Return to Transcripts main page

HALA GORANI TONIGHT

U.S. Government Shutdown Deadline Looms; Officials: U.S. Plans to Open Jerusalem Embassy Next Year; The Fight Against ISIS; President's "America First" Policies Rock Global Boat. Aired 3-5p ET

Aired January 19, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:12]

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Welcome live from CNN Headquarters in Atlanta. I'm Hala Gorani.

Tonight, he calls himself the ultimate dealmaker, but on the eve of his first year in office, can Donald Trump keep his government open for

business?

Also, ahead, as the U.S. president puts America first, we will explore how the world has received that message what.

And it wasn't what they wanted. I spoke to Democrats here in Atlanta to see how they are coming to terms or not and the case maybe with their

president.

Welcome once again. It's been a year like no other. We've been stunned, shocked, perplexed by a White House and a president that has broken every

political norm imaginable. When the clock strikes midnight in Washington in nine hours, therefore, it will mark one year since Donald Trump's

inauguration as the 45th president of the United States.

But when that clock strikes midnight, it could signal something that will make it a not so happy anniversary unless Republicans and Democrats work

out a deal and soon the government of this country will run out of money.

In the last few hours, the Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer has been to the White House. Is a deal in the works?

Let's go straight to Washington, our Stephen Collinson is standing by. Not a great headline to mark the one-year anniversary of his inauguration for

the president, a government shutdown, Stephen?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Certainly not, Hala. And there are signs that the president does not want that headline to be the

one we were all talking about over the weekend. He had a Chuck Schumer, the top Democratic leader in the Senate, to the White House for an hour-

long meeting, which was just the president and Schumer, and we understand, Chief of Staff John Kelly, which put some Republicans a little bit on

notice because the president is known to look for deals on deals.

Perhaps the rest of the Republican Party, not one might not want to sign up for. Schumer went back to Capitol Hill and said there have been some

progress, but there were still big disagreements in the last few minutes.

Another top Democratic Senator Tim Cain said that he thinks a deal could be possible within the next few days. In that scenario, the Senate and the

House would have to pass a short-term funding bill just to keep the government open for three days.

But there are a lot of options and yes, but as it stands, in nine hours' time, the U.S. government will shut down unless there is some 11th-hour

deal.

GORANI: I want to go back to 2016 because we are on the eve of the first anniversary of the inauguration of the president where essentially Donald

Trump portrayed himself as the man who will fix a broken system, will fix Washington, D.C. This is what he said at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who

cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: So, having said that a government shutdown would fly in the face of that promise.

COLLINSON: It certainly would, and I think that must be one of the reasons why having an 11th-hour dramatic deal would be very attractive to the

president because it would allow him to play into that image which, as you cite has not really played out during his presidency. So, I think that is

perhaps why the president is getting involved in this last moment.

GORANI: Explain to viewers why if the Republicans control both Houses of Congress and the White House that they are not able to keep the government

running?

COLLINSON: Basically, because in the Senate, you really need 60 votes to get anything done to break a democratic filibuster. In this scenario,

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader somehow has to find 10 Democrats who are willing to vote with Republicans to keep the government funded.

And those Democrats are basically hanging out for a solution to the fate of nearly 800,000 people who were brought to the United States illegally as

children and who could see their legal status end by March.

So, that is a huge issue for the base of the Democratic Party and the Democratic senators are under huge pressure not to cave in and not to fund

the government until that deal is reached.

So that is why even though the Republicans control the White House, the House, and the Senate, they still can't get something through the Congress.

GORANI: And standby, Stephen Collinson, who is in the D.C. bureau. I want to go to Phil Mattingly. He is right there on Capitol Hill. What happens

if there is a shutdown? International viewers are not familiar with this system. If the government shuts down, then what?

[15:05:08] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Listen, (inaudible), right, what happens with the negotiations, those that create pressure on one side

to the other to try and come at the table and then there is the actual real-world, real-life ramifications of what would happen throughout the

federal government.

Now the federal government doesn't shut down entirely. There are considered essential staffers that will be working. The military will

still be working. Border patrol will still be working, but those institutions wouldn't be paid.

It's also largely up, Hala, to the White House to decide what operations continue and what ceased. One thing is for sure, it is a major disruption

throughout the federal government and one to which nobody technically wants, very rarely are there any winners and I think that is why you've

seen right now on Capitol Hill kind of some very new movement, recognizing perhaps the stakes that are at place.

Senator Schumer, obviously, having a meeting at the White House coming back to Capitol Hill a short while ago. Everybody trying to see is this going

to charge something loose between the two parties. Well, take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We had a long and detailed meeting. We discussed all of the major outstanding issues. We made some

progress. We still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Hala, obviously not a very detailed read out there. Did not take any questions, but it is important because going into this morning and

through much of the morning, there is simply no movement.

Republicans were making very clear. There is a short-term funding bill that was passed by the House is on the table. That is what they are

sticking with. Democrats are making clear that was unacceptable and because of that the votes weren't there to actually move forward on that.

Everyone acknowledges it is the president who is going to jar something loose. The question is, was that 90-minute meeting with Senate Democratic

Leader Chuck Schumer what will actually do it?

That conversations are happening is a step forward. It is some type of movement, but what those conversations actually lead to that is now an open

question.

GORANI: And what could break the impact -- by the way, Phil, who is normally blamed when there is a government shutdown? Is it the party in

power?

MATTINGLY: Traditionally, it is -- it depends. I think obviously there's been -- I this would be the 19th if it actually happens and there is a lot

of dynamics here that are at play. Obviously, in 2013, the last time we had a government shutdown, Republicans were hammered by it.

You talk to their campaign organizations. Their fundraising dropped significantly. Their poll numbers dropped significantly. I think the

interesting element right now is I've talked to members of both parties who have been looking at internal numbers that aren't totally sure who is going

to win.

I think that is was created such a defined impasse right now. Both parties are actually comfortable with their positions. The interesting thing you

asked, what's on the table that could actually jar something loose. It is an open question and one nobody has an answer to.

Because Republicans on Capitol Hill say that they've been very close touch with the White House, say that their preferred strategy going forward, the

House passed a bill is something that they are not moving off of.

There is talk I will tell you of perhaps shortening the length of the short-term funding bill. Some talk about maybe guarantees on discussions

or deals that could be made in the future.

The big issue now is will Republicans move from where they are and are Democrats willing to take something less than they are asking for that very

clearly is not palatable to Republicans. So, you have an answer to that, just do not know.

GORANI: Well, I am sure everyone is making some political calculations behind nothing and if there is shutdown what will happen to the president's

travel plans as well, a big party at Mar-a-Lago, his trip to Davos, we'll have to wait and see. Phil Mattingly and Stephen Collinson, thanks so much

to both of you in Washington for joining us.

President Trump's first year has had a huge international impact. Obviously, we have been reporting on that over the last year on this

program, and CNN reporters all over the world are bringing us reaction.

Standing by right now is Ian Lee in Jerusalem. Arwa Damon is in Iraq this evening. Now we'll start with Ian when President Trump announced his

decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It touched off a wave of Arab protests.

Now CNN is learning that the U.S. Embassy will move to Jerusalem as early as next year which is earlier, and we've assumed it could even logistically

happen to have a consulate right now. They are not the entire embassy and its staff.

Ian Lee is live in Jerusalem with more. What more are you learning this evening about this plan to move?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala, the original plan was to find a spot in Jerusalem, design a building and construct it, and that could take

years to complete. That could have happened after President Trump's first term and cost up to a billion dollars.

Now we are hearing that that has been moved up as you said to next year. They have looked at two consulates here in Jerusalem. They've chosen one

in the Arnona (ph) neighborhood. This is in West Jerusalem, just outside of the Green line. This is the de facto border between Israel and Jordan

before the 1967 war.

That was we are hearing from sources that it was supposed they wanted to make it to at the end of this year.

[15:10:07] But we are hearing from the State Department that Secretary Rex Tillerson said that he wanted to upgrade the security at this facility

before they made it an official embassy, but yes, this is moving up a lot quicker than what we had expected.

We know that there have been forces within the White House as well as here in Jerusalem with the Israeli government trying to push that forward as

quickly as possible -- Hala.

GORANI: Ian Lee in Jerusalem, thanks very much. That Jerusalem announcement obviously is one of the big headline of President Trump's

foreign policy year-end review. The president promised to be tough on ISIS when he ran for president.

Remember, he used to say he is going to bomb the (inaudible) out of ISIS. Well, 2017 saw the terror group lose most of its territory. So, to be fair

to the president whether he is responsible for the policy that led to the demise of ISIS territorially or not, it did happen on his watch, loss of

Raqqa, Mosul.

Our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, joins us now from Erbil, Iraq with more on this strategy and you've been doing a lot of

reporting from these areas in Iraq and Syria previously controlled by ISIS. Now they have been rooted out. How much of that has to do with the U.S.'

effort to combat ISIS? How much is Donald Trump right to take credit for any of it?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He was certainly in taking credit for all of it, not just having said on the campaign trail.

As you mentioned that he was going to bomb the (inaudible) out of ISIS. Also, that he was going to bond hell out of them.

The problem, Hala, is that in doing so one is also bombing the hell out of the civilian population that ISIS is holding hostage and should warn our

viewers that the report they are about to see does contain some very disturbing images.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAMON (voice-over): Residents told this municipal team, the body of a little girl was buried under a layer of rubble. No one knows her name or

where her parents are. Her body is curled in the fetal position. Little more than dried skin and bones next to a stuffed bunny.

Her photograph be added to a growing collection of images of the unclaimed. She's almost unrecognizable, but the workers hoped that her family, if they

are even alive will recognize her toy.

In the old city where ISIS made its final stance where the battle and bombardment were most intense, it's hard to imagine that any rules were

followed or how anyone survived.

(on camera): When President Trump inherited this war a year ago, he did not change the rules of engagement that is the actual steps and procedures

to carry out a military strike. What he did do was give the U.S. military chain of command more authority, which then resulted in a more aggressive

strategy. Now what those words actually mean on the ground that's this.

(voice-over): The U.S. and Iraqi governments declared victory against ISIS, but for the population here, the catastrophic cost is still unknown.

Six months on, the stench of death lingers. Survivors walk around in a daze and loved ones still search for their dead.

With bare hands and a shovel, these young men are looking for the body of their great uncle. He was an intellectual, but what they remember most

about him was his love. For a Christian woman whose family would not let them marry, but he yearned for her his entire life.

They dig up his skeletal remains on his bed. One of his neighbors finds an old magazine with an article about another of America's devastating wars.

Then like now the U.S. has shied away from reporting overall civilian death tolls.

Grim realities that only become apparent later. A month-long investigation by the "Associated Press" found that 9,000 to 11,000 civilians were killed

in Mosul, a third of them from coalition airstrikes.

A local government official we spoke to says that matches the information he had. The U.S. military says it does look into individual reports and is

acknowledging around 300 civilian deaths caused by its airpower.

And Iraq which requests were approved strikes have established committee to look into the overall death toll. What you get on the ground is a glimpse

of the scale of death here.

[15:15:06] (on camera): This is a mass grave that has 20 bodies in it.

(voice-over): This man, a gravedigger says he buried as many as 450 people in two months. Many of the graves unmarked, the identities of those here

unknown, but he says most for civilians.

Those who remained are left with the agonizing memories of what they endured. In the ruins of his home, (inaudible) cannot see how victory is

theirs.

They killed one ISIS man, they would fire a rocket worth millions, he told us, and knockdown 10 homes. ISIS won by hurting and America won by hurting

us. The 5-year-old (inaudible) wants to find her toys, memories of a childhood gone.

This is the one she wants. It's a dream house. Now the only home she has. What the population suffered here is not a numbers game. What they want is

accountability for all they lost, the price they paid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: That's great reporting and such a powerful reminder of the civilian suffering in all of this and we have seen those numbers of

civilian deaths rise in the last year. Why is that? Is that because the coalition is calling in airstrikes and authorizing airstrikes quicker?

DAMON: There's a lot of different components to it actually. Yes, that is one of the reasons. The other is just the reality of the terrain that they

have to deal with. Remember as ISIS was getting squeezed into smaller and smaller territory, the final stance was made in the old city, which is a

densely populated, was a densely populated area.

And at the same time, buildings there crumbled very easily so everything came together to result in this fairly high death toll and the thing is,

Hala, some people are even saying that it could be higher than all of the different numbers that are out there at this stage.

When you talk to the population, one of their big questions is, was this actually the best strategy or was there a way that perhaps somehow they,

their livelihoods, their loved ones could have been spared.

GORANI: Arwa Damon, thanks very much reporting live from Iraq.

A lot more to come this evening, one year in, President Trump unravels global agreements and strains ties with some long-standing allies. Where

has America first promised as leaving the U.S. on the world stage? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: During his first year in office, some of President Donald Trump's foreign policy moves have tested, sometimes tested very seriously some

long-standing global alliances.

[15:20:00] Gallup's latest survey shows the U.S. slumping in global leadership, 30 percent approval only as the effort to put America first

often left it more alone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's going to be America first.

GORANI (voice-over): It was a rallying cry of Donald Trump's campaign slamming what he called bad and unfair international agreements. In the

year since Mr. Trump was sworn in as president, America first policies have changed global governance.

Extricating the U.S. from a network of alliances and pack on key issues ranging from the environment to defense to trade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first one is withdrawal of the United States from the Transpacific Partnership.

GORANI: Just days after taking office, Trump unraveled the TPP deal set to reshape commerce through the Pacific rim. It shocked Asian allies now

considering a regional trade deal with China instead.

Another trade deal that could be on the president's chopping block, NAFTA, the agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada has been law for decades.

But Trump says he'll scrapping if it can be renegotiated the way he wants.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: So, we will see what happens with NAFTA, but I've been opposed to NAFTA for a long time.

GORANI: In May, Trump alarmed European allies by attacking NATO members as freeloaders of U.S. defense spending.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Twenty three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying.

GORANI: But perhaps the largest blow to international cooperation came in June.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: The United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

GORANI: Trump's decision to quit a universal and binding climate change treaty isolated America. Near unanimous global support for the accord

continued anyway making U.S. the only country in the world that will not participate by 2020.

In October, an international pact to limit Iran's nuclear program came under a threat went Trump, who has been highly critical of the deal punted

the issues to lawmakers. The year's final diplomatic break was likely the most combustible.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious that Jerusalem is Israel's capital.

GORANI: The unilateral U.S. recognition was praised by Israel, but sparked violent protests, rebukes from foreign leaders, and international

condemnation from the United Nations.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General

Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.

GORANI: The U.S. ambassador's brushed words to the U.N. at the end of 2017 may be an indication of the year to come as America reshapes its historic

role in multilateralism in global diplomacy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: Well, let's get some perspective on President Trump's eventful first year in office, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia

Center for Politics joins us now from there.

So, Larry, one year on all these changes in terms of America's traditional foreign policy approach, will they be long-lasting or is it a blip that

will -- that is only a Trump blip historically do you think?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, Hala, even if he only serves one term, he has got a total of four years and

we have only seen one, and I would suspect that most people in the field of politics and foreign policy would agree with me that it has been the

longest peacetime year we can remember. So, a lot of damage has been done and this has really been a disaster in terms of American prestige abroad.

GORANI: And the damage done to America or to the world as a whole?

SABATO: I think it is both. Just take climate change, for example, not only have we withdrawn from the Paris pact. We've lost prestige by doing

that is true internationally. I think virtually every country had signed on and believes that the United States now has given up its leadership

role. And that's wholly apart from the effects of climate change, which will dramatically impact the United States in the coming years.

GORANI: But, we are talking here about a very long process, right. America still by far the most powerful, the richest, and the most

influential country in the world. We are just starting to see perhaps the beginning of a change there, which could be reversible, right?

[15:25:04] SABATO: Well, possibly, depending on what the next president does, but you mentioned, for example, the withdrawal from the TPP. This

has enabled China in particular to move into the vacuum that we created by withdrawing.

So, the United States rivals have seen the Trump administration is one of their greatest allies. They are creating opportunities for other

countries, including China and Russia.

So, I think while it is too early to say that the impact of this is very long-term, it certainly going to take a while to recover and that's

assuming the next president wants to reverse the Trump policies.

GORANI: But we've seen the U.S. go through very isolationist periods and then the pendulum swings again.

SABATO: And it may well this time, obviously, President Trump is the most unpopular first-year president since polls have been taken in the United

States. So, it is as though the American people have backed a lot of this. But you have to remember for the time that a president is in office, if

only through executive order, he can accomplish a great deal of whether the people supported or not.

GORANI: But is that just because of his style? I mean, the tweets that are provocative, sometimes you know, shocking the fact that he speaks in a

way that is unconventional that many around the world find offensive or unprofessional, for instance. Is it just that or is it the policies

themselves?

SABATO: I think it is a poisonous combination of the two. Stylistically Trump is not just rusk. He is to us your word offensive and the policy as

I have already mentioned, I think many of the policies are damaging to the world, not just to the United States.

And Hala, look what Gallup and Pew and other organizations that poll around the world have already shown. The prestige of the United States has taken

an enormous hit in just 12 months. China is now more highly regarded in the world than the United States. We've lost dozens of points in many

countries around the globe.

GORANI: And it's a trend that started a couple presidents ago but certainly has accelerated. Quickly, I want to get your take on the

economy, though, domestically speaking, Donald Trump today was talking at a pro-life march and it's that setting he chose to brag about economic

achievements. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Tomorrow will mark exactly one year since I took the oath of office and I will say our country is doing really well. Our economy is

perhaps the best it has ever been. You look at the job numbers, you look at the companies pouring back into our country, you look at the stock

market at an all-time high, unemployment 17-year low. Unemployment for African-American workers at the lowest mark in the history of our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: And those numbers are by and large, correct?

SABATO: Well, they are by and large correct. Noticed that he dates them from the time of his election not from the time of his inauguration. If

you actually look at the unemployment trends in stock market and other things, this revival, this recovery, has really begun during the Obama

administration and during the last year of the Obama administration.

It accelerated dramatically, so I am not saying Trump deserves no credit. Certainly, his regulatory policies in which he has been revoking many

regulations on the economy and his tax policies which corporations loves that has had something to do with it.

But we will see what the long-term effectiveness is. Notice that his popularity ratings in the United States are a lagging indicator. He has

gone nowhere. He is still in the upper 30s even though the economy is soaring.

GORANI: Larry Sabato, thanks very much for joining us. Really appreciate your time.

A lot more to come this evening, the beers are cold and the heart are warm, a perfect place then to take the temperature of voters in Atlanta. Join me

for a drink and a political debate at the iconic Manuel's Tavern. We'll be right back.

HALA GORANI, CNN HOST, HALA GORANI TONIGHT: Well, as we come to the end of this week in Atlanta, we felt it important to remind you of a crucial

aspect of Donald Trump's presidency.

In fact, it's the reason he's president in the first place. I'm not talking about lobby groups or political insiders. I'm talking about

ordinary people like these. Americans who believe firmly that Mr. Trump is the best person to lead their country.

I spoke to those Trump supporters here in Georgia. They explained why despite all the challenges he has faced, they stand by their president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH LAMB, GLASCOCK COUNTY BUSINESS OWNER: He truly has shown me that he loves America and he wants to change it, go back the way it used to be.

LINDA WASDEN, GLASCOCK COUNT RESIDENT: I think some of the things maybe he has said, I think, well, that's - don't say that -

GORANI (on-camera): Like what?

WASDEN: If he said what he said about the other countries, when you get upset, you say things sometimes in the heat of passion that you should not

say.

JEREMY KELLEY, GLASSCOCK COUNTY SHERIFF: And I'm glad to see a president of the United States giving an emphasis on that, being for one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: Georgia may have voted Republican for decades, but not here in Atlanta, the so-called capital of America's south. Atlanta is an island of

blue in an otherwise sea of red. And in 2016, two thirds of people here backed Hillary Clinton.

How do they feel now? We knew exactly where to go to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: Manuel's Tavern is known for being more than just a bar. Since it was opened in 1956 by the son of a Lebanese immigrant, it's where people

from across the city have come to talk politics.

Several Democratic presidents have passed through its door. Brian Maloof is the son of the original owner, Manuel, and now runs the business.

BRIAN MALOOF, OWNER OF MANUEL'S TAVERN: We do politics. That's how it's always been here. People sat across the tables, drinking beer, have an

honest discussion with one another, debating issues.

GORANI: Angelo Fuster is a Manuel's regular. He remembers being here on election night in 2016 when Donald Trump won against all odds.

ANGELO FUSTER, REGULAR AT MANUEL'S TAVERN: We were watching in disbelief and then in horror, and that continued until the inaugural. We were here,

all mourning the day.

GORANI: Mourning?

FUSTER: Yes.

GORANI: Mourning like it's a funeral.

FUSTER: As a funeral. It was a funeral wake. And with nobody missing the dead person. It was thinking about the United States in terminal condition

because of this.

GORANI: As a teacher, Adzua Agyapon remembers the fear among her students after Trump was elected.

ADZUA AGYAPON, TEACHER: They were very aware of all the things he was saying at that time about immigration and the way that he was aligned with

white supremacists and were really scared about the future - about their future and their families' and I think the country as well.

[15:35:00] GORANI: Jonathan Leon says he also struggled to explain Trump's success to his own child.

JONATHAN LEON, CIVIC ENGAGEMENT WORKER: It's tough as a parent to an 8- year-old son to have to explain and justify how a person who was spewing such vile things during the campaign got enough people to get behind him

and support him.

GORANI: What do you think has happened in America that led to a situation that we're in now where there is such division between the two sides here.

You have very passionate Donald Trump supporters and then you have others who believe he is the worst president in history, that he is a national

embarrassment, that he's reckless and dangerous. How do you explain where we are today?

LEON: We're at an impasse of fear. Fear of what's to come. Fear of losing power, a perceived power, a privilege. I think that's been guiding

a lot of our citizens in this country.

FUSTER: He exploited, and continues to exploit, the divisions that are deep in the American psyche, many of them racial. He keeps doing that.

Always appealing to the lowest, to the lowest instinct of people.

GORANI: Donald Trump is president. He is going to be president at least for the next three years unless something drastic happens. How do you see

the coming years for you and the country?

AGYAPON: Well, I'm encouraged by the folks who have been activated by seeing Donald Trump be elected. I think the women's march and now we're

reaching the one-year anniversary of that historic moment and seeing all of those folks not only take to the streets, but take to the polls and start

to run and really, like I said, get involved at the local level.

FUSTER: I'm not as optimistic because I see folks who have been hurting tremendously - the percentage of women dying during birth in rural America

is incredible. And it's increased by 10, 12 percent in the last three or four years. And a lot of that has to do with Republican denial of Medicaid

expansion.

I'm not optimistic because those same people who were suffering that way are still yay Trump.

GORANI: But that makes no sense.

FUSTER: I know it makes no sense. That's the frustrating thing.

GORANI: Right. I mean, if you say, they're voting against their own self- interest -

FUSTER: Absolutely. And they've done it over and over again.

GORANI: Why is that?

FUSTER: Because they buy the easy slogan. We want less government. The people who most depend on government applaud and say, yes, we need less

government interference.

GORANI: But, internationally, this is probably one of the most - the biggest head scratcher, which is, why then if you need more government

support because you don't have healthcare, would you vote for the party that is actually taking it away, right? How would you answer that?

LEON: When Republicans talk about being the party of morals and family values, that actually subscribes and brings more people into their party

that normally need these types of services.

GORANI: And so, are you going to now become more politically active as a result than you were before?

AGYAPON: Absolutely. I ran for office. I ran for school board and will continue to be involved in campaigns because, I think, one thing that's

come out is the fact that there is this detachment from the issues and folks voting in their best interest.

But if they don't know and they're not able to draw that connection because folks are not going out and talking to them, then that's why they're easily

go for the Republicans and go for a Donald Trump, if they're making that case.

GORANI: How about President Oprah Winfrey? Does that sound like a good -

FUSTER: She's wonderful, but I don't - I hesitate to endorse or to support a series of celebrity presidents.

GORANI: Do you all feel that way?

LEON: I think cults of personality is not going to carry our country forward.

AGYAPON: How about a President Michelle Obama?

GORANI: All right.

(voice-over): There is one personality who still looms large in Atlanta's political scene. Manuel Maloof who opened the tavern back in the 50s still

watches over it, with ashes in an urn above the bar, looking down on an America he might struggle to recognize and a president many people here

still haven't come to terms with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: One man who knows the passion and the politics of this state so well is Greg Bluestein, political reporter at the "Atlanta Journal

Constitution". Thanks for being with us.

When the lady there in the piece was talking about running for school board, you told me there are many, many women who are running for local

office in Georgia. And it's transnationally as well. We are seeing a big difference there.

GREG BLUESTEIN, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION": It is. And last year's special election in Georgia, pretty much every woman

on the ballot in the December runups won their election.

You're seeing a surge of interest and this year's midterms in November will be a real big test of that because there's two women Democrats on the

ballot for the Georgia governor race and there's a slew of - there's a surge of other women all up and down the ballots not just in Georgia, but

around the country who are going to test the electorate here.

[15:40:06] GORANI: And from both parties?

BLUESTEIN: From both parties. In Georgia, for one, you saw Republican Karen Handel win the most expensive US House election in history last year,

$60 million race. She won it. She's become the highest-ranking Republican woman in Georgia.

GORANI: So, how is, one year on, the State of Georgia changed politically? What are you - apart from a record number of women running for office, what

else has changed here?

BLUESTEIN: I think that segment did it perfectly. You see the split in Georgia just like you see a very divisive split throughout the country.

The supporters of Donald Trump are supporting him as much as ever.

And really, there's very little room for a Republican in Georgia not to support Donald Trump. The never Trump movement in Georgia at least has

pretty much petered out.

If you're running for office as a Republican in Georgia, you pretty much have to embrace Trump.

GORANI: Whether you believe - whether you're ideologically aligned or not basically? Whether you like the character or not.

BLUESTEIN: Exactly. The voters from Gibson kind of established that. "The Atlanta Journal Constitution" recently had a poll out that showed

Donald Trump's approval rating in Georgia was about 37 percent, but among Republicans it was around 90 percent plus.

GORANI: Still to this day?

BLUESTEIN: Still to this day.

GORANI: Ninety percent approval among Georgia Republicans.

BLUESTEIN: Among Georgia Republicans. Much less, of course, among moderates, independents and Democrats.

But among George Republicans, if you're running for governor, if you're running for state legislature, if you're running even for school board or

for local offices, you almost have to align with Trump.

GORANI: Can you explain that to worldwide viewers because when they read his Twitter feed or they hear him say things that are provocative, that

some feel are even dangerous, that could lead to war with North Korea or anything else, they feel like this man is difficult to embrace politically.

Why has the Republican Party embraced him, do you think? Is that traditionally a reflection of their establishment at all?

BLUESTEIN: You're right. For the Donald Trump supporters, they are intensely loyal. Many of them will say that exactly what we're hearing

from Donald Trump right now is what he promised to do.

He promised to upend the establishment. He promised to be non-political. He promised to say some of these things on Twitter and elsewhere that he

said during the campaign.

And others, the more moderate Republicans, they're looking at the benefits. They're looking at the $1.5 trillion tax bill. they're looking at the

appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. So, they're saying, we're getting something out of this.

GORANI: There's a political calculation there. But the demographics of this state are changing, right, because you have more Latino voters,

African-Americans. We saw it in Alabama, for instance, are very energized as well. Could we see any significant constituencies flip here?

BLUESTEIN: You've hit on the question of 2018. Whether or not the state - which is turning purple will turn blue? And the Democratic candidates for

governor believe it's time. They think that by energizing voters, especially minority voters who rarely cast ballots that this could be the

change.

And at the same time, they're going to go after suburban white women who have long been in the Republican camp, thinking that Trump might be the

thing that pushes them over the edge to the Democratic party.

BLUESTEIN: But just a reminder of 2016 how Georgia voted. I think we have a map there of the presidential election back then.

So, yes, the state is purple, obviously, but leaning red, especially in the rural areas. It was a five-point Donald Trump win, but he also lost

Atlanta and its core suburbs, including a few counties in this - very populous suburban counties that had been in the Republican camp for

decades. I mean, counties that hadn't gone blue since Jimmy Carter who is from Georgia was the president.

GORANI: Right. All right. Greg Bluestein, thanks very much, of the "The Atlanta Journal Constitution". Really appreciate your time. Thanks for

shedding light on this state. Also, of course, many of the topics that we discussed apply to other states. It's going to be a fascinating midterm

period in 2018.

Still to come, "The Wall Street Journal" reports that President Trump's lawyer paid a former porn star to keep quiet about her alleged affair with

Trump. We'll hear from the reporter who broke the story. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:46:02] GORANI: It's a sign of the times. We're more than halfway through our news hour and we're just now getting to the story of the

president and the porn star.

"The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that just weeks before the 2016 US presidential election, President Trump's lawyer went to great lengths to

pay for Stormy Daniels silence about her alleged affair with Trump.

The report says Michael Cohen actually formed a private company to pay Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, $130,000 to keep quiet.

According to the report, the alleged affair took place in 2006, and that's after Trump married Melania. Trump, Cohen and Daniels deny the

accusations.

Michael Rothfeld, one of the reporters for "The Wall Street Journal" who broke the story, joins me now live from New York.

What is an LLC? And in your reporting, how did you discover that it was used in this particular case?

MICHAEL ROTHFELD, REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": An LLC is a limited liability company. It's a small company that someone can form in a state

just to do a single deal, a real estate deal to do illegal settlements such as in this case.

We learned about this through our reporting about this settlement that this occurred right before the election and that Michael Cohen, Trump's personal

lawyer, had created it in order to use it to make the transaction and to buy her silence essentially.

GORANI: And what name was used to carry out this transaction?

ROTHFELD: This company was called Essential Consultants LLC and Michael Cohen, in the past, has used colorful names for companies. He has some

taxi medallions and he names things after taxi medallions. So, this was presumably essential for him to get done right before the election.

GORANI: So, this woman, porn actress, through Michael Cohen, had denied the affair and the payment?

ROTHFELD: No. So, she denied getting hush money from Donald Trump, but I think that was pretty carefully worded because we didn't report that Donald

Trump had made the payment to her. And she also denied the sexual -

GORANI: The sexual encounter.

And then, there's a tabloid magazine in the country that has aired a 2011 interview, without going into details of what's relayed in that interview,

where this would've been conducted before any alleged hush money was paid?

ROTHFELD: Yes. She told "In Touch" magazine and a number of other outlets and also friends at various different points that she had this relationship

or whatever you want to call it, sexual encounter, with Trump on one or more occasions in 2006 through 2007-time period.

GORANI: But, now, the lawyer for Donald Trump is not denying a payment, is he?

ROTHFELD: He hasn't. No, he hasn't addressed questions about it at all.

GORANI: So, then, how do they explain this money paid to this woman?

ROTHFELD: They don't. They just haven't addressed it. They really haven't explained it. They haven't confirmed it nor have they denied it.

And we've reported that it took place and we've reported which entity that Michael Cohen used.

We know that he sent money to the Los Angeles bank account for Keith Davidson, who was Stephanie Clifford's lawyer, and so, basically, that's

where we are right now.

GORANI: So, you have the trail there. So, it's not something that anyone can deny, right, because Michael Cohen's name, you could backtrack to his

name from that LLC, right?

ROTHFELD: Yes. The LLC on the formation papers has Michael Cohen's name. it's not something that you could easily find unless you were looking for

it. We happened to find the company based on reporting for a number of weeks, looking for this particular company that he had created.

We had an idea what it was called. And, although, we initially were looking for a different one, we found another one that he created and it

kind of led us to this one.

GORANI: Is any of this illegal?

[15:50:00] ROTHFELD: Non-disclosure agreements and payments for silence are not illegal. They are fairly common, I think, in Hollywood,

especially, when embarrassing things happen to prominent people.

But what some people have talked about is since this took place right before the election, if it was a payment to try to influence the election,

there could be federal election laws called into question here.

GORANI: Right. And so, this could still, therefore, have - I mean, this still could be looked into potentially.

But this private company was registered in Delaware, and that's significant, because why?

ROTHFELD: Well, Delaware is a very popular place to form companies, especially for people who don't want them to be traced back to them. It's

easy. It's cheap. They don't require you to name the owner, although Michael Cohen did choose to do that on this paperwork.

But some people don't want to be named. And again, like, if you're not looking for the company, you're not going to find that Michael Cohen is

associated with it. You could search it online. You can find the company. It does not say Michael Cohen, and so you actually pull the documents and

see his name on there.

GORANI: And you still haven't received any comment from the White House or any reaction?

ROTHFELD: Well, the White House denied - yes, sorry. They denied that they had a sexual encounter. They haven't commented on the settlement

payment at all. We've asked them last week. We asked them again this week.

In fact, Stormy Daniels, or Stephanie Clifford, hasn't even responded. She hasn't commented to us directly. The only comment from her came through

Michael Cohen, who is not her lawyer, not her representative, but the person that we reported paid her to keep silent. He's the one that gave us

the statement from Stormy Daniels.

GORANI: Michael Rothfeld of "The Wall Street Journal", thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate this evening.

ROTHFELD: Thanks, Hala.

GORANI: More to come, including from railing against his foes to that strange one about covfefe, President Trump's Twitter account has been a

real-time look at what he is thinking. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: To find out what the most powerful man in the world is thinking, policymakers, foreign leaders, friends and foes alike have had to keep -

and all of us have had to keep an eye on one place, @realDonaldTrump.

The president has used his Twitter account more than 2,000 times in the past year to give the world a sense of what he is thinking. Brian Stelter

has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I didn't have social media, I wouldn't be able to get the word out.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: President Trump got the word out more than 2,400 times during his first year in office. His tweets

give talking points to his supporters and heartburn to his critics.

TRUMP: Make sure you look up @realDonaldTrump.

STELTER: His tweets give us, in the media, a lot to talk about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This just in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tweeter in chief has fired off a new one this morning.

STELTER: It's a real-time sense of what the president cares about, what he's doing and what he's watching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He sort of live tweets the morning shows.

STELTER: Or what he wants all of us to focus on.

TRUMP: He's on a Twitter storm again. I don't do Twitter storms.

STELTER: Are his tweets distractions? Maybe sometimes. But his words carry power and shape policy. His use of social media is taking the

presidency to a new more divisive place.

Trump reacts to perceived slights in real time, targeting other world leaders like British Prime Minister Theresa May and his own cabinet members

like Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions, plus plenty of other politicians, including the mayor of San Juan.

[15:55:07] Nicknames abound. On the left, there is Dickie Durbin, Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, Crying Chuck Schumer and Al Frankenstein.

On the right, Little Bob Corker, Jeff Flaky and Sloppy Steve Bannon.

But his most famous nickname -

TRUMP: Little rocket man.

He is a sick puppy.

STELTER: He's used the moniker several times in tweets about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Nuclear taunts on Twitter scared some Americans, a reminder that most voters disapprove of all the tweeting.

Now, some lawmakers say they have warmed up to the tweets when the president stays on message.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, with regard to the president tweeting, I haven't been a fan until this week.

STELTER: But other times, tweeting has caused chaos in Washington, like when the president seemed to reverse course on a surveillance bill vote.

After lawmakers scrambled, Trump tweeted a clarification, even as the White House downplayed the turmoil.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It wasn't confusing to me. I'm sorry if it was for you.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR, "NEWSROOM": Here's the reality. It did create confusion. It just did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're telling us that two plus two does not equal four. They're telling us that the sky is not blue.

STELTER: Blame the Trump TV feedback loop. The president watches his boosters on "Fox News," then quotes the shows on Twitter, promoting "Fox &

Friends", Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.

He calls other news fake, even labeling some outlets enemies of the American people.

His most retweeted post as president wasn't about immigration or education. It was this video of himself at a wrestling match, body-slamming a CNN

logo, encouraging violence against the media.

Trump has tweeted the word fake nearly 200 times.

TRUMP: It's fake. It's made-up stuff. It's fake, phony, fake.

Fake news. Fake, fake news.

STELTER: Telling his followers not to trust real reporting even while spreading misinformation himself.

SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Trump is spending his time rage-tweeting, picking fights with our allies and pissing off pretty

much the entire world.

STELTER: Sometimes, though, you just have to laugh. If nothing else, Trump's first year gave us a new word.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Covfefe. Covfefe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What exactly is covfefe?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "SITUATION ROOM": I don't know how to pronounce covfefe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Covfefe.

BLITZER: Covfefe.

STELTER: What will year two bring?

Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: What will year two bring?

I'm Hala Gorani. Thanks for watching us this week. We will be back on Monday from another location.

Stay with CNN. "Quest Means Business" is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END