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Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Has Resigned; Lawmakers Reconvene on Capitol Hill and Over Government Shutdown; Trump's Border Wall Standoff Plunges Government into Partial Shutdown; McConnell - Dems Refusing to Meet President Trump Halfway; Congress Searches for Deal to End Government Shutdown; War against ISIS - Kurdish Fighters Backed by U.S. Fight ISIS in Syria; Government Partially Shuts Down for Third Time in a Year; Trump Vented at Whitaker After Explosive Cohen Revelations; Schumer Blames Shutdown on Two-Week Temper Tantrum by Trump. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired December 22, 2018 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:10] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right, hello again everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. This "BREAKING NEWS" the president's decision to pull troops out of Syria has cost him a top State Department official who was just submitted his resignation.

First you know, of course the Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, resigning this week over that policy and now James (sic) McGurk is the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS. A senior administration official says, he handed his resignation in on Friday in response to the president's decision to pull troops out of Syria.

For the latest on this "BREAKING NEWS" let's go to CNN Global Affairs Correspondent, Elise Labbott. Elise, what more can you tell us about him, his role, and what inspired his resignation?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, Brett McGurk is a decade-long Career Diplomat. He has been working in Iraq, working on issues related to the region for decades and in 2013 he had been appointed Deputy Envoy to the ISIS Coalition when it was stood up and then took over when General John Allen left and really has been overseeing a 60-plus member coalition of states working not only on the ground but in the -- on the Internet, countering messaging to counter ISIS and by a large measure, that job has been successful but just a couple -- a week ago you heard Brett McGurk at the State Department podium talking about the idea that the U.S. was now deciding to stay in Syria, this was the new Trump administration policy to stay in Syria, to defeat the remnants of ISIS, so it didn't come back in a worst form or greater form and then was headed off to brief the coalition about it.

He was in the region Fred, talking to Iraqi partners in the northern part of Iraq when President Trump made what sources familiar with McGurk's thinking called "the sudden and reckless announcement" to pull out troops and he felt that he could no longer, not only explain this policy which was totally against what he was talking about just a few days ago but let alone execute it. Now it's careful to note that McGurk was scheduled to leave in February, he was going in March to take up a position at Stanford University, has a young child, was looking to have a life after government for a while but really one of the best and brightest Fred, of the U.S. administration's National Security team, felt that he could no longer implement the president's policy on Syria.

I'm also told that the resignation...

WHITFIELD: All right.

LABBOTT: ... of Defense Secretary Mattis...


LABBOTT: ... in large part because of the (inaudible)...


LABBOTT: ... (inaudible)...

WHITFIELD: ... I'm sorry.

LABBOTT: ... (inaudible)...

WHITFIELD: I've got to interrupt you. We're going to talk more on this departure of Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, his resignation.

But right now, let's go to Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, talking about this ongoing government shutdown and what they're working on to propose a bill.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL, MAJORITY LEADER (R), KENTUCKY: ... understanding that no further votes will occur until the president and Senate Democrats have reached an agreement to resolve this.

Let me say that again. We've pushed the "pause button" until the president from whom we will need a signature, and the Senate Democrats, from whom we will need votes, reach an agreement; no procedural votes, no test votes, just a meaningful vote on a bipartisan agreement whenever that is reached and it's my hope that it's reached sooner rather than later.

It is no mystery why while securing our nation's borders is such a major priority for Republicans here in the Senate and Republicans over in the House and for President Trump. Any look at the plain facts leads to one simple conclusion, the crisis of security at our southern border is real, is real. Over the past year Customs and Border Protection's records of apprehensions and interdictions at our southern border are literally, Mr. President, staggering, staggering: 800 known gang members, a 50 percent increase over last year; nearly 7,000 individuals with criminal histories including weapon's trafficking and violent offenses; more than double, more than double the levels of fentanyl along with other illicit [12:05:09] substances so the report card is quite clear, America's borders are in crisis.

These facts I've stated are nonpartisan facts, they are ideological, they're just facts, just facts. They don't describe the Republican Party's version of events or the president's version of events, they describe reality so one would think that securing our homeland, controlling our borders, and protecting the American people would be bipartisan priorities, uncontroversial, common sense, bipartisan priorities, a core duty of any nation's government.

And here's the interesting thing, until very, very recently, Mr. President, that seem to be the case. Back in 2006 Democrats are perfectly happy to support hundreds, hundreds of miles of physical barriers, along the border; 26 Democrats voted for the bill including then Senator Obama, then Senator Clinton, and my good friend the current democratic leader from New York.

But what about more recently? Earlier this very year, this year Mr. President, the democratic leader offered $25 billion for physical barriers in his negotiations with the president, five times; five times as much as the White House is reasonably requesting right now, and that was just earlier this year.

Republicans in the House and in the Senate believe the House has provisioned for $5 billion in border funding plus additional disaster funding was completely reasonable. I was glad to vote to advance that legislation yesterday, my colleagues and I are proud to stand with the American people on this subject and the safety of American families and the health and security of our communities.

But this time, this time, Democrats have rejected that reasonable request. They've refused to meet President Trump halfway and provide even one-fifth, one-fifth of the resources for the border they were willing to provide just a few months ago, just a few months ago.

There is no bright line of principle that separates hundreds of miles of physical barriers in 2006 from new physical barriers in 2018. There is no major philosophical shift that made $25 billion for border security worthwhile just a few months ago but makes a far more modest investment of $5 billion immoral, immoral, and unacceptable, today.

No. Democrats haven't rejected the president's request and invited this partial government shut-down because of some principled objection they've just discovered in the last few weeks; it's not some principled discovery they've just made in the last few weeks, they brought this about because they are under a lot of pressure, we all know this, from their far left and feel compelled to disagree with the president on almost anything and certainly this so that's where we are but we don't need to be here for long.

In order to get us out of this mess, a negotiated solution will need to check these boxes, it's really simple, Mr. President, really simple:

It will need the support of 60 senators, which will obviously include a number of Democrats;

It will need to pass the House; and

It will need a presidential signature.

That's how we make a law in this situation; 60 votes in the Senate; majority in the House; and President Trump's signature, that's what's needed. That's what will end this regrettable episode; reopen the lapsed portions of the federal government and produce the investment in border security that our nation really needs.

So I'm glad [12:10:08] that productive discussions are continuing at this hour between my friend, the democratic leader, the democratic leader in the House, and the White House.

When those negotiations produce a solution that is acceptable to all of those parties, it will receive a vote here on the Senate floor.


WHITFIELD: All right. You were listening to the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell there really challenging the U.S. Senate there, that it's quite simple, come up with a plan, vote on it, it goes on to the House and then to the president's signature but of course it's not that simple because they've got to come with -- come up with a plan that is one that will appease the president and he wants $5 billion for border security.

Let's check in with our Suzanne Malveaux who is there on Capitol Hill. So he's really over simplifying it because there was some bipartisan support but then it was the president who rejected that plan and now it's back to the drawing board?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT ON CAPITOL HILL: Right. And Fred, really the political calculus has dramatically changed here and the -- in the whole argument is being framed very differently because as you mentioned before it really was a fight. It had been set up earlier, just as early as Wednesday that there was legislation backed by the House, by the Senate, Republicans and Democrats who said yes, there was -- there was a budget deal that the president said he would go ahead and sign, that he would agree to and so it would've been the president vetoing that legislation, the president versus the Congress here, shutting down the government.

Now what you find is that the Republicans have pulled out of the process here. It is dramatically reframed as a battle, a battle which the president would welcome him against just the Democrats here because what they were able to do in changing and putting forward this new legislation, tearing up what they had agreed to on Wednesday, and flipping the script to Thursday is now the Republicans are on board with legislation to provide that $5 billion for the border wall on the House as well as on the Senate side and it is now up to the Democrats to assert what they're going to do to direct dealing with this president so that they would get the blame for the government shutdown so it's either going to be the president or the Democrats; the Republicans have removed themselves from the process.

It is not completely surprising here Fred, I had a chance to talk to Senator James Lankford, he's a Republican from Oklahoma and he had said earlier this morning, that the thought of -- behind the negotiations, whatever deal was made here is that the president would announce it first, it would come from him saying he had come up with this agreement because they have been desperately needing, searching, and wanting some reassurance in terms of what this president would sign on to definitively before they take the political risk of putting their signatures on this legislation and also taking the fall for a government shutdown so that is the first thing.

The other thing notably that Mitch McConnell talked about here is that he's not going for this nuclear option that the president had asked him to do, had really tweeted pretty hard urging him for the nuclear option to lower the threshold from the 60-vote necessary to pass legislation in the Senate, to just a simple majority; that's not happening, he doesn't have an appetite for that, it's not what the Republicans want and so the pressure is now for the president and more pressure now on the Democrats to produce some legislation that they can say, they'll come forward and say we have this agreement and only then will it be presented on the Senate floor.

WHITFIELD: Yes. But no mention you know, following that admonishment of what is being considered. I mean, still a mystery Suzanne, is what does the president want in this bill besides the $5 billion.

MALVEAUX: It puts a lot of pressure on Senator Chuck Schumer and of course Nancy Pelosi. Chuck Schumer has said he is sticking to his guns, they've got a figure of $1.3 billion in the current offer that they have, moving forward. It is not close to $5 billion. We have been given some guidance from folks that it's somewhere -- could be somewhere in between the one and the $5 billion but they have now had to negotiate the language of this and the money behind this but it is a political twist here Fred...


MALVEAUX: ... very clearly that takes the -- takes the onus off the Republicans and taking credit for this government shut-down and now putting it on the Democrats and the president.

The president wants this battle. He is itching for -- he's fighting for this battle with the Democrats and now that is exactly what he has by working it in this way.

WHITFIELD: All right. Susan Malveaux [12:15:09] on the Hill. Thank you so much. We'll check back with you.

All right let's talk further about this. Joining me right now, Democratic Strategist and CNN Political Commentator, Maria Cardona; and Republican Strategist, and CNN Political Commentator, Alice Stewart. Good to see both of you ladies and happy...


WHITFIELD: ... holidays.

STEWART: ... Fred.


WHITFIELD: All right. So Alice, you first, I the -- Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader trying to flip the script you know, as Suzanne was putting -- putting the blame really, the onus on the Democrats but we've got a Republican-controlled Senate and House so how convincing is this argument?

STEWART: It really truly doesn't matter who is to blame. The fact is we have 800,000 federal workers that are going without pay over the holidays and I wish it was simple as he just made it, a school- house...


STEWART: ... rock episode, we need a majority in the Senate, we need to pass the House and we...

WHITFIELD: But then...

STEWART: ... need the president...

WHITFIELD: ... nothing on the details...

STEWART: ... Exactly.

WHITFIELD: ... this is what we're considering, this is what we're crafting. That's what needed here.

STEWART: The problem is, we're basically back where we were the first Chuck...


STEWART: ... and Nancy meeting over a week ago when the president has been clear, he wants $5 billion...


STEWART: ... to build this wall and the Democrats have been clear, they'll consider 1.3 but no one is really blinking, no one's coming to the middle.

I do know that the president met with Senators yesterday and he made it clear to Republican Senators, I'm willing to back off $5 billion...


STEWART: ... a little bit if...

WHITFIELD: But then he got a little heat.

STEWART: ... they have to but...

WHITFIELD: He got heat, he changed his mind.

STEWART: ... He certainly did. But he says, right now we're in a good negotiating position, we need to flex our muscles and try to get what we need before the Democrats control the House because then it really is completely off the table but now, he's in a good spot.

Ideally this would've happened before we have this shut-down but he really wants to get this done and he wants to make sure that...


STEWART: ... border security is number one and right now he is able to frame this...


STEWART: ... as Democrats need to make a decision, do they want open borders or do they want to open up the government and the onus is on them to me that call.

WHITFIELD: So Maria, what part does he really want to get done, is it getting government back up and running, is it I want a deal and $5 billion period for the wall, nothing else; I mean what's the it?

CARDONA: Well let's be very clear that what this president has just gone through demonstrates to everybody who is really running the White House and that is right-wing commentators like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh (inaudible)...

WHITFIELD: And you're...

CARDONA: ... (inaudible)...

WHITFIELD: ... saying that because the president was on board until...

CARDONA: ... Yes.

WHITFIELD: ... he got some heat from conservative lawmakers and...

CARDONA: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: ... commentators?

CARDONA: That is exactly right.

There was a deal on the table. You know, it's kind of ironic that Mitch McConnell is now on the floor speaking so highly and eloquently about the five billion-dollar request that is coming from the president, when that was not -- was he -- what he and Republicans were negotiating and had actually passed in a bipartisan manner, in the House and then it was going to be in the Senate as well because that is what they actually wanted. They understand that this five billion- dollar request from the president does not make any sense. It is not for real border security. This is simply a political talking point, a temper tantrum that the president is throwing because he is not getting what he wanted, what he promised during the campaign trail...


CARDONA: ... which was a stupid promise and it was ridiculous for anybody to have believed him when he said that he was going to build a wall and that Mexico was going to pay for it. Nobody believed that then and...


CARDONA: ... so why should we now bend over backwards and actually punish more than 800,000 federal workers without pay during the holiday season simply for a cheap political talking point for President Trump?

WHITFIELD: ... and so Alice, the president said you know, I'll take mantle, I'll take the blame...

CARDONA: He said it.

WHITFIELD: ... for the government shut-down and now he's saying it's going to be the Democrats; we're talking about a Republican-controlled Senate you know, and House and you know, they made it very clear in that bipartisan proposal that you know, the wall isn't in it but the vernacular has changed, it's no longer just $5 billion for a wall, it's $5 billion for you know, border security but bottom line is it really the president wants the wall and you know, he doesn't necessarily want other versions of border security...


WHITFIELD: ... and that's a sticking point here.

STEWART: Here's the thing, he campaigned and won in large part from his base by saying, "We're going to build the wall and Mexico will pay for it." I personally...

WHITFIELD: But he didn't win the popular vote...

STEWART: ... Right.

WHITFIELD: ... and he didn't win the popular vote...

STEWART: Certainly.

WHITFIELD: ... on that.


STEWART: But he won the presidency and he's in the White House now and I personally didn't believe Mexico was going to pay...

WHITFIELD: Whatever that (ph)...

STEWART: ... but I did...

WHITFIELD: ... is not...

STEWART: ... believe...

WHITFIELD: ... a gauge of how popular the wall is.

STEWART: ... True. I -- but I do believe the -- there is a popular sentiment and you can -- Americans will agree that we do need security on our nation's border for many reasons: for illegal immigration; for -- the influx of drugs...

WHITFIELD: But my point is...

STEWART: ... but the wall...

WHITFIELD: ... the sticking point here is the wall.

STEWART: ... the wall...


STEWART: ... is not in my view -- is not the end-all and be-all, there are many other ways to secure the border, we can do it by air and by rivers, we can do it partially by wall (inaudible)...

WHITFIELD: Is that what's being considered here?

STEWART: ... the -- it has not been. It's not been. And I also think...

WHITFIELD: Whose fault is that?

STEWART: ... we can bring -- I think we can also bring DACA into the conversation, use that as a negotiating tool, if we want to get some of this funding on there.

It does [12:20:06] need to get down to how much is the president and Republicans who are fully on board with this idea, how much of that are they willing to concede in order...


STEWART: ... to get some support from Democrats and I think some of that can be, "OK we'll take down some of the requests for DACA -- for the wall

funding and we will -- we'll...


STEWART: ... allow for protections for Dreamers. There needs to be some...

WHITFIELD: Are there indicators of this kind of wiggle room? Because you know, you do have 800,000 federal workers...

STEWART: Yes. WHITFIELD: ... who are now you know, very worried about their demise, you know, how are they going to pay for you know, the holiday season after that et cetera but it doesn't seem like that's on the front burner...

STEWART: They're...

WHITFIELD: ... here.

STEWART: ... they're -- a lot of -- a lot of things are being discussed and as I said the president has made it clear he is willing at some point if we absolutely have to, to back off 5 billion but right now he still feels as though he's in a good position to negotiate with Democrats and get them -- get their number up higher but in the -- at the end of the day, Republicans, and many will agree, it's not just about a wall per se our steel slats or whatever you want to call it or a fence, it is about making sure that we secure our borders in many ways whether it's a physical form, whether it is processing...


STEWART: ... people that come in, seeking asylum for business --


STEWART: ... or whatever...

WHITFIELD: ... you know, so...

STEWART: ... there's many aspects.

WHITFIELD: ... I wonder Maria...


WHITFIELD: ... what we just heard from Mitch McConnell, give any indicators that this is going to be a long haul, that we're looking at a government shutdown into the new year, 2019?


WHITFIELD: Or did he offer...

CARDONA: ... Yes.

WHITFIELD: ... any kind of assurances that this is something that can be tackled in a matter of hours if not days?

CARDONA: I hope that it is something that will last you know, hopefully not even one more day because again we have real people's livelihoods on the line...


CARDONA: ... and I agree with Alice, if the president could be reasonable here, Democrats are all for a very sensible, strategic, smart border security investments, that is always what Democrats have been for, that include physical fencing, it includes a wall that has -- a virtual wall where you have...

WHITFIELD: Right. (inaudible)...

CARDONA: ... use all the technology...

WHITFIELD: ... (inaudible) measure...

CARDONA: ... with drones...

WHITFIELD: ... but then the president...

CARDONA: ... border controls...

WHITFIELD: ... did not sign off on it.

CARDONA: ... Right. Exactly but that's not what the president wants. The president wants a physical 2,100-mile wall on the southern border. That is not just ridiculous, it is a waste of taxpayer money and it will not work.

WHITFIELD: All right.

CARDONA: And we have seen...

WHITFIELD: We're going to have to leave it there.

CARDONA: ... the president even using lies to try to get this through during his meeting with Schumer and Pelosi, he said that there were 10 terrorists that were caught by Homeland Security; that is an outright lie Fredricka...


CARDONA: ... and the American people understand that.

WHITFIELD: All right. So and as a reminder, well you heard Mitch McConnell and he you know, he gave an admonishment or even a challenge you know, to the chamber there, get to business; it's still 24 hours you know, before a vote on a measure that they can even you know, all agree on.

CARDONA: And it's ironic you know, because he's the one who is in charge of the chamber.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there. Maria Cardona...

CARDONA: Thanks Fred.

WHITFIELD: ... Alice Stewart. Thanks to both of you, appreciate it.

CARDONA: Happy holidays.

WHITFIELD: Happy holidays. STEWART: Happy holidays.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, with the fight against ISIS still raging on in Syria, how will Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' resignation and President Trump's troop withdrawal impact the entire region.

And later, what does this government shutdown mean for the men and women who keep us all safe. Right now, we're watching lawmakers on Capitol Hill, hopefully working on a compromise [12:23:31]


[12:27:21] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gabriel Chaim a Freelance Photojournalist embedded with Kurdish forces in Syria sent this footage to CNN.

These are the scenes at the front lines of the war against ISIS.

As they push forwards through the town, the ISIS flag waves in the distance, again they're forced so shelter, this time in a nearby building.




[12:27:59] WHITFIELD: All right. That is exclusive reporting from CNN's Nima Elbagir, showing ISIS is still very much active in Syria.

And today the president sending out a tweet saying ISIS is largely defeated and reiterated that he is bringing home U.S. troops from Syria. His decision prompting the resignation of the man he put in charge of defeating ISIS.

CNN now confirming, Brett McGurk, a Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS has resigned and this follows Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' resignation which stunned U.S. allies and continues to cause fall out here at home and abroad.

With me now is Paul Cruickshank, Editor-In-Chief at CTC Sentinel, and a CNN Terrorism Analyst. Good to see you Paul. So how stunning is this to hear now yet another resignation which really is a protest resignation to President Trump's policy of bringing U.S. troops home from Syria?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF CTC SENTINEL & CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, stunning indeed. And the concern here is this U.S. pull-out could lead to a resurgence in ISIS, it could lead to ISIS rebuilding their international-attack capability.

We perhaps saw this videotape layout before in 2010, 2011, with the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq, after that we saw ISIS building up its operations, storming into Mosul, into other areas, taking control of much of Iraq and Syria.

We'll fast-forward to late 2018, and ISIS is down but very much not out inside Syria, it still has thousands of fighters inside Syria, thousands of fighters inside Iraq, it has a presence, a number of pockets inside Syria, notably in the Euphrates River Valley region near the Iraqi border, in and around the town of Hajeen, they're been Kurdish fighters that have been pushing into that area in recent weeks.

[12:30:00] Last week they managed to take control of the urban center in Hajin, and they were set to push into the surrounding countryside into the rural areas around there when much of the ISIS high command is believed perhaps to be hiding possibly including Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi.

Well, it's an open question now whether they're going to push in to these areas. Will Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other senior ISIS commanders, foreign fighters be able to survive and fight another day and rebuild this terrorist organization? And of course that has very significant international security concerns, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: How concerned are you that, you know, al-Baghdadi is -- his position is really fortified with the, you know, withdrawal or pull out of U.S. troops?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, not only may it take the pressure off Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, but it may also improve ISIS morale. They may be able to spin this as them pushing the Americans out or as a God-given deliverance.


CRUICKSHANK: And that could be (INAUDIBLE) for the global jihadi movement as a whole. ISIS also has a growing and significant presence in other parts of the world, notably in Afghanistan. They appear to be trying to rebuild an international attack capability and transfer it over to Afghanistan. We've seen a number of plots in Europe which have been tied back to ISIS in Afghanistan in recent months.

So, all of this very, very concerning. I can say that officials, counterterrorism officials and others in Europe are absolutely alarmed by this development. They believe that it was very necessary to finish off ISIS. But maybe that's not now going to happen and past history has shown when that doesn't happen, this is terrorist organization, very adept at rebuilding. And that could provide an impact to all our security in the months and years ahead.

WHITFIELD: All right, Paul Cruickshank, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right, coming up, the U.S. government shutdown means hundreds of thousands of federal employees will not be paid. And that includes many of the people who keep Americans safe. How are they dealing with these situations as lawmakers duke it out on Capitol Hill?

More straight ahead.


[12:37:50] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.

Right now, the president remains at the White House, more than 12 hours into a partial U.S. Government shutdown. That means thousands of law enforcement officers and the Secret Service agents are holding their posts, many wondering when they will receive their next paychecks. This is the third shutdown this year alone.

Let's bring in Jonathan Wackrow who once served on President Obama's Secret Service detail. Jonathan, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. So -- I'm doing pretty good. So, much of law enforcement can be considered essential workers who continue to work but then still up in the air. Will they be receiving their paychecks? So, what's your feeling as to how many of them are feeling right now with this government shutdown?

WACKROW: Absolutely. So it's really essential to take a look at what is the law enforcement function right now and responsibilities after 12:01 this morning. Law enforcement, federal law enforcement including DHS, the Secret Service, other federal law enforcement agencies are continuing with their mission. Their mission focused to protect, you know, human life and property on a continuous basis regardless of pay.

However, there is, you know, both a short-term and a long-term impact that, you know, law enforcement agencies are going to feel because of this government shutdown. You know, some of the things that, you know, we're looking at is, you know, specific to law enforcement activity, it's how do they address some of the cyber security issues that may arise.

Now, again, they're looking at immediate near-term threats, law enforcement will be able to address that. However --

WHITFIELD: And what do you mean? How would they, you know, handle those threats as they arise as a result of the shutdown? How (INAUDIBLE) in parallel the next step in, you know, acting upon a potential cyber security threat?

WACKROW: Each government component has put forth, you know, employees that are considered essential. They are called exempt employees and they are maintaining on their posts to look at and address some of these issues. So specific to cyber security, they're looking at, you know, what critical infrastructure. You know, DHS has a cyber security and infrastructure secure agency. Now, employees that are critical to that mission remain in their posts. They're monitoring the systems, ensuring that, you know, foreign nation state hackers are not trying to infiltrate government systems. However, when you look at that, you know, that process, there is a longer-term issue that needs to be resolved. If for some reason we were to have a cyber security attack right now, there's a governance structure.

People who normally would are furloughed right now would be required and necessary to respond to that. So, there's a short-term effect and a long-term effect to many of the law enforcement functions that out there.

WHITFIELD: Overall, how disruptive is a shutdown like this? How much more disruptive does it become the longer a shutdown is in place?

WACKROW: Listen, there's a ripple effect every time that you have a government shutdown. Everything from law enforcement training academies not being able to put forth, you know, agents and officers into the field to address, you know, the global threat environment. There is a measured impact to criminal investigations.

[12:40:03] If you look at the responsibility under a furlough and under a government shutdown, law enforcements focused on the immediate threats to human life and to, you know, protect property. Long term financial investigations may be put on a hiatus. They may be put aside until, you know, funding is released and agents and officers can focus on those investigations.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jonathan Wackrow, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much and happy holidays.

WACKROW: Thank you. I appreciate it too.

WHITFIELD: All right, next. Having second thoughts? President Trump reportedly not pleased with his Acting Attorney U. S. General Matt Whitaker. Will their spat throw a wrench into the special counsel's Russia investigation? More on that straight ahead.


[12:45:10] WHITFIELD: All right,, the honeymoon phase for President Trump and Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker appears to have hit a bump in the road. Sources tell CNN Trump has lashed out at Whitaker least twice in recent weeks. They say Mr. Trump was angry that the federal prosecutors Whitaker oversees referenced the president's actions and implicated Trump in crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to. But sources say Trump has not directed Whitaker to stop the investigations. All this as Whitaker's decision to disregard advice from a DOJ ethics official to recuse himself from the Mueller probe is raising concerns now on Capitol Hill.

So what does all of this mean for the future of the Mueller probe and the White House? Let's bring in former Trump White House lawyer Jim Schultz. Good to see you. Jim.

All right, so, how worried are you about Whitaker and his role?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I'm not worried about Whitaker or his role in any way, shape, or form and here's why. First off, the Justice Department did find that there's no actual conflict of interest that existed. And they made an opinion as to -- there was some expression of opinion as it related to the appearance of a conflict of interest. In this case, lawyers do this all the time. We do it by way of writing, we do it on television just like I do day in and day out here on T.V., and we express them in various cases. Legal opinions and make legal judgments with facts. Sometimes we assume some facts especially when we're on television or we're writing something by way of a legal writing that's not part of the case but we express opinions all the time.

And in this case that's what Matt Whitaker did when he was not the attorney general of the United States.

WHITFIELD: But how is there really a separation of your personal opinion and the legal merit of, you know, application of the law when you are an attorney?

SCHULTZ: OK. Well, we're going to talk about -- the next step is application of law to facts. Now he's the attorney general of the United States. Now he has certain facts to him -- available to him that he didn't have available to him prior to this. He's going to have to make judgments as the attorney general of the United States, and he was appointed to that position lawfully.

There's been a Department of Justice memo by the office of legal counsel that confirms that he's been appointed to this position lawfully, and he's going to have to make judgments on this case and many other cases. He may have expressed a legal opinion on a multitude of issues.

WHITFIELD: Is it appropriate in your view that he is not recusing himself given that he has already been on the air waves, he expressed himself -- actually, I'm sorry I've got to interrupt my own question because now we've got to go to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer there in the chamber. Let's listen.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: -- has been on a destructive two-week temper tantrum demanding the American taxpayer pony up for an expensive and ineffective border wall that the president promised Mexico would pay for. Make no mistake, the Trump shutdown is not about border security. All of the proposals we've made contain over a billion dollars in new border security money. The same amount allocated last year by both parties and even the president agreed to, and the Trump administration has barely even spent any of the border security money from last year.

So the Trump shutdown isn't over border security. It's because President Trump is demanding billions of dollars for an expensive, ineffective wall that the majority of Americans don't support. Let me remind you, the president called for a shutdown no less than 25 times. He's wanted one for months. In our meeting in the oval office, President Trump said he would be proud to shut the government down. Imagine saying he'd be proud to shut the government down. Even Rush Limbaugh, one of the biggest supporters of the president, said it was a Trump shutdown, that he caused it. He said, quote -- this is Limbaugh speaking, the president wants you to know it's money for the wall or nothing, and if it's nothing, he shuts it down.

Just two days ago, the Senate unanimously agreed to a proposal by Leader McConnell to keep the government open through February. It wasn't exactly what Democrats wanted. We thought it should be longer, but we agreed because we wanted to keep the government open, and all indications were that the president would sign the bill, but President Trump beholden to the far, far right, unwilling to shoulder even the slightest critique from Rush Limbaugh or Laura Ingraham changed his mind on the bipartisan Senate bill passed unanimously by all Republicans and all Democrats in this chamber, and he sent his House allies off to tilt at windmills.

[12:50:13] Everyone knew yesterday, long before the House vote that the president's wall lacked 60 votes in the Senate. It is proven to lack even 50 votes. It will never pass the Senate, not today, not next week, not next year. So Mr. President, President Trump, if you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall plain and simple.

The Senate's not interested in swindling American taxpayers for an unnecessary, ineffective and wasteful policy. What we do support, Democrats and Republicans, is real effective border security but not a wall. The wall is President Trump's bone to the hard right people. It's no way to spend $5 billion for political bone.

I've heard the president and his allies in the media say Democrats don't support border security. Nothing could be further from the truth. Democrats have always been for smart and effective ways to secure our border. We're pushing for technology like drones and sensors and inspection equipment. Every single proposal we made to the president included $1.3 billion for border security. The Trump shutdown provides $0 for border security.

I have never supported a border wall, and I challenge anyone on the hard right to find a time when I or any expert has supported a wall like what the president has proposed. So, where do we go from here?

Well, three proposals are on the table. Two by Democrats, Leader Pelosi and I, one by Leader McConnell. Each of which would reopen the government and provide $1.3 billion in border security. We're also open to discussing any proposals with the president as long as they don't include funding for the wall. But in order for an agreement to be reached, all four congressional leaders must sign off, and the president must endorse it and say that he will sign it.

Leader McConnell must agree. Speaker Ryan must agree. They cannot duck responsibility. Leader McConnell still controls this chamber. Speaker Ryan controls what reaches the floor of the House. They are essential to this process. Leader McConnell can't duck out of it. He knows that. Of course, Leader Pelosi and I must agree. And most importantly the president must publicly support and say he'll sign an agreement before it gets a vote in either chamber. We don't want to go through what we went through a few days ago. Both Leader McConnell and I have agreed that qualification for a specific reason. Repeatedly, the president has privately agreed to a deal with congressional leaders only to reverse himself when criticized by the far right. We can't have another situation when the president signals support at first but then reverses himself which is precisely what caused this shutdown in the first place.

If leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi and I agree on a solution, and the president says he'll sign it, we can end the Trump shutdown immediately. Discussions continue among the members of our staffs. The Republican leader and I will update the Senate on the status of those talks once progress has been made.

I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.

WHITFIELD: All right, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer there with his admonishment to the Senate there after hearing from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader inside the last hour. Schumer saying there are three proposals on the table in which to consider, two from the Democrats, one from McConnell. All of them with about $1.3 billion for border security but no funding for the wall. And the $5 billion for the wall is something that the president has made very clear he wants even though a couple of days ago he was willing to sign a bipartisan deal that didn't have that figure in it. But then acquiesce to the pressure coming from conservative lawmakers and even some commentators. And you heard Chuck Schumer underscoring that just saying, you know, just two days ago the Senate agreed on a proposal by McConnell to keep the government open until February 8th, but then the president changed his mind after pressure coming from the lawmakers and from commentators.

[12:55:05] So a lot that senators, lawmakers are on Capitol Hill working this weekend trying to hash out. Will there be a proposal and will it be one that the president would be willing to sign?

We're going to keep a close watch on the developments there on Capitol Hill. We'll be right back after this.


WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks for being with me this Saturday.

This breaking news right now, the Trump orbit is in a tail spin after a chaotic week and multiple breaking stories.