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Trump Looks to 2019; Giuliani Tweets Goal for 2019; Trump Touts Economy; Trump on Warren Running in 2020; American Detained in Russia. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 1, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Try to figure out who is behind this shooting, Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely heartbreaking.


NOBLES: Nick Valencia, thank you.

VALENCIA: You got it.

And thank you for joining me. "INSIDE POLITICS" with the great Phil Mattingly starts right now.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a special New Year's Day edition of INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Phil Mattingly. John King is off today.

And we're learning more details about the American detained in Russia on espionage charges. His family insists he isn't a spy for the U.S. government. We'll speak to his brother this hour.

Meanwhile, here in Washington, the president has some bold predictions for his, quote, haters in 2019.

And, the incoming freshman class on Capitol Hill, they are handing out lessons on how to win on social media. And some lessons on axe throwing. Senator John Cornyn says he couldn't beat this throw from incoming Representative Dan Crenshaw.


MATTINGLY: The double axe throw. Very bold.

All right, we begin this hour and this new year at the White House, where everything and everyone is calm, still enjoying the ride, or at least that's the president's hope for all of you this new year, tweeting this morning, in all caps, no less, Happy New Year to everyone, including the haters and the fake news media. 2019 will be a fantastic year for those not suffering from Trump derangement syndrome.

The president also wraps up the tweet with this advice, just calm down and enjoy the ride. Great things are happening for our country.

Very dazed and confused there.

President Trump, like many Americans, is setting a few goals for 2019. The first, remind everyone what a beautiful, winning year it's going to be.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to wish you a very, very Happy New Year. It's going to be a great year. Complicated, but great.

I'm fighting for you. We're going to win. We're going to win all the way. We're going to win at everything we do. So Happy New Year and let's enjoy the next year and then we're going to enjoy the following year and then we have four more and everything is going to be so beautiful.


MATTINGLY: CNN's Jessica Dean joins me now from the White House.

And, Jessica, there are a lot of messages (ph) from the president, but he also focused a lot on the economy. And I'm wondering, is it your sense that that's kind of a broader theme that he wants to make his own in the coming year?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. Good afternoon to you, Phil. That's exactly right. We know that he likes to watch the stock market, that the economy is really what has been driving him. That he likes to focus on it. That he likes to talk about it.

And while he's been here at the White House since he canceled his New Year's plans to go down to Florida, he's been using Twitter really as his primary way to communicate. And you saw some of his message.

And he did talk about the economy. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you, there has never been an administration -- and I'm very proud of this -- that's done more than the Trump administration in the first two years of office. Our economy is doing great. Wages are rising for the first time in many, many years. People are getting more money. They're working one job instead of two or three.


DEAN: Well, this administration, the president, the White House has long maintained the economy is strong. They've really downplayed any weaknesses in the economy. But, of course, we all remember that December was really a roller coaster with the stock market and it ended up that 2018 was the worst year for stocks in a decade and December was the worst year for the Dow since 1931. So that's just a couple of things to keep in mind as we look ahead to 2019.

And, Phil, of course, the government shutdown still looming large as we head into the new year.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that indeed.

Jessica Dean, from the White House, staying calm, enjoying the ride. Thanks, Jessica.

Here with me today to share their reporting and their insights, Karoun Demirjian from "The Washington Post," Michael Shear with "The New York Times," Toluse Olorunnipa with "Bloomberg" and Kelsey Snell with NPR.

Now, I need to get something out of the way that's very important first. Usually on Ohio State game days I'm wearing my lucky t-shirt. I tried to get that by our executive producer. She said no. So I'm going with the tie. It's new. And if this doesn't work, we're going to have a ritual burning tomorrow that you're all going to have to come back for. All right, we got that out of the way. Game time starts in five hours, six hours, six hours.

So, look, let's take 30,000 feet, right? We're all digging in on individual tweets and what it means. But 30,000 foot, when you look at what the president's got ahead for him in 2019, what kind of sticks out to you right now, Kelsey?

KELSEY SNELL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR: Well, first of all, you have to reopen the government at some point in time. You've got about 800,000 workers either not working or working and not getting paid. And that's going to be the very first thing that Democrats want to talk about and the first thing that they're going to do when they take over on Thursday when they're sworn in to take over the House.

And then, from there, there are so many other cabinet positions that need to get filled. There is the question of whether or not NAFTA is going to get -- or the new NAFTA is going to get ratified. The plate is full.

[12:05:03] MATTINGLY: Yes, no question about it. And there's also, oh, by the way, a Russia investigation that's still ongoing.

I want to pull up a tweet from the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who tweeted, quote, I'm looking forward to 2019 so we can end the Mueller witch hunt before he starts his unpaid traffic ticket investigation. Happy 2019 to all.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I mean, yes, that's a very sarcastic way of acknowledging the fact that the House is going to go after many, many things. I mean I know there's this lingering question of, will they pursue impeachment in the air. But even if they don't get there, because a lot of people think it would be politically treacherous to try to go there, they're going to be looking into all aspects of the Trump family, the finances of the president, the decisions that have been made by various cabinet officials. I mean there's very little that is going to be off limits for this -- the Democrats in the House. And they're bracing for that. I think that it's obvious that there's going to be political acrimony

in the House and a lot of fist-fighting and mudslinging over all of these investigations. But I think the real question is, what do the Senate Republican do once we actually have a report from Mueller because, yes, the House is -- their plan is set. It is not clear what the reaction is going to be because he does have critics who are willing to break with him in the Senate over Russia issues, over foreign policy issues generally. I mean the president is going to face some real pushback over his Syria and Afghanistan pullout when we go back over immigration issues. There are people who are willing to break with him if they really feel like it comes to that. And that is going to rest on what we see from the special counsel, which should be something fairly conclusive in the next few months.

MATTINGLY: Yes, a lot of things that could tip things one way or the other.


MATTINGLY: We just aren't exactly sure yet.

DEMIRJIAN: Right. We don't know what they are, right. Yes.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And we're going to get into the Senate later in the show, and Senate Republicans specifically.

Toluse, you're a "Bloomberg" guy, so naturally I'm coming to you with the economy, since that is your everything to some degree, depending on the day.

But I do think it's an interesting point. Obviously we've -- Jessica was reading out some of the statistics of what the 2018 market said. Obviously we saw December was a topsy turvey roller coaster of some sort. Nobody's totally sure that a recession is coming in 2019. I think most people are thinking more like 2020. But the economy has been the underpinning of kind of everything support-wise for the president. What's your sense right now inside the White House of how they're viewing the current economic situation?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": Yes, they are saying that that's their top focus. Normally when you're going into a new year, you're talking about, what's your legislative agenda for the next year? Now, Democrats have the House. They're not talking about, in the White House, what is our legislative agenda. There's very little talk about priority number one, priority number two, priority number three for legislation. They're laying their hats on the economy continuing to be strong and President Trump continuing to put out the message that the economy is strong.

We have seen the economy strong in the past couple of years, in part because the House -- House and Senate Republicans were able to get a tax bill through. It was deficit finance. And a lot of people say that it's a sugar high for the economy. So we'll have to wait and see if the economy slows down in 2019 going into 2020 and the president's re- election. And there are a lot of economists who are looking at what's happening worldwide with the trade war and with the insurgency about the government shutdown and other things happening in Washington and wondering whether or not the growth that we've seen in the past was just a sugar high that's going to slow down and the global slowdown that we've seen in other countries will also impact the United States going into 2020. And that could take one of the president's top cards off the table if the economy's not strong as he heads into his re- election.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's the interesting dynamic of live by the market, die by the market, to some degree, right?



MATTINGLY: It's benefitted them totally throughout the first two years in office. But if it starts to go sideways, I would think that would be pretty problematic for the message.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, I think -- I think it's part of a -- you asked about the 30,000 feet looking down. I mean one of the big things for Trump that he's had -- that he's been able to do pretty successfully over the last two years is to be the one to set the agenda, whether it's with Twitter, whether it's with the Republican majority that he's had in Congress. And the thing that's going to frustrate him increasingly is that he's going to be on the defensive. There are going to be other actors in this drama who are going to be setting the agenda and forcing him to react.

Whether that's Mueller, who has, as well all know, been like incredibly silent for the most part for the last, you know, 15 months. Now Mueller will likely not be silent. He'll be setting that agenda. The president will have to react. The Democratic House will do the same. The economy may force the president to be more responsive and reactive. And that, I think, is going to generate a lot of frustration in the Oval Office because he's just not used to that.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and add everything you guys have said and, oh, by the way, there's already people talking about 2020 and the presidential election.

I want to play what President Trump said last night about Elizabeth Warren, who announced that she was creating an exploratory committee just yesterday. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Elizabeth Warren will be the first. She did very badly in proving that she was of Indian heritage. That didn't work out too well. I think you have more than she does and maybe I do too, and I have nothing. So, you know, we'll see how she does. I wish her well. I hope she does well. I'd love to run against her.

PETE HEGSETH, FOX NEWS: She says she's in the fight all the way, Mr. President. Did you -- do you really think she believes she can win?

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


[12:10:00] MATTINGLY: All right. So, look, that was the most predictable response I think to Elizabeth Warren announcing the exploratory committee. You can imagine.

But, look, Kelsey, you cover Elizabeth Warren on Capitol Hill. What's your sense? Democrats are going to have to figure out how to respond to the president throughout the course of the year. What's your sense specifically on what Senator Warren -- how she might react to things like this?

SNELL: She has been part of this kind of struggle within the Democratic Party about whether or not you just duck and let the president say whatever he's going to say and push ahead with a message that is more about proactive things that the Democratic Party wants to do and this need within the base to push back against the president. I think that there has been a struggle to figure out exactly when the balance is right there.

She, in particular though, has been very, very willing to push back against the president. The risk there, though, is that the president doesn't back down when you push back against him. He just goes harder. And it's very risky to go up against his base and against people who want Democrats to maybe not be the fighters here. So I -- it remains to be seen exactly how she'll play this. But I do think that she is a part of the wing that is more likely to push back against the president, to fight with him, to get a little down and dirty.

MATTINGLY: Yes. it's going to be -- it's going to be a fascinating dynamic to watch for all 387 Democrats that get into the race. But that was nine minutes, we gave you everything you need to know about 2019 and we still have 50 more minutes of show left. So don't go anywhere.

Up next, new details emerge about the American accused of being a spy in Russia. I'll talk live to his twin brother. We'll be right back.


[12:15:25] MATTINGLY: Eleven days and counting for the partial government shutdown. President Trump kicking off the new year with a pre-emptive strike against Democrats' plans to reopen the government on their terms, tweeting, the Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new wall. So imaginative. The problem is, without a wall there can be no real border security.

Now, Democrats take over the House in just two days and they hope to force the GOP's hand by passing their own spending package. In a joint statement, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer warn, quote, if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans refuse to support the first bill, then they are complicit with President Trump in continuing the shutdown. The response from Mitch McConnell's office, quote, it's simple, the Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won't sign. So, everything's great. Everything's doing positively wonderful here.

And I think, look, it's worth -- it's worth remembering, 800,000 federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay right now. There are dozens of agencies that are shut down. There are real implications, real impacts to what's going to happen, not just here in northern Virginia and Maryland and D.C., but around the country as this continues. Well, we're about to see that I think to some degree.

But, first, I want to focus kind of on where this is headed.

Karoun, you're on The Hill with Kelsey and me all the time. What's your sense right now? They're entrenched. What's the pathway out?

DEMIRJIAN: I mean, well, the first question is, will the president and will the GOP agree with this Democrats' plan to try to buy a little time to work out the Department of Homeland Security, which, you know, is the place where the wall money would go, if there is going to be wall money. It's also the place where there's TSA workers and Customs and Border Patrol agents that aren't being paid right now. But --

MATTINGLY: Yes, I want to pull up -- I want to pull up what the Democratic proposal is.

Keep going. I'm going to pull up and show it to you what they're going to try and do.

DEMIRJIAN: Sure. So basically if they -- if they manage to separate out everything else, the rest of the quarter, the federal budget that isn't funded right now, and get that through to the end of the fiscal year and then just live to argue another day about the Homeland Security funding, they buy themselves about a month of negotiation time, in which case this is going to be a free-for-all again. I mean it was not that long ago that we were talking about $25 billion for a wall in exchange for an extensions of the DACA program, or full legalization of the DACA program in order to make sure that you took care of some immigration issues alongside some border security issues, which is the way the Democrats like to do this.

And also -- but whether or not they get that deal to do the short-term extension -- buying a little bit of time to negotiate these wall- related issues and other border immigration issues, we are looking at them at an impasse that's going to be difficult to wiggle out of. Whether the whole government stays shut down for the next few weeks while they do it or they manage to separate everything else out, because whatever they do here is going to set the tone for the negotiations for at least the next two years. The gap right now between where the two sides are, not that big in terms of numbers of single digit billion dollars, which is a drop in the bucket against the backdrop of the entire federal budget, which is trillions, right?


DEMIRJIAN: But -- but you can't give away something for nothing if you're Nancy Pelosi and start off that way in negotiating with Trump. And Trump is not in the mood, really, to be able to take no for an answer. And so that's the situation you've got. And I don't know how that resolves itself. It may hold the entire shutdown budget hostage or it may not, but it's another very, very difficult few weeks of negotiations to actually work this out before we get to an end game.

MATTINGLY: Yes, I'm really interested -- one of the most interesting dynamics, I think, and you saw the Democrats kind of try and push this dynamic forward, which is, what are Senate Republicans going to do? And they've made clear, they're not moving anywhere with anything until the president signs off.

But I was talking to senior Republicans yesterday, and one senior GOP aide told me, in terms of what the president would sign, he said, no idea. We just need to -- we need to let this play out a little bit more. And he wasn't being -- the aide wasn't being snarky.


MATTINGLY: They really aren't totally sure. So I guess that's kind of the question right now is, how do you move forward when nobody's totally sure what the president's on board with, besides his initial $5 billion?

SNELL: Well, part of the reason they're not sure what he's on board with is because they thought he was on board with the spending bill that the Senate unanimously passed before the shutdown even happened and then it got over to the House and the president was getting attacked on TV and he was getting attacked from his very loyal base even inside of the House Republicans and they changed his mind. So when Republicans don't know exactly what the president's going to do, it makes it really hard for them to agree to something in some sort of negotiation.

To go back to what Karoun was saying about, you know, maybe exchanging some sort of broader immigration policy for the wall, you were there at the press conference just a few weeks ago when Nancy Pelosi was directly asked about that and she said, no, flatly, no, that they had moved on from that part of the negotiation. So they're going to have to come up with some new, different terms if they want to move forward.

And I really have a hard time seeing what those terms are because at this point Democrats really feel like they can be the grownups in the room and they'll come back on Thursday, vote to reopen this part of the government and they really are very comfortable making Republicans be in the responsive position.

[12:20:07] MATTINGLY: Yes. It's going to be -- we have to go to break, but I think the five of us could talk about how this could work for the next six or seven hours (ph).


SNELL: Or not work, right?

MATTINGLY: For the better part of the last 11 days.

All right, next, it's Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan's first day on the job and, if you listen to President Trump well, it sounds like he can get comfortable.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a respected man. He could be there for a long time. I mean, I'm in no rush. I will say that I've got everybody -- everybody and his uncle wants to -- wants that position.



[12:25:19] MATTINGLY: We are learning more about the U.S. citizen who's being detained in Russia on spying accusations. Paul Whelan is 48 and lives in Novi, Michigan. He's a former Marine who has done multiple tours in Iraq. His family says he was visiting Russia for a wedding and they couldn't get ahold of him. Shortly after, his family learned that he was detained when they were watching the news.

Now, Russia's news agency says he could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. We are also learning that Whelan has previously spent time in Russia. He was there for two weeks back in 2006 while he was a Marine.

And joining me now is Paul's twin brother, David Whelan.

And, David, I want to say thanks for joining us. I know this can't be an easy time.

I want to start with, look, I know there's been limited information thus far, but you guys have been reaching out to U.S. government officials. What, if anything, have they told you at this early stage?


We've heard back regularly from the embassy staff and essentially they've been updating us that there isn't anything to update. We spoke to them yesterday. We heard about the detention on the Internet over news wires. And so we contacted State and we contacted the embassy and they've been keeping us up to date. And there's just a blackout period until anyone can give him counselor (ph) services.

MATTINGLY: And that blackout period, if I understand it correctly, is about 72 hours. Do you have any idea what happens once that mark is hit or what you'll be able to find out?

WHELAN: Well, my understanding is that the 72 hours is a period that, once it's told, the embassy will be able to get access to Paul and we'll be able to confirm what his status is, whether he's healthy, what happened during his arrest. He'll be able to speak to counselor (ph) officials about his status essentially and then they'll be able to give him some of the information that he'll need to select a lawyer, for example, to try to respond to the allegations that the Russian government has said. MATTINGLY: And along those lines, do you have a sense -- I can't

imagine this coming to someone's plate what you would -- the first step you would take, but in terms of hiring a lawyer, in terms of bringing somebody on to help with this besides the U.S. government, are you in the middle of that process right now or have you been walked through what needs to happen?

WHELAN: Well, we've tried to do an assessment, but the reality is that you can't assess lawyers on the ground in Moscow from -- I'm in Canada and my family's in the states. There's just really no way for us to know who's competent and who can provide the representation that he needs. So we are working on that. And we are going to rely on the embassy's list of recommended lawyers. Hopefully that will get us started.

But I think, as important is to hit the congressional representatives, the senators from Michigan, the representative from Paul's district in Michigan, and whoever else we can in the American government to try and help get Paul out of the situation regardless of whatever legal jeopardy he's in in Moscow.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and if past is any indication, those representatives will certainly be engaged very quickly if they -- if they aren't already.

I was wondering if you could share just some background about your brother. Obviously he was a Marine, served tours in Iraq, had been to Russia several times is my understanding, kind of -- how would you best describe him?

WHELAN: Paul's a kind soul. He's very generous. He's notorious among my kids for his huge belly laugh and he often has stories that make you eye roll. So he's just -- he's that sort of a personality. He's very loyal to family and friends. And I think that that -- that's partly how this worked out. He had a request from a friend and he thought he could help out because he had been to Russia and could maybe help -- help other Americans from the family who hadn't been to Russia to, you know, navigate their way around, get on the metro, that sort of thing. But he's a very kind person.

MATTINGLY: And I know the family's addressed that, but just for you to say, I suppose, the allegations made by the Russian government, they don't ring true in any way to you at this point?

WHELAN: They don't. Paul's a very capable person. He's physically a large person. So, I mean, he -- he has a background in law enforcement. He was a Marine. He does corporate security. And he travels regularly. So he's not the sort of person who would stumbles into a strange environment or make poor choices that could cause him risks. But particularly he wouldn't have made choices that would have gotten him sideways of the Russian government and it's Espionage Act.

[12:29:53] MATTINGLY: Yes, and that's a -- my last question for you, and thanks again for your time, but given his past, given his work in corporate security, he's keenly aware of risk mitigation. I've read some of the stuff that he'd written for the firms he worked for. Was there any mention at all, particularly given the current tension between the United States and Russia.