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Government Shutdown and Border Wall Funding; Nadler Warns Homeland Secretary; House Urges Trump; Ryan Speaks at White House; Trump Won't Sign Bill. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired December 20, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. Remember, the president's still meeting with House Republicans to talk about shutting down the government. Picking up our coverage, Brianna Keilar. She starts right now. Have a great day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, a surprise out of the White House. The president has lawmakers scrambling over a bill to keep the government open. At the center of it all, his border wall.

Fury from within his own party. Donald Trump facing backlash from Republican allies over his move to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

And he's been a vocal critical of Robert Mueller, now he's officially in charge of Robert Mueller. AG Matthew Whitaker is not recusing himself from the Russia probe.

We start with uncertainty at the White House as the president wrestles with a big decision, will he or won't he shut down the government over funding for his border wall demands? It's the multibillion dollar question.

A short time ago, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham spoke to CNN and offered the president this advice.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I encourage the president to dig in and force the Democrats, and Republicans, to help him better secure the border. If I were him, I would stand firm. I can understand --


GRAHAM: Not sign it. I can understand picking a fight on border security to get more money at a time we need it. That's a fight worth having.


KEILAR: Now, remember, it was just last night that the president got an ear full from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, we're going to back you up. If you veto this bill, we'll be there. But, more importantly, the American people will be there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we need to sit up here as long as it takes, if it's the next six months, sit up here until we get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If now is not the time to secure our border, then when is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The border crisis is for real. It's time for us to act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to be kidding me. Really? I mean February 8th, when Nancy Pelosi is speaker, do we really -- I'm supposed to believe, we're supposed to believe that we're then going to build the border security wall and keep our promise from the 2016 campaign?


KEILAR: I want to bring in CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins and CNN's senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju.

And, Kaitlan, it is a ways from the Capitol to the White House, but it does seem that the president heard those voices loud and clear.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did. And that criticism has gotten under President Trump's skin. Last night, Brianna, President Trump even unfollowed Ann Coulter on Twitter after she made these remarks that were being played out across television yesterday that she would not vote for him in 2020 if there is no wall built by then.

Now we've seen President Trump starting to lash out over this short term spending bill, and that is why Paul Ryan and company are sitting in the White House right now having that last minute emergency lunch trying to convince the president to sign this bill and keep the government funded through February.

Now, aides inside the White House are having flashbacks to last March when they had to fight tooth and nail to get President Trump to sign that big spending bill, which he came out to the cameras afterward and said, I will never sign a bill like this again. They say that right now the president is in a very similar mood to that March day. he's lashing out, furious over this criticism from conservatives who are typically his reliable allies, saying that they think he's backing off his signature campaign promise to fund the wall and that this is essentially the last chance for them to get any kind of funding for this before Democrats take over the House in January.

Now, as you saw, Sarah Sanders issued that statement saying that right now, at this point, the president does not want to move forward with something that does not include money for the border wall. And it's an open question of what the president is going to do. So, Brianna, anyone who tells you they know what he's thinking is dead wrong because typically no one in this White House right now knows whether or not the president is going to move forward and sign that bill or, as some critics say, he's just bluffing because he wants it to look to his base like he's fighting for this wall. But, in the end, he'll end up signing it. We're waiting to see, Brianna.

KEILAR: I chuckle at that, but it's so true, no one knows what he's going to do.

COLLINS: No one.

KEILAR: Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

OK, a quick trip up Pennsylvania Avenue to Manu Raju there on Capitol Hill.

What are you hearing from your end of things?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans thought that they were -- this was a done deal this morning. They had a meeting -- at the beginning of this meeting on the House side, Republican leaders talked to their members and some members came out and said there's no doubt that the president's going to sign this short term bill to keep the government open up until February 8th. Chris Collins of New York in fact told reporters that there's absolutely no doubt. And that's the message that Speaker Ryan conveyed to his members.

Well, things changed rather dramatically in that meeting. President Trump had spouted off on Twitter earlier in the morning and then the speaker took a phone call from the president, stepped aside from that meeting, and that -- that call lasted for some time. They abruptly scrapped a planned press conference that they were going to discuss all these matters with the media and then Paul Ryan went to his office and huddled with his leadership team to figure out what to do before next -- before this Friday's deadline.

[13:05:12] Now, Brianna, I'm told by sources familiar with the matter that they were talking about a variety of options to try to appease the president and the right flank. And that includes trying to put a bill on the floor to keep the government open. It would also include $5 billion to fund the president's border wall, add disaster relief money to get some Republican support. The question is, it will probably -- well, it could pass the House, it's possible, but it would not pass the Senate. And then what do they do? And that is one of the big questions they're grappling with right now as they talk to the president. Will he ultimately sign a bill with no wall money just to keep the government afloat. People thought they had the answer at the beginning of the day. Right now, not so sure.


KEILAR: All right, Manu Raju, thank you.

And here with me now is CNN political director David Chalian. Clearly the president heard those Republicans, those conservative Republicans, basically saying, wait, no way, we're not waiting until Nancy Pelosi is in charge here.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, which, of course, weakens the president's hand. There's no doubt about that. They understand that.

You recall the president, a week ago, right, in the Oval Office defiantly saying, I am going to shut down this government, proudly shut it down, over the wall. And then it seemed he was on this path to just sort of flip on that completely and cave on this. Obviously he's getting hit on foreign policy, he's getting hit from the hawks in the Republican Party over Syria, and here, on this domestic policy issue of border security, he's getting hit from the House Freedom Caucus guys.

Here's the issue, though. What is amazing to me still is that in our most recent poll, Brianna, 57 percent of Americans don't want to see a government shutdown over this wall. They are not interested in a wall. So while he's dealing with this base problem, and usually we say that's all Donald Trump is concerned with, he's actually also potentially, should he fund the government and move forward and live to fight the wall fight another day, he's potentially going to be in the place with a majority of Americans.

KEILAR: Is there a way for him to thread the needle and do something that is a win for him in this way?

CHALIAN: Well, I'm sure that's what they're searching for right now, right? The meetings are about this. How -- how -- as Sarah Sanders said earlier in the week, or Kellyanne Conway, there are many ways that we can fund this wall. So I'm sure that they are looking for some fig leaf option to say, yes, we're continuing down this road to the wall, point to a funding stream for it. But we all know this notion of a stand-alone or $5 billion for funding the wall, that's not reality in this Republican-controlled Congress, never mind when the Democrats take over in a couple weeks.

KEILAR: Yes, that would be a very expensive fig leaf indeed, right?


KEILAR: OK, so on another topic, I want to play some sound from the House Judiciary Committee. This was a hearing with the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. This is the incoming committee chairman Democrat Jerry Nadler.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Members of the committee have written dozens of letters to you, many of which have received little or no substantive response. As we move into the next Congress, I want to put you and the department on notice, the time for accountability has arrive


KEILAR: It's -- he's saying a new day is dawning.

CHALIAN: It is true. And I think that the Trump White House, the Republicans on The Hill, they should heed that call because they're about to enter a new reality. The Trump administration has not experienced what it's like to have an opposition party with gavel -- gavels in their hands and subpoena power and investigative authority and this I going to be a whole new world and they are going to have to be much more responsive to requests that they never got from the Republican allies that they had on The Hill. So there is going to be a new -- a new sort of lay of the land here in January and I think Nadler's giving a pretty stern talking to a cabinet secretary there.

KEILAR: And do you -- does that just look like hearings and subpoenas? What else are you thinking that this will bring in the next few months?

CHALIAN: Yes, I mean I think that the Democrats are going to have to organize themselves in a way to target what areas of investigation do they really want to pursue, because if it's just like nothing but constant investigations, you could see how the president could use that to his political advantage and just make them all about obstructionists and wanting to investigate everything. So they're going to have to be targeted in their approach, but I think you see they're heading in that way.

KEILAR: It's going to be some drama.

CHALIAN: Without a doubt.

KEILAR: David Chalian, thank you.

No recusal here. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a vocal critic of Robert Mueller, does not need to recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel's investigation. That is what DOJ lawyers are telling him.

Plus, the House Intel Committee just voted unanimously to release Roger Stone's testimony to Robert Mueller. I'm going to speak with a key member of that committee, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, with us next.

And yet another misstep by Rudy Giuliani this week has some wondering why exactly does the president keep him around?


[13:14:12] KEILAR: All right, let's take a look at the Dow, down almost 400 points there. And contributing to losses, you have the uncertainty over the bill, the spending bill, that would keep the government funded. Is there going to be a shutdown? Is there not? We just don't even know. And also the Fed's rate hike causing some concerns as well.

The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a bill to keep the government funded and open until February. The Republican-controlled House is expected to do the same, was expected to do the same, but right now it's becoming increasingly possible that the president may refuse to sign the legislation and instead shut down the government for Christmas. Why? Because the bill doesn't give the president the $5 billion he wants for his border wall. Instead, it designates $1.3 billion for border security, more broadly.

[13:15:01] I want to get straight now to Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier with us from the Capitol.

And, congresswoman, it seems very possible that the president will reject this short-term funding bill that would take the government through to February. Are Democrats prepared to make a sweeter deal to keep the government open?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We don't control the House and we don't control the Senate. And the president has to recognize it is members of his own party that are not supportive of his $5 billion increase for the border wall. And, more importantly, I think that he needs to appreciate that this what checks and balances are all about. He has, for the first time, has a Congress that is showing a little bit of backbone and acting independently. It will be all on his shoulders if he shuts down the government. He will be the Grinch that stole Christmas, no question about it.

I think what's happening now is that numbers of the Freedom Caucus are meeting with the president in an effort to try and make their case. There are Republican members who lost their elections, who haven't even showed up to vote recently. So the numbers of Republicans to pass this spending bill are becoming less and less.

KEILAR: And he's trying to threat that needle. As you understand, certainly, it's a difficult one to do, if you listened to members of the Freedom Caucus on the House floor last night, a very different story in the Senate as he tries to do that.

I do want to move on to the Russia investigation and talk to you about that because you're on the House Intelligence Committee. Today your committee voted today to release a transcript of Roger Stone's testimony to Robert Mueller. You know what's in that transcript. And I wonder, after Robert Mueller reviews it, do you think that Roger Stone could potentially be charged with lying to Congress in the way we saw Michael Cohen charged?

SPEIER: So, Brianna, we did take action in committee today on a number of issues. We've been asked not to be public about that, to hold that in confidence because they were confidential. So I'm not going to comment on that. I have --

KEILAR: Separately, do you think Roger Stone lied to your committee?

SPEIER: I do believe he lied to our committee and that's certainly something that we will reengage in once the majority, which is now going to be Democratic, takes over that committee, and has a fulsome evaluation and investigation, which clearly didn't take place last year. KEILAR: And can you -- can you talk in any general terms about what you think he lied about or if there's corroborating evidence to prove that he lied?

SPEIER: I think that we will have to wait to see what Mr. Mueller does and we will certainly be cooperative with him in any request that he makes of us.

KEILAR: The acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, is on the record opening criticizing the Mueller investigation, as you know, and yet ethics officials at the DOJ say that he does not have to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation.

What's your reaction to this?

SPEIER: Well, it's kind of peculiar because on the one hand they felt that Attorney General Sessions had to recuse himself and now Whitaker, although he was very out front about speaking up against the investigation, is not being required to recuse himself. So it's inconsistent to say the very least.

KEILAR: What does that tell you about ethics officials just in the intervening year and -- year or so that -- between the Sessions recusal and this one?

SPEIER: Well, it certainly raises questions as to whether or not it's been politicized. And I'm hoping that's not the case.

KEILAR: Do you -- do you think they see a distinction between having interactions with Russians and not disclosing them to Congress, as we saw with Sessions, and then Whitaker having stated opinions about things?

SPEIER: Well, what we want in the Department of Justice, certainly in the attorney general, is an independence. And he has not reflected independence in his outspoken opposition to the Mueller investigation.

KEILAR: The president has nominated the former Attorney General William Barr to eventually replace Whitaker, as you know. And we learned earlier this year that Barr sent a memo to the Justice Department. It was a memo that was unsolicited. And in this memo Barr wrote, quote, Mueller should not be able to demand that the president submit to an interrogation about alleged obstruction. He went on to call the theory fatally misconceived.

What's your reaction to that?

SPEIER: Well, since it was unsolicited, I suggest that was probably an application to be the attorney general. At the president has been very transparent in wanting to have people around him, not that are going to follow the law, but are going to follow Trump. And that's not what this country is based on. We are a country based on laws, not on one person, as the president seems to think is the appropriate way in which to run a government.

[13:20:04] KEILAR: Before I let you go, I do want to get your reaction to President Trump and this latest call ordering troops out of Syria. What do you think about this?

SPEIER: Well, what's problematic about that is that whatever leverage he had to negotiate by withdrawing troops is lost by just Tweeting about it.

KEILAR: All right, congresswoman, if you can pause for just a moment, I want to listen to Speaker Paul Ryan and his deputy Kevin McCarthy there at the White House. They just met with the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to see who's the fastest.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're punctual people. We're on time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready for you.

RYAN: We're punctual people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not. We're reporters.

RYAN: That's a cool beard, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you just give us an update on --

RYAN: Well, we're going to do that. I'm waiting -- I don't want to -- you know, you guys got some (INAUDIBLE) running.


RYAN: What's that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make sure it's on television (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we just want to see that everybody gets an opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down in front. Down in front.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for waiting. Thanks for waiting.

RYAN: Yes, yes, we're waiting for you guys.


RYAN: Good to see you.

Yes, you too. You too.

RYAN: This isn't going to be long, so --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of questions.

RYAN: Do a couple statements and we're just going to go.

All right, let me just start off right now. We just had a very long, productive meeting with the president. The president informed us that he will not sign the bill that came over from the Senate last evening because of his legitimate concerns for border security.

So what we're going to do is go back to the House and work with our members. We want to keep the government open, but we also want to see an agreement that protects the border. We have very serious concerns about securing our border. So the president said he will not sign this bill.

So we're going to go back and work on adding border security to this, also keeping the government open because we do want to see an agreement.

With that I'll turn it to Majority Leader McCarthy.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: We believe there's still time. We could have border security. We know fundamentally that's what America is asking for. It's one of the fundamental jobs, especially for our president as well.

We had a great discussion with him there. The president said what the -- what the Senate sent over is just kicking the ball -- just kicking the can down the road. We want to solve this problem. We want to make sure we keep the government open. And we're going to work to have that done and get something happening.



KEILAR: All right, bringing back in Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

So that's where we are. And we wondered. There had been so much back and forth. The president is rejecting the bill from the Senate. He wants more money for the border wall.

Where does that leave things with this shutdown supposed to begin tomorrow really?

SPEIER: Well, you know, he is really all about an audience of one, and that's Fox News. And when he started getting some criticism about not having any funding for the wall is when he changed his mind.

I'm sure the senators had conveyed to him what they were passing and he was OK with it.

The president also is planning on leaving for 16 days in Mar-a-Lago tomorrow. So I don't know if he's suggesting that we all come down to Mar-a-Lago to negotiate this on the golf course, but he's all wrong on this.

What's interesting about what you just heard was they were calling it border security, not border walls. And I think what's probably going to happen is, they're going to augment the funding with some language that provides more money for border security and hope that that passes. It's important to point out too, Brianna, that he has only spent about 25 percent of the $1.3 billion we gave him last year, plus the $1.3 billion that was in this budget. And if he can't even spend it, why is he making such a big deal about $5 billion.

KEILAR: So you're zeroing in on that border security language, the idea being that the president can say, this is money for border security and call it a win and Democrats perhaps can say, look, we didn't -- we didn't hand over the whole hog for the border wall, right?

SPEIER: Correct. I mean we will -- we are supportive of border security and funding for those kinds of high-tech solutions that will protect and secure our borders. We're not interested in building a wall that is only going to be tunneled under. And it's pointless to really pursue that kind of a strategy.

KEILAR: All right, congresswoman, thank you so much.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier with us from Capitol Hill.

Everywhere you look, outrage pouring in over the president's move to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. His own party is really not in tune with this decision.

And another blood bath unfolding on Wall Street. The uncertainty over the spending bill, the possible shutdown and also the Fed's rate hike. These are weighing on stocks.


[13:29:27] KEILAR: The spending bill up in the air to fund the government. And just moments ago we heard from House Speaker Paul Ryan at the White House. Take a listen.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The president informed us that he will not sign the bill that came over from the Senate last evening because of his legitimate concerns for border security.


KEILAR: Let's bring in senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju from Capitol Hill, back here again in the same hour, Manu, same half hour, actually, because things are moving so quickly. What happens now?

[13:29:55] RAJU: This is a really stunning development because earlier in the week it appeared more likely that the president was going to sign this measure. Even John Cornyn, the number two Republican, told me yesterday that the president was going to sign the measure that passed the Senate to keep the government open until February 8th.