Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

New Details on American Arrested in Russia on Spying Charges; Trump Urges "Haters" to "Calm Down and Enjoy the Ride"; Interview with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 1, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:01:04] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. Happy New Year. I hope you had a great evening.

I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto has a well-deserved holiday week off.

We do begin this morning with breaking news. We're hearing for the first time from the family of an American detained in Russia, accused of being a spy. This man you see on the screen, Paul Whelan, arrested in Moscow on Friday. The Russian Federation says he's a U.S. spy.

His brother David, his twin brother, just joined me moments ago, and here is what he told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: There is no, no world in which you suspect that your brother in any way worked as a spy for the U.S. government. Is that correct?

BROTHER OF AMERICAN ARRESTED ON SPYING CHAGES IN RUSSIA: That's correct. I think there's really just one goal, to get Paul back home from Russia. And I'm not sure if it's at a level where leaders of both countries to have work out a deal or whether it's a congressional action that can leverage him loose. But that is our goal. That is our one goal, to get Paul back home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right, let's go to my colleague, Martin Savidge, now. He joins from Novi, Michigan. That is, of course, his hometown.

Marty, what are you learning about Paul, about what people there are saying, et cetera?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first and foremost, as much as this may sound odd, the family was relieved to hear that he had been taken into custody because prior to that, he had just simply vanished on a trip to Russia and they were fearful for his life. They know it's a serious situation. Forty-eight years of age. He works in corporate security for a major

auto parts maker here, and he travels frequently because of that job, but his family said he was over in Russia when on the 22nd to attend the wedding of a fellow marine. He himself is a retired marine. He's also former law enforcement. He made several trips to Iraq as part of the Marine Corps.

So, he's got a military background, but he was there to attend a wedding. He goes on the 22nd. The wedding is on the 28th. He keeps in close contact with his family when he travels. But then on the 28th, he doesn't show up at the wedding. That's when everyone became gravely concerned.

It was later they learned he had been taken into custody by the Russians who now accused him of espionage. You heard from the brother that they can't even believe any of this. They say it is nothing to do with his job.

So right now, people here are really mystified. They're concerned. And they're waiting for American officials to have contact directly with him so they can get feedback. They have been in contact with their legislators and lawmakers here in Michigan and also reached out to the State Department hoping to get more answers, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, exactly. We'll see what they might hear from the State Department or the White House or their congressional representatives in Michigan.

Before you go, Marty, his company, the company that he worked for and often did work in Russia for, are they saying anything this morning?

SAVIDGE: That company, they're very big in the auto part supply business, and they do admit that he works for them. However, they were very quick to say that he was not working for them in Russia. They don't have any auto parts plants or any manufacturing whatsoever in Russia. So it was not a corporate trip he was on. It was personal.

HARLOW: So he didn't, just to be clear, he didn't do work for this company, they say, in Russia. As far as we know, he did previous work perhaps for other companies in Russia?

SAVIDGE: Well, that part is still being worked on. According to his family, what he would typically do as part of his job is to do like site surveys and to also look at what the security was for any companies or plants basically to protect against theft or any other criminal activity against the parts maker.

HARLOW: OK. Marty Savidge, let us know when you learn more. Thank you very much for that reporting.

It is this morning a brand-new year. But the same old government shutdown continues into its 11th day.

[10:05:01] The president spent his New Year's in the White House where he tweeted this morning a lot, and tweeted last night a lot. And tweets and in an interview on Fox News, he says he's waiting for Democrats to come to him to work out a budget deal.

Our Boris Sanchez is live at the White House -- Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Poppy. President Trump has been active on twitter both today and yesterday. A few moments ago, he retweeted a series of attacks he launched against Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday. The president taking aim at Democrats yet again. More on that in a moment.

But really, what we're seeing here is President Trump holed up in the White House, trying to solve the government shutdown on his own, calling for lawmakers to return to Washington, D.C. to try to hammer out a deal. Reportedly, Democrats are going to return to Capitol Hill on Thursday and vote on a bipartisan package of six bills that would reopen the government through at least February. That's according to sources.

That package of bills contains about $1.3 billion for border security, but no funding for the president's long promised border wall, and the president just tweeted about that a short while ago, saying he suspected this would happen, sarcastically saying Democrats were imaginative because of the move. You can say this is largely a symbolic gesture by Democrats, the president highly unlikely to sign off on that piece of legislation.

He is digging in on the idea of a concrete barrier between the United States and Mexico. He talked a little bit about why that is on Fox News last night. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I spent Christmas in the White House. I spent New Year's Eve now in the White House, and, you know, I'm here. I'm ready to go. It's very important. A lot of people are looking to get their paycheck.

And so, I'm ready to go any time they want. No, we are not giving up. We have to have border security, and the wall is a big part of border security, the biggest part.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: The president saying you can't have border security without a powerful, strong wall. He called it 100 percent foolproof and laughed off the idea that a wall is old fashioned, comparing it to a wheel, saying the wheel is old fashioned technology as well, but it still works -- Poppy.

HARLOW: It does still work, the wheel. That is a fact.

Boris Sanchez, thanks for the reporting.

Joining me to talk about a lot of important stuff, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan.

Good morning. Thank you for joining me, especially this holiday morning. We appreciate it.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: Good morning, Poppy, and happy New Year.

HARLOW: Happy New Year. I think it's going to be a good one. I certainly hope it is.

DINGELL: I'm glad 2018 is gone, quite frankly.

HARLOW: Well, thank you for joining me.

Look, we know what's going to happen on January 3rd, on Thursday. The House is going to vote and pass this bill to reopen the government. It's going to include $1.3 billion for border security. It's not going to include direct wall funding.

Mitch McConnell has been very clear, he's not going to bring anything to the Senate floor that the president won't sign. Mark Meadows, who talks a lot to the president, called it a nonstarter. He tweeted a $1.3 billion Democratic wish list that includes zero money for a border barrier is a nonstarter.

If you know it's a nonstarter with those Republicans, and with the president, why make this move? Why vote to pass it?

DINGELL: Well, first of all, why is it a nonstarter? It would fund the other six agencies. We're making these public servants who aren't Republicans or Democrats, just there trying to serve the people, pawns in the middle of all this. It would fund six other departments through the end of the year, so we can get regular bills passed in the orderly fashion we're supposed to be doing it.

It would take homeland security, it would extend it to February 8th so we can reopen the government so the Custom and Border Patrol agents, other Homeland Security people who are working, not sure when their next paycheck is going to come, and give us time to sit down and negotiate, and I'm not somebody who thinks compromise is a dirty word, but it would take the homeland security budget --

HARLOW: Great, great, compromise. Let's talk about it right here, right now. What are you willing to give toward a border wall?

DINGELL: How about comprehensive immigration? How about DACA?

HARLOW: I wish we had 20 minutes for this interview and we'll have you back and talk more about that, but what amount of money are you willing to give to vote for the border wall and what would you want in return? Is there a number?

DINGELL: You know what I want? I want a package that's going to work. We had hundreds of studies. So, why aren't we increasing the number of border patrol, the amount of officers at the border? What about looking at drones and other technology to actually keep the border safe?

And people are already talking about problems with the walls, tunneling underneath. Let's sit down, get the experts at the table, and agree to something. This wall has become a symbol of total breakdown in Washington, which we have to stop.

HARLOW: So, do you then agree with Democrat former governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, who is a likely 2020 presidential candidate, who put it this way?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[10:10:01] TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: The Democrats should not give an inch on this. Donald Trump owns this. He's been in the White House. He's been isolated. He's too emotional. He's too unstable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Is he right? Should Democrats not give an inch on this?

DINGELL: You know, I don't think compromise is a dirty word. That's one thing that I have always said. I don't put hard lines down in the sand the way a lot of other people do.

I sure don't -- I'm not going to prove it the way that it is now. Let's get in a room and talk about it and figure it out by February 8th, but let's reopen the government, which is what I think we need to be doing.

HARLOW: So, here's how Republican Senator Lindsey Graham sees it. In terms of at least the optics for Democrats here. Let's roll it.

(BEGIN VDIEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The bottom line is, they want Trump to lose more than they want the country to win, I fear. At the end of the day, there's a deal to be had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Of course, there's a deal to be had. There's always a deal to be had. Given that, do you fear at a minimum an optics issue here for Democrats?

DINGELL: I want to say this. President Trump owns this. He's the one who said in the room I will own this, and he hasn't called Nancy Pelosi since December 11th. Those two have not talked since December 11th. He doesn't want this.

I don't ever want to see a president fail. You know why I don't want to see a president fail? Because it's the country that fails when that happens.

I want to see us reopen this government. I think everybody looks bad. This is -- we need to -- but I'm not so desperate that I'll agree to something that doesn't make sense.

But the fact of the matter is, we need to get back to Washington on January 3rd. We're all coming back. Most of us will be back there tomorrow. And we need to work together.

And that's my new year's resolution. I'm going to work with everybody because I think Americans are tired of partisan bickering.

HARLOW: Amen to that, let's see if the New Year brings that. If you do have a number, you saw the Vice President Mike Pence put $2.5 billion on the table. Jackie Speier, your fellow Democratic woman in congress, said she could live with $2.5 billion in wall funding if it came with a DACA deal. Let me know if you come up with a number, but if not --

DINGELL: Numbers are sort of -- I'm probably where Jackie is, but I'm not going to say. I'm not sold to any number. I want to see what the total package is. I think people need to be in a room talking and getting in agreement.

HARLOW: All right. So, maybe $2.5 it sounds like. Maybe you're with Jackie Speier on that.

Elizabeth Warren throwing her hat in the ring for 2020. Here's how the president sees that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: She says she's in the fight all the way, Mr. President. Do you really think she believes she can win?

TRUMP: Well, that I don't know. You would have to ask her psychiatrist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Is the hope for a more civil 2020 election out the door, saying you would have to ask her psychiatrist?

DINGELL: I don't think this is going to be a civil presidential election. We have 31 candidates right now. You know, I for two years warned people President Trump could win and we had a problem. I'm not committing to anybody until I see them.

I'm inviting all 31 candidates right now to come into my district, come to Michigan. My little district is reflective of the country. I want to see how everybody is going to do, how they relate to people, and I think it's good for Democrats to have a spirited, contested race so we have a strong candidate when it comes to the general election.

HARLOW: Let's hope we can see a civil election. We can always hope.

Before you go, General Motors obviously an issue you care deeply about given the big plant closure that is coming up in your state, an issue we cover closely on this show and care about. When you were on the show last, you said you will do everything in your power to make sure that General Motors doesn't move another plant to Mexico or they won't get your support on anything.

Do you have any updates for us on the General Motors workers in your state?

DINGELL: I have spent a lot of time with them the last couple weeks, did an op-ed in the Detroit news over the weekend. I have talked to -- I have even talked to the president about this. But I talked to Ambassador Lighthizer multiple times.

We're looking at -- I call it NAFTA 2.0 because I want everybody to remember what NAFTA 1.0 did, which was ship jobs overseas. I will not support anything in terms of a new NAFTA trade agreement that doesn't keep plants here in the United States and doesn't allow people to continue to build plants in Mexico. General Motors moved the blazer plant to Mexico, announced that only several months ago.

So, we're all going to be working together to keep building and manufacturing in this country and not Mexico.

HARLOW: But no direct new word from GM to you on this?

DINGELL: Not -- I mean, I have been talking to GM. I never blind side them. I tell them --

HARLOW: You used to work there.

DINGELL: I did used to work there, and many people I know there. And I have talked to them regularly, as I have the UAW.

I think -- I want to say this. This is going to be a very critical year. Auto industry is still one of the backbones of the American economy.

[10:15:04] Labor negotiations are coming up. And if we don't -- if things don't work out, I'm telling you there could be fireworks and I'm very worried about what the potential impact is on the economy, and I think we need to worry about the worker as we go into this, not just the shareholders.

HARLOW: OK. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, thanks for joining us and happy New Year.

DINGELL: Happy New Year.

HARLOW: Still to come, from minimum wage hikes to pink hunting vests, states ushering new laws in the New Year. We're going to tell you about them.

Also, the federal employee labor union is now suing the U.S. government over the shutdown. What are they arguing for, is there precedent there?

And can $1 be the difference between life and death in the opioid crisis? I will explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:20:08] HARLOW: Senator Elizabeth warren has taken the first step towards a 2020 presidential run. More big name Democrats expected to join her, many more in the coming weeks. We're getting more of a window of what the 2020 race could look like based on how the president reacted to news that Elizabeth Warren is throwing her hat in the ring.

Listen to this exchange last night on Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: She says she's in the fight all the way, Mr. President. Do you really think she believes she can win?

TRUMP: Well, that I don't know. You would have to ask her psychiatrist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Ask her psychiatrist.

Any indication that civility will return for the 2020 race? Let's talk more about this with CNN political commentator Scott Jennings and Robby Mook.

Good morning. Thanks for waking up early for this, guys.

ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks. Happy New Year.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.

HARLOW: Happy New Year. I hope you got eight hours of sleep last night like I surprisingly did.

Scott, to you, I don't -- why respond that way? I mean, why -- what do you make of the president saying, she'll have to -- you'll have to ask her psychiatrist about Elizabeth Warren?

JENNINGS: Well, he's responding to her the way he responded to all the Republicans who ran against him for president and the way he responded to Hillary Clinton and the way I suspect he'll to respond to all the Democrats that get into this race. He's going to give them nicknames. He's going to insult them all. He's going to treat the way he is -- we have come to know he treats his political opponents.

Now, in terms of a tactical matter, Elizabeth Warren is exactly the kind of nominee he would love to run against. She's too left wing, probably to be elected nationwide. She has a lot of similarities to the kinds of candidates that didn't do very well in Middle America over the last couple cycles. So, I think Trump would love to engage Elizabeth Warren and make her seem like the leader of the Democratic Party because it's what's best for him.

HARLOW: So, Robby, if that's the case, if Scott has it all correct in his 2020 playbook, what is the most effective way for Democrats to fight back? Because we saw with some of those Republican contenders like Marco Rubio, et cetera, when they stooped to that level, right, and shot back with the name calling, et cetera, it didn't work for them. MOOK: Yes, you can't try to beat Trump at his own game. I completely

agree with Scott that Trump is going to go back to his old playbook, which is name-calling. And look, the fact we're talking about it today shows you how this strategy can work.

But the key for Democratic candidates is to find a way, and it will be different for every candidate, to drive their own message and tell their own story. If the entire campaign is litigated around Trump's name-calling, Trump's insults, Trump's lies, frankly, the Democrat can't be successful.

I disagree with Scott. I think the message that Elizabeth Warren had yesterday about income inequality, about how corporate America has been getting away, you know, with highway robbery, this recent tax cut that the Republicans passed that gave away billions of dollars to the richest people and corporations in this country. If we're talking about those issues, we're going to win. That's what she was talking about.

The question is how do you break that message through? Because Trump wants to distract people so Democrats don't have a chance to prove what they have to offer. And that's the challenge to overcome.

HARLOW: Do you think, Robby, on the shutdown, and on this wide gap that exists between wall funding that the president wants, that it would behoove Democrats to meet him in the middle here? You just heard Debbie Dingell on with me who said I'm kind of maybe around the Jackie Speier number, and Representative Jackie Speier said she would be willing to give $2.5 billion for wall funding if they got a DACA deal.

Do you think strategically, Democrats should come forward with a number that is higher that $1.3 billion, and would it help them to say look what we did? And I mean help them toward 2020? Or does it just hurt them because their voters don't want to see a dollar go toward the wall largely?

MOOK: Yes. Well, the reality is both sides are going to have to make some sort of compromise here. And that's going to happen. I actually feel very confident about that.

I think the Democrats are starting in the right place, which is, OK, let's get all these parts of the government funded. Let's break off this quote/unquote controversial piece around the Department of Homeland Security off, buy ourselves a month to negotiate so people can get back to work and the government can function. We got TSA agents having to show up to work every day to protect us when we're flying in the air, and they're not getting paid. That's just dumb. It's stupid.

But Donald Trump is not a serious negotiating partner. He hasn't reached out to Pelosi to bring her in and have a conversation. He's left everybody, including Republicans, at the altar every time we have been through this debate. And that's because he wants this fight. This is exactly -- he's where he wants to be right now. His own chief of staff, who is going out the door, said that this

physical wall is not what people -- not what the workers that are actually, the border patrol agents are asking for.

[10:25:07] So he's not being realistic. I think Democrats are going to have to take this one step at a time because they can't trust that a compromise will work. He'll just reject it because he wants the fight.

HARLOW: Scott, there was interesting analysis earlier this week from "Politico" that struck me. And they asked the question, did President Trump blow the shutdown, saying he could have been on TV all the past 11 days, right, and he did the interview with Fox News last night. A phone interview, but he could have been on TV nonstop from the White House saying I'm the only guy who can sign this bill into law. Congress has gone home. I'm here, I'm working.

In that sense, just optically, strategically for the president, would you have liked to see him out there more doing that, aside from tweets?

JENNINGS: Yes, I mean, he could have, I guess. On the other hand, the more you go on television and the more you do public stuff, the more you wind up negotiating against yourself. He's laid down a very real marker that he is not going to budge from, according to his own words. So, if you go on television and you have to answer questions about, well, if they don't accept that, what would you accept, and you start to negotiate against yourself.

This whole thing in my opinion is still between him and Chuck Schumer. This thing requires 60 votes in the Senate and a presidential signature. McConnell's conference in the Senate, Republicans are united. They just have to get enough Democrats to go along to get something through.

So, until those two start talking, I don't -- I agree with Robby. There will be an end to this some day. I think it lies in their relationship. The Republicans have less leverage when the Democrats take over the House. So they sort of got into this fight without a real end game. I'm not sure what punting this until February is going to solve. We're going to have the same fight all over again.

So, I don't know how it ends. I just know when the government is shut down, all incumbents of both parties take a hit from the American people who look at this and say what's so hard about this?

HARLOW: Yes, we pay you to work for us, right?

Scott Jennings, Robby Mook, thanks very much. Happy New Year to you both.

MOOK: Thanks.

HARLOW: It is a New Year, 2019. Happy New Year.

New laws in place for marijuana to Medicaid, a slew of new initiatives set to take effect this year. We're going to tick through them for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)