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Furloughed Government Workers Feeling Pain of Government Shutdown; Russia Says American Accused of Spying Found with USB Containing Classified Information; Trump to Hold Rose Garden Event Giving Last Word on Shutdown Meeting; Flu on the Rise Across U.S.; Source: White House Scouting Sites for 2nd Trump-Kim Summit. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 4, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spotted moments ago arriving at the White House. The question is, will this move the conversation forward? Will it spark a deal to end the government shutdown? The president and top Democrats so far are digging in their heels over the border wall. But there are some signs that some Republicans are growing weary of the shutdown standoff as the nearly 800,000 government workers impacted by the shutdown continue to suffer.

Here's CNN's Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne?


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Ana. As the president has pledged to resolve to keep the partial government shutdown going as long as it takes to get his border wall, the hundreds of thousands of federal workers not working or not getting paid are beginning to feel the pain, from correction officers, TSA agents, custodians, scientists, and even immigration officials.

(voice-over): Ryan Vaughn and his furloughed friends spend their unplanned time away from work volunteering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really, I did find a volunteer thing we could do tomorrow morning if you're interested.

MALVEAUX: Thursday, Ryan spent three hours getting blood platelets, Friday, he'll pick up trash at the National Mall. While he's being productive with his newfound freedom, he says he still feels held hostage by the shutdown.

RYAN VAUGN, FURLOUGHED GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE WHO VOLUNTEERS: Let us work without having anxiety over our next grocery bill, for those who are working out the bill right now and whose leave was canceled over the holidays.

MALVEAUX: Andrea Popelka is one of those with a choice between groceries and utilities.

ANDREA POPELKA, FURLOUGHED GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE: All those things are already pre-budgeted. So when something like this happens and you're not going to get your next check, it's like, OK, what do I do?

MALVEAUX: Overall, 380,000 workers are furloughed. Another 420,000 working without pay. But in a way, they could be the lucky ones. Traditionally, Congress grants back pay to those federal employees. Though not guaranteed for anyone, back pay is even less likely for federal contractors and the companies they work for, who might not get any money at all.

DAVID BERTEAU, PRESIDENT & CEO, PROFESSIONAL SERVICES COUNCIL: It puts small businesses out of business if it continues much longer.

MALVEAUX: David Berteau, who represents federal contractors, says some businesses are still paying employees without getting paid by the government. He says the biggest impact for so many is the uncertainty.

BERTEAU: When is this going to be over? Am I going to be made whole at the end of it? Will anybody care about the work I do that matters so much to me?

MALVEAUX: It's a question some federal workers were asking even before the shutdown.

Author Michael Lewis' latest book, "The Fifth Risk," looks at how President Trump's election impacted agencies across the government.

MICHAEL LEWIS, AUTHOR: All they get is slandered and abused. And yet, we expect them to perform these critical missions in society.

MALVEAUX: Lewis says the president just doesn't understand what federal employees do.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will shut down the government. Absolutely.


TRUMP: And I am proud.

SCHUMER: We disagree. We disagree.

TRUMP: And I'll tell you what, I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.

MALVEAUX: Last week, President Trump canceled federal employee pay raises for 2019 and claimed, without evidence that, quote, "Most of the people not getting paid are Democrats."

Ryan, who refuses to get into the political mud, worries he may miss his opportunity to buy a house of his own.

VAUGHN: When people in leadership positions publicly surmise about how the pain of a million federal workers and their families is going to tip the scale of the debate one way or the other, that represents a lack of moral leadership. MALVEAUX (on camera): And ironically, while the president is fighting

with lawmakers over his push to build a border wall, the partial government shutdown is interfering with his administration's immigration agenda, as Border Patrol agents and border protection officers are forced to continue working without pay, immigration judges are furloughed, and some immigration asylum cases are now put on hold -- Ana?


CABRERA: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you.

Coming up, a report out of Russia says the American accused of being a spy was found with classified information on a hard drive. It comes as the American's lawyer makes an appeal for his release. We're live in Moscow with the details.


[11:38:39] CABRERA: Welcome back. Fast moving developments out of Russia. The lawyer for a former Marine charged with espionage in Russia says he has filed an appeal in the case. And the U.S. ambassador to Russia has now visited Paul Whelan in the Russian prison where he's being held without bail.

Also, new this morning, a Russian news Web site claims the government caught Whelan red handed, claiming he had classified information on a hard drive. CNN has not independently verified that report.

CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is now with us from Moscow.

Matthew, what more can you tell us about this claim?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this report has appeared in a local Russian news agency feed. They're quoting an unnamed intelligence source. And of course, we can't independently verify the individual who they say they have spoken to.

But it gives very interesting details of the circumstances surrounding Paul Whelan's arrest. Apparently, he was arrested in a metro hotel, a big five-star hotel in the center of the Russian capital of Moscow. After five minutes after he accepted a USB flash drive inside his hotel room, the authorities moved in and put him under arrest. That flash drive, according to this report, contained the names of individuals who were employed by a top security organization in Russia. So these are quite dramatic claims being made by this Web site, this news agency in Russia.

[11:40:16] The report also talks about the fact that there were lots of social media pages that Paul Whelan had. Many of those Russians on those pages, the report says, had previously been pointing out and vetted, first of all, by U.S. intelligence, then it was up to Paul Whelan, is the implication, to make friends with them online to try to extract some information from them. Again, we can't verify that information. And it may be that the intelligence source quoted has an interest in building up this kind of narrative around the case. But nevertheless, it underlines just how much trouble, just how serious these charges now of espionage are against this American citizen.

CABRERA: It just really increases the level of mystery here.

Matthew, what else can you tell us about the prison where Whelan is being held?

CHANCE: It's an infamous institution here in the Russian capitals, in the suburb of the same name. It was previously a KGB prison where many people were held during the darkest days of the Soviet Union. It's now a federal Russian prison, of course. And we have spoken to the lawyer who has been assigned to Paul Whelan, a Russian defense lawyer. He's visited Paul Whelan in that prison. And told us that basically, the conditions are pretty good at the moment. He's up. He's cheerful, the mood. He's not depressed, is the words of the Russian defense attorney. He said he was lacking in some basic kind of sanitary items, like razors and toothpaste and clean underwear and things like that, but the lawyer says that's being sorted out. But nevertheless, this is the location where Paul Whelan is being held and where he's receiving various visits as well -- Ana?

CABRERA: Matthew Chance, in Moscow, thanks for that update.

Breaking news. President Trump apparently wanting the last word on the shutdown today at the White House. He, of course, is supposed to be meeting right now with congressional leaders on this issue.

CNN senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is now in D.C. with more details.

What are you learning, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPODNENT: Ana, we're learning from the White House that they're making plans for there to be a Rose Garden event or announcement of some type this afternoon after that meeting with congressional leaders happening in the Situation Room of the White House. I'm told by White House officials that President Trump wants to have the last word, if you will, on the meeting, which is not expected to resolve this ongoing government shutdown, but it is expecting to frame the debate going forward.

So you'll remember, of course, President Trump came into the White House briefing room yesterday afternoon, flanked by Border Patrol officials, but did not answer any questions, did not talk about the government workers who are not getting their paychecks. So the White House is planning a bit of a redo, if you will, for the president to talk about this shutdown, to try to frame the debate in the shutdown. There are many people across Washington, Republicans leading the charge, who believe that the president has not done a good enough job articulating his position on this and showing empathy for those workers. Look for the president to do some type of Rose Garden event this afternoon with the media. Of course, all this could change depending on what happens in that meeting in the Situation Room. But right now, the White House wants to elevate the president's position on this. But, Ana, the most important part, optics aside, there are no signs of

a breakthrough over the wall. So that meeting now happening in the Situation Room, also for optics, largely, no real reason to have a meeting like this in the Situation Room, that is under way with Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and other congressional leaders -- Ana?

CABRERA: Jeff, as I understand it, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer also plan to address the media following this briefing, so the idea would be for the president to then follow them after their remarks. Again, the last word idea. Do we know if he's planning to take questions this time?

ZELENY: We don't know that. That obviously is always up to the president see if he'll take questions. One White House official I was speaking to said the expectation is that the president would take questions on this. He, of course, has taken questions over the last several days at different points about the shutdown. He didn't yesterday, which was odd considering he came into the White House press briefing room. But the expectation is he would take questions, but that, of course, is always up to him if he will or not. But the question here is or the point here is this is all being planned, again, much more optics being planned than it seems at least finding a pathway to end this shutdown -- Ana?

CABRERA: We shall see.

Jeff Zeleny, in Washington, thanks.

ZELENY: Thanks.

[11:44:54] CABRERA:: Flu cases on the rise across the country. Perhaps you have a Kleenex right next to you. We have certainly been sneezing here. Cold, flu season. But it's even more serious, and people are now dying. The new numbers from the CDC and how you can protect yourself, next.


CABRERA: It's that time of year. It's flu season. Just how bad is it right now? According to the CDC, the flu is on the rise in much of the country.

And CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is joining us now.

Elizabeth, what are you learning about the numbers?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we're learning the number of states with high flu activity has more than doubled in the past week, making it difficult for many people, but especially one family in Montana.



[11:50:06] COHEN: Allison Eaglespeaker, 6 years old, loved her big brother, Matt, and little sister, Daisy, and Native American dancing.

CRYSTAL WHITE SHIELD, MOTHER OF ALLISON EAGLESPEAKER: She was a beautiful little girl. We were blessed with her life. We miss her dearly.

COHEN: Allison, who lived in Montana, died on December 1st from the flu.

New numbers out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday show the situation is getting worse. And 19 states are showing high levels of flu activity compared with nine states last week and 13 children have died from the flu this season.

Children are particularly vulnerable to H1N1, this year's predominant strain.

Allison's mother wants others to be watchful. Allison died less than 48 hours after first becoming ill.

WHITE SHIELD: This illness hit her really hard and really fast. For it to just take her life. Nothing prepares you for how fast it moves.

COHEN: While Allison had mild asthma and about half of the children who die are healthy according to the CDC. And 80 percent of the children who died last year had not received a flu shot. With months of flu season left to go, it's not too late for children or adults to get vaccinated.


COHEN: We just heard Allison's mother talk about how quickly the flu killed her daughter. Two days from the first signs of illness from her death. Most children with flu, they recover quite easily. It's not known why the flu kills some children. And Allison's experience is typical. It kills children very quickly -- Ana?

CABRERA: What can you tell us about the strain, Elizabeth?

COHEN: What we know is H1N1, the predominant strain out there this year, tends to cause less severe illness than the strain last year, so that's good. However, as we noted, children do seem to be particularly vulnerable. People, older adults have seen a cousin of this strain in decades past, but children haven't.

CABRERA: My hands are already looking like alligator hands. I have been watching them so much. We have to keep doing it. Your report told us why.

Thank you for that update, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks. CABRERA:: Administration officials are already scouting sites for a second summit between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-Un after Kim sent a new letter to Trump. What do we know about this letter? Details ahead.


TRUMP: And we've made a lot of progress with North Korea.



[11:57:10] CABRERA: Welcome back. We are learning the Trump administration is scouting locations for a second summit between the president and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. Sources tell CNN the search is on even though plans for talks are just that, a lot of talk with no action to move forward. You may remember, earlier this week, President Trump touted a, quote, "great letter" he had recently received from Kim.

Let's bring in CNN national security reporter, Kylie Atwood.

First, Kylie, welcome to the CNN family.

What are you learning about this letter and what Kim may be trying to accomplish?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: These letters are meant to remind Trump of the enthusiasm that he felt for his relationship with Kim Jong-Un after the Singapore summit last year. Sources told us they are hopeful about a next summit. And they shower President Trump in praises, stroking his ego.

But the timing of these letters is really key. They encourage Trump to skirt the realities here. The first being that North Korea has not taken any tangible steps on denuclearization. And the second being that there's stalled diplomacy right now. The State Department special representative to North Korea has not met one on one with his North Korean counterparts. He did meet with North Koreans when he traveled to North Korea in October. But that's a few months ago. There's still a lot of work to be done on the diplomacy level to get the second summit planned.

CABRERA: Let's talk about the planning process. You have new reporting about what the administration is doing to prepare, to scout a site for a possible second summit. Fill us in.

ATWOOD: Yes. The White House is actively engaged in the search. They sent scouting teams to different locations around the world that the White House is considering as locations for the summit. We know that Singapore, which is where the last summit was, is not on the list, but there are a host of other countries that have pros and cons. The U.S. doesn't have a leading contender yet. And they also haven't shared their list of possible locations with the North Koreans. That's going to be the key. Because it's going to be a challenge on two fronts. The first of which, Kim Jong-Un doesn't like to leave North Korea. He is very cautious. He doesn't like to leave it without his control. And an administration official told CNN, my colleagues here, that he was particularly sensitive after the Singapore summit. That's because he received criticism for arriving on a China Air flight. It will be a challenge to see how he gets there.

As I mentioned before, with stalled diplomacy, how are you going to figure this out? If Steve Begin (ph) is meeting with his North Korean counterparts, they have to get it on the calendar -- Ana?

CABRERA: All right, Kylie Atwood, thank you.

Thank you for joining me. And happy Friday.