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Bolton Contradicts Trump on Syria Pullout; Trump Threatens to Prolong Shutdown; Biden's Brother: Biden Could "Annihilate" Trump in 2020. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 7, 2019 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What if the president declaring a national emergency actually becomes the national emergency?

THE LEAD starts right now.

The government shutdown now in week three. Nearly one million Americans about to miss their first payday, as the president plans to address the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, and the White House pushes lies to make the case for the wall.

The president's national security adviser contradicting him on pulling out of Syria. With the world watching and troops waiting, who is speaking for the United States?

Plus, she has had perfect attendance for 25 years, even the day after her husband's death, but today Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's first sick day is terrifying liberals across the country.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with the politics lead. President Trump will address the nation in his very first prime-time speech from the Oval Office to try to make his case on border security and the wall and perhaps even to declare a national emergency to attempt to secure funding to build the border wall.

Now, such a move, which the president has said he is seriously considering, would be highly controversial. This afternoon, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas slammed the proposal after touring a border facility.


REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: It would be profoundly inappropriate for the president of the United States to circumvent the legislative branch of the United States government, the United States Congress and single-handedly against the will of the American people and the American Congress put up a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. We would challenge it in every single way that we could.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: The president's national address will come before a trip that

the White House just announced. President Trump will travel to the southern border with Mexico on Thursday.

A senior Democratic aide also tells CNN that Senate Democrats will discuss at a weekly lunch Wednesday whether to begin trying to block all legislation on the Senate floor until a vote on reopening the federal government is held.

All of this means, of course, that there will almost certainly be no progress on ending the government shutdown until Friday. It's a day that would tie the record for the longest U.S. government shutdown in U.S. history.

CNN's Pamela Brown is at the White House right now.

Pamela, CNN is planning to air the speech, but as of now, do we know if any of the major networks are planning to carry the presidential address?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, no word yet on any of the major networks will carry the president's prime-time address that he tweeted about.

We are told that the networks are currently deliberating, but they have not formally accepted this request from the White House. But as you point out, CNN is planning to carry it live tomorrow evening as well as FOX according to sources who spoke to my colleague Oliver Darcy.

The president wants to make his case directly to the American public as his administration continues to frame this debate over border wall funding as a matter of national security and a crisis that is only getting worse at the southern border.


BROWN (voice-over): President Trump now considering an unprecedented move to get his border wall.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I may declare a national emergency dependent on what's going to happen over the next few days.

BROWN: Trump suggesting to reporters he could declare a national emergency to bypass Congress to get the wall funds he requested.

TRUMP: We have a absolute crisis and criminals and gang members coming through. It is national security. It's a national emergency.

BROWN: Arguing for those emergency powers, the president quoted Democrat Adam Smith, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, tweeting: "Yes, there is a provision in law that says a president can declare an emergency."

The quote from Smith's ABC appearance on Sunday where he also said: REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: In this case, I think the president would be wide open to a court challenge, saying, where's the emergency? You have to establish that in order to do this.

BROWN: Smith telling CNN today:

SMITH: I think it would be a huge mistake to declare a national right emergency. There is no national emergency.

BROWN: Trump is now planning a prime time address on Tuesday and a trip to the border on Thursday, in hopes to persuade Americans to support his border wall proposal.

But a weekend of staff level negotiations led by Vice President Mike Pence didn't bring either side closer to a deal, sources tell CNN, the White House outlining its requests in a letter, including more money for urgent humanitarian needs, extra attention beds, additional law enforcement personnel and changing the wall from concrete to steel, something some Democrats prefer.

TRUMP: They don't like concrete, so we will give them steel.


BROWN: But on day 17 of the shutdown, it doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon, with both sides pointing the finger at the other.

TRUMP: Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and myself can solve this in 20 minutes if they want to. If they don't want to, it's going to go on for a long time. There's not going to be any bend right here.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Here we are in the third week of the Trump shutdown. Why? It's only because of one person, and that is President Trump.

BROWN: But as negotiations continue at a stalemate, the pain inflicted by the shutdown will get worse for those federal workers who won't get a paycheck on Friday.

TRUMP: I can relate. And I'm sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments . They always do. And they will 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 with what I'm doing.


BROWN: And we're learning more about this decision by the White House to have a prime-time address on immigration tomorrow evening, Jake, sources telling CNN that allies of the president had been telling him that his messaging wasn't resonating and that the time in between Christmas and New Year's was a missed opportunity for the president to get his message out, and that tweeting and these off-the-cuff remarks just really weren't resonating with the voters. And so the president had mulled this over and decided that having a

prime-time address in the Oval Office was the most effective way to speak to the American public.

Now, as for his visit to the border wall on Thursday, we are told that has been long-planned -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Pamela, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's chat about this with our experts.

We have already said CNN, FOX News, FOX Business are planning to take the president's address. The networks have not decided what they're going to do. One network TV executive telling Brian Stelter of CNN -- quote -- "He calls us fake news all the time, but needs access to airwaves. If we give him the time, he will deliver a fact-free screed without rebuttal. And if we don't give him the time, he will call every network partisan. So we're damned if we do and damned if we don't."

That is not me saying that. That is an anonymous -- and then I understand why -- network TV executive.

What do you think? Should the networks take it?

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think they should take it. But I think they should do it on a seven-second delay and do a real- time fact-check.

TAPPER: You need more than seven seconds.


FINNEY: Clearly, they would, but I'm trying to give everybody the benefit of the doubt here.

Look, I think the other option would be perhaps -- we were talking about this before -- maybe stream it live on your platforms and keep your entertainment programming going. I mean, look, I think there is a -- this is a perfect maneuver for this manufactured crisis from the president. It's exactly what that executive said, because he can now say, see, the fake news, they are against me, I'm the victim. I'm trying to tell you the truth here and they're trying to stop me.

So I wouldn't necessarily take it in terms of it will be entertainment programming, but I think I would stick with the real entertainment programming and there are plenty of other ways people can watch it at this point.

TAPPER: And we just heard Pamela Brown say that one of the reasons he's planning on doing this is because allies of his are telling him that his message is not breaking through about there being this crisis at the border.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's probably because there isn't a crisis at the border, because people aren't seeing -- they're not seeing it reflected anywhere else what the president is saying.

All they're seeing are things like people at TSA not coming to work because they can't because they have child care, because they have other things, because they're not getting paid. That coverage has consumed what the president is saying is a crisis that just hasn't materialized.

I'm not saying -- I don't think -- I think Democrats and Republicans would agree that border security is important, that it needs to be funded. But what the president is talking about, you even have immigration hard-liners that are saying the wall is not the way to do it.


Because I do think there is a crisis, but it is a hot and cold crisis that ebbs and flows with winter months and summer months. In the summer, the number of illegal border crossings can be as high as 50,000 a month, and then it goes down.

But this isn't quite an emergency, because we know the rhythms of this, we know that it's going to happen. So I think, listen, if Trump is going to keep the government shut down and contemplate invoking a national emergency, he should go to the American people and explain why.

But he has to do a heck of a lot better than Sarah Huckabee Sanders did on Sunday with Chris Wallace when she came with facts that were disputed in real time. If Trump is going to go forward with this, he needs to be very clear about the money that he's asking for, the number of fencing that he wants, and where it will be.

TAPPER: Yes, just to be clear, what she said to Chris Wallace was she that repeated this lie that there are 4,000 terrorists who have been caught at the border. And that's just not true.

They have been picked up in other -- in airports and other places, but not at the border.

Congressman Jerry Nadler, the incoming House Judiciary Committee chairman, was asked what he expects President Trump to say in this address. Here's what he said.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I expect the president to lie to the American people. Why do I expect this? Because he has been lying to the American people and his spokespeople continue lying to the American people.



TAPPER: Now, you don't agree with Jerry Nadler on much, but I expect that you agree with that assessment.


I mean, I think the network might as well show the president of the United States. They will show a response. There's very little history of these addresses making any difference in terms of public opinion.

Reagan in '81 famously gave an address after his tax reform plan, after he had come back with the assassination attempt and there was a huge wave sympathy, and Reagan was pretty good at this, much better than Donald Trump, I would say, Oval Office addresses or stage addresses, when you read a script.

Let him give it. I think actually, honestly, if he gives it and it goes nowhere, which is what I would expect, I think by Wednesday, Thursday, then you see serious erosion of Republican support on the Hill. This is Trump's last card. What else is he going to do?

TAPPER: Well, the other thing he will do is declare a national emergency. And that could potentially happen.

Congressman Tom Malinowski, a freshman from New Jersey, he said the House would immediately repudiated through the National Emergencies Act and then the Senate would have 15 days to vote. I said to him on Twitter, do you really think that the Senate, the Republican- controlled Senate would vote against him?

And he wrote back, "If actually forced to vote, as they would be in this case under the National Emergencies Act, I don't think that all 53 Senate Republicans would vote in lockstep to let Trump use the military to defy Congress."

What do you think?

CARPENTER: I think for the Senate to rebuke Trump in this manner, there would have to be pain involved. I don't think any party has felt political pain for this. In what form would that come?

Probably not from anything from the states. I think it would take an unforeseen accident, maybe a death. I don't even want to go down this route, but people not being able to fly. Listen, right now, I wouldn't want to get on a plane right now, even thinking that TSA is understaffed.


KRISTOL: I mean, I think if you're the Congress, what is their fundamental power? The power of the purse. If you let the president just take $5 billion by declaring a national emergency, when the Congress has explicitly not appropriated it, you might as well give up.


KRISTOL: Mitch McConnell has said, we're not going to bring up the House appropriations bills. I think that's a mistake too, but that's a little different.

I do think Republican senators would balk at this.

FINNEY: I agree with that.

And, look, I think there are two pieces to this, right? We can't underestimate the fact that people are feeling real pain. We have heard interviews all throughout the day of people saying this is cruel. And this is sort of concentric circles of pain, because it's not just government workers or contractors. It's the businesses and small businesses that support, whether it's the food trucks or the lunch places or the other businesses that support.

So the pain is being felt. So regardless of what the president goes out and says, and I get it, if I worked in the White House, I would say, look, we need some visuals. We need something that looks presidential. Like, we all get the strategy.

But when you have real people out there who are saying, hey, we're hurting -- I mean, a lot of people take out loans around Christmastime to buy presents and are counting on those tax returns to pay those loans back.

TAPPER: And those returns are coming in because the IRS isn't open, right.

FINNEY: That's right.

So that's real pain. Now, if you slap on top of that another $5 billion, when we have already got a huge deficit, and you throw the country into chaos at a time when people are I think already getting little sick of feeling like we lurch from chaos to chaos, I do think there starts to be political pain for Republicans, who then have to defend why they agreed with the president on this.

TAPPER: And, Jackie, take a listen because somebody asked President Trump if he could relate to the federal workers and the contractors out there. Contractors are getting the worst of this, by the way, because they're not going to be paid back pay. The federal workers will at least be paid the back pay.

About the pain that they feel because of the shutdown. Can the president relate? Here's what he said.


TRUMP: I can relate. And I'm sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments . They always do. And they will 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 with what I'm doing.


TAPPER: Now, Brianna Keilar earlier today ask Julie Burr about this. Julie's a federal contract worker in Missouri. Like I said, because she's a contract worker, she's not going to get back pay. She started a GoFundMe to be able to subsist.

Here's her reaction to President Trump.


JULIE BURR, AFFECTED BY SHUTDOWN: Well, I find it hard to believe that a billionaire could relate to anyone who lives possibly paycheck to paycheck, which many of the American people do. So that's hard to relate to that him saying that.

I just want to get back to work. I just want the government to be back up and running and I want to get back to work and earn my paycheck.


KUCINICH: So I'm not trying to be cute here, where we're talking about a president when he was a businessman who routinely wouldn't pay his contractors and left people not unwhole.

And not only that, but the president seems to be curating who he is speaking to. I mean, let's not forget the stunt last week with the four guys that all look the same who were Border Patrol -- a part of the Border Patrol union.

TAPPER: The Lex Luthor convention.

KUCINICH: Yes, exactly. Precisely.

All saying that, yes, the president's doing the right thing. If he's only talking to folks like that, yes, perhaps people are saying, keep holding my pay.

But I'm guessing the vast majority of federal workers out there that are trying to make ends meet and can't and -- and are gainfully employed don't think that this is a...


KRISTOL: And, at some point, this gets back to the Senate.

[16:15:04] I mean, the president cannot stop the government from opening if 67 senators and 290 House members wanted to. And I think it gets harder and harder for Mitch McConnell to say, well, the House just passed an appropriations bill opening up Treasury, opening up Interior, opening up the EPA, which a lot of people depend on dealing with not just visiting national parks. But if you're a businessman, you want your EPA permit or something, you're not getting it.

And what's Mitch McConnell's reason for continuing not to open these parts of the government that have nothing do with the wall.

TAPPER: Well, everyone, stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about. What happens when the president of the United States says one thing

and then his national security adviser goes and tells the world the exact opposite thing?

Plus, Joe Biden's brother making a stunning statement about the former vice president's chances of beating president Trump in 2020.

Stay with us.


[16:20:04] TAPPER: Welcome back.

The commander-in-chief seemingly contradicted. It was less than a month ago that President Trump announced an immediate pullout of U.S. troops from Syria.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have won against ISIS. We have beaten them. They are all coming back and they are coming back now.


TAPPER: The decision caused Defense Secretary James Mattis and other administration officials to step down. And now, it seems President Trump's national security adviser is sending a different message to allies about when and under what conditions the U.S. is willing to withdraw.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski picks up the story from the State Department.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's abrupt plan for quickly bringing home some 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria appears to have morphed again. National security adviser John Bolton in Israel Sunday laying out what needs to happen first.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: To do so from northeast Syria in a way that make sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to provide itself and become a threat again and to make sure that the defense of Israel and other friends in the region is absolutely assured, and to take care of those who have fought with us against ISIS and other terrorist groups.

KOSINSKI: Those sound like complex conditions to meet before U.S. troops leave Syria. And compare that to Trump's various pronouncements on the troop withdrawal just in the last few weeks.

TRUMP: They are all coming back and they are coming back now. We won.

So, let's get out of Syria. We can't have anymore time. We've got enough time. We have knocked them out. We have knocked them silly.

KOSINSKI: That decision came only days after his own aids told reporters ISIS had not yet been defeated and prompted the resignations of both Defense Secretary James Mattis and U.S. envoy to counter ISIS, Brett McGurk.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: He is changing course like a drunken sailor, OK? You know, there's no thought behind it.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is such a bizarre spectacle. I mean, what you've really seeing is a new U.S. policy on Syria every single week. We have gone from the troops will pull out now which the Pentagon briefed reporters, meaning within 30 days, and then the next week, Trump said, no, no. They said, it will be more like four months, and now, both of them seems to be saying they're not going to come out until those conditions are achieved which we're not going to be achieving any time soon.

KOSINSKI: Just yesterday, the president himself walked back his initial comments about a rapid withdrawal.

TRUMP: We are going to be removing our troops. I never said we are doing it that quickly.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president is slowing down and reevaluating policies. I think this is the reality setting in that you've got to plan this out.


KOSINSKI: OK. So the president declared ISIS defeated. Now you have John Bolton saying, no, U.S. troops are going to have to stay in Syria until ISIS is really defeated. The president said Iran now can do whatever it wants Syria. Today, the secretary of state said, no, the U.S. commitment to countering Iran has absolutely not changed.

Also today, Pentagon officials are telling CNN that in order to get U.S. troops out of Syria safely, they may first have to spend an additional hundreds more. Again, they are not mentioning any kind of a time frame saying this is going to have to be based on multiple factors, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Michelle Kosinski at the State Department, thank you so much.

Pretty much every Democrat and some Republicans have an opinion on whether former Vice President Joe Biden should run for president. Now, a Biden member of his family is weighing in.

Stay with us.


[16:28:12] TAPPER: Joe Biden's brother believes that the former V.P. would, quote, annihilate President Trump in the 2020 race. CNN has learned that Biden likes a decision in the next few weeks about whether he would launch his third attempt for the White House.

But as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, the time he has left to make this decision is quickly dwindling.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's decision time for Joe Biden. The former vice president is poised to decide in the next few weeks whether he will jump into the Democratic presidential race, with one goal in mine, making Donald Trump a one term president.


ZELENY: But before he could ever take on Trump, Biden would face a potentially crowded and diverse field of Democratic hopefuls, who could complicate his path to the White House.

He was all smiles Friday night returning from a holiday visit to the Virgin Islands, telling CNN's Randi Kaye he would make up his mind soon. But he's facing pressure from donors and long time supporters to signal his intention. With some Democrats interpreting his silence as an ambivalence or uncertainty about running.

One Biden ally telling CNN he understands that he needs to make the decision relatively early in the process. He knows he can't wait.

And his brother telling Michael Smerconish today --

FRANK BIDEN, JOE BIDEN'S BROTHER: I certainly wouldn't want him to even dream about running if I didn't think we could annihilate Trump.

ZELENY: He has been at this crossroads before, ultimately passing on a 2016 run.

JOE BIDEN: Unfortunately, I believe we are out of time, the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination.

ZELENY: After making two failed bids in 1998 and 2008 campaigns.

But it is no longer Biden's Democratic Party and all potential rivals aren't waiting.


ZELENY: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren just finished her first campaign trip to Iowa.

WARREN: I believe that this is a moment when we will think big, we will fight hard and we will make real change.