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Fourteen Days, 12 Hours And Counting for Shutdown; The Number Of TSA Workers Calling Out Sick Has Soared During This Shutdown; Senator Elizabeth Warren Is In The Pivotal State Of Iowa Becoming The First Top Tier Candidate To Visit That State; Three Dead, Several Others Injured After Bowling Alley Shooting; Freshman Democrat Defends Colleague's Profane Impeachment Statement; Trump: Gov't Won't Reopen Until Border Standoff is Solved. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired January 5, 2019 - 12:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, ANCHOR, CNN: Hello, again, everyone. Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Fourteen days, 12 hours and counting. That is how long the Federal government has been partially shut down, leaving hundreds of thousands of Federal workers without a paycheck as lawmakers spar over the President's demand for a border wall.

We're waiting to hear word if any progress was made at that meeting near the White House that we saw Vice President Mike Pence walking in with Jared Kushner, Kirstjen Nielsen and Mick Mulvaney to meet with Congressional staff members.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Federal workers are feeling the impacts struggling to make ends meet as they wait for the government to reopen.


ANDREA POPELKA, FURLOUGHED WORKER: When something like this happens and you're not going to get your next check, it's like, okay, 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.


WHITFIELD: Let's check in with CNN's White House reporter Sarah Westwood. So hundreds of thousands of people waiting to find out about their next paycheck, Sarah, while Vice President Mike Pence is holds that meeting near the White House, the big question, you know, will come, when is the government going to reopen? What will they agree upon? What's next?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, CNN: The answer to that question looks increasingly far off. There is not a lot of optimism that these negotiators will arrive at an agreement today, particularly after both President Trump and those Democratic Congressional leaders emerged from high-level talks in the Situation Room yesterday with very different assessments about where things stand.

Democrats saying that the meeting was contentious and saying they urged the President to reopen the government while negotiations continue. President Trump meanwhile describing that same meeting as productive, but signaling his willingness to keep the government partially shuttered indefinitely until he gets funding for his border wall.

Now, the President is holding firm on his $5.6 billion demand. That's the amount of money House Republicans included in a spending bill they passed as one of their last acts in the House Majority, but the President is looking increasingly flexible on what might qualify as a wall, despite promising supporters in 2016 an actual concrete wall, the President is now suggesting that he might try to characterize steel slats or a see-through barrier as a fulfilment of his campaign promise.

Now, this morning, the President was reprising his misleading claims about the ideology of these furloughed workers as he called on Democrats to make a deal. Writing on Twitter, "I don't care that most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats. I want to stop the shutdown as soon as we're in agreement on strong border security. I'm in the White House ready to go. Where are the Democrats?"

Of course, the heads of Federal employee unions have pointed out that many of the Federal -- furloughed Federal workers, belong to both parties, and Democratic Congressional staff have been invited to talks here on the White House campus with Vice President Mike Pence, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Jared Kushner representing the administration, and President Trump has also now said that he might be willing to declare a national emergency to get funding for his border wall if he's not able to do it legislatively. Take a listen.


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


WESTWOOD: Now, Congressional Democrats are already expressing opposition to that idea. So, Fred, not a lot of hope that we could see anything come out of this as Democrats still not seeming to feel political pressure to compromise at this point.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood at the White House, thank you so much. All right, joining me right now to discuss this further, former South Regional Director for Obama's 2012 campaign, Tharon Johnson; Republican strategist and former assistant Chief of Staff for Communications for Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Brian Robinson. Good to see you both. Happy New Year.


BRIAN ROBINSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Happy New Year. WHITFIELD: All right, so Brian, is this a healthy message coming from

the President of the United States? Saying he doesn't really care, you know that there are people going without a paycheck, he wants his wall.

ROBINSON: I don't think he doesn't care that people aren't going without their paycheck. The fact that he said that --

WHITFIELD: He just tweeted it.

ROBINSON: Well, he just tweeted it. Well, what I've heard him say is this, they're mainly Democrats, these Federal workers and people say there's no evidence for that. Well, if you just look at the vote returns in Northern Virginia and in the suburban counties in Maryland and in D.C., they are overwhelmingly Democrat. What he's saying is true.


ROBINSON: It's not a good reason to continue the shutdown or to not pay Federal workers, but he's not saying it without evidence. He has made it very clear what he wants. Democrats aren't compromising either, but only Trump is being blamed for not compromising. He is set. He ran on this. He said he's going to get it done. And Democrats need to come to him with a deal. They don't care about seeing this end either.

WHITFIELD: Except, didn't we hear from Democrats Pelosi and Chuck Schumer when they had their meeting, they said money for border security, yes. No money for the wall. Nancy Pelosi shortly after her swearing in. I mean, she was pretty empathic, she said no money for the wall. So then, Tharon, where are Democrats willing to compromise because negotiations means each side has to give a little.

JOHNSON: And also, Fred, let's not forget that actually the Democratic-controlled House introduced and passed a bill that went to the Senate and the Senate --

WHITFIELD: That the Senate gave thumbs up to.


WHITFIELD: But now start all over and now, the Senate is not likely to.

JOHNSON: Yes. And so this whole notion --

WHITFIELD: So an impasse.

JOHNSON: Right. So this whole notion that Democrats are not trying to work with Republicans to really put these hundreds of thousands of people who are out of work, many of them hourly employees. And more importantly, who cares what party they belong to.

This President was elected to represent all Americans, and so whether or not it's Northern Virginia, Democrats, Republicans. The report just showed that there are Republicans as well who have been furloughed. This is the problem with this President. And you're absolutely right. I think Speaker Pelosi came out and delivered a message that was very strong. She didn't go anywhere -- away from her Democratic values, but she extended an olive branch to the Republicans.

She said, "Hey, let's work together, but let's not be disrespectful." And so I think this is a Trump shutdown that he has owned now for 14 days. He needs to stop throwing these temper tantrums.

WHITFIELD: And proudly, he says he's proud of this.

ROBINSON: Well, look, he's not alone. If you look at the polling, it's much more divided than the media wants to say. A lot of Americans agree with what he's doing. And overwhelmingly, his base supports it, and in fact, most don't get it but --

WHITFIELD: But most Americans -- not just -- most Americans do not approve of this. More than 50 percent say they don't like the idea of the wall.

ROBINSON: It is increasingly divided and Trump is not on an island. He has a lot of support for what he is doing. And here's the thing, this is the government that Americans voted for. They have voted time and again for members of Congress and they have voted for a President who have promised to never to compromise. And guess what, America? This is what you get. That's what you do and it's true on both sides.

They aren't going to say Democrats want to come out. That's not true. They are not.

WHITFIELD: Probably, the 800,000 Federal workers did not expect that their livelihood would be hanging in the balance. I mean, this was the advice from the President, from the Rose Garden, to Federal workers who are without their paychecks right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you ask those companies, those landlords to kind of go easy on them ...

TRUMP: I think they will. I think they will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am sorry, would you ask them, sir?

TRUMP: I think that happens. You know, hey, I've been a landlord for a long time. I've been in the real estate business for a long time. When you see there are problems out there, difficulties out there, the people are good for the money. They work with people. They work with people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would encourage landlords --

TRUMP: Sure, I would encourage them to be nice and easy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right, so the President is digging in. I think a lot

of people were snickering. I mean, good luck on getting a lot of landlords to say, "Okay, we're hearing the President's message and we'll say it's all right that you're not going to give us rent this month." That's not realistic. But then the President has to compromise as well, right? The Dems have to compromise on something. What do you support the President is willing to compromise?

ROBINSON: Well I do want to say that I was on my Wells Fargo account just yesterday and it said, "If you're a furloughed work, please contact us, we're going to work with you." So there are some banks out there, at least who are willing to work with Federal workers and I was glad to see that.

I think that Democrats, if I was them, I'd come in with a smaller number despite the fact that they've said no funding, which means that their position is as tough as the President.

WHITFIELD: So smaller than the $5.6 billion.

ROBINSON: Come in with something smaller that gives the President the ability to show progress and both sides can claim victory and no one is talking at this juncture about the Dreamers. I think there is some support within the Republican Congress. I don't know about the White House, about finding some sort of agreement there. I think that's a pretty strong negotiating tool for the Democrats. I'm not recommending it, but it's something that they could do.

WHITFIELD: Why not do this separately? Why not get government going and why not manage this, trying to come to terms on this somewhere down the line? I mean, we've got a Republican-controlled Senate and House. It wasn't done then. I mean, why hold everyone in the balance like this.

JOHNSON: This whole notion that Democrats haven't been trying to work with this President. Brian has forgotten than Democrats actually did put forth $2 million, and this whole notion that Democrats don't support border security, we do support --

WHITFIELD: But that was border security in general --

JOHNSON: Yes, border security in general --

WHITFIELD: Various tactics, the wall is not included.

JOHNSON: So what the President could do is again, stop throwing these temper tantrum because he also promised the American people and his base that Mexico was going to pay for this wall. So he has been unable to deliver on that campaign promise. He could easily take the wall out of the conversation.


JOHNSON: Put these hundreds of thousands of hard working Federal employees back to work and then continue to work with the Senate in the House to have a conversation about the wall. But the Democrats have made it very clear that if you talk about this wall, which by the way Mexico was going to build and you have been given partial funding for, negotiations are going on, then you've got to take it out of the conversation.

So I think that Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer should stay firm on what they have promised not only to the American people, but also to their base in these new freshman class members that have come in that are actually a new progressive wing of our party.

And so Brian is going to tell you that we're probably overplaying our hand. But he had been against the fact that this is the President of the United States who has shut down this government for 14 days, for two weeks. Can you imagine going without a paycheck for two weeks? None of us fortunately have ever had to go through that, but I think that there's a level of sympathy that we have got to show to these workers. And it's the President's fault why those folks cannot feed their families and provide for their children.

WHITFIELD: So Brian, speak for yourself.

ROBINSON: And that is the Democratic position. Do not compromise. Do not meet the President in the middle. Do not try to come up with a solution ...

JOHNSON: Don't compromise again.

ROBINSON: And we, the Federal workers are on the line ...

JOHNSON: Don't compromise again.

ROBINSON: Look, President Trump has a position and he's not compromising right now, it looks like. But the Democrats aren't either. My only point is this is not Trump's alone. The Democrats play a role in this, and they are not coming there with --

JOHNSON: Brian, is it not true --

ROBINSON: And you all don't take border security seriously.

JOHNSON: Before the shutdown started --

ROBINSON: You don't.

JOHNSON: Hold on, is it not true that before the shutdown started that there was a compromise passed by the Senate, the House approved it, the President had verbally agreed to it, but all these Republican right-wing pundits started criticizing him? Then he reneged on what he had verbally said he was going to go with. So don't put this on the Democrats. They work hard to try to -- when they were in the minority, to try to work with this President.

This President needs to take the border conversation out of this deal, accept the bill that was just introduced to the Senate on Thursday, approve it and then let's have a civil conversation about this wall. But do not put this on the backs of Democrats and the American people for two weeks who are not working. I think therein lies what you guys are missing.

WHITFIELD: And we heard Federal workers saying they feel like they're being used as pawns. How do they not feel that way?

ROBINSON: They're not pawns here. I don't think anybody's using them as leverage. I don't think that's accurate at all.

WHITFIELD: The government opened, government closed?

ROBINSON: Now, I do think that they are suffering. I don't think -- that's not up for further debate. I don't think there's anybody in the White House or anywhere else in America who wants to see TSA agents calling in sick to their airport because they can't afford to get to work. I don't think anybody wants to see that. I think we all --

WHITFIELD: Well, except that the President just said -- he just said, he said he was proud --

ROBINSON: You told them how to compromise.

WHITFIELD: The President said from the Rose Garden he is proud of where we are. Government is closed.

ROBINSON: If he --

WHITFIELD: That says you advocate for the government being closed.

ROBINSON: I would like to see him come and be willing to do a compromise, but he can't negotiate with himself. Democrats have got to meet him part of the way. And look, I don't think anybody wants the government closed. But the fact is --

WHITFIELD: The President just said it yesterday, Brian, it looks like we have to rerack the tape, my friend.

JOHNSON: He said, I will close it 25 times. He said I will close it 25 times. I will take the mantle, that's what he said.

ROBINSON: He wants the wall built and if he doesn't stand firm, he is not going to get the wall.

JOHNSON: No wall.

ROBINSON: That's what this is all about.

WHITFIELD: Okay, we're going to resume this conversation and we are going to rerack that tape so that you can hear it again. He said he is pleased with the way things are going and he's okay with the government being closed for months, if not years. We'll rerack the tape for you. All right, Brian, Tharon, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right, the number of TSA workers calling out sick has soared during this shutdown. We'll look at why and how it's affecting airport security straight ahead. Plus, Elizabeth Warren stumps for support in Iowa. Hear what she's telling voters 13 months before Presidential Primaries begin. You're in the CNN Newsroom.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Right now, Senator Elizabeth Warren is in the pivotal state of Iowa becoming the first top tier candidate to visit that state. Iowa caucuses are still 394 days away, but Warren kicked off the 2020 Presidential Primary season early by announcing a possible run on New Year's Eve.

CNN national political correspondent M.J. Lee is in Sioux City where Senator Warren just wrapped up a speech to potential primary voters. What was the message, M.J.?

M.J. LEE, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well Fred, Elizabeth Warren is starting to make her first introduction to the people of Iowa in a lot of ways because she hasn't been in this state since 2014 when she was campaigning for as Senate candidate at the time. She is introducing herself to people including her biography, her growing up in Oklahoma and the economic hardships that her family faced back when she was little.

And then also just talking about the issues that are clearly going to be important to her as she builds up the 2020 presidential campaign. Now, she is also starting to take questions from audience members at these various Iowa events and there was a very interesting question, and a telling question that she got from the first person to ask a question at this event that just wrapped up.

And the question was about her decision to release the results of a DNA test to try to show her Native American ancestry. What was interesting about this question was that not only did they ask her to talk about this issue, they asked it in a specific way. They said, why did you decide to release the results of this test and give President Donald Trump more fodder to be a bully? Here's how she answered that question.


ELIZABETH WARREN, U.S. SENATOR, MASSACHUSETTS, DEMOCRAT: I am not a person of color. I am not a citizen of a tribe. When I first ran for public office, the first time was in 2012. And the Republicans honed in on this part of my history and thought they could make a lot of hay out of it.

A lot of racial slurs and a lot of ugly stuff that went on. And so my decision was, "I am just going to put it all out there." Now, I can't stop Donald Trump from what he's going to do. I can't stop him from hurling racial insults. I don't have any power to do that.


LEE: .... when Senator Warren said, "I don't have the power to stop President Trump from making these insults." One audience member said, "Yes, you can." And this is going to be such an interesting dynamic heading into the Democratic primaries. The reality is that there are many people in the country who feel like they want to see the Democratic candidates take on President Trump directly. They want that confrontation, and then there are going to be plenty of other people who feel like that is not the game they would like to see the Democratic candidates play and engage in.


LEE: So this is going to be a bit of a balancing act for any of the Democratic candidates including Senator Warren and all of this of course, Fred, is a part of the process of making that very important first impression to people in the early states like Iowa. And I can tell you just based on the folks that we have spoken to yesterday and today, as Elizabeth Warren has started her three-day swing, I can tell you a lot of people are simply undecided.

They are eager to try to get to know a lot of the different candidates and try to figure out who they are and who they will eventually end up supporting -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, M.J. Lee., almost lost you for a minute, but glad you made it through. All right, thank you so much. All right, after being ordered to work without pay during the government shutdown, hundreds of TSA workers have called out sick. We'll look at what it means for air travel straight ahead, in the CNN Newsroom.


WHITFIELD: Hundreds of Federal workers forced to work without pay because of the shutdown are not showing up to work at all. CNN has learned hundreds of Transportation Security Administration officers are calling out sick at major airports across the country. Officials with the TSA say at least three major airports are being impacted.

CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval is live for us in New York. So Polo, JFK is one of the major airports being impacted. To what extent are others?

POLO SANDOVAL, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Fred, the situation is so bad that at least two government officials who have been speaking to CNN say that this is now commonly being described as the "blue flu." That's a clear reference to the blue uniforms that you see these personnel wearing and baggage and passenger inspection points.

And when you hear from these unions, they say you can expect even more. As you mentioned, here in JFK alone, 170 TSA personnel reportedly called in each day this past week and this number as we mentioned will likely go up.


SANDOVAL: Union officials saying what they believe is behind this. Yes, there are some of these personnel that would be quite upset at not getting paid, but they say that this is now part of one large protest or strike as we've heard in other reports. They say really the reasons are a bit more practical. You have some

single parents for example who cannot afford child care, so they stay at home with their kids. Others have to take up other nongovernment jobs that would pay cash essentially to pay their bills because even though the shutdown continues, their obligations obviously for pay or for the bills and the rent do continue.

So now the question, how will this affect the traveling public? Union officials are concerned they say they could create a vulnerability, it could create possibly a less secure traveling environment because this could lead to less pat downs, potentially less random searches.

But the Transportation Security Administration responding to that in a statement, Fred, I want to read you a portion of what that Federal agency had to say, essentially hoping to calm any concerns for the traveling public. They say calls out began recently over the holiday period and have increased, but they are causing, in their own words, minimal impact.

The TSA went on to say that security effectiveness will not be compromised and also performance standards will not change. However, interesting note here, they also write, "Wait times may be affected depending on the number of callouts."

And that's very important to keep in mind here, Fred, as we could potentially see perhaps less screening lanes. The TSA will now essentially have to do more with less personnel especially as this government shutdown continues -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

SANDOVAL: You bet.

WHITFIELD: So this partial government shutdown is now in its 15th day, and now, it is also facing new legal challenges. This week, the American Federation of Government Employees Union filed a lawsuit against the White House. It claims the shutdown is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by illegally forcing more than 400,000 employees to work without pay.

One of those employees, Justin Tarovisky, a Federal penitentiary worker, who spoke to CNN last weekend about working during this shutdown. Listen.


JUSTIN TAROVISKY, VICE PRESIDENT AFGE LOCAL 420, HAZELTON PRISON: That could drive morale down, especially if you're an officer that you go into a United States penitentiary every day to protect the community, protect the inmates, and to protect staff and that's going to be on the back of your mind and that can affect you, you know, away from the prison mentally because you're not -- you're told you're not going to be paid. That could drive your morale down.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Joining me right now, the lead attorney representing

Federal employees in this lawsuit. Heidi Burakiewicz. Heidi, thanks so much for being with me.


WHITFIELD: So we just heard your client there talking about his experience, so is this a sentiment that you're hearing from others in a similar situation?

BURAKIEWICZ: Absolutely. The number of heartbreaking stories that I've heard from my clients and the Federal employees that I know and that I work with is heartbreaking. Similar to 2013, I heard so many heartbreaking stories.

In addition to having to work very dangerous jobs, the employees are under a tremendous amount of stress. No one knows how long this shutdown is going to last or when they're going to get their next paycheck, how they are going to pay bills, put food open the table.

WHITFIELD: So how do you use the President's comments from just yesterday in the Rose Garden perhaps to your advantage potentially in this case where he has said he's very proud of, you know, what is happening here and he says this shutdown could last months if not years?

BURAKIEWICZ: That would be devastating on a tremendously large scale for the shutdown to last that long or any longer, quite frankly. I think there's a lack of understanding about the people who are being affected, hardworking, blue-collar Americans. I think AFGE has stated that their average member salary is $500.00 a week.

Employees have already received a partial paycheck in which people who worked on December 22nd weren't paid at all. The next payday is coming up soon, and if the shutdown doesn't end, there's going to be a large number of employees who receive no paycheck whatsoever. That could be devastating.

I have clients around the country, people who I've worked with, who have had medical problems. As a result, they've depleted their savings. They're not able to save up money. They're living paycheck to paycheck and they don't know what they're going to do.

WHITFIELD: And for so many, they're just now starting to receive all those holiday bills that they were anticipating being able to be on top of with their next paycheck. So you won a similar case against the Federal government during the shutdown in 2013. Do you see some real parallels here in your strategy?

BURAKIEWICZ: Absolutely. From my perspective, the legal issues in the 2013 case and this case are identical. The government filed a motion to dismiss in 2013 and the judge ruled in our favor, determining that the government, in fact, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by requiring these essential employees, the people who keep our country safe, go to work and not pay them on time. [12:30:14]

The only issue left in the case was whether or not the government was liable for liquidated damages. The judge ruled in our favor on that issue as well determining that the government didn't act in good faith when it failed to pay these employees.

WHITFIELD: So while there was a win, you know, in your category, in that last lawsuit for the 2013 case, still 25,000 employees are still waiting to receive, you know, those damages. So, is there a way in which to prevent that from happening again or even does this current case give you any leverage to try to get those damages awarded to those 25,000?

BURAKIEWICZ: Well, the legal issues in the Court of Federal Claims are resolved in the 2013 case. And the government's been calculating damages. Litigation unfortunately never moves very fast. And the government had delays in collecting all the payroll records that it needed for all of the employees covered who opted into the 2013 case. We're optimistic however that this case will move much faster because the legal issues have been resolved. As I said, I find them to be identical legal issues.

And we have a framework for how to calculate the damages. I'm optimistic the government at the end of that process and the calculations will soon be finished in the 2013 case.

Damages have already accrued now for this shutdown in 2018. As I indicated, employees who worked overtime on December 22nd haven't gotten paid for it. Payday came and went and they didn't get their money. But what's really important, what all of my clients want is for the shutdown to end so they can get back to work, so they can know when they're getting their next paycheck.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it there. Heidi Burakiewicz, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: All right, meantime, a new generation of Democrats have taken office in Washington. Ahead, the impact that they're having on the party's old guard.

Plus, frightening moments inside a bowling alley. Three people shot and killed. We'll have the latest on that investigation.


[12:35:13] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.

Police are looking for at least one suspect after a shooting at a California bowling alley overnight that left three people dead and four others injured. A witness to the shooting in Torrance just north of Long Beach, California say that she saw a fight break out before the shooting started.

Here's CNN's Victor Blackwell.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Multiple people shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The subject (INAUDIBLE) the door of the parking lot. Shooting in the parking also.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an active shooter situation. We have multiple subjects down inside and outside the Gable House.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was panic inside a Southern California bowling alley. Police were called after reports of a shooting with multiple victims down. Police say three men were killed and at least four people were wounded at the Gable House Bowl in Torrance.

Dana Scott was there.

DANA SCOTT, EYEWITNESS: Bowlers were diving under the benches. The people that were still bowling on the lanes were on the floors, underneath the seats, behind the benches. Several of us ran into the bar. One of the young ladies that works there grabbed us and took us right behind the bar. So we were able to go behind a closed sealed door.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): So far, no one has been arrested. And police say they have not identified a motive but Scott says the shooting started just after an apparent fight.

SCOTT: The girls were fighting. They were rolling on the floor. The security came up and then the next thing we know there were men fighting. After that, a lot of people ran, started running around or ran outside. Everybody ran toward the front. All of sudden, all we heard was pop, pop, pop.


WHITFIELD: Police have not identified any of the victims yet until families can be notified.

Five teenage girls have died after a fire broke out during a birthday party. The girls were at an escape room in Poland. That's where a group of people are locked inside and try to find a way out by searching for clues as part of the game. Officials do not know what caused the fire, but a Polish fire chief says they'll be conducting fire safety checks at all escape rooms, gaming centers and clubs in the coming days. The mayor of the town has called for a day of mourning on Sunday.

A new wave of Democrats has already taken the seats in Congress and it could lead to a family feud inside the party. What it could mean for both Democrats and Republicans, next.


[12:41:19] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.

Democrats took control of the House just over 48 hours ago and we're already seeing a difference in style between the new lawmakers and the more seasoned ones I like to say. Just hours after being sworn in, Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib used a vulgar word during a vow to impeach President Trump.

Here is what she said.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: People love you and you win and when your son looks at you and said mama, 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 (INAUDIBLE).


WHITFIELD: Lawmakers from both parties were quick to condemn that language including House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler. But others like fellow freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are coming to her defense, firing back at Republicans for what she called hypocrisy for their seeming unwillingness to call out President Trump's rhetoric. This morning, the 29-year-old New York Democrat tweeted, "Republican hypocrisy at its finest saying that Trump admitted to sexual assault on tape is just locker room talk but scandalizing themselves into faux-outrage when my sis says a curse word in a bar. GOP lost entitlement to policing women's behavior a long time ago. Next."

All right, let's bring back Republican Strategist Brian Robinson and former Obama campaign regional chair director, that is Tharon Johnson. Good to see both of you.

So Brian, you're shaking your head on that saying, uh-uh.

BRIAN ROBINSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They're missing the whole point.


ROBINSON: It's not about the language. I don't think that Republicans can honestly say that we don't have elected officials that use foul language. The issue is impeachment. Is that Nancy Pelosi is trying desperately for Democrats to not look like they're trying to impeach the president extrajudicially. There's been no evidence of law breaking. There's no report from the special counsel yet.

This is way ahead where they need to be. And it peaks behind the curtain. You can see what the Democrats really want. They don't care about the process. They don't care about making sure the president has done anything wrong.

WHITFIELD: Maybe they are just doing --

ROBINSON: They just want to impeach him.

WHITFIELD: -- what some are wanting because --

ROBINSON: No, no, I think this is the gap, which when you accidentally say the truth. And this is all Democrats want. This is all they want to do for two years.

WHITFIELD: Is that where we are though? Is this representative of all Democrats? Or does it help underscore then --


WHITFIELD: OK, Tharon, do you think this underscores it. There's a difference between those who have been, you know, on the Hill for a while who were saying not right now, now is not the time, and a lot of the newly sworn in Dems were saying wait a minute, now is the time to be talking about this. And that perhaps underscores a potential fissure, you know, within the Democratic Party and Democratic leadership? Which direction do they go?

THARON JOHNSON, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN REGIONAL CHAIR DIRECTOR: What so laughable to me is when Republicans want to tell, you know, me what Democrats are thinking and what we're doing. I think, look, you can be down --

ROBINSON: She said it.

JOHNSON: No, you can be down with NDP and ROC, right? And I think that's where we are. You have a speaker in -- Speaker Pelosi, who is basically, you know, the first woman speaker in the House of Representatives. Who has done a wonderful job of managing her caucus, getting the votes that she needs to move measures forward. But you do, Fred, have these new members that have come in with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. These are very progressive people. And I think that the thing I've been hearing in Washington that the more seasoned members have been very welcoming to these new members.

Now, look --

WHITFIELD: But at the same time, you know, Nancy Pelosi did say, well, they're, you know, in terms of the choice of words, there might be a generational thing here. But I'm also in the not business of censoring, you know, what my fellow lawmakers, you know, are saying here.

[12:45:01] But does this also kind of underscore that there are going to be other moments in which style (INAUDIBLE) differences really could be potentially problematic?

JOHNSON: Yes. And look, this -- so you have a confluence of a old way of doing things in Washington and sort of a new way. And I think what Speaker Pelosi did very, very professionally is said, look, the wrong word to, you know, to use as far as the profanity. But let's not act like we haven't had the president's personal lawyer now go to jail for three years. Let's not act like this is not the most corrupt administration ever in presidential history.

We've had more indictments. More people plead guilty to (INAUDIBLE) of the president of the United States. And then let's not act like we have a robust Mueller investigation that's going on. So what the Democrats are saying, Fred, is let's wait and see the evidence from the Mueller report. Let's look at it. And then we can revisit --


ROBINSON: No, that's what the speaker --

WHITFIELD: So Brian, didn't Republicans have a similar, you know, kind of moment? You know, where you had the old guard or seasoned guard, you know, and the new guard. And there was some real difficulties on how do we see things? How do we reach the same objectives but style is different.

So, do Republicans look at this and say we've been there, we've done that, we're in the midst of that ourselves to some extent. How do they use this to their advantage?

ROBINSON: Well, Pelosi can certainly look at the playbook that Speaker Ryan and Speaker Boehner had to play. I mean, we spent the last eight years hearing about how Ryan and Boehner couldn't corral the extremes of their caucus and they were (INAUDIBLE) diverse opinions, there wasn't, you know, a unified position within the caucus. Well, guess what, the Democrats have that problem now. And guess what, it's the same thing. The most extreme voices are the ones that are getting the media play here.

WHITFIELD: Well, (INAUDIBLE) of getting things done?



ROBINSON: You know, it is going to -- you know, that sort of language talking about impeachment right now which is so reckless, it is so bad for our democracy, and is overreaching --

WHITFIELD: So it's not the MF, it's the impeachment part you're saying?

ROBINSON: Oh, absolutely. I think that the foul language -- I mean, look --

JOHNSON: Yes because he knows we got a president that definitely has many, many tapes and transcripts of using foul language.

ROBINSON: And I don't care. I said -- and I said I don't care about the president's language. I'm not going to -- (INAUDIBLE) I don't care.

JOHNSON: But really quickly --

ROBINSON: But impeachment is overreaching, it's going to hurt them politically if they do this. They need to be talking about infrastructure and healthcare and things Americans care about and let Robert Mueller handle the impeachment issues for now. JOHNSON: But the one --

ROBINSON: They're making a huge mistake.

JOHNSON: But the one thing that I don't want to get overshadowed --

WHITFIELD: And Mueller is not going to handle the impeachment.


WHITFIELD: Mueller is -- he is like the investigator, it's up to Congress what to do --

ROBINSON: That's right we don't have --

WHITFIELD: -- with their findings.

JOHNSON: But the one thing I don't want to get overshadowed here is the first day when Speaker Pelosi takes the mantle and basically (INAUDIBLE) that Democrats are in-charge. The first piece of legislation they put forward was to deal with the issue that we have in this country around voting rights. Basically looking at -- make sure that we don't have some of the horror stories that we had all across the country of people feeling like they've been disenfranchised. You know, people feel like (INAUDIBLE).

So they're trying to make it more accessible and easier and legally for people to vote. And so let's not let this one, you know, misstep of using the MF word. And also I think ROC dancing is totally fine. When do we get to a point where Republicans want to criticize a woman in her college years dancing while she's in college?

I mean, I know Brian and I, if a tape were to surface about things that we were doing when we were undergrad, I mean, dancing would probably be one of the least things that, you know, will be out there. So I think that --

ROBINSON: And I don't -- you said -- don't say the same thing you said. You can't speak for all Republicans. I don't think Republicans are scandalized her dance and her video --

JOHNSON: Your party --


JOHNSON: The GOP has been very critical of ROC ever since she's been elected.


JOHNSON: Oh, AOC. So the thing about it is this. I just think that Speaker Pelosi has come in, she's taken the mantle. She's put forth -- I mean, look at her speech. She reached out to Republicans. She said, let's work together but let's be respectful.

So I think she'll be able to control her caucus. We need that confluence of new energy and new blood. But also, we got to learn from the people who have been there before to get things done.

WHITFIELD: And you say AOC. We're talking about Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez. People have to get used to the name --

ROBINSON: Who is the new face. She has more --

JOHNSON: Brian loves her.

ROBINSON: You know, she has more Twitter followers than Pelosi and Speaker Ryan combined. I mean, she's a phenomenon. And that phenomenon is something that Pelosi is going to have to manage. Her caucus now was much more -- the new member are much more extreme than what Pelosi is used to --

JOHNSON: Not extreme. Progressive.


ROBINSON: That lady talking about an impeachment, that is extreme.

WHITFIELD: OK. So last time we were all here, we had a very interesting conversation. It is a very passionate conversation coming from both of you. And we're talking about -- and Brian, you're underscoring the president, you know, isn't celebrating, doesn't seem to be happy about the shutdown. And we said, you've got to pull up that videotape. So --


WHITFIELD: -- here's the videotape. The president, his point of view on the shutdown. Thumbs up, thumbs down. You tell me what you hear here.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very proud of doing what I'm doing. I don't call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and for the safety of our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Schumer came out and said that the meeting from his point of view and Speaker Pelosi's was contentious.

[12:50:02] He also said you said in the meeting -- this is him quoting you, I just want to check, that the shutdown could go on for months or even a year or longer. Did you say that --

TRUMP: I did. I did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that your assessment of where we are?

TRUMP: Absolutely, I said that. I don't think it will, but I am prepared.


WHITFIELD: So Brian, you want to reassess? ROBINSON: No, I don't think it contradicts what I said in any way. He never said in that video that he --

WHITFIELD: He said nobody -- he does not want a shutdown but --

ROBINSON: No, what we were talking about are federal workers. And I said nobody wants federal workers to go without pay. It was very specific and he did not (INAUDIBLE). What he is saying is that the negotiations are going the way he wants them to go. That he's not going to bend until he gets the border wall.

And he's right, Democrats don't care about border security. It doesn't matter what they say. Their new talking points are so different than they were 10 years ago. Today, it is, there's no problem, there's no problem.

You know, nobody is trying to pour into the country. And on the other hand, they're saying look at all the chaos Trump is creating by all the people trying to (INAUDIBLE) to the country. They're saying two totally different contradictory things.

JOHNSON: Fred, I'm going to help my friend out. He actually did say that Trump did not support this shutdown.

ROBINSON: No, I didn't. He said he didn't want to hurt federal workers.

JOHNSON: Well, here's the bottom line. This is --

WHITFIELD: The shutdown hurts federal workers.

JOHNSON: The shutdown hurts federal workers. And this is Trump's (INAUDIBLE) --

WHITFIELD: And contractors.

JOHNSON: And contractors.

WHITFIELD: A lot of people.

JOHNSON: And he said when he met with now Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer that he would own this 25 times. He would take the mantle and he's done just that. He has basically taken the mantle, and he's the face and leader of the shutdown.

He needs to own it but I think that we got to move forward together. Drop the wall conversation, let's put together a bill that basically puts these federal workers back to work. And they will have another conversation about the wall.

But Democrats we do support border security. I mean, I want to drive --

ROBINSON: No, think it's needed.

JOHNSON: No, we do think it's needed. But we don't think that you need to --

WHITFIELD: We already heard Schumer and Pelosi say border security was needed. We heard it in that tape.

ROBINSON: But let's do nothing about it.

WHITFIELD: We heard it in their meeting.


JOHNSON: -- Mexico was supposed to pay for it. He can't negotiate it (INAUDIBLE) maybe that part of the deal didn't work. And so now he's trying to put this on the burden on the backs of American people. To spend $5 billion to build a wall or sometimes a fence depending on how he wakes up and what he wants to defines it.

ROBINSON: Who cares (INAUDIBLE) as long as it stops illegal immigration to the country which is wrong and it's hurting the country and it needs to stop. Why can't we all agree on that?

WHITFIELD: OK, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much. Brian and Tharon, appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: All right, still so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. But first, a quick note experience. The incredible story of comedy great Gilda Radner in her own words. "Love, Gilda", a CNN film re-airing tonight at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.


[12:56:25] WHITFIELD: All right. President Trump says getting across the border is as easy as getting in a car and taking a hard left.


TRUMP: They'll drive that van or the car not through a port of entry where we have very talented people that look for every little morsel of drugs or even people or whatever they're looking for. They're going to go there. They get off the road and drive out into the desert and they come out, they make a left turn. Usually it's a left, not a right.


WHITFIELD: Is that simple? Can that be true? Let's bring in Jonathan Wackrow. He is a former Secret Service agent for President Obama and a CNN law enforcement analyst.

All right, good to see you, Jonathan.


WHITFIELD: Is it that simple as they president said? WACKROW: Well, listen, I got to give the president partial credit here. He is talking about there's a large portion of the southern border that is wide open that doesn't have the protective barriers they is looking for. However, those protective -- that part of the border is actually protected by natural barriers. So the fact that he's saying that, you know, terrorists or whomever can just get in a van, drive along the border, the first opening they can take, they take a left and they're in the country. I just think it feeds into a false, you know, narrative of the totality of what's going on the southern border. I don't think it's actually helpful to the overall debate.

WHITFIELD: You say natural barriers like waterways, rivers?

WACKROW: The Rio Grande River. Just the natural topography of, you know, mountain ranges and valleys that will prevent a vehicle from going along. The border's not flat. It has, you know, hills and mountains and ravines and it's the wilderness. So, you know, to say that you can just drive along the border and take a left or right to come in is just not helpful at this point.

WHITFIELD: So as this partial government shutdown now enters day 15, the president has stated that he will not reopen the government without funding for the border wall. From a law enforcement perspective, you know, how critical will this wall be? How much of a real barrier? And, you know, protective, you know, piece will it be?

WACKROW: Well, listen, you hit on something that (INAUDIBLE). It's a piece. It's a part of a greater construct of a security design. Any security practitioner or law enforcement entity realizes that you don't mitigate a vulnerability with just one single tool. It's a comprehensive approach.

So the wall is part of that. Walls do -- walls and fences do have a benefit for law enforcement and for security. They, you know, they define restricted areas. They deter and prevent criminal activity. I mean, listen, the White House where I worked at for years has a fence around it. But the Secret Service doesn't rely on that fence alone. They rely on, you know, human capital, uniformed division officers, surveillance sensor. It's a comprehensive program.

So, yes, the wall in some areas where it's deemed necessary is a benefit, but overarchingly across the entire southern border, it has to, you know, be part of a more comprehensive program.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jonathan Wackrow, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

WACKROW: Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Fourteen days, 13 hours and counting. That is how long the federal government has been partially shutdown, leaving hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks as lawmakers spar over the president's demand for that border wall. We're waiting to hear word if there was any progress made at that meeting near the White House. We saw Vice President Mike Pence walking in with Jared Kushner and Kirstjen Nielsen and Mick Mulvaney to meet with congressional staff.