Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado; Federal Government on Brink of Shutdown; CDC: At Least 30 Children Have Died From Flu; Documentary Looks At Trump's First Year In Office. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 19, 2018 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: If the government shuts down, this could be a tactical error for the Democratic Party?

BENNET: Well, I think the politics of this is going to shift a million times.

Between now and next week and the week after that. Not just the shutdown but everything else that we're dealing with. Do you think we have an obligation to the American people to do our work, to do our job?

I've had a bill for a number of months. Actually, Cory Gardner is a Republican from Colorado is my co-sponsor that would say that if the government shuts down, the Senate has to show up at 8:00 a.m. the next morning and stay there until midnight every day until the government is reopen. So that if we are going to do that, we're actually inflicting pain on ourselves and not on the country.

So, look, I hope we don't have to deal with what I consider a false choice. And instead that we can sit down together, use the bipartisan deal as a basis of negotiation and keep the government open. That's my hope.

TAPPER: Five years ago, when Republicans shut down the government because they were demanding that the government funding bill be attached to a repealing of Obamacare, Democrats were very opposed.

I want to you listen to Chuck Schumer back in 2013.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: This is playing with fire and we are happy to negotiate. But we want to negotiate without a gun to our head. It's sort of like this, someone goes into your house. Takes your wife and children hostage and then says, let's negotiate over the price of your house.


TAPPER: Now, Republicans would argue, that's what Democrats are doing right now by forcing the issue of Dreamers and your legislation and holding the government funding hostage. BENNET: Yes. So, if you're asking to stipulate to the fact that the negotiations around here for the last decade or so, when I've been here, have been incredibly low rent, I will stipulate to that. And I think what we should be doing is having a negotiation together that actually benefits the American people rather than not. And I hope we're able to do.

Look, one of the realities here that we all have to confront is that we have absolutely no idea what this White House is going to do. The reason we're in this situation we're in today is that the president in September stripped the Dreamers of the status that they had. And now, he set a deadline for March 5th. And there isn't anybody in this building, including the majority leader, who can tell you what the president will agree to.

I know this firsthand because I sat at the White House and heard the president say, I need a deal that addresses DACA, that addresses border security, that addresses diversity visas and then addresses what he calls chain migration.

Those are the four components the deal that the Gang of Six came together on. So, they're continuing to move the goalpost and move the goalpost. I think what we got -- I heard the discussion between president and Schumer was productive. I hope it was. That it was positive.

And I think we should stay until we're done. That doesn't seem that hard. I used to be a school superintendent. There's not a school district or city counsel in Colorado that would get away with the nonsense we've been through over the last 10 years. Let's use this as an opportunity to begin to do our work better.

TAPPER: All right. Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, always good to see you, sir. Thanks very much.

BENNET: Nice to see you, Jake. Thanks. Bye.

TAPPER: My panel is with me.

Jen, what do you think of what Senator Bennet had to say? Do you think that that will be compelling to voters?

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think what he was trying to get across is that Democrats, what they want is not a shutdown. They want a seat at the negotiating table. That's something Chuck Schumer has said.

Obviously, the meeting today could have been a step toward. And there are rare moments of leverage when you have no control of anything in Washington. Obviously this is one of those moments. They're making a tricky calculation as we've been discussing, but they also recognize that DACA and doing something for DACA recipient is central to the tenets of who the party is, and that this may be the last opportunity to do it for quite some time. They don't have a lot of power to do it otherwise. TAPPER: Mary Katharine, he repeated a point that you made earlier in

the show which is the politics of this. I said, aren't you worried that the repercussions, the ramifications? If this is a bad calculation for Democrats? It's going to change next week and then the week after that, and a week after that. And all the more so in this Trump era with the news cycles.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Yes, I think there's less risk but there is some risk. Like I said, they've pretty successfully, along with Trump's hope, branded Trump as sort of the chaos guy. And this would be the more chaotic move, to walk away from this and to let it go and to shut down. I also think it's significant that in the afternoon today, those red state re-election dominos are falling. That is going to send the signal that, hey, it may be safe for Schumer and others and more liberal folks to say no to this, but not so much for people who are in Trump states who are up for reelection.

TAPPER: There are hundreds of thousands of government employees that will not get paid. I mean, there is an economic reality to this as well, and not a lot of these people are making, you know, high six- figure salaries, necessarily.

[16:35:03] MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPOTER: Right. And I think that -- you know, those stories will be told if we end up in a government shutdown. And that doesn't look good for anyone.

Again, it does sort of raise the question of who is to blame. But I thought the other really interesting point the senator made is the fact that no one really knows how to negotiate here because nobody knows what the president wants. And that's sort of the biggest problem that both parties are facing in terms of getting any kind of deal, or getting anything done.

I mean, to the Democrat's side, I mean, what's the point of giving in at this point if you really don't know what you're going to get down the line, and if you can believe the president's word from one day to the other.

TAPPER: Yes, and it's just the complaint that Republicans are voicing publicly, Mitch McConnell, Mo Brooks, Lindsey Graham.


TAPPER: Stick around. We have a lot more to talk about.

Beyond the political impact, of course, there's the real world effort, the fact of a government shutdown, even an out of this word impact from paychecks to the search for earth-killing asteroids. What happens when the nation's largest employer closes?

That's next.


[16:40:09] TAPPER: We're back with breaking news in the politics lead.

Federal employees caught in the middle as we move closer to a federal government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands worrying when they will get their next paycheck.

I want to bring in CNN's Tom Foreman.

And, Tom, it's not the just government workers if the shutdown happens. It will have a real cascading effect on the economy.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's absolutely right. If there is no deal as these negotiations stand right now, nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came as children, the so-called Dreamers would be thrust into the dangerous legal limbo. So would 9 million children covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP. But plenty of other Americans who have nothing to do with any of that could also feel the impact.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Eight hundred fifty thousand government workers locked out of their offices and left out of their paychecks. That's what happened when the government shut down in 2013 and it would likely be the same this time, including many who don't make much.

FELICIA THOMPSON, FEDERAL EMPLOYEE: I have a child and I want to make sure she eats and I want to eat. And it's important that this gets done.

FOREMAN: Roughly 1.9 million government workers would be considered essential and stay on the job. Air traffic controllers, security officers, food inspectors, prison guards, Social Security checks would go out. The Post Office would be open, but at a steep price to many workers.

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: The military will still go to work. They will not get paid, OK? The border will still be patrolled. They will not get paid.

FOREMAN: Meanwhile, many services would be stopped or delayed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would back down its flu tracking program even as the nation faces the worst outbreak in years. Some senior nutrition programs would be paused. 200,000 passport applications went unprocessed in 1995. Congress funds much of the scientific research in this country.

In 2013, that meant some experiments went on hold and suffered costly losses of data.

And in space that same year, for more than two weeks, NASA reportedly stopped monitoring potentially dangerous asteroids. A big one, by the way, is expected to brush by earth on February 4th.

As for the 417 national parks, the administration wants to keep limited access wherever possible but services would be reduced and 19 of the Smithsonian's museums would shut their doors. The Smithsonian is trying on keep things open for the weekend,

presumably for tourists who might be here. But then they closed on Monday. And cleaning up all the mess afterward is no cheap. The current estimate of shutting down the government would cost taxpayers $6 billion a week -- Jake.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

It's not just the sick and elderly, young and healthy who are dying quickly after coming down with the flu this year. And officials are warning the epidemic could get worse if the government shuts down.

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] TAPPER: We're back with our "HEALTH LEAD" now. The Centers for Disease Control is warning that its ability to fight the flu will be limited if the federal government shuts down. It has already been one of the worst flu seasons on record and will likely get more serious. Doctor says at least 30 children have died. Among them, ten-year-old Nico Mallozzi of Connecticut. He lost his life Sunday after doctor say a serious case of a flu turned into pneumonia while attending hockey tournament in Buffalo. Every state except Hawaii is currently seeing widespread flu activity right now. CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California where tents have been set up to deal with the overwhelming number of flu patients. Elizabeth, why is this flu season so much worse than in previous years?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So Jake, every year there are different predominant strains of the flu and this year it is H3N2 which is really virulent for two reasons. One, it's really good at getting in there and infecting and replicating. And number two, the symptoms that it causes are much worse than many other strains. So it's really a problem. It's this particular strain that's a problem.

TAPPER: And Elizabeth, people who received flu shots have died this year. For folks at home, how do you explain that? Should they continue to get flu shots?

COHEN: Right, so every year the CDC and other organizations have to decide what strain we put in the -- in the flu shot and they have to decide about a year ahead of time. So this strain is not, the H3N2 is not in the shot which is of course unfortunate. However, the other strain that are do give some protection. So this vaccination gives you about a 30 percent protection. It lessens the chance of getting the flu by 30 percent and lessens the severity of the symptoms. So doctors say do still get the shot. There is still time. You should get it. 30 percent, I mean, that's better than nothing.

TAPPER: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much. Tomorrow, CNN is marking one year since President Trump was sworn into office. We preview what you won't hear anywhere else about his Twitter habit. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: This just in. Breaking news in the latest effort to avoid a federal government shutdown, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan just spoke, according to a source familiar with the call. The looming shutdown is nearing as tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary, by the way, of President Trump's inauguration. Yes, it has only been one year on this president. To mark the milestone, I sat down with a number of White House insiders for a CNN documentary that airs tonight. Not everything could make it into the documentary that airs tonight 10:00. So this is a clip that you won't see anywhere else. When I asked former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci why the President continues to write such controversial tweets when it causes so much trouble for himself and the White House.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think this is part of his personality. He gets agitated when people don't see him for who he sees himself as. And then he'll start saying some things will catch the hair on fire of the mainstream media and mainstream elite. And so, when he says there's good people both sides, somebody like me, I don't really think he means that. When he says my button is bigger than your button, a guy like me from New York knows that he's joking around and his using his Twitter account to joke around and the more serious elite get all crazy about things like that. So I'm not a Trump whisper or Trump interpreter but I've known him a long time and I know when he's playing for fun and I know when he's being very serious.


[16:55:21] TAPPER: So -- there's something else that Scaramucci said was he did think that even though he thinks that Washington goes too crazy over his tweets, he does thing that they should be deployed more strategically.

HAM: Yes, I mean, the tweets have grown in importance because he is the president. And that's the missing part of that. I also think when you saw him give speech in Pittsburg this week, that was one of his better moments of his presidency. The writs were not weird, nothing was mean-spirited. He talked about the economy and he did have a good product to sell there and the tax cut bill which is growing in popularity. If he would do that once every three weeks and chill with the twitting, he'd be on better shape.

TAPPER: I want to play another clip that didn't make the documentary. Here's another bit from Mr. Scaramucci. I'm sorry, from Kellyanne Conway.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: So I will say Donald -- something that Donald Trump has said for a very long time and he's absolutely correct on this, which is he's a counter puncher. He -- you know, I'm not going to speak to any specific person. There's no point in it but on his use of Twitter, he's a counter puncher. He -- he's really a lot like me. He rarely draws first blood. But when attacked, is he just supposed to always, believe me, it's exhausting to be the bigger person. We all get that at the White House.


TAPPER: So you were the communications director at the White House. I think I recall President Obama being attacked a few times.


TAPPER: And this idea of like, it's OK if the other personal starts it, I find --

PSAKI: Well, first all, that's just inaccurate. I mean, Donald Trump is a puncher. He's punched people of both parties, leaders of both parties, President Obama, Mitch McConnell. There's a long list.

HAM: Rosie.

PSAKI: But -- Rosie -- but moving beyond that, I mean, I think what Anthony Scaramucci said before Kellyanne Conway is also interesting just to give you a picture into what the strategy is here, which is there's no strategy. You know, Donald Trump defines success when it comes to commutations as retweets, as chyron. That is not a successful strategic communications strategy and you can see that by how they have unsuccessfully used communications to get bills passed, move the American public behind them. He is driving this. It is his fault and not other people's but Twitter is obviously the kind of demon behind that.

TAPPER: Do you see any method to the madness? I mean, the President can point to some achievements. You have Neil Gorsuch in the Supreme Court, there's the tax bill, there are successes abroad when it comes to the strike against Assad or victories against ISIS. It's not like he has nothing to point to. Is this all just you know, part of who Trump is?

RESTON: I think it is. I don't think anyone in America could tell you what the method is to the madness or they'd be lying. If they do, we do know what drives him obviously. He is in it for the win and he's gotten quite a few wins here. You know the tax reform bill may look better and better to people over the next couple of months. That could help Republicans but it always all comes back to being about Trump, not about his party, what he can do to drive an agenda to you know, help maintain seats in the House. In the end, that's going to be to his own detriment because Democrats take control, then he's in big trouble.

TAPPER: And one of the other things about Trump punching back. This, his tweet I want to put up. "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me old when I would never call him short and fat? Oh, well, I try so hard to be his friend and maybe someday that will happen."

HAM: Hey, you know, he's hypothetical. TAPPER: I'm just saying like, that's -- the President of the United States wrote that. I mean, that is a -- that's a weird tweet for anybody to write.

HAM: Yes.

TAPPER: I'm looking at you to respond to it.

HAM: (INAUDIBLE) would say. And that's the problem. Like this stuff is not good for a president to do. And no, I reject the notion that like Obama or anyone before him didn't attack people. Of course, they did. They just did it in a more above-board sort of like dignified way.

TAPPER: Well, not -- my only point is not -- of course Obama attacked people. He attacked me. But the point -- my point is not every time. That's my only point.

HAM: It's silly and it's counterproductive. And like I said if he didn't do it, he'd be better off but he's not going to be a different person.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks one and all for being here. It's great to have you for the hour. You can check out more of my interviews about President Trump's inaugural year in the Oval Office. Tonight in our CNN "SPECIAL REPORT," Trump's First Year, Reign of Chaos, only on CNN. That begins at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific tonight. And be sure to tune in this Sunday morning for CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." My guest will be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, Republican Senator Rand Paul and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. That starts 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Have a wonderful weekend.