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Heading Toward Partial Shutdown; Senators Meet With Trump; Schumer on Senate Floor; Ginsburg Underwent Surgery. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 21, 2018 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Mattis gone, who is left in -- with that kind of a position. Maybe that is the whole point.

Jeremy, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

And thank you all so much for joining me. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing a chaotic day with us.

We begin careening toward a partial government shutdown. The Senate just seconds ago gaveling into session. The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and other Republicans are still waiting for them to show up. They are at the White House meeting with President Trump.

His demand? The impossible. Yes, the president's last minute protest yesterday did get him a big win in the House, $5 billion in new funding for the border wall, plus nearly $8 billion in disaster relief fund. But the votes for that wall aren't there in the Senate. Leader McConnell was at the White House to tell the president that again today. Emphasis on again.

Republicans are furious at the president because he stayed on the negotiating sidelines, signaled he would be OK with a measure that had no new wall money, only to blow it the plan the day before the deadline and with Christmas just around the corner. The president only escalated a chaos and crisis talk on Twitter today with this, this morning. Quote, the Democrats, whose votes we need in the Senate, will probably vote against border security and the wall even though they know it is desperately needed. If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time, the president says. People don't want open borders and crime.

A few hours later he added this tweet, the Democrats now own the shutdown.

Democrats are mocking that. Their leaders, remember, were in the Oval Office when the president bragged he would be proud to shut the government down in a fight over the border wall.

CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill. Manu, the Senate majority leader, we expected him to be speaking any second now. He's not back yet.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And we expect this meeting to be one of which Republicans trying to convince this president that there's no way for him to get the $5 billion in funding that he has demanded out of the United States Senate. And that will be abundantly clear today. There will be a vote on the floor, a procedural vote, to move forward on this measure. And either that first procedural vote will fail or the second one. Either way, both sides know that the House bill that adds the $5 billion for the border wall and keeps the government afloat has no chance and the hope among the senators is that the president will go back to his initial position, the one that the senators believed he supported on Wednesday night to keep the government open until February 8th, punt that fight into the new Congress. Most senators left home. Some are just getting back into town because they thought they were done for the year.

And, John, I just talked to Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican and outgoing senator. He said that he expects Republicans to meet and try to discuss a way forward after this procedural vote and he also had some very stark warnings about the last 24 hours of events and he warned of tyranny the way that President Trump is handling the last 24 hours. He said, do we succumb to tyranny of radio talk show hosts? He said we have two talk radio hosts who influence the president. And he said, that's tyranny, isn't it? And some Republicans and Democrats agree. Concern about the turned events here in the last day or so.


KING: Don't wander too far away, Manu. I suspect we'll be coming back once or twice maybe thrice in the hour ahead. Appreciate it. Manu Raju live on The Hill. More questions than answers.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Annie Karni with "The New York Times," Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report," and "The Washington Post's," Seung Min Kim.

Here's my question. If you listen to Manu, who knows how to count, it's impossible. Mitch McConnell has told the president for more than a week, it's impossible. I can't get you your border wall funding. I get completely while -- why a president-elected on the border wall would say, we'll vote anyway. The House did that yesterday. Whey didn't he ask for this on Monday and Tuesday, prove votes aren't there, then you negotiate and you don't have a shutdown a couple days before Christmas?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Mitch McConnell is not someone who makes predictions on things that he doesn't think are going to happen. And he said earlier this week that he did not believe there was going to be a government shutdown. And now we are hurdling towards a government shutdown in just a matter of hours.

The reason the president's mind has changed is because the criticism from conservatives, not just in the House Freedom Caucus, but also on television, on the radio, got under his skin because he heard them saying he is essentially backpedaling on his signature campaign promise, not just something politicians promised that no one ever thinks is going to happen. This is something he said every single day on the trail. And so his supporters are rightfully upset that they do not believe he's going to get this funding. They recognize that this is a slim chance, but the last chance to get any kind of funding for that wall. So the criticism got under his skin and that's why we are now seeing this just a matter of hours before --

KING: So is this too simple then, that they made the mistake that most of us at this table I hope have learned not to make, which is if the White House chief of staff tells you he'll sign it, if the vice president tells you he'll sign it, don't accept that until the president tells you he'll sign it and he may even be a little dicey about that?

[12:05:06] SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Exactly. Well, let's hop back in the way back machine here a little bit, back to March.


KIM: Or, I was thinking actually March when we went through this last crazy chaos when the House had passed a spending bill, when the Senate had passed a spending bill, and we had heard that the president should sign the spending bill. But after a day of just backlash from conservative media for not getting the wall back in March, we were on edge for essentially that entire day until the president exactly signed it. I think Capitol Hill has learned a little bit by now to not believe it completely until the president actually signs the bill. And this is a classic example of that because they were Republicans who had been talking to The Hill. Vice President Pence was on The Hill again this week meeting with Senate Republicans and they were confident, at least from those words, that the president would sign this bill. But as we know from so many times over, it is not final until he does something.

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": And it's also a constantly moving target. The White House was signaling a few days ago in Sarah Sanders's briefing, they're going to look for money from agencies. They were signaling the strategy was, we're going to continue to say we're not caving while doing exactly that, caving. And that is the way it was covered. And then I think the president reacted to the way it was covered, which was that he's caving.

COLLINS: OK, but the biggest difference between now and March is back in March that spending bill had a lot of money for the military. So guess who was one of the biggest proponents for it? Defense Secretary James Mattis. He was the one calling the president. And even though the president was upset that it didn't have enough money for the border wall, he was saying, look at all the money that's in here for the military. You should sign this. He was a big proponent. There is no one inside that White House this week that has been telling the president he needs to sign this bill.

KING: So we focus on the politics and the chaos. There are 420 federal employees out there who are thinking, Merry Christmas.


KING: Or happy holidays or, really, with the unpredictability of all of this.


KING: Four hundred and twenty thousand federal employees could work without pay. And now it's up to the government. Three hundred and eighty will be put on leave without pay. Essential service continue. A lot of this is up to the president and the cabinet secretaries to define who is essential.

But we're talking about the impact of departments. It's not the entire government. Most of the government has been funded. But the Justice Department, Homeland Security, Interior, State Department. So we have the Washington conversation, you know, why doesn't the president behave in a more predictable way, why isn't there a process for this? If you're out there in America or you live here in D.C., this is like --

WALTER: Yes, and there are a lot of those people who don't live in Washington, D.C.

KING: Right.

WALTER: Federal workers are not just located within a 10 mile radius of the capital.

Look, I think, even back in those long ago days of March, the other pushback to the president from Republicans was, whoa, whoa, whoa, we have a midterm coming up. We've got to be really careful. We could lose a lot of seats. Hey, guess what, you lost 40 seats and the House and it doesn't matter, right, because the reaction to the loss of the House has been a big, ah, it doesn't matter, we're going to -- I'm just going to ring more cow bell, right? I'm going to do the same thing I've been doing over and over again because there really is nothing that could possibly be worse than what -- we predicted we would lose the house, so we did. It doesn't really matter. I'm just going to push ahead with my agenda.

And when the president seems happiest is when, as he's looking forward to his own election, is when he is pitted against Washington. He ran as the guy who was going to shake up Washington. Let those folks in Washington be the hand ringers. Let them tell everybody things are going to fall apart. You can't do things like this. You shouldn't act this way. Well, guess what, I got elected on that. I got away from that because people told me they were worried about the midterm elections. I don't have to worry about that anymore. I'm just going ahead with my agenda.

COLLINS: But the flaw in that thinking for them, I know that's their thinking. The flaw in that is that he's been president for two years. He had a Republican-controlled House and Senate and he didn't get the wall built. He didn't get the wall funded. So now he can't essentially blame that all on Congress because he was in control. He had -- they had an option to get that money --

WALTER: Oh, but he will. He will blame it on Congress.

COLLINS: Of course he will, but I do think people will see through that. And I think White House aides are fully aware of that.

KING: But so -- now you're looking at the situation. Just this morning, Mitch, use the nuclear option and get it done. Our country is counting on that. You can't use the nuclear option, number one, it's the budget. Number two, Leader McConnell has said, more broadly, I'm not going to do that. I'm just not going to do that.

But we're two years in, and to your point, by now I assume he understands the Senate rules. I assume the rules have been explained to him, just like NATO dues have been explained to him. But he keeps saying things that are not factual based because he just likes to prove he's poking the bear, but --

KARNI: He's poking the bear. And sometimes the poking the bear works. You know he -- I think he liked his gopher at Mitch tweet on the criminal justice bill that actually kind of helped push Mitch McConnell over the line and flip and hold the vote. But this one is not going to happen. Mitch McConnell has made clear that the nuclear option is not an option. But, again, yes, he's poking the bear.

KING: And you are watching pictures here. These are Republican members of the Senate you see leaving the White House. Mick Mulvaney, the incoming chief of staff, currently the budget director. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, on his way back. Other senior Republicans as well.

The train is running late at the moment. Which -- which, if you're having negotiations and you're making progress is a good thing. But by all accounts, Leader McConnell was going there to listen to the president. Do you have any other ideas? But to tell him, plain and simple, I do not have the votes for your wall. And it's not just because of the Democrats. I don't have the few Republican -- I'm going to lose enough Republicans votes that you don't have your wall.

[12:10:18] So let's gain this out. Again, I -- a normal, responsible government would have -- if the president wanted this vote, he has every right to get everybody on the record, could have had it Monday and Tuesday. There's the math. Then you negotiate. This is the way the president decided to do it. The deadline is less than 12 hours away. It fails. The president's tweeting this will be a long shut down. Is that a bluff? Is there a plan b? Is there a way out? Is there any chance the Democrats would give him half the money, a third of the money?

KIM: We --

KING: Everything -- everything on here tells me, no.

KIM: We don't have a plan b and (INAUDIBLE) ago when there was discussion among Republicans that maybe you give Trump the $5 billion but spread it out over a couple of years so he doesn't get it all in one year. Democrats said, no way, we are not giving him that money.

So once the -- once the Senate takes up the bill that the House passed last night with $5 billion in border wall funding, that does not pass the Senate, we don't know what's going to happen.

And, look, Democrats will take charge January 3rd officially. They have said if the government is shut down by then, they will vote again to reopen the government. But if -- again, if the government is shut down until -- what does the president do? Is he still going to be in this very dug in position?

COLLINS: No. And Democrats have the leverage here. That's why they don't have to give anything up. And the White House is fully aware of that. It seems to be this major disconnect, not just between the president and Senate Republicans who, we should note, when they came over to the White House this morning, some of them had trouble getting in because it was such a last minute meeting that they hadn't even been cleared by the Secret Service. Between also between the president and his own aides who realize that maybe for the first few days of a shutdown they can take that message and say, this is your president fighting for the -- they are fully aware that as a government shutdown lingers and grows -- is not going to work and the optics will not look good for the White House. They will not be able to pin that on the Democrats.

And that's what White House aides are saying, the president's own officials, who were talking to him, fully realize that. So they are essentially in a lose, lose situation.

KARNI: And speaking of optics, I mean, the president was scheduled to leave for Mar-a-Lago today for his 16 day vacation. I just got word that he is not leaving tonight. That is officially off the table. I -- the optics -- he will leave at some point, I imagine, and the optics of, if a government shutdown is going on and he takes off for Mar-a- Lago to play golf is even worse.

KING: Yes.

KIM: And he is on camera saying, I will proudly own this shutdown. I mean Democrats have been already replaying that (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Saying he proudly -- he said he would proudly own this shutdown.

KIM: Over and over.

KING: All right, we're going to work in a quick break here. We're waiting. Stay with us, please. Strap in. This is your government at work, sort of.

We're waiting for word of exactly what happened in that White House meeting. The president meeting with top Senate Republicans. We're also waiting for the Senate to get about its business. That is to take up the House version, which does give the president his wall money, but we are told flatly the votes simply aren't there in the Senate. We'll watch that process play out.

Up next, are big story in Washington. (INAUDIBLE) his post because he says he has too many disagreements with the boss.


KING: Going to take you straight to the floor of the United States Senate. The Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer speaking on this big impasse over whether there will able a government shutdown.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Of what's undoubtedly the most chaotic presidency ever in the history of the United States. The stock market is in a tumult and in decline. The secretary of defense, one of the only pairs of steady hands in our government, is resigning from the administration in protest. And the United States is pulling out of Syria and likely Afghanistan, abandoning our coalitions, allies and the Kurds, and surrendering the field to Putin, Iran, Hezbollah, ISIS, the Taliban and Bashar al Assad. The position of defense secretary, of attorney general, of ambassador to the United Nations, of interior secretary and even chief of staff to the president are all in flux.

[12:15:05] The institutions of our government lack steady and experienced leadership. With all of these departures, it's about to get even more unsteady. The president is making decisions without counsel, without preparation, and even without communication between relevant departments and relevant agencies. All of this turmoil is causing chaos in the markets, chaos abroad, and it's making the United States less prosperous and less secure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Senate will be in order, please.

SCHUMER: And to top it all off, President Trump has thrown a temper tantrum and now has us careening towards a Trump shutdown over Christmas. In a short time, the Senate will take part in a pointless exercise to demonstrate to our House colleagues and the president what everyone here already knows, there are not the votes in the Senate for an expensive, taxpayer-funded border wall.

So, President Trump, you will not get your wall. Abandon your shutdown strategy. You're not getting the wall today, next week, or on January 3rd, when Democrats take control of the House.

Just two days ago, the Senate came together to support a proposal by Leader McConnell, unanimously, every Democrat, every Republican, to extend government funding through February without partisan demands. What it would accomplish would be that the government would not shut down, the fights that we're having would be postponed to a later day, and millions of Americans would not be hurt this Christmas week. So let me repeat that, the Senate, every Democrat, every Republican, has already unanimously supported a clean extension of government funding. Democrats supported the measure because we do not want to see the government shut down.

We have no demands other than that. We had every indication the president would sign the legislation, as did our friends, the Republicans on the other side of the aisle in the Senate. But yesterday, President Trump, hounded by the radical voices of the hard right, threw another temper tantrum and here we are once again on the brink of what the president has spent months saying he wanted, a Trump shutdown.

The president will try to do his best to blame Democrats, but it's flatly absurd. President Trump called for a shutdown no less than 25 times. In our meeting in the Oval Office, President Trump said, quote, if we don't get what we want, I, President Trump, will shut down the government. I am proud to shut it down, said President Trump. I'm not going to blame you, meaning Democrats. I will take the mantle of shutting it down. Those are President Trump's words and nothing he says or does today can undo that.

No Democrat has called for shutting the government down. We are all working to avoid it. The president seems to relish it. He seems to feel it will throw a bone to his base. The problem being, his base is less than one quarter of America.

Mr. President, President Trump, you cannot erase months of video of you saying that you wanted a shutdown and that you wanted the responsibility and blame for a shutdown. President Trump, you own the shutdown. You said so in your own words.

And, President Trump may get his wish, unfortunately. But it doesn't have to be this way. Democrats have offered two alternatives and Republicans, Leader McConnell, has offered one. Democrats have offered to pass the six bipartisan appropriation bills plus a one-year continuing resolution for homeland security. We have also offered a one-year continuing resolution for all the remaining bills.

Republicans have offered to pass short-term continuing resolution through early February. Each one of those proposals would pass the House, pass the Senate. Each one of those proposals contains $1.3 billion of real border security. Not a wall. There is no wall in those proposals. Democrats support real border security, not a wall. And, by the way, that is in addition, in addition to the $1.3 billion in border security Congress allocated last year, the vast majority of which the Trump administration has not yet spent. They're asking for loads of more money. They haven't even spent last year's money. It's clearly a political gambit by President Trump to appease his never happy base.

[12:20:38] On the other hand, a Trump shutdown would result in zero dollars for the Department of Homeland Security over the Christmas holiday. So, there are several ways for President Trump and congressional Republicans to avoid a shutdown over Christmas. I've mentioned three. But there is only one way we will have a Trump shut down, if President Trump clings to his position for an unnecessary, ineffective, taxpayer funded border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for.

I yield the floor.

KING: The Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer there speaking. We'll watch and see what plays out in the Senate.

If you weren't with us at the top of the hour, we're live in the United States Senate there because we're waiting for a vote. The president has demanded the Senate take up a bill passed by the House to keep the government open that includes $5 billion in border funds that the senators, including the Republicans who run the Senate, have told him simply cannot pass. We're waiting for this drama to play out.

As we wait, Chuck Schumer taking advantage of the fact the majority leader is just coming back from the White House to speak first. Normally he would speak second. Speaking first in the Senate and trying to connect the dots, if you will, for the threat of a government shutdown, which starts at midnight, to all of the other big controversies here in Washington. I believe our David Gergen can join the conversation.

David, you have advised four Republicans, Democrats and Republicans, and I'm guess despite that depth of experience, this is rather novel.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It sure is. Again, we're in unprecedented territory. It happens again and again. Except this is much more dangerous for the country when you have a government that's shutting down. A nation that's sending messages to his long-time friends and allies. We're not going -- we're not going to fight with you anymore and you may -- you may get slaughtered. In a nation where the stock market is dropping precipitously, you know, and went down again later -- late this morning after coming up some, it's (INAUDIBLE) went down again, going south.

John, there's -- there's a lot of nervousness in the world and the more we have a shutdown, the longer it goes, the more the pressure is going to build up from a financial community, get this thing under control, stop the shutdown, let's have more certainty in the markets.

KING: But, to that point, David, in a normal presidency, a chief of staff, a vice president, the inner circle, however many people are in that inner circle, would go to the president and say, sir, I understand you feel passionately about the wall. The math is simply not there.

And, look, you have a new chief of staff coming in. You defense secretary just resigned. There is anxiety around the world. The stock market's been on a roller coaster, despite most of the economic data pretty strong. We're in this sort of strange period of time. Let's not add more poison to the mix. That's what would happen in a normal presidency, but we don't have one.

GERGEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. An in a normal presidency, the president would agree. And we thought that's what was happen mid-week when the signals were coming out from the White House that he no longer was going to insist on the wall. And, you know, and people went to vote and they went home with the understanding that that was it in the Senate. I mean this is an incredible story, John, of this Democratic senator from Hawaii, Schatz, going home thinking they -- I've -- we voted. It's settled. We're not going to have a shutdown. He gets on the ground in Hawaii from Washington, all that long flight. He has 17 minutes on the ground before he has to turn around and get on another airplane and fly back to Washington, D.C. That is nutso government.

KING: It is nutso government. And, David, before I lose you, I just want to -- you're implying in there that -- I'm sorry, right now -- I'm sorry, right now I have to interrupt. I've got to get some breaking news on a health crisis facing the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Let me get straight to our Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, what's going on?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, some health news coming in about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

We're learning that the justice, the oldest justice on the court, actually went health -- underwent a health procedure this morning in New York City at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It turns out that they had actually discovered back in November two nodules that were -- that were actually discovered in her lower lobe of her left lung. They discovered this and they found that these were actually cancerous. This was something that they had discovered back in November. And that's why today the justice underwent this surgery. It was the pulmonary lumpectomy. She underwent this today.

[12:25:01] Good news, though, coming from her health care providers. They've released this statement to us and they say that, according to the thoracic surgeon, both of those nodules that were cancerous, they were removed during surgery and they were found that there was no evidence of any remaining disease.

So, again, to recap for you, we're just getting this news in. The oldest justice, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85 years old, she's undergone treatment and a surgery in New York City to remove cancerous nodules that were found in her lung, her left lung.

Now, a reminder, it was just about a month and a half ago when Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she fell in her office late at night and she was actually taken in for treatment based on that. She had rib fractures. So as a result of that treatment back in November, that's when they discovered this concerning nodules. They were found to be cancerous. And then, today, she underwent this surgery in New York City to remove these cancerous nodules. They do say there is no evidence, no remaining evidence, of any cancer, of any disease. And they do expect that she'll remain in the hospital. They say that currently there's no further treatment plan for the justice and she's expected to remain in the hospital in New York City for a few days.

So this was a preplanned surgery. She underwent it this morning. But, again, the oldest justice on the court, 85 years old. And, of course, we've seen health issues before involving Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Just about a month ago, she did fall. She had that rib fracture. And then she's actually had a lot of procedures and a lot of health scares in the past. It was in 1999 when she had colon cancer surgery. 2009 she had the early stages of pancreatic cancer. And then in 2014, she had a heart procedure where they put in a stint in her right coronary artery.

So, of course, everyone always concerned about the oldest justice on the court. But some good news amid a health scare, John.

KING: Jessica, I'm sorry -- Jessica, I'm sorry, I need to interrupt you.


KING: This is the way this hour is going to playing out. Major breaking news involving Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The majority leader of the United States Senate on the floor as we head towards a government shutdown.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Government funding and send it here for our consideration. In addition giving the entire federal government the necessary resources to operate into the new year, this legislation also provides much needed investments and disaster relief for hard hit communities and in our national security, particularly the integrity of our borders.

In my view, this legislation that would be quite uncontroversial, quite uncontroversial, in a more normal, political moment, in a moment when both parties put the obvious national interest ahead of any personal spite for the president. I support the additional border security and disaster aid that the House added to the bill and I'm proud to vote for it.

Now, Mr. President, it's not a radical concept that the American people's government should be able to control the people and the goods that flow into our country. It's not a radical concept that physical barriers play an important role in achieving security, unless there is a caucus of lawmakers who go to bed at night with their doors wide open that I'm not aware of.

What is radical, Mr. President? What is way out of the mainstream? Is this absurd premises of the open borders far left that achieving basic stability and law enforcement on our southern border is somehow in itself without compassion or discriminatory or immoral? Fairness and compassion don't mean only enforcing some of our laws half-heartedly. Fairness and compassion mean that we fulfill our governing duties for the American people. And if we continue to throw up our hands and tolerate a status quo that is allowing too many drugs and dangerous criminals to travel freely into our land, then this federal government is not doing its duty.

The facts are clear on this. The need for greater security on our southern border is not some partisan invention. It's an empirical fact. And the need is only growing. Apprehensions along the border have nearly doubled in the past year. The men and women of the Border Patrol are encountering greater numbers of gang member and individuals with criminal histories, more family units, more seizures of cocaine and fentanyl. This is a real crisis. A real crisis.

[12:30:02] The implications for American communities for venerable children and for Border Patrol units that are already stretched thin are very real.