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Senate Rushes to Avoid Shutdown as Trump Blames Democrats; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg Has Lung Surgery to Remove Cancerous Nodules; Senate Taking 1st Key Vote on Stop-Gap Funding Bill; Mattis Quits After Trump Decides to Pull U.S. Troops from Syria, Reduce Afghanistan Troops. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 21, 2018 - 13:30   ET



[13:30:31] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: There are now just about over 10 hours until a government shutdown. We just heard from the president, who drew his line in the sand. We had the first vote, a procedural vote at Senators consider last night's House bill that would give the president $5 billion for his wall and a lot for disaster funding as well. President Trump said he would own the shutdown, now says it's all on the Democrats.

Joining me to talk about this, we have A.B. Stoddard, the associate editor and columnist from "RealClearPolitics and a CNN commentator. And Rick Santorum and CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.

I think I messed that up.

Rick Santorum, former Senator

RICK SANTORUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not the global affairs person.

KEILAR: All important people. All important people.

You are global affairs.

But first to you, Senator Santorum.

When you saw the president, sitting in the Oval Office with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, he is owning it. He owns the shutdown. And now he says, wait, no, no, Democrats, you own it.

SANTORUM: Yes. I applauded the president for owning it. I think he needs to own this issue that he --


KEILAR: Now he is not owning it.

SANTORUM: Well, yes --


KEILAR: Do you unapplaud him for that?

SANTORUM: He's going to blame the other side. No, I think he should own it. He should say, look, I'm not going to sign a bill that doesn't protect this country and continue to focus on it. I would be traveling the country if I were him saying, I'm sick and tired of Democrats who voted for these things in the past, put up the videos of Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama saying we need the wall and everything. Nothing that he is asking for, Democrats haven't voted for en masse before. This is about politics and he needs to make it about politics.

KEILAR: A.B., what do you think?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: The Senator is right, there has been Democratic support for these, but they are wrapped up into monster immigration reform bills that, A, wouldn't pass today and, B, they had give and takes and compromises from both sides. It's not like they stand alone, supported a wall before. That is not accurate. It's true, the Democrats feel they don't have to give on the issue, that they gave #1.6 billion in last year's spending bill and that's all they'll do and they are stuck on not coming up with something that can be used for a wall. They may pay a price for that. But the time to -- to come short of 60 votes in the Senate, the time for President Trump to come up with something was not yesterday. It's too late. The government is going to shut down over this. He had a fight after Vice President Pence went to the Senate and told Senator that is the president was going to sign this bill. It's chaotic and reckless and irresponsible in the midst of everything else going on in his government. There was a time to do a DACA deal in exchange for some wall and he turned it down. He has to go back to the table.

KEILAR: You mentioned the chaos, A.B.

That's part of it, Elise. You are not here to talk about the shutdown. We are talking about Syria and Afghanistan. With the shutdown looming, the president said he is pulling U.S. troops out of Syria and he wants to cut U.S. troops in Afghanistan in half and do it faster than anyone, including all of the members of his cabinet want him to do.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Including what he said that he wasn't going to do. He announced a new policy on Syria, which is essentially to stay in the country not only to defeat ISIS, which he declared defeated yesterday or the day before, but to counter Iran. He said, no, the U.S. will not leave until all Iranian proxies or Iranian troops are out of Syria. This week, he announced, without consulting even his cabinet and allies, he is going to pull all U.S. troops. One of the reasons Defense Secretary Mattis went in there yesterday and said, sir, I cannot continue to work for you because our values and interests are not aligned. It was speculated for some time but this was the last straw, we understand. The serious situation, news that troops will be coming out of Afghanistan. He couldn't serve this president any longer.

KEILAR: I wonder what you think, Senator, when you have Americans at home, the stock market is going hay wire, there's a shutdown we are on the precipice of, the president is disregarding all counsel and pulling troops out of places that, even the people who might not have wanted to see them in there in the first place, are saying this could be really destabilizing. If you're an American at home, a few days shy of a major holiday, you are feeling uncertain, financially, security-wise. What do you say to them?

[13:35:12] SANTORUM: First, most Americans, thankfully, are probably not tuning in as we head to the Christmas holiday. They're tuning out. Those who are tuning in have every reason to be concerned. What the president is doing on the shutdown, as you heard before, I'm fine him fighting that battle. But to throw this chaos into it is really bad politics as well as horrible policy. I understand --

KEILAR: On Syria and Afghanistan?

SANTORUM: On Syria and Afghanistan. I understand why. The president said I campaigned on this and I promised the American public I would do this. Barack Obama did the same thing when he campaigned on getting out of Iraq and it turned out to be a disaster and caused ISIS to propagate. You can say history can repeat itself. Don't make the same mistake Barack Obama did. You criticized Barack Obama for doing what you are now, Mr. President, thinking of doing. This is a very bad decision. I can't think of a worst time to make the decision, particularly in light of what the conversation with Erdogan it looks like it's almost a response to that. This is bad every way around. Listen to your advisers on this one. Take a step back. And try to work this out in a rational sense. Right now, he is in real danger of losing a lot of Republican support across this country for his actions h ere.

KEILAR: Former Senator Rick Santorum, A.B. Stoddard, Elise Labott, thank you to all of you.

Up next, more on our breaking news out of the Supreme Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had two cancerous nodules removed from her lung this morning. We'll have details next.


[13:41:25] KEILAR: We have breaking news. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is recovering today from lung surgery to remove two cancerous nodules.

Joining me now, we have CNN chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, you followed Ruth Bader Ginsberg's health brushes she's had. She is 85 years old. She fractured three ribs in a fall not long ago. How serious is this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a big operation she had. And what we know is these nodules that you mentioned were malignant. They're cancerous. That's the headline. But there are a couple of important points that these were discovered in early November, November 7th, when she had the fall. The operation six weeks later. There's something important there that doctors thought it was OK to wait six weeks and scheduled it around a time where she could recover over the holidays. That makes it a less serious situation for the doctor's standpoint.

They were also discovered incidentally, meaning it didn't appear the nodules were causing her to have symptoms, like shortness of breath or pain. It was discovered because of the rib fracture and they said we should do something about this. They said in a statement that they released this morning, Brianna, that there's no further treatment that she is going to get. No chemotherapy or radiation. They don't see that this seems to have spread elsewhere in the body. Those are all good signs.

But she is 85 and it's a good-sized operation. These were malignant nodules. She will need to recover from the operation and have this followed up and be monitored.

KEILAR: They think they have gotten all of the disease, which is very significant. But I wonder, considering in the past, she battled cancer before and a serious cancer, how significant that is?

GUPTA: She had colon cancer in the past and she has what was described as early stage pancreatic cancer in the past. Any time you see something in the lungs, like they saw back in early November one of the questions they asked and try to investigate, did this come from the lung itself or did this come from somewhere else in the body? Especially given her history of cancer in the past. What they said, and seeing this in a statement, is that there's no evidence of other disease in the body. No evidence this came from somewhere else. We think this is primary lung nodules that were malignant. They have been removed. And as you said, Brianna, they think, as a result, they have it all. We don't know specifically. They said it was malignant but didn't say what types of cells, malignant cells were in the nodules. Maybe that's something they will release later on. But the most salient point you made is they said they got it all out.

KEILAR: Let's think of her as she's in recovery over the holidays.


KEILAR: Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

GUPTA: Yes, thank you.

[13:44:20] KEILAR: We are following breaking news here in Washington. Senators trying to wrangle colleagues to Capitol Hill to cast their vote on a procedural measure on a spending bill that keeps the government open until February. Stay with us.


KEILAR: We're watching as the Senate is taking its first key vote on a series of bills that avoid a partial government shutdown at midnight tonight. President Trump met with Senate Republicans ahead of that vote. And this is what he said moments ago when he was talking about the likelihood of a shutdown.


TRUMP: It's really up the Democrats, totally up to the Democrats as to whether or not we have a shutdown. It's possible that we'll have a shutdown. I would say the chances are very good.


KEILAR: Right now, it doesn't appear to have enough support to pass a final vote. And the president is calling for the Senate to use the so-called nuclear option to get this done.

Congressman Ryan Costello is with me. He a Republican from Pennsylvania. He is retiring at the end of this Congress.

So you're free to speak. You're free to opine and tell us exactly what you really think.

But I know you voted for what the Senate is considering is the House bill, which includes the $5 million for the border wall, also includes billions and billions for disaster recovery as a sweetener. But the Senate is not expected to bite on this. You wanted to get to February, right? You voted for this House bill but you wanted to get to February?

[13:50:12] REP. RYAN COSTELLO, (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I thought voting for the clean C.R. was the right play because the Senate is going to vote no on this. House leadership felt that we had to vote for the $5 billion plus for border security. I think it's about $8 billion for disaster relief. Because there were too many Republicans unwilling to vote for a clean C.R. because they felt they needed to put a border fund bill on the floor and vote for it and take the fight to the Democrats and to the Senate. That's what has been done now. I fully expect the Senate will not pass it. And then the fundamental question will be, are we then going to take up a clean C.R. or is the government going to shut down.

KEILAR: So it's sort of like just a protest. This is what we want to do, let's prove it can pass. Do you think they're forced to do it?


KEILAR: The president is saying there will probably be a shutdown.

COSTELLO: I think there will be a shutdown.

KEILAR: Is this necessary? This is getting ridiculous.

COSTELLO: No. No, because if we really wanted more border security, that's what the president really, truly wants, this summer there was a $25 billion additional border security bill that was paired with reforms to our visa system, which everyone agrees needs to happen, and a permanent solution for DACA children and their parents and their brothers and sisters. It was on the floor. The president, had he leaned in, he could have had enough votes in the House to send the bill to the Senate.

KEILAR: So what do you think this is about?

COSTELLO: Well, it's hard to know other than to think that he wants to take this fight to the Democrats. It's his last best chance for more border security funding. Once the Democrats take back the House, I don't think you're going to see any additional border security.

And finally, I would say this is an issue where the base of the Republican Party is dug in. And most Democrats are dug in that they will not give one nickel for the president's wall. And then you have a lot of us in the center who want to see the government funded, believe there should be more border security, but don't think we should shut down the government over it because we had a better chance this summer to get more border security funding and keep the country open. This is the wrong time for this fight, in my opinion.

KEILAR: I want to talk about Defense Secretary Mattis resigning. He's not aligned with President Trump. He made that clear, using those words in his letter. This is all in the middle of a new rush withdrawal from Syria, total withdrawal from Syria, and in Afghanistan, pulling 7,000 of the 14,000 troops out, against the advice of all his advisers practically. Are you concerned?

COSTELLO: I am. Let's underscore against the advice of all himself advisers, and it was really rushed. So I think in the days and weeks and months to come, remember you're going to have to have a new secretary of defense go through confirmation hearings, the question on what is the policy in Syria? Do you agree with what the president did? If you do, why? If you don't, why not? What about the threats that are now going to come about and the opportunities for some of our adversaries to rise up as a consequence of us leaving? You also have the war in Yemen. You have a host of considerations. We also have reports that this may now happen in Afghanistan. Hopefully, it does not. We are --


KEILAR: We are reporting that, indeed, it will, that half of the troops will be pulled out there, that that is his plan that he wants to announce as part of his State of the Union address.

COSTELLO: And we need our allies to know that we stand by them. This is not indicative of that type of message we need around the globe.

KEILAR: Trump said when he was campaigning, he wasn't about telegraphing military strategy. I wonder what you think news of this coming out, especially as there's a diplomatic path working toward some kind of agreement in Afghanistan that could pave the way for troops to withdraw. Now it's happening in reverse. Normally, you come it an agreement and then you have a timeline. Instead now, it's a timeline and negotiators lose a lot of leverage.

COSTELLO: I agreed with the president during campaign when he said he wasn't going to telegraph what he's going to do. I thought President Obama's red line in Syria that he has now erased -- you should never say what you won't do. So in that regard I agree with what the president's position was. But to your point, pulling troops out when the Kurds and so many

others are relying on us being there sends a really bad message. Just to reiterate the predicate of your initial question, his advisers don't believe this is the right policy. I believe the president needs to do a better job of explaining why, in fact, he thinks this is the right policy. Just saying that we're going to bring our men and women home, which we all want in a perfect, stable world, is insufficient as an explanation for why you're pulling troops out.

[13:55:04] KEILAR: Congressman, thank you so much. We really appreciate you being with us.

COSTELLO: Good to be with you.

KEILAR: That is it for me. Pamela Brown will pick up right after this.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[14:00:01] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Pamela Brown, in today for Brooke Baldwin.

We start with a White House in crisis. We are just 10 hours away from a government shutdown. And you can see the countdown clock right there on the screen.