Return to Transcripts main page


Budget Negotiations Stalled; Interview with Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 17, 2018 - 16:00   ET




And I thank you for presenting it to me.

I also wish to thank all the speakers who have been up here and said such kind words. And I also want to thank my colleagues, for, without them, nothing would have been accomplished.

And I also want to thank my staff and all the staff that may be around.


DOLE: I have always said that you're no better than your staff. And I thank them for all they have done for me over the years.

Mr. Speaker, I yield the balance of my time--


DOLE: -- to this distinguished gentlewoman from North Carolina.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what a privilege it is to speak --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

It's a remarkable moment, as members of Congress and the president of the United States and the vice president come to honor Bob Dole, the World War II hero and former presidential candidate and Senate majority leader.

They are presenting him with the Congressional Gold Medal. That is the civilian highest honor in this country. It's presented to the nation's most influential leaders, from George Washington to Thomas Edison.

The 94-year-old Kansas Republican was also the nominee for president in 1996. He is regarded very highly in Washington for his accomplishments, for his achievements, for his ability to work across the aisle, and for -- perhaps most especially for his war heroism. This comes as President Trump warns that a government shutdown "could

happen." The bipartisan spirit we're seeing in that room is not replicated on Capitol Hill.

In a new interview with Reuters, President Trump also said it would be Democrats' fault if the shutdown were to happen. Congress has until Friday to reach a deal on a government spending bill, a funding bill to keep the federal government operating.

As of now, that does not seem particularly likely. House Republican leadership is pushing forward a short-term solution to fund the government just through February 16. That legislation does not offer what Democrats have been pushing for, which is help for the so-called dreamers, 690,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own.

Earlier today, House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged that he does not know whether Republicans have enough votes to pass the measure in the House without the support of the Democratic minority, given that some members of the conservative Freedom Caucus are pushing for less government spending, as well as a more conservative immigration bill as part of the deal.

Moments ago, a member of the House Republican whip team says that the beginning of the whip count, that went well. The House Republican leadership team is expressing confidence that the House will have enough votes to pass the short-term resolution.

President Trump also said in this new Reuters interview that he does think an immigration deal remains possible, but he called the bipartisan deal presented to him by Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin -- quote -- "the opposite of what I campaigned for" and "unacceptable."

That, of course, is a far cry from what we heard the president say to Senators Graham and Durbin and others in this bipartisan group of senators just eight days ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This group comes back, hopefully with an agreement, this group and others, from the Senate, from the House, comes back with an agreement, I'm signing it. I mean, it will be signing it.

I'm not going to say, oh, gee, I want this or I want that. I will be signing it. I will take the heat. I don't care. I don't care. I will take all the heat you want to give me.


TAPPER: CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us now.

And, Kaitlan, the president also in this interview took something of a shot at Senator Graham over the immigration deal.


And though those two men have had a very troubled relationship in the past, they have grown quite close lately. So, it was a little surprising when in that Reuters interview the president said despite the fact he thought Lindsey Graham meant well during those immigration talks at the White House, he -- quote -- "doesn't represent a majority of Republicans."


That comes after Lindsey Graham said he thought the White House staff missed the mark before the immigration meeting. But even GOP leadership doesn't know exactly what the president wants here as far as a deal on DACA.

And that comes as they're scrambling to figure out a way to keep the government open past Friday.


COLLINS (voice-over): Republican leaders have their plan to fund the government and prevent a shutdown. Now they need to find the votes.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think cool heads hopefully will prevail on this thing.

COLLINS: The proposal would fund the government through February 16, extend the Children's Health Insurance Program for the next six years, and delay three unpopular Obamacare-related taxes.

But a short-term spending bill is not very popular with some House conservatives. Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows told reporters, he doesn't believe there are currently enough Republican votes for it to pass.

Amid the threat of a shutdown Friday, both parties are pointing fingers over which side is to blame for the stalemate. House Speaker Paul Ryan says Democrats are being unreasonable by trying to attach a dreamer deal to the spending bill.

RYAN: It is just unconscionable to me that they would block funding for our military or cut off funding for these states that really will lose their funding for CHIP by playing these political games and tying them to unrelated issues.

COLLINS: A point echoed today about White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president certainly doesn't want a shutdown. And if one happens, I think you only have one place to look, and that's to the Democrats.

COLLINS: But some Democrats insisting that any bill must address DACA and dreamers for their support and argue, since Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress, they can pass a short- term bill on their own. REP. JOE CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: With two days to go, our Republican

colleagues have been complicit in the lack of leadership that's been demonstrated by the White House.

COLLINS: And even more criticism of President Trump today coming from his own party, as frequent Trump critic Jeff Flake blasted the president on the Senate floor.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: No politician will ever get us -- or tell us what the truth is and what it is not. And anyone who presumes to try to attack or manipulate the press for his own purposes should be made to realize his mistake and to be held to account.

The impulses underlying the dissemination of such untruths are not benign. They have effect of eroding trust in our vital institutions and conditioning the public to no longer trust them. The destructive effect of this kind of behavior on our democracy cannot be overstated.

COLLINS: The White House had its own pointed response to Flake.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: He is not criticizing the president because he is against oppression. He is criticizing the president because he has terrible poll numbers. And he is, I think, looking for some attention. I think it is unfortunate.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, if the government does shut down on Friday, it will come one day before the one-year anniversary of Trump's presidency. And the question still remains if he will still travel to his Mar-a-Lago club in West Palm Beach, Florida, if the government does shut down.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you so much.

Let's get right to my political panel.

The president told Reuters if the government shuts down, it is the Democrats' fault.

Is that going to be the reality of how the public perceives this? Will they blame the Democrats, Kevin?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's harder for Republicans

Look, first of all, I think the White House is going to blame the Democrats up until we get a shutdown. If we do get a shutdown, they're going to blame everybody. The White House is going to be every man for themselves in this fight.

But I think, look, we have to be very cognizant as Republicans of the challenges of shutdowns. We are the party of limited government. When you are the party of limited government, you tend to get the blame when the government shuts down. We are also -- I think one of the things is that the media talks about

shutdowns through lens of the last shutdown. If we remember, during the last shutdown, Republicans saw a double-digit drop on our generic ballot position.

We already have a really tough generic ballot position right now. So, I just think -- you take along with that the optics of furloughed workers and shut-down monuments, it becomes very difficult for the party in power, the party in charge, to argue that the Democrats will pay a price.

TAPPER: Do you agree, Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, I think if you're in control of every arm of the government, then it is very hard to pin the blame on other people.

You can say, well, the Democrats, we're willing -- all of our members are willing to vote for this bill, but the Democrats won't come along, so it's their fault.

But the reality is, it is their job to negotiate and have a bill that everybody can vote for. And what the Democrats asking for isn't that unreasonable, especially when you consider the president was completely on board with it before he just suddenly flipped for no apparent reason.

I guess it's because the hard-liners came after him and said he couldn't do it. But it is pretty basic. They just want to have some sort of fix to keep people in the country who were brought here by their parents. That's not unreasonable.

So I do think ultimately probably the Republicans will get blamed for it. I don't think it is as devastating as it was back in the Newt Gingrich days. They did have the generic drop. But, look, they're in control of everything right now.



TAPPER: The Ted Cruz shutdown.

MADDEN: But your point is an example, which is that so much of what people remember is through the lens of the last fight.

And none of those fights worked out well for Republicans, what makes this one very different, particularly when you're in charge. I love to blame the Democrats when the Democrats are wrong. But as a strategist, you have to be very cognizant of the challenges you face when you're heading into a fight like this.

I think that is what is driving a lot of the urgency by leaders on the Hill right now.

TAPPER: Abby, take a listen to House Speaker Paul Ryan at his press conference this morning talking about what the Democrats are demanding.


RYAN: We have been very clear. We want to see a DACA solution.

But a DACA solution has got to be a balanced solution. A DACA solution has to be a solution that also not the just treats the symptom, which DACA is, but the root cause of the problem in the first place.

Look, I feel that it makes no sense for Democrats to try to bring us to a shutdown to try and cut off CHIP funding for the states that are running out of money, like Minnesota and Washington and Kentucky and other states. So I think cool heads hopefully will prevail on this thing.


TAPPER: So they're not going to go along with DACA because the decision has been made that that needs to be part of a bigger package which has a lot of tough comprehensive immigration stuff, but they added CHIP, six years of funding for CHIP, hoping Democrats won't be able to say no to that.


I think this is clearly becoming like the Christmas tree of all deals. That's why it is so difficult. You have to remember that we're in this position because Republicans said we need to address DACA legislatively.

But what it is becoming is a bargaining chip. And it is becoming harder for President Trump apparently because every time he goes back and looks at DACA, he is trying to think, what is my base going to think about this? Every time he does that, he is saying, well, I can't just do this for nothing. I have to get a lot out of it.

And that's what they're trying to do. That's what makes it so difficult. Maybe cooler heads will prevail, but it only will if Republicans and Democrats can feel confident that President Trump is comfortable with how this is going to work out for him politically and it seems like he is still in limbo about that. He is not exactly sure.

That's why the negotiations are kind of in a shaky place at the moment.

TAPPER: And, listen, in terms of the larger debate about immigration and what should be attached in terms of immigration bills to something to help the dreamers, take a listen to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talking about what he supports.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm looking for something that President Trump supports. And he has not yet indicated what measure he is willing to sign.


TAPPER: McConnell is pretty diplomatic in general and has been supportive of President Trump. He's saying, I don't know what to do here, boss. You're not telling me what you support.

One minute, you're in favor of this. The next minute, you're in favor of that.

POWERS: It seems like he is favor of the fix, right? The DACA fix.


TAPPER: What do you mean by the DACA fix?

POWERS: To be able to keep the kids in the country, people who came in as children.

TAPPER: Just a clean bill.

POWERS: Yes. It seems like as long as there is some border funding, which the Democrats agreed to, but he now wants more border funding.

It seems like he listens to the last person he talked to. So he initially kind of came out and supported this. And then the hard- liners seemed to get ahold of him. And then he gets kind of pulled in the other direction.

But if I was to guess, I would say the first position is probably more likely his position. But he is allowing himself to kind of get pulled by the hard-liners on this issue because I don't think he knows the issue that deeply.

There is this meeting with the congressional Hispanic Caucus with John Kelly today, where they say that Kelly didn't even really know what was in the bill.


TAPPER: That was a different bill. There was the House bill.


MADDEN: It's a huge obstacle. You make a good point.

I think what Leader McConnell is trying to communicate through television to the president that the White House needs greater clarity here if they're going to be able to deliver the president a chance to claim victory on this.

PHILLIP: This is sort of a chicken and egg kind of thing, because the president is basically saying, I want something that can pass. Well, McConnell is saying, tell us what you want so that we can figure out what can pass. The president, because he doesn't understand the issue in great detail and doesn't understand politics, is doubly handicapped on this issue. He wants something that he can present out there and not get hammered on talk radio and elsewhere for giving up on a campaign promise that he made that was the centerpiece.

MADDEN: Yes, one last point on that.

I think this is going to come down to the very last minute, the DACA issue, because both sides are convinced that it works with their bases, not just the Republicans,the Democrats as well. Digging in, they think, is what is animating their base right now.

TAPPER: So the frustration right now, Lindsey Graham, who the president said what he supports is not supported by most Republicans, he said -- he pushed back against Chief of Staff Kelly earlier, who criticized the gang of six plan.

He said: "All I can say is it will pass the House if the president supports it. I will tell General Kelly. I have been doing this for a very long time. I haven't been fiddling. So, when he lectured us about you have just been sitting around fiddling, I have been doing it for a very long time. I know Congressman Will Hurd's proposal."

That's the House bill we were talking about a second ago.

"Apparently, he didn't even know there was a Republican proposal adopted by the Hispanic Caucus.

[16:15:01] I think mine is more conservative. There's some room to move but you're not going to get comprehensive reform on our side.

Some tough words there and real frustration from Lindsey Graham who has been as of late, as you pointed out, a strong supporter of the president.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, he's asking the president to take a leadership role on this issue that the president put on the political table. And so far, Trump has not been willing to do that.

But it's worth noting that the president is pretty close to some -- a couple of people in the House, including Mark Meadows, who is the leader of the Freedom Caucus. He listens to those people. So when they tell him we're probably not going to support this, that's probably what he's listening to.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about, including Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, accused by the Republican National Committee of mansplaining because he supposedly berated the female director of the Department of Homeland Security during her testimony on the Hill. Senator Booker will join me to respond to that acquisition, next.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: When Dick Durbin called me, I had tears of rage when I heard about this experience in that meeting.

[16:20:03] And for you not to feel that hurt and that pain and to dismiss some of the questions of my colleagues saying, I've already answered that line of questions when tens of millions of Americans are hurting right now because they're worried about what happened in the White House. That's unacceptable to me.


TAPPER: That was Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, questioning the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security about the vulgar term President Trump used to describe African nations in an Oval Office meeting. And the secretary's claim that she did not recall what the president said. Conservatives have since attacked Booker for being in their view overdramatic.

New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker joins me now.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

You seemed very emotional in that hearing. Tell us why.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I think this is very personal for me. I grew up in an amazing community where we were the first African-American family to move in. And when we were denied housing because of the color of my family's skin, it was amazing white Americans who stood up and said, no, not in our community. We're not going to tolerate this kind of bigotry. It's those bystanders that speak up and tell the truth and call it out.

And so, here, I was sitting as a United States senator where I wouldn't be there if it weren't for those heroes and a United States cabinet member at the highest levels of government who sat in the room with the commander-in-chief who heard this vile and bigotry. It's not about the epithet. It's about the bigotry of those words and remained silent and then sat there and lied to a United States Senate hearing -- committee. And so, that was outrageous to me.

And then for her not to make a connection between the bigoted words that come out of the most powerful voice in the land and we know that ignorance allied with power is such a dangerous thing because those words don't just dissipate. They fester, they poison, they hurt, and they give license to people who peddle that hate into violence.

We saw that with white supremacist groups using Donald Trump's lack of condemnation of their actions in Charlottesville in their propaganda. And we know, if you're thinking about real danger in this country, which stems from ISIS to you-name-it, but if you just look at the data, we've had about 85 terroristic attacks since 9/11. Over 70 percent have been from white nationalist group, shootings in churches, attacks on Muslims.

And so, to see the real fear in communities and to see this woman be just a bystander, just following orders, just doing what she's told, as opposed to stepping up, calling it out, telling the truth like Republican Lindsey Graham did, that just set me off and not understanding that link.

TAPPER: Let's play a clip of the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, talking about that Oval Office meeting from that hearing.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: You said on Fox News that the president used strong language. What was that strong language?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Let's see, strong language, there was -- apologies. I don't remember a specific word.


TAPPER: Now, you've said you don't believe that she doesn't remember a specific word. And, in fact, you accused her today of lying under oath. That's a very strong charge.

BOOKER: Absolutely. But I've been in the numerous times for meetings that were big and meetings that were small. It is an intimate space.

You can't miss what the commander-in-chief is saying, especially when it was challenged by Lindsey Graham in a very dramatic manner. So I don't take that amnesia, I don't take not remembering what the boss is saying, what the commander-in-chief is saying, when something is heated and is derogatory and bigoted as those words were, I don't buy it, especially given what Lindsey Graham has said subsequently to folks in the public.

So, that is -- that is even so much more hurtful to me, doubling down on that.


BOOKER: And again, this is -- this is a time in America where I don't care what your party is. I've benefited from people on both sides of the aisle who have stood up against hate, called it like it is, again, like Lindsey Graham did. But I don't care if they're attacking Catholics, if somebody is attacking women, we who listen and hear that stuff and don't say anything, we're complicit in that. And for her complicity to be in the Oval Office, and in a Senate hearing, to me that is a very serious offense, not just to me as a senator but to the American people.

TAPPER: I want to get to the larger issue of immigration in a second. But before do, I want to give you an opportunity to respond to the Republican National Committee, which this afternoon nicknamed you "Derogatory Cory". And they wrote, picture it, a male Republican senator spends his entire 10 minutes mansplaining the female DHS secretary about immigration policy, throws around the term conscientious stupidity, yells at her the only time she tries to speak and concludes his diatribe without even asking her to respond. The RNC seems to be suggesting that when it comes to a male senator

berating a woman cabinet official, that there's a double standard depending on the political party.

BOOKER: Well, first of all, I'm glad they're finally attacking me. They attack senators almost every single day.

[16:20:03] But it's a little insulting to say that I should be treating cabinet secretaries one way or another depending upon their gender.

And so, these are political operatives. I wish they would come out and deal with real issues like equal pay for equal work. But this is politics. I'm standing here as a United States senator in my official capacity, challenging a cabinet secretary who is lying before the Senate on an issue that affects my state as well as this nation, as well as internationally, something as serious as her lying about overt bigotry coming out of White House.

So, I'm -- my conduct was on point. And my personal emotion in all of this should be understood. I will fight against bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia or wherever I see it, because I've benefited from people speaking up in years past and doing the same.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the Dreamers. You've said you will not vote to keep the government open Friday if this legislation, the government spending bill, does not include a fix for the Dreamers. Congressional leaders have already said that they don't think they're going to be able to come to a deal by Friday that contains anything for the Dreamers. But they are considering funding the Children's Health Insurance Program for six years.

Might that entice you to support the bill?

BOOKER: I'm so happy that CHIP is in there. It's crazy that it has not been. But let's just understand, this crisis with the Dreamers was manufactured by the president of the United States. He insinuated this into the political process and then he asked for a deal. Days before the meeting we were just talking about, he talked about love, he talked about a bipartisan deal.

Well, he got one with a number of Senate Republicans, a number of Senate Democrats that presented to him a deal that, hey, is far from perfect to me but probably would have gotten 70 votes on the Senate floor. So, this is a crisis he's created and even doubled down on creating this crisis that when a federal judge overturned his efforts, he is now immediately fighting that federal judge as opposed to saying, maybe give this some space and let's figure out.

So, we are in this crisis point because of him. The person who says he is a great deal maker who has Republican control of the House, Republican control of the Senate and he controls the White House, and he can't make a deal with this hand of cards, that's crazy. There are people in New Jersey I could take off the streets in my communities and they could take a deal given all this advantage that he has. TAPPER: Well, Senator, with all due respect, Democrats don't control

the Senate, they don't control the House, they don't control the White House. In order to get some sort of fix for the Dreamers, don't you have to swallow some pill that you don't want? Whether it's border funding or fewer family reunification immigration deals as opposed to skills-based immigration deals? Don't you -- aren't you going to have to give up a lot in order to get help for the Dreamers because your party doesn't control anything?

BOOKER: Yes, Jake, that's exactly -- I totally agree with that sentiment. And that's what Dick Durbin did. He and Lindsey Graham sat down and hammered out a deal of which I don't agree with a lot of pillars in that. But they offered up that deal. If that deal was put on the floor today in the United States Senate, and, Jake, I know you this, it would it get over 70 votes, because 80 percent of Americans agree that these people who are American citizens in every way but a piece of paper, these folks who fought for us in the military, who are our first responders, who are our teachers, who've been part of our community since earliest years, they deserve better than.

And so, I say right now, there's been a deal on the table. I don't like it. But it would pass. There's been (ph) a president that forced this crisis. And as we move forward, I'm saying right now, I at least as one individual senator will not leave these Americans behind.

TAPPER: Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, it's always good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.

BOOKER: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: Let's bring in the panel now to talk about this.

Booker said he's ready to make a deal and he's ready to swallow a lot of what President Trump wants as long as there's help for the Dreamers. I have to say I'm kind of surprise that the White House hasn't jumped because you get the victory of, they're building the wall. You get the victory of they're changing immigration laws. Fewer what they call chain migration and supporters call family reunification, more skills-based. You take the Dreamers off the table, because you don't want -- I mean, that's an issue that like 80 percent of the public wants them to have some sort of status.

Why not cut the deal?

PHILLIP: It is probably because the hard-liners want more than that, and I think the White House is being counseled that this might be the only opportunity to deal with a lot of these immigration issues. After that meeting last week, the bipartisan meeting in which television cameras were allowed in, there was a lot of talk about comprehensive immigration reform, about how they were going to take a second stab at this after they deal with the Dreamers.

The reality is and I think Republican leaders know this, that's very unlikely to happen. So, if this is the only train leaving the station, they've got to get as much on it as possible. It may not be enough to get a border wall or some border funding and to get changes to legal immigration, they might want a whole lot more of that. And also beyond that, Cory Booker is a little bit, you know, maybe to the center left on this issue among Democrats, because there are a lot of Democrats, especially in the House, who say absolutely no wall.

TAPPER: Right.

PHILLIP: That's the hardest position for Democrats to defend and there are a lot of Democrats who say, if you vote for a wall, then we are going to launch a sort of left --