Return to Transcripts main page
Trump, Democrats to Meet Again on Shutdown; Some GOP Senators Break with Trump on Shutdown Strategy; Russian Media Claims American Paul Whelan Had Flash Drive Containing Classified Information; White House Considers Democrat Jim Webb for Defense Secretary; Interview with Representative Eric Swalwell. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired January 4, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. It is the top of the hour. And it is a busy Friday morning. Good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim has the day off.
Ninety minutes from now an ugly showdown fight is likely getting a whole lot uglier. Congressional leaders are set to meet with the president in the situation room again this morning. This meeting has a brand new dynamic. Nancy Pelosi is now officially the House speaker and Democrats are in charge of the House of Representatives. And according to aides talking to CNN, zero.
You heard that right, zero progress is expected today. Let me remind you, lawmakers are still being paid. All of them, getting their paychecks in the middle of the shutdown, while hundreds of thousands of federal workers are not. In the middle of all of this, signs Republicans could be breaking from the president on his own strategy. Two key Republican senators signaling they want to fund the government first and work on border security after.
Let's go to the White House. Jessica Dean is there. So we've learned in the last hour from these aides telling CNN, really today not expected to accomplish much?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Really today, not expected to accomplish much at all. Now as you were talking about the Republicans that are starting to break rank, Democrats see that as their strategy working. So that really gives them incentive to stay exactly where they are and keep putting their pressure on.
The Republicans, the White House, President Trump, has given no indication he's willing to budge at all, and in fact we have heard from various people within the administration, no wall, then there's no deal. That they've been saying that over and over again. So we're looking to 11:30 for this meeting. We've got the gang of eight coming back here.
Again, they're having this meeting in the situation room. The White House trying to frame this as a national security emergency down at the border. The Democrats not really buying that at this point, but that's kind of the setup for all of this.
We are now in day 14, Poppy, as you said, 21 days, the longest shutdown we have seen here in the U.S. that was back in 1995 to '96. And as we continue to tick toward that, you know, unfortunate milestone, people are as dug in as ever. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president has made it clear. We are here to make a deal, but it is a deal that's going to result in achieving real gains on border security, and you have no border security without the wall. We will have no deal without a wall.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt that we are not doing a wall? So that's that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you worried about backlash?
PELOSI: No. It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the wall is an immorality between countries. It's an old way of thinking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: And if you really zoom out, it is starting to become clear that Democrats, this is becoming kind of a symbolic thing. Yes, it's about border wall and funding, Poppy, but it's also about Trump and his base supporters and their world view, and Democrats and their view. And how they see this nation moving forward. And this has really become the flash point. So we'll see what happens at this meeting coming up not too long from now.
HARLOW: We can always hope. And that's what we will do.
Jessica Dean, thank you.
Let's go straight to Capitol Hill. Phil Mattingly joins me. Phil, good morning to you. We saw like a little bit of bipartisanship yesterday. Five Republicans voted with Democrats in the House on these bills. Two senators now, two key senators that should concern the president on what they're saying about when to tackle the border wall issue.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. Look, you have Senator Cory Gardner and Senator Susan Collins, two Republican senators who have made clear that they believe, look, negotiations on what to do with the border can continue, but you should at least reopen the government, which is essentially an endorsement of what Democrats passed last night, what House Democrats passed last night, and sent over to the Senate.
Funding a large portion of the government through the fiscal year, having a short-term stop gap bill through the Department of Homeland Security due February 8th. Basically separate the two issues and allow negotiations to continue over DHS. Here's the reality that I'm being told behind the scenes. Senate
majority leader Mitch McConnell has said publicly he will not take up the House bills, he will not move forward on anything until the president endorses it. And while he has seen two of his members start to break, he is not moving off that position at all.
And I think one of the things to keep in mind when you look at Senators Gardner and Collins, both of them made very clear before the shutdown, they wanted no part of the shutdown, they thought there should be a deal in general, they felt there should be a short-term extension at the least. So they already held that position before that.
They're also both top Democratic targets who are up for re-election in 2020. While there are a lot of Republicans, a lot more Republicans in 2020 than 2018 that are up for re-election, a large number of those come from states where President Trump is well liked or President Trump won in 2016. So when you look at what the Senate majority leader is doing and how he's reflecting his caucus, Poppy, keep in mind that he's got more than two senators to look out for.
Now if he sees a large number of his members start to move in the opposite direction that could be a problem. But right now, Republicans, I'm told, are pretty set with where they stand.
[10:05:02] HARLOW: OK. It's not going to get us anywhere unless people move a lot on both sides. Before you go, some new rules yesterday passed by the House. I'm interested in those, and then also an interesting headline crossing out. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, one of the incomers, right, has just proposed a 70 percent tax for the wealthy to fund a climate change plan.
MATTINGLY: So it's become one of -- you've seen her, she actually participated in a sit-in at now Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office a couple of weeks ago with advocates. What's interesting here, and I think it underscores two things. First and foremost, the rules package that was passed yesterday by House Democrats to guide the 116th Congress includes the creation of a select committee on climate.
MATTINGLY: Now Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez was frustrated that that didn't go far enough. And obviously this has become a central issue for her and a lot of the progressives that are coming to Capitol Hill right now. But what it underscores more than anything else, I think, this new proposal from Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is the dynamic inside the Democratic caucus that Nancy Pelosi is going to have to deal with.
Everybody pays a lot of attention to the progressives that are coming in. And there's a reason why. They're amazing at social media, they've gotten a ton of credit and focus over the last couple months. There's also a large number of freshmen that came from Trump won districts in 2016 that are more moderate, that may be ranging toward more conservative, that probably don't agree with this plan.
HARLOW: Yes. MATTINGLY: So watching the balance of that play out over the next
couple of months is going to be fascinating and very important, Poppy.
HARLOW: Yes. And let's hope people keep talking about the issues that matter, not a dance someone does on a rooftop in college, right? Having a --
HARLOW: Having a little fun.
Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.
Let's discuss all this with Doug Heye, former RNC communications director and Republican strategist, and Symone Sanders, former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign.
Good morning to you both. Thanks for being here.
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning, Poppy.
HARLOW: So, Doug Heye, to you first. The cracks. Cory Gardner, Susan Collins, they may be the only ones speaking out now saying let's get a deal and address, you know, the wall and border security later. Let's get the government back open. But you've got other vulnerable Republicans. You know, you've got -- you've got Tillis, you've got McSally, and I just wonder if Mitch McConnell can keep saying, I don't really have a part in this, I'm not bringing anything to the floor that the president won't sign, or is the pressure from his own going to be too much?
HEYE: Well, certainly right now, it's not. It's not a surprise that Cory Gardner supported or supports the bill. It's not a surprise that Susan Collins does. If those cracks become deeper, you mentioned Thom Tillis from my home state of North Carolina. I'm wearing Carolina blue.
HARLOW: There you go.
HEYE: If Thom Tillis, in a state that Donald Trump won and won comfortably, starts to move, that may shift the dynamic, but the challenge here is, and it's a challenge for both Republicans and Democrats, is why this impasse is going to continue for a lot longer, is both Republicans and Democrats have found themselves in a moral position on this.
You either think the wall is the morally right thing to do or the morally wrong thing to do. And as long as that's your position, it appears that this is going to go on for a lot longer. There's not a lot of room for deal making right now.
HARLOW: So on the morality issue of the wall, it's the word choice, Symone, that Nancy Pelosi used, right? She said yesterday, a wall is, quote, "immoral." There's an immorality to a wall. And I wonder by using that language, do you worry that she's sort of pushing some Democrats, pushing Democrats into a corner on this one where they can't get anything?
SANDERS: No, and I absolutely don't. Look, the fact is that Donald Trump on the campaign trail said Mexico would pay for this wall. But --
HARLOW: True story.
SANDERS: Much to the chagrin of a number of progressives, Democrats compromised earlier last year, we're in 2019 now. Democrats compromised earlier last year to avoid a shutdown and gave Donald Trump a substantial amount of money, not just for border security, but they did appropriate some dollars to this, quote-unquote, "wall." When asked at a meeting at the White House with then Leader Pelosi, now Speaker Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, Donald Trump could not say what had been done with the money that had been appropriated for the wall thus far.
And so there's enough question to be had, and why should Democrats give Donald Trump additional dollars for border wall funding when he has either not spent or incorrectly spent or cannot account for the money that they gave him earlier last year. So there's just no incentive for Democrats to move here on this issue. And Nancy Pelosi has been firm.
Speaker Pelosi has said we're not giving any money for a wall. She said maybe a dollar. That's what she would compromise on, a dollar, but there will be no money for a wall. Why not take up -- Democrats have passed a Republican appropriations bill that passed in the Republican-led Senate. There is really -- I think Mitch McConnell has backed himself into a corner here.
HARLOW: Doug, A, has Mitch McConnell backed himself into a corner? And B, how does the president deal with this at this point when he's been saying $5.6 billion, he told Chuck Schumer, according to our reporting in that meeting on Wednesday at the White House, that he'd look foolish if he backed down now.
[10:10:06] And Lindsey Graham said it'd be the end of his presidency.
HEYE: Yes, look, I think it potentially could be given how intractable both sides, you know, have found themselves in this position. And ultimately, if Donald Trump is the great deal-maker, it's an opportunity for him.
I would say to your question about Mitch McConnell, I don't think Mitch McConnell is in any corner because you haven't seen Mitch McConnell. You know, he has basically removed himself from this conversation I think very smartly, and let this be about the Republicans -- the White House versus the Democrats. And you have Chuck Schumer obviously who is trying to get something done. But also Nancy Pelosi who is in a very new dynamic right now as speaker. Yesterday was a unifying day for Democrats. But she has not just
progressives in her caucus. She basically has her own freedom caucus. And the challenge that Pelosi faces is how does she demonstrate to them that she's going to stand up and fight while having to govern at the same time. And I can tell you, having barely lived through the 2013 shutdown when I worked in the House of Representatives, it's a very tough thing for the majority party in the House when you have a majority of the other party in the Senate and in the White House.
John Boehner used to remind us that we had one half of one-third of government. That's not a point of leverage.
HARLOW: And it's hurting cast. Right? Symone, because I have you here and your extensive work with the Sanders campaign in 2016, I do want to ask about "The New York Times" reporting, the sexism claims from within the campaign, women paid less and treated worse. Bernie Sanders addressed that this week on "AC 360" and said look, I didn't know about it. I was busy running around the country. But of course, it shouldn't happen. It's something we should address. I'm paraphrasing here.
Did you experience any of that and what do you make of his answer?
SANDERS: No, I did not experience any sexual harassment. I think the term that was used in some of the reporting was sexual violence, but for those women and individuals on the campaign that did, it is not only unacceptable but it has to in fact be addressed. And I do believe that Jeff Weaver and the, quote-unquote, "friends of Bernie Sanders," the campaign committee, came out and said that those -- these things were -- did eventually get to the top of the campaign when it comes to Jeff Weaver and other individuals.
I think folks like Rich Pelletier, other folks who were, you know, again senior staff on the campaign, campaign manager level, and that they did make some adjustments in the senator's midterm, in his 2018 campaign. But the fact of the matter is these things should never have happened and I think the senator expressed that and underscores that. And you know what, I would hope that they are taking all of this, everything that's coming out into the media into account. And if whether or not the senator decides to run for president --
SANDERS: -- I think that we could all benefit from a very healthy discussion about how we create healthy and holistic environments where folks do feel like they can speak up for themselves when they do encounter such harassment situations.
HARLOW: Amen to that. And we have, you know, a record number of women in Congress now, as of yesterday, so important to stay on it. I appreciate it, both of you.
Symone, thanks. And Doug, appreciate it.
HEYE: Thank you. HARLOW: Still to come, the lawyer for the American man charged in
Russia with espionage has filed an appeal. All of this as we learn new details about the rest of Paul Whelan.
Also, tragic story that has garnered national attention. Police release this sketch of a suspect in the deadly shooting of that 7- year-old girl. Ahead, a live update on the desperate manhunt.
[10:17:55] HARLOW: Welcome back. New details this morning surrounding the arrest and detention of an American man charged with espionage in Russia. A Russian news site this morning says that Paul Whelan had information, classified information, on a flash drive when he was arrested. All of this as Whelan's lawyers are appealing his detention and pushing for bail.
Let's go to my colleague, senior international correspondent Sam Kiley, who has more.
What is the significance of what his attorney is pushing for and frankly what this Russian news site is reporting about what they say Whelan had on his person when he was arrested?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, first on the matter of the lawyer, he is demanding bail for his client. He is saying that his client is in good spirits. He's in -- on remand, he's facing charges of espionage. But it could take six months before a court appearance could be scheduled at the end of investigations. And that period is a long time to spend inside a Russian jail.
So that's what his lawyer is pursuing. In terms of what the Rosbalt News Agency put out earlier on today, that is uncorroborated by our own reporting, so we can only quote what they're saying. They're saying that their security sources in Russia suggest that he took possession of some kind of electronic memory device, a thumb drive or similar, shortly before he was arrested in a hotel close to the Kremlin, Poppy.
And this is all causing, though, a degree of outrage right across the world, not least because Mr. Whelan has multiple citizenship, he's American, Canadian, Irish, and British. And just in the last hour or so, Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign secretary, has said that individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage.
There's a strong feeling, I think, on both sides of the Atlantic, whether you're looking at the British relationship with Russia over the use of chemical weapons and the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal or Maria Butina, the lobbyist at best, the young woman accused of being an agent of Russia in the United States. That he may be a pawn within that game. Seized by the Russians, perhaps, for some future spy exchange. I say that (INAUDIBLE) comments, Poppy.
KILEY: There's no evidence that any of these individuals are actual spies. But I think that this is how it's being seen both here in Moscow and the United States, and now clearly in London by the Foreign secretary, Poppy.
HARLOW: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Important update. Sam, thank you very much. Live for us from Moscow.
Also an interesting headline, a new candidate reportedly emerging to fill Jim Mattis' shoes as the secretary of Defense. According to "The New York Times," the Trump administration is considering Jim Webb, a former Democratic presidential hopeful, for the spot.
Our Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent, with me. He's really interesting. Politically you have this, you know, former Democratic, former presidential candidate, but he seems to see eye to eye with the president on a number of things including China and the Iran nuclear deal.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Poppy. The real question is, are we any closer right now to a permanent nominee for secretary of Defense? That is not at all clear. "The New York Times" reporting Webb's name, and it's worth, as you just pointed out, taking a quick look at his history. He was briefly a Democratic presidential candidate. He did serve as a Democrat senator from the state of Virginia. But in military circles, he's a decorated Vietnam veteran.
He's perhaps best remembered for serving as secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, and quitting that job, stepping down, resigning in a quite adamant fashion because he could not support what the administration was doing at the time in some budget cutting and other issues. So resigning as a point of protest. Sound familiar.
Webb may be not -- we don't know, frankly, if he's really going to be a serious contender. But what we do know is the acting secretary, Patrick Shanahan, today finishing up his first week on the job. We're told he's having a number of meetings. He met earlier today with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is headed over to the White House later today to meet with the acting chief of staff there. And we'll see what comes of all that -- Poppy.
HARLOW: We will. Important position, interesting name in the hat perhaps.
Barbara, thanks very much.
House Democrats vowed to investigate President Trump when they took control. Now, Democrats control the House. So where will they start? I will ask one of them next.
[10:27:14] HARLOW: Welcome back. Day two of the new Congress, and Democrats have taken their newfound power in the House and hit the ground running. New rules have been passed. The bill to protect the special counsel reintroduced and impeachment articles have been raised, but not all Democrats are in agreement with all of those moves.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, who serves on two very important committees, especially right now. The Intelligence and Judiciary Committee.
Good morning, sir.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Hey, Poppy. Happy New Year. How are you doing?
HARLOW: I'm good. Happy New Year to you. As you know, senior Democratic and fellow congressman Brad Sherman introduced these Articles of Impeachment against the president. He points to what he sees as obstruction of justice. The Mueller probe is not even done. Do you support his move?
SWALWELL: No, I don't. And Poppy, I think Donald Trump is going to be impeached. It's just a question of whether it's in Congress or at the ballot box, and which one comes first. For the sake of the country, I hope it's at the ballot box, but we also have a job to do. I think we should wait for the Mueller report. We should also look at, you know, some of the emoluments clause violations, cashing in on access to the Oval Office. But follow the evidence, build an airtight case, get buy-in from Republicans if you can.
HARLOW: Well --
SWALWELL: And make sure the American people know what is at stake and why you're doing this.
HARLOW: Congressman, that answer is really interesting because you just said for the sake of the country, I hope essentially that he's not impeached by Congress. And we heard Nancy Pelosi earlier this week say that impeachment should never be a political process. I mean, what is it, then, that would tip the balance for you, that you would see -- that you would believe would convince enough Republicans in Congress to be on board with impeachment?
SWALWELL: Yes. And Poppy, I love our country. And I see impeachment almost as like filing bankruptcy. Like it's the last option. You don't want to do it recklessly.
HARLOW: Yes. Sure.
SWALWELL: It would be a lot to climb out of for Republicans and Democrats. But also, it may be the only option that we're left with. So -- but right now, again, we're a country of laws. And I want to follow the law and follow the evidence, and if that's where we get, that's where we get.
HARLOW: So is it reckless of your fellow California Democratic congressman to do something like that? Do you see it more as a stunt?
SWALWELL: No, I think it's premature. I just don't think we're there yet.
HARLOW: OK. OK. On the shutdown that is in day 14, I just had a prison worker who has to go to work at the Tallahassee prison today.
SWALWELL: Yes. Yes.
HARLOW: And not get paid to do his job and put his life at risk. And you guys are getting paid.
HARLOW: Do you agree with some of your fellow members of Congress like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez who says you guys shouldn't be getting paid right now?
SWALWELL: Yes, and I think we should pass the no budget, no pay law. But I also think the best thing we can do is to have the Senate pass what it already passed a couple of weeks ago, which we passed in the House yesterday, which is to reopen government.
We had 100 Republicans and Democrats vote to reopen government.