Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Pence Meets with House, Senate Staff as Shutdown Enters Week 3; Trump Says Could Call National Emergency, Build Wall Quickly; Government Shutdown Has Far-Reaching Impact; House-Passed Stop-Gap Spending Bill Expected to Die in Senate; Furloughed Government Workers Feeling Pain of Government Shutdown; David Arron Miller: Critics' Concerns on Withdraw from Syria Overblown; Russia: Too Early to Discuss "Prisoner Swap" for American; Community Mourns 7-Year-Old Shot in Houston; Federal Employees Union Sues Trump Administration over Forced to Work without Pay During Shutdown. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired January 5, 2019 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: 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. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of federal workers feeling the impacts, struggling to make ends meet as they wait for the government to reopen.

Let's check in with CNN White House reporter, Sarah Westwood.

Sarah , are you hearing any news about this meeting, how it went?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred, it appears Pence and staff and congressional leaders are still behind closed doors as that meeting heads into the two-hour mark. There was not a lot of optimism that we would see some kind of breakthrough from this meeting particularly after both President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders emerged from high-level talks yesterday in the Situation Room, drawing very different conclusions about what needs to happen next. Democrats saying after that meeting that talks shouldn't move forward until the government reopens. They called that meeting with President Trump contentious. Trump described that same meeting as productive and said the government would remain partially shuttered indefinitely until he gets funding for his border wall. And he's holding firm on his demand for that $5.6 billion sum that House Republicans included in a bill that they passed as one of their last acts in the House majority. Even though previously the president had signaled he might be willing to back down off that sum in order to get a deal.

But President Trump has been showing some flexibility when it comes to what might qualify as a wall. Despite promising supporters in 2016 an actual concrete wall, President Trump has now hinted that he might try to spin a see-through barrier of some kind or steel slats as a fulfillment of that campaign promise. Trump reprised a misleading claim about the political ideology of furloughed workers this morning as he demanded Democrats make a deal, tweeting, "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 Dems?"

Of course, federal employee union leaders have pointed out that federal workers belong to both parties, and staff for Democratic congressional leaders were invited to the White House.

Trump has been saying he's considering declaring a national emergency on border security in order to get wall funding if he fails to do so legislatively. Here's what he had to say about that yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 can call a national emergency and build it very quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: Now, congressional Democratic leaders have already started pushing back on that idea. So President Trump would face headwinds if he attempted to do it. So, Fred, it looks like the stalemate is persisting as both sides remain deeply entrenched today.

WHITFIELD: Sarah Westwood, thank you so much, at the White House.

While lawmakers argue over how to pay for the president's border wall, there are real people, some 800,000 Americans, now forced to make some very tough decisions about how to cover basic necessities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So you may not realize just how far reaching this shutdown is. Important government services, the ones you are still paying for with your tax dollars, remain closed. That will likely affect you or someone you know or something you care about. If this is the year you wanted to perhaps start a bit, small business, the agency that handles loans for that is not processing loan applications right now. Are you planning to get married this year in Washington? You may have to wait. The D.C. court that handles marriage licenses is closed. And in just a few more days, all federal courts could be impacted because they are projected to run out of money on January 11. Maybe you're thinking about or in the middle of buying a house. Depending on your type of loan, your closing could be delayed. The IRS is impacted as well. Most workers are off the job there. So that refund that so many people bank on could get processed later than usual. And if you're a farmer waiting on further assistance because you've been dinged by those retaliatory tariffs from Trump's trade war with China, you may have to wait until after the shutdown to get a loan from the USDA. If the shutdown continues much longer, it could delay a major January report from the USDA, which farmers use to make plans for the rest of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FARMER: The January report has a lot to do with 2018's production in acres and a lot of farmers and traders base a lot of what they're going to do in the coming year on what that report tells us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[13:05:05] WHITFIELD: So as you can see, this is not just a Washington, D.C., problem. There are a lot of Americans out there making some very hard choices. The president says he's prepared to go the distance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If we have to stay out for a long period of time, we're going to do that. Many of those people, maybe most of those people, that really have not been and will not be getting their money in at this moment, those people, in many cases, are the biggest fan of what we're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Joining me, national political reporter for the "Washington Examiner" and CNN contributor, Salena Zito, and staff writer for "The Atlantic" and CNN political analyst, Elaina Plott.

Good to see both of you.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Salena, are most people -- what is the president basing this on? Most people who are not getting a paycheck are a fan of what he is doing.

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I always hate the phrase "most people" because it's --

WHITFIELD: Well, he used it.

ZITO: -- it's kind of a broad assessment, right? So right now, the majority of people that are impacted by the shutdown live in around Washington. Of course, people who work for TSA, all across the country and other government services that support things like the National Parks Service and so forth. They're throughout our community. But --

(CROSSTALK) WHITFIELD: How do you know they're a fan of what's happening?

ZITO: Well, we don't. Here's what I've found from interviews. Across the board, on both sides of the political spectrum, people aren't -- people have two opinions right now. First of all, this is Washington being Washington. Which kind of makes me sad because we've actually become used to government shutdowns, which I don't think is a very good thing. Second, people aren't directly impacted yet. They're just coming out of the fog, the chaos of the holiday season. They're just starting to get acclimated to the sort of natural rhythm of working life and they're just starting to think about it. I think --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: No, I think there are a lot of people who are pretty worried about it. Since day one.

ZITO: No, OK, well, I'm just telling you what happens through the interviews that I made. I think the longer this goes on, that I think the worse it's going to be. And it likely will be worse for the president. And not the Democratic Party. But as of right now, people are just starting to think about it. It's not directly impacting them yet. That doesn't mean it's not going to in the coming days and weeks depending on how long this stretches out.

WHITFIELD: So, Elaina, sources say the president told lawmakers during Friday's meeting that he prefers the term "strike," you know to "government shutdown." Why? What does this mean?

ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I actually am not sure what it means because a strike would assume that the workers being furloughed right now are doing so by choice. This, of course, is something that has been placed upon them by the government right now and Congress and the White House's inability to reach an agreement to fund things going forward. I would actually say, you know, when we didn't know if there would be a shutdown yet, in early December, a former White House official told me that one of the reasons this would likely play well was that DOD was already funded and HHS was already funded. Their quote to me was people wouldn't have to worry about not getting their welfare checks. Which is actually a pretty elementary understanding of how the federal government operates and not a large portion of federal workers exist outside the U.S. They're relying on things like USDA for food stamps, for instance. That's something that they're not getting right now. To say they're just now grappling with the impact I don't think is entirely accurate. I think when you're seeing the president use rhetoric that this is a strike on the behalf of the federal worker, I do see that as a message directly to the base that he is the victim here, ready at the table to make a deal, while it's the Deep State and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer who are unilaterally against him.

WHITFIELD: These are the words from the president yesterday at the Rose Garden, his point of view on this shutdown. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Salena, you know, how does this benefit the president? Is he really just talking about his base and he believes this satisfies the base or, you know, does he feel like he's scoring some additional points by this approach?

[13:09:58] ZITO: Well, the way I took that statement -- I suppose you can take it a bunch of different ways. The way I took the statement is the reason he's doing this is to get funding for border security. And he believes that that is the most important thing in terms of --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: But it's funding for the wall. It's not --

(CROSSTALK)

ZITO: He said border security. Unless I misheard him, I thought he said border security in that statement. Right?

WHITFIELD: But we know the issue is about the wall because you heard from Chuck Schumer, from Nancy Pelosi, who said in that meeting they're all in agreement, border security is something they can come to terms on. The $5.6 billion for the wall, that's the sticking point. That's what this is all about.

ZITO: Right. Right. And I'm not quite sure if he's -- if it's still just a, you know, sort of -- cement wall or if there's a variety of different ways that he described or wants funding for, for security on the wall. I don't know where that is in the negotiation process right now. Because I think things have sort of changed and he's become more, you know, more flexible on this. I could be wrong. I thought I understood that things were changing a little bit.

WHITFIELD: Elaina, did we hear flexibility from the president?

PLOTT: I do think --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: He says he's prepared to have government shutdown months if not years.

PLOTT: Yes, that's something that appropriations chairman in the Senate, Richard Shelby, has said -- has translated to him, too, is that he doesn't see an end in sight for this. I do think the $5.6 billion for the wall does remain the sticking point as it has from the beginning. I think the problem with, you know, differing reporting in terms of whether the president is becoming flexible is that the American public and perhaps even Trump's base might get to a point where they themselves don't even know if the shutdown is over. That's why I think context such as, you know, when you see the president come out and say, I'm doing this for your safety, the wall is for, you know, your benefit and the years going forward, you have to remember, Fred, as you know well, there were two opportunities at the beginning of 2018 with when Senate Democrats said we would do a deal for DACA in exchange for more wall money than we're negotiating now. And I think, you know, if that message starts to bleed into the base and they start to realize that, in actuality, Republicans have missed two quite good opportunities to get a wealth of funding for Trump's border wall and we've -- they've pushed this into the nth hour, that's not beneficial to him ahead of 2020.

WHITFIELD: Elaina Plott, Salena Zito, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much, ladies.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Happy New Year.

Coming up, congressional leaders working to hash out a deal to end the shutdown. Democrats and Republicans are not willing to budge, so where do we go from here? More straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BRAK)

[13:16:11] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. History was made this week on Capitol Hill as Nancy Pelosi took the gavel marking her second turn as House speaker. Minutes after being sworn in, the newly Democratically controlled House got down to business. The House approved a stop-gap spending bill on Thursday. But there's little hope that that legislation will make it through the U.S. Senate.

Joining me, CNN national correspondent, Kristen Holmes.

Kristen, the Democrats trying their best to get moving but that spending bill could be dead on arrival, the same one the Senate had already approved of?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, that's absolutely right. Unless there's some kind of dramatic change, this is dead open arrival. McConnell won't even take it up. It has no border funding nor border wall funding in it. In addition, McConnell has said he will not take up any kind of bill that President Trump wouldn't sign off on. We know President Trump is not going to sign off on anything, at least as of now, that doesn't have that border wall funding.

Just to point out, Democrats knew that when they passed this legislative package. So why did they pass it? Some of it is posturing. We've seen President Trump on TV making statements, tweeting, blaming Democrats for this shutdown. This is a way for Democrats to shift that focus back to Republicans. Because as you said, this package was something that was approved by Senate Republicans. Really, for all intents and purposes, everyone thought it was going to keep the government open. Until President Trump at the last minute changed his mind. I should note, that was Democrats and Republicans who thought this was going to get through and the president was going to sign off on this. Again, a way for them to shift the blame back to Republicans there and highlight the fact that Republicans had already passed this legislative package to reopen the government.

So right now, the bottom line is that we are at a complete standstill. Everyone, of course, watching this meeting that's going on between Pence and Hill staffers. But there's not a lot of optimism there. Particularly when it comes to Vice President Pence and his authority. There are questions as to what he actually has the authority to do when it comes to making a deal. This is something we've seen not just through this process but really throughout President Trump's entire tenure as president. He is the last decisionmaker. He is the one who actually makes the deals. He is the one who actually signs off on something. A lot of questions here as to what actually can come out of this meeting and whether or not anything's going to change later this afternoon.

WHITFIELD: Kristen Holmes, thank you so much, on Capitol Hill.

While the president insists that federal workers are OK with the government shutdown, some 800,000 employees are forced to live a new normal without paychecks.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux talked to employees who are trying to figure out how to make ends meet while the shutdown lingers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ryan Vaughn and his furloughed friends spend their unplanned time away from work volunteering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really, I did find a volunteer thing we could do tomorrow morning if you're interested.

MALVEAUX: Thursday, Ryan spent three hours getting blood platelets, Friday, he'll pick up trash at the National Mall. While he's being productive with his newfound freedom, he says he still feels held hostage by the shutdown.

RYAN VAUGN, FURLOUGHED GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE WHO VOLUNTEERS: Let us work without having anxiety over our next grocery bill, for those who are working out the bill right now and whose leave was canceled over the holidays.

MALVEAUX: Andrea Popelka is one of those with a choice between groceries and utilities.

POPELKA: All those things are already pre-budgeted. When something like this happens and you're not going to get your next check, it's like, OK, well, what do I do?

MALVEAUX: Overall, 380,000 workers are furloughed. Another 420,000 working without pay. But in a way, they could be the lucky ones. Traditionally, Congress grants back pay to those federal employees. Though not guaranteed for anyone, back pay is even less likely for federal contractors and the companies they work for, who might not get any money at all.

[13:20:09] DAVID BERTEAU, PRESIDENT & CEO, PROFESSIONAL SERVICES COUNCIL: It puts small businesses out of business if it continues much longer.

MALVEAUX: David Berteau, who represents federal contractors, says some businesses are still paying employees without getting paid by the government. He says the biggest impact for so many is the uncertainty.

BERTEAU: When is this going to be over? Am I going to be made whole at the end of it? Will anybody care about the work I do that matters so much to me?

MALVEAUX: It's a question some federal workers were asking even before the shutdown.

Author Michael Lewis' latest book, "The Fifth Risk," looks at how President Trump's election impacted agencies across the government.

MICHAEL LEWIS, AUTHOR: All they get is slandered and abused. And yet, we expect them to perform these critical missions in society.

MALVEAUX: Lewis says the president just doesn't understand what federal employees do.

TRUMP: I will shut down the government. Absolutely.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MARJORITY LEADER: OK. Fair enough.

TRUMP: And I am proud.

SCHUMER: We disagree. We disagree.

TRUMP: And I'll tell you what, I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.

MALVEAUX: Last week, President Trump canceled federal employee pay raises for 2019 and claimed, without evidence that, quote, "Most of the people not getting paid are Democrats."

Ryan, who refuses to get into the political mud, worries he may miss his opportunity to buy a house of his own.

VAUGHN: When people in leadership positions publicly surmise about how the pain of a million federal workers and their families is going to tip the scale of the debate one way or the other, that represents a lack of moral leadership.

MALVEAUX (on camera): And ironically, while the president is fighting with lawmakers over his push to build a border wall, the partial government shutdown is interfering with his administration's immigration agenda, as Border Patrol agents and border protection officers are forced to continue working without pay, immigration judges are furloughed, and some immigration asylum cases are now put on hold.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: President Trump facing backlash for his decision to pull troops out of Syria, but could the move actually work in America's favor? We'll talk to one person who says yes, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:25:29] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. President Trump's plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria in the next few weeks may be changing. Sources tell CNN that the Pentagon thinks the short timetable is unrealistic. There are also reports that some troops could remain in southern Syria. The overall plan is still facing a storm of criticism. Even from senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who asks the president to reconsider. But not everyone thinks it's a bad idea.

Aaron David Miller spent two decades in the State Department and served both Republican and Democratic presidents and he says the concern it is of the critics are overblown. He's joining me now from Washington.

Aaron, good to see you.

You co-wrote an op-ed titled "Five Reasons Why Trump is Right about Getting America Out of Syria." This, for the "Los Angeles Times."

Good to see you.

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Let's hit some of the points you make. First, you say ISIS won't return to its former strength in Syria. Why do you see that?

MILLER: Well, you're not going to see a return of the caliphate, the proto terror state that governed large parts of Syria and Iraq. ISIS is going to remain an insurgency, Fred, there's no doubt. As long as Syria's the mess it is, a broken Humpty Dumpty, there will be some level of ISIS presence there because they feed on the political and economic grievances that the Russians and the Assad regime have helped to promote. And I think it's important just to understand that -- we use the word "defeat" as if we're going to defeat, as if we defeated Japan and Germany -- we're not going to break the will of these transnational jihadis to fight. We can contain and degrade them, but I don't think we need 2,200 -- and I suspect there are far more forces in Syria than the Pentagon is revealing. We don't need 2,200-plus U.S. military personnel in Syria in an open-ended mission to do that.

WHITFIELD: What about the foothold Iran and its proxy Hezbollah have established in Syria?

MILLER: No doubt, Iranians and Russians over the last four or five years have turned the United States into a junior partner, if that. In large part, because the Russians and the Syrians and the Assad regime and Hezbollah are prepared to do what we are not, which is to sacrifice the men and the money and the commitment, because Syria, to them, is vital to their national interests. Two American presidents have now struggled and failed to identify the fact that this country, humanitarian disaster, morphing terrorists and refugees as it does, still is of vital American national interest. As a consequence, our mission there's confused and, in my judgment, purposeless.

WHITFIELD: So if the U.S. were to pull out, where does that leave the U.S.? Who will protect any U.S. interests, particularly in that region? Especially since there are allies who have been counting on the U.S. and its positioning there?

MILLER: We have 30,000 American forces and an enormous amount of offshore balancing power, both naval assets and air power. I don't believe that withdrawal of 2,200 forces from a country that does not represent a vital American national interest is largely going to affect our credibility. Look, Mr. Trump should be blamed for untethering the United States over the last two years from the institutions, the alliances and the initiatives that have driven American power and made it strong. He should not be blamed for withdrawing from a number of fronts in which, frankly, Fred, we are losing. Let me make clear the process by which he announced this --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Except he said the U.S. has won. I mean, the strategy has brought winning results in Syria and, thereby, it's time to withdraw.

MILLER: Syria's a mess. We have not won. I do think that the idea of pulling U.S. forces out in a gradual way, after consultations with the Turks and the Russians, in effect, makes sense. Pull out by tweet is diplomatic, strategic and political malpractice. And that's part of the reason there was so much opposition to this decision.

WHITFIELD: All right. Aaron David Miller, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

Of course, you can read Aaron's op-ed, "Five Reasons Why Trump is Right about Getting America Out of Syria," in the "Los Angeles Times."

Appreciate it.

[13:30:07] Russia's deputy foreign minister says it isn't time to discuss a possible prisoner swap involving a U.S. citizen arrested last week. Paul Whelan is accused of spying by the Russians but formal charges have not been made against him. Whelan is a former U.S. Marine and corporate security expert and says he was only in Russia on vacation. His arrest comes less than a month after alleged Russian spy, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty to conspiring against the U.S.

A short time ago, I spoke with Paul's brother, David Whelan, who said he won't second-guess the efforts being made by the U.S. government but is urging people to speak out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF PAUL WHELAN: Urge Americans to contact their Congress people, to contact Ambassador Huntsman, and let them know there's concern, there's broad concern in America that Americans can be arrested in this sort of manner in foreign countries, and push whatever levers we can to bring Paul home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN international correspondent, Sam Kiley, joining me.

Sam, the Russians are saying now isn't the time to discuss any kind of prisoner swap, but they aren't closing the door on that possibility either, are they?

SAM KILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Fredricka, they're not closing the door. The deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said because there's been no formal charges laid against Mr. Whelan it was not the right time to discuss such things. As you say, not closing the door. There are people like Maria Butina, who's pleaded guilty, waiting to hear how her case pans out to charges of trying to infiltrate American systems to affect government policy. Or, indeed, the famous sort of James Bond baddy, Victor Boot, who was closely connected with military intelligence here in Russia, a famed arms dealer and money launderer who was arrested in Southeast Asia and is now languishing in a U.S. prison, strongly believed to be high on the list of somebody that the Russians would like to bring home in return for a spy perhaps.

But the problem with Mr. Whelan is he really doesn't fit the profile of a spy. Not least because he was dismissed as charged from the U.S. Marine Corps for larceny, which pretty much precludes him being recruited as an operator to the intelligence agency.

So what is also striking here, Fredricka, is that whilst over the last week Donald Trump, the U.S. president, has defended the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as a reaction against terrorism, that's a fact that is simply wrong, and suggested Russia should get more closely involved in Afghanistan, he has not come out in defense of the citizen who is languishing in a Russian jail, so far, we understand, uncharged. Of course, Mike Pompeo said he would be raising this issue at the highest level and Mr. Whelan has had a visit from the U.S. ambassador whilst he's been in his cell -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Sam Kiley, thanks so much, in Moscow.

Still ahead, searching for a killer as the Houston community mourns the loss of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes. She was killed in a seemingly random drive-by earlier this week. Today, a rally for the little girl. We'll take you to Houston live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:36:44] WHITFIELD: At least three people are dead after a shooting at a bowling alley in Torrance, California, about 20 miles south of Los Angeles. A witness to the shooting said she saw a fight break out and several people hit by gunfire. Authorities say they're searching for at least one suspect. CNN has obtained the 911 call where someone describes people hiding in the bathroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

911 OPERATOR: Active shooter situation. We have multiple subjects down inside and outside Gable House. P.D. is en route. A passerby stated the man was laying down in the parking lot, white male, grey sweatshirt, on the sidewalk.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: We need more people inside. Multiple 415s inside. At least five people down.

911 OPERATOR: Gable House. We have a caller stating there are three people hiding in the bathroom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The identities of the victims have not yet been released. We will bring you more information as we get it.

Right now, a Houston community is gathering to honor Jazmine Barnes. And they're also demanding justice. They're at a Walmart parking lot where the 7-year-old was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. Police still don't have a suspect or a motive. The sketch of the suspect was released on Thursday. The Harris County sheriff says his office has gotten several tips. Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee wants a federal task force assigned to the case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SHIELA JACKSON LEE, (D), TEXAS: Because we're into almost the second week. And there's something about a little red truck, a little red fire engine that are very conspicuous. And the question is if we fan out across this area, fanned out in a conspicuous manner, would we be able to locate either the truck or the perpetrator or even individuals who said that he is not in the area? That is my fear. And that is what I think is crucial in finding this perpetrator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Kaylee Hartung joins me from Houston at the rally - Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, you hear those calls behind me -- what do we want, justice, who do we want it for, Jazmine. Those calls repeatedly coming among the crowd of hundreds who have gathered in this Walmart parking lot just down the street from where she was shot. The speaker saying her mother, other members of her family are on their way now. We just heard from Jazmine's father, saying everyone here wants what he wants and that's justice for Jazmine.

Among these hundreds of people gathered here today as this community rallies together, what we've heard are the sentiments that so many people feel it could have been them in that car, their daughter, their granddaughter, their niece, their next-door neighbor, who lost their life tragically last Sunday. People feeling this familiarity with the experience that this family is going through at this time.

Everyone here wants to support Jazmine Barnes' family and help them through this difficult time. Part of the goal of this rally is for this community to organize, to help get the word out. As authorities beg people in this area and far beyond to share any information they may have.

I believe we just heard Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee here. She's calling for the Department of Justice to open up a federal task force to help in this investigation. Because as you've said, Fred, at this point, there are no suspects no leads that authorities have ready to discuss as credible.

[13:40:25] WHITFIELD: Horribly sad and tragic.

Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much.

The Harris County sheriff says his department will not rest until they find Jazmine's killer and get justice for her and her family.

CNN's Nick Valencia talked to Jazmine's mother.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sitting at home, her gunshot wound still bandaged, LaPorsha Washington is devastated.

LAPORSHA WASHINGTON, MOTHER OF JAZMINE BARNES: It's your whole life and you can never replace it. No matter what. No amount of money. Anything can ever replace my child, our child.

VALENCIA: Washington and her four daughters were on a Sunday morning coffee run when they were ambushed.

WASHINGTON: The next thing you know, I didn't even hear the first gunshot. All I remember is my glass shattering.

VALENCIA: Her 7-year-old daughter, Jazmine Barnes, was sitting in the back of the car. She was still in her pajamas when she was shot and killed.

WASHINGTON: I turned the light on in the car and turned around and looked at my baby and she was leaned over on the door and blood was everywhere.

VALENCIA: Wounded, Washington raced to the hospital.

WASHINGTON: The hospital was seven minutes away. I was flying down the Beltway. My car started to shake. I told my babies, I was, like, the tire is out. I can't make it no further.

VALENCIA: Surveillance video shows the suspected shooter fleeing in this red pickup truck. He's still on the run.

WASHINGTON: He's a coward. If you don't come forward and do the right thing.

VALENCIA: Alexis Gilbert, Jazmine's 15-year-old sister, was in the passenger seat during the shooting and made eye contact with the gunman.

(on camera): What did his face look like?

ALEXIS GILBERT, SISTER OF JAZMINE BARNES: Like sick. When he looked in the car, he looked sick. Like his face was really pale. His eyes were blue. His face was thin and pale.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The Harris County sheriff released this sketch. They've added more patrol cars on the streets of Houston, focused on finding the killer.

WASHINGTON: We're scared to leave our house. We're scared to go to the store.

VALENCIA: There's been an outpouring of nationwide support, including a large reward. Even a Houston Texans football player has pledged to pay for the 7-year-old's funeral.

WASHINGTON: Jazmine is -- she's my little child. She's always wanting to hug and kiss on you. She loved the world.

VALENCIA: Nick Valencia, CNN, Houston, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, federal employees are suing the Trump administration over this government shutdown saying they should not be forced to work without pay. Do they have a case? We'll discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:46:51] WHITFIELD: The partial government shutdown is now in its 15th day and now it's 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.

Last hour, I was joined by the lead attorney representing federal employees in the lawsuit. She says this case is eerily similar to one from a shutdown in 2013. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEIDI BURAKLEWICZ, LEAD ATTORNEY FOR AMERCIAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES UNION: 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 Standard Act by requiring these essential employees, the people who keep our country safe, to go to work and not pay them on time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Joining me now, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, and Richard Herman, a criminal defense attorney.

Happy New Year to both of you.

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Happy New Year, Fredricka.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Here we go. Richard, you first.

Is this the same case? Would it lead to a similar outcome?

HERMAN: Well, contrary to the president's assertion that all these people are out and not getting paid, being compelled to work, are so happy and they're supporting him, that's just one more lie in the list of lies. This is a real case, Fred. You would think that the president of the United States, with access to all these great legal minds, someone would have instructed him and educate him on the fact that courts ruled unprecedented. And this is virtually identical to the 2013 case, where these people, these claimants, won not only damages but liquidated damages, Fred, double damages. So they're going to win. And despite the president not wanting to look foolish, he is going to look beyond foolish. Because they are going to win. The government is going to lose. This is just a travesty that just continues daily with no end in sight.

WHITFIELD: So, Avery, do you see it the same way? In the meantime, a lot of people working without a paycheck are worried about how they are going to make ends meet.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Right.

WHITFIELD: Does that help bolster their case? Even though there's this precedence?

FRIEDMAN: I don't know if it helps bolster their case, Fredricka, but what we know for sure is that chief judge, Patricia Campbell Smith, who was the judge that made this ruling, said that the argument the government is using, they're saying that the government shutdown is equivalent to a natural disaster. Well, the judge said, no, it's not. It was a conscious effort. These people are being hurt and, therefore, they're entitled to double damages. Which ultimately can be hundreds of millions of dollars. Might actually pay for the wall. But in any event, what's going on right now, there's nothing to be proud of in shutting the government down. Because there are literally hundreds of thousands of citizens in the United States and their families and their children who are suffering because this law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, is being ignored.

Let me also mention on that case, that decision, that case was filed, Fredricka, in 2013. As of 2019, six years later, the federal officials have not been paid. So the idea that they're getting paid means that they're going to get until 2025 to be paid? Oh, my goodness. [13:50:24] HERMAN: Actually, Fred, they're still calculating the

liquidated damages in that case.

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

HERMAN: And only 22,000 employees involved in that one, Fred. Now we're going to have well over 200,000 employees. You cannot compel someone to work and not pay them. And these people are not happy, happy. They're sad, sad.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Right. The president says they're happy. Many are happy with what he is doing.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: He said, I'm very proud of doing what I'm doing. And he also said here from the Rose Garden this could last months, if not years.

FRIEDMAN: If not years. Exactly.

WHITFIELD: We're talking about a very long time that some may be asked to work without pay.

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

HERMAN: Fred, that's right. And it's like, like elementary school, when someone, no, you can't play with my balls. My ball everybody is dug in in here. Pelosi won't give him a dime for the wall. Yes, there's border security. And there are other ways to get border security other than a cement wall.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: And his version of the wall changes by the minute.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: He doesn't know what he is talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: I wonder how the president's jargon, I mean, his word choice, even yesterday, how does that assist those who are suing?

FRIEDMAN: It doesn't. It doesn't.

WHITFIELD: While the lawsuit may be similar, circumstances are different here. We're talking about a wall, we're talking about a president who has boasted of shutting down, taking ownership of the shutdown.

FRIEDMAN: Of being proud of it. Of being proud of it, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

FRIEDMAN: I mean the bottom line on it, is that the president said, well, I'm a landlord, I'll go easy, if I were the landlord. Let me tell you something. Credit ratings are going to get wrecked. People are not going to pay their bills. They aren't going to have money for groceries. How in the world --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Not all landlords are going to be amenable.

FRIEDMAN: That's for sure.

HERMAN: Yes.

FRIEDMAN: That's for sure.

HERMAN: Fred, take a look at the clerk's office, the civil court of New York City, and see how many landlord Trump cases are brought against people who are a month late or two months behind on rent.

FRIEDMAN: It has nothing to do with it, but it's the point.

HERMAN: It is ridiculous. It is absurd. He is trying to demean the American population listening to this garbage. It is horrible. These people are suffering, Fred. They have to end the shutdown. It is outrageous.

FRIEDMAN: They are suffering.

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDMAN: No end in sight.

WHITFIELD: Isn't an argument to be made, by some federal workers who say not paying me, but requiring me to work is a violation of my constitutional rights?

FRIEDMAN: Oh, great question, because one of the arguments is that it is a form of slavery, under the 13th Amendment. You know what? I love the argument.

HERMAN: Yes. Yes.

FRIEDMAN: Except, at the end of the day, slaves were never paid. It would never sell constitutionally, but I love the creative argument. We need to do something to help these Americans.

WHITFIELD: Richard?

HERMAN: They don't even need to be creative, Fred. They have it under this fair practice statute. They have it.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: It is black and white. It is a classic slam-dunk case, Fred. They are going to win. The government is going to be hammered in damages. And there's nothing Trump can do about it. He's got to stop this. They will lose this litigation. They will this class- action involving over 200,000 people suffering.

FRIEDMAN: That's right. That's right.

WHITFIELD: We will leave it there.

Richard Herman, Avery Friedman --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: Hey, Fred, before we leave it, Fred, before we leave it, this begins 18 years with the three of us, every week, 18 years.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: What a union.

HERMAN: And wait, Fred, and I want to congratulate you and CNN. Number-one cable news on the weekend, NEWSROOM, Frederica Whitfield. Number one.

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDMAN: Not intending to be self-serving. Not intending, Richard, to be self-serving.

HERMAN: No, never, never.

WHITFIELD: Well, we're a team.

HERMAN: All thanks to Frederica.

WHITFIELD: A winning team.

Thank you very much, gentlemen. Always good to see you. Appreciate it.

HERMAN: Nice to see you.

WHITFIELD: Happy New Year.

And happy New Year to another 18 great years with us together.

[13:54:16] All right, well, serious business right now. It is now day 15 of the government shutdown with no end in sight. Today, Vice President Mike Pence is holding a meeting with congressional staffers. The latest on that meeting, and where are we now on this, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is in Iowa this weekend, essentially kicking off her run for president. Earlier this week, the Democrat launched an exploratory committee for the 2020 race, and even started adding staff members to her team. This weekend, she has five different events throughout Iowa, including wrapping up -- one wrapping up, rather, just a short time ago. Warren was questioned whether -- rather, she was questioned by a voter, over her controversial decision to use a DNA test to prove her claims of Native American ancestry. To that, Warren responded, "I am not a person of color, I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry."

Officials running the migrant shelter in Texas say they expect all children held there to be released and placed in sponsored homes within weeks. According to officials at the tent city shelter, the population has been steadily dropping since the Department of Health and Human Services eased background check requirements. They expect to close the facility completely by the end of the month. And an HHS spokesperson told CNN they had no updates on the matter.

Tonight, experience the incredible story of comedy great, Gilda Radner, in her own words, "Love, Gilda." The CNN film re-airs tonight 9:00 eastern right here on CNN.

WHITFIELD: Hello, again. And thanks for being with me this Saturday. I'm Frederica Whitfield.

We're entering week three of the partial U.S. government shutdown leaving hundreds of thousands of federal workers without a paycheck as lawmakers spar over the president's demands for a border wall. A meeting just wrapped up near the White House. And you can see Vice President Mike Pence walking out with adviser, Jared Kushner, and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.