Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Preparations For New Year's Eve; Day 10 Of The Government Shutdown And President Trump Is Not Budging On His Border Wall. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 31, 2018 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00]

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello and Happy New Year's Eve. I'm Ryan Nobles, in today for Brooke Bolduan. We are just 10 hours away from the ball drop in New York City welcoming 2019.

This hour, Pakistan, the Maldives, and parts of Russia are already welcoming in the new year. We've already seen incredible fireworks in Hong Kong and a pyrotechnic countdown in Pyongyang, North Korea, but the east coast will be ringing in the new year with heavy rain and showers, the first time it's rained in Times Square on New Year's Eve since 1994. That's the year I graduated from high school. I don't know if there's a connection to that at all.

Jennifer Gray joining me now live from the CNN Weather Center. It could get a little ugly in parts of the country tonight, Jennifer.

(WEATHER)

NOBLES: Forty-four degrees and pouring probably not all that pleasant. All right, Jennifer Gray, all right. Thank you so much for that update.

Well, CNN does have a team of reporters covering celebrations in places both customary and unique. Gary Tuchman is in Niagara Falls and Miguel Marquez is already staking out a spot in New York Time - or in Times Square I should say. Miguel, in addition to the rain, security expected to be extremely tight there. How many people are officials expecting there tonight?

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are expecting or planning for as many as two million people, but I can tell you that rain has already begun here. And I can give you a sense of just how this crowd - I mean, look at the people that are shoved in here and then look at the two over there who are under that plastic bag. (inaudible) behind them. Look, they're crazy. They're absolutely insane. These people have been out here since very early in the morning. Hello! Are you guys ready for this? They're - this is what they're waiting for. They're in a very good position. Just up right above them is the pole where the ball actually comes down, and I can show you just around this way we have people from - we have the Japanese contingent here. We have the Korean contingent just behind them. Japan likes plastic. Korea likes fur apparently. We have the newlyweds from Kansas City, and we have these three crazies from Wisconsin. This is nothing for the Wisconsin. They'll be perfectly fine -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh yes, we're fine.

MARQUEZ: - but you're doing the plastic today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

MARQUEZ: Sensibly so. They have hundreds of police officers and agents from 54 different agencies at all levels of government. They have 1,200 plus cameras out here. They're even using drone and anti drone technology out here. The drones - the police drone will be tethered to buildings. So if there is an issue, they won't fall on crowds. They've even embedding police officers in area hotels, leaving nothing to chance. Everyone who's come in here has been - gone through a magnetometer. They can't bring any alcohol, bags, umbrellas, coolers. It doesn't really sound like a party, does it? I don't know how you guys are going to hold it for the next, what? You guys have been waiting since 7 o'clock this morning to get here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

MARQUEZ: And they

[14:05:00]

MARQUEZ: And they got another, what? 8 or 9, 10 hours to go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

MARQUEZ: I don't' know how you do it. Bladders of steel, all of you. Well done. Have a great time. Happy New Year, and Happy New Year to you.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

NOBLES: Miguel, it may be worth it for them to make the trip to have been told on national television they have bladders of steel by Miguel Marquez. That may have been worth a trip -

MARQUEZ: Bladders of steel.

NOBLES: Right. Miguel, thank you. Let's move now to Gary. You're at the site of one of Canada's largest New Year's Even celebrations. Gary, tell us more about that.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan, this is the site of the largest celebration in this nation. Niagara Falls, this is Queen Victoria Park. Tens of thousands of people will be here to hear concerts, watch fireworks coming here from the Skyline Tower, but the main reason people come here is to see what is behind me here on the Ontario side of the Niagara River. That is the great Horseshoe Falls spanning the United States and Canada - one of the three Niagara Falls, and to the left of that the other two. The smaller on the right is the Bridal Veil Falls. The one to the left is the American Falls. Those are all in the United States. That falls (ph), that's the side of the United States of America. We are in Canada.

We had a very close up look. This was amazing. We went under the Niagara Falls to get a look at the Horseshoe Falls. 167 foot drop - that's 16 stories, 3 million cubic feet of water every minute. To give you an idea of what that means because no one knows what that means, it's 1 million bathtubs full of water every second that comes down from the Niagara Falls.

Now my daughter, Lindsay Tuchman, who's a reporter at one of our grate affiliates, NY1 in New York City, she's going to be working with me tonight here at this great celebration. We had the great honor last night of being with the illumination operator of all the Niagara Falls, and we got to turn the lights on the falls.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

So this is how you control the lights for what millions of people see every year on the Niagara Falls at night?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

G. TUCHMAN: And you're giving us the honor of getting to switch the lights on the Niagara Falls?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am.

G. TUCHMAN: The choice we have. Right now it's what? Lindsay, what color is it right now?

LINDSAY TUCHMAN, NY1 REPORTER: Right now it's orange and it's moving inside and out which is a cool effect.

G. TUCHMAN: OK, but we're going to change it. We have a choice of waves, Aurora Borealis, sparkle, water drop, burning fire, green, orange, blue, lavender. What do we want to change it to?

L. TUCHMAN: At first I was thinking lavender, but I think we want to go Aurora Borealis. That seems more fun.

G. TUCHMAN: OK, well you have the honor.

L. TUCHMAN: Yes.

G. TUCHMAN: First we set it to white.

L. TUCHMAN: All right, so I use this handy dandy pen here, reset it to white. All right, and now -

G. TUCHMAN: Now Aurora Borealis.

L. TUCHMAN: Here we go. Check it out. G. TUCHMAN: Aurora Borealis, the American Falls at Niagara Falls. What a great honor. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you're very welcome.

G. TUCHMAN: It was beautiful.

That was a great way for us to close 2018. Tonight it is supposed to be 48 degrees Fahrenheit at 12 midnight. That compares with last year here when it was 2 degrees Fahrenheit, but it wasn't raining last year. We're expecting a lot of rain here like in Times Square tonight. (Inaudible)

(END VIDEO TAPE)

NOBLES: Having grown up in Western New York, 48 degrees on New Year's Eve, I think many people in that part of the world would take it. Gary Tuchman, thanks, and so exciting that you and your daughter get to report this story together. Thank you, Gary.

And as we count down to the new year, the days to the partial government shutdown are racking up. Day 10 and President Trump is not budging on his border wall. As House Democrats plan to vote Thursday on a package of spending bills to reopen the government on the same day they take control of the chamber. Caught in the middle? Well, 800,000 federal workers who still have no idea when their next paycheck is coming. More than half of them have been working without pay.

What's more? President Trump just froze their pay for 2019 saying the federal budget could not support a wage increase. Let's go now to the White House. CNN's Sarah Westwood is standing by. Sarah, the president skipped his New Year's party at Mar-a-Lago due to the shutdown. So what has he been doing today toward ending it?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Ryan, we really don't know. We haven't seen the president for several days now. He's had no public events, and despite the fact that he's been taunting those Democratic Congressional leaders who left town for the holidays, back here in Washington there hasn't been a lot of movement in the negotiations over funding for the border wall.

Now, despite the fact that the president has maintained that Democrats only oppose the wall because he's president. They've held that position consistently throughout these budget talks, but he says he's here at the White House and he's ready to talk. He wrote on Twitter this morning, "I'm in the Oval Office. Democrats, come back from vacation now and give us the votes necessary for border security including the wall." And then he goes on to instole (ph) the merits of the wall, but keep in mind the Democratic congressional leaders haven't actually been invited back to the White House for further negotiations. That per the acting Chief of Staff/Bidget Director, Mick Mulvaney, who's also signaled that the president might be willing to accept less than that original $5 billion demand for the border wall, but he hasn't specified just how much the president would be willing to come down. This as one of President Trump's top allies on Capitol Hill, Senator Lindsey Graham, said the president seemed interested in a potential compromise that would involve standing firm at $5 billion and then tying that funding to a temporary renewals of the DACA protections, for those young, undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.

[14:10:00]

Democrats haven't signaled whether they'd be interested in that kind of compromise. There's not been a lot of serious talk about it, and so, things right now, Ryan, seem to look a like they did 10 days ago and no end in sight out of this shutdown.

NOBLES: Yes, and it certainly seems like it could get worse before it gets better. All right, Sarah Westwood, live from the White House. Sarah, thank you very much.

The president also tweeted this about the border wall. He wrote, quote, "An all concrete wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media. Some areas will be all concrete, but the experts at the Border Patrol prefer a wall that they can see through, thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides. Makes sense to me."

And with that, the president is appearing to be giving a final rebuke of his outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly. In his final days at the White House, Kelly just gave a revealing and wide-ranging interview to "The Los Angeles Times," saying this, quote, "To be honest, it's not a wall. The president still says wall, often times, frankly, he'll say barrier or fencing. Now he's tended towards steel slats, but we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration."

Joining me now to talk about this, CNN Political Analysts Brian Karem and Margaret Talev. Brian is a White House reporter for Playboy and Margaret is the Senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News. Thank you both for joining me on New Year's Eve.

Margaret, let's start with you. John Kelly says this all concrete wall, which the president talked about relentlessly during the campaign, was abandoned early on. The president then said, no, but he does appear to agree with Kelly, right? Saying that parts of the wall should be see through and it must be tough to negotiate a funding deal with Democrats when you continue to get mixed messages from this president as to what he actually wants.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT BLOOMBERG NEW: Yes, Ryan, I don't know, maybe the president's taking issue with the word abandoned. That's the only thing I can think.

I talked to a Senior White House Aid last week, who was describing the wall as not a concrete wall anymore and saying, actually, I mean precisely the same thing, that the idea was to have a barrier that those Border Patrol officials thought would provide them the -- sort of the most in the way of security and that having the concrete all the way across didn't -- the opaqueness didn't give you the visibility you would want through it, and I think Democrats objections, to some extent, it doesn't matter whether it's concrete or whether it's slats, it's the idea that you could actually wall-off immigrants, it might not work, it would be very expensive and it sends the wrong signal.

That would be their position, but I'm trying to understand, really, where the president -- who the president's arguing with. I think he rejects the idea that he had abandoned an idea of his. He doesn't like the idea that the base would see him as retreating.

But, in fact, my understanding, not just from that John Kelly interview, is absolutely that the concept of what he wanted on the campaign trail changed, when he actually talked to the officials who would be administering protection at any sort of a barrier.

NOBLES: All right, Brian, speaking of that article that was written by Molly O'Toole from "The L.A. Times," I actually talked to her earlier today and she talked about Trump and how, in many ways, John Kelly is navigating the president's words in terms of rhetoric versus reality. Take a listen to what Molly had to say earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOLLY O'TOOLE, IMMIGRATION AND SECURITY REPORTER FOR LOS ANGELES TIME: Early on in Kelly's tenure at Homeland Security, he asked the people on the ground who are really on the frontlines, on the border everyday, what they needed.

And what they said they needed was a barrier in some areas, but that would look not like a concrete wall, but would be steel slats, a combination of fencing, but along with personnel and technology.

So, that just goes to show that distance between rhetoric and reality, and potentially how difficult it's going to be for whoever comes next as Chief of Staff or anyone -- any official on immigration and border security to really succeed when the president, in fact, ran and won on some pledges that he may not be able to carry out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: So there -- you heard it right there Brian, rhetoric versus reality. This is becoming and increasing problem for President Trump, but it really creates a problem for Democrats as well, right? Because aren't the kind of underestimating a little bit, just what the president needs to have happen in order for a deal to be hatched?

BRIAN KAREM, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT FOR PLAYBOY: You have to understand what the president wants in order for it to happen. And you're dealing with a couple of big issues.

First of all, this has never -- there's no concrete design on, no pun intended, on what this project is going to be. There's a nice webpage that you can go to, but the DHS and even the White House has not answered my specific questions about specific nature of the wall, how it's going to be built, where it's going to be built, what it's going to be built of, because they really don't know.

It started out as a 1,900 mile wall, then it was going to be see- through, eco-friendly, but none of it makes any sense. It's a scam issue because there are places where the existing wall or fence needs to be enhanced. There are other places that need to have some walls built. But the bottom line is this has always been about security and border security both the Democrats and the Republicans reached consensus on. The president was willing to sign a CR. He was going to compromise. Then he got called out on the carpet by - the reason why we're here is because Ann Coulter shot her mouth off. And so, we're here looking at it now and you're probably going to be back. When they settle this hash, it's going to be a deal very similar to what you saw in the beginning with maybe DACA thrown in, maybe another billion thrown into it, but it's not going to be the $5 billion.

And the question that the Democrats have - and here's an issue that you have to deal with. They didn't - the Executive Branch didn't spend what they allocated for border security last year. So why allocate more if you haven't spent what you've got? There are people who say there's got to be stuff done, but it's not going to be a $5 billion wall and it never will be.

NOBLES: So let - Margaret, let's then talk about the Democratic strategy here. We now know Democratic sources confirming to our reporters on Capitol Hill that as soon as they take over the House of Representatives they're going to pass through a package of six bipartisan full Senate appropriations bills and a stopgap measure to reopen the government. They've basically going to put the ball back in Mitch McConnell's hands to deal with the president. Is this the wise way to go about it? Could this force the president's hand and could it out Mitch McConnel in a difficult position?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, it's the obvious way to restart the process, and what the - McConnell and the Senate Republicans are indicating as of right now, as of today is that they're not going to try to pass and send something to the president that they know that the president's not going to support. But this entire time there have been discussions behind the scenes that even as the president kind of publically takes this posture of no compromise and no retreat that the vice president and Jared Kushner and the legislative team over at the White House have been in ongoing conversations on the Hill, at least with Republicans, trying to figure out what could they put together that the president can live with that could actually get passed.

So, you know, I mean, look. This is going to be the Democrat descent in the House, Nancy Pelosi's reemergence. We expect a Speaker. And so, what are they going to do? They're going to come on day one showing that they're able to get things done, at least their definition of getting things done, and they'll get the ball rolling. And then that's what happens when you have divided government and the - what happens in the midterms is people elected Democrats to take over one chamber of Congress. So I think that they're doing what they said they would do and what you would expect they would do, and now it's going to be up to the president to decide how he wants to dial back his original request.

NOBLES: So Brian, I want you to get - I want you to respond to a tweet from the president over the weekend where he essentially blamed the deaths of two migrant children on the Democrats for their immigration policies. Then he went even further today by saying people dying is far more immoral than a border wall. Do you think he's making this situation worse with the Democrats? I mean, how can he have a serious negotiator with them if he's making such - very serious accusations in their directions?

KAREM: Well, I find it personally disgusting, but - and here's the basis for that opinion. First of all, he said he would own the shutdown over government. Now he's blaming the Democrats. Further, he's blaming his own countrymen for the death of two innocents. He's using those innocent people as a political football. He is. No one else. He is. And by the way, and, you know, he will blame the Democrats for the death of two children with no evidence. Yet he will not condemn the Saudi Arabians for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post Reporter, after the entire world saw the evidence and knows that the Saudi Prince was part and parcel of problem and helped cause this guy's death. It speaks, to me, volumes about where this prescient is coming from. He has no problem accusing the Democrats of the most horrendous things possible, but he can't stop or bother to make notice of the people who are actually causing the real trouble in this world. And that's - you know, that kind of rhetoric you don't need.

NOBLES: OK, we're going to have to leave it there. Brian Karem, Margaret Talev, Happy New Year. Thank you both for being here.

KAREM: Happy New Year to you, too, Ryan.

TALOV: Happy New Year, Ryan.

NOBLES: All right, have a good one. Thank you. Still ahead, Senator Elizabeth Warren making her first major step toward a 2020 run, but can she rise to the top of a crowded Democratic field? We will discuss. Plus, a lion escapes from its enclosure at a zoo, killing a 22-year-old intern. Her family now speaking out. But first, here's a look at how Taipei rang in the new year just moments ago.

[14:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOBLES: She became a favorite of the left by taking on Wall Street more than a decade ago. Then came a winning campaign in 2012 for the U.S. Senate. Now, Elizabeth Warren is setting her sights higher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, D-MA: No matter where you live in America, and no matter where your family came from in the world, you deserve a path to opportunity. Because no matter what our difference is, most of us want the same thing; to be able to work hard, play by the same set of rules and take care of the people we love.

That's the America I'm fighting for, and that's why today I'm launching an exploratory committee for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NOBLES: But if the Massachusetts Democrat wants to call the White House home in 2020, the numbers suggest, well, she's got some work to do. A recent CNN poll shows that Warren is in 6th among Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents. Joining me now to talk about this, the one and only CNN senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten, star of the "Forecast" podcast, which I think I'm a part of too.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITCAL WRITER AND ANALYST: I think that you have been a part of that, and it was so nice to be a part of your life.

NOBLES: Oh, great, Harry. Well, Harry, can we read into anything about the timing of this announcement for Warren? I mean she clearly, among the favorites, is not at the top of this list, and the other problem she has is that she's not the only progressive in this field either.

ENTEN: Yes, that's exactly right; and I think that she felt a little bit of pressure. She was thinking perhaps Bernie Sanders is in fact going to run. Someone like Sherrod Brown - if you look, Sherrod Brown's press people putting out stuff just today, saying, "Hey, look at all these recent things that the senator's been doing from Ohio."

So I think she felt some pressure to get in here, become the first real progressive voice. But I should also point out that, generally speaking, I went back since 1972, and I actually found that the median date of entry for primary entrance and not - when you're not - no comments running (ph) is March 12; it's March 12.

So it shouldn't be a huge surprise, right, that we're getting the first person in at this particular point.

NOBLES: Right, right, right. Now, Warren has certainly had her share of missteps, right? She has this DNA text thing that she did in the fall, a video about her Native American ancestry that sparked quite a bit of backlash.

But there's another CNN poll that shows that about a third of the country is unsure about her. Does she an opportunity here to try and fix some of this, or soothe concerns for jittery Democrats?

ENTEN: Sure, I - look, we're still more than a year from Iowa (ph). She has plenty of time to soothe over perhaps some, you know, flaws that perhaps some voters think that she has. But I should also point out that Joe Biden is much better known than Elizabeth Warren, and his unfavorable rating is actually lower than hers is.

It's pretty clear that even for someone who isn't as well known as she is, her unfavorable rating is pretty high. And that's the case both among the general electorate, as well as among Democratic primary voters.

NOBLES: Right. She, of course, has been somebody that has not been afraid to go after President Trump whenever she gets the opportunity. And President Trump seems to be spoiling for a fight when it comes to Elizabeth Warren. This is what he said about her in October.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope she's running for president because I think she'd be very easy. I hope that she is running; I do not think she'd be difficult at all. She'll destroy the country; she'll make our country into Venezuela.

With that being said, I don't want to say bad things about her because I hope she would be one of the people that would get through the process. It's going to be a long process for the Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: If that isn't classic Donald Trump. You know, in her launch videos, she's got images of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell. She's got other conservative voices in there - you know, her top aides and allies in the media. Beyond talking about this could impact her, is the fact that she's not afraid to go after Donald Trump, can that help her?

ENTEN: I mean it could certainly help her; it could raise her press profile. But the fact is, you know, you go back to the Native American Ancestry when she did that DNA test; I think that most neutral observers would say that the president perhaps actually came out on top in that exchange.

So going after the president and receiving press is good thing, but if it's negative press and you're seen as falling behind the president of the United States, then it's probably a bad thing.

NOBLES: I mean that is the - kind of been the pitfall for many Donald Trump opponents; they try and take the fight to him, and so far, nobody has been able to best him in that respect.

All right, just quickly, last; her hometown paper, "The Boston Globe," highlighting what they call "warning signs" from voters, that her election victory wasn't as strong as it was before, that former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, at that time, was generating more enthusiasm.

They wrote, "While Warren is an effective and impactful senator with an important voice nationally, she's become a divisive figure; a unifying voice is what the country needs now after the polarizing politics of Donald Trump." Are they right?

ENTEN: I would say that in her reelection bid in 2018, she won by 24 points. That may seem really high, but remember, Hilary Clinton won in Massachusetts by 27 points, and that was in a - not as blue of year as 2018. So I think that they may in fact have a point there.

NOBLES: OK. All right, Harry; thanks as always.

ENTEN: Thank you.

NOBLES: You think you'll be talking about this a little bit over the new year?

ENTEN: Maybe just a tad.

NOBLES: All right, thanks, Harry.

ENTEN: Up next, her family says that she died doing what she loved, but did this young intern have to die in the jaws of a lion? We're live in North Carolina. And President Trump defends his plan to withdraw troops from Syria.

[14:30:00]