Return to Transcripts main page


Bolton Puts Conditions On Trump's Syria Withdrawal Plan; Ocasio-Cortez Slams Critics In New Interview; Farmers Left Guessing As Shutdown Delays Crop Reports; Kevin Spacey To Plead "Not Guilty" In Nantucket Court Monday; Joe Biden in the Final Stages of 2020 Decision; Trump Threatens Declaring National Emergency for Border Wall; President Trump Said U.S. Looking into Paul Whelan Case; Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 6, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:30:00] DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: -- between Russia and the United States. And the third possibility is they're setting themselves up for some kind of spy swap. We certainly saw lots of those in the Cold War.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: I want to talk a little bit about Syria because nearly a month after the President said he was going to withdraw U.S. troops, his National Security Adviser John Bolton was doing some damage control today saying certain conditions must be met before the U.S. brings troops home. Here he is.


JOHN BOLTON, UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We're going to be discussing the President's decision to withdraw, but to do so, from Northeast Syria, in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again, and to make sure that the defense of Israel and our other friends in the region is absolutely assured.


CABRERA: David, you pointed out on Twitter for those keeping score at home, the announcement by Donald Trump said forces would be withdrawn in 30 days, that means January 18th. After uproar, POTUS said he never said U.S. would rush out. Then, state said no fixed date, and now Bolton says, won't leave until assurances from Turkey. I mean, the way Bolton is talking here, David, it sounds like that means troops could be there for months. I mean, maybe even years.

SANGER: That's exactly right, Ana. I mean, I think the fascinating thing here is that we've seen once again in this White House a pronouncement by the President, then suddenly, the allies, many others step in and say, have you thought about the long-term implications? In this case, it was a decision that was opposed by Mr. Bolton, who had publicly said just three months before, that the United States would stay in Syria as long as there were Iranians on the ground in Syria. So now, what's happened? They got the President to back off from they'll be there for -- they'll be pulling out in a month, to they'll be there for three or four months. And now, Mr. Bolton has done something quite different, he's interjected these conditions for withdrawal, and left no fixed timetable exactly the words the State Department gave us on Friday. So, what they've been doing is managing the President, trying to get him to back away bit by bit by bit without openly contradicting him the way the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did just before he resigned, because in part, triggered by this decision.

CABRERA: Now, the other thing we learned today is the President saying they are negotiating a second location for a second summit with Kim Jong-un. Critics say it would be rewarding North Korea to have another summit because there's been very little progress with the denuclearization talks. What is the goal here?

SANGER: Well, really interesting question, because the White House keeps focusing on when and where they're going to have this second summit, instead of talking about what they need to achieve at the second summit. Somewhat irrelevant where they meet although Kim Jong- un doesn't have an airplane that will take him very far. Very relevant that in the six months plus since the President met Kim Jong- un, the North Koreans have continued to produce nuclear material. Though, Mr. Kim denies it, intelligence agencies say they're continuing to produce weapons, they are continuing to produce missiles. So, there is no evidence that the denuclearization that the President talked about and Mr. Kim talked about in Singapore in June has even begun.

In fact, the North Koreans have not even turned over the first step, the list of their facilities, the number of missiles they have, the number of weapons they have, where they stored them. So, this next summit has got to be focused on a very rigorous plan to get from A to B, and it's not clear right now that the President is intent on that. He keeps saying we have all the time in the world.

CABRERA: David Sanger, thank you for your insight. Good to have you with us.

SANGER: Thank you. Good to see you, Ana.

CABRERA: You, too. Coming up, live in the CNN NEWSROOM, newly- elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a brand new interview with Anderson Cooper. She's been on the receiving end of some intense criticism lately, including from some in her own party, but tonight, she's firing back. That's next.


CABRERA: She's the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, and she is not arriving on Capitol Hill quietly. Here's what Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Anderson Cooper during an interview for "60 MINUTES" when she was asked if she thinks Trump is a racist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You don't talk about President Trump very




CORTEZ: No. Because I think he's a symptom of a problem.

COOPER: What do you mean?

CORTEZ: The President certainly didn't invent racism, but he's certainly given a voice to it, and expanded it, and created a platform for those things?

COOPER: Do you believe President Trump is a racist?

CORTEZ: Yes. Yes. No question.

COOPER: How can you say that?

CORTEZ: When you look at the words that he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy. When you look at how he reacted to the Charlottesville incident, where neo-Nazis murdered a woman versus how he manufactures crises like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders, it's night and day.


CABRERA: She also spoke to Anderson about being labeled "too radical for Washington."


COOPER: When people hear the word socialism, they think Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, is that what you have in mind?

CORTEZ: Of course not. What we have in mind and one of my -- and my policies most closely resemble what we see in the U.K., in Norway, in Finland, in Sweden.

COOPER: How are you going to pay for all of this?

CORTEZ: No one asks how we're going to pay for the Space Force, no one asked how we paid for a $2 trillion tax cut. We only ask how we pay for it on issues of housing, health care, and education. How do we pay for it? With the same exact mechanisms that way we pay for military increases, for the Space Force, for all of these ambitious policies.

COOPER: There are Democrats, obviously, who are worried about your effect in the party. Democratic Senator Chris Coons said about left- leaning Democrats. If the next two years is just a race to offer increasingly unrealistic proposals, it'll be difficult for us to make a credible case. We should be allowed to govern again.

CORTEZ: What makes it unrealistic?

COOPER: How to pay for it.

CORTEZ: We pay more per capita in health care and education for lower outcomes than many other nations. And so, for me, what's unrealistic is what we're living in right now.


[20:40:01] CABRERA: The nation's farmers are feeling the pinch as the government shutdown drags on. So, whatever happened to this?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, are you happy you voted for me? You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege. The other choice wasn't going to work out too well for the farmers.




TRUMP: In every decision we make, we are honoring America's proud, farming legacy. Years of crushing taxes, cripple crippling regulations, and it's never been worse than it was before I got here. It was horrible. And corrupt politics left our communities hurting, our economies stagnant, and millions of hardworking Americans completely forgotten. But they, guess what, are not forgotten anymore. No more.


CABRERA: That was President Trump speaking nearly a year ago to the day at a farming convention in Nashville. Now, fast forward to the present and those American farmers who Trump promised wouldn't be forgotten are facing uncertainty, as the government shutdown now stretches into its third week amid this fight over the President's border wall. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is joining us live from one farm in Polo, Illinois to explain. Vanessa?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Yes, this government shutdown is very much unwelcome news for a lot of farmers in this area. They had been badly hurt by the trade wars and the retaliatory tariffs. Now, this area is heavily conservative. A lot of Trump supporters and a lot of farmers voted for the President. We asked some of them how they were feeling about the President, and what they were thinking about doing in to 2020? Would they vote for him? We're here on Brian Duncan's farm, and we asked him, how the President is doing and what he thinks about 2020 himself. Here's what he had to say.


[20:45:07] BRIAN DUNCAN, VICE PRESIDENT, ILLINOIS FARM BUREAU: I do think the President is in danger of losing a significant part of his base if the economic woes continue out here. If there is no resolve to these trade disputes. My fear is, and what we'll be watching in 2020 is, are we bleeding for territory we already had? We're shedding significant economic blood out here.


YURKEVICH: And we spoke with numerous farmers in the area at a local diner, a quite lively bunch. A lot of them very staunch Trump supporters. But when I asked them about 2020, their eyebrows sort of raised on, and they said they would have to wait and see. So right now, they are supporting him, but 2020 is about two years out. So, they'll definitely have a long time to think about it and see what happens with this trade war, with these tariffs, and whether or not the government is going to open again anytime soon. Ana?

CABRERA: They're currently shedding significant economic blood. Those words pretty telling. Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you for that report.

Coming up, actor Kevin Spacey now preparing for his day in court on sexual assault allegations. We'll get a preview of his highly- anticipated hearing, next.


[20:50:07] CABRERA: Tomorrow, T.V. cameras will descend on a Massachusetts courtroom where actor Kevin Spacey is expected to plead "not guilty" to charges he groped an 18-year-old busboy at a restaurant on Nantucket back in 2016. This is the latest chapter on what has been a stunning fall from grace for the Academy Award Winner.

And joining us to talk more about this is pop culture commentator and People T.V. Anchor Lola Ogunnaike. So, Lola, what can we expect tomorrow?

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, ANCHOR, PEOPLE/ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY NETWORK: Well, we can expect a spectacle. Kevin Spacey's lawyers had been hoping that he would not have to appear in court. Prosecutors said absolutely not, the judge agreed with them. No preferential treatment for Kevin Spacey. He will be there. He's expected to arrive around 11:00 a.m., and again, expect a spectacle.

CABRERA: And he initially tried not to have to be there, right?

OGUNNAIKE: Completely. He -- actually, his lawyers were hoping that the charges would be thrown out of court. The judges disagreed and said, no, this case will proceed. And now, he'll be in court tomorrow.

CABRERA: There have been some reports that Spacey is trying to stage a Hollywood comeback, that he's even receiving some offers from overseas, some acting gigs. Can he make a comeback?

OGUNNAIKE: Listen, I don't see a comeback in the foreseeable future. Never say never, but in the foreseeable future, not at all. And you have to keep in mind, there are 12 more pending cases against Kevin Spacey around the world, not just in the U.S., from 12 more.


OGUNNAIKE: Not just in the U.S. but in the U.K. as well. So, this is just a first of many cases that could spell potential catastrophic doom for Kevin Spacey.

CABRERA: As we get ready for this hearing, which a lot of people are going to be tuning into, we've seen some really unusual behavior by Kevin Spacey lately. I mean, there was that cryptic video he posted in this character, Frank Underwood from "House of Cards," then about a week ago, he was caught on camera delivering pizza to the paparazzi, wearing this hat that said, retired since 2017. What are you hearing about his state of mind?

OGUNNAIKE: It's interesting because we hadn't heard from him since October 30 of 2017. And then he resurfaces the day before Christmas with that three-minute long creepy video, where he says a number of things that, in my mind, only hurt his case. I mean, if he was not trying to come across as a creepy predator, that was not the video to be released. One of the lines that stood out to me, Ana, that -- I mean, he said during this clip was, "If I didn't pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I'm certainly not going to pay the price for the things I didn't do."

CABRERA: Wow. Well, that leaves a lot open to interpretations, too, "If I didn't pay the price for the things I did do." Like, whoa, what?

OGUNNAIKE: What? Exactly. And if this goes to a jury, that video could potentially, in some ways, shape the opinions of the jury of Kevin Spacey. So, I'm sure his lawyers were thinking why would you release something like this?

CABRERA: All right, Lola Ogunnaike, good to have you with us.

OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.

CABRERA: Thank you. Coming up, the President skeptical of e-mails, the internet, and the whole age of computers, is now saying this.


TRUMP: I think nobody knows much more about technology, this type of technology, certainly, than I do.


CABRERA: Plus joined fashion and cultural experts, Tim Gunn, Christie Brinkley, Diane von Furstenberg, and more, for a front row seat to the runway of American history. "AMERICAN STYLE" premieres next Sunday at 9:00 here on CNN.


CABRERA: Drones, tech, debt, is there a subject Trump doesn't know better than anyone else? Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Remember how Mohammed Ali always used to call himself "The Greatest of all Time?" Well, now, it's President Trump calling himself "The Greatest at All Times."

TRUMP: I think nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do. Nobody knows more about trade than me. Nobody knows more about construction than I do.

MOOS: The New Year has barely dawned and already the President is extolling his prowess from the briefing room --

TRUMP: And I think nobody knows much more about technology, this type of technology, certainly, than I do.

MOOS: -- to the cabinet.

TRUMP: Because I know more about drones than anybody.

MOOS: Some of the best drone pilots in the world must be surprised to hear the President droning on about his expertise. But what field doesn't he excel in?

TRUMP: I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me. Nobody knows more about environmental impact statements than me. There's nobody that understands the horror of nuclear better than me.

MOOS: It's enough to make your head explode.

TRUMP: Nobody knows the politicians better than I do, believe me. Nobody knows debt better than me.

MOOS: President Trump sure knows how to spew superlatives.

TRUMP: I know words, I had the best words. I think I have the best temperament. Look, nobody has better toys than I do.

MOOS: And from a guy who doesn't like to read, this.

TRUMP: And nobody loves the bible more than I do.

MOOS: Occasionally, President Trump has demonstrated a flash of humility, a moment of modesty.

TRUMP: I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone.

MOOS: Almost any one? You mean someone understands tax laws better than he does?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anything you can do --

MOOS: -- he can do better.

TRUMP: Get more elite than me, I have better everything than they have, including this.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I can. Yes, I can.

MOOS: New York.


CABRERA: Finally tonight, Jake Tapper "STATE OF THE CARTOONIAN."


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Newly-sworn in Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has hit D.C. like a tornado. She's a new kind of politician. She talks to her supporters on Instagram, where she chats with her constituents about the problems of cash bail while cutting chili peppers.

CORTEZ: You just got to be good at getting things done.

TAPPER: Some folks saw an attempt to follow Ocasio-Cortez's millennial lead in Elizabeth Warren's Presidential Exploratory Committee announcement, when she talked economic policy in her kitchen.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Hold on a sec, I'm going to get me a beer.

TAPPER: She didn't quite do keg stands. It was pretty tame.

WARREN: I drink in the (INAUDIBLE) the club soda of beers.

TAPPER: But we wondered if all of the older 2020-ers might try to get in on the millennial social media action. Will we see Bernie Sanders trying to Bird Box his way through Iowa?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Millionaires and billionaires.

TAPPER: Maybe Joe Biden will do his entire campaign only using Biden memes. Michael Bloomberg try his hands at flossing.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, CEO, BLOOMBER L.P.: Some points you're going to die anyway so you want to do it before then.

[20:30:00] TAPPER: Ocasio-Cortez won't be old enough to run for president until right before election day 2024, but the 2020 crowd may already kind of have an Ocasio-Cortez of its own.



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Breaking news, "The New York Times" now reporting that former Vice President Joe Biden is in the final stages of deciding whether to run for president. And that he remains skeptical that all the other Democrats mulling a run could actually beat Trump in 2020.

Joining me now on the phone is Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times."

Jonathan, when will we know if Biden is running or not?

JONATHAN MARTIN, NEW YORK TIMES CORRESPONDENT: Well, thanks for having me. I think we'll know something within the next month. That's according to numerous Biden supporters who say that he does recognize the need to make clear his plans this time. They are acutely sensitive to the criticism that he got four years ago when he, you know, dragged out his deliberations for some time and then obviously did not run. And I think they want to make a decision here either way in the next few weeks.

But I will tell you from our reporting the conversations of the former vice president had over the holidays, and he and his wife were in the Virgin Islands and he was working the phones. The folks that talked to him said that they came away thinking that he is, in fact, leading towards running.

CABRERA: So interesting. I'm wondering about the timing of this article that you co-wrote with Alex Burns, coming out the very same weekend that Elizabeth Warren is barn-storming Iowa. Anything we should read into this?

MARTIN: No. I think it's more about the fact that the holidays are over and the vice president said he was going to use the holidays to think about this, talk to his family about it, and he did more than that. He had some conversations with some allies and I hear he is thinking very seriously about running. And there is a school of thought in the Democratic Party, especially among donors, but not just with donors, that, you know, the only thing that matters in 2020 relatively speaking is finding someone that can beat President Trump. And there are people in the party who think that he would have the best shot, Biden would, to beat President Trump.

CABRERA: Do you see a Biden candidacy being the ultimate primary test of whether this is still the party of the old guard or if it is ready to pass the torch to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Beto O'Rourkes?

MARTIN: I think that's one of the overriding questions is, you know, does the party want to sort of go with that continuity, somebody who would kind of reflect a left of center, the pragmatic politics and the kind of Clinton and Obama tradition, or do they want to go, you know, not just ideologically more to the left but, you know, also find somebody who was more confrontational, somebody who wants to not, you know, work with the Republicans but, you know, thwart them.

And I think that's one of the big questions with Biden here is he's from the old school. And when I say that, I mean he -- in 2015 he said he was not going to run. He used that Rose Garden speech with President Obama to say, look, the Republicans are the opposition. They're not the enemy. And I think that kind of mentality still has currency with a lot of folks in this country who are sick of the polarization, who are sick of all the fighting among politicians.

But there's a lot of people in the grassroots of the Democratic Party who think we can't work with the Republicans anymore, certainly in the Trump era, and you know, we have to have somebody who is going to fight fire with fire, not somebody who is going to try to, you know, bring folks together and work across party lines.

CABRERA: Now Biden can fight fire with fire with his own rhetoric. We've seen it before. I mean, if it becomes a Trump versus Biden fight, it's not an ordinary political rivalry. These two have literally talked about beating each other up. Remember this?


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: When a guy who ended up coming on national and said, I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it, and that said, I made a mistake. They asked me, would I like to debate this gentleman, I said no. I said if we're in high school I'd take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did you see where Biden wants to make me to the back of the barn? Me. He wants it. I'd love that. I'd love that.

[20:05:03] Mr. Tough Guy. You know, he's Mr. Tough Guy. You know when he's Mr. Tough Guy? When he's standing behind a microphone by himself. That's when -- he wants to bring me to the back of the barn. Oh. Some things in life you could really love doing.


CABRERA: Jonathan, what would this fight look like?

MARTIN: Well, you're right. First of all, I think Biden's rhetoric about working with the Republicans means more about his old colleagues from the Senate. Certainly I don't mean President Trump that there's no love lost between the two of them.

Look, I think Joe Biden is an institutionalist, right? He served in the Senate for 36 years. He was vice president for eight years. He respects the country's institution. And he has contempt towards President Trump because he believes this president has no use for institution to sort of breaking norms, who was, you know, causing real damage to the country, and how the country is viewed abroad.

And I think that's part of the motivation here is, you know, I think Biden views this and some of his supporters certainly to do, as more of a national emergency election. That this is not some ideological, you know, cast between various factions on the left, but that they think this is a moment where we just have to have somebody come in and sort of heal the land and bring the country back together. And I think that would be one of their selling points if he does run,

but I'll say, Ana, talking to some of the Biden folks, you know, they do worry a little bit privately about if Biden does run, you know, and Trump taunts him, you know, just being -- having to restrain the vice president from going too far.

You play that clip about taking him behind the score at the back of a barn.


MARTIN: There's some worry about that, that sort of Biden would pop off a little bit if Trump really does bring it on.

CABRERA: Well, I wonder if that would even be bad thing in this day and age where what used to be gas or, you know, being politically incorrect was seen as such a weakness and now here we have Trump. And so many people liked him.

MARTIN: It's a great point is that -- yes, that the Biden folks, you know, argue that, you know, sort of Biden gaffe tendencies would be devalued politically. It wouldn't hurt him as much politically because he --you know, they would say, well, President Trump says outlandish things all the time. He's not going to get penalized for his sort of Bidenism that the world would look differently this time around if he does run and sort of say off-key things.

CABRERA: Jonathan Martin, thanks for your reporting and for sharing with us tonight. We'll see where this goes.

MARTIN: Thanks for having me on.

CABRERA: Meantime, the country is stuck in a government shutdown right now. President Trump has twice talked about an extreme measure. He could conceivably use to get the money he wants for a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. These words today from the president.

"I may declare a national emergency depending on what's going to happen over the next few days."

He made a similar comment on Friday. He's talking about doing an end run around congressional Democrats who have made it clear the president will not get the money he wants for that wall.

So the talks continue as they did today. The president at Camp David. The vice president in Washington. Trump tweeting this. "VP Mike Pence and group had a productive meeting with the a Schumer-Pelosi representatives today. Many details of border security were discussed. We are planning a steel barrier rather than concrete. It's both stronger and less obtrusive. Good solution and made in the USA."

Now sources who were in that meeting say the session did not produce any progress toward a deal to reopen the government. And as for all those federal workers entering a third week now without a paycheck, well, the billionaire who sits in the Oval Office says he can relate to what they're going through.


TRUMP: I can relate, and I'm sure that the people that are or the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do. And they'll make adjustment. People understand exactly what's going on. But many of those people that won't be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent.


CABRERA: Also today the president made his pitch again for the wall.


TRUMP: This is a very important battle to win from the standpoint of safety, number one, defining our country and who we are, also from the standpoint of dollars. This wall will pay for itself many times during the course of a year. The money we're talking about is very small compared to the return. You think I like doing this? I don't like doing this. But we have no choice. We have to have it.


CABRERA: CNN's Boris Sanchez joins us at the White House.

Boris, what more can you tell us about these meetings today at Camp David and Washington?


[20:10:01] So yes, the meeting at Camp David that President Trump held was essentially a retreat between he and top officials to discuss plans and priorities for 2019. We don't have any clarity on specifically what was discussed there, though we are digging for that right now.

The president didn't really get into details when he returned from Camp David, though he did, as you noted, tweet about the meetings that were happening here on the White House grounds between Vice President Mike Pence, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and his own son-in-law Jared Kushner alongside aides to top congressional leaders.

From what we understand, that meeting was not productive despite the president's tweet. Several different accounts indicate that Republicans effectively presented that official justification that Democrats requested on Saturday for spending $5.7 billion on the president's long promised border wall. From what we understand one Democratic official felt that that demonstration, that presentation was incomplete.

According to sources Democrats didn't actually present a counter offer. They simply maintained that the federal government should first be reopened before any serious discussion over a border barrier or enhancing border security could be had. In the meantime President Trump reiterated this idea that he has the

option of declaring a national emergency to get the funding for his long-promised border wall. I asked him about that this afternoon. Here's his justification.


TRUMP: We're looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency. Just read the papers. We have a crisis at the border of drugs, of human beings being trafficked all over the world. They're coming through. And we have an absolute crisis. And of criminals and gang members coming through. It is national security. It's a national emergency.


SANCHEZ: Now I asked President Trump if he had a specific deadline or anything specifically that he had to see during these discussions to then trigger him declaring a national emergency. He wouldn't answer. He simply said that he would get back to us and we'll have to wait and see.

The president also as you mentioned in that tweet said now he prefers a steel barrier to a concrete one even though he demanded one on Twitter just a few days ago. The president saying that steel is not only stronger but less obtrusive and could be good for American businesses. Further the president said he prefers a steel barrier because Democrats don't like concrete -- Ana.

CABRERA: And that is the state of play on day 16 of this government shutdown.

Boris Sanchez, thank you.

Here's how we got here. December 11th, a possible government shutdown becomes a reality when President Trump meets with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and then incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump insists on the need for his border wall. And he floats $5 billion.

Now the Democrats are unwilling to go beyond the existing funding of $1.3 billion for border security in general. Trump then says this.


TRUMP: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.


CABRERA: A week later on December 19th, the Senate passes a continuing resolution that will temporarily fund the government and keep border security funded at the current level. It doesn't include the money for Trump's border wall. Still, the next day then House speaker Paul Ryan tells Republicans the House is ready to pass that same legislation and he expects the president will sign it. Republicans seemed confident Trump is on board.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is there any doubt that Trump will sign it?

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: No. There's no doubt at all.


CABRERA: No doubt at all. Just hours later warning signals from the White House. A senior White House official tells CNN pressure from the ultra conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus could cause President Trump to change his mind. Then there were all these conservative media voices like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, joining the chorus against compromises, and now the president is no longer willing to sign the short-term funding bill to keep the government open. He wants his wall.

The House moves quickly then to pass a funding bill that gives President Trump $5 billion for his wall. The bill more symbolic than anything else. There's no chance it ever passes the Senate. Therefore at midnight on December 22nd, the government partially shuts down.

Trump, he digs in his heels at that $5 billion for his wall. Democrats, they don't budge from the $1.3 billion they originally offered for border security. And behind the scenes Trump aides start reaching out to Democrats trying to make some kind of deal. Here's then acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.


MIKE MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We've insisted on $5 billion, but the discussions now are between $1.6 billion and $5 billion.


CABRERA: We're told the exact ask was $2.5 billion for a comprehensive border and immigration proposal. And that was made by Vice President Mike Pence. Democrats swiftly reject this.

The following weekend White House aides begin backing away from President Trump's demand of a physical wall. Outgoing chief of staff John Kelly tells the "Los Angeles Times," quote, "To be honest, it's not a wall."

[20:15:05] And then Kellyanne Conway and Senator Lindsey Graham both say this.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The government has been shut down for nine days.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: They failed to pass -- they failed to pass --

BASH: Over a wall.

CONWAY: No. No. No. Excuse me.

BASH: It has been shut down over a wall.

CONWAY: That is incorrect. That is false.

BASH: The president said it in the Oval Office. He said very, very clearly --

CONWAY: It is shut down over border security.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The wall has become a metaphor for border security.


CABRERA: Twenty-four hours later the president contradicts his own adviser, his own allies by tweeting, quote, "An all-concrete wall was never abandoned as has been reported by the media." Making clear this shutdown is about the wall. It's not about border security in general. Not a metaphor. Days later the president then contradicts his own vice president saying $2.5 billion for his wall is not acceptable. It's $5.6 billion or nothing.


TRUMP: It's not $2.5 billion. No. We're asking for $5.6 billion. And you know, somebody said $2.5 billion. No.


CABRERA: With us now former adviser to four U.S. presidents, CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen.

David, always good to have you with us. What's your reaction to the possibility that a sitting U.S. president would declare a national emergency to fulfill a campaign promise?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very concerning, Ana, because it would be a vast expansion of presidential authority which the courts may well strike down and would leave the government closed presumably for a longer period of time.

It's worth remembering that the classic case in this area is one that was brought during the time of Harry Truman as president during the war, and it was a strike, and Truman tried to seize the railroads, the private railroads, and there a case called Youngstown in which the Supreme Court ruled that the president did not have such authority, even in the national -- in the midst of a war. And we have no war here, and it's not clear we have an emergency.

I do think that in terms of expansion of presidential power under Donald Trump which he's been pushing and pushing to do this in all sorts of areas, I think is really questionable for the country.

CABRERA: Vice President Mike Pence took the lead in the second meeting this weekend to reach a deal over the government shutdown. Again, no members of Congress. Just their staffers. Does that give you a sense of how serious Democrats are taking this?

GERGEN: I don't understand why this is a negotiation when on one side the vice president of the United States. On the other side no elected representative but the staffers. These staffers are of course, you know, very valuable public servants. They know a lot. But they're not negotiators. They're not empowered to cut deals. And it's just been odd from the beginning.

My own sense, Ana, and I may be wrong is that this is going to go on for about three more days in negotiations. And the president talks about, you know, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday being the day for serious consultation. And if it does not resolve then, I think there's a growing possibility that he will declare a national emergency.

I would argue strongly that before declaring a national emergency, the president has a responsibility to come before the people of this country and explain what the emergency is. But lay the facts out there. It's very clear that Nancy Pelosi believes the facts are not what the president and his administration are banding about inside. She has a separate set of facts and the country deserves to hear both sides on this because this is beginning to be a major national issue for both sides.

CABRERA: And most importantly here, neither side had their top negotiators or decision-makers, I should say.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

CABRERA: At the table this weekend. Trump wasn't there.

GERGEN: Right.

CABRERA: He sent the vice president and as we just discussed, Democrats and members of Congress sent their staffers, not to mention the president also keeps changing his mind on what he's trying to accomplish. If you just look at some of the different things he's said in the past week alone he's said, quote, "Mexico was playing for the wall." Then the USMCA is paying for the wall.


CABRERA: "Much of the wall is built already. The wall will be concrete." Then the wall will be steel. He will declare a national emergency to build the wall. What message does all this send?

GERGEN: It sends a message that the president feels he's very much cornered. He's in a very awkward situation. Frankly, he put himself and Nancy Pelosi outmaneuvered him, got him into a corner in which he's inevitably going to keep the government closed for a long time and pay a price for that, or he's going to compromise in some fashion in which he'll look weak, which is a thing he detests as you well know.

So he is in a corner. And, you know, what's really interesting is in part is that Nancy Pelosi has now stepped up to this job.

[20:20:06] You know, there were -- you know, her popularity is up from where it was in several polls, and the first few days, I think, are going to help her a great deal in exercising power on the part of the Democrats. The Democrats have longed for someone who could stand up to Trump. So far she's been pretty good at it.

CABRERA: Why do you think her popularity is up?

GERGEN: Well, it's -- I think because she has acted in what we consider a more traditional way. She's standing up to the president, but she's doing it respectfully. She's holding her caucus together. You know, she has put down the rebellions in a way which I think has satisfied a lot of members of her own caucus who are asking for changes in structure. So she's just off to a very, very good start, I would argue, even though she inherited this government shutdown, not what she wanted, but I do think -- I think she's off to a good start, and she can potentially be a real foil against the president for the Democrats.

We'll just have to wait and see. It's early. But one can't help but notice, in that Oval Office session she was -- she more than held her own against the president, and she's playing with higher cards, by the way.

CABRERA: And she has a lot of people within this caucus that don't necessarily see eye to eye. And I want to read something to you, David, because Kimberly (INAUDIBLE) of the "Wall Street Journal" editorial board, tweeted this this weekend.

"America, meet the Pelosi House. Articles of Impeachment. A move to abolish the electoral college. Comparisons of the president to Hitler. A nonstarter vote for the shutdown. Profanity. A proposal for a 70 percent tax on the wealthy. All under 36 hours. Wait until they get rolling."

I mean, these are things that have come up or happened in just the past few days, David.

GERGEN: That's right.

CABRERA: And Nancy Pelosi is out there saying she's trying to legislate, trying to work with the other side. She has her hands full.

GERGEN: Right. She does have her hands full. And let me say parenthetically, Kimberly (INAUDIBLE) is well respected, especially in conservative circles so that tweet is a binding one. I think in fairness, there are -- you know, when you elect a lot of much younger people to the Congress people who haven't had a lot of experience with the traditions you're going to get some wild cards. And, you know, when one person uses profanity out of over 200 members, Democratic members of the House, it gets headlines, I don't think it means very much in the long run.

If it continues, it's going to be a problem. But I assume a lot of these young folks are going to get the message and try to be more constructive. This wasn't helpful, some of the comments and some of the things that were being put forward this week. But, you know, it's -- I think overall the election of more young people, the rising generation, the election of more women who haven't had a lot of experience is such a good thing for the country that they're going to say some things perhaps that others will flinch about. But they're bringing an energy to our politics which I think is -- especially the younger men and women, and the veterans I might say, are bringing a spirit to our politics which we should take some lumps along the way, but I think it's good for the country.

CABRERA: The president also has a number of new people around him. Let's listen to what he had to say before departing for Camp David this morning about his cabinet.


TRUMP: Well, I'm in no hurry. I have acting. And my actings are doing really great. But I sort of like acting. It gives me more flexibility. Do you understand that? I like acting.


CABRERA: That's a lot of people in acting positions. It's not permanent roles. What's your take on all that? Do you see a benefit in having so many acting cabinet members?

GERGEN: Absolutely not. They don't have the authority of full time cabinet members. They are not seen up on Capitol Hill. You're not going to invest a lot of time and experience or effort trying to work out a relationship with somebody who may be gone tomorrow and who -- they are sitting there at the whim of the president. You know, we have hearings and we have confirmations for a reason. And to be acting, I think, just diminishes the authority of these people. Government is not as well run. You don't have good people coming in.

There are all sorts of reasons why they ought to go ahead and get -- either name the right person who's going to be, they want to confirm, or, you know, name the acting person, but don't leave it in -- don't leave people in limbo. It just cuts their legs off.

CABRERA: David Gergen, good to see you. Especially in the new year, Happy New Year. Thank you.

Weeks after the president's bombshell announcement that he is withdrawing troops from Syria, his National Security adviser seems to be pumping the brakes. So where does the administration really stand?

Plus President Trump making his first comments now about the American detained in Russia accused of being a spy.

[20:25:04] The increasingly curious case of Paul Whelan, next. And the U.S. and North Korea negotiating a second location for a

summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un. But with little progress on denuclearization is the U.S. rewarding bad behavior?



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: People in Russia, Paul Whelan, the American --

TRUMP: We're looking into that. We're looking into that. Yes.


CABRERA: "We are looking into that." That is the first comment President Trump has made about the arrest last week of Paul Whelan, the American detained in Russia on charges of espionage. His family has completely rejected the accusations saying he was only in Russia for a friend's wedding. But a Russian news agency reports Whelan was arrested at his hotel room five minutes after he accepted a flash drive containing classified information.

I want to bring in David Sanger, national security correspondent for "The New York Times" and a CNN political and national security analyst.

David, are you surprised the president has said nothing about an American citizen being detained in Russia other than we're looking into that. What's going on here?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's an unusual amount of discipline for the president who's probably been told that almost anything that he says about Mr. Whalen can probably freeze the Russians into position.

There are a couple of different theories here. One is that in being handed this thumb drive Mr. Whelan may have been set up. He was arrested five minutes later makes it sound like somebody knew he was going to be handed a thumb drive and maybe set it up. The second thing is that it's very possible that the Russians are doing this just for their own domestic political purposes. They want to show that they're needling back at the president after the Maria Butina case. Other cases of tension between Russia and the United States. And the third possibility is they're setting themselves up for some kind of spy swap. We certainly saw lots of those in the Cold War.