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Hill Leaders at White House; Furloughed Workers Share Anxiety; Democrats Deal with Tlaib Comment; Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 4, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: They still got to, you know get this on the calendar.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kylie Atwood. Kylie, thank you.

Thank you for joining me and happy Friday.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with Dana Bash starts right now.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off today.

As we speak, the president is meeting with congressional leaders about the government shutdown. Will this meeting be any more productive than the one earlier this week?

Plus, the latest jobs report shows a surge in hiring. Good news for the Trump economy. Is it also good news for his Federal Reserve chair?

And after a new Democratic congresswoman uses an expletive to describe the president in calling for his impeachment, newly elected speaker, Nancy Pelosi, downplays it as a generational thing.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't -- I don't think we should make a big deal of it.


PELOSI: I really don't. I really don't. That's probably the way people talk around. Again, I'm a grandmother and that's a different story.


PELOSI: But it is -- it's really -- words have -- weigh a ton and the president has to realize that his words weigh a ton, too.


BASH: We begin this hour at the White House on the 14th day of a partial government shutdown. Congressional leaders are meeting again with the president in the Situation Room to try to find a path forward to funding the government and ending the stalemate. Expectations, though, could not be any lower. Aides tell CNN, zero

progress is expected today. At the White House, they are refusing to budge on the demands there for a border wall. The vice president has said, if there's no wall, there's no deal. And in the Senate, Mitch McConnell is throwing bashes at his Democratic colleagues, repeating that he won't touch anything if the president hasn't signaled he'll sign it.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The package presented by the House's new Democratic leaders yesterday can only be seen as a time wasting act of political posturing.

They know that making laws takes a presidential signature. We all learned that in grade school.

This shouldn't be taken lightly. It should not be viewed as an opportunity for the new House Democratic majority to prioritize political performance as an art form ahead of the public interest.


BASH: As for the Democrats, they're not willing to move an inch either. Here's Nancy Pelosi coming to today's meeting as the newly minted House speaker.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt that we're not doing a wall? So that's it.



QUESTION: Speaker Pelosi --

RAJU: (INAUDIBLE) backlash --

PELOSI: No, it has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with a wall is an immorality between countries. It's an old way of thinking.


BASH: That was Nancy Pelosi speaking yesterday on Capitol Hill. Of course she is now at the White House.

That's also where Abby Phillip is.

Abby, if nobody's willing to budge, what does the White House hope to achieve today besides the ability to say they met?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're getting some indication of how the White House hope this will all go down. Part of it is that this morning the message was pretty clear, the president's not budging on his wall. But what we have heard in recent -- in the last few minutes, according to two White House sources, is that the White House is preparing for President Trump to make yet another appearance, a public appearance, to make his case for the wall. Probably in the Rose Garden. They are preparing potentially for after this meeting for the president to yet again make his case for the wall.

So, in other words, the White House is preparing for an opportunity for the president to try to once again sway the public narrative around this government shutdown, which really has nothing to do with whether or not progress is being made on a deal -- on a deal to end the shutdown. According to the White House press secretary this morning, the president is not backing down. And as you pointed out, Nancy Pelosi said maybe she might give the president a dollar for his border wall, but she's not willing to give much more than that.

So I think this meeting, unless there is some kind of dramatic breakthrough, is likely going to be more of the same where the two sides are not budging from their starting positions. And we will see both the Democrats coming out to the mics to speak to reporters after they speak with the president and potentially President Trump speaking from the Rose Garden, trying to make his case yet again that the border wall is necessary. The White House has been, this morning, putting out talking points, talking about how immigrants have been bringing over crime and diseases across the border. So they are really doubling down on their starting position.

But we're also starting to see the president, really for the first time in this shutdown, using the bully pulpit of the presidency to make his case. He did not go to Florida over Christmas break because of the shutdown, but we didn't see him at all during that time. And now, beginning yesterday, when he appeared in the briefing room and potentially again today, we will see President Trump, once again, potentially answering questions, a do-over from yesterday when he didn't do that in the press briefing room, but this could all just be really a PR exercise, even as talks continue to stall, Dana.

[12:05:16] BASH: Such good points there, including, and especially the fact that he was in the White House over the holidays but he might as well have been, you know, anywhere else because he didn't make the point in terms of the theatrics of it by doing public events. And, obviously, they are learning that lesson by even planning ahead, before this meeting is happening, planning for probably not to have very many results to have those theatrics in the -- in the Rose Garden.

Abby, thank you so much for that report.

Let's get to Capitol Hill. Phil Mattingly is standing by. He's been talking to his sources all morning.

What are you hearing, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, if your bar, which was admittedly low to begin with, is at least something is happening and at least people are meeting, which is a far cry from where we were last week where basically it was just me and a few of my colleagues wondering aimlessly around the Capitol with Capitol Police, then there is progress being made.

But, look, just a follow-up on Abby's point right now, the reality, when I talked to both Democrats and Republicans is this needs more time. And if you look at where Democrat are, obviously the House of Representatives, now controlled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, passed two proposals to reopen the government last night. And while Mitch McConnell has made clear, the Senate majority leader, he's not going to take them up if the president doesn't support them, Democrats believe that those will serve to pressure the rank and file members on the Republican conference on the Senate side and they're willing to give it time for that pressure to build. We already saw two Republican senators, Cory Gardner and Susan Collins, come out and say, look, we want the shutdown to end. You can keep talking about border security or a border wall, but end the shutdown now.

However, here's a key point that I'm reminded of by several Republicans. Not only are they both 2020 targets of Democrats, they are people who made very clear before the shutdown, before the border wall fight, that they didn't want any part of this to begin with. They are not reflective, more broadly, of where the Republican conference is at this moment. So, Republicans aren't budging. They've made clear, this is now the president's ballgame. He needs to figure something out with Democrats. Democrats very content with where they are in their position. This meeting's not going to yield anything in the course of the next hour or two. Expectations are anything that's going to happen is not going to happen soon. Given more time, we'll see what the pain of this shutdown creates in terms of talks, Dana.

BASH: Phil, before I let you go, I want to ask you about some reporting -- additional reporting you had this morning. Lindsey Graham told me on Sunday on "State of the Union," and it's been working -- others have as well, on the notion of putting DACA into the mix, dreamers, giving them the potential for legal status, even a path to citizenship as part of a larger deal to reopen the government. You're hearing right now that's a no go?

MATTINGLY: It's just a non-starter at the moment, at least at the leadership level. And, look, Senator Graham brought this up directly to the president, behind closed doors, pitched him on the idea. I'm told the president didn't reject it outright. But White House officials have informed staff on Capitol Hill this is not something they're pursuing right now. Democrats want no part of this. They feel like they've been led down this path before and it's blown up and they want to keep this fight where it is right now. And Republican, if the White House has decided not to go that direction, they're not going to go there as well. So right now it's not on the table. We'll see what happens as this drags on. But, right now, no.

BASH: Phil Mattingly, thank you so much for all that reporting. Appreciate it.

And here with me at the table to share their reporting and insights, Karen Demirjian is with "The Washington Post," Olivier Knox with Sirius XM, Nancy Cook with "Politico" and Ayesha Rascoe with NPR.

Happy Friday, everybody.


BASH: I think we've lost all sense of the timing (ph) as (ph) days continuum.

So let's just go off of what Phil and Abby were reporting. Again, as we speak, this meeting is taking place right now.

Olivier, you and I have covered a few shutdowns.


BASH: Twelve shutdowns. When they're planning public events before a private meeting, you know that it's probably almost definitely unlikely that there's going to be a lot of progress in that private meeting. When things are going on, they tend to be quiet.

KNOX: There's a lot that's been unconventional about this -- about this particular partial federal government shutdown, starting with the awkward -- the strange, frankly, silence from the White House throughout this -- the break. Their insistence that he was at the White House ready to deal, but no public messaging. Nothing like what we saw yesterday. Nothing like what we're seeing today. That was unconventional.

The fact that there was not somewhere, in a room on Capitol Hill, a negotiation going on to try to find some middle way, some consensus, some kind of compromise. That wasn't happening. There's a lot that was unconventional. I feel like we're sliding now into a more conventional phase for this -- for this shutdown with the exception of Mitch McConnell basically saying, I'm not making my people vote until the president is locked in on a course of action because I'm not making them walk the plank again on a -- on a vote like this when the president, at the last minute, could change his mind and we could have this difficult vote for nothing.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And especially when he's got members right now who are publicly breaking with what the president has been saying, when you've got Cory Gardner, granted he's got a race in 2020, there's good reason for him to be saying what he's saying. But the fact that you are losing control of your caucus too is all the more reason to not be (INAUDIBLE).

[12:10:12] BASH: Sorry to interrupt, but let me just show our viewers what you're talking about with regard to -- and Phil mentioned it too, a couple of senators breaking with the president and the leadership on this shutdown.

Susan Collins, up for re-election in the next cycle, 2020. I'm not saying their whole plan is a valid plan, but I see no reason why the bills that are ready to go, on which we've achieved an agreement, should be held hostage to this debate over border security. Cory Gardner, who, again, is up for re-election, also was in -- was in

leadership, in charge of getting Republicans elected in 2018, I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it in the last Congress. We should do it again today.

That's the political pressure. And the political pressure is coming in part because of pressure from -- hold on -- hold on to your hats, everybody -- real people. Real human beings who are being very negatively affected by it.

Let's just show you one example of a furloughed worker and the anxiety that she's got going on.


ANDREA POPELKA, FURLOUGHED EMPLOYEE, DENVER FEDERAL CENTER: All those things are already pre-budgeted. So when something like this happens and you're not going to get your next check, it's like, OK, what do I do? I'll have to make a tough choice between, you know, paying my utilities or going and buying groceries for the next two weeks.


AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: And that's something that really can't be lost in all of this. You have 800,000 federal employees affected by this. You have contractors. So when you talk about the possibility of this dragging out for months, that is a real impact on these -- on these people and on people's lives. And they can't -- and even though the argument is, well, they'll get money eventually, you cannot pay your mortgage with money you're going to get eventually. You know, you need that money now.

NANCY COOK, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "POLITICO": And as I've talked to people in the White House, I think that they are very cognizant that next week, on January 11th, that is when federal workers typically get paid. So that's next Friday. And they do see that, you know, privately as some sort of deadline to try to get things done.

But, you know, President Trump, just before we came on air, and just before he met with congressional leaders, the White House released this very, you know, doubling down letter to Congress filled with this slide presentation with many misleading statistics about immigration. And to me that signals that while aides around him may be aware of, you know, the impact on federal workers and just the political cost to the White House, Trump himself really seems to be doubling down.

KNOX: And, if anything, the 800,000 person figure understates the impact. All those people spend money at various businesses. There's the problem of federal permits for certain industries. Fisheries in Alaska, for example. There's the problem if you want to buy --

BASH: People who want to get married in D.C.

KNOX: Yes. But also people who want to buy houses all over the country, who are going to find it difficult to get their W-2s, you know, reissued. So there are -- there are actually all these other knock-on effects. It's not just the federal workforce. I'm not sure how quickly we're going to start seeing responses, but it's not just the people who actually work for Uncle Sam.

DEMIRJIAN: That's why there's this push to try to splinter out what parts of the government you're going to get back up and running and which parts are going to maybe get stuck for a while as we fight this out. I mean House Democrats were trying to say, OK, let's separate out DHS and just focus on the Homeland Security portion of wall, immigration that we clearly don't agree on, but get everything else up and running until the end of the year, where there's no dispute. But that's not working because, frankly, if you actually do that, you lose leverage. If it's -- there's not more pain, then there is not more to be gained for your side of the argument. And right now that -- this is becoming a political slugfest, not so much a national moment of panic of having to get things back up and running because maybe we'll see that after the 11th of January if this doesn't get resolved, but we're not --

BASH: And then -- and a slugfest and a blamefest as well.


BASH: Not surprisingly. This is as predictable as anything could possibly be.

John Cornyn, who was in the leadership, is no longer, but he is speaking for a lot of Republicans when it comes to their messaging on this. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Now that she's back as the speaker, she does have some flexibility. We'll see whether she's willing to make a deal. I think Senator Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, is looking to her to take the lead on the negotiations. But this is a deal that has to be cut between Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Donald Trump before Senator McConnell will bring it up on the Senate floor and then pass it.


BASH: And yet, if you look at the headlines from, you know, some of the major publications, including yours, McConnell faces pressure from Republicans to him. McConnell keeps his head down. McConnell insists he has no particular role. He is a guy who knows how to get a deal done, but I guess, to your point, what's the point if your president, in your own party, won't negotiate.

[12:15:05] COOK: Well, absolutely. And you've seen repeatedly that congressional leaders really understand that they have to cut the deal directly with President Donald Trump. And on Wednesday I was at the White House. Congressional leaders came to the Situation Room for what was supposed to be a briefing that the White House wanted to give on immigration and what they're marketing as a crisis on the border. But really, you know, Pelosi and Schumer kept interrupting top officials, including DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen because they wanted to just negotiate with Trump. You know, they see no point in negotiating with Vice President Mike Pence, who's been leading this from the White House with the new acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. They know that it's just Trump and them. And, otherwise, there won't really be a deal to be had.

BASH: All right, everybody stand by.

As we go to break, we wanted to show you something that got lost in the crush of news yesterday. And that is Orrin Hatch, who is still the longest serving Republican senator, enjoying his first day of retirement. And in classic Orrin Hatch fashion, he tweeted about his very last day in the Senate.


ORRIN HATCH, RETIRED U.S. SENATOR: May God bless the Senate. May he bless the United States of America. With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.



[12:20:28] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: And when your son looks at you and says, mamma, 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).


BASH: That was freshman Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, last night calling the president an expletive, as you heard, saying Democrats are going to impeach him. Today, the Michigan lawmaker is not backing down. Here's what she tweeted. I will always speak truth to power hash tag unapologeticallyme. And she said, this is not just about Donald Trump. This is about all of us. In the face of this constitutional crisis, we must rise.

Now, it's only day two of the Democrat's House control and they are trying to keep their conversation on their agenda instead of potential impeachment drama. But when asked, the new speaker had this to say about Tlaib's comment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your reaction to that comment?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: I probably have a generational reaction to it. But in any event, I'm not in the censorship business. I don't think that -- I mean I don't like that language. I wouldn't use that language. I don't -- again, establish any language standards for my colleagues. But I don't think it's anything worse than the president -- what the president has said. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So I got everything up to that last part, comparing it to the president. Because, you know, it's one thing to say I don't -- I'm not going to sensor my people, you know, so on and so forth. But for Democrats, it's a very dangerous road to start to travel to compare what they're doing to what the president is doing in the same breath virtually of saying that the president's language, his approach, everything about him is un-presidential and completely not OK as a role model and as a leader, right? I mean you start to compare it, you put yourself in a dangerous position.

DEMIRJIAN: In terms of, yes, I mean you lose the high ground basically.

BASH: Thank you.

DEMIRJIAN: I think that there is a difference in tone and message and everything that you can start to argue about the specifics of, but you lose the high ground when you start to throw out epithets like that and language that is considered vulgar. And that's a problem for the Democrats who need to maintain the high ground in order to make this argument about President Trump.

But, look, you've got a bigger caucus right now, a younger caucus right now. You've got a caucus that's more connected to social media than ever before. You are going to have difficulty keeping everybody in line if you are Nancy Pelosi. The Republicans experienced this in the last Congress where there were factions that didn't care what the leadership thought about what they were saying and the Democrats are going to be facing this as well. I mean perhaps not as much as we thought. We saw that most of the new people did decide to back Pelosi for speaker, which means they have some respect for her authority in leadership, but she's not going to just get everybody to kind of, you know, dutifully accept her -- her prescription for what they're going to do in policy, any more than she's going to be able to police everything that gets put on their Twitter and Instagram accounts. So this is the new reality and everybody's going to kind of be set -- trying to set a tone for themselves or promote themselves and sometimes there's going to be these bumps in the road.

BASH: No, that's a really good point, that she does have a new reality and she had to, you know, walk an incredibly fine line to get the votes that she got considering how many now new members said that they wouldn't support her. We'll talk about that in a little bit.

But you do have some more established Democrats in leadership positions who went a lot further than the now speaker. Listen to this.


REP. CHERI BUSTOS (D), ILLINOIS: Well, passions are running high. Let's just -- let's just leave it at that, OK.

We are in the middle or maybe towards the tail end of an investigation with Robert Mueller. What I would like to see happen is, let's let that play out.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I disagree with what she said. It is too early to talk about that intelligently. We will -- we have to follow the facts. We have to get the facts.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I think those kind of comments do not take us in the right direction. So I would say that they are inappropriate.


RASCOE: This is something that they're going to have to kind of deal with this, this balancing act, because there is a lot of anger among Democrats, among progressives on the left and they don't want Democrats kind of, you know, just reaching across the aisle and trying to always take the high ground. There's this whole debate over, do we want to take the high ground, do we always want to go high, especially when we have a president who does -- who's known for throwing kind of low blows. And so how do you respond to that?

[12:25:14] I think it's almost a benefit for Speaker Pelosi now to have this fight over the shutdown because she can show herself standing up to President Trump in a very kind of -- in a very -- in a very upfront way and be very out there saying, look, I am standing up to him. I'm not allowing him to do this. And that could be a way to channel some of this anger. But this is something they're going to have to deal with.

BASH: So you mentioned the fact that Republicans have had to deal with this --


BASH: You know, since the Tea Party emerged. Kevin McCarthy, one of those who has had to deal with it, who is now the minority leader, he was asked this morning about Nancy Pelosi's reaction. And he was surprised. And then he seemed to be pretty angry. Watch this.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MINORITY LEADER: We watched a new freshman stand up, use this language, get cheered by their base. And we watched a brand-new speaker say nothing to her. That is not the body of what we serve in. And that action should not stand. Somebody should stand up to it. She's the speaker. That individual serves at her caucus. I would hope, if she wouldn't, others would -- in her caucus would.


KNOX: So Kevin McCarthy's more upset about the expletive than about floating impeachment? Is that -- wait, am I getting this right?

I say that because I want to -- I want to differentiate between those two components of Tlaib's comments. One of them is about setting the agenda in the House, which was action towards impeachment. The other is expressing what Ayesha described correctly as a lot of anger in the progressive left. Those are very different. You're going to see different reactions from the people who set the agenda. Democrats don't want to lose control of the agenda. The rhetoric, I think, they can't control. So there are two components here and I think that's -- that's something to watch.

DEMIRJIAN: But the rhetoric does flip back and start to affect the agenda when you're saying about trying to appeal to a public that isn't millennial, that, you know, like that has -- that braces itself and says oh no about everything that she's saying when she hears (ph) about (ph).

KNOX: I -- I could be wrong about this, but I think the bigger headache for Nancy Pelosi is people proposing to raise taxes on the highest brackets to 60 or 70 percent in order to combat climate change. That's an agenda challenge.


KNOX: And that's something we're -- that's an easy way to drive off your base.

BASH: All right.

KNOX: (INAUDIBLE) drama (INAUDIBLE) moderate. But that's a bigger headache.

DEMIRJIAN: But you have to make sure that message gets through above the den of other stuff that doesn't matter, like this. And it complicates things when it comes out.

BASH: You know who did want to weigh in on his own potential impeachment? President Trump. As we go to break, I just want to read this. He said in a tweet, they only want to impeach me because they know they can't win in 2020. Too much success. How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time.

The fact that he's tweeting this is maybe a conversation for another day, which is, politically, the talk of impeachment is potentially good for Republicans.

All right, everybody stand by.

Another potential good piece of news for Republicans, the latest jobs report, which is out today, blew past economist's expectations.

But first, before we talk about that, as we go to break, freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responds to a video that surfaced from her college years featuring her dancing. She tweeted that Republican think women dancing are scandalous with this attached video.