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Government Shutdown Effect; Federal Worker Discusses Furlough Impact; Trump Claims he Fired Mattis; Harris Asks for Certification; China Lands on Moon. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 3, 2019 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Could delay your tax refund. Over at Commerce, there's the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Census Bureau. They provide critical reports on the economy, how's it going. Who we're trading with, what are the investment flows. In the middle of a trade war, we are losing those updates.

USDA is shutdown. Its important analysis on, you know, crop production, prices and sales. That goes dark in the middle of, again, a trade war that affects American agriculture.

Now, also at USDA, food stamps will be funded. There are still meat inspections for public safety. That's still happening. But the Federal Trade Commission is shuttered. Consumers can't file complaints. They can't register for the Do Not Call List. They can't get help with identity theft.

The Labor Department is funded through September. So the jobs report will be compiled and released as scheduled tomorrow. Also, no changes to passports for now. Those are paid for with fees. So passport offices remain open.

You know, I was just in Boston last weekend and you couldn't go to the JFK Presidential Library because --

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You couldn't take the boys.

ROMANS: Couldn't go there because that was -- that -- it partners with the National Archives. But you could go to the USS Constitution because that is the Navy and the Navy is funded. So you couldn't go to the -- you know, you couldn't go to the visitor's center, but you could go to the --

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: So you really have to just pick and choose.


ROMANS: And that's tourism. I mean you can -- you can delay a trip, right?

HARLOW: Totally.

ROMANS: But you can't delay a mortgage --


ROMANS: Or medical bills.


ROMANS: And that's what's the real worry for the furloughed workers.

HARLOW: Or your rent.

ROMANS: Right.

HARLOW: And they shouldn't have to be sending letters to their landlords saying here's why I can't pay, right?

ROMANS: This is --

HARLOW: The government should work.

ROMANS: Well, yes, that's right.

HARLOW: Yes. Thank you.

ROMANS: In the biggest economy in the world.

HARLOW: Yes. There you go.

Let's bring in Rebecca Maclean from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She works for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She's also one of the nearly 400,000 people currently on furlough as a result of this shutdown.

Rebecca, thank you for being with me. Good morning.


HARLOW: This is your third shutdown. You're an American citizen whose government should work.

MACLEAN: Absolutely.

HARLOW: What do you say to the people who are in charge of making it work?

MACLEAN: I missed -- can you repeat the question?

HARLOW: I was just -- of course. I was saying, what is your message to Congress and to the president, the people who should keep the government up and running and funded?

MACLEAN: Well, I'm really hopeful that something will happen in Congress today with the new House coming in. And I -- all of our federal employees really would like to get back to work. Like you said, I'm one of the employees that's furloughed, so I'm sitting at home, and that's not really what I want to be doing. I want to be helping the American people with safe, affordable housing, which is what HUD's mission is.

HARLOW: Tell me how it's affected your life directly. The conversations you're having with your husband. How this -- what this means to you personally.

MACLEAN: Sure. Well, we've been shut down since right before Christmas. And so over Christmas break my husband and I took some time to really go through our budget with a fine tooth comb and figure out which bills we needed to prioritize, which ones might be able to be delayed a little bit.

You know, we do have some savings, and my husband does work, so we are not as bad off as some other federal employees, but if this drags on for a while, you know, we'll be hurting. And that's -- that's not -- that's not fair.

HARLOW: And we did hear the president say yesterday this could drag on for a while.

MACLEAN: I did hear that, and that -- that doesn't bode well.

HARLOW: So politics and partisan bickering aside, I'm interested in what your message is to both the president, who wants the $5 billion in wall funding, and to Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, who this morning said, no, not a dollar, you know, for the wall.

What's your message to both of them?

MACLEAN: Well, I think at this point it's not fair to put 800,000 employees' lives and livelihoods on the balance. You know we've heard stories about people saying, oh, well, we should have enough savings or we'll be fine, it's an inconvenience. And it's really not. You know, I'm worried every day about, you know, how much food I have in my house and whether or not I can make next month's bills if this drags on for a while. And I really would just hope that they would stop using the livelihoods of federal employees as a bargaining chip.

HARLOW: I understand that you just applied for unemployment benefits in case you might need them, is that right?

MACLEAN: Yes, I did.

HARLOW: That's much more than an inconvenience. Do you think members of Congress frankly in both parties get it, get what it's like to be you and your husband right now?

MACLEAN: I don't think so. I mean -- I think -- I'm fortunate that because I'm furloughed and I'm not working I'm eligible to apply for unemployment. The workers who are on the job without pay wouldn't even be eligible. So, you know, my husband and I decided that it was a good stop-gap measure to have just in case we needed it. And I'm thankful that it's there. I -- the only time I've ever applied for unemployment as an adult is when government shutdowns happen.


MACLEAN: So I'm thankful that it's there, but I wish it wouldn't be there, and, you know, it's not something I feel like I should need to use since I do have a job.

HARLOW: Look -- exactly. I think they're listening in Washington. I hope they are actually hearing you.

Thank you, Rebecca, very much and good luck to you and your husband. Thanks for sharing this with us.

MACLEAN: Thank you so much. Have a nice day.

HARLOW: Of course. You too.

There you have it. That's what it really means for all of those workers.

[09:34:59] President Trump now falsely claiming that he fired former Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The truth is, he didn't.


HARLOW: Welcome back.

President Trump tries to rewrite the final chapter of James Mattis' time as defense secretary. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope he does well. But, as you know, President Obama fired him and essentially so did I.


HARLOW: Nope. President Trump did not fire his defense secretary. James Mattis resigned on December 20th in protest over President Trump's plan to rapidly withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Days later, the president announced that he had moved Mattis' departure date up to January 1st, two months earlier than planned.

Let's go to the Pentagon. My colleague Barbara Starr is there to set the record straight, along with our military analyst, retired Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Good morning to you both.

And, Barbara, just set the record straight because there is more than one fact here that proves that what the president's saying is just not true.

[09:40:02] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, you're going to remember that when this all erupted on that day, the president actually tweeted that Mattis was retiring and thanked him for his service. Very rapidly that all fell apart. But the facts are, when Mattis went to the White House that day to

meet with President Trump, he already had a resignation letter in hand. He was planning to resign. And he'd left a pile of the letters back at the Pentagon to be distributed to the news media. That's what happened.

It had been building for weeks. Mattis was increasingly concerned that the president simply wasn't listening to any of his advice. It wasn't the fact about necessarily agreeing with him, but if the president was margining him and not listening to him, he felt he had to go. And it was about more than just taking troops out of Syria. Mattis was not getting a lot of decisions coming in his favor. One of the most important ones, he had recommended a general to become the next chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff. Trump overruled him and recommended somebody else. Mattis, if he couldn't even have his own wing man, felt he had no choice but to go.


And, Colonel Leighton, to you. I just wonder, given your experience, your history with the armed forces, is there a danger in this for moral, for, you know, the danger of injecting politics into the military?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh, absolutely, Poppy, and it's a real danger because when there are these personal changes in this way and there is this attempt by the White House to change the narrative, to change the story on what exactly happened with secretary Mattis, that has a corrosive effect, not only on morale, but also on the way other leaders within the military, more subordinate leaders, treat their subordinates. And they look to the top basically for guidance. It might be subliminal guidance, but it's still guidance nonetheless. And that's a real problem. You know, you look at the military as a culture that has a certain way of doing things, and this can corrode that, the proper way of handling these types of issues.

HARLOW: On top of, Barbara, the president claiming that he -- that he fired Mattis, which is just not factual, he also had this to say yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good. Not too good. I'm not happy with what he's done in Afghanistan. And I shouldn't be happy. I think I would have been a good general, but who knows.


HARLOW: I would just note that the president did not serve this nation in the Vietnam War. Got a number of exemptions from doing so. Any reaction inside the Pentagon to all of this, this morning?

STARR: Well, look, the public face of the Pentagon right now is behind the acting -- new acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan, because these people are very professional here in the armed forces.


STARR: They know they have to show the world a certain level of continuity. But if you'll permit me, if you want to be a general, if you want a career in the United States military, and Colonel Leighton knows more about this than me, you have to be a very disciplined person. You have to be very willing to follow orders and basically fall into line until you get to a very senior position where you're allowed to offer advice. Everybody would have to come to their own decision about who's really capable of doing that.


And, Colonel Leighton, you also need to know the history of global conflict, which the president seemed to confuse a bit yesterday as it pertains to Russia and Afghanistan. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


HARLOW: Colonel Leighton.

LEIGHTON: Well, I've got to tell you, you're right about one thing, Poppy, and that is this, you've got to know history and you've got to understand what happened in the past.

This is wrong on so many levels. Afghanistan was but one factor in the demise of the Soviet Union. He's forgetting things like the Strategic Defense Initiative, the way in which Ronald Reagan, Bush 41, the whole Berlin Wall period, all of that played a role in bankrupting the Soviet Union. Afghanistan was not the only cause of that, but Afghanistan was certainly a contributing factor.

The idea of terrorists coming into the old Soviet Union from Afghanistan, not at all the case. You know, none of this is really true in its entirety, and that's a real problem as the president tries to change the narrative and, in essence, provide Trump facts instead of real facts to what he is doing here.

HARLOW: Yes. And there are only one kinds of facts, facts themselves.

LEIGHTON: That's right.

[09:45:01] HARLOW: Thank you both. Important.

Barbara Starr, appreciate it. And Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you.

LEIGHTON: You bet. Absolutely.

HARLOW: An update for you on the murder of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. At least five people linked to his murder could get the death penalty. This is according to local media. The Saudi public prosecutor is seeking a death sentence for five of the 11 suspects on trial. Prosecutors also say that Turkey is not responding to multiple requests to turn over certain evidence. Of course, the last time that Jamal Khashoggi was seen was as he entered the consulate there in Istanbul on October 2nd, where he was eventually murdered inside.

Hours before the nation's new lawmakers take office, one congressional candidate wants a court to send him to Washington. That's despite an election fraud investigation that is still ongoing two months after Election Day.


[09:50:18] HARLOW: All right, this just in. Republican Mark Harris has filed a court petition asking a judge to certify the results for North Carolina's Ninth District House seat. This as he's slated to meet with investigators about potential election fraud. The congressional race between Harris and the Democrat, Dan McCready, still undecided nearly two month after the midterms. You may recall initially Harris won by some 900 votes, but then questions arose regarding this man, political operative McCray Dowless (ph). Dowless, who worked for a firm hired by Harris' campaign, allegedly led an operation to collect absentee ballots from people's homes, which is illegal. Whether Harris knew about that remains unknown.

Our national correspondent Dianne Gallagher continues to follow this story and joins me now.

Look, the new Congress sworn in today, and Harris, a Republican, wants to be there. He wants a court to send him there to serve even though election results are still unknown.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, look, Poppy, he likely thought that January 3rd was going to be a big day for him, and it still is. He's not in Congress right now. He's not in Washington. He's back in North Carolina doing an interview with state investigators just after his attorneys filed those court documents asking for the immediate certification of the election results declaring Mark Harris the winner.

Now, they say that, look, we still respect the process here. We respect what the state investigators are doing. That's why Mark Harris is talking to them. And they're trying to figure out what did he know in all of this at this point. But they want it to move along. And it's gone quite the opposite of quickly in North Carolina.

They were supposed to have a hearing on the accusations about ballot fraud next week. Instead, that's been postponed and that's basically because the election board was dissolved as part of this ongoing conflict within the state dealing with its composition. The governor wanted to set up a temporary board to go ahead and get this hearing over with, but Republicans refused to put out names to fill the two Republican seats on that board, saying they thought it was unlawful.

So, Poppy, we're looking at the fact that, at this point, January 31st could be the earlier that we have a hearing on this. And that means that North Carolina District Nine may not have any representation until February at the earliest. If they declare another election, it could be even further along.

So the Harris camp says these court documents are simply trying to move it along. But, of course, those who are in the state who disagree with this say that we don't know if these election results are valid and we want to wait on this.

HARLOW: Yes, it's so interesting and so important to get the facts straight on this one.

Dianne, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.

Something cool for you this morning. Some brand-new images from the far side of the moon. Literally the far side of the moon. This is thanks to the newest rover to land on the lunar surface. And guess where it's from?


[09:57:35] HARLOW: China has gone where no country has gone before, to the far side of the moon. Look at those new images. Very cool. This morning, state media announced they had successfully landed a rover near the moon's south pole.

Let's go to Beijing. My colleague Matt Rivers is there.

It's significant, right?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a big deal, Poppy. I mean the far -- it's the first time any country has been able to land a rover or any probe on the far side of the moon. That's, of course, the side of the moon that never faces the earth because of the way the moon rotates around the earth.

In terms of what this rover is going to be doing, it's got a lot to do. It's going to conduct all sorts of experiments, like looking at which plants might be able it grow actually in that environment in specialized containers. It's going to explore for water or other resources in both poles of the north and the south. But most interestingly, I think, it's going to listen to deep space. It's actually more able to decipher and hear deep space frequencies because the moon actually blocks interference that would normally come from earth.

So there's a number of different things that the Chinese are going to be doing over the next months and years that the scientific community is really going to be fascinated by.

HARLOW: And, big picture, what does this mean about China's space ambitions?

RIVERS: I think if you're looking for a kind of political aspect to all of this, it's going to be, this is putting all the countries in the world on notice --


RIVERS: That it's not just going to be the U.S. that's going to dominate space exploration. It's going to be China. You know, China wants to send a probe to Mars in 2020. They're going to launch a space station in 2022 that could eventually replace the International State Station. And there's a lot of speculation that they could be the next country to put astronaut on the moon.

So, yes, this is a technical achievement, but I think overall this lunar mission is a signal to the United States to tell others that China plans to be a power in space for years and decades to come, Poppy.

HARLOW: No question about that one.

Matt, thanks very much.

Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 a.m. on the West Coast. Jim has the day off.

And it is a game changing day for the White House. In just two hours, Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives as the 116th Congress is sworn in and the president faces a whole new reality, fierce opposition and new investigations.

[10:00:00] And that's not all this wave of new faces brings to Capitol Hill. They bring more Democrats, more diversity, and a record number of women.