Trump's e-mail problem. Yes, you heard that right. Ivanka Trump using private e-mail for official government business problem.

Later, the White House backs down in the legal clash with CNN over press access and calls for decorum. But is the president listening? We've got a tweet to help you decide.

Plus, David Gergen and Carl Bernstein.

Stick around.


[20:20:27] BERMAN: There's some breaking news. The president certainly has had plenty to say over the years about Hillary Clinton's e-mails, and his fans still yell "lock her up" at rallies. It will be interesting to see what if anything he has to say about this.

As it turns out, his daughter Ivanka used her personal e-mail account for government business. "The Washington Post" was the first to report this story tonight. "Washington Post" reporter Josh Dawsey joins me now.

So, Josh, exactly how many e-mails are we talking about here? And what did Ivanka Trump use her personal e-mail for?

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: She used personal e-mail to e-mail White House aides, cabinet officials, others in the government about government business from her West Wing office and from the administration. And in those e-mails, White House review found that many of them were in violation of the Federal Records Act, which requires government business to be done on government e-mails.

BERMAN: What timeframe are we talking about here? This is just before she officially entered the administration and shortly after? DAWSEY: And after. It goes into fall 2017.

The administration did a review late last year in response to a number of Freedom of Information Request Acts for documents from the public and found there had been a number of e-mails from Ivanka Trump sent from her personal account about government business. Her lawyer Abbe Lowell was called in to do a review and to make sure that everything was eventually forwarded to a government account where it could be safeguarded and kept.

BERMAN: Do you have any kind of response from the White House about this yet?

DAWSEY: The White House declined to comment. They referred all questions to Abbe Lowell, her outside lawyer.

In our story, we included his comments. He said it was rare that she did it, it was occasional, and it was not like Hillary Clinton's e- mail use, according to her lawyer. It was far less frequent and there was no server in her basemen basement. So, we put in pretty extensive comments tonight in the story from her lawyer.

BERMAN: One of the similarities is that her own personal lawyer was the one who was the initial vetter, vetted those e-mails and decide what'd was turned over to the government and what was not. And there will be. There already have been comparisons between Ivanka Trump's e-mails and Hillary Clinton's use of her personal e-mail.

What are the differences here?

DAWSEY: Well, we have no proof there was classified information sent from Ivanka Trump's e-mail. Obviously, with the reclassification that was done on Hillary Clinton's afterwards, they determined that some of the documents could have been classified.

We think it was less frequent than Hillary Clinton's e-mail use, is our understanding of the situation, John. And that it eventually stopped when she was told to stop. We're told she stopped doing it now.

Obviously, we're still continuing to report and figure out if there's more to the story. So, we'll bring it to you, of course.

BERMAN: One of the things I read in the article that you wrote, Josh, is that people inside the White House were not just surprised about the volume of personal e-mail use, but also her initial explanation, which was what exactly?

DAWSEY: Well, people in the White House were startled by the fact that she seemed to be the highest offender, who had sent most of the e-mails. When they approached her about it, she essentially expressed ignorance of the rules, said that she did not know that all of them had to be done on the government e-mail server and basically said she did not realize she was so in the wrong.

That surprised so many folks in the White House, John, because obviously her father ran a campaign where chanting "lock her up" over Hillary Clinton's use of e-mails was a central theme of the campaign.


DAWSEY: So it seemed startling to people in the White House that she would not have had more foresight to preserve her e-mails through a government server.

BERMAN: It is hard to imagine anyone who lived through 2016 being surprised by rules surrounding personal email use for government work.

Josh Dawsey, thanks so much for the reporting. Appreciate you being with us.

DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: With me now, two former federal prosecutors, CNN Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and Legal Analyst, Anne Milgram.



BERMAN: Is Ivanka Trump in legal trouble?

TOOBIN: No, I doubt it. Because I think most people realize that government officials do use their private e-mail occasionally. Hillary Clinton did it, too. It is not fundamentally a big deal.

The news media made it a big deal. Donald Trump made it a big deal. But this is not a -- it's technically not within the rules, but everybody in government does it.

This is the problem. This is why Hillary Clinton got a very raw deal.

BERMAN: May not be illegal, but in terms of irony off the charts.

TOOBIN: Oh, my god. It's just -- and I feel personal responsibility for this as well. I spent a lot of time here on CNN talking about Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

And I think we talked about it too much. I think we made a bigger deal than it should have, but it -- I mean, it fundamentally is not that big a deal. It's not that big a deal for Ivanka and it shouldn't have been that big a deal for Hillary.

BERMAN: So, Anne, Ivanka Trump's attorney says she did occasionally use her private e-mail for business and says that none of the e-mails contained classified information.

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So one of the things that came up a lot with secretary Clinton was were the e-mails classified? It looks like a number of them turned out to be been classified, retroactively. She didn't have knowledge at the time.

Here the big concern -- there are two big concerns. One is that other e-mail servers can be hacked. You want all the government security that you can have. And so, you want the e-mails to be within the government server, number one. Number two is it really becomes a question, there are always Freedom of Information Acts.

There's a reason they want to preserve all the presidential documents. And really at the end of the day, the government should control those e-mails and have access. They shouldn't have to go through someone's private lawyer.

And the one thing I think I would disagree a little bit with on Jeff is that, look, it's part of being in government. People may do it, but it really is important I think to use government e-mails. And at the end of the day, you know, the thing that's stunning about this to me is that there is incredible hypocrisy. She knew this was a huge issue. And then to go and just disregard it as though you're above the rules is problematic.

TOOBIN: The arrogance, the incredible arrogance with a little measure of stupidity, thinking that after watching this campaign which she had a pretty good seat for and then not being scrupulous about your e-mail practices is pretty remarkable.

BERMAN: She didn't know. She didn't know the rules coming in after a year of a campaign.

MILGRAM: Which just seems incredible. And having sat through all those campaign events with her father where all he talked about were personal servers and personal e-mails. And so, it's a big difference between her and Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton should have obviously also known the rules. She was the secretary of state. But we've lived through years of this conversation nationally.

TOOBIN: And, by the way, earlier there were similar reports about Jared Kushner, her husband, doing something very similar. I mean, I think it just underlines what a phony issue the e-mail issue was about Hillary Clinton. They knew it was bogus because they did the same thing and they obviously don't think it was a big deal. I mean, it just was a bogus issue about Hillary Clinton. And you know, I think they are acknowledging in a way that it's bogus for them too.

BERMAN: What do you think the house oversight committee under Democratic leadership might do with this issue?

MILGRAM: It's very possible they would call her in to testify or call others in to testify. I think to Jeff's point he's right. I'm sure people do -- she's not the only one to do it. But at the end of the day one of the questions I have is why did it go on for so long?

BERMAN: September 2017's a while.

TOOBIN: If it were February, the month after the inauguration, okay. But for eight months -- is it eight? Eight, nine months. It's a lot.

BERMAN: No one told me there'd be math.

Jeffrey Toobin, Anne Milgram, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it. May not be the last time we have this discussion.


BERMAN: Next, the White House backs down in its clash with CNN over holding the president accountable.


[20:31:33] BERMAN: In a reversal late this afternoon, the White House dropped plans to block Jim Acosta's access to the White House. The judge last week ordered reinstated for two weeks as the case between CNN and the President now just proceeded, then came word from the White House that the pass would be revoked for two weeks or up, but now they've changed their minds. CNN has dropped the lawsuit and now the White House says it's come up with new rules on decorum when questioning the President.

Speaking of decorum, the President certainly has been busy lately on the old elector Twitter machine. Here's what he said about California Congressman Adam Schiff, Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Before I read it, decorum requires a warning. The President misspells the congressman's name and you could probably tell where this is going. I'm quoting now. "So funny to see little Adam Schitt talking about the fact that acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller who is highly conflicted was not approved by the Senate."

Joining us now, two men who've seen all kinds of behavior from all kinds of presidents and seen it from inside and out, investigative journalist and author, Carl Bernstein, and former White House senior advisor to four presidents, David Gergen.

David, I want to start with you. The President just last week said decorum was needed in the White House yet he doesn't appear to be very concerned with his own decorum regarding Congressman Schiff, does he?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he does not. Loyalty does not run both wisely to this president, nor the rules of the game or views on decorum. I must say I think this has been a significant victory for CNN and for the country. It's -- we've now reinforced through the courts and through the White House backing down. We reinforced the sanctity of the First Amendment, which was at -- what was critically at stake here. And we go back to work.

Now, what we have to see, John, is -- it's a night of ironies, by the way. An irony here is that this is a White House that has prides itself on how many regulations it has erased across the government, now putting into place a set of regulations with regard to the press.

But what we'll have to wait and see is how these regulations enforce. Are they really going to allow reporters to continue asking a follow up or not? That is critical to the operations of a free press.

BERMAN: Yes, no follow ups seem like a fairly draconian rule at a briefing.


BERMAN: Carl, back --

GERGEN: That would be draconian.

BERMAN: -- back to the issue of decorum here. If this is how the President reacts to Congressman Schiff before he takes over the House Intelligence Committee, what do you think we'll see from the President once Schiff has subpoena power?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, the whole question of the President's decorum on a daily basis in terms of traditional norms, the question answers itself, what's much more important. And the least demonstrable area where we see the President day after day with no concern for decorum is the lying.

Lying is not decorous to go back to the definition of decorum. And lying is the opposite of decorum and that's what all of these issues come back to. This is a dangerous presidency. This is nothing to make light of.

Yes, irony is dead and all the rest, but this is a dangerous presidency. It's dangerous to the truth. It's dangerous to the national security. It's dangerous to the western alliance and that's what we keep learning is the danger of this President and what he does.

[20:35:01] And now the danger also about the rules, they don't apply to him, they don't apply to his family, they don't apply to his daughter. We see one thing after another. But really lack of decorum comes back to questions of honesty and that is where there is no decorum in this White House.

BERMAN: You know, to follow up on that point, David, the President says -- or Carl Bernstein, who is not president, not yet, at least.



BERMAN: Carl Bernstein says, you know, it's nothing to make light of here in this case. How should Democrats handle it then? What's the right way to handle it? Everything from the sliding scale of the comments about Adam Schiff all the way to Ivanka Trump's e-mails, what are the risks and pit falls for them?

GERGEN: The major risk is that they've overplaying their hands. When the new Congress is voted in from the out party there is a tendency to sort of want to push forward on all fronts, all guns blazing, you know, take down their president if you can.

But as we saw as far away as Newt Gingrich coming into power in 1994 when the Republican swept the House and he overplayed his hand and it really wound up them, damaging not only him but the body itself. And this case is what's the Democrats need first and foremost to do in the next few days is to demonstrate that they can come together and bridge their differences on the choice of a speaker and on -- who is going to be doing what within the House.

So you have -- you in effect have people who emerge as spokesmen or unofficial spokesmen for the party and can carry the fight or the cooperation on to the air waves and speak incredibly about things.

BERMAN: And, Carl, you've noted that you feel as if the President is acting like he is backed into a corner now.

BERNSTEIN: I think he is. I think that the election returns were a real rejection of Donald Trump and his method, and his lying, and the way he has done the business of the presidency. I think that is really how Republicans, many of them if you talk to them on the hill in private are interpreting the election., they are worried about going forward with this president in 2020 in ways that they perhaps were not before the midterms.

But it all comes back to this question of supporting a president who cannot come to a basic truth about his business, the country's business, the business of the western alliance. We keep coming back to this notion that we don't have the best obtainable version of the truth except in our reporting and that is why this lawsuit by CNN was so important.

What has been upheld is the prerogatives of the press under the First Amendment. Yes, the White House gets to make the rules if they are applied fairly and evenly, let them promulgate rules if they are and apply them across the board in a fair manner, but we have seen nothing of this sort.

We have seen a war on truth by this President and that is what even today's events, all of this about decorum, all of this about Ivanka Trump. It's about the truth. She didn't know the rules? We keep coming back to it.

BERMAN: And I will note that no one has agreed, including CNN, to the idea of rules that don't allow follow up questions at briefing.


BERMAN: We'll see what happens there, but that's not rule. Those aren't rules that the journalist --.

BERNSTEIN: Right, very important.

BERMAN: -- journalist would agree to something like that.

BERNSTEIN: Very important.

GERGEN: David, both of you have sort of talked a little bit about Republicans here. I will note when it comes to the issue of Admiral William McRaven, which we talked about earlier in the show, Marco Rubio spoke out, Paul Ryan spoke where I have seen Republicans step forward and say directly in some cases that the President crossed the line here and other cases speaking out in support of McRaven. Do you think that Republicans if the President approaches the way that Carl suggesting he will, will take a harder stand, David?

GERGEN: I think the Republicans are now starting to distance themselves and increasing -- with increasing frequency from the President. You know, they realized that he could become a liability in the next few months, especially when Mueller comes out with their report.

And they're being -- they're beginning to speak for themselves as opposed to being held hostage by the White House, which is what we've seen a lot of in the first two years. And that's a healthy thing by and large for the Republican Party. And I think Carl is going to add something fundamental about the importance of truth.

We're going to learn tomorrow, for example. We should be hearing from the White House if what the President has finally decided about Khashoggi, in the murder of Khashoggi, and we'll see, is he going to speak the truth about this or not? So it's a really important issue again and again and again.

BERMAN: David Gergen, Carl Bernstein, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

Coming up after claiming multiple times that he was willing and eager to sit down for an interview in the Mueller investigation, the President has changed his tune. Now he says enough time has been, in his words, wasted on this. Does he have a point or is he rattled?


[20:43:54] BERMAN: The President says he has completed his written answers to questions in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation that it wasn't a big deal and that there will be submitted "at some point very soon."

As you know, the President sat down for an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News but it seems more unlikely than ever that he'll sit down for an interview with the Mueller team.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Is that your final position that there's going to be no sit down interview and nothing written or in- person on obstruction?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say probably, probably. I mean, I can change my mind, but probably. I think we've wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably. We're finished.


WALLACE: But let me ask, one in 100?

TRUMP: I don't do odds. We would -- I did very --

WALLACE: You run casinos, sir.

TRUMP: You're right. And very successfully, actually. We gave very, very complete answers to a lot of questions that I shouldn't have even been asked. And I think that should solve the problem. I hope it solves the problem. If it doesn't, you know, I'll be told and we'll make a decision at that time. But probably this is the end.


[20:45:06] BERMAN: Of course, this contradicts what the President has said many times in the past about his willingness to sit down for an interview with Mueller.


TRUMP: I would love to speak, because we've done nothing wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version?

TRUMP: 100 percent.

I would love to speak. I would love to go. Nothing I want to do more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it, actually.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath, correct?

TRUMP: Oh, I would do it under oath.

I would love to speak. I would love to. Nobody wants to speak more than me. In fact, against my lawyers, because most lawyers say never speak on anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, would you still like to testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, sir?

TRUMP: Thank you. Sure, I would like to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you certainly more likely to set an interview now?

TRUMP: My lawyers are working on that. I've always wanted to do an interview because, look, there's been no collusion.


BERMAN: Just before air time, I spoke with Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.


BERMAN: So, Congressman, after months and months of saying he'd be happy to sit down with the special counsel, now an about face from the President says he probably won't. Did you ever really believe that he wanted to, though?

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: I believe that he wanted to, whether he was ever going to be permitted to do so is a totally different question. Look, my guess is that from the very beginning President Trump's lawyers were telling him that he had no business going in front of the special counsel and hence we are where we are.

And, you know, remember, there's always been different versions of this. You know, Bill Clinton testified. It was basically depose in front of a video camera, now we've got written questions and, you know, we'll see where it goes from here.

BERMAN: Kellyanne Conway claimed today that the President is not afraid to sit down with Mueller, he just doesn't believe it is necessary. Is that really true here? Do you think that it's important or would be important to hear what the President has to say?

HIMES: Well, what's important is that there is a mechanism for the special counsel to ask the President whatever questions the special counsel may have, and that's sort of an important constitutional principle that no person in the United States, including the President of the United States, is above the law.

So, you know, whether you do it the way, you know, Bill Clinton did it when he was being investigated or however you do it so long as the special counsel feels that he has had the opportunity to ask every single question that is pertinent to the investigation, that's the important thing.

BERMAN: So the President claimed contrary to reports that he had no idea that the acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker had said what he said on CNN among other places that he opposed the Mueller investigation. Do you believe that the President had no idea that Whitaker had these opinions?

HIMES: I don't believe that for a second. I think the President demanded to know who he might get away with putting in that position that would be most inclined to share his view of the investigation.

So, look, the President being dishonest is not a rare thing. It's a daily if hourly thing, and so no. Of course, I don't believe that at all. I think that this was -- not only that was it done for the reason of keeping an option on eroding.

And remember, you don't need to end the investigation. You know, Whitaker could simply cut the budget of the investigation. And there is no question in my mind that the timing and orchestration of this acting attorney general was directed very specifically by the President to keep an option on eroding the investigation if he wants to do that. BERMAN: In theory, he could step in the way of indictments and step in the way of subpoenas, which is why I ask you if you've seen any evidence. We haven't seen evidence of it yet, but in theory, he does have that power which is why some Senate Democrats, three in fact, today, filed a lawsuit declaring his appointment as attorney general unconstitutional saying that such an appointment requires Senate confirmation. Do you think their lawsuit has any merit?

HIMES: Well, Congress should stand up and say not withstanding the litigation that will occur around the appointments clause of the constitution and whether this is a principle officer or not. To me it's pretty clear that the attorney general is a principle officer and should be Senate confirmed. There's that.

But the other thing here, of course, is that Whitaker is on record talking in an adverse way about this investigation. So whether or not the courts decide that he needs to be Senate confirmed, it is very clear to me that given that he goes into this with an adverse opinion on this investigation, he should recuse himself right away.

BERMAN: What percentage chance do you think there is of that?

HIMES: Zero.

BERMAN: Congressman Jim Himes, thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it.

HIMES: Thank you, John.


BERMAN: So let's check in with Chris to see what he is working for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour. Sir?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Right question, JB. Ha-ha-ha-ha, zero. Well, then why waster your time fighting that fight as Democrats? You've got to ask yourself about their tactics sometimes. Is that really the battle for them to have about Matthew Whitaker? Is it really going to change anything?

[20:50:00] Or should they wait, see what happens between now and when the Mueller probe is over and take action as they need to? I don't get it. I don't get it. It's amazing. I still believe the best book to be written about the President will be the luckiest man in the history of the game, even the Democrats help him.

Tonight, we're going to be looking at the truth about what happened with the hunt for Osama bin Laden, what it means that the President went after Admiral McRaven. And we're going to talk about the latest from Monica Lewinsky and how much there was that we didn't know. See you, JB.

BERMAN: That's a really interesting documentary series that she's part of. Chris, thank you very much. We'll see you in just a few minutes. Just as millions of Americans are getting ready for the annual Thanksgiving travel adventure, news of yet another troubling development at the Federal Air Marshal Program. Coming, a CNN investigation into more than 200 cases of air marshal alleged misconduct involving mishaps with firearms.


[20:55:03] BERMAN: The annual Thanksgiving travel ordeal will soon be upon us. And for the millions who will fly over the holiday, there's more troubling news about the Federal Air Marshal Program.

CNN's Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin has been looking into the program for a decade now and tonight has a new exclusive report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These documents released to CNN through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal more than 200 cases of alleged misconduct by Federal Air Marshals involving firearms.

Men and women supposedly well trained to use their weapons in one of the most dangerous environments, misplacing, misfiring, even accidentally and not so accidentally shooting themselves.

Documents released to CNN include 19 accidental discharges, including an air marshal who caused a gunshot wound to his right foot. Another, accidentally discharged his firearm in a hotel room hitting a television in the adjoining room.

More than 70 cases of air marshals' losing weapons, three times air marshals have left their service weapons in an airplane's bathroom. They've left weapons in rest rooms, bars, even at Bed Bath & Beyond in New Jersey. And at least 13 cases, alcohol was involved.

After releasing the documents, the Federal Air Marshal Service invited CNN to the air marshal training academy outside Atlantic City, New Jersey where new air marshals are thought how to handle their weapons and top Instructor Daniel Kowal admitted the reports are embarrassing.

DANIEL KOWAL, SUPERVISORY AIR MARSHAL: We look at what was the underlying cause, what happened, where, if and when training failed, how and why did it fail, and how do we plug that gap, how do we fix that? Our goal as a training department is to strive for zero percent error.

GRIFFIN: It's hard to compare if air marshals are more or less dangerous with weapons than other law enforcement agencies because the number of air marshals is classified. But former air marshals tell CNN any mishap is unacceptable because their agents operate at 34,000 feet.

HENRY PRESTON, FORMER AIR MARSHAL TRAINING INSTRUCTOR: There's no backup. You have got to take care of business. And you've got to do it very quickly and efficiently.

GRIFFIN: Henry Preston who spent 10 years in the service says he observed a decline in weapons training and practice year by year. Inconsistencies, he said, that could contribute to mistakes.

PRESTON: They need additional training. There's no doubt about it.

GRIFFIN: Oddly, three of the apparent mishaps occurred during firearms training. In one case, an instructor allegedly threw training bullets called simunition into an open flame. They exploded and one staff member was struck in the face by flying debris.

Problems are nothing new to the controversial Air Marshal Service as CNN has previously reported agents have continually complained about low morale, low staffing, grueling hours.

A 2012 sleep study obtained by CNN shows 75 percent of domestic air marshals were flying while sleep deficient. That study found that lack of sleep puts them at greater incidents of serious errors.

Critics question if air marshals are even necessary. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general slammed the Air Marshal Service and said its contribution to Aviation Transportation Security is questionable.

Ohio State Professor John Mueller, who studies the efficiencies of security measures, says that nearly $1 billion agency is almost worthless.

JOHN MUELLER, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY POLITICAL SCIENTIST: Federal Air Marshals simply don't pass muster in terms of cost/benefit analysis. They deliver about five cents or maybe 10 cents of benefit for every dollar that is spent on them.

GRIFFIN: Now, the revelation that at least 200 cases where agents made dangerous mistakes is yet another strike against the Federal Air Marshal's program.


BERMAN: So Drew Griffin joins me. And Drew, it's not often you hear someone saying a law enforcement agency is worthless. I'm sure the TSA doesn't think it should just dissolve the air marshal's program, right?

GRIFFIN: Yes. John, the TSA sent us a full statement pushing back on the idea that you should just get rid of the air marshals. We still have, though, have no evidence this group has taken part in stopping any terrorist activity.

And the DHS inspector general did call the groups contribution to safety questionable, which is one of the reasons some calls for disbandment. But on the issue of gun safety and training, the TSA says these reports cover 12 years representing less than 1 percent of the work force during that time frame and says these misconduct reports are taken seriously, investigated and dealt with quickly. BERMAN: The idea, though, that these people have guns on airplanes and they may not be the best trained, that's pretty troubling.

GRIFFIN: I agree. The TSA says they are trained, of course, to the highest standards. John, the problem is many air marshals that we've been talking to disagree with that. And even the government accountability office reported in 2016 that the TSA wasn't able to tell if its air marshals were being trained properly. They couldn't even tell. TSA does say that's all fixed now. That's all we can take them at is their word.

BERMAN: All right, let's hope. Drew Griffin, thanks so much for the reporting.

GRIFFIN: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right, the news continues, so I'll hand it over to Chris Cuomo. "CUOMO PRIME TIME" Starts now.

CUOMO: JB, thank you.