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Fed Chair Would Refuse to Resign; President Trump Threatens to Keep Government Shut Down For Year or More; Interview With Pennsylvania Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 4, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:01]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they'd say, Mr. President, keep going. This is far more important.

I want to thank you all. And we will see you soon. They will be working very hard over the weekend.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so there you have it, the president again answering quite a number of questions there in front of the White House press corps.

A couple of headlines that jumped out at me. So, let me just roll through this.

And, Gloria Borger, thanks for having with me, and we will chat in a second.

But one of the questions he was asked about -- obviously, he was talking about border security and this wall that he wants. And we're going to get into concrete vs. steel in just a second.

But the question was, so you don't need congressional approval to build a wall? The president said: "Absolutely. We can call a national emergency. I haven't done it. I may do it," he says. "We can call a national emergency."

And the follow-up question was, is that a threat hanging over Democrats? And he says, "I never threaten anybody, but I am allowed to do it."

There's that, Gloria. And then I want to get to Kaitlan Collins' question. Oh, and we got Dana Bash, too.

Dana Bash, good to see you.

So, the bit about concrete vs. steel about -- and just so we're all on the same page, because this is so much more than the material, right? This is a -- it's a much bigger point.

So I just want to go back to a tweet from the President Trump five days ago, because Kaitlan's essentially saying, how are you fulfilling your campaign promise? You said you wanted this concrete wall. Paraphrasing. He says five days ago: "An all-concrete wall was never abandoned, as has been reported by the media."

Dana, I will start with you on this. Flash forward to five seconds ago, when he's like, no, no, no, steel is stronger than concrete. It'll be steel.

And I'm wondering to you if this might actually be some sort of opening in a negotiation. How do you interpret that?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Potentially.

Look, and the reason why he sent that tweet initially was because not of media reports, but his own outgoing chief of staff saying in an interview that they weren't talking about a concrete wall, nor had they have been really since -- for the past year-plus.

It could be an opening. So much of this is semantics. So much of this is posturing. He, understandably, just spent the last, what, hour in the Rose Garden trying to get the political upper hand on the argument for the need for a wall, slats, whatever you call it, because of national security, tried to make that case with his homeland security secretary right there, but didn't exactly have the specifics and the answers to why he believes and he insists that it is the crisis that he's -- that he has been arguing vociferously that it is, to the point where he has promoted this partial shutdown.

He has promoted the notion of people who work for the federal government not getting paid, people who need the services of these parts of the federal government not being able to use them. And I'm not just talking about museums. Talking about IRS and others. And so, yes, it could be a potential negotiating tactic, but it also is a sliding political scale, which he uses depending on where he is and who he's talking to and what particular flash point of the moment he needs to deal with.

BALDWIN: Yes.

Gloria, let me come to you in just a second.

We have got Kaitlan now all miked up, Kaitlan Collins in the Rose Garden for us.

And, Kaitlan, we have just been discussing your question, right, about steel and concrete and campaign promises. But I really actually would like to pivot to you on the president confirming what we heard from Leader Schumer when he walked out of the meeting at the White House, saying that the president said that if he needs to he would keep this government shut down for months or maybe even a year.

Yet I heard him also say he thinks there will be some progress. We know they're meeting -- a group is meeting this weekend. Tell me more about that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, he did say that he confirmed that he said that this could be a shutdown that goes on for years.

And, of course, that raised the obvious questions, what about those federal workers who are getting paychecks? How are they expected to last that long when they can't pay their rent or their car payments? The president said he believes they would feel if they were asked that this was worth it to go without a paycheck, alluding to that several times when he was asked, what does he have to say about those federal workers who are not going to get a paycheck?

A lot of them not going to get a paycheck next Friday on the 11th if we are still in this shutdown when it gets to that. Now, a few news points. The president did say that they are going to have staffs, from not only from the White House side, but also the House and the Senate, continue to work throughout the weekend and work to try to find a solution for this shutdown.

But it did not sound optimistic, because you heard what the president said here when he first came out. He said that it was productive. But then when you heard that message on the other side of the White House from the Democrats who emerged for that meeting saying that it was actually a pretty contentious meeting, that the president had threatened to keep the government open for years.

Now, of course, there are going to be several questions about what it's going to look like in the days coming forward. One bit of news that might not have made it on camera, as they were leaving, the president was going back into the Oval Office, is the vice president, Mike Pence, did say he will not take that raise that he's scheduled to get overnight, which he and several other Cabinet officials are as well, according to those documents that were reported about earlier from "The Washington Post" and CNN, saying that not only the vice president, but also several Cabinet secretaries and their deputies, are scheduled to get a raise about roughly $10,000 overnight.

[15:05:18]

The president was asked if they should withhold those raises from those Cabinet secretaries while there are hundreds, if not thousands of federal workers going without their paychecks or working on furlough. And at the end there, the president said that's an idea he would consider, but he didn't commit to it.

But then Pence did tell the reporters as they were walking off he will not take that raise he is scheduled to get overnight.

Now, the president made several remarks throughout here. He kept saying that he believed that that recently renegotiated trade deal with Canada and Mexico is going to pay for the wall. That doesn't explain why the government is shut down if that's going to pay for the wall.

Of course, Brooke, you know that's a trade deal that has not been passed by Congress yet. So that's an idea that has stumped not only lawmakers, including some in the president's own party, the Republican Party, but also aides here at the White House have said they do not understand what the president means when he says that. Now, he also made a few remarks about these negotiations after that two-hour meeting with Democrats, as you were saying, about building the wall out of steel, because he said he believes he's done so much for steel companies.

Of course, I raised the question. That's not what the president told his supporters he would build on the campaign trail. But, of course, one of the big parts of that is how that wall is going to get paid. He promised repeatedly that Mexico was going to pay for it. Now he's saying Mexico will either pay through the trade deal that hasn't passed yet.

But, of course, you have to square that with the fact that the government is currently partially shut down over a demand from the administration to have the American taxpayer pay for the wall.

So, a slew questions here coming for the president. One more thing I do want to note, he did say that DACA was part of the discussions here that they were talking about, but then he seemed to back off that there at the end, when he was saying that it has been upheld by that court of appeals, of course.

That is this essentially what he said during that Cabinet meeting yesterday. So that doesn't sound like something promising and that does confirm what our sources have said.

Brooke, the bottom line is, we are no closer to reopening the government after that two-hour meeting right now.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan Collins rolling through those headlines. Kaitlan, you are excellent. Thank you so much there in the Rose Garden for us.

And I just want to continue my conversation. I have Gloria and Dana with me.

And, Gloria, over to you on what I noted, another headline on his notion of bypassing Congress to build a wall and essentially saying he can, he can, and he would if necessary. What did you think of that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we have heard this threat before. We heard it in a -- or we read it in a tweet in October. And I think it's a threat from the president. He doesn't ever quite pull the trigger on that.

And I think it's something he kind of throws out there to tell -- to tell the Congress, look, I can do this. They would probably say that he couldn't. I mean, one of the headlines here is, the Democrats came out and said that they told the president, Mr. President, let's just open the government and then we will discuss, and then we will discuss the issue of the wall, border security, et cetera.

And he said, that's not going to happen in pieces, as he put it. We won't be opening the government until this is solved. And -- and he also made the case here -- never talks about federal workers personally. But he made the case that if he -- if he did interview all of them, they would be -- they would be happy with what he's doing because he's giving them security, instead of their paycheck.

I would like to take a poll of those people and see exactly how they're feeling about that.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: One other interesting thing, which is sort of off-topic, was that he made -- he told us that impeachment came up during this conversation because of the congresswoman who spoke about him in a derogatory way and said that he should be impeached.

And Nancy Pelosi said to him, according to the president, "We are not looking to impeach you," and he said, "You can't impeach somebody that's doing a great job," which is what he kind of tweeted this morning.

And then he veered over to Russia again, because there was no collusion, et cetera, et cetera. But it was very interesting to me that Pelosi kind of volunteered that to kind of -- to kind of get that off the table, and she's got a lot of Democrats who disagree with her.

BALDWIN: I also think noteworthy as part of that, we're talking about Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who said essentially in speaking to a group of like-minded folks up in Washington yesterday that roughly the quote was we're going to impeach this mother-F'er, was what she said, all part of this conversation that she was relating that had had with her son about, we don't want to elect bullies.

And when he was asked about the language that she used, right, he called it disgraceful, which, again, this is President Trump we're talking about, so it's a little bit pot, kettle, if I may.

But, Dana, again, reiterating what Gloria said, when he commented on that, he said, you can't impeach someone who's doing a great job.

[15:10:01]

BASH: Yes, I mean, that's not how it works.

It's less likely, because impeachment is a constitutional process, but it's also a political process. And you have to have the political will among the constituents of the members of Congress and the House first to pass the articles impeachment and then, of course, of the constituents of the senators, at least the -- more than a majority of them to effectively find him guilty.

You can have a president that is doing great things across the board, but also has committed what members of Congress consider to be impeachable offenses. The two are not mutually exclusive.

You're exactly right. But I agree with Gloria.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: It is true -- if it is true that Nancy Pelosi said to the president, "We're not looking to impeach you," that's not going to be actually all that popular with, a lot of people who were just elected and made her the speaker and voted for her for speaker and got 40 seats.

Some of them will be OK with that, because especially the leaders of the key committees, who are saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, we're not giving any credence to the I-word, we have got to see the Mueller report and so forth.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BASH: But that's not where -- David Chalian was saying earlier the latest CNN poll 80 percent of Democrats are supportive of impeachment.

So that's going to be interesting, the way that flies with her constituents.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Let me ask a congresswoman who has been patient enough to wait through for the last hour.

Ladies, thank you very much.

Another freshman congresswoman who is part of that historic class, she is Democrat Chrissy Houlahan. She's the first woman to represent the 6th District in Pennsylvania.

So, Congresswoman, welcome, and thank you so much for waiting in the wings. We get a lot of breaking news this time of day.

So let me actually -- I want to ask you what we were just discussing, that if it is true that Nancy Pelosi said today Donald Trump that Democrats are not looking to impeach you, if true, how do you take that?

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA: So I would be happy to answer that question. But I would really rather talk about what we just saw.

I don't believe that the...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: If I may, though, can I get you on record on that? And then we will continue on.

HOULAHAN: Of course.

The Democratic Party is a very big tent. I was elected by the people of my community to get to the business of the people. The business of the people, first and foremost, is having a functioning government. And right now, we have done exactly the opposite of that.

And so I definitely am not looking to impeach our president. But I am looking for a president who does his job. And right now, that job is not being done. Right now, what we have just seen over the last hour- and-a-half is a reality television show. And we are not in the business of playing with people's lives. This is reality.

And he talked about existential threats at the border. Fundamental threats are people's livelihoods and whether they have food in their stomachs and roofs over their head. And that's first and foremost the responsibility of the government not to impede the opportunity of people to be able to pursue their lives and happiness.

BALDWIN: Sure.

As the president did point out, though, that there is a group set to negotiate. They're going to continue negotiating into the weekend. Does that seem like any progress to you?

HOULAHAN: Well, I am grateful for that. And I did watch the president's press conference and haven't been able to see any of the other coverage related to how that meeting went to -- or went by.

But it did seem as though there were conflicting reports about how that meeting happened and how it transpired. And so I'm interested to see more about that, but it did -- it was at least hopeful that we will continue to talk over the course of the weekend.

I look forward to moving forward on this. I came here to get the business of the people done. I'm two to into my job, and I really do want get to the down to the business of why I was elected by the people of my community, which is to worry about health care and making sure that we have opportunities to have great jobs and terrific education, and, frankly, it wasn't necessarily about building a concrete structure at the southern border.

BALDWIN: What about though -- yes. Here's the but. But President Trump did say, he confirmed what we heard from Leader Schumer when he was sitting next to Speaker Pelosi outside the White House after they'd had this whole conversation, which they contend was more contentious and lengthy at times.

He said that he did -- he will allow the government potentially to be shut down for months or years. The president said he said that.

HOULAHAN: Right.

BALDWIN: How would you respond to the president?

HOULAHAN: And that's very, very alarming.

And if I were one of those 800,000 people who are worried about their next paycheck and, therefore, worried about their rent and their food and their car payments, or, frankly, all of the people who benefit from the services of those 800,000 people, I would be very, very concerned that my government was obstructing the opportunities that I had to just be a common everyday citizen.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman Houlahan, the president does seem to be wavering on his wall, or at least his description of it going all the way back to his campaign. Have to call it a wall. You can call it steel, fencing. [15:15:01]

Does this help the case for your party?

HOULAHAN: So I actually was fascinated by the way that he sort of meandered through the -- through his conference and seemed to be wandering from one conversation to another and one set of words to another.

And I definitely thought I heard some sort of a movement on his part by talking more about steel. But I don't know that that necessarily changes anything in the conversation, which is that, first and foremost, we have a responsibility to the people who are here to have a government that is working.

And, right now, I come into this Congress with a government that is shut down. And I am incredibly enthusiastic about getting to work with the new folks who have just come in, with an incredible set of skills and the diversity of experiences. Cannot wait to get to work on behalf of the people to move those issues forward that are most critical to them.

BALDWIN: But so I'm hearing you correctly and then I -- we will head off -- you did hear an opening in the president talking about steel? That could be a potential opening for Democrats in negotiations?

HOULAHAN: I don't have any other way to see it, when it's clear that he has changed the conversation, than some sort of an opening.

BALDWIN: OK.

Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, good luck. Thank you.

HOULAHAN: Thank you. I appreciate that. I look forward to speaking to you more.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

President Trump also touting a strong jobs report today in that news conference. If you look at the Big Board, stocks have been soaring, not just on the jobs front, but also how the Fed chair responded to the president's recent criticism of him. You will hear that next.

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[15:20:49]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So, it's nice to see one of the things that is so beautiful to watch is 3.2 percent wage growth. That hasn't happened in so long for our country. That's an incredible thing.

That means people are actually getting more money, taking home more money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: President Trump moments ago touting today's jobs and numbers. Employers added 312,000 jobs in the month of December. And right now, the Dow pretty gangbusters, up 700 points here on the news.

But there's something else giving stocks a boost, frank talk from the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, who said he would not resign if asked to by the president. Trump has repeatedly criticized Powell and the Fed for raising interest rates, saying on Twitter that it is -- quote -- "the only problem with U.S. economy."

But that didn't stop Powell from answering some very direct questions about Trump in a panel discussion today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: There's also been discussion of a face-to-face meeting between you and the president. If invited, would you -- would you accept that kind of invitation if it were made?

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: So, again, I have no news on that. Nothing's been scheduled.

I would say that meetings between presidents and Fed chairs do happen. And they have happened, I think, in -- I can't think of any Fed chairs who didn't eventually meet with president, but, again, nothing -- nothing has been scheduled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN global economic analyst and "Financial Times" columnist and associate Rana Foroohar is with me.

Good to see you.

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN ANALYST: Nice to see you.

BALDWIN: It is not often you see the Fed chief making any comments in the ballpark of what we just saw. I mean, talk to me about how extraordinary that was.

FOROOHAR: It's completely extraordinary.

I mean, the way in which this president has politicized the Fed is -- I can't think of a comparable example. And Powell is absolutely right to say, look, I'm doing my job. You have -- first of all, a president, in order to fire a Fed chair, would have to have cause.

There is no cause here. I mean, the president has complained about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. It's doing that in part because we have had a lot of strong jobs numbers. The Fed is doing what they're supposed to do. They're trying to keep these stock markets from overheating. They're trying to keep inflation low.

He's doing his job.

BALDWIN: What about the jobs report out today? Really, really solid numbers.

FOROOHAR: Yes.

BALDWIN: Can you just put them in context for us?

FOROOHAR: Yes. No, they are solid numbers. I mean, what's really ironic is that the president comes on, touts the strong jobs numbers, but then said, oh, but the Fed shouldn't be raising interest rates. That's the only thing wrong with economy right now.

Again, the two things go together. When you have a stronger economy, the Fed has to start moving us towards more of a normal monetary policy. I mean, we have been in a really easy money environment for 10 years now trying to recover from the financial crisis.

We have now been in recovery for 10 years. It's time to start getting back to normal.

BALDWIN: Rana, thank you very much.

FOROOHAR: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Let's talk more about the notable news conference that happened just a moment ago at the White House.

Julie Pace is the Washington bureau chief for the AP.

And, Julie, of all of what we heard in the last hour, one of the most noteworthy bits is how the president says he would bypass Congress to build a wall if he needed to. Bypass Congress, what did you of that?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, it does raise the question of why he wouldn't just do that and open up the government, if he does think that that's a viable option?

I'm sure there are a lot of federal workers not seeing their paychecks right now who say, why don't you go ahead and do that? The reality of the situation, though, is that working through Congress, going through the legislative process and the funding process is generally the preferred option, because you don't have to tap emergency funds.

And it does codify what you're seeking. But he doesn't seem to have a plan at this point, a way, a viable way, to get what he's -- what he wants from Congress, especially now that you have Democrats in charge of the House. His best option was before the new year, when he did have full Republican control of Congress.

BALDWIN: What about the other piece of this we haven't actually brought up, is April Ryan asked about eminent domain, eminent domain, suggesting land could be taken for the sake of his border wall.

And correct me if I'm wrong, but that will not sit well with Republicans.

[15:25:00]

PACE: It's a really controversial idea for both parties, frankly.

And you have already seen -- in border states in areas where the wall would be built if the funding were to go forward, you have already seen a lot of discussion on this. It's not something that people, including the president's own party, favor.

And you would see a lot of backlash, I think, along the border in some of those -- in some of those communities. But the president -- it's interesting. He comes at this not just from the perspective of a president, but he comes at it from the perspective of a real estate executive.

BALDWIN: A landlord, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

PACE: ... real estate companies who have sought to use -- a landlord -- who have sought to use eminent domain or take advantage of eminent domain.

And you saw that side of him really come through when he was touting that possibility in that news conference.

BALDWIN: What about, Julie, just lastly -- and I was just talking to freshman Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan about this now it seems like break or waver on concrete wall vs. steel. And she said she's choosing to see it potentially as an opening for negotiations.

Do you see it that way? Or is this just because this is his normal sliding scale on positions, depending on the day?

PACE: Yes, I don't -- I don't think we know yet.

I think the president certainly is not going to get everything that he initially has said that he wanted. The full funding for a concrete wall seems all but impossible at this point. So, somehow, if lawmakers and the president are going to come to some kind of deal here, they are going to have to give him something that he can tout as a success to his supporters, who really do want some kind of wall.

So maybe the way that you come up with that opening is to move it from being a concrete wall to something that is steel or it's see-through or some -- some type of other structure beyond what the president has initially been -- been talking about here.

Whether he is willing to actually give some ground, I think, is a little unclear and will probably depend on how Democrats would choose to frame any kind of agreement as well, that both sides are going to be looking for some way to walk out of this and look like they're winners.

BALDWIN: They have established a group. We know they're at least continuing the conversations into the weekend. Choose to see it as hopefully a good sign.

Julie Pace, thank you so much. Good to see you. Coming up next here: a freshman congresswoman and making all kinds of

headlines today for calling President Trump a -- quote -- "mother- F'er" in talking about his potential impeachment. She's not backing down a day from that language, folks.

President Trump was just asked about it. He referred to her language as disgraceful moments ago. We will discuss.

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