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Trump Administration Officially Bans Bump Stocks; McConnell Says, "Yes, I'm Sure" There Won't Be a Shutdown; Transcript Reveals Comey Defended FBI Interview of Flynn; Democrats Prepare for Tax Return Showdown with Defiant Trump; Democrats Touring Border after Seven-year-old Girl's Death. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 18, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] TAYLOR WINSTON, MARINE VETERAN WHO WITNESSED VEGA SHOOTING, DROVE VICTIMS TO HOSPITAL: He was able to project more rounds into a mass of people. Unfortunately it harmed a lot of people. Now, if you turn over to maybe Parkland, there was no bump stock. If you go to Borderline there was no bump stock. If you go to the Texas church shooting, there was no bump stock. You go to Columbine, there was no bump stock. So as long as the laws make sense and we're not restricting the second amendment even further, I think I'd be behind it for sure. You know, bump stocks, I don't see any use moving forward with them. So as a gun user myself, it takes the accuracy out of my shooting and I don't think the really necessary to begin with.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Taylor, one more question for you. Because you mentioned mental health. Route 91 Therapy, your organization that you formed in the wake of Las Vegas. Tell us about it and what people should know.

WINSTON: Well, long story short, Sheila Guide, a clinical psychologist here for the Marine Corps depot. She's one of the most talented psychologists I think in our country. And she was unfortunately at Route 91 as well right in the kill zone. People got shot all around her and dropping like flies and we honestly don't know how she made it out unharmed. But the following week immediately after she opened up group therapy at a local country bar for all the Route 91 survivors for the local area. And for a year straight we did nothing but mental health education and support systems and setting up the web site and documents and there's amazing articles. Just explaining what, you know, trauma is and what mental health is capable of.

I think it's very undervalued and not talked about enough. And so, we put together a web site for everyone to use for free. And we made videos with the support of San Diego -- SD Tattoo, which they actually did my Route 91 memorial tattoo and they paid for to us do some really nice video for all the survivors here in San Diego and surrounding areas.

BALDWIN: So quickly, what's the web site? What's the Route 91 therapy website?

WINSTON: It applies to all forms of traumatic experiences. If you've been through something yourself, I suggest taking a look and just getting a little bit better knowledge what trauma is.

BALDWIN: Taylor Winston, thank you very much. Good to see you again.

WINSTON: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Coming up next, we are going to take you live to Capitol Hill where the Senate Majority Leader just sounded pretty confident that there will not be a government shutdown. Details on where a lawmaker stand on funding the President's border wall. Remember he wants 5 billion.

Also just in, we now have the transcript from the former FBI director, James Comey's contentious hearing yesterday with the House Republicans. We are working through it. Details ahead.


BALDWIN: Just in the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he was sure, quote, sure, there would not be a government shutdown over funding for President Trump's border wall. But it did not seem that clear cut when his Democratic counterpart spoke to reporters. Let's go to our CNN Congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, on Capitol Hill. And Phil, what are they say? Where do things stand?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, think back to a week ago and what seems like six weeks ago in the oval office when the Democratic leader sat with the President or rather, we'll say, lively exchange. Since that moment, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats, have essentially been frozen, waiting for the White House to do something, to put forth some proposal to figure out a way out of the government shutdown.

Well, Brooke, this morning that happened. An actual proposal, actual negotiating and actual potential legislating occurred when the White House and Senate Republicans put together a proposal that would essentially be the Senate appropriations bill -- which is bipartisan -- $1.6 billion for border fencing, not a border wall. Plus, another just about $1 billion in funds for the administration to use for immigration. Now, Chuck Schumer met with Leader McConnell about that and then he met behind closed doors with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, about that and rejected that offer. You want to know where things stood? Well, take a listen to what both leaders had to say.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Now I must say, if I were in her shoes, I would rather not be dealing with this year's business next year. I would assume her preference would be to roll out the new Democratic agenda by the fresh new Democratic Congress in the early stages, but I think this prevents that if we end up going with a relatively short-term C.R., we will end up in effect punting this year's business into next year. I think it's not a very desirable outcome.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We Democrats don't want to shut down the government. And as for the idea of what Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, they could get wall money from NAFTA or some other part of the government, they need congressional approval. They're not getting it for the wall, plain and simple.


MATTINGLY: So, Brooke, you listen to that and you think everybody sounds bad, probably not in a great place. And when it comes to a broader deal, a bigger deal, which there were actually discussions about having earlier this morning, that would be true. As to whether or not the government is going to shut down on Friday, things actually look like they're in a better place. What Senator McConnell was referring to -- to translate Congress speak, because CR is essentially punting the current funding levels for the seven on past appropriation bills until January. In other words, there wouldn't be a shutdown at midnight on Friday.

[15:40:00]I asked Senator Chuck Schumer if the Democrats would be amenable to that, a short-term punt of some sort. He said they would look at that very seriously. What I'm being told behind the scenes is that's the most likely route. Senators and House members alike would like to get out of town before the holidays. Don't forget, Brooke, spouses are key part of this as well. I'm reminded repeatedly that both the male and female spouses of members of Congress have holiday plans and would like their husbands and wives to come home. That plays a role in this as well.

However, I will note, President Trump was just asked about whether or not there would be a government shutdown. And he said, it's too early to say. Now you noted, Senator McConnell said he was sure there wouldn't be one. McConnell also told us earlier today that he would be talking to the White House about the next steps. The plan right now is a short-term funding resolution into January. Whether or not the president agreed to that that remains an open question -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: I love the note from the spouses, honey, handle it, vote, and come home for Christmas. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much on the shutdown before us up on the hill.

Meantime, moments ago House Republicans release the transcript of their contentious hearing with James Comey. So, what happened behind those closed doors? We'll talk to Manu Raju about that back on the hill, next.


BALDWIN: Just in at CNN, House Republicans have released the transcripts of what former FBI Director James Comey said to them behind closed doors. Here it is. We printed it out. It is 173 entire pages here of transcripts of what was said behind the scenes. You remember, it was right around this time yesterday when it was James Comey who then walked right out to those camera after that five- hour meeting with lawmakers and delivering that blistering attack on President Trump and really his fellow Republicans. And saying essentially shame on you for not speaking up. Call me blasting the President for his criticism of the FBI. Attacked Republicans for not coming to the defense of the nation's top law enforcement agency. So, Manu Raju was our man back on the hill. He was the one who was asking Comey those great questions yesterday. And so, Manu, I don't know how many of the 173 pages you've looked at but what's the headline?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're still going through it, but in the initial portions of these transcripts. James Comey really defends his decision to send two FBI agents in to interview Michael Flynn in January 2017. Of course, this has gotten all sorts of scrutiny in recent days, which gives us more relevance today as Comey behind the closed door yesterday had a lengthy back and forth with Trey Gowdy, one of the top Republican pushing him on the reason and the decision to send in FBI agents.

Gowdy at one point asked why they even sent in FBI agents to interview Michael Flynn. Because Comey had testified that the reason why they did initially was because the Vice President -- incoming vice president at the time, Mike Pence, was making false statements about the interactions that Flynn had with the Russian ambassador. So, he wanted to know why, according to Gowdy, he says I'm trying to understand it's not the FBI's job, unless I'm mistaken to correct false statements between two political figures. And James Comey pushes back. He said because it is the FBI's job to understand the efforts of foreign adversaries to influence, coerce, corrupt the government of the United States. So, Comey says they were sent there as part of the counterintelligence mission to try to understand why it a appeared to be the case that the national security adviser was making false statements about his conversations with Russians to the Vice President of the United States.

Now, of course, this is significant today. Just today Sarah Sanders echoing the line from the President that Michael Flynn was somehow ambushed by these FBI agents in these closed-door interview. Of course, Michael Flynn and his attorney disputed that in court today saying that he was not entrapped, according to the Michael Flynn attorney. And James Comey himself making that clear in his arguments to the Republicans in this committee. And yesterday when I asked him about that too, he said it was nonsense to suggest this was any way to trick Michael Flynn and that he pleaded guilty to lying to them about those interactions. So, clearly this is happening because of how he answers behind closed doors. But Brooke, we'll continue to pour through this and see if any other headlines emerge -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We'll let you keep reading. Manu Raju, thank you very much, on Capitol Hill.

And now I want to update you on a story we brought you yesterday, a Yemeni mother who had been blocked from seeing her dying son in California because of Trump's travel ban is on her way to the U.S. The state department issued a waiver just this morning allowing this mother to board a flight. And the news of the waiver came shortly after the boy's father appeared on CNN making this impassioned plea for U.S. officials to rush his wife's application for a humanitarian visa so that she could see her son. Her dying son. Dr. say the two- year-old who has this genetic brain condition and has been on life support for a month is not expected to live much longer. His mother's flight is expected to land tomorrow night. We'll update you on that.

We do have new details on how House Democrats are planning to get their hands-on President Donald Trump's personal tax returns. We'll explain how next.


BALDWIN: As Democrats prepare to take over the House in January, it appears they are busy laying the groundwork to obtain President Trump's personal tax returns. Faced with a defiant President who has repeatedly refused to release his taxes, the Democrats are banking on having the public and the law on their side. CNN congressional reporter, Lauren Fox, has been digging into this for us. And Lauren, how exactly do Democrats think they're going to pull it off?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Brooke, it's a little bit complicated. But there is an IRS code that essentially allows three people on Capitol Hill to get the president's tax returns. And there's only one Democrat, incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Richard Neil. Now, I spoke with Neil back in November, and he told me, look, I want the president's tax returns, but I'm hoping we can discuss a way for the president to hand them over willingly. But given what the President has been saying about Democratic oversight over the last few months and given what his allies have been saying, hope that the President is going to cooperate has faded.

And the way that Democrats are viewing this process, according to a source familiar, is that Richard Neil will have to formally ask the Treasury Department for the president's tax returns.

[15:55:04] Now, when he will do that is still to be determined. But one thing that Richard Neil is hoping is that he can get the public on his side. I'm told by the same source that at the end of January sometime, we can expect the House Ways and Means Committee to hold a hearing on a provision that would require future presidential candidates to release their tax returns. Now, the thrust of this hearing is not going to be on President Donald Trump. They're very cognizant that they don't want this to become a political football. But they want to make the case to the American people, how do you know how to vote for a candidate if you don't know what their financial interests are.

So, Brooke, Democrats being very careful about how they pursue this. But I'm told that Richard Neil is expected to ask the Treasury Department for the president's tax returns. How soon that will happen, we still don't know. But the public case will be made in January.

BALDWIN: A lot of people have been asking for that. We'll see if he'll be able to pull it off. Lauren, thank you very much for that.

About a dozen Congressional Democrats are along the U.S. border right now, touring the New Mexico checkpoint and patrol station where this 7-year-old migrant girl from Guatemala entered the country with her father and then was taken into custody. The young girl, as we've been reporting, would later die at a hospital. But the circumstances surrounding her death are still a bit murky.

Homeland security officials say the girl showed signs of medical distress during the bus ride from the check point to the border patrol station. The father says she was in good health when she was received by border patrol. Ed Lavandera is at the station in New Mexico where all these lawmakers have been speaking out about what they saw there today. So Ed, tell us what they shared with you.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Brooke. Well, those lawmakers have just wrapped up their tour of two different facilities. One, a checkpoint right at the border where this young girl and her father turned themselves into border agents more than a week ago -- two weeks ago actually. And they also toured here the border patrol station, 95 miles north of there. This is an extremely remote area of southwest New Mexico. And lawmakers came out swinging from this tour, really setting an intense level of criticism of the management of customs and border protection.

Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas called on the commissioner of customs and border protection to step down because of this. And also criticism of the agency as a whole as some lawmakers said they are not adapting to this new trend and the new trends in the way immigration is coming into the United States and said the fault of the agency for not adapting quickly enough. And that responsibility should lie at the highest levels. Here's a little bit of what Congressman Castro had to say just a short while ago.


REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: We learned today that there were some very disturbing systematic failures in how the young girl's condition was handled. The issue started when CBP violated the law and did not notify Congress within 24 hours that Jacoline had died in their custody. When we have a president who is emphasizing building a wall, spending billions of dollars in building a wall, when the lives of asylum seekers and I would argue border patrol agents are at stake because of a lack of infrastructure, a lack of training, a lack of supplies, a lack of equipment. Then you can tell that it's a president whose priorities are very misplaced, and really a president who is completely out of touch with what's happening at CBP and the realities on the ground.


LAVANDERA: Lawmakers all said that field agents out here in these remote parts of the southwest border and are put in difficult situations. Like in the situation of Jacoline. But the commissioner of customs and border protection did say a short while ago on a conference call with reporters that they would begin the process of moving more medical devices and more medical equipment to these more remote areas. These lawmakers -- one of the lawmakers here is a doctor and said that, you know, the case of Jacoline is something that was really down to minutes to save this young girl's life and that was something that did not happen in this case -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Minutes. Ed, thank you very much. Ed Lavandera in New Mexico.

I want to get this in. This is just an update for you on that Honduran woman. You've seen this photo over and over. She was photographed running from tear gas with her children at the U.S./Mexico border last month. We can tell you now, she is inside the country. The woman and her kids were part of this group of 15 people escorted to the border by two Democratic members of Congress yesterday. They had initially been denied entry because of capacity issues, according to a customs and border protection spokesperson. But after a seven-hour wait, Congressman Jimmy Gomez confirmed that they were allowed entry into the United States and they have officially filed for asylum. So we'll stay on that family, as well.

And thank you so much for being with me the last two hours here on CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.