Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Government Shutdown Continues over Border Wall Funding; Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Meet with Congressional Staffers to Negotiate Reopening Government; TSA Employees Calling out Sick During Government Shutdown; Nancy Pelosi's Early Family Life Profiled; Analysts Examine Current State of U.S. Economy; Police Searching for Shooter of Seven-Year-Old Girl in Houston, Texas; Conjoined Twins Successfully Separated by Surgery. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired January 5, 2019 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- 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. Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney left earlier. They were all meeting with congressional staff, although it's still unclear who the congressional staffers are. Meanwhile, federal workers are feeling the impact, struggling to make ends meet, as they wait for the U.S. government to reopen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA POPELKA, FURLOUGHED WORKER: When something like this happens, and you're not going to get your next check, it's like, OK, what do I do? I will have to make a tough choice between paying my utilities, or going and buying groceries for the next two weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Let's check in now with CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez. So that meeting just wrapping up, what can you tell us about how it went?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, the meeting just ended a short time ago between top administration officials and these aides for Democratic lawmakers. There is no clarity yet on exactly how that meeting went. We did see several of those officials go into the West Wing after it wrapped up, so we may get a tweet from the president, depending on whether he feels he may want to chime in at this point.

So far, as you know, Fred, both sides have simply been entrenched. President Trump yesterday admitting that he told lawmakers he would keep the government shut down as long as it took, months, year, potentially, according to one source, even to the next election, until he got funding for his long-promised border wall. The president has demanded $5.6 billion to fund his wall. He repeated that yesterday, though we have seen him shift in the last week on how that wall is going to get built, at one point suggesting he wanted to see a concrete barrier in some portions, in others, steel slats, or a see- through barrier.

Democrats, meantime, have maintained that they will not have a discussion about building the president's border wall until the federal government is reopened. The president yesterday also alluded to potentially blowing up negotiations all together and declaring a national emergency to get funding for his border wall that way. He dismissed the idea. I still want you to listen to what the president said, though. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We could 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)

SANCHEZ: The president has threatened to do this for some time. I don't want to get into the political ramifications of doing that, but they will soon start feeling the pressure, not just the president, but other lawmakers as well. Keep in mind, the two-week pay period that just ended yesterday fills the entire government shutdown, so for hundreds of thousands of federal workers, they're going to feel the ramifications of this shutdown on the next paycheck, or lack thereof, a paycheck. The pressure will certainly ratchet up on both sides to come up with a deal soon, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Boris Sanchez at the White House, thank you.

Joining me to discuss further, Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator Maria Cardona, and former senior adviser to the Trump campaign and CNN political commentator Jack Kingston. Happy New Year to both of you.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Happy New Year to you.

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So Jack, you first. The president said he is proud of this shutdown, and that he is ready to let it go for months or even years, if necessary. So is that a healthy message from a president of the United States?

KINGSTON: It's not a good message. I was in Congress during three shutdowns, two of them were very long ones, one for 21 days and another one for 16 days, and I can tell you the number one thing that you need to have is empathy for those 800,000 workers, not only the ones who are directly not working, but the people who are vendors and independent contractors, because there is a lot of pain out there.

I also think that the White House and the Republican Congress should have been messaging far more vigorously over the Christmas break. It would have been a great opportunity for Paul Ryan to come to the White House, Christmas Eve, the day after Christmas, and sit down with the president. They had a great opportunity as Nancy Pelosi was in Hawaii to show a contrasting message. They did not.

And I talked to one of the House members this week, a senior member, and he said he feels like he is the only one who has been doing any of the messaging. Now everybody is back in town. They're going to start feeling the heat. They're going to have to start messaging more. But I think they lost a critical 10 days in terms of that.

WHITFIELD: So Maria, the House speaker shortly after her swearing in, she was pretty emphatic. She was like there is no money, no wall, period. But then of course, if you're going to negotiate, each side has to give something. What will the Democrats be willing to give in on?

CARDONA: Well, Democrats have already included $1.6 billion in many of the bills that have already been passed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

[14:05:01] And so it has been the temper tantrum that Trump has actually been showing us that has kept this government shut down. The sad thing about this, Fred, and Jack is right, we have to show empathy, which we know this president is completely inept at showing or feeling, because he just doesn't care. The president is not just shutting down the government. He is on the verge of shutting down America. He is on the verge of shutting down Americans' lives, livelihoods, families, our security, our safety. And for what? For an inane, unneeded wall that is not going to do what he says it is going to do.

If he wants to sit down with the Democrats and talk about real border security, we are absolutely willing to do that. It is the Democrats that have been shown historically to be the ones, not just concerned about, but the ones who have implemented incredible border security that has made the border safer than it ever has before. There is no national security problem at the border. There is a humanitarian crisis at the border that this president does not know how to deal with and is not concerned about. He doesn't care about it, and that's the problem.

WHITFIELD: So Jack, if the president says he is proud of the way things are going, and reportedly he had also said to Schumer, he would look foolish if he were to give in on the wall, what is the area in which he is willing to compromise?

KINGSTON: Well, let's talk about what Maria just said on border security, and where there could be common ground. We do know the Democrats have not supported Kate's law. We do know that many Democrats want to abolish ICE. We know that they support sanctuary cities.

WHITFIELD: OK, but then back to my question though.

CARDONA: That has nothing to do with this.

WHITFIELD: Back to the question. What is the area in which he is willing to compromise? KINGSTON: Well, that's where I was going, Fred. What I was saying is

we do know that the Democrats are saying they support border security, but we also know their track record, voting track record, real votes, Senate and House Democrats --

WHITFIELD: OK, what is the area that the president, that Republicans are willing to compromise on?

KINGSTON: So I think that what the president could do is take $2 million, $2.5 million, for the wall, and a promise that we would eliminate sanctuary cities, or we would vet people more carefully on the border, and we could work together with that. And then after that is done, maybe more money for the wall.

I want to point out, though, we hear from Democrats that experts say walls are ineffective. That's not what the walls in Yuma, Arizona, or San Diego, or El Paso have shown us. Those have greatly reduced illegal immigration. And nobody is calling to tear down those walls to. So to say walls don't work is ridiculous. I think --

CARDONA: Here's the problem, Jack. Democrats aren't saying that walls don't work, period. What we're saying --

KINGSTON: Some of them, some of them.

CARDONA: Listen to me. Listen to me. That's not true. What Democrats are saying is that a physical, 2,000-mile long infrastructure at the border the way that Trump has described it, is stupid, ineffective, and it's not going to stop the humanitarian crisis at the border, which is the problem. You have families coming in who are desperately trying to flee violence and death from their countries, they are presenting themselves to Border Patrol. They are not trying to go over these supposed walls. That's the problem.

KINGSTON: OK, let me say this. That's another area of the compromise though. Those --

CARDONA: But the president is uninterested in that.

KINGSTON: Not necessarily. I think he would sit down and say, if you guys want to look at the asylum laws of which most of these people do not qualify, let's talk about that. But in exchange, let's get rid of the drug dealers and the child traffickers, and all of the bad apples that are in there, and let's --

CARDONA: Let's do that.

KINGSTON: -- require them to come through legal ports of entry.

WHITFIELD: It's part of the issue here, though --

CARDONA: But you can't do that with a president that doesn't --

WHITFIELD: It's part of the issue timing? For two years, this opportunity has come and gone. So is part of the issue timing here? Do you want to hold up the progress of government over this issue that has been defeated multiple times now over the last two years with a Republican-controlled House, Senate, White House. And now making this attempt now, it seems like it's not likely to happen.

KINGSTON: We've had 20 government shutdowns since 1977. It's really not a function of government not working. It's just part of how government works to hone out very tough compromises. And I'm afraid that's what is going on here.

Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have to say, you know what, both of us have voted for walls in the past. We have got to get over Donald Trump, and pretend like Barack Obama was in the White House, and then we would say probably, hey, it's not $5 billion you need, you need $10 billion. And by the way, Maria, I think we're talking about 215 miles of wall here, $5 billion isn't enough.

CARDONA: Not according to Trump.

KINGSTON: If I was a president, I would be asking for $20 billion.

CARDONA: Not according to Trump. But here is the problem.

[14:10:02] KINGSTON: But it's chump change with a $4 trillion budget.

CARDONA: Trump is not willing -- Trump is not willing to compromise, Jack, because every time we have been close to a compromise, his anti- immigrant xenophobic advisers like Stephen Miller whisper into his ear, and then people like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh do as well, actually they don't whisper it, they scream it from their platforms, and he completely dials back. Just remember, there was a deal on the table --

KINGSTON: He gave a compromise to Chuck Schumer in February of last year.

CARDONA: There was a deal on the table, and he then went back and said absolutely we're not doing that. So how can you compromise a president who is unwilling to look at the facts, to look at the evidence, and really govern with what is needed?

KINGSTON: But Maria, here is how you can do it. Here is how you can do it. You could go in there this week and say we're offering the president $2.5 billion, we'll give him another billion after certain controls are in place. And by the way, we are going to put Kate's law on the House floor for a debate to show that we are serious about border security. And I think if the Democrats would do that, we would have 800,000 people back on the job and getting paid next week.

CARDONA: You know how else, you know how else we could have the 800,000 federal workers on the job? If Trump does his job.

WHITFIELD: If we only knew what was really discussed in that meeting today, that two-and-a-half-hour meeting involving Jared Kushner, the vice president, Kirstjen Nielsen, and whoever these congressional staffers are, and that's still a mystery. It would be nice to know.

CARDONA: But when you have -- WHITFIELD: But perhaps we'll find out whether any progress has been

made.

CARDONA: When you have a president who is proud of a shutdown, that's when you have a president that you know is unfit to lead.

KINGSTON: He's proud to stand up for border security. He's not proud of the shutdown. He believes in border security.

CARDONA: He said it. He said he is proud of the shutdown, Jack.

WHITFIELD: He said he was very proud of it, Jack.

CARDONA: He himself is proving he is unfit to lead.

KINGSTON: Listen, it is about border security. You guys need to support Kate's law and --

CARDONA: We support border security. We don't support a president who is unfit to lead.

KINGSTON: Just point to one vote --

CARDONA: He doesn't want to govern.

WHITFIELD: All right.

CARDONA: And $25 billion is something that Democrats have supported before, and the president said no.

KINGSTON: And they would do it again if Barack Obama was still president.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, 800,000 federal workers want to know when they can be back on the job a paycheck. Appreciate it to both of you, appreciate it.

The number of TSA workers calling out sick has soared during the shutdown. We'll look at why and how it is affected airport security, still ahead.

Plus, what the new Congress is doing and planning with Democrats takign control.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:15:40] 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 from New York. So Polo, JFK is one of the major airports being impacted. What are the other outlets?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me give you an example on that note about JFK, Fred. At least 170 employees with the Transportation Safety Administration have called in sick every day of the week for the last week. And so there are many officials, many of the organizations, the unions who represent some of the employees with this agency say that we can expect that number to go even up as more and more of their employees do not receive their first paycheck of the year.

So what is behind this? Various union presidents, or at least the heads of these groups, say that there isn't any joint -- any actual organized protest. But obviously, many of these people will be quite upset that they're not receiving a paycheck. They said the reason for this is really more practical. Many of these employees, many of these TSA officers, could be single parents and just cannot afford child care, so they have to stay at home with their kids. Others may have to find other employment because even though the shutdown continues, of course, their obligations also continue to pay their bills and pay their rent.

How will this affect you, the passenger who could be headed to the airport sometime soon? Well, there are various TSA heads that report that they are concerned that this could potentially lead to a less secure travel environment. That is because you can see less pat- downs, potentially less random searches. But the TSA hoping to calm those concerns. They released a statement in the last couple of days, Fred. I want to read a portion of it, saying that some of these call- ins started over the holiday period, and shortly after that, they began to increase. The TSA also said that security effectiveness will not be compromised, and also that performance standards will not change.

However, you note this other part here -- wait times may be affected depending on the number of call-outs. That's because they will essentially have to do more with less, some of the morning shift, according to several reports, have had to try to stay behind to try to fill in the gaps. And finally, Fred, the situation is so bad that, according to two government sources in contact with CNN, this is now being referred to as the blue flu, obviously a clear reference to their blue uniforms that you'll see, that you'll spot in the baggage and passenger screening areas across the country.

WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval, thanks so much in New York.

Democrats now have control of the House of Representatives, so what are they planning to do with that power? A closer look, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:21:40] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Nancy Pelosi made history this week when she took the gavel. It marked her second turn as House speaker, the first woman and just second person to accomplish that feat. And minutes after being sworn in, the new Democratically controlled House got to work. The House approved a stopgap spending bill on Thursday, but there is very little help that the legislation will make it through the U.S. Senate.

Joining me right now, CNN national correspondent Kristen Holmes. Kristen, this bill, this spending bill, rather, could be a dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate despite being essentially the same bill that was agreed upon by Senate Republicans not long ago.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So they voted on several measures. One was an entire legislative package that was unanimously voted on by senators, meaning all Republican senators and Democrats, had voted to push this through, as well as, like you said, that stopgap measure. Now, this is something that Nancy Pelosi also made sure to point out.

We have to keep in mind, a lot of this is posturing, a lot of it is placing the blame here. House Democrats wanted to show that they were in control. They said we're taking control of the House, we are going to fix this government problem. We are also going to basically place blame, place focus on those Republicans by passing a bill that they already approved and saying, well, it won't go anywhere because of President Trump.

Right now, the bottom line is that we are at a standstill. House Democrats are stuck in their thinking that they will not support any kind of bill that has wall funding. President Trump, as we know, yesterday, in that meeting railed in to Democrats, saying that he would not take anything short of $5.6 billion for that wall.

But I do want to note one thing, and this is something we're watching very carefully on Capitol Hill, there is a third party here. Senator Mitch McConnell who right after the shutdown took to the floor and saying this is nothing to do with Republicans. This is between Democrats and President Trump. This isn't our problem.

But truthfully Fred, this is about to be Mitch McConnell's problem, because, as we know 2020 is just around the corner. I know we hate saying that because it is January, but people are already looking towards those seats. And it is not a favorable map towards Republicans in the Senate.

So we are already starting to see some Senate Republicans that are incredibly vulnerable, like Cory Gardner of Colorado as well as Susan Collins of Maine, start to speak out against -- start to speak up for opening the government, for passing this. That creates a problem for Mitch McConnell, because once his people start speaking out against it, you're looking at uneven numbers and they might have to force something through. We're not there yet, but it's definitely something that we're keeping an eye on as we move forward.

WHITFIELD: Kristen Holmes, thank you so much.

Nancy Pelosi making history again, reclaiming the gavel this week as speaker of the House. But with a divided party and an outspoken group of freshmen lawmakers, the job comes with a whole new set of challenges. CNN's Dana Bash spoke with her being the first and only woman to be House speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is your hood. REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Yes.

BASH: To really know Nancy Pelosi, you go where it all started -- Little Italy in Baltimore, where she was born to congressman Tommy D'Alesandro and Anunciata D'Alesandro. When she was six, her father became Baltimore's first Catholic mayor.

[14:25:00] PELOSI: Over the Irish, that was a big deal. But it took political organizing to donn to do that.

BASH: Much has been made of Pelosi's father's influence on her. Less known is her mother.

Your mom actually patented a device, the first device to apply steam to the face, basically, an at home facial.

PELOSI: That's right.

BASH: That's incredible.

PELOSI: That was incredible.

BASH: Pelosi says her father and the times held her mother back in many ways, but Anunciata D'Alesandro was a quiet force in politics.

PELOSI: My mother was very much a part of the organized. My father was the orator, the public servant.

BASH: And your mother got stuff done.

(LAUGHTER)

PELOSI: Well, my brother called it her moccasin brigade that all of these women who would be part of getting the message out, being at events. There are two things about what I bring with me from my family in this regard. One is to know how to count. That's very important. Count your votes to win the election. Count your votes to win a vote on the floor. But the other is listen to the constituents.

BASH: The D'Alesandro home was at the center of this Italian community. A vivid childhood memory helping new immigrants who knew where her father, the mayor, and his family lived, and would regularly knock on their door asking for help.

PELOSI: Since I was a little girl, I knew how to tell somebody how to get to City Hospital, how to try to get housing in the projects, because that's right here next to us, and because I heard my mother say it so many times.

BASH: After college, she wanted to go to law school. Instead, like many in her generation, she got married and started a family.

PELOSI: When I got married and I had a baby, and another five and six years, people were always saying she knew when she was a little girl she wanted to run for office. I never thought of that at all, ever, until I did. BASH: The Pelosis moved back to husband Paul's hometown, San

Francisco. She became more and more active in the Democratic Party. But it wasn't until her youngest daughter was a senior in high school that she ran for an open House seat.

PELOSI: I went to her and I said, you're going to be a senior, mom has a chance to run for Congress, I don't even know if I will win.

BASH: She said get a life.

(LAUGHTER)

PELOSI: She said get a life. And I did.

BASH: When she first ran for House leadership 18 years ago, her male Democratic colleagues didn't get it.

PELOSI: When people said, oh, there are a lot of the women are supporting Nancy to run, and they said, well, why? Do the women have a list of things they want us to do? Why don't they just make a list and give us the list. This is the Democratic Party in the year 2000.

BASH: She attributes her boundless energy to Italian genes. It's certainly not a balanced diet -- dark chocolate and ice cream. Viccarro's has been her favorite since a little girl.

PELOSI: The chocolate. Not the chocolate chip. The chocolate. I like my chocolate unadulterated.

BASH: How do you think that you wield your power as a woman differently than a man does?

PELOSI: Other people tell me if they're meeting or something that say, do you understand how different that meeting would have been if a man were conducting it?

BASH: Do they explain how?

PELOSI: Well, you listen. You build consensus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I extend to you this gavel.

BASH: That's exactly what she did to get enough votes to be speaker again. She made compromises with Democratic doubters looking for someone new, not her.

PELOSI: None of us is indispensable, but some of us are just better at our jobs than others. And I have a following in the country apart from anybody that has run for president.

BASH: For most women, frankly, myself included, it is hard to say those words, I am uniquely qualified, I deserve this, I earned this, I can do this better than anyone else. But you can say that.

PELOSI: You know why I do it? I do it because I want women to see that you do not get pushed around, that you don't run away from the fight.

BASH: Dana Bash, CNN, Baltimore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And the markets are up, the markets are down. What is the real Trump economy? Financial experts explain and reveal how it might impact your money in 2019.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:32:16] WHITFIELD: All right, if this week on Wall Street is any indication, we're in for a wild ride in 2019. The Dow closed out the week with a 747 point rally, the big jump coming after an encouraging December jobs report which showed U.S. payroll surged by 312,000 jobs and accelerated wage growth up to 3.2 percent.

So is all of this proof that President Trump's economic acumen is hitting the mark? Let's ask the experts. Here with me now, former economic adviser to President Reagan and the Trump campaign Art Laffer, and Linette Lopez, senior finance correspondent for "Business Insider." Good to see both of you. Happy New Year.

ARTHUR LAFFER, SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER TO TRUMP IN 2016: Happy New Year, Fred, in Atlanta.

WHITFIELD: Thank you. So Art, let me begin with you. Does the president deserve credit for this jobs report?

LAFFER: I think so. It's 312,000 just this month, but they also revised back to two months before which raised it another 60,000, which is a pretty amazing number. Now, one month is not the end of the world. It's not the beginning, but it's better than a bad month, let me just put it that way. And I think the last 12, 13 months have been very good for the president.

WHITFIELD: So Linette, December was the worst month on Wall Street since the great depression. But we saw a huge rebound. The Dow has now surged 1,641 points, eight percent since Christmas Eve. What do you make of this kind of volatility?

LINETTE LOPEZ, SENIOR FINANCE CORRESPONDENT, "BUSINESS INSIDER": You know, what I make of it is that this is an economy that only Donald Trump can ruin. And he's doing his best to do that. And one way that he is doing that is by continuing on with this trade war in China, creating a lot of uncertainty for businesses, and freaking out the corporate sector, quite frankly.

And the other way is by continuing to mess with the credibility of the Federal Reserve. Now, as long as he's bullying Powell, financial markets are going to think that there's a possibility that he could encroach on the independence of the Federal Reserve and make things even more unpredictable than they have been. There are also indications that the economy could slow down soon. We're at the end of a massive cycle of growth, 10 years of the stock market surging and our economy continuing to grow. And we're seeing that layoffs are planned by a lot of corporations through 2019. Apple just warned on profit because the rest of the global economy is slowing down. So there are definitely worries. And it seems like Donald Trump just keeps wanting to poke at that bear and making all those things worse.

WHITFIELD: How much did the words of Jerome Powell help kind of buoy the markets, words of encouragement, after hearing from him this week?

[14:35:02] LOPEZ: I think it was incredibly helpful to know that, well, he said he was going to remain independent, which I think is very important to anybody watching on Wall Street. And he said he was going to remain dependent on the data. He is going to keep making sure that inflation is low, that wage growth is because of actual economic gains, and the economy is still going on a positive trajectory.

And he is not going to keep interest rates low just because President Donald Trump, whose familiarity with the economy extends mostly to bankruptcy, is telling him that he needs to do. The Fed has always been data dependent. We're still seeing growth. He's -- Powell is worried about the rest of the global economy, as he should be, and he's going to stick to watching that. And that's what the markets need to hear.

WHITFIELD: So Art, we're also in the 116th Congress now, and Democrats control the House, but that's after $2 trillion was added to the national debt in Trump's first two years in office. Do you see this government spending slowing down?

LAFFER: It should slow down. Government spending is one of the biggest problems out there. If I can just say that Milton Friedman always said government spending is taxation. The government doesn't create resources. It redistributes them. And Ronald Reagan's famous one was a government that's big enough to give you everything you ever wanted is also a government big enough to take away everything you ever had.

So when you look at this, government spending I think is the next big issue. But I do agree that trade and the Fed are two very big issues. I believe that Powell also said he is going to take a pause for a while, which I think is a wonderful piece of news. There's no rush. The earth is patient if he waits a few weeks, a few months to raise the rates the next time.

And I'm very hopeful. And no one knows for sure, at least I don't, whether the trade deals with China are going to come through. But if they do, that would be an enormous plus for the economy. So I'm quite optimistic about the future of the U.S. economy. I love the tax bills. I love the deregulation. I think all of that is working. We're getting the growth. We're getting tax revenues. All of that is nice. And I'm pretty hopeful.

LOPEZ: It's nice, but again, going back to the fact that President Trump is the only person who can ruin this, and he's doing his best, is the fact that we have a government shutdown on our hands that it is taking away wages from over 200,000 Americans. And as you know consumer consumption is what really drives this economy. So when you take money out of the pockets of 200,000 Americans, the economy is going to take a hit. And there's no reason for this. We're not trying to compel China to do x, y, z, to structurally change their economy when it comes to this government shutdown. This is about a petty, silly grievance that Donald Trump has that he cannot work out with the new Democratic leadership in the House.

LAFFER: If I can, a shutdown is a bipartisan issue. Nancy Pelosi could stop the shutdown tomorrow, too. So could President Trump by just conceding. To me, it's not a real substantive economic issue there. I'm no expert on the wall, so please.

LOPEZ: Until it is. Until it is.

LAFFER: No, it's just a power play. And this is just pure politics. And I've seen shutdowns for 50 years. I've been involved in this. And giving the president a $5 billion wall, even if it is not the best thing in the world --

LOPEZ: Have you ever seen a president gleefully proclaim that the shutdown could go on for years and try to call it a strike? Let's not pretend that this is a normal course of action. This is strange and it's disturbing for markets.

LAFFER: President Trump is a first in many, many ways. He is a very vocal, interactive president that I've never seen before in my life. You're totally correct on all of that. We've seen that in every issue, everywhere. But, on the wall, just taking on the wall, we love to have the government back into action if they give him the wall. I think we do it tomorrow morning.

LOPEZ: Most Americans don't want the wall.

LAFFER: That's fine. And this is what they're doing, it is a power play, it is a political issue. And it's not the way I'd do it. If I were Nancy Pelosi --

LOPEZ: We should not play politics with people's paychecks.

LAFFER: What's that?

LOPEZ: We should not play politics with people's paychecks. I don't think that's --

LAFFER: Both sides are playing politics. Honestly, both sides are. Nancy Pelosi could end it, and so could Donald Trump end it. They both are sitting there. And it is not for me to say --

LOPEZ: You said government spending should go down, why should you be in favor of a $5 billion wall that no one wants. Why should Nancy Pelosi concede to that?

LAFFER: If it is $5 billion and that were the whole thing. But when you talk about out of $3 trillion out of government spending there are more wasteful projects out there than just this wall, and will we shut the government down for every one of those wasteful projects? I hope not. WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there.

LAFFER: I wish we hadn't done this one, too. I'd love to see those people back at work and doing what they're supposed to be doing, and I think we all would. And I'd love to see the two get together and agree on a compromise and get it going.

WHITFIELD: They'd love it too, I'm sure. Art Laffer, Linette Lopez, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

LAFFER: Thank you very much.

LOPEZ: Thank you.

[14:40:02] WHITFIELD: Still so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom. But first, a programming note. Tonight, experience the incredible story of comedy great Gilda Radner in her own words. "Love Gilda," a CNN film re-airing tonight 9:00 eastern right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: At least three people are dead and four others are wounded after a shooting at a bowling alley in Torrance, California, overnight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: New video into CNN shows the chaotic scene as police try to tend to the victims. Officers say they found multiple people with gunshot wounds when they arrived. Three men were pronounced dead on the scene. CNN's Paul Vercammen joining us now from Torrance. So Paul, what do you know about a potential suspect, even?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're still looking for the suspect, Fredricka, and in fact, they're asking the public to provide any cell phone video, any other video, any information as to what may have led up to this.

Speaking to police, one of the leads they are going to try to look at is that if this started a fight between two women inside this karaoke bar. We also understand, karaoke bar, I should say, and bowling alley. That's the area where they said it started, the karaoke bar.

[14:45:01] Very tense outside here right now. As you can imagine, so many grieving, heartsick family member, not many wanting to talk on camera -- you can't blame them -- one of them telling me, how do you tell a five-year-old that his father is gone, dead, not coming back? She was talking about her brother-in-law in this instance. She said that her nine-year-old son learned that his uncle was dead because he heard her screaming.

Now back to this investigation. As we said, police are trying to find out more about this possible fight that started between two women in the karaoke area of this Torrance bowling alley. That's one of the leads. We've seen CSI where crime scene investigators go inside, the coroners, trying to determine what happened here. Off camera, several people telling me they don't think that this was any sort of gang- related activity. Torrance, California, about 150,000 people, known for being a quiet community, it has basically had a situation where they didn't have a single homicide in the last recorded year, that was 2017. Police officers telling me that this is one of the safest cities in California. So what happened here is just alarming, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Sure is. Paul Vercammen, thank you so much.

And right now, another very alarming situation. A Houston community is gathering to honor Jazmine Barnes and demand justice. They are at a Walmart parking lot where the seven-year-old was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. That was six days ago and police still do not have a suspect in custody or a motive.

The sketch of the suspect was released Thursday, and the Harris County sheriff says his office has gotten several tips. Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee wants a federal task force assigned to this case. Kaylee Hartung joining me now from that rally in Houston. Kaylee, Jazmine's mother has arrived. What is being said?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, LaPorsha Washington just handed off the microphone. She told this crowd, hundreds of people who have been in this parking lot for close to two hours, how much she appreciated their support, how much their support is making her stronger in this unimaginably difficult time.

The calls here are for justice for Jazmine. You hear these chants behind me now. Among them, the question of whose child, our child. That sentiment, that Jazmine is one of ours collectively, is shared by everyone here. I've spoken to many women and men here today who say Jazmine could have been their daughter, their granddaughter, their next-door neighbor in the car with them. Here in this Walmart parking lot, the feeder road that brings people here is what they were driving along when, unprovoked, that gunman opened fire on the car.

So many people saying they are familiar with that drive. It's how they get to this Walmart to shop in this community. Fredricka, this community is mourning the loss of Jazmine Barnes but calling the great passion for the suspect in the shooting to be found. That $100,000 dollars reward is on the table for anybody who can offer up assistance to authorities to bring that suspect in. We hear now Lee Merritt will shortly be coming to the stage, the family's attorney, to address questions. Now a moment of silence, if I can join in this crowd without interrupting, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much there in Houston.

The Harris County sheriff says his department will not rest until they find the Jazmine's killer and get justice for her and her family. Here is CNN's Nick Valencia talking to Jazmine's mother earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sitting at home, her gunshot wound still bandaged, LaPorsha Washington is devastated.

LAPORSHA WASHINGTON, MOTHER OF VICTIM: He a family you whole life, and you can never replace that. No amount of money, no amount of gifts, no amount of support, 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 seven-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.

WHITFIELD: Wounded, Washington raced to the hospital.

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

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

[14:50:03] WASHINGTON: You're being a coward. If you don't step forward and do the right thing.

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

What did his face look like?

ALXIS DILBERT, SISTER OF VICTIM: He looked sick. When he looked in the car, he just looked sick, like his face was really pale. That's all I can remember. And his eyes were blue. His face was thin and pale.

VALENCIA: The Harris County sheriff released this sketch. They have 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 seven-year-old's funeral.

WASHINGTON: Jazmine is, when I say, she is just my love child. She always want to hug and kiss on you. She loved the world.

VALENCIA: Nick Valencia, CNN, Houston Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Friends and family of California police officer Ranil Singh said their final goodbyes today. The 33-year-old and new father was shot to death the day after Christmas while responding to a report of a drunk driver. Since then, at least seven people have been arrested in his death, including an immigrant who was in the country illegally. Singh was laid to rest today. He was assigned to a canine unit at the time of his death. That dog, named Sam, will now retire and live with the Singh family.

Conjoined twins, surgically separated. It's been three incredible years since we told you about these boys. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has an update on how they're doing when the CNN Newsroom returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:55:06] WHITFIELD: Twin boys born attached at the head. Now the brothers are getting the chance to experience life on their own. People around the world were captivated as Jadon and Anias McDonald underwent a 27 hours separation surgery. Three years later their parents continue to celebrate the miracle they have witnessed. Here is CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta with more on this Indiana family's incredible journey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICOLE MCDONALD, MOTHER OF ANIAS AND JADON MCDONALD: What matters in the end is that they love each other.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When we started the story, none of us knew how it was going to end.

NICOLE MCDONALD: When we decided to share our story, I did it with the intention of knowing that everyone would see a miracle. I could almost keep them like this right now, because they're so perfect.

CHRISTIAN MCDONALD, FATHER OF ANIAS AND JADON MCDONALD: They're normal little boys.

NICOLE MCDONALD: They're beautiful. They are perfect.

GUPTA: Conjoined twins are exceedingly rare, only happening in one out of every 200,000 live births. Twins joined at the head or craniopagus twins are even more uncommon. And 80 percent of twins joined at the head die of medical complications by the age of two if not separated, but separating them is risky and tedious. Jadon and Anias share five to seven centimeters of brain tissue, and for parents Nicole and Christian McDonald, the decision was obvious, and brought them to Dr. James Goodrich. From the beginning, the McDonalds invited us and our cameras into

every aspect of their lives, including this dramatic 27-hour operation, where the boys went from being one, to two. And those moments continue, full of surprise, wonder, joy, and yes, miracles. The boys seeing each other for the first time. Nicole holding her babies for the first time. Jadon biking, and Anias starting to talk.

After two years, Nicole and Christian decided to leave New York, the city they adopted to help care for their boys, and return home to the Midwest, Knox, Indiana. Big changes for everyone. The biggest change of all, though, the boys. This is three-year-old Jadon McDonald. He is starting to read. But as with most stories, along with victories came defeats. You see, foir conjoined twins, there is almost always one that is more dominant and one at a greater disadvantage -- Anias.

NICOLE MCDONALD: That's where I kind of fell apart this year, because the child that had hit so many walls before, and you just want them to fly, you know, and he's still stuck on the ground.

CHRISTIAN MCDONALD: In this day and age, we're kind of a quantum leap society. We want quick fixes, and if it doesn't happen quick, then we almost get discouraged and think that it can't happen. But we really need to understand that amazing things can happen, and Anias can do amazing things and will do amazing things.

GUPTA: But even Anias has made gains. He no longer needs any of the machinery that was used to monitor him. He is starting to be a kid again, playing with his toys. It's hard to believe that just two years ago, Anias and Jadon were connected. And amazingly, Nicole and Christian are even more connected than ever.

How are you guys doing as a couple? It's been your life. How are you doing?

CHRISTIAN MCDONALD: I think we're getting stronger and better every day. I guess they say sometimes difficult circumstances, you go through the fire, you come out stronger on the other side. And I think that's definitely true for us. It has definitely made us better as a couple.

NICOLE MCDONALD: This forced us into family. I've gained so much respect for them through the process, and the dad that he is, and then in the way that he has been able to support me.

CHRISTIAN MCDONALD: Here I come.

NICOLE MCDONALD: But we also have to remember that we're not done. Our future has a lot more.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Knox, Indiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Wow, amazing family, amazing journey.

Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. So much straight ahead right after this.