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Trump Back at White House After Iraq Trip; Government Shutdown Enters Sixth Day With No End in Sight; ACLU Responds to Second Migrant Child Death; Markets Take a Dive One Day After Dow's Historic Gains; Trump Misleads Again About Military Pay Raises. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:05] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Thursday morning here. I'm Jim Sciutto.

President Trump is back at the White House this morning after his surprise trip to visit troops in Iraq. Congress is technically back in session this afternoon but a partial government shutdown is no closer to being resolved today than it was six days ago. And the sticking point remains once again the president's border wall, which he told the troops in Iraq we're going to have, while also claiming that Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots.

Right now on Wall Street, the sellers are back in command of the markets a day after the single biggest point gain in Dow Jones' history. You see it there, down about 400 points nearly.

But let's start this hour with CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House.

Boris, we're going to be listening, I think, in these coming days for signs of compromise from the president, but also from Democratic leaders. We haven't seen those.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've not, Jim. The president was asked point blank while he was in Iraq whether he would accept $2 billion in funding for border security. Definitely a change from the $5 billion that initially the White House had been demanding for border wall funding.

The president wouldn't answer the question. He simply took aim at Democrats saying overseas that he believed that the only reason they wouldn't offer him funding for the border wall was because he wanted it. He joked that if perhaps he had bluffed and said that he didn't want border wall funding, Democrats would then give it to him.

He didn't stop when he got home either. Soon after he landed here at the White House, did not take questions from reporters but he did tweet again, aiming at Democrats. As he was abroad, he suggested that Nancy Pelosi was only holding a deal back because she wanted to be speaker of the House of Representatives and supporting any kind of measure to end the shutdown may hinder that tactic from her.

An important note here, when the president was abroad and he was speaking to these troops, he talked to them about the U.S. withdrawal from Syria. He said the United States would no longer be suckers and that the operation would not be meant to be a nation-building one in that country. The president also said that if necessary to combat ISIS, those troops that are now stationed in Iraq would go back into Syria, Jim.

A lot to pick at through what the president is saying and a lot of uncertainty here at home, not only with the stock market but this ongoing shutdown as congressional leaders return to Capitol Hill, no end for the shutdown in sight yet -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Boris Sanchez, at the White House, thanks very much.

Now to that shutdown. Day six. Reality sinking in. Hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees are not working. More than 420,000, they're working but they're not getting paid. This as lawmakers return to D.C. with, as we were saying, no deal in sight.

Suzanne Malveaux is on Capitol Hill with more.

So officially they are back. Is anyone you're speaking with in the hallways of the capital saying hey, I think I got a plan for the way forward or we might be able to compromise here or there, or are we really at an impasse here?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, there are very few people who are in the hallways really here on Capitol Hill. We just expect to see the leadership. We don't even really expect to see many of those lawmakers because the Senate officially will be open at 4:00 in the afternoon. But there is nothing on the schedule here in terms of votes. The negotiations that are taking place are really on a staff level.

Behind the scenes here, and really no sign that there's going to be a lot of folks returning. So it is at a stalemate here because what you have, of course the president has dug in, talked about the $5 billion for the border wall. He is trying to put the blame on the Democrats, calling out House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, calling her Nancy, saying that she's just stonewalling here. He wants his $5 billion.

We heard from Congressman Mark Meadows yesterday of the Conservative House Freedom caucus. And he says look, the Democrats here are really miscalculating this. That they are -- that the president is dug in and that they -- he is not going to compromise on this. In the meantime, you have the Democrats. They put out a statement as well. I mean, people are tweeting back and forth, but the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, saying they have so many different messages coming from this White House, they don't really know what the president would sign.

But they do say that when the Democrats will take control of the House January 3rd, they will put a bill on the table, on the floor, to reopen the government. We'll see if Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell will do the same. Of course, you need the Senate as well.

SCIUTTO: Sixty votes in the Senate. Suzanne Malvauex, thanks very much on the Hill.

Joining me now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon and Republican consultant and host of "Firing Line" on PBS, Margaret Hoover.

Thanks to both of you, guys. Happy holidays to both of you guys.

Good morning. Happy holidays.

SCIUTTO: We'll get to later who is minding the kids while you both are on television, but first, let's talk about the shutdown. I'm going to ask you both, and I'm going to give Margaret the honors, John. Map me a way out of this, because it strikes me that both Democrats and the president are digging their heels in here. And both have made a judgment that they don't have a lot to gain and they do have a lot to lose with compromise.

[10:05:08] So what's the way out?

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT, HOST OF PBS' "FIRING LINE": Well, I think there is a way out. And I'm very optimistic and very glass half full when it comes to immigration policy. And that defies our entire history for the last three administrations. But you can imagine, Democrats are going to come in and they want to come in as the saviors. Right? They want to come in, and they're going to fix Trump's shutdown.


HOOVER: They want to fix Trump's shutdown, somebody's got to compromise. And what they could do is they could offer him some amount on the wall, and some amount on the wall in exchange for the things that they want and the majority of the American people want. A pathway to citizenship for the DACA kids.


HOOVER: So, you know, something, and they could even grandstand if they want to grandstand, as the saviors of Trump's shutdown and the saviors of, you know, frankly an alienated, disenfranchised community that the majority of Americans are in favor of helping.

Now look, far be it for me to give Democrats advice. But this is the position that we're in.

SCIUTTO: So, John, I mean, that is an offer Democrats made an a number of months ago for a heck of a lot of more money, right? $25 billion for the wall, the deal, for a DACA deal, the Dreamers as we call them. In this current environment, is that quid pro quo possible?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, my bride is -- this crazy talk commonsense she's doing. It's almost like Congress were rational actors.

Look, you know, you're right to point out that Democrats were offering a great deal more, actually around four, 5x what Donald Trump is currently asking for just a few months ago. So what you're witnessing clearly isn't the art of the deal here, folks. I think Democrats probably can offer a midway point, attach Dreamers, maybe even see if they can get a little more in exchange for some more things they want.

The big gambit would be if we were actually playing like adults interested in solving problems, for Donald Trump to say look, I'm going to do a CR. We're going to extend the -- stop the shutdown and I'm going to give us a six-month deadline to work together to do bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. Do a Nixon in China. But there's just absolutely nothing in our --

SCIUTTO: No, not going to happen.

AVLON: -- experience that he'd ever take the bait to actually act like a real leader in this regard.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Right. Because, Margaret, I mean, he's essentially made the calculation here, driven by the Ann Coulters and the Rush Limbaughs of the world that, you know, not delivering on the wall or being seen to give in on the wall, whether he can deliver it or not, because that seems to be an open question, that he will pay an enormous political price, even with his most ardent supporters.

HOOVER: Well, he's sort of in a win-win position with his most ardent supporters, right? Because he can take a hard line and they like that. And he cannot get anything because he took a hard line, and they like that. And in the meantime, you know, America loses. The DACA kids lose. The Democrats lose.

Look, his leverage is going down, not up. Right? Every day this goes on, a day it's a closer that Nancy Pelosi takes the gavel in the House of Representatives. They -- the Democrats, I think, we know Trump is intransigent and won't move. Democrats are also pretty intransigent and want to win this. But there are a couple of more -- they have more options for how to win this. And if they wanted to actually be the people who are going to deliver policy, and try to fix problems, they could start to own that position.

They have an opportunity here that the president isn't filling. There's a void to be filled, and wouldn't it be nice to finally see Democrats not be politicizing immigration and actually get something done for Americans who need the help?

SCIUTTO: Yes. Because --

HOOVER: And for kids who have lived here.

SCIUTTO: They have a political risk as well because they just won this big midterm victory in the elections.

AVLON: Sure.

SCIUTTO: And for their defining issue to be, well, the government is still shutdown, you could see folks being disappointed.

John, I do want to move on to another topic because the president did do something that he had been criticized widely for not doing, that is visiting deployed U.S. forces in a war zone in Iraq yesterday. And of course, listen, he made some missteps there, I mean, including lying about their pay and pay raises, but on balance, is this a win for this president? Did he gain more than he lost?

AVLON: Absolutely. Look, it was great to see the president show up in Iraq. He'd been far too long that he had not visited troops in a war zone. And it was a great surprise. Around the holiday season, and a clear boost for morale. The sign of commitment to a president who's issuing withdrawal orders from, you know, Syria and drawdowns in Afghanistan.

It's unfortunate, you know, some of the stylistic points, you know, were losses, from, you know, saying he'd given them a 10 percent raise, which is not true, to a couple other points. But the fact he went is great. It was overdue and deserves credit for it.

SCIUTTO: So, Margaret, going forward from here, though, what kind of 2019 do you see with this president and this Congress?

[10:10:03] I mean, the early signs are more, not less, battling certainly from the president. Likely from both sides. Going to be a more contentious 2019 than we even saw in 2018?

HOOVER: Well, I don't know, in the spirit of a happy new year, first of all, I'm delighted that my husband in balance gave the president credit for going to Iraq, because he absolutely deserved it. That was a win for the country and for the troops.

Moving into '19, I -- there's a bit of me that feels like we're in the calm before the storm here. Right? The government is shutdown and this may be the most peaceful we see Washington for the next 12 months.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

HOOVER: Because Democrats are going to gavel in and they're going to gavel in with a thunder. There's going to be a lot of activity in all of these committees from the House Intelligence Committee to investigations and subpoenas and all sorts of inquiries into this administration. So I think 2019 and, by the way, it's also the beginning of a two-year political cycle where there is no clear nominee for the Democratic Party.

SCIUTTO: Right. Yes.

HOOVER: So I think this is going to be a very cantankerous, not cantankerous, a really -- bordering on pugilistic 2019 when it comes to the Democrats' posture towards --

AVLON: Pugilistic?

SCIUTTO: Well, thanks for just spoiling --

HOOVER: Big words. Go look it up. This is the inheritor of firing line.

SCIUTTO: Thanks for just spoiling my hopes to get some rest. Really appreciate that.

Margaret Hoover and John Avlon, thanks very much.

AVLON: Take care, buddy.

SCIUTTO: Still to come, the head of Customs and Border Protection is once again asking Congress for help with the migrant crisis. This after another child, an 8-year-old boy, died in Border Patrol custody.

Plus, new court documents show that police have video of an alleged sexual assault by actor Kevin Spacey. Video. We have new details ahead.

And severe weather could impact millions of Americans as they head home from their Christmas travels. Sorry to report that. Stay with us. We'll give you an update.


[10:16:12] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. The head of Customs and Border Protection is telling Congress his agency needs more money to deal with the influx of migrants at the border. This comes after an 8- year-old Guatemalan boy died on Christmas Eve in a New Mexico hospital. He is the second migrant child to die in U.S. custody just this month. Infectious disease experts say that he likely had the flu but officials have not confirmed that.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen now says that she will travel to the border personally to review her department's care of migrant children. Meanwhile, ICE continues to release hundreds of migrants in border cities such as El Paso, Texas.

Joining me now is Chris Rickerd. He is a border expert policy counsel with the ACLU's National Political Advocacy Department.

Thanks very much for joining me this morning, Chris. As we begin, I want to read part of the ACLU's statement on the death of this 8-year- old boy. It goes, "We have long been aware that CBP's short-term custody facilities are inadequate for the task of caring for children. The most pressing need of our southwest border are not more militarized enforcement but child welfare resources and alternatives to detention for children."

So describe those solutions, what you would like to see to prevent tragedies like we've seen these last couple of weeks with these children.

CHRIS RICKERD, ACLU BORDER EXPERT: Thank you, Jim. And ACLU staff and supporters are devastated by these deaths. It is a tragedy of the first order. And our focus is on making sure that what the CBP commissioner says, namely that these facilities in which the children were held and went into distress, aren't used for families and children anymore. For years, the ACLU and partners have been litigating these conditions. This is not something new. Yet CBP continues to put children at risk by putting them in unsanitary, overcrowded and medically unsuitable conditions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, Physicians for Human Rights, other medical experts, are shocked and say it's unconscionable to put children in situations in which tragedies like this could take place.

SCIUTTO: So let me ask you --

RICKERD: They need to be treated --

SCIUTTO: Because you could build -- you could build better centers, you could provide better medical care there. That does not solve the problem of where these migrants are taken by ICE after they're captured at the border. What you'll hear -- I interviewed the mayor of El Paso, Texas, a short time ago. It was his view. He said listen, Congress has to come up with a solution here. Right? And you'll even hear that from Kirstjen Nielsen saying that, you know, they need a policy and they need legal guidance as to what to do.

In an ideal world, what would happen to these migrants after they're captured at the border if they're not entering legally?

RICKERD: Well, the blame and deflection, Jim, is entirely wrong. This is the largest law enforcement agency in the country. We're in the middle of a shutdown because billions are being asked for a wall. Instead, what the money needs to be allocated for is treating these children properly, getting them out rapidly from these processing centers that aren't designed to hold them or at all humane.

What really has to happen is what the CBP commissioner tells Congress he needs priorities for but doesn't back it up with action. Why is this happening after two deaths when advocates for years have been saying that it's child welfare professionals, trauma informed counseling that should take place, because 60 percent of people who are apprehended are turning themselves in? They're families and children seeking asylum based on dangerous conditions in the countries they're coming from.

This administration's enforcement-only approach, which Secretary Nielsen persists in making the only method of communication to the public about what is happening in the northern triangle, is completely wrong.

[10:20:06] There's the targeting of children that's taking place. We saw family separations this summer, we saw tear gassing of toddlers. Now we see deaths. How much is it going to take for this administration to admit that it's wrong? That its enforcement only policies and wall building and efforts to ban people from even getting into the asylum process are causing this distress.

SCIUTTO: Chris Rickerd, thanks very much for your time.

RICKERD: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Christmas is becoming nothing short of a volatile week on Wall Street. Look at those numbers there. The Dow down nearly 500 points now, more than 2 percent. That giving back about half of those historic gains yesterday.

Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange. I'm sure folks at home are getting vertigo here from the ups and

downs. What are you hearing from the floor about why it's so volatile right now?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, one reason why it's volatile is because it's also the end of the year. You're seeing this year-end positioning happening. So investment houses kind of square their books.

You look at how it's been over the past three months for the Dow. The Dow has lost 5,000 points. So with yesterday's massive gain of over 1,000 points for the Dow, what you're seeing are investors and traders finding opportunities to take some profits off the table, profits that they didn't have, especially over the last month, meaning December, because it's been the worst month since 1931, since the Great Depression when it comes to stocks.

So you're seeing, you know, investors and traders kind of try to find some ways to take profits off the table. And also after such a massive jump for the Dow, it's not such a huge surprise to see the numbers swing the other way.

Look, even the seasoned investors and traders who are on the floor here, they are scratching their heads, they're trying to explain why that massive jump happened yesterday. And they're finding it very difficult to explain that. But explaining the swing this way, it really is all about profit taking -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: The only consistency has been volatility. Just while I'm speaking to you, it's now gone below, more than 500 points down. I know you'll continue to watch it.

KOSIK: I will.

SCIUTTO: Alison Kosik, thanks.

KOSIK: Sure.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, President Trump and the first lady are back in D.C. after their surprise visit to U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq. While there, the president, we have to note, made misleading statements about military pay raises. False statements. We're going to discuss next.


[10:27:13] SCIUTTO: President Trump packed a lot into his three hours on the ground in Iraq. Much of it by the book, well received. A lot of it off the cuff, potentially over the line, and patently false.

Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby joins me now. He's former press secretary at the Pentagon and at the State Department, as well, as CNN military and diplomatic analyst.

Admiral, thanks very much for taking the time.


SCIUTTO: First, big picture, positive side, how important is it for deployed forces to see their commander in chief visit them on the ground in a war zone?

KIRBY: Very important because it sort of validates their mission, lets them know that the commander in chief cares about what they're doing and interested in what they're doing. And there's a benefit to the families as well, Jim, too. They're missing their loved ones at this time of the holidays. It's important for them to -- here at home to see that the president took the time to go see their loved ones.

SCIUTTO: Right. OK. So let's talk about where he pushed the envelope, shall we say. As he has often done in meeting with troops, he brings politics, partisan politics into the conversation, looking for applause lines. Listen to him complaining to U.S. troops, specifically, about Democrats and on his signature domestic issue.


TRUMP: Because I don't know if you folks are aware of what's happening. We want to have strong borders in the United States. The Democrats don't want to let us have strong borders. Only for one reason. You know why? Because I want it.


SCIUTTO: Of course, the military is a military for the country, not for a single party. Why is that a bad thing for a commander in chief to do, to deployed forces?

KIRBY: Because it puts them in an incredibly difficult position. They serve the whole nation. They take an oath to the Constitution, not to a political party, and while each of them individually are allowed to have political leanings, I mean, hell, we encourage them to vote. When they put that uniform on and particularly when they wear that uniform in a deployed status, they're representing the whole country, and they're supposed to be there, they're expected to be apolitical.

So when he -- and frankly, there's regulations that prohibit military members from participating in uniform in campaign events. He basically turns these gatherings into campaign events. And so he puts them in a very difficult spot.

SCIUTTO: He also flat-out lied to the troops on an issue that they would know better than anyone. He said that he gave them their first pay raise in 10 years, that he gave them a pay raise of 10 percent. Not true. They've been getting pay raises every year, and the most recent pay raise, nothing close to 10 percent, which is 2.6 percent.

How do forces react to that when they hear the commander in chief tell them a falsehood? I mean, do they laugh it off? Does it upset them on an issue such as this, which is important? This is how they support their families. KIRBY: No, that's a great question, Jim. The military, and you know

this, you've covered the military for a long time. It's not a monolith. And there's 2.5 million men and women in the active and the reserve component. All of them have their own sort of predilections about this and their own leanings. I suspect some of them just blow it off.