Return to Transcripts main page


Trump to Visit Bush Family to Pay Private Respects Today; McConnell: Congress Will Avoid Partial Government Shutdown; New Internal GOP Fight Over the Future of the Party; George H. W. Bush's Legacy Defending Americans with Disabilities. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 4, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: This should not be news, but it is to the degree that there's the rivalry between Jeb and Donald Trump in the primaries which happens, it's real. They actually ran against each other. That's understandable. His past comments about W, his past comments about George H. W. Bush.

But, I guess it's, you know, why is it news? But the president has been about pitch perfect here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And it's such a relief to people in the White House who lived through the headache that was the John McCain funeral when they had so many issues to not only the president not being invited but whether the flags were at half-staff. It was so much drama that week that people in the White House said it was debilitating to the work environment. And now it is completely different with this. And I do think it is because President Trump is involved and he's part of the pomp and the circumstance that is happening in Washington this week.

They asked him to send Air Force One. He followed protocol and did send it. He canceled the press conference in Argentina, he's letting them -- he'd invited them to stay at the Blair House he's going to make the visit. And I do think that is a welcome relief in the White House that things are going smoothly and going as planned.

And I do think your source sums it up how the people in the White House see it. They do feel the president has been gracious here, that he's been really helpful which is not a given with this president especially considering the relationship between him and the Bush family, given that the last thing he said about H. W. Bush was mocking his thousand points of light, that volunteer foundation he started.

So I don't think it's a given the president acted like this, but I do think White House officials are completely relieved that it's gone so smoothly.

KING: Then a couple of interesting seeds of this. Number one, there was the communication this past summer but Melania Trump did come to the Barbara Bush funeral and spend some time with the Bush Family and they were very impressed and they thought she was gracious, incredibly gracious and incredibly giving. Number two, Laura Bush has spent time with Melania Trump in the past at the White House and it is going back today at Melania Trump's invitation to see the Christmas decorations which is always a big deal. The first lady takes the lead in that role.

So you do see efforts from the president, from his staff and from his wife to make this work.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: And President Trump has shown even though he certainly can hold a grudge, he can also let things go, especially if someone is being gracious to him and maybe being complimentary to him. So by having him involved and making sure that he is invited and making sure that he is welcome, he's been known to kind of be able to kind of change on a dime to go from, you know, even in foreign politics, going from calling someone rocket man to saying we're in love, you know, with Kim Jong-un. So he has shown that he can kind of change very quickly especially if you're nice him.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I was just kind of follow up with Kaitlan's stand about where the White House is. I had a senator grabbed me yesterday and pulled me aside and essentially say -- he'd said explicitly, don't make this about him. Don't make this about the current president. Make this about George H. W. Bush.

I think that's kind of where everybody has been -- where they wanted it to be. And the fact that it's ending up in that place is you don't need to psycho analyze everything because it's just good. I think it's not just a relief to the White House, to the people on Capitol Hill. I think it's a relief to everybody at this point in time that you can just have a couple of days and focus on George H. W. Bush, focus on what he was able to do over the course of his career, not just -- while he was president but throughout his lengthy government service and after when you talk about points of light.

That's something that I think the country wants and needs at times like this.

KING: And George P. Bush, Jeb's son who actually has worked with Trump in the campaign in Texas was on T.V. this morning saying, look, yes, the bad blood is real. But he also says there are moments like this that are bigger.


GEORGE P. BUSH, GEORGE H. W. BUSH'S GRANDSON: It was tough, but, you know, if my grandfather were here, he'd say during many campaigns where he had tough campaigns against Lloyd Bentsen and other famous Democrats, fellow Republicans. Ronald Reagan and others have said, you know, there's a time for politics and there's a time for governing, but there's also a time for reflection. And this is a time for reflection for our country to think about the values that make our country great.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: It's the history and the perspective of the Bush Family. Back to 41's long career in Washington and politics, W and Jeb, George P in elective, this family has been immersed in politics forever. And I think they understand and at this time, maybe for the first time we've seen President Trump understands that there's a time for combat and there's a time to step back and be Americans.

And again, everybody is pitch perfect so far.

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes. Because the institution right now, and we saw this after President Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992. Of course, they became friends. Well, you know, they say they became pretty close friends. I think a lot of this was driven by President Bush's own reverence for the institution. You can see that in the note he wrote to President Clinton as he was leaving office and President Clinton was coming back in.

It kind of -- it rubs off. It's a very exclusive club, the president's club and it must be rubbing off on this current president as well.

KING: Tradition occasionally serves us all well.

WARREN: Absolutely.

KING: Serves us all.

Up next for us, Joe Biden makes a boast and a potential 2020 rival responds.


[12:39:21] KING: Topping our political radar today, the markets are not happy. You see the DOW index plunging more than 500 points in part over skepticism the administration can really hang -- hammer out a trade deal with China. President Trump sounding optimistic his economic team can get it done before the new 90-day deadline imposed after the G20 summit. The president tweets that he and President Xi want to see it get done. But if it doesn't happen, he says, quote, I am a tariff man, and he says countries will pay for the privilege of raiding America's wealth.

Those are the president's words and the market doesn't like it. The president wraps up his thoughts in a sportsman-like tone saying, let the negotiations begin.

The former Vice President Joe Biden sounding quite confident, perhaps dropping a hint about his 2020 plans.

[12:40:01] During a stop for his book tour last night, the former vice president called himself, quote, the most qualified person to be president. And he says he'll make his final decision on whether to run for the 2020 race in the next six weeks to two months.

CNN caught up today with one potential challenger Biden could face and asked her about that declaration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think that the vice president has many wonderful qualities and I'm glad to hear that he's out and talking.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What is your timeframe for making your decision?

E. WARREN: I said that I would take a hard look after the election and I'm doing exactly that right now.

RAJU: Meaning by the end of the year?

E. WARREN: No timeline on it. I'm working on it right now.


KING: We'll keep watching.

Senate's top Republican says there will be no year-end government shutdown. But before you believe Mitch McConnell, he also concedes he's mostly irrelevant at this point.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: It doesn't make big headlines but we funded 75 percent of the government before the end of the fiscal year for the first time in 20 years. So this 25 percent remaining and in that, it includes this sort of ongoing discussion over voter security. In the end, he and Schumer and Pelosi have to decide what they're going to do here. Because even though this is a Republican government, the Democrats are not irrelevant. They're, you know, a part of the governing process.


KING: That he, the innocent bystander also known as the majority leader of (INAUDIBLE) is President Trump. The biggest issue of course is funding for the border wall and Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi working on plans to meet with the president next week they hope to talk things over.

Is that, Phil Matting a statement of reality, this is about the president, Chuck and Nancy as he calls them now? Or is that Leader McConnell kind of washing his hands a little bit in case this gets ugly that (INAUDIBLE) me?

WARREN: A little bit of both.

MATTINGLY: The beauty of Leader McConnell is when he does decide to weigh in on something which isn't always numerous amounts of time. Generally, he's very blunt about the reality. And the reality behind that statement is over the course of the last four or five days, really being the last week, negotiations between the staff and the top members of the appropriations committee fell apart on this issue. There was no pathway forward and why there are number of different political dynamics here from House Republicans leaving power and Nancy Pelosi trying to take power where Chuck Schumer stands, where the liberal base stands with Chuck Schumer.

All of that going into play that the bottom line is, it is going to come down to a meeting between Nancy and Chuck and President Trump whether they can reach a deal. Or whether we were all hanging out in the (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And Mitch McConnell wants to know the answer, but I don't think he's quite sure he can trust what we thinks will necessarily happen when the president meets with Chuck and Nancy. He's (INAUDIBLE).

Up next for us, a new fight in the Republican ranks over the future and the face of the party.


[12:46:53] KING: A little family feud in the Republican Party over this fact. Republicans will have only 13 women in the new Congress. That's the House side. Down from 23, even more staggering, the National Republican Committee Campaign Committee recruited more than 100 women. Only one of them got elected.

Now the woman in charge of that recruiting to the NRCC Elise Stefanik is leaving the campaign arm. She says, the Republican Party desperately needs more women in the ranks and tells Roll Call part of her plan, quote, playing the primaries and play big to support what she calls non-traditional candidates.

Now that runs afoul of GOP tradition. Largely to stay out of election fights before the general election or at least leave it to the NRCC. Tom Emmer, the new NRCC chairman says of Stefanik's decision, that's her call, her right, but I think that's a mistake. Stefanik responding on Twitter, "News flash, I wasn't asking for permission."

So, a little gender battle here. A little internal family feud here about a very critical question for the Republican Party which is, you know, we have a problem. We're more rural and we're lot of white guys.

WARREN: Yes. I mean, you do have to consider that of those 100 women the Republican Party recruited, they were running against other women as well. It's a bad year for Republicans in the House race as if it's just sort of bound to happen that all those would lose. But I think that when Stefanik, you know, she -- when she came in, she was the youngest woman in Congress, she had that until Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez won. She's very clearly been thinking about these since her days in the Bush -- George W. Bush White House. I think she's ambitious, this is clearly a move to say I can be more influential outside of the normal structure as these party committees in general become less and less important.

KING: And you have -- you see this in the Democratic side, some of these younger members have ambition. and they're looking up part of it is, generational, part of it in these women looking the leadership structures dominated by men. Listen to Paul Ryan, the outgoing speaker trying to thread the needle on this one.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Get Elise to go back to doing a great job. She was -- and we put her in charge of recruiting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said she doesn't want to do that anymore.

RYAN: I know. She needs to change her mind. I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She says she wants to go --

RYAN: So I'm obviously a big fan of Elisa. She's one of the most talented members of Congress we have and I see her as a big part of our future. The headwinds of the midterm and all of the other factors I think, you know, washed against us just like they did against the Democrats in 2010. Those things happen.

It doesn't mean you give up, it means you go back at it and you go and recruit great candidates like Elise did and get them to run again.


KING: So he's saying, don't give up, stay in the normal structure. She's a younger member saying, you know what, the structure didn't work, I'm going to try something different.

RASCOE: And this is something that they're going to have to deal with. How do you kind of respond to the demographics and how do you respond to just not having -- like having so few women in the year of the women? Like, yes, a lot of Republicans lost, but where are the women candidates, where are women Republican leaders that you're going to see in Congress?

And that's something that they're going to have to answer to, especially when you have President Trump in the office kind of alienating women.

KING: It will be a big challenge for Liz Cheney, the former vice president's daughter who now is the number three in the House Republican leadership, she'll be the highest ranking Republican in the House.

[12:50:04] We'll see how she deals with this challenge including her junior member who wants to play by different rules. It's fun to watch. It's an interesting time.

Up next, remembering President George H. W. Bush includes remembering his legacy defending Americans with disabilities and how he took a sledge hammer to what he called the wall of exclusion.



[12:55:00] GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With today's signing of the landmark, Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.


KING: That's President George H. W. Bush changing the lives of millions of Americans in the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act nearly 30 years ago. The act prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities and it's the reason today that it's normal to see wheelchair ramps and lifts and service animals allowed in businesses.

This past hour, a group of beneficiaries paying tribute to the former president. He is of course lying in state in the Capitol rotunda.

Another person whose life has changed, Democrat Congressman Jim Langevin. He became the first person, you see it right there, in a wheelchair to preside over the House of Representatives. That was the 20th anniversary of the ADA signing.

And Congressman Langevin joins me now from Providence, Rhode Island. Congressman, put the achievement of this president to whom we are saying farewell to. Put it into context. How did it change this country?

REP. JIM LANGEVIN (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, first of all, I -- when I said my sincere condolences to the Bush Family on the loss of president Bush 41, he was extraordinary individual and changed the lives of so many people with disabilities, myself included. And it still is one of the most profound legacies of his presidency and of which I am very grateful.

KING: Later in life, the president himself was in a wheelchair. He was a friend of the community if you will who became a member of the community. But back at the beginning, what was it? What was it that he was a fit man, he was an athlete, what was it that convince George H. W. Bush? I know there were Democrats in Congress, Tom Harkin, and Republicans in Congress as well including Senator Dole. But what was it that convinced him this is something I'm going to take the risk and do?

LANGEVIN: Well, President Bush clearly recognized that disabilities don't discriminate on the basis of political party or race or income status. And that disabilities actually have a unique ability to unite us and that's exactly what President Bush did. He reached across party lines and he brought together people from different political backgrounds and people in and out of politics. And they forged together a -- the real civil rights law of our time that made a profound difference in the lives of people with disabilities as he said so that doors once closed -- closed doors are now open to people to realize their full potential.

I am certainly the beneficiary of that law. I was injured full 10 years before the ADA was passed. I had a spinal cord injury and -- so I know what the world was like before the ADA was passed and many closed doors and opportunities that I could not pursue. And then after the ADA was enacted, the world did change overtime and more doors are open.

And I had the privilege of meeting him back in 2008 in the Oval Office when President George W. Bush signed into law the ADA Amendments Act and to -- because the courts had weakened the ADA overtime and the ADA Amendments Act reaffirmed the original promise of the ADA. And President George H. W. Bush was there as well for the signing and I had the privilege of talking to him and thanking him personally for getting behind that law and seeing it enacted. And that I said I may not be serving in Congress had that bill not been signed into law.

KING: That in and of itself is one thing that we talked on that day when you were presiding over the House and you're in the lift that was built into the rostrum. The Democrats are taking control of the House in January so I assume -- I'm wondering if you've already talked to Leader Pelosi about that when you get your next opportunity.

LANGEVIN: As a matter of fact, Leader Pelosi and I have already spoken about that. It was certainly one of the highest honors of my time in political office and being able to preside over the U.S. House of Representatives on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And Leader Pelosi and I recently spoke about that and what a meaningful moment it was certainly for me personally, how honored I was. And I'm excited about the prospect that presiding once again and she said that we have to make sure that happens very early on in the new session. And I'm certainly looking forward to that.

And I'm excited about -- go ahead.

KING: I was going to say, in the few seconds we have left, how is -- how important is it for members of the community to see a congressman, to see a president who are part of their community who are going about their day to day business with dignity and humor and fun?

LANGEVIN: People with disabilities have so much to offer and no one should be denied the opportunity to offer their talents, their skills and to realize their goals and their dreams. Unfortunately, we still -- there -- we haven't fully realized the full promise of the ADA. We have work to do. Too many people are still denied the opportunity to have access to public housing and transportation and work opportunities.

Again, many various have come down but --

KING: Congressman, I'm sorry we're at the top of the hour, I need to stop. But, an amen, I'll bring you back on. I'm very sorry.

OK. Thank you for watching us today. Brianna Keilar starts right now.