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New Poll Bad News for Trump; Trump Cancels Mar-a-Lago Trip to Deal with Government Shutdown; Are Trump's Bombastic Threats Helping or Playing into Kim Jong-Un's Hands. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 20, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, closed for business. The government shuts down as President Trump as well as Republicans and Democrats spend the day angrily pointing fingers and placing blame. Tonight, the stakes are higher. Will ongoing urgent talks produce a compromise before the stalemate keeps the government paralyzed for days even weeks?

Blame game, sources say the president fears he'll be blamed for the shutdown. He's canceled plans to go to his resort in Palm Beach, but is he really trying to negotiate a deal or just sending out some tweets?

Taking it to the streets, by the hundreds of thousands, Americans crowd the streets in cities across the country. They're demanding women's rights and protesting the Trump presidency. Is this foreshadowing what we'll see in this fall's midterm elections?

And North Korean crisis, one year into his presidency, the president has promised to beat North Korea's nuclear program with fire and fury, so why do some experts believe President Trump's rhetoric has actually given Kim Jong-un the upper hand?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Breaking news, the U.S. government has shut down now for just over 17 hours with no end in sight. On a day we're seeing huge protests marches nationwide. President Trump is holed up over at the White House, and instead of celebrating the start of his second year in office with a lavish fundraiser in Florida.

We're tracking the anger and the negotiations here in Washington. Our reporters are fanned out across the country, and our correspondents and specialists, they're working their sources right now.

Let's begin with our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the president is fretting about whether he'll actually be blamed for the shutdown, right?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's what we're hearing, Wolf. That's exactly right. But there has been a lot of talking today, a lot of posturing, but not a single vote was held here in Washington to end this shutdown, the president did not come out in front of the cameras here at the White House and his officials to explain their battle strategy at this point. All of the necessary ingredients for a shutdown that could last for days.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Conceding they don't know how long the shutdown will last, aides to President Trump are shaming Democrats for closing down the government.

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: It's like a 2- year-old temper tantrum to say I'm going to take my toys and go home because I'm upset about something else.

MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: My favorite is still the Schumer shutdown. It's got a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

ACOSTA: But privately, CNN has learned President Trump has confided to aides and allies he worries he will ultimately take the blame. As the shutdown is happening exactly one year after he was sworn into office.

(on camera): This is the one-year anniversary of the president being sworn into office. How does this White House feel to have a shutdown one year after the president was sworn in?

SHORT: Well, Jim, I think it's disappointing that Congress has chosen to shut down the government and particularly Senate Democrats have at the one-year anniversary, but --

ACOSTA: Is it a reflection of the leadership out of the White House?

SHORT: I think it's a reflection, candidly, of the position that many of the Democratic Party find themselves in.

ACOSTA (voice-over): On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue --

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.

ACOSTA: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is complaining Mr. Trump rejected his offer to start paying for the wall as a last-ditch gesture to prevent a shutdown during their Friday meeting at the White House.

SCHUMER: It's next to impossible to strike a deal with the president because he can't stick to the terms. I have found this out. Leader McConnell has found this out. Speaker Ryan has found this out.

Democrats have dug in their heels, insisting on an agreement to protect the young undocumented immigrants known as the DREAMers -- in exchange for their help in reopening the government outraging Republicans.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: There is no reason for this shutdown. We have been, and we continue to be willing to work together in good faith on immigration, but that deadline, that deadline is weeks away. ACOSTA: The president stayed behind closed doors, making calls to Republicans while using his phone to blast away at Democrats, tweeting, "Democrats are holding our military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can't let that happen." The president is escalating his rhetoric on the DREAMers, a far cry from the compassionate tone he used earlier this month.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This should be a bipartisan bill. This should be a bill of love. Truly, this should be a bill of love.

ACOSTA: The Democrats are constantly reminding the president of his past comments on shutdowns.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: He said what this country need is a good shutdown. We don't agree.

ACOSTA: Especially when Barack Obama was president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who's going to bear the brunt of the responsibility if indeed there is shutdown of the government?

PRESIDENT TRUMP (via telephone): If you say who gets fired, it always has to be the top. I mean, problems start from the top, and they have to get solved from the top. and the president is the leader.

ACOSTA: The president was supposed to be at Mar-a-Lago this weekend celebrating the one-year anniversary of being sworn into office. Instead, he can hear the protests from the women's march in Washington right outside the White House. It was one year ago when the president promised fundamental changes for the U.S.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: This American carnage stops right here, and stops right now.

ACOSTA: That combative tone from that January weekend has lasted throughout the president's first year in office in ways the nation won't soon forget.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, White House officials say they may be willing to accept a short-term spending bill that would fund the government through the early part of February, rather than the middle part of February. That could be a concession to Democrats.

Not sure if it's enough for Democrats to take that sort of deal and help reopen the government, but Wolf, get this, in just the last several minutes with the government shutdown and both sides not really working together, the Trump campaign has rolled out a new web ad that is highly inflammatory on the subject of immigration. It says, quote, "Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants." Wolf, that is a tough way to end a stalemate here in Washington -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is, Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much. Up on Capitol Hill right now, Democrats and Republicans, they have spent the day coming before cameras to blame the other side for shutting down the federal government. But behind closed doors, there's an urgent search under way to try to find some sort of compromise.

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly. Phil, any indications they're anywhere close to a deal?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a day that's been defined certainly by frustration, some confusion over where policy positions are, but in terms of a real bipartisan urgency to find a deal, well, all you need do is look at the Senate floor.

A Senate floor where there have been no votes today. The only procedural things that have happened have been efforts to politicize various positions, trying to target to other side. And very clearly, while people are saying they want to get something done, behind closed doors, neither side is budging.

Wolf, what I can tell you right now from Republican and Democratic sources, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell very comfortable in his position. He's talked on the floor about that, but he's also reiterating that behind closed doors saying he and Speaker Paul Ryan are in line, they're willing to move to a three-week short-term deal, but that's the extent to where they'll go.

As for the Democratic side, there is a closed door Democratic caucus meeting where I'm told senators came out of that more unified, more resolved in their position as one Democratic aide told me, we're here now. There's no sense in giving up before we get what we're looking for.

What are they looking for? Very clear commitments on immigration, on the DACA resolution issue, and Wolf, I can tell you right now in talking to Republican sources, that is something that is just not on the table. At least not to the degree that Democrats want.

So where does that leave us? The reality right now, Wolf, is there's a very good chance the Senate will not hold a single vote today. They will move into tomorrow, where people are trying to figure out if that's what will open the door, perhaps the end of the weekend, Monday, the government really being closed, federal workers really being affected will be the trigger point.

But all you probably really need to know Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has not spoken to President Trump at all. The communications between Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senator Schumer's office, those are limited right now.

And if a deal is going to be made, those are the players that are going to make it and Wolf, they're barely talking right now.

BLITZER: That's very, very disturbing. All right, Phil, thank you very much. Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill.

Joining us now from the White House, the White House principal deputy press secretary, Raj Shah. Raj, thanks so much for joining us.

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Wolf, thanks a lot for having me on.

BLITZER: So, as you know, the president, he campaigned on this notion that he was a great deal maker. He said the only way to deal with a shutdown earlier he said is for the president of the United States to simply get everyone in a room, all the major players, and make a deal. So why has he been holed up in the White House today, not meeting with Schumer or Mitch McConnell, not dealing with the leaders in the Senate to try to force a deal?

SHAH: Well, first of all, the president has been engaged. He's been talking to leaders in the House and the Senate. He's talked to Senator McConnell, Speaker Ryan --

BLITZER: He hasn't spoken to Schumer, the Democratic leader.

SHAH: Wolf, he's also talked to leaders in the military. He's talked to Secretary Mattis and our Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen to look at the actual impact --

BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting, you know if there's going to be a deal, he has to work it out, not just with his own cabinet, not just with Republicans. He has to work it out with Democrats. Democrats can prevent the 60-vote majority that you need in the Senate. You only have 51 Republicans.

So, why not do what he's suggested he would do, get them all over to the White House, get them into a conference room, or in the oval office, and work out a deal? It shouldn't be that complicated.

[17:10:12] SHAH: Look, the president had a discussion with Senator Schumer just yesterday.

BLITZER: That was yesterday, what about today? What about today?

SHAH: Wolf, Wolf --

BLITZER: What about today?

SHAH: Wolf, the terms that the Democrats are laying out are completely uncertainly. That's just a fact of the matter. What they want to do, and what they are planning to do now, is continue a shutdown of our government over unrelated immigration matters. It is simply not a budget matter. They're shutting down the government.

They're risking our military. They're undermining our troops overseas and in the United States. They are not paying first responders. They're not paying our border patrol, and they're threatening health insurance.

BLITZER: You're making good points, Raj, but you have to have a deal. And he did meet with Schumer yesterday and right after that meeting, the president of the United States tweeted, excellent preliminary meeting in oval with Senator Schumer. He went on to say making progress. So, what happened? All of a sudden, he was making progress. It was an excellent meeting, and then everything collapsed. What happened?

SHAH: Let's go back for a second. There are a lot of issues to hammer out for a long-term funding agreement. Also a lot of issues to work on to get to an immigration agreement. They're not going to get settled in a three-day or four-day continuing resolution.

We think we need several weeks. We believe we need four weeks, we're willing to compromise to three weeks. We need a substantial amount of time to actually negotiate these deals. It's not going to be handled overnight. People who are saying that are putting up false ideas.

The fact of the matter is Democrats have a bill in front of them that will reopen the government. It extends children's health insurance, it cuts -- it delays Obamacare taxes. These are measures that they support on their own. They simply don't want to reopen the government, and it's that kind of obstructionism that we can't reward.

BLITZER: Schumer said today that he thought he had an extension until Tuesday night. He said the president recommended Tuesday night. Listen to what the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with Jell-O. It's next to impossible. As soon as you take one step forward, the hard-right forces the president three steps back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Even the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday that he didn't know where the president stands or what he would sign. How do you respond to that criticism, the president is like Jell-O, you never know where he is going to end up?

SHAH: Senator Schumer's criticism is way off base. He's playing a blame game because he's left in an untenable position. Senator Schumer in that same press conference said he offered the president full funding for the border wall, but then when he was pressed, only offered less than 10 percent of the funding.

He's just not telling the truth. The fact of the matter is the Senate Democrats have a bill in front of them that can reopen the government. They need to vote on that. They're delaying even a vote on cloture on that measure that would just be a three-week extension. So, we can have the breathing room necessary to negotiate terms on immigration and spending. BLITZER: What would be the downside? And this is a critical issue. Millions of Americans are being impacted by this in the U.S. military, elsewhere as well. It's a hugely important issue. What would be the downside right now if the president called Schumer, called Mitch McConnell, called the other Democratic and Republican leaders and said this is awful.

You're not all that far apart. We have to work out some solution to make sure the government is not shut down. Come over to the White House. We'll have dinner tonight. What would be so bad about that?

SHAH: I'm not sitting here ready to make dinner plans, but what I think is important is that the American people need to understand that just a three-week continuing resolution is necessary. It's absolutely necessary for us to reopen the government and begin negotiations on these issues.

On the issue of immigration, one of those that Senator Schumer mentioned, if he's ready to fund the wall, that's a great step. We walked away from a bipartisan meeting just last week where we had terms to talk about four issues, DACA, the immigration, the younger illegal immigrants, the issue of chain migration, the visa lottery, and border security.

If he's willing to fully fund the wall, that's big progress of two of the four issues. Right, you and I are talking on live television. What we really need to do is fund the government for three weeks with a continuing resolution so there's plenty of sometime for all the relevant folks to get into the room and discuss these matters, have a little breathing room.

BLITZER: I want to be precise.

SHAH: We can't be discussing these things right up to the deadline.

BLITZER: I'm just channeling in what the president of the United States said as a private citizen a few years ago. He said any president, any president, you have to sit down, you have to work it out. You're the man in charge. Just do it.

[17:15:07] So, what's curious to me as someone who has interviewed Donald Trump many times over the years, why he just doesn't get these people in a room, if he can't work out a deal, he can't work out a deal, but as you know, he says he's a great deal maker. He should be able to do it.

SHAH: The president did have Senator Schumer in the oval office just yesterday. They couldn't work out a deal because Senator Schumer's terms were frankly not realistic. We're not going to just pass immigration legislation that they want and that they haven't negotiated with Republicans just to keep the government open. That doesn't seem to be the appropriate step. It's not the terms President Obama agreed to in 2013 when he opposed the government shutdown.

BLITZER: But as you know, Senator Schumer said he left that meeting pretty encouraged. The president was pretty encouraged. He said it was -- in his tweet, an excellent preliminary meeting in the oval with Senator Schumer. But something happened. Schumer says the president -- hold on.

SHAH: Wolf, in that same -- in that same tweet, he had a four-week extension is the best move. That's the important point. We need -- they discussed issues, but you're not going to handle all of these overnight. And to present an option that we're going to do that with a two or three-day extension is unrealistic, not the way to govern.

BLITZER: I'll read the whole tweet so I'm precise, "Excellent preliminary meeting in oval with Senator Schumer. Working on solutions for security and our great military together with Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, making progress. Four-week extension would be best."

That was yesterday. Today is another day. The government is shut down. You need to solve this. Listen to what the president said just last week in a meeting with Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'll take all the heat you want to give me and I'll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat. I like heat in a certain way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In that meeting, he seemed like he was ready to compromise. He wanted people on both sides to come around to a deal. He got a proposal from Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, a Democrat and a Republican. If he's worried about being blamed, as our sources are telling us right now, he's already being blamed. Once again, let me just ask a final question to you, why not get everyone in a room and make a deal?

SHAH: Well, first off, I wouldn't trust your sources. The president is concerned not about being blamed but about getting this government open for the American people. Now, with respect to immigration, they left that meeting that you just showed a clip from with an agreement to go further on four specific issues.

That was DACA, that was the visa lottery, that was chain migration, and border security, and the deal that was presented by Senators Durbin and Graham only dealt with DACA, had an inadequate funding for border security, it did not end the visa lottery, it did not provide serious reforms to chain migration.

So, the president is not going to sign a bad deal just because it's presented to him. He wants bipartisanship, but he wants serious reforms that are going to put us in a place where a few years from now, we don't have hundreds of thousands of new illegal immigrants in the country that are now asking for new protected status.

BLITZER: Clearly, if the president doesn't get everyone in a room and makes a deal, there's not going to be a deal. The government will be shut down and millions of Americans will suffer.

I just want to point out what Lindsey Graham has told me, what Dick Durbin has said. This was a preliminary deal, following the reopening -- if there's no government shutdown, a comprehensive immigration plan would in fact deal with all of those issues that you're raising in a very, very comprehensive way.

SHAH: And that's frankly --

BLITZER: A deal to make sure the government didn't break down.

SHAH: Wolf, if you give me a moment, that deal was specific to providing DACA individuals legal status, and then, you know, preliminary border security funding or preliminary looks at these issues. Those are terms we can't accept.

BLITZER: Schumer says he's ready to but the border wall on the table.

SHAH: That's not what he told the president in the oval office to his face. I would take his words with a grain of salt. But what I would also say is that serious reforms to those three measures along with DACA will insure that we don't have hundreds of thousands of new illegal immigrants coming into this country across a porous border and without enforcement measures.

BLITZER: All right. Raj Shah, you have been very generous with your time. If the president is watching, let's see if he gets involved instead of just sitting there and talking to Republicans and tweeting. Let's see if he brings in the Democratic leadership and works out a deal. I'm sure he believes he can do it.

There is so much at stake right now. This is a moment for the president to do what he said he would do when he was running, even before as a private citizen. He can do it if he wants. So, let's see if he does it. Raj, thank you so much.

Raj Shah joining us from the White House. We'll keep our eyes on developments over at the White House.

And up on Capitol Hill where the U.S. Senate is holding a rare Saturday session, behind the scenes negotiations are under way to end the government shutdown.

Also, breaking news in cities across the country. Hundreds of thousands taking to the streets to protest President Trump and demand respect for women.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:24:27]

BLITZER: This hour's breaking news as President Trump and lawmakers blame each other for the government shutdown and urgently trying to find a way to end their stalemate. Americans by the hundreds of thousands are crowding the streets of many cities across the country. They're demanding respect for women, protesting against President Trump and his policies.

Let's go to our senior national correspondent, Kyung Lah, at a huge protest in Los Angeles. What are you seeing, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we have seen in more than three hours of this program, this part of the program going on, is just an incredible amount of energy. There have been a number of celebrities who have been speaking to what is a very sizable crowd.

[17:25:07] From our ground viewpoint, it's really difficult to get a sense of how big this is, but from our drone shot, you can see this area just outside the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, it is still very full. Three and a half hours, nearly three and a half hours into this.

The mayor of Los Angeles said that this was the largest women's protest, women's march in the entire country, estimating the crowd at 500,000 people. So, what is it that they are after? Last year, we saw a lot of rage, a lot of passion.

This year, what we're seeing is it's a bit more directed, and what I'm noting is that we're seeing a number of signs like this. Here, clearly, using a phrase that was used by the president when he was captured on that "Access Hollywood" tape.

But this is politically motivated. The idea that the women's march was not simply protest. It is going to lead to action. And Wolf, we are already seeing this. The number of women who are declaring themselves candidates.

If you look at the numbers of women runner for governor in this state, there are according to Rutgers, 79 women who are already said they want to run for governor. That is a record -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Huge crowd out in Los Angeles. Other cities across the country as well. Kyung Lah, thanks very much.

Coming up, we're watching major developments up on Capitol Hill. The House and Senate remain in session as leaders negotiate behind closed doors. Will there be a deal to reopen the federal government? So much is at stake right now. Millions of Americans are impacted.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:20] WOLF BLIZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news. An exclusive new CNN poll, bad news for the president as he wraps up his first year in office. But there may be some signs of hope for the White House as well. A majority of Americans, 55 percent, disapprove of the way he's handling his job, with only 40 percent expressing approval. But that's an improvement from a month ago, when the president's approval rating stood at just 35 percent.

Let's bring in our CNN political director, David Chalian.

David, the president's approval number is ticking up a bit. What's behind that? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Really, it is positive views

about the economy and taxes. On those two issues, his numbers have gone up. We see in this poll where Donald Trump is able to start improving after a year of an approval rating that was just in total decline. It's on the economy, the supercharged stock market, but the other big takeaway in the poll is that he still is just facing enormous headwinds when it comes to his own ability to get out of his way.

Let's look at the good news. Look at how Independents here are approving of Trump's handing of the economy. It's at 52 percent approval among Independents. Just last month, that was 45 percent. A 7 percent increase in this key issue. That's helping fuel a rise in his approval rating overall. And look at this number, 69 percent of Americans say that economic conditions today are good. That is like the best number that we have seen in 20 years. And it's 12 points higher than just a year ago when Donald Trump became president.

BLITZER: So, if it's the economy stupid, as they used to say, even the president said it this week, why is he so unpopular?

CHALIAN: Because even though clearly voters, especially Independents, want to start giving him good marks on the economy, he can't get out of his own way.

Take a look at this question we asked. Do you have confidence on Trump's ability to do his job after watching his actions and statements? And 59 percent have a decreased level of confidence after watching the president in office over the last year. That decreased number has gone down a little bit, but that's still an enormous number, that six in 10 Americans have a decreased level of confidence. And then his basic policies. A majority, slim majority of Americans say Donald Trump's policies will head the country in the wrong direction. And 52 percent compared to 40 percent who say his policies will head the country in the right direction.

BLITZER: That's an important number. Right direction, wrong direction. People look at that, political types, all the time.

Everyone stand by.

There's more information that's coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:38:30] BLITZER: We're back with our political specialists.

Jeff Zeleny, you're getting new information, the president was supposed to be in Mar-a-Lago tonight for a big dinner on the first anniversary of his inauguration. It's not happening.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPODNENT: He's stuck here in Washington. We're getting new information, filling in the blanks what he's been doing all day long. Our White House producer, Kevin Liptak, is reporting that the president filmed a video in the Rose Garden of the White House this afternoon that's going to be broadcast at the fundraiser tonight. Here's one quote from it, very interesting. It pertains to the shutdown. He says, "There shouldn't be a shutdown but there is. It's caused by the Democrats but we're going to win another victory."

This is a 90-second video that looks like it was shot by an iPhone or something in the Rose Garden of the White House. It speaks to two things under way in the White House. There are two separate battles going on. One is to frame the public relations debate about this. That's what I told aides spent most of the day doing, trying to win the public argument. We saw the Trump campaign put out a web video earlier. The Republican National Committee also engaged in this. I'm told, far more attention, energy, and time is trying to win the public relations game than to actually try to solve the problem. Because that's something that's largely left to the Senate and House now. But clearly the president engaged in this, but amazingly, we have not seen or heard from him publicly once today -- Wolf?

BLITZER: He's been tweeting, but he hasn't made a statement --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: -- or anything along those lines.

David Axelrod, what would be the downside, if any, if the president brought Schumer and McConnell, maybe some others over to the White House tonight, got into a room, had dinner and tried to come up with a deal to end this government shutdown?

[17:40:11] DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, AXE FILES: Well, look, I actually think it would be appreciated by the American people if it looked like the president was taking an active role here. You know, his image of the art of the deal, the big strong leader, but he doesn't look particularly strong here. Each time he toes the line and appears to be ready to make a deal, he gets reeled back in by his staff, reeled back in by elements of his own party. And so that's one of the reasons why we are where we are. It would be advisable to do that.

But just to a point that Jeff Zeleny made, I do think that just trying to be a little detached and not as involved as we are in our work, and looking at this story, I wonder how many Americans are watching this and seeing this sort of cacophony of finger pointing and blame making, while no one is really working to solve the problem. If he were to call people together, at least there would be a sense that he was trying to solve the problem.

BLITZER: Because, Rebecca Berg, it doesn't seem like -- this is mission impossible. They could work it out and get the government back operating.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: They could, but the problem, Wolf, is you have two positions, the Republicans on one side and the Democrats on the other, and not sort of an obvious middle ground to reach a compromise here. Republicans are saying they don't want to negotiate on immigration while the government is in a shutdown. They want to reopen the government, get back to the negotiating table on immigration. Democrats say they want the immigration problem solved as soon as possible, and they should be negotiating that right now with Republicans. So what is the middle ground when it's negotiate on immigration, don't negotiate on immigration? To solve this shutdown, and it might be Republicans can give them assurances. They have talked about reducing the length of time before the next spending bill would need to pass. But there isn't sort of this obvious win that Republicans can give Democrats to try to reopen the government, get back to this immigration issue.

BLITZER: Sabrina Siddiqui is with us again from "The Guardian."

If the president did what he said he would do back in 2013 when there was a government shutdown, when he was critical of then-President Obama for not taking charge, getting everyone in a room, and working on a deal --there was a 16-day government shutdown then. What would be the downside if he were to do that right now? It shouldn't be all that difficult to get this resolved?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Certainly, one of the challenges has been that lawmakers feel the president has not been sufficiently engaged in this process. There's not a great deal of clarity around what sort of compromise the president is willing to sign. Democrats say one of the problems is that they don't trust that the president would move on to immigration after signing a short-term government extension. They want much more than just an assurance they're going to bring up a bill to resolve the status of DREAMers.

The other challenge for Democrats is they're under immense pressure from immigration advocates who have seen the show before. They have seen failed efforts to protect DREAMers in 2010, in 2013. And the only way to enact the law is to tie it to a must-pass bill that would corral more support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

But as Rebecca said, if Republicans are saying immigration is a separate issue, we're going to deal with that later, and Democrats are saying we must deal with it now, it's hard to see where there's that middle ground and where they're going to come together.

BLITZER: David Axelrod, you know the players. You know Schumer, McConnell. You have worked with them when you were in the White House in the Obama administration. So they should be able to come up with a deal. Who's going to blink first, do you think?

AXELROD: I agree with everything that's been said. The fact is that Democrats are under enormous pressure from their base that feels very strongly about this issue and feels like they have been rolled in the past. They know that 80 percent of Americans are on their side on this issue. They believe what the president said, which is that at the end of the day, the president of the United States will bear the brunt, whatever polling says now, the party that's in charge and the party that runs the White House and both houses will be blamed. Nonetheless, I think that as this wears on, it's not going to be good for anyone. And my guess is that there will be some sort of short- term solution there. And with some, some triggering mechanism that would indicate to Democrats or assure Democrats that this DACA issue is going to be taken up in the near term.

CHALIAN: Wolf, here's why I think your idea of getting in a room tonight for dinner is not necessarily going to be even helpful in this scenario, which many Americans would be, what do you mean? It's because of the clarity issue. Both Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer have expressed exasperation in the last 72 hours that they don't know what it is the president wants. So getting in a room, if the president doesn't know what his endgame is, will do very little good. That sort of has to be the first step for everyone else to come to the table and work it out.

[17:45:15] AXELROD: One thing he doesn't want is to be blamed. They're trying to blame Democrats, but they know in their heart it's the president's role. I was talking to a senior adviser before I came to the studio and they believe tomorrow there will be more movement. If this is still going Monday morning, that's when they believe both sides will actually start talking. So much finger pointing today. We're really not in any more of an advanced situation than we were 24 hours ago, which is shocking.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Still plenty of time. We have to wait to tomorrow. They can do something today if they really want to. Let's see if they do.

Guys, stand by.

Just ahead, from fire and fury to Little Rocket Man, we're tracking President Trump's one-of-a-kind approach to dealing with North Korea. Are the president's bombastic threats containing the crisis or playing right into Kim Jong-Un's hands?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:43] BLITZER: President Trump took office with the promise to shake up American policy on North Korea. One year in, the president's provocative tweets and occasional threats have become a centerpiece of his approach to dealing with Kim Jong-Un.

Our Brian Todd has been tracking the changes over the past year.

Brian, tell us more.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a year ago, as President Trump was being sworn in, we were coming off a period of what was calling strategic patience with North Korea. With the U.S. saying it wouldn't negotiate with Kim Jong-Un's regime unless it committed to getting rid of the nuclear weapons. It was essentially a commitment to the status quo, a stalemate, hoping that the North Koreans wouldn't do anything provocative. That didn't work.

Fast forward to now, one year under President Trump, and America's dynamic with n if looks like an earthquake hit it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): President Trump wasn't in office yet when Jong-Un in his New Year's address to North Korans a year ago --

KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN DICTATOR: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

TODD: -- he declared he would launch a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S. Trump responded in a tweet, "It won't happen." And the battle of wills was on.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Little Rocket Man --

TODD: During a year in which personal insults between the American president and the North Korean dictator were hurled back and forth like never before, the president has also said he'd meet face-to-face with Kim. Tonight, experts are saying that Donald Trump has in his first year shaken the American dynamic with North Korea like no other president before him.

MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGISC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: North Koreans have been put on their back foot, I think.

TODD: Put on their back foot by tougher sanctions pushed by Trump, and by the president's implications that if pushed too far the U.S. could take this confrontation to the mat.

TRUMP: He knows I'm not messing around. I'm not messing around.

DR. PATRICK CRONIN, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: President Trump has forced Kim Jong-Un to think the unthinkable that the United States might attack North Korean soil.

TODD: Which has forced Kim, some experts believe, to make the kinds of diplomatic strides with his mortal enemy to the south, that he's never made before, to the point of sending North Korean athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

CRONIN: Kim Jong-Un would never have thought about talking with the South if it were not for President Trump.

TODD: But at the same time, many argue that Trump's volatility has made Kim more aggressive. He tested his most powerful nuclear bomb during Trump's first year -- and fired off more missiles than North Korea's ever tested in one year.

JOSEPH DETRANI, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO NORTH KOREA: I think North Korea responded in kind by saying we better quickly get as much capabilities as possible because we're dealing with the administration now that says everything is on the table.

TODD: Everything including open threats if North Korea were to fire a missile toward the U.S.

TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

TODD: Kim's regime responded by threatening to target Guam. The threats and insults only ramped up from there.

TRUMP: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.

TODD: Kim pushed back by calling Trump an "lunatic old man." Trump tweeted in response, "Why would Kim Jong-Un insult me by calling me old when I would never call him short and fat."

GREEN: President Trump's pretty good at schoolyard insults. The North Koreans have a whole propaganda factory that designs them. So this game of bellicose rhetoric almost always suits North Korea's interests.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And one officer in Korea said that President Trump's brash style of taking on Kim Jong-Un so personally has projected North Korea to the world as being much more important than it really is, that by paying so much attention to Kim, Trump has given a country with only 25 million people, many of them starving, and an economy on its death bed, the status as Britain, France or China -- Wolf?

[17:54:26] BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you very much.

Coming up, more on this hour's breaking news. President Trump is working the phones. Lawmakers are looking for a compromise. And can everyone make a deal to end the government shutdown before it becomes even more disruptive to millions of Americans?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Shutdown standoff. Republicans and Democrats accuse one another of holding the federal government hostage. Both sides trading blame. But tonight, no one is blinking. We're following the posturing and the consequences of the inaction right here in Washington.

"A nice present?" That's how President Trump is describing the shutdown as he publicly slams Democrats and privately predicts that Americans will blame him for the debacle. Why hasn't he been able to cut a deal?

Investigation infighting. We have new information this hour about a flash point in the House Russia probe. Some high-profile witnesses are creating roadblocks as well. This, as we wait to learn if the would-be witness in chief will meet with the special counsel.

And one year later. Protests across the United States mark the president's first anniversary in office as Mr. Trump unleashes --