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Trump May Meet with Fed Chair Powell in January; Trump Growing Frustrated with Treasury Secretary; Border Patrol Making Changes After Second Guatemalan Child Dies in Custody; Trump, First Lady Make Surprise Visit to Iraq. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 26, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Ryan Nobles in today for Brooke Baldwin. Stocks are surging on Wall Street where the Christmas break is over but the uncertainty that sent U.S. markets to their worst ever Christmas Eve shows no signs of ending. Helping to fuel the turmoil, President Trump and the confusion and chaos around his economic policies from tough stances on trade to his constant jabs at the Federal Reserve. Today one White House official sought to soothe any concerns on the fate of the Fed chairman.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the Fed chairman's job safe?

KEVIN HASSETT, Chairman, White House Council of Economic Advisers: Yes. Of course, 100 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 100 percent the Fed chairman's job is not in jeopardy?

HASSETT: That's correct, yes.


NOBLES: And Trump and Jerome Powell could meet early in the new year. It's rare move given the Fed's role as independent body but not unprecedented. But there is a political battle as well that is also unnerving investors and many Americans. The government shutdown now entering its fifth day. Lawmakers will be back on Capitol Hill tomorrow in an attempt to hammer out a deal. One Congressional Republican who is close to the President tells CNN there has been, in his words, little progress. More on all of that in a moment. First, let's get a check on the market now. CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik is at the New York stock exchange with the latest. Alison, how does it look?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It looks like that upside momentum seems to be holding at the moment. Two hours left to go, Dow up 600 points. Let's see if these gains can carry through to the closing bell. Look at it this way, the Dow has a lot of ground to make up. It lost thousands of points just in the month of December. The worries that concern the market just days ago continue to concern the markets, talking about slowing global, economic growth, worries about how the Fed is handling the interest rate hikes. Of course, the U.S. trade situation with China still remains unresolved and now there's a new worry, how those tariffs and that trade situation could impact earnings into the new year. We get new earnings reports beginning in January. There are concerns we could see an impact there. Those worries do continue and then you see finally the political list, when President Trump tweets, when Steven Mnuchin does something out of left field like calling six out of seven banking CEOs on a Sunday before Christmas asking about liquidity issues, something that's only Reserved for crisis situations. Interesting note today, we haven't heard from President Trump, I'm talking about Twitter or anywhere in the media today, certainly rallying against Jay Powell. In a could be on that could be one of the reasons you're seeing those green arrows today.

NOBLES: Alison Kosik, at the New York Stock Exchange, a buyer's market today, up almost 600 points. And while there has been a lot of talk about the pressure facing the Fed chairman, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is very much in the President's crosshairs. Sources say that Mnuchin's job might be in serious jeopardy, that after the President gave him a thumbs up yesterday in the Oval Office. Joining me now "Washington Post" congressional reporter and CNN political analyst Karoun

A lot to talk about. Mnuchin and Powell apparently both on the hot seat. This political chaos is now having a real impact on the U.S. economy. How damaging is this for President Trump, who has touted his skills at a businessman?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WASHINGTON POST" CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: It depends on how long it keeps going and on what Trump actually does. We've seen the President pivot back and forth in saying he owns certain things, doesn't own other things. We may see the same thing happen in terms of how he speaks about the stock market. Trump has been so long tying his success to the state of the stock market. That's going to be a difficult one to shift Trump. This has become a cycle of the President seeing shocks in the stock market, reacting to those shocks in surprising ways that only help to create more uncertainty, that creates more shocks to the stock market and that seems to perpetuate. If Trump can keep quiet and keep off Twitter, perhaps you'll see a rebound and it won't be so bad. But if the President starts weighing in, then we could see some changes. This is not the only financial/economic question afoot right now. We're in the middle of a government shutdown.

[14:05:00] The President has been an erratic negotiating partner in the last several days or week and it doesn't seem until we get to the Democrats taking over the house in Congress there's any incentive for that to change for anybody involved in the negotiations.

NOBLES: It seems like that people have been advising President Trump to stay off Twitter even before he was elected.

DEMIRJIAN: And he rarely listens.

NOBLES: He very rarely listens. Republican Senators Richard Shelby and Pat Toomey, these are both Republicans, when is the former and the other is the current chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Now they both warmed President Trump against ousting Jerome Powell. He was confirmed in an 84 to 13 vote just this January. We talked about him not listening to folks telling him not to tweet. Do you think he's listening to his people in his own party as it relates to the Fed chairman?

DEMIRJIAN: It seems like the people around him are trying to portray that he's had a change of heart in terms of threatening -- at least publicly questioning whether he could fire the Fed chairman. It is legally treacherous ground for him to do that so soon into the term. We've seen Presidents change Fed chairmans when they come up that a bit of the question around why he was replacing Janet Yellen with Powell in the first place. But to do so at this juncture is not a straightforward thing. But as you saw as soon as the president took his eyes off of Powell, there started to be talk about what about Mnuchin and Mnuchin's fate. So, it seems like the president is in this kind of mode of keeping everybody on their toes and scared. Then he has to have some target at some point.

Even if he made a switch to the Federal chairman or Treasury Secretary, there's no guarantee to say that the next person will fall into line and do what Trump wants. It doesn't mean Trump will stop acting in other ways. The stock market doesn't just react to the policies. We're in the middle of a government shutdown. What's going on overseas, we just yanked troops out of two fairly unstable areas or announced we were going to do that. This all plays into it. Global economic slowdown. You can't divorce one from the other but the President seems to have selective targets given the day, and his presidency.

NOBLES: I wonder how Congressional Republicans would respond to this. I was on the hill last week when the news of James Mattis leaving came down. I think it was one of the first time we saw Republicans rattled by a move of this President. They have tried to adapt to his unconventional presidency. Removing the Fed chairman would really put Congressional Republicans in a tough spot, couldn't it?

DEMIRJIAN: It definitely would. I mean a lot of the Congressional Republicans, there is a subset of them that are the true believers in President Trump, his message and his presidency. The others have kind of made a deal with OK, our guy is in power in the White House and we're going to back him up and work with him where we can. The Mattis resignation announcement was very shocking for people on Capitol Hill. It's almost in line what they were expecting from Trump. He espoused that sort of stuff on the campaign trail, he had said he was going to be noninterventionist President. He's made surprising moves, unorthodox moves before with foreign policy and those relations. So, this was kind of in line with that.

For him to take a move like that with the Fed chairman, when he portrayed himself about Mr. Businessman, Mr. Smart about the economy President and because the GOP has been fairly in line with what he's done in terms of the tax plan and other economic moves, for him to make this sort of a call, again, he was just suggesting it, questioning about it on Twitter, but if he actually did that, that would actually rupture one of the central parts of the faith of the GOP on Capitol Hill and that would be a much more dramatic, I would guess. I was on Capitol Hill when the Mattis announcement came. This would be more so because it goes at something, they weren't even sort of expecting from this President.

NOBLES: We are still in the middle of a government shutdown. The President has said he's willing to allow this to extend until he gets the money for his wall. At what point do the optics of this situation and once we begin to hear from Federal workers directly impacted by this and begin speaking out, could this also put pressure on Democrats to start to make a deal with the President? How do you see this standoff ending, especially if it spills into the new year and the new Congress?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, exactly. I think odds are pretty good that is spills into the new year for the Congress. Having that much more leverage to work with is about a week away. There's very little incentive to in preach round they were willing to give 25 billion for the wall but only in exchange for the DACA, the Dreamers, that issue being solved.

[14:10:00] If you're going to get wall funding, some other solution of immigration related proportions in each round they were willing to give 25 billion for the wall but only in exchange for the DACA, the Dreamers, that issue being solved. If you're going to get wall funding, some other solution of immigration related proportions being offered as a counter and that really hasn't happened. So, if the Democrats end up -- January 3rd, I think one of the first moves you'll see the Democrats do is put a proposal on the table. If Congress can send that to the White House, then it's the President's decision on whether he's going to make good on his threat with the veto power of his pen. Because the senate has already voted through a clean budget extension that the house Democrats also say they want, the Congress could solve this fairly early on in January. The question is will that please the President or will he kick it back and the cycle will start all over again?

NOBLES: It important to keep in mind what held this process up was the Republican-led house of representatives. Once it becomes a Democrat-controlled house of representatives, there's a much greater chance that clean C.R. passes and President Trump will be forced with a decision do I sign it or not. Karoun, thank you so much. The rebound up 600 points now, in after the disastrous Christmas Eve.

NOBLES: And the government shutdown. Also, ahead, diagnosed with a cold and dead hours later. What happened to an 8-year-old migrant boy who died in the care of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol? We'll be right back.


NOBLES: The sudden death of a second migrant child from Guatemala what in custody of the border patrol. Earlier this month a 7-year-old girl also from Guatemala died after falling ill during a transfer to a detention station. Now Guatemalan officials are demanding answers from the U.S. Nick Valencia is in El Paso where hundreds more Guatemalan migrants may just have been released by I.C.E. what is happening where you are with immigration drop offs?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the same bus station where migrants were dropped off. It's difficult to determine if they're coming immediately from custody or being shuttled where they have been from a hotel and now moving on their way to meet up with other family members throughout the United States. We've seen more than a dozen migrants from central America. One man told me he was just recently released from custody. They call them an ice box because of the frigid temperatures inside those centers. He said he was given no reason why he was being released, he was told it was time for him to go. He got on a bus and was shuttled here. They are being dropped off in unmarked white vans. We haven't been given clarification if they're being dropped off by government officials or by volunteers. The people being dropped off refused to talk to us. The one person I did talk to only saying he was recently released. This in the backdrop of the 8-year-old child who died on Christmas Eve.

NOBLES: Are you getting a sense are they going back to Mexico, is the government tracking their whereabouts anyway?

VALENCIA: The unidentified male didn't want to be identified. He was on his way to Missouri. I said how do you have the resources? His said his family had bought him the ticket. He was merely picking the ticket up and would be on his way. I tried to talk to others, they were a little more shy. Another man said he was traveling alone but had been dropped off with that group. We weren't anticipating in to happen today. We're told by the government officially there would not be any drop-offs here on Wednesday but that's not what we're see hearing with our own eyes.

[14:20:00] NOBLES: Nick Valencia, important information on the border in El Paso, Texas.

Next, government shutdown stalemate. As thousands of government workers feel the squeeze, we hear from the affected, those not even guaranteed back pay when the government reopens.


NOBLES: That breaking news now, for the first time since taking office nearly two years ago, President Trump has landed in Iraq. The President making an unannounced trip to the war zone where more than 5,000 American troops are deployed. This trip comes during a partial government shutdown and amid controversy of the President's decision to order the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. He's also considering a similar decision in Afghanistan. Let's go live to the pentagon. Barbara Starr standing by with the latest on this breaking news. Significant, the President making his first trip to a war zone since taking office.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely correct. There are now pictures showing he has landed at the Al Asad Airbase. It avoids him landing in Baghdad and helicopter to the green zone. That would be potentially a very difficult maneuver to have any President of the United States make. Some pictures are beginning to emerge. We have some of them there of the President meeting troops. They are working on trying to help get Iraqi forces completely trained up. That has been going on for some time. There are also U.S. forces there engaged in counterterrorism missions, still going after the remnants of ISIS and the other 2,600 troops in addition to the 5,000 across the border in Syria. Those are the ones that the President has ordered to come home. I think it's very important to say while this comes at a very unique time for the President, this trip would have been in the planning stages for some time. It would be for any President of the United States. Look at it this way. The secret service is very involved but so is the U.S. military in Iraq. They have to secure the air that he travels through, they have to have intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and air defense, essentially, if in the unlikely scenario somebody tried to engage, fire rockets, fire something at the base, they have to have all of their military assets and radars up and running.

[14:25:00] All of this would have taken some weeks to fully plan out. The military, the secret service, they know how to do it. President George W. Bush and President Obama and traveling to Afghanistan a number of times. This has to be well planned out long in advance and I think we can safely assume it was.

NOBLES: To that end, if it was planned not too long ago, that would mean that James Mattis, who is to at a certain degree at odds with President Trump must have been involved in the planning of this trip, correct?

STARR: I think he would have been extremely aware of it. Secretary Mattis, who himself was scheduled to be overseas making a holiday trip to visit troops and that was cancelled some days back, perhaps because it became clear that the President was going and then very quickly of course Secretary Mattis resigned his position in protest over the withdrawal of those troops from Syria. We've had a lot of Events unfolding all at the same time. What we don't have yet is any video. We have some stills. You see the troops smiling, very happy to see the President. This is a very typical, respectful response from U.S. troops. This is their commander in chief. They are going to be very pleased to see he made the effort along with the first lady to come visit them at the holiday time. I think we going to have to wait and see any from the troops. We absolutely know that the troops are well aware of the withdrawal orders, they're well aware of Secretary Mattis resigning in protest. These are political matters to some extent that they are very aware of. Make no mistake. In is America's armed forces. They will be respectful and they will give any President of the United States in office the respect of the office of the presidency. That's what we'll be looking for when the video emerges from all of this. And we'll have to see and get more details about whom exactly the President met with. Did he meet finally with the top U.S. commander and the British deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, which is the operation there. Because those two key commanders are waiting still, Ryan, to get their orders about the withdrawal from Syria. This is the next critical step. The President order the 2,600 troops or so out of Syria, but they have to be kept safe while they're withdrawing. When you get down to the last couple of hundred troops across the border in Syria, they are at risk and there's going to have to be a very particular plan to get them out of there and what to do next. The pictures are nice, meeting the troops is nice, it's the holiday time, but there certainly would be business that should be conducted here of meeting with the commanders, giving him his -- giving them his views about what he wants to see happen.

NOBLES: Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon, stand by. We'll get back to you in a moment. Let's get the view from the White House. Abby Philip is standing by. The Marine normally posted in front of the west wing was not there all morning long. Give us an idea of what you guys are hearing from your perch there on the north lawn.

ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ryan, it has been very quiet here, unusually quiet. The President spent most of the week tweeting a lot, talking a lot. The silence was -- there were no signs of staff at the White House. That's because the President since last night has been gone. As Barbara pointed out, these trips are shrouded in an enormous amount of secrecy and those traveling with him. Even the traveling press are not able to talk about it until they're given the clear from the White House and those working to protect the entourage around a trip like this. But the fact that Trump did not issue a single tweet, his Twitter account has been silent for some 19 or 20 hours, that was a cause of some suspicion for people. The President was about to be at the point where he would have been the first sitting President not to make a visit to the troops during this holiday season.

[14:30:00] But in fact, they have been planning this trip for some time, the President said over a month ago he but we expected it would come in the coming weeks and months and now we know it happening the day after Christmas. Remember, Ryan, the government is still partially shut down. This is a time when the government isn't Even running on full cylinders. It clearly President Trump doing this part of the job that I think he would have got I don't know some criticism for had he not made a trip at some point in his second term to see a war zone, especially at a time when he's planning on reevaluating the U.S. commitment in parts of the region in Syria and perhaps in Afghanistan as well, Ryan.

NOBLES: Abby Philip live at the White House. And let's get the perspective of Admiral Kirby.