Return to Transcripts main page
Pelosi Won Speakership; Democrats Takes Control of the House. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired January 3, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
What a day. Our breaking news just moments ago on day 13 of the shutdown, the House passed a package of bills that would end the shutdown but without money for the president's wall. President Trump tonight promising a veto, though.
While Speaker Pelosi makes it really clear that she is not going to budge on the wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt that we are not doing a wall?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So here we are. On the very first day of the new Congress. Nancy Pelosi, President Trump going toe to toe. Remember way back in December, just three weeks ago, when the president said this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So much for proud. So much for blaming the Democrats. Now it's all veto threats for this president with day 14 of the shutdown just hours away. So much for not blaming the Democrats I should say.
But as of today, it's a whole new world. A world where President Trump doesn't control Congress. A world where he can't rely on his own party to push through his agenda. A world where he can't bully Congress into giving him exactly what he wants because when Nancy Pelosi retook the gavel today, when Democrats took control of the House, they ushered in the most diverse Congress in history.
The pictures, these right here, tell the story. Look at that. The old guard, mostly men in dark suits, on one side. And on the other side diversity on display. People of color. Women and men. LGBT people. Old and young. This is what America looks like. And here's another picture that shows you the diversity of this new
Congress. OK? Take a look at this. An array of holy books for swearing -- for the swearing in of the new members. Like I said, it's a whole new world right now.
And looming on the horizon a lot of dark clouds for President Trump. Speaker Pelosi refusing to rule out the possibility of impeachment or indictment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: We shouldn't be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn't avoid impeachment for a political reason. So, we just have to see how it comes --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could Robert Mueller come back and say I'm seeking an indictment.
PELOSI: I think that that is an open discussion. I think that is an open discussion in terms of the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Open discussion. Remember, there are no fewer than 17 investigations of just about every aspect of this president's life. From his campaign to his administration to his allies to his businesses.
And it's no coincidence that top Democrats on the judiciary committee introduced a bill today to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by President Trump. That as the same committee is trying to get acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to answer their questions about protecting Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying to get a date. We'll see what happens.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Will you send a subpoena to him if he doesn't --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And then there's a question of the president's tax returns. Senate finance committee ranking member Ron Wyden introducing a bill today requiring the president to make his returns public. Which he obviously won't do without a fight.
But here's something else that may have this president spooked. The thing he is counting on to be the force field around his presidency. Wall Street. Look at those numbers. The Dow took another nose dive today, falling 660 points, its biggest percentage drop since 2013. That's after a roller coaster December, its worst since the Great Depression.
On just the second trading day of the month President Trump tweeted that he is a tariff man. Seeming to completely misunderstand the fact that a tariff is a tax on imports. One that raises prices for, you guessed it, consumers.
And the Dow dropped nearly 800 points. On Christmas Eve the president tweeted an attack on the Fed and the Dow lost 653 points. The biggest Christmas Eve decline in history.
[22:04:55] So Yes, the market looks like it's no longer the bright spot it used to be for this president. All of this with no end in sight to the shutdown. As the president seems to be willing to stake everything on his wall. A wall to keep immigrants out. But there's another president who might have seen all of this very differently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Let us remember what President Reagan said. In his last speech as president of the United States he said --
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.
PELOSI: Ronald Reagan.
PELOSI: You applaud for Ronald Reagan?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That's a fair question. Every American should applaud President Reagan's words. He stood up for the values that truly make America great. Values like welcoming people from around the world to be part of the American dream. And this president resorting to stunts like this.
A suddenly announced press briefing that in the real world was nothing more than the sad president trying to take back the spotlight from Nancy Pelosi and the new Congress. Come on.
Contrast President Reagan's wise words with this president's empty threats, random tweets, and memes. But you know what? It's going to take a lot more than memes and stunts are not going to cut it.
This president has the bully pulpit. Nancy Pelosi has the gavel. America's waiting to see who gets the last word.
Manu Raju is live for us now on Capitol Hill. Manu, good evening to you. The president has vowed to veto tonight's Democratic-led House spending bills. Explain to us what's going on. What happens next?
RAJU: Yes, two bills passed the House that would reopen roughly a quarter of the government that has been shuttered since right before Christmas amid the standoff over billions of dollars that the president is demanding to fund the wall along the southern border with Mexico.
The first bill passed by 239 to 150 -- 192 votes. Five Republicans joining with all the Democrats who were present in pushing it through. That bill would keep -- reopen the Department of Homeland Security until February 8th. And that bill would punt also on the issue of the border wall money.
That sounds familiar, Don, because that was passed by the Senate, the Republican-led Senate right before Christmas almost unanimously, by a voice vote. Because at the time the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thought the president was going to sign that into law. But the president changed his mind. He said he wasn't going to sign it anymore. And now we are in the place we are in right now.
But there are also a number of other federal agencies affected by the shutdown and the House passed a separate bill funding the rest of those agencies for the rest of this fiscal year and that passed by 241 to 190 votes. Seven Republicans joined with Democrats in pushing that through.
So now the question is what happens next? Because Mitch McConnell is making it very clear he's not going to put a bill on the floor that the president opposes. So, tomorrow the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leaders in the Senate, along with the Republican leaders will meet with the president at the White House to see what they can come up with. But pessimism is running very, very high that they can come up with any solution.
Tonight, Mike Pence said there's going to be no deal without a wall and Nancy Pelosi at a press conference said very clear, we're not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt that we're not doing a wall?
And when I pressed her, I said does that mean you're not going to do one dollar for the wall? She said jokingly yes, yes, I'll do one dollar. And I said well, how much are you willing to do? And she said the fact is the wall is an immorality.
So, she is digging in. The president is digging in over the central issue of the president's campaign. And it's unclear where this is going to go, and people believe this is going to end up being shut down, a good portion of the government, roughly 800,000 workers affected, for weeks on end, Don.
LEMON: You're right. You said it. There's no deal without a wall and there's no deal with a wall. So, there is no deal. Manu Raju, thank you very much. Buckle in, my brother.
RAJU: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: All right. Lots to talk about with Julie Hirschfeld Davis, April Ryan and Rick Wilson. We're going to dig into it next.
[22:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Democrats now firmly in charge in the House as a new Congress is sworn in. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats voting tonight to reopen the government, but President Trump digging in his heels, demanding billions of dollars for a border wall. So, who's going to blink first?
Let's bring in now Julie Hirschfeld Davis, April Ryan who's the author of "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House." And Rick Wilson the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies." Good evening, everyone. Good to see you.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Hello, Don.
LEMON: Can you believe this day? My gosh.
April, before we get into any of this, were you there when the fake briefing -- or did you -- because not everybody sits around waiting for a briefing. The free thing.
APRIL RYAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, actually I -- yes, I left. I left to go to CNN to be on earlier. And all of a sudden, I'm sitting waiting to go on with Wolf and they said -- I said when was it called? And I knew, I knew, I said for them to hurry up and pull something together like that, I said the president's coming out.
RYAN: And I knew in my spirit that he was coming out.
RYAN: And sure enough he came -- she opened the door, he didn't come out, and then ultimately he came out a few seconds later.
RYAN: And it -- the interesting piece is it was meant to upstage Nancy Pelosi --
LEMON: Of course.
RYAN: -- but it was also to answer the reports that were on CNN -- remember those reports this week that have been on CNN that the president has not made it in the briefing room at all in two years?
RYAN: So, he hit two birds with one stone. But more so to upstage Nancy Pelosi. LEMON: As soon as I heard it, I said stunt, stunt, stunt. It's going
to be exactly like the President Obama was not born in this country birther thing. And I was completely right, Rick. There it was.
WILSON: Absolutely. And look, he was -- he knew that this was the moment where Congress, you know, got Pelosified and changed in terms of what the fundamental chemistry down the street was going to be for the rest of his term.
And he wanted to do anything he could as a reality TV star to go in and step on the message she was putting out and the theme that they were trying to push forward today.
And you know, look, today's a day of big symbolism. And Donald Trump's symbolism was I am a petty child and I'm going to go out and stomp my feet and complain about my wall not being funded. I think right now the impasse -- the Trump people don't understand the depth of the problem they've got right now.
[22:15:06] LEMON: Julie, I think we can cue the Disney song "It's a Whole New World" for President Trump with Speaker Pelosi reclaiming the gavel today. I mean, the question is President Trump and the White House at large, are they ready for this new reality?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think part of what you saw today, this afternoon, and this evening was that no, they're not.
I mean, the president I think really did not like having the spotlight elsewhere and all the attention of the voters and the public and really the world today on the House of Representatives where you had Democrats taking control, Nancy Pelosi once again being the first woman speaker, all sorts of focus on the diverse and young and energetic new majority that is really united around one thing, which is opposing his agenda and doing something different and having a different sort of tone and a whole different approach of Congress.
This is no longer going to be a Congress that exists to sort of protect him and endorse what he does. That will still be the case in the Senate probably. But it's not the case anymore in the House.
And so, I think part of what we're seeing is that he is in real time and his team is adjusting to this new reality and how are they going to deal with what that means, both substantively and also symbolically?
DAVIS: And I think in fact symbolically is actually probably harder for him to deal with it on that score than with the actual substance of it. But that will be difficult too.
LEMON: So, I call it, April, as I said, a free thing because it's a fake briefing, right. The president had a briefing today but Speaker Pelosi held a real press --
RYAN: It wasn't even a briefing.
LEMON: I know. It was a political thing. With union members who had supported him.
LEMON: Yes, Yes, Yes. I think everybody gets what happened. And hopefully the media won't be suckers again and just we'll monitor next time and then go to it afterwards if any news comes out or if he starts to take questions.
RYAN: It was bad.
LEMON: So, Nancy Pelosi held a real press conference today. She took this question from Manu Raju. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Is there a situation in which you would accept even a dollar of wall funding for this president in order to reopen the government?
PELOSI: A dollar? One dollar? Yes, one dollar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: She was joking obviously. But she's, you know, willing to give the president exactly one dollar towards this wall. Let's get real here. She said in so many words that she's not budging. Now that Speaker Pelosi is in charge, doesn't the president have a lot less leverage in this budget slowdown -- or showdown, I should say?
RYAN: Well, he doesn't have leverage, but he's going to fight every way he can to try to smear Nancy Pelosi as well as Chuck Schumer. And it's interesting Nancy Pelosi saying Chuck Schumer is on the same page. I talked to Chuck Schumer in an exclusive interview today, and he's basically saying look, you have this issue with the C.R., you have the issue with the wall, they're two totally separate things, let's open this government.
And one thing people are forgetting, it's about people. You know, so many -- hundreds of thousands of people are being affected even more than that, beyond the federal workers. And you have people who are saying look, I don't have money to do this, I don't have money to do that with this next check.
So, that's the issue. We're day 13 today with this government shutdown. And in 2013 we were -- we went 13 days. And those 13 days, the GDP was negatively impacted. Chuck Schumer says the economy is going to get worse. This thing is bigger than just them standing there and seeing who's going to blink. This thing is about people, humanity. Humanity. People who need their checks. It's two totally separate issues.
Rick, more of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: This is not a wall between Mexico and the United States that the president is creating here. It's a wall between reality and his constituents. His supporters. He does not want them to know how he is hurting them. So, he heaps the subject on the wall. He's a master of diversion. We're trying to open up government. We're giving a mature path to do so, not in our language but in the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, is she right, Rick, about the president's motives here.
LEMON: This wall is just to keep his base's attention of everything else.
WILSON: Of course. But Don, the wall has always been a con for Donald Trump's credulous rube 10-tooth base. The wall has always been a scam. It has always been a lie. Nothing about the wall has ever been real. And Donald Trump knows it.
He is a guy who has a long history in his career as being a con man. He is conning these people who believe he's going to build a 2,000- mile, 30-foot-high concrete wall with laser moats and alligators in it. It's just crazy. It always has been.
[22:20:02] And yet they suspend their disbelief because they believe so strongly in Donald Trump. And this is -- like I said, it's always been a con. It's always been a scam. It's an insult to their intelligence. But obviously, it seems to work with his base because they believe it over and over again, that nothing will stop the brown horde except the wall.
LEMON: Yes. Well, and the whole game of thrones thing. The wall didn't work in "Game of Thrones." Shouldn't he know that?
WILSON: Walls don't.
RYAN: But the impaling spikes.
RYAN: With the impaling spikes.
LEMON: It's interesting because it's gone from a big concrete wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for with a big beautiful door in it to, I guess fencing, to slats, to spikes on top, to whatever you want to call it. And the supporters will say OK --
WILSON: It's going to end with the --
LEMON: Go on.
WILSON: Don, it's going to end with being the freedom ditch.
LEMON: All right. Julie, so the House voted to reopen the government. The White House issued a veto threat. How much pressure will there be on the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring a clean bill to the Senate floor, the same bill that senators passed last month?
DAVIS: Well, I think there will be some pressure and we'll see how long it takes for that to mount enough that it affects Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell is pretty impervious to pressure when he wants to be. And I think in this situation, particularly at the beginning of the divided Congress, he wants to show that this is going to be his stance.
That if he thinks there is legislation or a policy issue where the president is not going to be on board he's not going to break with his own president or deliver legislation or put the Senate in the position to deliver legislation, that he would then have to make a tricky political choice whether to veto or not.
But he does have members in his own conference who are facing re- election in 2020. Cory Gardner, Susan Collins. People who want to vote to reopen the government. You saw a few Republican defections in the House on the vote tonight. Similar situation, where these are people who don't like the idea of voting to keep the government closed for a border wall.
So, I think the pressure is going to mount and the question is going to be what is accomplished at this meeting at the White House tomorrow with President Trump and Democrats and whether Republicans can figure out an effective enough counter to sort of release some of that pressure valve so that they don't have to bring up with Democrats a pass because they certainly don't want to.
LEMON: Before I let you go, Rick, I just want to get your reaction about this bit of new reporting.
LEMON: During yesterday's White House meeting with Congressional leaders President Trump handed Schumer a, quote, "great letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and asked Schumer to read it." What do you even say to that?
WILSON: What do you even say to that? Trump is a con man being played by a con man. You know, Kim Jong-un understood that Trump's ego was the path to success, and so he played him like a rube for two years. They have continued everything they've wanted to do regardless in their nuclear program and their ICBM program. And Donald Trump has been sold or have been bought off by a couple of
fancy letters with wax seals and ribbons on them. And so, if I was Schumer, I would have looked at it and laughed and said, you know, get a grip, pal.
LEMON: All right. Thank you all. April, great job today with getting all those questions answered at that briefing.
RYAN: You're funny.
LEMON: Good night, everyone. Thank you. You know, it's the year of the woman on Capitol Hill and we've got two millennial congresswomen who were sworn in today. They'll join me next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Thirty-six women among the freshman class sworn in today in the House. Congresswoman Haley Stevens is a Michigan Democrat, and Congresswoman Katie Hill is a Democrat from California. And they join me now. Congratulations.
REP. KATIE HILL, (D) CALIFORNIA: Thank you.
REP. HALEY STEVENS, (D) MICHIGAN: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: What a day. What a day. How's it been?
HILL: Really exciting. We're thrilled to be here. It's a lot of work ahead of us, but we're ready to do it.
LEMON: Yes. So, I'm -- go on, Congresswoman. Do you want to say anything?
STEVENS: I was going to say it's been a jam-packed day but the American public is counting on us. Our sleeves are rolled up and we're ready to get the job done.
LEMON: OK. So, I'm going to stick with you, Congresswoman Stevens. You're no longer a Democratic candidate. You're now -- you're no longer a Congresswoman-elect. You're now a United States Congresswoman. You both -- both of you flipped districts. You're part of a big blue wave. Democrats gained 40 seats. What made today so special for you?
STEVENS: It was incredible having so many supporters and visitors in from Michigan's 11th district. We had people from Canton, Livonia, Commerce, every which way in a district that hasn't had a Democrat since before we landed on the moon.
I am Michigan's first millennial representative, and I am so thrilled. I'm excited to be here. And I'm honored to be serving Michigan's 11th district.
LEMON: Yes. It's nice to see the youth and energy. I mean, I have to be honest. We put up pictures earlier, Congresswoman Hill, of the old guard, which was mostly men in dark suits, and then the new guard, diverse, women, young people, LGBT people, and on and on. So, I won't give your exact age because I know you're not supposed to ask a lady her age.
HILL: It's OK. I don't mind.
LEMON: So, you're in very early 30s --
HILL: I'm 31.
LEMON: Congresswoman Stevens as well. You're both millennials. It's the most diverse House in U.S. history. More women than ever. So, what do you -- how does it feel to be part of -- this is history-making.
HILL: It really is. I mean, I think what you can feel more than anything else right now is that we are making history. We're on the verge of true change. We are the people's house. We're full of the people at this point. We've got, you know -- we've changed the age of Congress. The average age is reduced by 10 years because of all of us.
We've gotten historic numbers of women elected. The most diverse Congress in history. And it's just the beginning. It means that as long as we continue to show up and vote we're going to continue to move in this direction.
LEMON: Yes. You have to admit, you must admit that this is a really interesting time to be entering Congress, with the shutdown and this fight over the wall, a standoff with a woman speaker and the president of the United States, one of his biggest nemeses.
STEVENS: Well, this is America in 2019. And make no mistake about it, Don, the House today voted to reopen the government. We as Democrats care emphatically about border security. That is in our budget.
[22:30:01] STEVENS: We want to make the government work for the American people. We're here to restore the faith, the trust in government. That's what we were voted in on. We're the change makers. It's an energizing moment. We are bringing that energy into do it differently.
REP. KATIE HILL (D), TEXAS: And we're doing our part, right? We have put forth what we can from the House. And what it means is that it's in the Republicans' hands. It's in Donald Trump's hands. And he's got to dot right thing.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Let's talk about the Speaker, because my colleague, Dana Bash, interviewed Speaker Pelosi recently. And I just want to play this exchange about her leadership. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: None of us is indispensable. But some of us are just better at our jobs than others and I have a following in the country, apart from anybody who has run for President.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: For most women, frankly, you know, myself included, it is hard to say those words. I am equally qualified. I deserve this. I earned this. I can do this better than anyone else. But you can say that.
PELOSI: You know why I do it, Dana? I do it for -- because I want women to see that you do not get pushed around, that you don't run away from the fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Congresswoman Stevens, there were 15 Democrats who opposed Pelosi's bid for Speaker. She's still the only female Speaker in U.S. history and the first person in more than six decades to return to the Speakership. Why is she the best person to go toe to toe with President Trump?
STEVENS: The American public is sick and tired of the chaos and confusion coming out of our government. We have a new majority. We have elected new leaders. And it is time to start making this place work for people again. We are sick and tired of the dysfunction. And that's what this leadership vote meant today.
That is what the 220 votes meant, that we are ready to get to work and we are serious about it.
LEMON: Congresswoman Hill, you were selected to be part of the House Majority Leadership. Talk to me about that. And what are your legislative priorities and goals working with Speaker Pelosi?
HILL: I think it's really exciting that not only myself but Joe Neguse, my colleague, were elected to be part of leadership. And it's a huge deal to have two freshmen be on the leadership team. It means that we literally have a seat at table and leadership is listening to us.
They're not only just letting us be there in a corner of the room, but they're actively seeking our input and wanting to make sure that our freshman class is buying into what we're doing, and really understands the process, and has the ability to put influence into the decisions that are being made.
So, you know, what are our priorities? Our priorities, you know, first right now has to be reopening the government and doing what we're here to do, which is to serve the people. But after that, we also have to be proactive. We just can't continue to react to Donald Trump. We have to set our own agenda. We've been very clear, and this is what we ran on, which is that we're going to, you know, fight for the middle class.
We're going to work on making a government that truly works for people, that is accountable to regular voters, not to big corporations and special interests, and that is, you know, going to reduce the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs. And so, each of those pieces is going to have legislation that's introduced very quickly so that we can show the American people who voted for us that this is what we're fighting for.
And ultimately, we lay the groundwork here. We pass what we can. And it's up to the Senate and it's up to the President to sign those things. And if they don't, then it's up to the American people to make sure that we elect the right people in 2020 to continue to carry forward that mission.
LEMON: Congresswoman Stevens, I am going to ask you -- we in the media, we like to ask the same questions, different ways. So I am going to ask you a question, a similar question but differently. You know, I bet you didn't think that Democrats would be taking over in the middle of a shutdown.
So my question, the new part of the question, is what's the compromise? What amount of money are you willing to give the President for border security?
STEVENS: Well, we're absolutely not going to build the wall, and that's not negotiable. That is not something that we're ever going to cave on. That is not something that the American people want. What we need to do is we need to stop at the American taxpayer expense the dysfunction in our government. A shutdown is egregious. It should never happen.
I remember the first shutdown in 2013. These are real people's lives that are being put on hold. These are civil servants who work for us, who work on behalf of our country, and frankly, keep us safe. And so in order to strike a deal, we sent a package through. We're obviously negotiating in the Oval Office.
And Katie's right. It is also time to address the issues like prescription drugs and infrastructure and public education. These are issues that I heard in my district that voted for Donald Trump, that voted for Mitt Romney, voted for Haley Stevens, because I campaigned on an economic message focused on manufacturing. Now, as a member of Congress, I am here to deliver on that message.
LEMON: Congresswoman Haley Stevens, Congresswoman Katie Hill, thank you both so much. I appreciate your energy and your smarts, and please come back anytime. Thank you. Good luck.
HILL: Thanks so much for having us.
[22:35:03] LEMON: Absolutely. Speaker Pelosi isn't ruling out impeachment proceedings against President Trump with Democrats in power in the House. How worried should the President be? John Dean, you know who he is, from Watergate.
LEMON: A new democratic majority taking control of the House today and already going toe to toe with the President. Where does the Trump presidency go from here? Let's discuss with John Dean. John, I guess I think you have a crystal ball when I ask that question. But you do have a lot of experience. Good evening to you.
Democrats hold the power to investigate the President, his administration. Are we in a new chapter in the Trump presidency?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We certainly are. He's not used to having any oversight whatsoever. To the contrary, both the House and the Senate for the last two years of his presidency have really done nothing but run interference for him, tried to block investigations, tried to paint the picture that will protect him and give him a light to do things he really shouldn't have.
LEMON: So in addition to serving as Nixon's White House Counsel, you also served as the Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. What kind of oversight power do they have?
[22:39:56] DEAN: They have a lot. That was my first job in government. Working -- I have great affection for the House, Don. At the time I went there, my first assignment was some cleanup for the 64 Civil Rights Bill. We did the 65 Voting Rights Act, the 25th Amendment. That's when the Congress actually worked, and it was very effective.
So I know the body can work. And I have, as a Republican, watched the Republicans absolutely destroy the government processes. So what's going to happen with the Democrats taking over is they are actually going to start digging into the departments and agencies, where there has been lots of malfeasance, nonfeasance, and misfeasance that really need to be -- the previous (ph) light of publicity is what needs to be shone on this administration because Trump has really created a new swamp.
LEMON: I wonder what the reaction is going to be. Is it going to be more digging in from this President, more misstatements, and from his supporters and from the conservative media?
DEAN: I think you can take what he's done with the Mueller probe and multiply it by about seven or eight, because that's how many committees will be after him. And he's not used to that kind of attacks.
Now, there's something of a myth about subpoena power. There really are not a lot of remedies when a President who has the deep pockets of the Department of Justice starts fighting subpoenas.
People outside the government, they're very vulnerable to subpoenas and generally have to comply. But a government official, a department head, an assistant secretary, a White House aide, they can -- they can really put off subpoenas for a long time.
LEMON: The Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, says that he is preparing for a vote to hand over committee transcripts to Mueller. Give me -- what's the significance of this? DEAN: Well, Mueller needs the originals of all transcripts, and he apparently hasn't even seen all transcripts. We know earlier he was given the Michael Cohen transcript. But he needs these for purposes of presenting the raw evidence to the grand jury.
And he also wants to look, I would think, at people who have been in front of that committee who may or may not have always been truthful. It will give him added leverage and could open up some other avenues for his investigation.
LEMON: Not only do they have subpoena power, House Democrats potentially have the numbers to impeach the President. There's a piece in the LA Times titled 2019, Will the Worst Year of Trump's Life, and it says this -- Will it be the Worst Year of Trump's life? -- and it says this. Some Presidents have really bad years.
For Nixon, it was 1974, the Watergate year, which ended with his resignation. For Clinton, it was 1998, the Monica year, which culminated with an impeachment trial in the Senate in 1999. He won that vote easily and came out more popular than before. It's a good guess that Donald Trump's really bad year will be 2019.
So what do you think? Is 2019 going to be the 1974 or, I don't know, maybe it will look like 1998?
DEAN: It has that potential. When Trump came into the press room today at the White House and gave a nice little nod to Nancy. I thought -- I flashed on the fact here's a man who really has no philosophy. He has no loyalty. He's a total opportunist. He could jump on the Democrats' bandwagon and try to do things with them and actually get something accomplished.
Whether he'll do that or not, I don't know, but he could try to actually broaden his base and play President. I don't know if he's keen enough to do that.
LEMON: You're so smart, John Dean. And the reason I say you're so smart is because I thought the same thing. I said maybe his best option, instead of appealing to such a small group, the rabid supporters, would be to work with the Democrats. And then he has a much larger tent. He has maybe a better chance of being reelected and gaining some new supporters.
I don't know. Because the old supporters will just stick by him and say hey, listen, he was doing what he had to do. And he doesn't really -- you know what I am saying, right?
DEAN: Yep. You and I were thinking very similarly.
LEMON: Yeah. Because all we have to do is spin it to them and they would believe it, yeah.
DEAN: We'll maybe play this back in a year and see what it looks like.
LEMON: Quickly, before I let you go. I just want you to listen to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she was asked about impeachment this morning. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many Democrats are talking about impeachment. You've said it would be sad and divisive for the country --
PELOSI: It would be.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to pursue impeachment. Are you willing to rule it out?
PELOSI: Well, we have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report. We shouldn't be impeaching for a political reason. And we shouldn't avoid impeachment for a political reason. So we just have to see how it comes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:44:59] LEMON: But any of the many investigations against President Trump we're talking not just the Mueller investigation but the Trump Foundation, the emoluments case, the SDNY case against Michael Cohen. Any of them could reveal high crimes and misdemeanors. What happens if something explosive comes out?
DEAN: It could happen, Don. With the Nixon's case, it was the explosion or the implosion of his actions in firing the special prosecutor. With Clinton, his impeachment really was a calculated, political move that backfired by the Republicans. They tried to build a case. Ken Starr came up in an unprecedented manner, as an independent counsel, and tried to sell the committee on an impeachable obstruction of justice and failed in the Senate.
It was an embarrassment. A lot of people lost their jobs. And the Republicans got wiped out as a result of it. So I think that was the lasting lesson, is you have to be very careful. With Nixon, they proceeded very carefully but never actually got to an impeachment vote. He resigned before that happened.
LEMON: John Dean, always a pleasure. Thank you, Sir.
DEAN: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Trump administration scouting locations for a second summit with Kim Jong-Un. Are talks with North Korea basically back to square one?
[22:50:07] LEMON: Just hours after Democrats officially took control of the House, they passed a package of bills that would end the shut down, but without money for the border wall. President promised to veto, of course. Joining me now to discuss is James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence. Director, thank you so much for joining us. Good evening to you.
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks, Don. Thanks for having me.
LEMON: Yeah, absolutely. You've been on many times. You've expressed a lot of concern about the behavior of this President, the impact -- his impact on this country. Do you think the Democratic Congress will provide a much needed check of this President or do you think that idea is overrated?
CLAPPER: Well, they could. I just hope the Democrats help manage their oversight and not just throw everything on the wall and hope something sticks, but pick some priorities, some things that should be done on a priority basis by, you know, the key oversight committees.
And to think through -- and it would be useful on the part of the Democrats if they coordinated between and among themselves so they de- conflict. And so I think, yes, the potential is there, but I think it's very important that it'd be managed.
LEMON: Don't overplay your hand.
LEMON: Yeah. Sources tell CNN President Trump received another letter from Kim Jong-Un, which he reportedly tossed to Senator Chuck Schumer at that meeting yesterday. The last time Trump got a letter from Kim, he said this. Watch, here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I did it, and I was really being tough and so was he, we would go back and forth and then we fell in love, OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters, and they're great letters. We fell in love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I don't know why that song a Fine Romance popped into my head, but anyways --
LEMON: I am showing my age now. Is the President confusing nice letters with concrete steps towards denuclearization?
CLAPPER: Well, of course. I mean, Kim Jong-Un, he is playing President Trump like a fiddle right now. And in the meantime, what Kim Jong-Un is doing is de facto, he is a nuclear state. North Korea is a nuclear state. And every day that that de facto situation continues, he's getting closer and closer to being the jury (ph), which is what he wants.
And the North Koreans are not going to denuclearize. And his New Year's Day address, you know, he laid out some pretty stiff conditions before they'll consider denuclearizing. So the approach we're taking, you know, not going to work, and you know, if they have another summit, that's great. But Kim Jong-Un is not term limited and he's got about 40 years of youth. LEMON: But there could be another summit, because sources are telling CNN that the Trump administration is scouting locations for a second one, a second summit with him. Do you see any reason to hold another summit at this point?
CLAPPER: Well, I really don't, unless it's a do-over. You know, I wish that President Trump had asked Kim Jong-Un, because, you know, first chance we've had in the history of the Kim family in decades where we could hear from the horse's mouth what exactly is it that you need so that you don't need to rely on nuclear weapons for your security.
And, you know, that's where to me the discussion ought to start, with the North Koreans. So I don't know how you map out a negotiating strategy. We don't really know that. And it might be very interesting and instructive to hear what the response would be. So maybe this will be a do-over and they'll get a chance to do that, and also agree on what denuclearization means.
And as we're hearing, and as I've said before on your show, for the North Koreans, denuclearization is a two-way street. You know, it applies to us in their mind, not just to them.
LEMON: Yeah. I just -- a letter, Dear Dr. President, at long last, so listen -- the President had some bewildering comments about Russian history yesterday. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Russia is there. Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia. Because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is it was a tough fight. And literally, they went bankrupt. They went into being called Russia again as opposed to the Soviet Union.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:54:59] LEMON: Did that make any sense to you? Was any of that factual, seriously?
CLAPPER: Well, some of it was kind of semi-factual. The business about -- I mean, I will give him, you know, the confusion that many people have about Russia versus the Soviet Union. Well, Russia is a shadow of what the Soviet Union was, and you know, about half the population. So there's a big difference between Russia and the Soviet Union and all the other Soviet republics.
The Russians were in Afghanistan not because of terrorism, but because they just wanted to dominate Afghanistan. That's what it was about. And for them -- for him to say that it was entirely appropriate for them to be there is incredible, in light of the fact that we were helping the mujahideen (ph) who later morphed into the Taliban to get rid of the Russians. So it's an interesting interpretation of history. I will put it that way. LEMON: That is a very generous response. Thank you so much, Director. I appreciate your time.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: It's a new day in Washington, the Democratic majority in the House and President Trump already wrangling for control. Who will come out on top?
LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I am Don Lemon. And this is the first night of a new era in Washington. But there is still no end in sight for the partial government shutdown.