Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview with Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina; New Dem Representative Tlaib: "We're Gonna Impeach the Motherf****r"; House Democrats Divided On Impeaching President; Warren Makes First Trip To Iowa Amid Likely 2020 Bid; Potential Dem Candidates Courting Clinton For Support. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 4, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And then President Trump said no, no, no. Nothing less than $5.6 billion.

[16:30:02] It's tough to negotiate when the numbers keep changing.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: 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, part of that to go to new wall construction, part of that for border security measures. And it was met with, we're not going to do anything other than what is in the DHS bill, which really doesn't address border security, according to our border patrol agents that are really the experts on this particular subject.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to Republican congressman Peter king from New York --

MEADOWS: Sure.

TAPPER: -- who wants to end the shutdown. We're going to roll that tape.

MEADOWS: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I think the president shut negotiate, I think the Democrats should negotiate. The president shouldn't always be listening to the Freedom Caucus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The president shouldn't always be listening to the Freedom Caucus.

There are Republicans who think that hard-liners such as you are disproportionately responsible for this government shutdown. What do you think?

MEADOWS: Well, I mean, obviously, Peter was one of the seven people that voted last night to open it back up. And that's not lost on me.

But 217 of my colleagues actually passed a bill to send it over to the Senate. I can tell you, the freedom caucus is not a 217-member strong organization. You know, we believe that we speak for the vast majority of Americans who want this addressed today.

But this is 217 of my colleagues, and I can tell you, that's a minority opinion that Peter is expressing. The vast majority of my colleagues want the president to hold firm. The vast majority of Americans that I'm hearing from want him to hold firm. And we applaud him in doing so.

TAPPER: But you just said -- you just cited a poll where a majority said they wanted a compromise, which wouldn't be the same thing as the president holding firm.

MEADOWS: Well, holding firm on getting new wall funding.

TAPPER: OK.

MEADOWS: Listen, I have one idea. Maybe this is the compromise. Let's do what Israel does. They have fencing and border protection, and it's a combination of fence and walls.

You know, it's very effective for Israel, so there's no one who can deny the effectiveness of that. Let's just do that and propose that and get some funding for that type of measure. Perhaps that's a breakthrough.

TAPPER: So you're the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, which is obviously very conservative. The president was asked today about the federal government using eminent domain to seize and possibly purchase or just take private land from American citizens in order to build this border wall. Take a listen to the president's response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Eminent domain is something that has to be used usually you would say for anything that's long. Like a road, like a pipeline or like a wall or a fence. OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Do you support the federal government taking people's land through eminent domain to build a border wall?

MEADOWS: Well, eminent domain is obviously something that's there for the government. But it doesn't say that you can take it without compensation. Literally, much of the border -- I don't want to say much of the border, but parts of the border now have been taken over by people where literally American citizens can't go. In fact, it's United States' territory that says don't travel here because it's dangerous.

So, it's truly a function of how are we going to get this done. If we're debating over eminent domain on getting this done, I think we can solve it.

Really, that's not where the argument is today, Jake. You know it's about Democrats saying zero. Republicans saying 5.7. Where's the compromise?

TAPPER: Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of the great state of North Carolina, thank you, sir, as always. Good to see you.

MEADOWS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: One day into controlling the House, already a dilemma for Democrats after a freshman member drops the "F-bomb" and the "I-word".

What am I talking about? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:20] TAPPER: Just minutes ago, President Trump claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told him that impeachment is off the table.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said, why don't you use this for impeachment? And Nancy said, we're not looking to impeach you. I said, that's good, Nancy. That's good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But Pelosi's deputy of staff, Drew Hammill, responded to the president, writing, quote: Speaker Pelosi made clear that today's meeting was about reopening government, not impeachment, unquote.

This is all coming after a viral video from a newly sworn in member of Congress brought the issue of impeachment front and center.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: Because we're going to go in there, we're going to impeach the mother-(EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Congressman Rashida Tlaib, Democrat from Michigan, celebrating his swearing in last night.

And now as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, beyond the edible profanity, is the issue of the impeachment that the Democratic base wants and how Democratic leaders will proceed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some Democrats have been calling for President Trump's impeachment for months.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I said he should be impeached, and they said, don't use that word.

ZELENY: But now, they are part of the House majority, making that word carry far more weight, and political peril. And a celebration after being sworn in as a new congresswoman from Michigan, Rashida Tlaib renewed her cry for impeachment with the "F" word.

TLAIB: When your son looks at you and said, ma, look, you won, bullies don't win. And I said, baby, they don't, because we're going to go in there and we're going to impeach the mother-(EXPLETIVE DELETED).

ZELENY: Fallout from that crash expletive echoing around Washington today. From the White House --

TRUMP: I thought her comments were disgraceful.

ZELENY: -- to the Capitol, highlighting a generational and ideological divide over the wisdom of impeachment.

[16:40:00] REP. AL GREEN (D), TEXAS: I'm absolutely convinced that impeachment is not dead.

ZELENY: But House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is trying to put the breaks on all this impeachment talk.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: I don't really like that kind of language. More to the point, I disagree with what she said. It is too early to talk about that intelligently.

ZELENY: It's one of the first and perhaps most consequential tests for Democrats in the new era of divided government.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly called impeachment premature. Yet she's not ruling it out.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: 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.

ZELENY: Last month, a CNN poll found 43 percent of Americans saying Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while half say he shouldn't be. But among Democrats, a whopping 80 percent favor impeachment, which presents a conundrum for the wild field of potential 2020 presidential candidates.

We caught up with California Congressman Eric Swalwell, who's among those eyeing a presidential bid, prefers Trump leave office by defeat.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: I just think it's better for democracy that he loses at the ballot box. If he somehow has made himself a martyr, I think we've lost.

ZELENY (on camera): Made himself a martyr.

SWALWELL: Yes. I don't want to see him make himself a martyr by saying, oh, you know, they have tried to impeach me. And he comes out more popular.

ZELENY (voice-over): The president believes impeachment is unwarranted and hopes it could backfire on Democrats.

TRUMP: You know what, you don't impeach people when they're doing a good job. And you don't impeach people when there was no collusion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Of course, the president does not have the final say over whether there was Russian collusion or whether he will be impeached. That is in the hands of Congress.

But, Jake, it is a central question hanging over this 2020 Democratic presidential campaign. Will they listen to their base or follow their political instincts? Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

I want you all to take a listen to what President Trump had to say this afternoon about Congresswoman Tlaib's comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I thought her comments were disgraceful. This is a person that I don't know. I assume she's new. I think she dishonored herself, and I think she dishonored her family, using language like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: He's very offended by that language, Mary Katharine. Very offended.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me say that when it comes to cussing, I cuss a blue streak when I'm not here. I got beams in my own eyes.

But in public, I think -- I do think it is important to speak respectfully. It's one of the issues I have with Trump. And I also think his adversaries who bemoan the loss of rhetorical standards should not double down. I don't think it gets us anywhere.

On the issue of impeachment, like Nancy Pelosi has a more liberal caucus that would like to go that direction. And she may, I think, have her wits about her and say this is not the greatest political option, but she's going to be getting pushed.

TAPPER: It is going to be tough. Take a listen to the latest polling about how Americans feel about impeaching President Trump. Eighty percent of Democrats think that the president should be impeached and removed from office, 55 percent of independents disagree, 91 percent of Republicans disagree.

But 80 percent of Democrats want president Trump to be impeached. That's a number that Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic Caucus is going to have to deal with.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, I think that is a little bit Democrats just really, really don't like Donald Trump. And just don't want him to be there. And so if you say impeachment, they're going to say yes. I don't think that means that Nancy Pelosi can't necessarily keep the caucus together and wait until there is actually a report to look at.

But I also just want to say about this kerfuffle over the use of a word we can't say on TV is, you know, this was said actually at a private party. Someone recorded it and it was not meant to be out in public. Where there is a -- you know, a video of Donald Trump speaking what looks like a campaign rally using the exact same word, and nobody really cared. And I actually --

HAM: People did care, though.

POWERS: I don't remember that.

TAPPER: He used the "F-word" at a rally.

POWERS: The MF word.

TAPPER: An MF?

POWERS: Same exact word, yes. And I don't remember it quite being what this is. And I will say, like, I'm consistent, because I actually think the least offensive things that Donald Trump has done is used the "MF" word. Like to me, that is literally the least offensive thing he has done.

I am far more offended by the way he talks about Muslims or the way he talks to NFL players who are kneeling and the way he attacks people and the way he degrades people and the way he bullies people. So there actually is a consistency. You know, the point is, she said this at a campaign private party. OK.

TAPPER: I want to show Democrats clearly divided on the subject of impeachment, House Democrats. Let's take a listen to just two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: I think it's a valid question. And it's one that a lot of voters were interested in having on, you know, in the election, and certainly a conversation -- a legitimate conversation --

[16:45:00] REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON: I'm not comfortable with that kind of language but I'm not comfortable with that leak. We have to wait for the Mueller report before we have any idea where we're going with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, it's a legitimate discussion to have, impeachment. Congressman Peter Defazio, we have to wait for the Mueller report. And that's the divide right now among the House Democratic caucus.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: See, and I don't really see that as a divide. I see her answer as not necessarily a difference from him. I think that there are folks who are eager to get on with the process. You know, to remember, Congressman Green and others introduced articles of impeachment last year. And so there are folks who are like I have more than a gut feeling where you know, where you see smoke there's a huge fire and I think that that's -- I think that's our reality.

Yes, it would be ignorant for the Democrats to go before the Mueller investigation is concluded and I think moreover now we have Congressman Cummings who's very effective at Oversight and Government Reform who has key oversight authority here and a number of other Democrats, all the Democrats in the House have this oversight responsibility of every federal agency. So there may be a lot more. Do I want to wait to see what other mess has been created by this administration? No but I also think that it would be horrible for them to go forth with impeachment without having all of the evidence.

TAPPER: As a pollster, you're a Republican pollster, but as a pollster -- take off the partisan hat for a second -- what would you advise Nancy Pelosi to do what she's doing right now or to follow the base?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I would advise Nancy Pelosi to not follow the base down this road. I mean, those poll numbers that you put up there tell the story perfectly. There are plenty of issues out there where independent voters in the country are closer to where the Democratic Party is than the Republican Party is. Impeachment is not one of those issues. Impeachment is an issue where independents look a lot more like Republicans, where they want -- let's go through the process. Let's let the Mueller a report come out. Let's make sure we've investigated.

Congress can impeach the president even if he's doing a good job, but politically that's much more challenging to do. And I think for Democrats right now to be sort of taking this position of let's impeach him when the reports not out -- I mean, you have Tom Steyer's group Need to Impeach that has just put an ad by. They're going to be going up on the air in states like Iowa and South Carolina this weekend with ads talking about the need to impeach. If I was Democratic leadership, I would be like could you guys not just for a little bit because this is not the kind of issue that is bringing independence along to the Democratic Party, at least in the absence of big conclusions from Mueller.

TAPPER: Of course, Tom Steyer potentially going to run for president and he's riding the impeachment horse too that. This is going to be a pressure point for Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker Amy Klobuchar, and on and on and on. What do you think they should do?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think they're in a tough spot because I think yeah this is something the Democratic base wants to hear. But the truth of the matter is, it would be an extra -- it would just be an exercise essentially because the son is not going to convict him. So the day we'll go through all of this, they would spend all this political capital on it and they could impeach him but in the end they're not going to get rid of him. And that's really what Democrats want. They really want to get rid of him. They just -- they don't want just some sort of show vote right?

RYE: It was like resign, please.

POWERS: Yes.

RYE: And with the impeachment also, the one -- the one point on this that I do think we should talk about is this is really about Democrats showing an ability to fight. Historically, this has been a party that's about -- been about compromise and you know, forget our values for a minute, we'll do what we need to do to just you know, plug our noses and do this tough vote. This is really about the fight so I think it's a principle thing more than anything.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. Speaking of 2020, several presidential hopefuls are courting the vote of one person in particular. Who? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: 2020 news in our "POLITICS LEAD." We were just minutes away from a crucial test for a likely Democratic presidential candidate. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts heading to the state that begins the entire presidential nominating process. As we learned she's been courting Hillary Clinton for her support.

CNN's MJ Lee is live for us in Council Bluffs, Iowa where Warren's first event happens tonight. So MJ, this is the Senator's first trip to Iowa since the 2014 campaign. What does she plan on talking about when she meets Iowans tonight?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's obviously not an accident that she has chosen Iowa to be her first campaign stop. It is going to be a three-day swing. She starts here this evening and Council Bluffs. We are currently inside of a bowling alley/restaurant/bar. And then tomorrow she is going to make three stops in Sioux City, Storm Lake, and Des Moines and then she ends the three-day swing in Ankeny, Iowa.

Now, since her announcement on Monday, she's obviously been busy first of all with her day job. She was sworn in into her new Senate term just yesterday on Capitol Hill. She's also been pretty active on social media as well. She has been busy tweeting and she's been pretty active on Instagram including opening up a bottle of beer wildlife streaming a conversation with supporters on Instagram live.

Now, the last time as you said that Senator Warren was in Iowa was in 2014. You might remember that she was campaigning with former Congressman Bruce Braley when he was trying to challenge now Senator Joni Ernst. Obviously, that was not successful. So the fact that Senator Warren has not been here in a couple of years is going to really raise the stakes for her, right? We are going to see whether that political raw talent is there and we're also going to see how people just react to her here in Iowa.

I'm already seeing a line beginning to form actually outside of this restaurant with people waiting to come in and talk to her and see what she has to say. And we can expect in terms of what she's going to talk about for Senator Warren to touch on some of her bread-and-butter issues whether it is taking on big banks, taking on big corporations, and income inequality obviously has also been a big issue for her. So these are some of the topics we should easily expect her to talk about.

Lastly, Jake, I will just note some of our new reporting on some of the staff hires that she is already making. We just reported that she has hired Joe Rospars. He was a chief digital strategy strategist for Barack Obama both in 2008 and in 2012. And also she has hired Richard McDaniel. He was a top aide to Senator Doug Jones and his campaign. So already, the campaign is well underway. Jake?

[16:55:43] TAPPER: All right, MJ Lee in Council Bluffs, Iowa thanks so much. Let's chat about this. What does Liz Warren, Senator Warren need to do to get her campaign off the ground? She is potentially, potentially one of the top to your candidates? RYE: No, and there's going to be a lot of tears.

TAPPER: Right.

RYE: Let's just talk about that. This is -- this -- I think our primary is going to look very much like the Republican primary for 16. So first of all, the fact that she's hiring up and is hiring folks who have extensive experience with President Obama, I'm assuming she's going to reach out to Hillary Clinton staffers. That's supremely important to her, top-level staffers, who is she identifying that have a track record of success, knowing what her -- as MJ just talked about, her bread-and-butter issues are and knowing how to speak about them is going to be very important.

Elizabeth Warren to me has this effect of a professor in school that you took kindly to. I don't know how that is going to play in a presidential election. And so we were kind of talking about this on the break but I will leave it there.

TAPPER: No, we can talk about that because obviously people talk about who they like and likeability is an important part of that whether it's a man or a woman. One of the things that's interesting also though, Kirsten, is that Warren is one of at least five potential 2020 candidates who's met with Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State in 2016 Democratic nominee, in an attempt to court her support.

Sources tell CNN that along with Warren the list included Senators Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Do they want to run the trail? Do they want her advice? What are they looking for you think?

POWERS: Well, I mean, look they're still -- there were a lot of -- I mean more people voted for Hillary than voted for Donald Trump and you know, as much as people like to say she's not popular, she actually has a lot of people who really love her. So I think it is important to get her support. I don't think endorsements typically make or break campaigns.

I think Barack Obama's would be more important, frankly, because he is so universally beloved in the Democratic Party, and because getting African-American votes is the most important thing for anybody who's running in a Democratic primary and running in a general election as a Democrat. And so I think that he and Michelle Obama also would be another person who I think any candidate would love to have --

TAPPER: Problem they'll all probably sit out the primary, I think. One thing that really struck me from her interview the other night with Rachel Maddow was when she came out not in favor of the process but in favor of the end goal when it came to president Trump and removing troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Here's a short clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, MASSACHUSETTS: I think it is right to get our troops out of Syria and let me add, I think it's right to get our troops out of Afghanistan. I think that everybody who keeps saying no, no, no, we can't do that in the defense establishment needs to explain what they think winning and those wars look like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: She went on to explain she doesn't like the way that President Trump has been doing it but that -- but she agrees with the end goal. That's what Democrats used to sound like before 9/11.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Here on Earth-Two, I agree with Elizabeth Warren about the idea of explaining, and she agrees with Donald Trump about getting out of these two places. So there are so many strange dynamics at play here in the foreign policy part is going to be part of it because it is going to be painful for people to agree with Donald Trump too much. And on this, they may in the Democratic primary.

I also say, this might be -- this is damning with faint praise but I think that Elizabeth Warren, Senator Elizabeth Warren is appreciably better than Hillary style-wise but she's made some big mistakes, the DNA test being one of them and the history that preceded that. What I do know is that a crowded primary definitely ends in a totally uplifting win that doesn't at all divide the party. To borrow a phrase, it ends in a lot of tears.

TAPPER: We're running out of time but quickly your thoughts on the anti-war part of this.

ANDERSON: Oh, well, I mean, I think that's in some ways more product of Donald Trump being an odd fit for the Republican Party than Elizabeth Warren's position being an odd fit for the Democratic Party. But she's smart for getting in while the air is a little more clear, and the one thing you as a candidate can never make more of his time.

TAPPER: Interesting. Thanks so much one and all. I appreciate it. Join me this Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION." The new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff will join me exclusively. That's Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. and noon here on CNN. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JakeTapper, you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. We actually read them. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Have a great weekend.