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Key Senate Vote to Avoid Government Shutdown Held While Senators Return to Washington DC to Cast Votes; Mattis Back at Work Today After Resigning Over Trump's Policies; Justice Ginsburg Has Cancerous Growths Removed from Lung. Aired 2-2:30

Aired December 21, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Pamela Brown in today for Brooke Baldwin. We start with a White House in crisis. We are just ten hours away from a government shutdown, and you can see the countdown clock right there on the screen. Senators have started the voting process on a temporary spending bill and now they're waiting for some senators to return to Washington to cast their votes. Those senators left town thinking it was a done deal. The chances of it passing are not looking good, and President Trump says he's not to blame. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to be working very hard to get something passed in the Senate. There's a very good chance it won't get passed. It's up to the Democrats. So. it's really the Democrats' shutdown. We've done our thing. When Nancy Pelosi said you'll never get the votes in the House, we got them and we got them by a big margin, 217-185. So now it's up to the Democrats as to whether or not we have a shutdown tonight. I hope we don't but we're totally prepared for a very long shutdown.


BROWN: You'll recall just last week the President said he would own the shutdown. Of course, this is all happening as Capitol Hill deals with the aftershocks of defense secretary James Mattis' resignation, one of the solid voices of reason within the administration now giving a strong rebuke of President Trump's policies. A senior conservative House member warns, quote, the wheels may be coming off. All eyes are on Wall Street as we near the closing bell of a volatile week. The markets taking a dive this month. Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House. Kaitlan, the President juggling a lot right now on this Friday and shifting the blame when it comes to the shutdown, potential shutdown we should say.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A lot of what he's juggling is self-induced. People aren't sure how to react. Not only is Congress in upheaval but also the military and the markets as well. It's almost too much to fit into one story because there is so much going ton heron here. Judging by the comments you just showed that the President made while sitting in the oval office, it does not appear they're any closer to clearing that up. Mitch McConnell made that clear when he went back to Capitol Hill and didn't add anything. White House aides are trying to figure out what the strategy is behind the shutdown here. They don't think there's a way out. They think maybe there's a chance they could own the shutdown at the beginning say it's the President fighting for his border walls but they do say after several days of that going on, they know the optics are going to turn poor for them. That comes as who is going to replace Secretary James Mattis, who is going to step down in just a matter of weeks here now. They have no idea who is going to replace him or who would be willing to take the job because they feel most of the candidates, they've considered in the past are going to have similar views over what Mattis resigned over, the decision to withdraw the U.S. troops from Syria. President Trump was happy to talk about the shutdown, then he said he didn't want to talk about other subjects, he wanted to focus on signing the criminal reform bill, but he did not answer questions on the resignation of his defense secretary, which he touted last night as a retirement, though it appeared he had not read the resignation letter that essentially condemned the President's world view, not just on Syria but on several national security matters, Pamela.

BROWN: It is true that the criminal justice reform bill that the President is signing is a big achievement but it's being overshadowed. Thank you for breaking it all down for us.

Now to the shutdown, potential shut down, the last-minute vote on the Senate floor to fund the government and give Trump $5 billion for his border wall. That vote is expected to fail. What's the plan B? Phil Mattingly, tell us what the latest is on how this vote is going. A lot of lawmakers had left town after passing the clean C.R. thinking it was a done deal.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not to alarm anybody here, Pam, but there is no plan B. I'm not making that up. If you want to know just how upset both Republicans and Democrats are at this moment, take a listen to what Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and what Democratic leader Chuck Schumer had to say a short while ago.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: President Trump, you will not get the wall. Abandon your shutdown strategy.

[14:05:00] You're not getting the wall today, next week or on January 3rd when Democrats take control of the House.

REP. MITCH MCCONNELL, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Let's advance this legislation, Mr. President, let's pass it and finish our work for this year. Let's secure our country.


MATTINGLY: That's the 30,000-foot level. Let's take it more to the weeds. As it stands, the United States Senate is having a procedural vote on what the House passed last night, the continuing resolution of funding until February 8th, plus 5 billion for a border wall. Republicans passed that. Now it moves to the Senate. It only takes a simple majority to move it forward. To bring it to a close, that I am need at least 60 votes. Republicans only control 51 seats in the chamber, they will not get anywhere near 60 votes. There's a real question whether it will wait to die until the second vote and why it might die now. You made the point the vote is still open and has been open for a long time. The tally is like at 43 to 45. They're still waiting for Republican senators to come back. A lot left after the Senate passed their funding plan, a clean continuing resolution earlier this week. They need those senators to come back. Even if those senators come back, there's still a chance that vote fails. Jeff Flake, a Republican has voted against it and Bob Corker also Republican senator has not voted yet and said he wants to see what the plan is going forward. I'm told there is no alternative plan. The question is when does the Senate kill the House proposal and where does it go from there? There's no optimism for a plan in the near term and a lot of people on Capitol Hill say a shutdown is almost guaranteed. We know things can come out of thin air when the hour gets late and people want to go home. Frankly, we'll see what happens next once it fails, Pam.

BROWN: We know you'll keep us up to speed. A couple days ago, Cornyn said he was reassured the President would sign the C.R. what happened? Is Cornyn still standing by that?

MATTINGLY: He said when he said that, that was his best understanding based on what vice President pence had told Republicans behind closed doors at that meeting. Here as probably the best way to put this. It's safe to assume Mitch McConnell would not have put something on the floor if he didn't think the President was going to support it. So, what changed with the President saying he would veto anything of the sort. Aides have informed me this largely turned on conservative allies the President has in the House to made clear this is the promise the President had made, this was a fight this should have now and conservative commentators who made clear this was the comment the President made and now is the time to fight. While I can tell you Republicans senators are both flummoxed by the turn of events and frustrated that a lot of them had to go home and hop on planes and come back. They have to kind of ride where he is right now, Pam.

BROWN: Expect the unexpected with this President. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

So. you have the looming government shutdown and another gut punch that caught many Washington insiders by surprise. A stunning resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, once described as one of the three people keeping the U.S. from plunging into full chaos. Now it appears that President Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria and possibly Afghanistan was Mattis' breaking point. We go live to the Pentagon where Mattis is actually at work today, certainly not business as usual. Ryan has agreed to stay on until the end of February. It shouldn't be surprising he's at work but this resignation letter was a complete rebuke of the President and his policies. What more are we learning about his exit?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, pam. This letter hanging over this building right now, these events of yesterday, one right after another, the news of the Syria withdraw, potential Afghanistan withdraw and General Mattis's resignation hitting back to back to back, leaving people in shock and dismay.

[14:10:00] Secretary Mattis saying he's going to work a couple months to see a successor come in. There are several issues he has to oversee, one being the withdrawal from Syria. There are some 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria. And dismay. Secretary Mattis saying he's going to work a couple months to see a successor come in. There are several issues he has to oversee, one being the withdrawal from Syria. There are some 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria. There's still active fighting against ISIS going on the ground there. He was very concerned about a pull-out and it led him going offer to the White House yesterday, trying to change President Trump's minds, being concerned about the fate of U.S. allies that really bothered him. It was kind of the last trigger, the last straw we're being told. But now he has to kind of oversee the execution of some of these proposals by President Trump, including pulling troops out of Syria. But those are some of the issues he's going to have to work. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are criticizing the President's decision.

BROWN: Ryan Browne, excellent reporting there from the pentagon. Thank you.

And more breaking news, this involving the health of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who underwent surgery today. Sanjay Gupta joins us next. And amid all of this chaos in Washington, a moment of bipartisan is happening at the White House involving an important bill getting President Trump's signature. We'll have more after the break.


BROWN: Defense Secretary James Mattis back at work today but things are far from usual. The President has to fill a glaring hole in his cabinet, as Washington loses one of the most highly respected members of the Trump administration. Joining me Congressman from Ohio, Mike Turner, Armed Services Committee. Thank you for your time. We do appreciate it. General Mattis clearly reached his breaking point. What does this say about the point we are at in this Trump administration right now?

REP. MIKE TURNER, (R-OH) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, there's a great deal of appreciation here on Capitol Hill for secretary Mattis' service. He came at a time when our allies needed assurances as to what the Trump policies will be. He certainly assisted those on Capitol Hill who had question in the direction that President Trump will go. What's troubling is in his letter, he outlined several areas in which he differed with President Trump. So, there's questions about who is coming next and what shift in policies that might mean.

BROWN: And there was a glaring omission and that was praise for the President. Senate Majority Leader McConnell, typically avoids criticizing this President wrote he's distressed over the resignation of General Mattis.

TURNER: Mattis' letter is going to be a road map. What are the differences between the President and Mattis. How are those reflected in who he picks next and how do they changes reflect what the Senate and Congress expects. We all this great consternation that the President was going to withdraw troops on Twitter. There's a great deal of questions ahead.

BROWN: The President would say I've been saying this for months, years that I wanted to withdraw troops and I'm finally doing it. But we are just hours away from a government shutdown. Trump says the Democrats now own the shutdown but that is a different take that we heard several years ago. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They talk about the government shutdown. They're going to be talking about the President of the United States. Who was the President at that time? They're not going to be talking about who the head of the House, the Senate, who is running things in Washington. They're going to be talking about one person. I think the pressure is on the President.


[14:20:00] BROWN: In just last week, the President said he would own this shut down and now he's shifting this.

TURNER: I think what's clear here is the majority of the House and Senate want to fund the wall as does the majority of the public. You have a small number of Democrats and Schumer in the Senate on a procedural basis blocking this wall. They're thwarting democracy. This bill ought to move forward, the wall should be funded. National security will be strengthened and of course then all of the government will be funded and we move forward.

BROWN: So it is true that Nancy Pelosi was wrong when she said the President wouldn't get the votes in the House because it did pass, but is it really fair to blame Democrats when Senate Democrats voted, they passed the C.R. that the White House, Vice President Pence apparently indicated that the President would sign and then left town thinking it was a done deal and now here they are voting on this new bill. Is it fair to blame the Democrats now?

TURNER: The one thing we know is basic math. The majority the House and Senate are for funding this wall. But for a small group that is blocking the funding of the wall, blocking the funding of the government. That's what's resulting in a shutdown.

BROWN: But let's just be realistic here. There is no chance for this bill to pass the Senate. We know that. How much of this is political theater, a way for Trump to keep his base engaged?

TURNER: I don't think that there's no way for this to pass, I think it has to pass. I think the American public want it. This has been a bill that the President pushed for and campaigned on. There's no way you can say you're for protecting our border and not be for our having control over the border. That's with Nancy Pelosi stumbles over herself. She'd also wish that the border would also just be open. The American public does not want that, we have to do something. BROWN: Let's be realistic, Congressman. We're headed toward a

partial government shutdown. What is the plan B? Democrats and Chuck Schumer have made clear they won't have the vote to pass this latest bill. What's the plan b here?

TURNER: I think the question is are we for the sovereignty of the United States or are we going to let Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have an open border to the United States. The Republicans --

BROWN: I don't think they said they want an open border.

TURNER: Well, if you don't close it, it's open. Here's a proposal to close it. If they want to shut the government down because they don't want to build this wall, they're saying the situation will be status quo at the border and we'll have same problems over and over again.

BROWN: Congressman, thank you for your time.

TURNER: Thank you.

BROWN: Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery today to remove two cancerous growths from her lungs. We're told the surgery was successful and there are no signs cancer anywhere else. Ginsburg is the oldest justice on the Supreme Court and this is the second time that she has been hospitalized recently. Just last month as you may recall, she fell and fractured three ribs. I want to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta to get the latest. How serious is this procedure for someone her age?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a serious operation for anyone at any age. You're having one of the lobes of your lung removed. For anybody it would be a serious operation. Given her age, 85, there are more precautions taken place, they're probably going to keep her in the hospital a little longer, he recovery may be longer. We don't know if she had a more minimally involved procedure. She had this rib fracture November 7th. That's when they found these abnormalities in her lung. They thought it was OK to wait six weeks. It gives people a little bit of sense of the idea that the doctors did not feel that they need to rush this. They probably timed it around the holidays so the justice could recover after this procedure was done.

[14:25:00] They also, as you noted, did not found any evidence of additional disease besides these two nodules and they didn't find any evidence of disease before the operation suggesting that the cancers spread from somewhere else. It appears to have started in the lung, was confined in the lung and will be removed after the operation.

BROWN: But this is the third form of cancer that Justice Ginsburg has been treated for. Does that increase her odds of developing cancer in some form again?

GUPTA: It is a good question. The question doctors always want to answer any situation like this when you see an abnormality in the lung, did that start in the lung or are we seeing evidence of metastatic disease, meaning it started somewhere else and spread to the lung. They were very careful and said they did scans beforehand and there was no evidence there was any other disease in the body suggesting spread. Could it be someone had colon cancer in the past and had early-stage pancreatic cancer in the past is more likely to get a type of lung cancers? Perhaps. But it really does make a difference in terms of how the treatment or anything will go forward.

BROWN: And just looking for a silver lining here, what are the chances these nodules would have been found had she not fallen and fractured her ribs last month?

GUPTA: I think they would not have been found. They were an incidental finding because she wasn't having any symptoms, not complaining in any way that would have led them to find this before she broke her rib. The second part, family, if it hadn't had been found, would it have ever been a problem for her in her life? We don't know that answer either. Because they saw it, because they identified it incidentally after looking at her ribs, they need to act upon it and they did that today, which was six weeks after the original diagnosis.

BROWN: Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BROWN: No doubt it has been one of the wildest weeks of the Trump Presidency a presidency. And we're going to talk to Richard quest about the stock market. And what Trumpism is doing to our relationships around the world, we'll bring in the experts next.