Return to Transcripts main page


No End in Sight as Government Shutdown Enters Day 17; Furloughed Employee Faces 5th Year Shutdown of 19-Year Career; Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Speaks About Her Rise to Capitol Hill; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 7, 2019 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Trump is threatening to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency if Democrats and some Republicans won't budge on funding. They're not budging yet. About the only shift this morning is in the president's terminology. He now says that he wants a steel barrier for which he wants a down payment of $5.7 billion. He says weekend talks between the vice president and congressional aides were, quote, "productive," but even that is in dispute and the claims the White House is putting out to justify a so- called emergency, they're just plain false.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to the White House, Joe Johns is there.

Good morning, Joe. So other than concrete turning into steel, at least in terms of what the president says, any give here from either side?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: According to Democrats, there was no substantive progress over the weekend, although, as you said, the president did indicate he thought the talks, particularly between the vice president and some Hill staffers, were productive.

Also important to say that over the weekend, as you mentioned, the president floating the idea of declaring a national emergency to get his wall built and using perhaps the Defense Department to do just that. Some Democrats even conceding that the president may have the authority to do that but will be subject in all likelihood to a court challenge if he tries it.

To that end the president this morning tweeting out, quoting the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, saying in part that -- as Adam Smith said, the president may have the authority to do it. The president also tweeting let's get our deal done in Congress.

Now so far no progress on getting the shutdown over and getting the president's money for his wall, be that -- which could be the case. Still it's important also to say that we're moving into a period now where this shutdown could have real teeth. That's because at the end of this week federal workers who have received checks so far will miss their first check. The president asked over the weekend by reporters if he, in fact,

feels for those workers. Here is what he had to say.


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


JOHNS: And, you know, Poppy, the other thing about whether this should be a concrete wall or steel barrier, I just got to remind you that it was just a few weeks ago that the president tweeted out a picture of a steel fence. So that is not really new either.

HARLOW: OK. Joe Johns, thanks very much.

SCIUTTO: Let's go to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty. She's on Capitol Hill.

So the president says he has options, Sunlen, but Democrats now considering their own options here to get the government running again. How would this work?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. And we'll certainly see an effort by some Democrats to take steps to essentially ratchet up the political pressure as this shutdown now enters its third week. Over here in the House, Nancy Pelosi she announced over the weekend that the House will intend to move on individual appropriations bills giving that spending the funding for those agencies and departments that were affected by this shutdown, that is, though, largely a symbolic gesture, a symbolic move that will go nowhere in the House.

The Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has previously said he does not intend to move on those and certainly won't move on anything that doesn't have President Trump's support. So that's largely a gesture by the House to essentially show you they are trying to do something. Meantime over in the Senate, two senators, Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, they are urging their colleagues to block consideration of any legislation in the Senate until legislation to reopen the government is considered.

They tweeted out their opinions over the weekend on that. We'll see if others follow suit. But Jim and Poppy, this, the third week of this government shutdown, those talks over the weekend yielded very little progress and today the House and Senate, they are not in until tomorrow.

Back to you, guys.

HARLOW: Right. There is a lot of work to do. Let's hope this is the week. Let's talk to one of the actual victims of this ongoing battle. Brian

Garthwaite, he's currently furloughed from the Food and Drug Administration. He joins us from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Good morning, Brian. Thank you for being here.

BRIAN GARTHWAITE, FURLOUGHED FEDERAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE: Good morning. And thank you for the opportunity to sit with you.

HARLOW: This is your fifth government shutdown in your 19 years working in the federal government for the FDA. Just tell everyone first what it is you do every day.

GARTHWAITE: My job -- I'm a compliance officer for the Food and Drug Administration. And the basics of my job is to ensure that the regulated industry complies with the regulations and laws that govern the products that they manufacture.

[10:05:03] HARLOW: That matters a lot for safety.

SCIUTTO: It does. I mean, folks imagine, though, it's -- you know, government agencies, what do they do.

HARLOW: There you go.

SCIUTTO: They impact people's lives every day. You see it in the national parks, you see it in the jobs like you do.

I want to ask you this, because you must feel like something of a political pawn in this. Who do you blame for the shutdown? Do you blame the president? Do you blame Congress? Do you blame them both?

GARTHWAITE: I don't think it's right to ascribe blame. But what I would suggest is that it was very clear that there were resolutions passed by both the House and the Senate that would have permitted the government to keep operating as its prior funding levels and for reasons that I'm not privy to, those resolutions were not supported by the administration so I guess you'll connect the dots and decide who would --


GARTHWAITE: Who would be ultimately responsible for that.

HARLOW: Well, it sounds like you think even, you know, the Republicans who do support border security but who are breaking with the administration here like Susan Collins, like Cory Gardner, like Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, are correct in saying, let's get the government open and let's deal with border security once it is open and people like you are back to work. Is that something you'd like to see?

GARTHWAITE: Well, I think I would like to just separate the border security part out of it completely.

HARLOW: Right. GARTHWAITE: And my focus is on getting the government shutdown back

open and the people working. And that clearly was the option prior to the shutdown that was available and it didn't carry through.

SCIUTTO: Understood. So looking at this again from your perspective, what is your reaction when the president says that this could go on for months or years and there are some of his advisers who say that that is political -- a little bit of political grandstanding there. But how concerning is that to you?

GARTHWAITE: Well, I'm very concerned for all government employees that are affected by the shutdown. Separate from the politics behind it, remember that many people, they are dual income households that are -- that receive their financial security from their federal jobs that now are operating without a paycheck.


GARTHWAITE: Mortgages are coming due, all of the costs with maintaining and operating a household still continue but yet these individuals are not getting paid or they're being forced to work without getting paid.

SCIUTTO: That is a condition that is more prevalent than we realize.


SCIUTTO: People live paycheck to paycheck and you miss a paycheck, you can't pay the big bills.

HARLOW: Of course.


HARLOW: Of course. And so to Jim's point, Brian, the president this weekend and I quote, says, "I can relate." Not sure he can relate to what all of you workers are going through. But he said many of those people who won't be receiving a paycheck, they agree 100 percent with what I'm doing. Do you think he can relate?

GARTHWAITE: I don't know any -- I'm sorry, I don't know any of these people and I am the president of our -- of AFG Local 3381 and I have yet to have a member of the bargaining unit articulate that position to me.

Whether the president can relate or not, I don't know. But what I do know is this administration has in the past year authored three executive orders that striped rights for bargaining unit employees that was later overturned in the courts, he's frozen salaries of civilian workers, and now he's using federal workers as a pawn for his political agenda.


GARTHWAITE: So how he can say that he relates, that's -- I guess I would have to look him square in the eye and ask him that question. HARLOW: Yes. He's made federal workers a target, oftentimes even

separate from this.

Brian Garthwaite, thanks very much for taking the time and we wish you luck getting back to work.

HARLOW: Good luck.

GARTHWAITE: Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now is former director of Legislative Affairs under President Trump, Marc Short. Knows a thing or two about how this president deals with Congress and I'm sure has an opinion on the current impasse.

Marc, thanks for taking the time and a Happy New Year to you and your family.


SCIUTTO: So, on this issue here that the president clearly feels that he's winning this issue, the shutdown, the wall, with his base where his energy, his political energy seems to be focused right now. In your view, is he winning this issue and what are the risks for the president?

SHORT: You know, Jim, I don't know to what extent he views he's winning it as much as he is believing that he promised that he would help secure the southern border and he's trying to do that. I think that typically there's few winners in a government shutdown. But I think the president believes the stakes are significant enough. And I -- you know, I listened to your last guest, I sympathize with a lot of people or federal workers who don't get paid enormous amounts of money.

[10:10:06] They dedicate lives and careers to serving our government but I would sit there and look at this weekend and see the vice president of the United States, the chief of staff at the White House, the cabinet secretary all in the meetings and not one elected Democrat sitting down in the meeting to actually try to make progress in negotiations.

SCIUTTO: OK, but --


SHORT: They're all out of town.

SCIUTTO: As you know, as you know, as former director of legislative affairs, there was a deal agreed to by both parties a number of weeks ago which is no longer there. I mean, you know, Republicans, yes, Democrats clearly sense political gain here for sticking to their guns on this. But Republicans who previously voted for legislation to keep the government running clearly don't want to get on the wrong side of the president here. Right? SHORT: Right. Candidly, Jim, I would go a step further which is that

actually the budget -- Office and Management Budget put forward to Congress ask for $1.6 billion in funding for the wall and that is what was on the table first. The administration then decided they wanted $5 billion. And I think there is good reason for saying we need additional monies there. But in many ways Congress did deliver on what the White House's first request was.

HARLOW: You know, there are Republicans who are -- conservative Republicans from border states just take Representative Will Hurd of Texas, 800 miles of his district border on the southern border there, he says, quote, "I've been very clear that building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security."

As you know, Marc, he's proposed an alternative. Right? You spend a lot of money on the border. That's part of his plan and what he's put forth but it's toward beefing up technology and things other than a wall to curb illegal immigration.

Do you wish that the president were listening to him and others in his camp more, in his own party?

SHORT: Yes, Poppy, I think in some ways we're talking past each other. In a previous career I was chief of staff for Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senior senator from Texas who represented all those constituents up and down the Rio Grande River.


SHORT: And there is no doubt that for generations they've had commerce come back and forth their border and many along that border do not want a wall. You go a hundred miles inland and people very much want a wall.

What the administration has put forth is not a wall from sea to shining sea. In many cases Customs and Border Patrol said here is where the Rio Grande is, we want levees here. Here's other places where you don't need a wall. But here are places we actually want it. And so here we are. The $5 billion request out of a $4 trillion budget represents one-tenth of 1 percent and we've got a complete shutdown. And what Customs and Border Patrol control actually advocated for many places is not a wall and that is what the Trump administration has put forward to Congress to fund.

SCIUTTO: Yes. But the point is the president is also holding other issues hostage as a result of this. And I know that is become a talking about what tiny sliver of the budget is but you can make the same argument for food stamps or for the pay for TSA that inspect people, screen them before they go on planes so they're not carrying bombs. Right? I mean, and those are security arguments as well. Are they not? I mean, you're defunding other security priorities, you're it holding up because, let's be frank, this is a political promise that the president wants to stick to here.

Can you make the same argument regarding other national security priorities that are being held hostage to this?

SHORT: Yes. But it's politics on both sides. You know what I mean? It's not really about the money. The Democrats just put forward a budget that increased spending by $20 billion including funding for the U.N. population control which would basically be funding abortions overseas but they can't find money to fund our border security? It's absolutely politics all the way around.

SCIUTTO: Well, we could go into what's the bigger portion of the deficit, tax cut, et cetera. But you know, that's just math.


SCIUTTO: Marc, thanks very much. Much as always.

SHORT: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: All right. She might be a freshman but she is already firing up Republicans. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, fascinating interview, sit-down one-on-one with our very own Anderson Cooper.

Plus, in minutes disgraced actor Kevin Spacey will walk into court. He's facing indecent assault and battery charges. We're on it.

SCIUTTO: And Senator Elizabeth Warren is already hitting the campaign trail. Will former Vice President Joe Biden soon be joining her in the run?


[10:18:41] SCIUTTO: She recently became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and now New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is quickly becoming one of President Trump's most high-profile and some say boldest critics.

HARLOW: In her first months on the national stage she's garnered plenty of support and plenty of criticism. She sat down for a lengthy conversation with our very own Anderson cooper. Here is what she said.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There are people that say you don't understand how the game is played.


COOPER: Do you?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think it's really great for people to keep thinking that.

COOPER: You want folks to underestimate you.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely.

COOPER: Same people?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: That's why I won my primary.


COOPER: Winning that primary shocked the Democratic establishment and in November Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: We have made history tonight.

COOPER: Just a few days later, as soon as she got to Washington, she paid a visit to climate change activists who are occupying her party leader Nancy Pelosi's office. She was the only newly elected member of Congress who decided to drop by during the sit-in. She called on Pelosi to create a select committee on climate change without any members of Congress who accept money from the fossil fuel industry.


[10:20:03] COOPER (on camera): Nancy Pelosi is incredibly powerful.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: She absolutely is. And --

COOPER: And you're occupying her office?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Oh, my goodness. I could have thrown up that morning, I was so nervous. But I kept kind of just coming back to the idea that what they're fighting for wasn't wrong and I had also sat down with Leader Pelosi beforehand and she told me her story. She came from activism and I knew that she would absolutely understand how advocacy can change the needle on really important issues.

COOPER (voice-over): Ocasio-Cortez and her allies managed to get more than 40 members of Congress to support the climate committee.


COOPER: House speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to create it but it's not nearly what Ocasio-Cortez had in mind. Pelosi granted the committee limited powers and did not ban members who take money from the fossil fuel industry.


COOPER: For Ocasio-Cortez it was an early lesson in congressional politics. And another one came when she defied Pelosi and voted against the speaker's new House rules but was not joined by many other progressive Democrats.

Ocasio-Cortez told us she's determined to keep fighting for what's being called for a green new deal. A highly ambitious and some would say unrealistic proposal that would convert the entire U.S. economy to renewable sources of energy in just 12 years while guaranteeing every American a job at a fair wage.

(On camera): You're talking about zero carbon emissions, no use of fossil fuels within 12 years?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: That is the goal. It's ambitious. And --

COOPER: How is that possible? Are you talking about everybody having to drive an electric car?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: It's going to require a lot of rapid change that we don't even conceive as possible right now. What is the problem with trying to push our technology capacities to the furthest extent possible?

COOPER: This would require, though, raising taxes.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: There is an element where yes, people are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes.

COOPER: Do you have a specific on the tax rate?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: You know, you look at our tax rates back in the '60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system, your tax rate, you know, let's say from zero to $75,000 may be 10 percent or 15 percent, et cetera. But once you get to, like, the tippy tops on your 10 millionth dollar sometime you see tax rates as high as 60 percent or 70 percent. That doesn't mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate but it means that as you climb up this ladder, you should be contributing more.

COOPER: What you are talking about just big picture is a radical agenda compared to the way politics is done right now.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think that it only has ever been radicals that have changed this country. Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishment programs like Social Security.

COOPER: Do you call yourself a radical?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, you know, if that's what radical means, call me a radical.

COOPER (voice-over): She doesn't seem to be viewed as a radical by her constituents in New York 14. The racially diverse, liberal and reliably Democratic congressional district that includes parts of Queens and the Bronx.

Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx. Her parents had met in Puerto Rico. Her father owned a small architectural business, her mother cleaned houses to help make ends meet. By the time she was ready for preschool, her parents made a down payment on a small house in the Westchester suburbs. It was 30 miles and a world away from her extended family still living in the Bronx.

(On camera): What was it that brought your parents here?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Schools. Yes. My mom wanted to make sure that I had a solid chance and a solid education.

COOPER: Did you feel like you were living in two different worlds? Because you're spending a lot of time in the Bronx with your family and also here.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. Yes. And just growing up that way and with my cousins who were all my age, too, feeling like we all had kind of different opportunities depending on where we were physically located.

COOPER (voice-over): She did well in school and with the help of scholarships, loans and financial aid, attended Boston University. But in her sophomore year her father died of cancer.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: We were really working on the classic American dream and overnight it was all taken away. My mom was back to cleaning homes and driving school buses, to keep a roof over our heads.

COOPER: She moved back to the Bronx after graduating college and spent the next few years working as a community organizer and advocate for children's literacy. In May of 2017 the one-bedroom apartment she shares with her boyfriend became her makeshift campaign headquarters where she launched a seemingly improbable run for Congress.

[10:25:02] She was working as a waitress and bartender at the time. Like many members of her generation, she says she had student loans to pay and no health insurance.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I really understood the frustration that working people have across the political spectrum. You know, when anybody is saying the economy is going great, we are at record levels, there's a frustration that says well, the economy is good for who?

COOPER (on camera): I mean, unemployment is at record lows.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I don't think that that tells the whole story. When you can't provide for your kids, working a full time job, working two full-time jobs, when you can't have health care, that is not dignified.

COOPER (voice-over): A group of Bernie Sanders supporters who now call themselves justice Democrats encouraged Ocasio-Cortez to run for office. He gave her training and support. She built a grassroots coalition that took on the Democratic machine by going door-to-door.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Hi, Saudio. I'm Alexandria.

COOPER: Arguing that she could represent the district better than a 10-term incumbent who spent most of his time in Washington.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Have a good day.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Please welcome Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. COOPER: Her victory made national news and she soon had a higher

media profile than many veteran lawmakers. Some saw in her primary victory a craving for change within the Democratic Party. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi drew a more limited conclusion.

PELOSI: They made a choice in one district so let's not get yourself carried away.

COOPER: But President Trump rarely missed a change to suggest that all Democrats were socialist and would lead the country to ruin.

TRUMP: Venezuela. Venezuela. How does that sound? You like Venezuela?

COOPER (on camera): When people hear the world socialism, they think Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela. Is that what you have in mind?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course not. What we have in mind 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?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No one asked 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 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 on 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 will be difficult for us to make a credible case. We should be allowed to govern again.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: What makes it unrealistic?

COOPER: How to pay for it.

OCASIO-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.

COOPER (voice-over): Since the election, some conservative media outlets have focused on Ocasio-Cortez with an intensity unusual for a rookie member of Congress.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Her views, her policy positions are actually downright scary.

COOPER: She's been accused of being dishonest about the true cost of her proposals and the tax burden they would impose on the middle class. She's also been criticized for making factual mistakes.

(On camera): One of the criticisms of you is that your math is fuzzy. "The Washington Post" recently awarded you four Pinocchios.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Oh my goodness.

COOPER: For misstating some statistics about Pentagon spending.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: If people want to really blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue that they're missing the forest for the trees. I think that there is a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually and semantically correct than about being morally right.

COOPER: But being factually correct is important.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: It's absolutely important. And whenever I make a mistake, I say, OK, this was clumsy and then I restate what my point was. But it's not the same thing as the president lying about immigrants. It is not the same thing at all.

TRUMP: We started the wall anyway and we're going to get that done. We're going to get it done.

COOPER: You don't talk about President Trump very much.



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

COOPER: What do you mean?

OCASIO-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?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. Yes. No question.

COOPER: How can you say that?

OCASIO-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 crisis like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders, it's night and day.