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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Fed Chair Would Refuse to Resign; President Trump Threatens to Keep Government Shut Down For Year or More; Sources: Mass Sickouts Among TSA Workers Since Shutdown; Interview with Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 4, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news in our money lead.

(BELL RINGING)

[16:00:00]

TAPPER: You hear the bell there, stocks roaring back today, closing more than 740 points higher, after a surprisingly strong jobs report.

CNN's Alison Kosik is live for us at the stock exchange.

And, Alison, is there signs -- are there signs this might continue?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can expect volatility to really become the norm.

Wall Street needed some good news today and today it got a trifecta. China taking steps to stimulate its economy. The December jobs report that blew away expectations. Just on those headlines, we saw the market rally. But then Fed Chief Jay Powell having a panel discussion with a couple of his predecessors said the magic words. The central bank will be patient with raising interest rates.

Bam, stocks rocketed higher and you see them closing now, the Dow up 743 points. You know, the Fed has been one of those issues that's rattled the markets. The market has been concerned that the Fed has been raising rates too quickly. A couple of interesting moments in this panel discussion.

One of them, Powell was asked if there has been any direct communication between the White House and him. We all know President Trump had been looking around to see if he had the authority to fire Powell. Powell said there has been no communication. He also said if Trump asks him to resign, Powell said he won't -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alison Kosik at Wall Street for us, thank you so much.

Now to the politics leads. And the headline, no deal. President Trump told congressional leaders the federal government shutdown currently about to enter its third week could potentially last -- quote -- "months or even years."

The president met with congressional leaders for the second time today and they appear just as dug in as ever before. Democrats say open the government now, Mr. President. The president insisting, not unless you give me $5 billion for my border wall.

Determined to have the last word, President Trump gave a lengthy, somewhat rambling press conference in the Rose Garden this afternoon, where he asserted he may not need Congress at all to get funding for his border wall, saying he's considering doing it by declaring a national emergency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We could call a national emergency because of the security of our country, absolutely. No, we can do it. I haven't done it. I may do it. I may do it. But we could call a national emergency and build it very quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the meeting at the White House as contentious and said the only progress made was that they have eliminated some possible ways to solve the standoff.

Meanwhile, more than 800,000 federal employees continue to be either furloughed without pay or they're being forced to work without pay.

CNN's Abby Phillip leads off our coverage from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Leading to little progress and threats that the now two-week-old government shutdown could last much longer.

QUESTION: You said in the meeting, this is him quoting you, I just want to check, that the shutdown could go on for months or even a year or longer. Did you say that?

TRUMP: I did. I did.

QUESTION: Is that your assessment of where we are?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Absolutely, I said that. I don't think it will. But I am prepared. I'm very proud of doing what I'm doing.

PHILLIP: President Trump challenging Democrats.

TRUMP: We need border security.

PHILLIP: Agree to a deal on border security, or he might take extreme measures. QUESTION: Have you considered using emergency powers to grant

yourself authorities to build this wall without congressional approval? And, second...

TRUMP: Yes, I have.

QUESTION: You have?

TRUMP: Yes, I have. And I can do it if I want.

QUESTION: So you don't need congressional approval to build the wall?

TRUMP: No, we can use a -- absolutely. We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country, absolutely. No, we can do it. I haven't done it. I may do it. I may do it. But we can call a national emergency.

PHILLIP: And Democrats insisting the government needs to be open before they will even consider a compromise.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: It's very hard to see how progress will be made unless they open up the government.

PHILLIP: While not giving ground, the president says it could come down to this weekend.

TRUMP: We're going to be meeting. I have designated a group, and we're going to be meeting over the weekend, that group, to determine what we're going to do about the border.

PHILLIP: Adding:

TRUMP: We had a very, very productive meeting. And I think we have come a long way.

PHILLIP: Democrats also hinting hope is not gone.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We made some progress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: Well, there will be meetings this weekend, the president said, led by Vice President Mike Pence and several other White House officials. But it does seem that both sides are still exactly where they stood two weeks ago now.

And that could be why President Trump seemed to have very little to say to the 800,000 federal workers who are staring down the possibility of no pay for the foreseeable future -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Abby Phillip at the White House for us, thanks so much.

And today the president said he might declare a national emergency in order to get wall funding. Let's talk about this and the other issues related to the shutdown

with my panel.

Is that the right way to do it, an emergency, declaring a national emergency?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think that exercising like extreme measures of executive power is a great idea, just in general.

[16:05:03]

And, you know, I think he made an argument that, look, if Obama could do this on DACA, even though he said he couldn't, then I should be able to do this. And I would say, no, that is not the right path, because if you really can't do it, you really shouldn't do it.

Look, I know there are powers in the presidency. I get it. Continue trying to make a deal. He made this promise to his voters. I know that they're in a stalemate. If they want this to end, Democrats are probably going to have to give him a little something that feels like a win that, he can call a win. And then it will end.

TAPPER: Do you agree?

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I will come to you after this.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The biggest challenge, and I do want to get to this national emergency issue, declaring a national emergency.

But my fundamental problem with this is, this is not going to be a win, period. The president's campaign promise was to build a wall and to have who pay for it?

TAPPER: Mexico.

RYE: Exactly. And so at some point, you have to acknowledge that you getting 50 percent of what you promised that a lot of voters who voted for you for this particular issue, this is not a win, period.

You're making those same voters pay for this. I know some of them have started a GoFundMe or whatever to help support that. And, you know, more power to them. But at some point, he's got to acknowledge this was not the campaign promise. And there's revisionist history, surprise, surprise, from his administration on what that campaign promise was.

On the national emergencies piece, I promise this is my last point. The national emergencies piece, there have been limitations placed and codified for this very reason that were signed into law by Gerald Ford.

So if there are limitations on what a national emergency even is, like let's just start there. And just stop, full stop.

TAPPER: Let me ask you this, because President Trump is already trying to do the spin that this deal, the new trade deal that has yet to be ratified by Congress, but if it goes through, that that will ultimately be Mexico paying for the wall. To the base, does it matter?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think that it matters a lot.

I think, look, the spoiler alert here is, this is how this ends. Something gets passed at some point. Pelosi and Schumer come out, give a press conference that say we have reopened the government and we haven't given him his wall. And then President Trump signs it and says, they gave me my wall.

And it doesn't matter what's in the actual bill. Democrats will say they didn't give him wall money. Trump will say he did get wall money. That's how this ends.

The question is, how fast do we get to that point? And we will get to that point when one side or the other feels some sort of political pain. And right now, neither side is feeling political pain. There's pain being felt by the federal workers who aren't getting paid. There's pain being felt by people who need federal assistance in some way, but aren't getting it, because of the shutdown.

But political pain, federal workers are not a pressure point for this president.

TAPPER: And, Kirsten, let me bring you in on that, because the president had another opportunity today to express compassion and sympathy for those workers, some of whom live paycheck to paycheck.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes.

TAPPER: Here is some of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I really believe that these people many of the people that we're talking about, many of the people you're discussing, I really believe that they agree with what we're doing.

Many of those people, maybe even most of those people, that really have not been and will not be getting their money in at this moment, those people, in many cases, are the biggest fan of what we're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: There's absolutely no evidence to back that up.

RYE: None.

TAPPER: And, in fact, it contradicts what the president said a day or two ago, when he seemed to suggest that most of the people who are federal workers are Democrats.

POWERS: Yes. Well, I actually lived through a couple shutdowns in the Clinton administration, and pretty much everybody that I knew, every person, whether they were a political appointee or whether they were a career person, was living paycheck to paycheck.

People who own homes were terrified that the bank was going to go to pull the money and the money wasn't going to be there. That's the way most government workers are living. They aren't living large, I think the way a lot of people think they are.

And so he also said today something about the landlords should go easy on them. Well, you know, first of all, that carries no weight, just for starters. Second of all, landlords also have bills and mortgages to pay, right?

So there's the money comes in and it goes out. So it's not -- that's not -- it has impact on everybody. And so I think, you're right. The pain is being felt predominantly by the people who can't pay their bills. And I guess, you know, I do sort of worry that the Democrats will end up giving in on it, because they're the ones who are going to be more moved by this, frankly, because I don't think that the president is really going to be moved at all by the fact these people are suffering.

HAM: Also, is he a landlord who would accept that?

POWERS: No.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: As a man who deals in real estate?

Look, I think the issue is that, yes, federal workers -- and this part of the argument is not a pressure point on him. And it won't become one. Democrats, I think you're right, are more likely to be the ones who feel that pressure.

But he took the pressure off of them, quite conveniently, by saying, I will take the rap for this. So, that's why I think it might last longer than it otherwise has in the past.

RYE: He shifted his tone on that, though, and now he's putting it at the feet of Nancy Pelosi, even before she was speaker -- became speaker yesterday.

I think the other interesting thing to me is we're talking about Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer. There's another person involved. That would be Mitch McConnell, who also has just as much responsibility, as the majority leader of the Senate.

[16:10:10]

TAPPER: Now, what Mitch McConnell has said is that this is really a negotiation between the Democratic leaders, because it needs to pass the House, and obviously they need 10 Democrats or whatever it is. Now it's actually more than 10 Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: ... in order to get through the Senate.

Not that he is sidelined, but that the negotiation needs to go to those people. What's the way out of it? You suggested a way, but not in terms of the specifics of the bill. What do you think should be in the bill that both sides can claim victory?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Money for border security that President Trump can spend on surveillance, on a fence, which maybe you could define as a steel see-through wall.

I mean, I think that's the way this ends is with the Democrats giving some kind of money for border security, because while the wall is unpopular, border security is not.

HAM: That's right.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: And there are a lot of people who are just elected in the House who come from districts that Donald Trump won by two, three, four points, who don't want to be seen as soft on border security or they're going to be vulnerable next time around.

So I think something that includes less than $5 billion, but some amount of money for border security that Nancy Pelosi can say, this isn't a wall and Trump can say, this is a wall, I think that's the only way out of this.

POWERS: Isn't that offer already on the table, though? Aren't they offering like a million-and-a-half -- a billion-and-a-half?

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: A billion -- $1.3 billion.

POWERS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: That's obviously not enough.

POWERS: Right. So you're saying they would have more money than that? Because they have said, we support border security, we will give you this money, but we're not going to give you the money for the wall and that's where the $5 billion comes in.

TAPPER: And, ultimately, the big solution, obviously, we know, because Jeff Flake, he used to say, all these Democrats in 2013 voted for something like $40 billion in border security. Not a border wall, but border security. But it came with this giant immigration reform comprehensive package.

RYE: It was a comprehensive immigration package that folks have forgotten all about it, and it is necessary. Somehow, the entire immigration argument has been reduced to a physical wall that we have once tried with physical and electronic surveillance and fencing through SBInet, which was the Secure Border Initiative. And it did not work.

Like, I don't know why we're not having that conversation either. It's very important. I'm going to continue to repeat it, because I hope somebody will hear it.

TAPPER: And remember also there's a question about what will constitute the wall you're talking about.

And Kaitlan Collins from CNN asked the president about that today, whether it's going to be concrete, whether it's going to be steel slats or whatever he said. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You ran your campaign promising supporters that Mexico was going to pay for the wall...

TRUMP: Here we go again.

COLLINS: ... and that the wall was going to be made of concrete. You just said earlier that the wall could be made of steel.

TRUMP: I said I was going to build a wall. I never said, I'm going to build a concrete. I said I'm going to build a wall. Just so you don't -- because I know you're not into the construction business. You don't understand something.

We now have a great steel business that's rebuilt in the United States. Steel is stronger than concrete.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: All right. But, again...

RYE: First of all, first of all, I wish that Kaitlan would have come back and said, actually, I come from a family of, like, anything. I just can't even believe he told her what she does and does not know. I'm going to hold...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: This is a president who has declared himself an expert on drones, on all sorts of things in the last week.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But construction, actually, he might legitimately lay a claim to.

RYE: No, that's fair. But Kaitlan -- he doesn't know her background.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But the other issue, does it matter? Does it matter if it's concrete or steel slats or...

HAM: No, I think in the end...

POWERS: Paper.

TAPPER: A paper fence?

HAM: The money for border security has to include, I think, in order for them to come to a deal, has to include something that is physical, that he can claim as a wall. I think that you could point to parts of things they have passed in the past that could be that some Democrats have backed.

Now, to your point, Angela, I think you're right that comprehensive immigration reform should be the goal.

RYE: Right.

HAM: An issue is because things like that have passed in the past and then sort of been gutted and physical barriers never come to fruition, people feel betrayed on that point.

And that is where trust falls apart for a lot of people on the right or even center right. And they need a down payment on that. And that's what part of this would be.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

Just in, mass sick calls at airports across the country because of this government shutdown. How the standoff could now put your safety at risk. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:18] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And we have some breaking news now in the politics lead on the impact of the federal government shutdown in the United States. Multiple sources tell CNN's Rene Marsh about mass sickouts at four major airports across the U.S. Hundreds of TSA employees who are working without pay right now have called out from work. This week at Dallas, Ft. Worth alone, sick calls are up almost 300 percent according to one source. Many are calling out to work other jobs. Aside from longer lines, some officials say travelers could also see fewer random pat down checks in security lines.

Also as a result of this shutdown, defections among Republicans on Capitol Hill. House Democrats are making it clear, they're not budging, refusing to put border wall funding in a bill to reopen the government. And a handful of House Republicans joined Nancy Pelosi's team, and now two Senate Republicans seem to be on her side, as well.

But as CNN's Manu Raju reports, neither side has the numbers need to force a bill to the president's desk.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Two weeks into the government shutdown, and most lawmakers are digging in, while some are growing impatient and demanding a deal without funding for president Trump's border wall.

On the Republican side, Congressman Peter King sent a message to President Trump. Don't pay attention to House conservatives.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The president should know (ph) he's been listening to the Freedom Caucus.

RAJU: King joined with six Republicans last night to reopen federal agencies shuttered over Trump's demands for billions for the border wall, but sided with Trump by opposing a separate message to reopen the Department of Homeland Security.

KING: I just thought it was wrong to haul hundreds of thousands of employees hostage. They have nothing at all to do with it. I think the president should negotiate. I think the Democrats should negotiate.

RAJU: And Republican Susan Collins and Cory Gardner facing potentially difficult re-election bids in 2020, also expressed their concerns, calling on GOP leaders to allow a vote on legislation reopening the government and let talks over the wall to take place later.

[16:20:15] But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that won't happen without support.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The package presented by the House, its new Democratic leaders, yesterday can only be seen as a time-wasting act of political posturing. It does not carry the support of the president.

RAJU: Some Democrats also growing impatient with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's refusal to compromise over the wall.

(on camera): So she should cut a deal, essentially --

REP. JEFF VAN DREW (D), NEW JERSEY: In my opinion. I would -- I know there are some people in my party that don't agree. But there are people that are now not working and not getting paid.

RAJU: You're worried she's digging in too much.

VAN DREW: Everybody is digging in too much. And you know who doesn't like it, in my opinion? The vast majority of the American public.

RAJU (voice-over): But in a private meeting today, sources tell CNN that most house Democrats were in no mood to budge, even some of Pelosi's toughest Democratic critics standing behind her.

REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D), NEW YORK: I completely support the speaker's position on this.

(END VIDEOTAPE) RAJU: Now, Mitch McConnell returned from the White House to Capitol Hill and told reporters there would be discussions between White House aides and senior aides to congressional leadership through the weekend, maybe if they can come closer to a deal presented to them by early next week.

But at the White House, it was noticeable at that press conference that Mitch McConnell was not there next to House Republican leaders and President Trump. Trump was asked about that. He said, well, Mitch McConnell is busy running the Senate, which is why he wasn't there.

But the truth is, the Senate was out of session, Jake, and is going to be out of session until Tuesday. McConnell's aides tell us they weren't told about that press conference, otherwise he and Senator John Thune both would have been there -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Will President Trump listen to those Republicans now pushing to reopen the government without a deal on the border wall? We'll talk to a House Republican close to President Trump about what his advice is. That's next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:52] TAPPER: Two weeks and counting. The partial government shutdown in the U.S. now in its 14th full day with absolutely no end in sight. Both sides have dug in their heels. So, just when and how will the federal government reopen?

One man advising President Trump on the shutdown is Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who chairs the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

And joining me now is Congressman Meadows.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

So, Democrats passed a clean funding bill yesterday to reopen the government without the border wall funding. A handful of House Republicans joined them. Now we hear that there are a couple senators, Republican senators, Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, saying they think the government should be reopened first and then the negotiations over the wall should commence.

Is it fair to say your side is losing the momentum a bit?

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: Well, I don't think so, Jake. It's great to join you.

I mean, when you have seven Republicans out of 199, I don't know that you would classify that as losing momentum on the House side. I do think the other part of that is the question that some of those senators need to answer is why would opening the government today be any different than the two years that it's been open prior to this?

You know, we've had a president that's campaigned on this prior to getting elected. We've had two years to negotiate. And yet here we are today at an impasse, hopefully it can get resolved soon. But opening the government is not an answer to a solution.

TAPPER: The president keeps insisting that the American people want the border wall, and they're with him on keeping the government shutdown until he gets funding for it. I don't see any polling that supports that. Our recent CNN poll found 57 percent of the public opposed to building a wall along the border with Mexico, 38 percent in favor.

What evidence is there that the majority of the American people think it's worth shutting down the government over this border wall?

MEADOWS: Well, I think it's the way you asked the question. There was another poll that was out that suggested that 51 percent of the country believes that there should be a compromise between zero and 5.7 billion, so whether it's a wall or fence or steel slat barriers, a lot of people can get hung up on, well, it shouldn't be a concrete wall, it should be fencing or it should be this.

But I can tell you, 51 percent of the people that really have weighed in on this believes that a compromise should be there. And really, when you look at Democrats who are suggesting zero money, zero money for new border barriers, it's just not a defensible position.

And quite frankly, we're talking about a fraction of what we spent. We spent $4 trillion a year, and yet we're talking about $5 billion. That's one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Hopefully, we can come to some kind of an agreement there, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, but you know this. The Democrats have offered $1.3 billion in border security. Not for the wall, but for border security.

MEADOWS: Right.

TAPPER: And there was an offer from Vice President Pence, two Democrats, $2.5 billion for border security.

MEADOWS: Right.

TAPPER: And then President Trump said no, no, no. Nothing less than $5.6 billion. It's tough to negotiate when the numbers keep changing.

MEADOWS: Well, it's tough to negotiate when one side is not negotiating, Jake. And you're a good journalist and so let's make sure we're clear on what's happened. An offer was made by this president and his team for $2.5 billion.