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New White House Counsel Expected to Start Today; Congress Races Against Partial Gov't Shutdown Clock; Dem Hickenlooper Hints at 2020 White House Run. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 10, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Today a Chinese court essentially banned Apple from importing and selling iPhones into China. That is seen largely as retaliation against the United States and this ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China is still unresolved. Investors don't like that.

That was certainly bad news. More bad news this morning as you mentioned Brexit and whether or not the U.K. will be able to divorce from the E.U. in an orderly fashion. No, why do investors here in the U. S. care about an orderly exit? Because they don't want to see any kind of disruption in economic growth anywhere in the world, and if you have a disorderly exit from the E.U., the U.K. divorcing the E.U. essentially, that may cause an economic downturn there and it may have ripple effects all around the world at a time when people are starting to use the r word. Recession.

You hear it from investors, from economists, starting to look at the market and say OK, does this mean anything? Do these volatile days, this is the downturn in the market actually mean that we have a fundamental problem in economic growth. And potentially a fundamental problem in domestic growth. And that is the big question mark here that investors are pondering at the end of the year. Typically, we're not -- we don't see these kinds in high volatility days in December. But investors looking ahead, trying to figure it out, John.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Christine Romans, she's on the floor for us as rocky day after a rocky week. hang in there, we'll keep in touch.

Up next for us here, the White House braces for a flood of Democratic investigations. So, where does the new White House counsel start?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:35:12] KING: Welcome back.

Another new face in a very important White House job. Today is the first day on the job for the new White House counsel Pat Cipollone. It's been nearly two months since his predecessor Don McGahn resigned, and it's just weeks before Democrats take control of the House with a long list of oversight investigations.

While Cipollone's primary responsibility is to protect the office of the presidency and not the president himself, Cipollone wants to advise the Trump team on the Mueller probe, that's one reason he delayed taking the job. Also served as a Justice Department official during the George H. W. Bush administration.

Emmet Flood has served on an interim basis, he'll now return to his role as special counsel to the president dealing largely with the Mueller investigation.

Now, Americans don't tend to know the name of the White House counsel, if you're been leaving in (INAUDIBLE) or California or Texas, it's like, so what, who cares. However, it's an incredibly important job and an incredibly pressure-packed time at the White House. How will this be different? Is the president who got -- he soured on Don McGahn, thought Don McGahn was a problem. Is this one going to work?

ELIANA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, Americans who follow politics are probably going to know the name of Donald Trump's White House counsel. Don McGahn was an incredibly important player in the first two years and I think Pat Cipollone is going to be an incredibly important player in this second two years. And his team as well are going to be amongst of the most important behind the scenes players. In particular because Democrats who assume control of Congress and it's Cipollone's office, though they aren't involved in responding to the Russia investigation, they will leave the charge in defending the president from Democrats investigations on Capitol Hill.

That will be important because it's going to be important to the president. Cipollone has already taken the interesting move of hiring a deputy whose sole charge is going to be leading the responses to those investigations. And for that reason, I think you'll see an increased prominence and increased prominence of that office and an increase prominence for Cipollone and the rest of his team.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Every time one of these subpoenas is issued from either the Oversight Committee or the Judiciary Committee, any of the committees that the Democrats control on the House side when they are trying to get an information involving the president, involving something he personally did or something the administration did. Family separation, you know, we forget about we had this whole question about security clearances and did they play fast on this with the security clearance process, there's obviously this question about the president's tax returns and should they have access to those?

Every single time they issue one of these subpoenas, there is going to be a lawyer -- really a team of lawyers at the White House that has to figure out how to respond to that. What are they going to give, what are they going to withhold? Whether they exercise privilege in certain cases or not. And they're going to have to be coordinating with all of the agencies on these responses as well.

And some of the things that come out through those investigations and we are not even talking about impeachment here, we're just talking about investigating what the president has done as president and potentially what his tax returns may show. All of that will have to be -- have to go through Cipollone's office and his team. KING: Plus environmental regulations, business regulations. Just over -- every -- just (INAUDIBLE) what you said, you mentioned immigration, you're going to have this about the industry, you're going to have this about the clean air and water, about judicial nominations, all of that.

Before you jump in, this is Jerry Nadler, he is going to be chairman of one of the key of one committees. Just one. There'll be dozens of committees sending the White House, first, it's a letter, please us send this. When the White House says no, then it's a threatening letter, then maybe it's a subpoena. This is the world we're about to get into.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Do you have to look at the Russian interference at the campaign or what did the president know about that, and to what extent did he cooperate with that. If he did, we have to look at his business dealings and his lying about that. We have to look at the fact that he surrounded himself with crooks. And we have to get to the bottom of this and find out what all the facts are. We and the special counsel, and then make decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Welcome to work, Mr. Cipollone.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, Nadler has already sent a letter to the White House saying we have all these requests for information for the last two years.

[12:40:04] They want a respond essentially immediately to those requests.

Talking to Republicans on the Hill, they're advising the White House to not comply with all these requests, to fight a lot of these requests. And (INAUDIBLE) what's the worst that will happen, maybe some people will be held in contempt of really what's the worst case scenario from that.

Now, also, protecting the White House staff is going to be crucial. Jared Kushner is going to be focused potentially for some committees. The House Foreign Affairs Committee I'm told is interested in looking at Saudi Arabia as a whole including potentially Jared Kushner's ties to the crown prince. Obviously from New York Times investigation over the weekend showed that he suggested he weathered the storm in the aftermath of the Jamal Khashoggi murder.

So, those kind of thins will come by the White House counsel's office and how do they respond to that kind of inquiries --

KING: And there's the president himself who has these (INAUDIBLE) often seen on Twitter. I won't run this now but Marco Rubio saying this Sunday, like please don't on the issue of, if you look at new Manafort filings. Paul Manafort, the special counsel alleged has kept in contact with the White House. A lot of people think, that was part of an effort to say here, I'm going to tell you everything I know about the special counsel investigation and maybe you're going to pardon me.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: Yes. Yes. And there's -- so there are two lenses (INAUDIBLE) like, the job that the White House counsel now is charged with doing. And one is, protecting or maximizing executive power and executive privilege, those kinds of world. And the other is that balancing the job which is to represent the White House with the kind of political pressure or imperative to represent the president.

Again, like in an ideal world, they would have the same interests but in this case they may not always have the interest. The president continues to have his own legal team. Obviously, leads his own legal team.

So what is the White House counsel's role going to be. And I think with Rex Tillerson, whatever you want to say about Rex Tillerson, it's a different job than that of White House counsel. But the glimpse of what we saw in his conversation with Bob Schieffer over the last few days, this idea that the president would often ask him for things where Tillerson would say, well, you can't do that under the law.

That -- that's also, you know, part of the White House counsel's job to say this is your goal. These are the limitations on how you achieve that goal.

KING: We have a constitution or a treaty or a law (INAUDIBLE). He's going to hire a lot of lawyers. We'll see how that one plays out. A lot of jobs open if you're a young lawyer interested to work in town.

Up next, it's the season for government shutdown and a fight over the wall. Can the president cut a deal with Chuck and Nancy?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:46:44] KING: Congress is back to work today with a short calendar but a long list of things to get done before a holiday season shutdown deadline. The must do list includes funding a quarter of the government, reaching agreement on a new farm bill, overhauling the National Flood Insurance Program, providing additional disaster relief, and extending a landmark law against domestic violence.

The biggest obstacle in negotiations, quite familiar, the president's demand for $5 billion in border wall funding. Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi set to meet with the president tomorrow at the White House to talk things over. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham offers this advice for the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If I were the president, I would dig in and not give in on additional wall funding. I would want the whole $5 billion because the caravan is a game changer. So I would say, I want two years of wall funding and I will give legal status to the DACA recipients. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

GRAHAM: That's a good deal for the country. And, let's just see what happens. But the president is in a good spot here. He needs to dig in and not give in when it comes to wall funding, and put DACA on the table and see what Nancy Pelosi says then?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is the president in a good position here? Is that deal even possible in this environment?

DAVIS: Well, Nancy Pelosi has said it's not. And Donald Trump himself has suggested that it's not in interviews in the last couple of days or in the last couple of weeks I should say. I mean, I think what Lindsey Graham -- part of what Lindsey Graham is trying to do here is what a lot of people around President Trump like to do when he's about to get in a room with Chuck and Nancy which is, to kind of caution him against cutting a deal that they think would be a bad deal. And that frankly he would later turn around and say, I don't want to do that deal. I feel like I got played and then lead to a bigger sort of crack up because we are racing against the clock here.

But he has given no indication that he's willing to drop his demand for $5 billion in wall funding. And Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have given no indication that they're willing to come up to that number even if it's not for the wall, even it's just for border security. It's not clear what deal there is yet to be made there. There's clearly a compromise to be had but neither side has really showed any willingness to get to the middle there.

And so I think the question is going to be, what happens in that room tomorrow and what the president is able to sell to himself in the people around him as a win in exchange for coming off of that position. Because I just don't think there's a way that Democrats accept $5 billion in wall funding.

KING: But there's also some mistrust among and between the Democrats if you will. I want to read you this quote from Politico conversations wt Filemon Vela of Texas who doesn't trust Chuck Schumer apparently. "This is a New York City conspiracy, and Schumer is on the verge of giving Trump his third down payment on the wall. Pelosi's position is that the meeting is meaningless unless she and those of us who oppose the wall funding can ensure that we bring all the other Democrats along for the ride. You might as well call this the Schumer-Trump wall in my view."

What is the congressman --

(CROSSTALK)

RAJU: It's really interesting that comes from Filemon Vela who's actually one of the Nancy Pelosi's sharpest critics, (INAUDIBLE) on the floor. But he certainly believes her position, he trusts her in her hard-line position against more funding for the wall. Well, Schumer has gotten a lot of flack from the left who are saying that he's open to more border security money, $1.6 billion that was negotiated between Democrats and Republicans on the Senate side.

Some Democrats in the House I believe that is too much money. Now, Schumer's office said, this is not wall money, this is border security money, it's for fencing and for other things.

[12:50:05] The White House believes that's a down payment to the wall funding. Some House Democrats believe it's a down payment to the wall funding. So it was tricky politics for Senate Democrats go any higher than the $1.6 billion level on $5 billion that the president wants. And how they navigate that is still uncertain (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And in the middle of all that, you're trying to do the farm bill which is incredibly important especially the farm state lawmakers who are trying to do flood insurance, who are trying to do more disaster relief. The stuff that people get flocked for when they go home (INAUDIBLE) in their states and in their districts. Is there any possibility?

The other things people say, oh here's our last chance this year, the Republicans (INAUDIBLE). Criminal justice reform, a Bob Mueller protection bill, a Yemen resolution that criticizes the administration on Saudi Arabia, Congress finally adopting stronger rules about how it handles sexual harassment issues within the Congress.

All of these things, some of which there's bipartisan -- at least general consensus on, what, going to fall away?

JOHNSON: I think many of them are likely to fall away, particularly because we're running up against Christmas which means a lot of these lawmakers want to get out of town. And I think they'll be happy to set aside some of these bipartisan initiatives. So bipartisan spirit may leave them (INAUDIBLE).

RAJU: They don't need a lot of cooperation to get things through especially in the Senate. The Yemen resolution is one to watch out for. That could be on the floor as soon as Wednesday because of the unusual process they are using to bring that up. And that would be a rebuke to the president if that passes because it pulls back U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen which of course the administration fiercely opposes.

But other than that, a lot (INAUDIBLE).

TALEV: I think there is space for that one. And I think with -- on the immigration front, the wall versus DACA, one of the challenges that divides the Democrats is whether they trust President Trump to actually do right by the DACA piece of it. There's no amount of border security or whatever you want to call it that you'll commit to if you don't believe that the end goal of protecting the group they are trying to protect is actually (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And if they think they might have more leverage once they have the majority. We'll see how that one plays out. I would not be an optimist for much getting done, but hopefully I'll be wrong about that one. Up next, John Hickenlooper says negative campaign ads make him -- you see him right there, want to take a shower. But, can you run a positive campaign in 2020. Is that your future president?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:56:58] KING: Today's Democrats 2020 update John Hickenlooper edition. No announcement yet from Colorado's Democratic governor, but he's already hired a pollster, a fundraiser, and launched a Pac to start organizing and raising cash. And yes, his party is pushing to elect more women and minorities. We saw that in 2018, it's a goal for the future, but Hickenlooper says his timing could not be better.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a white guy, are you trying to calculate whether or not this is the right time for you?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: Well, this is the time it's worked out, right? I finished my term as governor. I finished in one month, I'm an entrepreneur, I'm a problem solver, I've been good at bringing people together that historically have been antagonistic. Maybe it's -- the country needs someone that can bring the divided parts of the country and the divided constituencies back together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Yes, no, maybe so?

RAJU: I mean, why not, right? I mean, everybody is running. Everybody -- almost seems like everybody in the Democratic Party thinks they can be president. So, why not run from a purple state former governor of the important state in 2020? Sure, why not?

I mean, this is going to be huge field, it's wide open. I was talking to someone who is considering it himself last week who told me that, you know, there is an opportunity for anybody to run at this point that's why he'll join.

KING: But he's an outsider. A lot of Democrats think get outside of Washington, get outside of Washington. A two-term governor, was the Denver mayor, oversaw the marijuana legalization in the state of Colorado, has passed some gun control legislation. Other jobs, geologist and most importantly, he brews beer.

TALEV: Yes. I mean, if there's one thing that -- that's really important, let's not gloss over that but, if there is one truth that we all learn in the 2016 race is that, when you have the '17 wave primary, whatever -- it's a different dynamic than if it's two or three candidate. So anyone can emerge. Really, you can defy all the rules. The question is, can the person who emerges then go on if they were to secure the nomination and actually won the election? Can they bring people together?

And so, I think right now, there's -- you know, he would be crazy to take himself out of it. Why would he do that? Like he said, this a sign but it is certainly a sign of the times that in 2007, 2008, the question people were asking is, can an African-American man win as the president? And now the question is, can a white guy --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: But, I mean, again, you know, sometimes we make these mistakes sitting in Washington. We think, you know, senator this or senator that or somebody who's came through here, might be a good time to be an outside guy from the west states that are changing, the new map emerging to say, you know, don't forget about us.

DAVIS: Absolutely. I mean, there was certainly, you know, disincentive for him to get in for all the reasons that Manu and Margaret were just saying. But, the other thing though that's fascinating is, you know, obviously his pitch is going to be, you can tell from what he's saying and from this political profile that he's kind of sketched out over the last several years is that, he is someone who can bring people together, that he is someone who can work in a bipartisan way, view some of those (INAUDIBLE).

Is that what the electorate is going to want after Donald Trump. Everything is so polarized right now. Does the candidate have to be someone who really comes in from the far left and not someone who's coming in from the (INAUDIBLE)?

KING: We shall see. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Brianna Keilar starts right now.