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White House Tries Shifting Blame to Nancy Pelosi Over Shut Down; Homeland Security Chief Heads to Border After Deaths of Two Children; Will the Dow Close Higher Three Days in A Row; House Democrats Are Ready to Hire Lawyers to Investigate Trump. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired December 28, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Ryan Nobles in today for Brooke Baldwin. The third and longest shutdown of the Trump presidency is expected to go into the new year with no sign that either side is ready to relent.

But there are new signs of a more focused White House strategy, to blame the likely Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi. Once more, on day seven of the partial shutdown shut down, the President is threatening a shutdown of another kind, a full one at the border tweeting, "It will happen if the obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the wall and change the ridiculous immigration laws our country is saddled with." All of President Trump's latest finger pointing is further truth that the President is not going to back down from his earlier words this month, that he would own a shut down the get his border wall funded. Remember this?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am proud to shut down the country on border security. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.


NOBLES: Is he taking the mantle? Sarah Westwood joins me live from the White House. Has the White House heard at all from Nancy Pelosi?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House is saying they haven't heard from Nancy Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer since offering nearly a week ago a deal that could have seen the President settle for less than that original demand for $5 billion in border wall. Now Mick Mulvaney, the incoming acting chief of staff/budget director said this morning that the Democratic leaders have not been invited back to the White House for further talks and he suggested that the White House now is simply waiting for a counteroffer from the Democrats, all while hinting that the President would be willing to come off that $5 billion number but Mulvaney didn't specify by how much. That's in line with CNN reporting that Vice President Mike Pence offered on Saturday at a meeting on Capitol Hill a deal that would have seen the President sign a bill funding the wall at about $2.5 billion. That's something Democrats rejected. The White House is saying the shutdown could persist into the new year until Democrats retake the House in January and they're blaming that on Pelosi. The President said that Pelosi is the one calling the shots and Mulvaney suggested that Pelosi could be in danger of losing her bid for the speakership if she accepts a compromise with this administration. Take a listen.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: She's unwilling to actually do anything until she gets her speakership.

MICK MULVANEY, INCOMING ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This all comes down to Mrs. Pelosi's speakership. Left to his own devices, Chuck Schumer and the Senate Democrats would cut a deal but they're protecting Pelosi. If she cuts a deal with the President of any sort before January 3rd, she's at risk of losing her speakership. So, we are in this for the long haul.

TRUMP: Nancy i with s calling the shots, not Chuck. Chuck wants to have this done, I really believe this. She's calling the shots and she's calling them because she wants the votes. If they do something, she's not going to get the vote and not going to be speaker of the House. That would be not so good for her.


WESTWOOD: There's still no much clarity about what Trump will or won't sign, which is causing headaches for negotiators. But the President has taken to reviving the old threats to shut down the southern border and cut off funding to central American countries whose people are trying to cross into the country illegally. The White House is buckling down for a shutdown that could stretch well into January.

NOBLES: Having been on Capitol Hill last week, it seemed as those Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were pretty united but perhaps the White House knows something we don't. Thank you for that.

Now to the border, which is front and center for not just the President but also the Secretary of Homeland Security. Kirstjen Nielsen will head to the border to immediate with border agents and medical workers after the death of two young migrant children. They have been detained at the border by Customs and Border Protection. There are now details on how sick Felipe Gomez-Alonzo was before he died on Christmas Eve. Nick, tell us about what you know about her visit.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nielsen has been very cagey about the details of her trip, but we know she's going to be visiting a variety of Border Patrol stations here in El Paso today and tomorrow will move on to Yuma, Arizona. We expect her focus to be these medical screenings. Earlier this week she announced a series of protective measures, she called extraordinary measures to keep another child, not another death.

[14:05:00] She doesn't want another child to die in CBP custody because two children have died in less than a month in CBP custody. It's something that Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke about this morning.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are doing everything in our capacity to make sure when people do come that they're taken care of so we don't have these type of instances. In many cases they show up extremely dehydrated without food and seeing a doctor for the very first time in their lives, both adults and children.


VALENCIA: We expect Nielsen to meet not on with border patrol agents here locally but health officials.

NOBLES: We're also learning new information about that 8-year-old boy from Guatemala who died, this coming from the New Mexico medical investigators. What you have learned?

VALENCIA: This new information was released to us earlier today. They did lung swabs as well as national swabs and he tested positive for influenza B. Initially CPB said the child was diagnosed with a common cold and he was released from the hospital, even though he had a 103-degree fever. We understand he was never tested for the flu. This is part of the evaluations that the medical professionals are doing. The family is waiting for a cause of death and they may have to wait an extraordinarily long time. The autopsy could take between six and 12 weeks to find out the cause of death, the second child to die in a month.

NOBLES: Thank you. Let's talk about all of these developing stories. Joining me now CNN Analyst David Drucker and CNN political commentator Sally Kohn. David, let start with you. The President initially saying he would take the blame and now he's blaming the Democrats. Can this work?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT FOR THE "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Initially it's not going to work, the president is perceived and in fact as we have discussed his owning the shutdown. The President is the one who triggered it. It no it's not going to be possible for him to shove this off on Democrats. Democrats have been saying you guys figure it out. Moat voters don't look at that, they look at who's in control. I do think down the line, that after the shutdown is entrenched for a couple of weeks and Democrats are in control of the House, the President is going to be in a better position to say I can't get this done without Democratic participation, here's the compromise I've offered, here's the compromise they're rejecting, if they were to r reject and compromise and then he might be able toll reframe this narrative. Until we get to this point, he's going to have a hard time doing that. The other problem the President has at least initially is that what he's asking for and the way this wall in particular is wrapped up in being all about him, it's not a politically tenable position, even though border security broadly is supported by voters and you can make a case separate by Trump that it's good policy, when it's wrapped up all about Trump, voters will have a harder time being for it. The best thing the President could do is get this not being about him, get it to be about border security and he might be ultimately in a better position than he is today.

NOBLES: Let's talk about Nancy Pelosi's role in all of this. She seems content to play things close to the vest until she officially takes the gavel as speaker. Is that wise for her or should she get involved in this fight before the end of the new year?

SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Only Donald Trump could find a way to -- a situation entirely of his creation, where his party under his leadership has control of the White House, the House and the Senate and still find a way to blame it on a woman. So, Nancy Pelosi is exactly right to stay out of this. Her party hasn't taken over the House, she hasn't even been elected speaker. The fact that Trump is trying to pin this on her just shows his incredible desperation and sort of dirty politics.

[14:10:00] I do think when assuming Pelosi is elected speaker, which I certainly believe and hope she will be, that one thing they could do is just say, look are there already was a compromise on the table. There was a bipartisan compromise that Republicans and Democrats already agreed to and passed and if I were Pelosi, I would put up every single day and vote on and pass a budget deal that reopens the government, the one that was already agreed to and, by the way, a comprehensive immigration compromise that Republicans and Democrats already agreed to and passed and if I were Pelosi, I would put up every single day and vote on and pass a budget deal that reopens the government, the one that was already agreed to and, by the way, a comprehensive immigration policy that actually doesn't scapegoat and fear monger and do all the bull "pucky" that Trump is doing around the border and playing politics with the border but actually solves the real problems of our system and creates a path to citizenship.

NOBLES: The President has also tweeted, quote, that they may have ten Senate votes but we have the issue of border security. And then he puts 202 with an exclamation point. Is this really about the next Presidential election? And is this a winning issue for him that he's just going to continue to pound regardless of if it means keeping the government shut down or whatever discord is leads to after this is over with?

KOHN: I gave up trying to predict what Donald Trump was going to do a long time ago, but it does seem that he thinks it is a reliable strategy to gin up fear mongering and hate against any others beyond our border and in particular Muslims and people from Mexico and central America. That has been a repeated strategy of his. It is an old play book both parties have used but particularly Republicans. It is a race-based, otherizing, dehumanizing politics of fear mongering that he's taken to a whole other level. Here it's actually important to point out two things. One, for instance, those migrants in the caravan coming to the United States, they're not coming, quote unquote, illegally. These are not undocumented folks. These are folks following the rules, coming to the border, presenting themselves at the border to claim asylum in keeping with our laws and rules, rules that Trump has tried to single handedly change and then tear gassed people. But he's portraying this as an issue. Meanwhile, if you actually -- look, I'm a proud descendant of immigrants, but two- thirds of immigrants are here in our country because of overstaying their visas but he has no interest in that. He just wants to gin up fear and hate at the border.

NOBLES: We were talking about days, could it be months before they resolve this problem?

DRUCKER: Theoretically it could be months. The deeper these shutdowns get, the more entrenched both parties get. And eventually the voters decide one party, one faction is to blame and the other side realizes they just got to get out of it and move on. Two things are important to understand. One, the President had a Republican House and Senate for two years and he never really pushed a comprehensive legitimate of program to try and deal with immigration the way he would like to see it dealt with. I think that's a big missed opportunity. And it signals that you're not going to see much more than that in the next two years with Democrats in control of the House. The other thing in talking to Republicans after the midterm elections, they found in the final weeks of that campaign, the President's rhetoric about the caravan, about birth right citizenship and about the wall hurt Republicans in the House and made that majority on the Democratic side big are than ger than it might have otherwise been. I don't think calculations where the President is on this on the right is necessarily putting him in a good place in 2020. Democrats will have more responsibility for governing, won't be able to just blame Republicans, but for now the President is not in the best place, as he thinks he's is.

NOBLES: It almost seems once Democrats take control, this process restarts itself all over again and it could mean it's going to be an even longer process.

Thank you both for being here. Appreciate it.

KOHN: Happy holidays.

NOBLES: Up next, a major development in the unsettled Congressional race in North Carolina. A judge's order now creating further uncertainty over who and when this election will ultimately be decided. We have those details straight ahead.

And breaking news, a tour bus hit by an explosive device in Egypt not far from the Pyramids. Multiple people dead and wounded. We'll have a live report next.


NOBLES: Breaking right now, a roadside bomb blew up a bus in Egypt killing at least two tourists. A dozen others were injured. This happened as the bus was traveling close to the pyramids. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins me on the phone from Cairo, about 40 minutes from where the bombing happened. Salma, what are you learning right now?

[14:20:00] SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN MIDDLE EAST PRODUCER: Well, what we know so far, Ryan, is this tourist bus passed along what was a hidden roadside bomb. That bomb exploded hitting a tourist bus with 14 Vietnamese tourists on board. Two of those Vietnamese tourists were killed and ten others wounded. We understand two Egyptians; the driver and a member of the tourist company were wounded in the blast. These people have been sent to a local hospital and that the health minister and prime minister have both made instructions for them to receive the best of care and on their route to provide support. This is in the area of Giza. What is of upmost concern to authorities is whether or not this was a terrorist attack and whether or not the tourist site in Egypt are safe enough for tourists.

NOBLES: Salma, thank you very much for that report from Cairo after this bus accident and bombing in Giza, Egypt. Selma, thank you for that report. Still ahead, all eyes on Wall Street after a week of historic highs and lows. Where will the stock market settle this time? And help wanted. What a very interesting posting from the House Judiciary Committee is revealing about possible plans for 2019.


NOBLES: The markets will be closing soon and after a wild week where the Dow suffered its worst ever Christmas Eve, if stocks finish higher today, the market will have accomplished something it hasn't done all month, close higher three days in a row. Despite the week's gains overall, December has been a pretty miserable month on Wall Street, the S&P came within inches of entering a bear market multiple times this week and of course the President is monitoring everything. Alison Kosik is at the stock market now. The market often finishes with rally, but this is not a typical December.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is not a typical December. Even with the gains this week, it looks like December will go down as the worst performing month for stocks since 1931. That was during the great depression. Hold that in your hat for a bit. As for today, we've been watching stocks struggle to found direction. At the moment, a triple-digit gain for the Dow. Anything can happen. We have seen sentiment change on a dime, we saw that yesterday when we saw the 900-point swing for the Dow. There's a lot weighing on Wall Street as far as that cloud of uncertainty, an economic slowdown. Some of the recent fed moves worrying Wall Street as well, unresolved trade situation between the U.S. and China is another worry. Then the uncertainty in Washington, not just policy- wise, not just the government shutdown but whether or not Fed Chair Jay Powell can keep his job in the next year. So, these worries are keeping Wall Street on edge. If you're looking at your portfolio, there's one more day left to trade, that is Monday. That is the final trading day of 2018. You may want to have a strong stomach before you look at it because there aren't any gains this year. The S&P down 7 percent, the Dow down 5 percent, the Nasdaq is down 5. I wish I had better returns for you this year, Ryan.

NOBLES: Alison, I've made the decision not to check my 4 -- 401(k) this month. Is that wise, ignore it completely and hope it goes away?

KOSIK: I wouldn't say ignore it but if you're in it for the long term, don't look.

NOBLES: As Democrats prepare to take control of the House in six days, they are now looking for a few good lawyers to apparently lead investigations into President Trump and his administration. CNN reviewed a recent job posting by the House Judiciary Committee and found in it search for attorneys with experience with criminal, immigration, constitutional, intellectual property and commercial and administrative law. The advertisements hint that the Democrats plan on launching multiple investigations of President Trump. CNN's legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers And Paul Callan join me. What does it tell you about their investigation of the President?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There's no question that they're going to pick up some of these investigative threads that the Republican-led House was not willing to do. I hope instead of trying to duplicate efforts of the Mueller team, that they focus on the conflicts of interest have been present since the presidency started, the questions of whether the President and his business interests are driving policy with Saudi Arabia and Russia. But there are also going to be all sorts of other threads that come out of the Mueller investigation and they'll need these kinds of lawyers and investigators to do that work.

NOBLES: Does that include the President's taxes? We think the Mueller team may be looking into that. Is this an opportunity for Democrats to finally get those taxes and put them in the public?

[14:30:10] PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: it is definitely an opportunity. And if you look at that ad, it covers virtually every area you could imagine from criminal law to immigration law to all kinds of white-collar subjects. So, they're looking for a group of lawyers who can investigate a lot of different things. And a lot of them consist of criminal conduct. Certainly, tax fraud would be on that list.

NOBLES: Jennifer, what about the Russia probe? I know that you talked about these conflicts of interest would certainly could be an issue for Democrats, but the Mueller probe in general and of course there is a Senate intelligence committee investigation as well that continues What are some of the biggest unanswered questions?

RODGERS: I think some of the areas that we're waiting for and of course we don't know everything so there may be areas we've heard nothing about. We're waiting for the wrap up of the Roger Stone side of things. There's been litigation over their testimony. We're waiting to see what happens with that.