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Trump Visits Southern Border; Ocasio-Cortez's Tax on Wealthy; Biden for 2020; Trump Prime Time Speech; Bolton Contradicts Trump; Federal Contract Worker on Shutdown. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 7, 2019 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00] TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": And wants to keep this going. And unless we start seeing people impacted on a much broader basis, sickouts, then we'll see the president (INAUDIBLE)

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: They thrive on the fight.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, the shutdown debacle takes a turn into the art of the steel. Why the president's new offer won't go far with Democrats.

Plus, as the president tells workers who are not getting paid to make adjustments, he threatens a move that could bring a constitutional standoff.

Who's speaking on behalf of the United States? John Bolton contradicting the president on America's exit from Syria.

And she's only been in Congress for 96 hours, yet Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez's policy ideas are already becoming fodder on the 2020 campaign trail.

But first, President Trump gets ready to head to the southern border as the partial government shutdown enters its third week. and that means another week of uncertainty and anxiety for 800,000 employees who are furloughed or working without pay. And thousands and thousands more contract workers.

The White House says the president will visit the U.S.-Mexican border on Thursday. And the trip comes as his definition of a border wall changes again. He now says the wall would be a steel rather than a concrete barrier, and he says he may declare a national emergency to build the wall. And he submitted a $5.7 billion budget justification for the wall.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown joining us now with the latest.

So, Pamela, have we learned any more about this trip to the border?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We're still awaiting more details from the White House, including where on the southern border the president will visit. But Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, announced today that the president will be visiting the southern border on Thursday in an effort to draw attention to what the White House is calling the crisis on the southern border.

So all of this coming as the president talks about going around Congress to declare a national emergency in order to get funding for the border wall. That, of course, would be an unprecedented move. The president has said he would rather negotiate with Congress first before doing that.

But what is clear here is that the White House continues to frame this debate over funding for the border wall during the government shutdown, the big sticking point here, as a matter of national security. Now, the president also backing down, as you pointed out, on asking for a concrete wall, now saying he wants a steel barrier there on the southern border. And the White House officially asking Congress just yesterday for $5.7 billion for the steel barriers on the southern border.

This as the vice president, Mike Pence, met with congressional leaders over the weekend. But sources are telling CNN, Brianna, that very little was accomplished, that both sides stuck to their talking points and didn't reach any solution, didn't get any closer to a solution.

And, Brianna, this is all happening as nearly a million federal employees are impacted by this government shutdown. The president says they will makes adjustments, but several of those workers have told CNN that they're worried that they can't make ends meet during this time.

KEILAR: That's right. Certainly right.

Pamela Brown, at the White House, thank you.

And now for a reality check because there's just no other way to say it. The president and administration officials are pushing lies to make their case for the wall because the facts are not on their side here. There is no credible evidence that terrorists are coming into the U.S. through the southern border. And that's according to the Trump administration's own State Department. Yet administration officials keep saying that 4,000 known or suspected terrorists are trying to get in, making it sound like they're trying to cross the border.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tried to push this narrative on Fox News this weekend and Chris Wallace made Swiss cheese of her claims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We know that roughly nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally. And we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Well, wait, wait, because I know this statistic. I didn't know if you were going to use it.

SANDERS: Yes.

WALLACE: But I studied up on this. Do you know where those 4,000 people come -- or where they're captured? Airports.

SANDERS: Not always, but certainly -- certainly a large number.

WALLACE: At airports. The State Department says there hasn't been any terrorists that they've found coming across the southern border from Mexico.

SANDERS: It's by air, it's by land and it's by sea. It's all of the above.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: No, it's not actually all of the above. But, first, who are these 4,000 people that Sarah Sanders is talking about because they are not known terrorists. You would have heard about them if they were when they were arrested trying to get into the U.S., as Richard Clark, the former counterterrorism czar who worked for multiple presidents from both parties points out. They have names or names similar to people who are on the no fly list and there are a lot of people who are incidentally ensnared in that screening process.

[13:05:01] And second, as Chris Wallace pointed out, these individuals, who require extra scrutiny, are almost entirely trying to enter the U.S. at airports. So why isn't the Trump administration focusing more on airports? Because of the government shutdown, TSA workers at domestic airports are working without getting paid. And that's just the ones who are on the job because hundreds have been calling out sick since the government shutdown 17 days ago.

The TSA insists the impact is minimal, but what do pilots think? Because the people ultimately in command of airplanes who, since 9/11, have gone to work every day aware that their planes were used to execute the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history, have reason to be concerned with the security venerability.

The Airline Pilots' Association, which represents more pilots than any union in the world, says that, quote, the shutdown of government agencies is adversely affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system. And yet the president is focused on scaring Americans about the border, raising the specter of declaring a national emergency even when Syria's national security experts say there isn't one. It's hard to believe this is all really about security when the president is focused on keeping Guatemalans and Honduras who are seeking refuge out of the U.S. rather than securing our nation's airports.

And joining me now to discus, we have former National Security Agency attorney in the Obama administration, Susan Hennessey, with us.

And, you know, it's worth noting, Susan, that Pew Research actually looked at years of stats, over 10 years, and this is what they found. They found that the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has dropped. That the number of those people from Mexico, specifically, has actually dropped, and the number of illegal immigrants in the workforce has dropped. Could the president hold up this argument, then, that the border wall, the situation on the border, is rising to a national emergency?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think that he could. First and foremost, it's not clear that existing border patrol agents are not able to actually prevent people from entering the country. You know, we've see the president trying to make this shift toward a more militarized language. He talks about -- he deployed troops certainly before the midterm elections. He talks about there being an invasion.

Now, part of that is sort of political optics and fearmongering, but part of it is also because it tends to be the case that the president's authorities, his legal ability to do things without going through Congress and the other branches, is highest in sort of the case of a national emergency. So it does seem as though Trump is trying to use his rhetoric to sort of create the appearance that this is happening, but the facts just don't back it up.

KEILAR: You have past presidents who have successfully declared national emergencies. How does that compare to this?

HENNESSEY: Well, so typically there's lots of different ways that a president might invoke a national emergency. And the way to think about sort of emergency powers are they're safety valves that are contained within legislation. Congress understands that they aren't going to be able to think of every single incident in which they might want the president to be able to do something, specifically in the event of a real emergency. Something like the United States going to war. So past examples of that, you know, Jimmy Carter declared a national emergency with the Iran hostage crisis. H.W. Bush the -- with the -- in the invasion of Iraq -- or the invasion of Kuwait. And so, you know, whenever we think about sort of the past examples of emergencies, they've tended to be emergencies sort of in the true sense of the word, really actual risks to, you know, to human beings' lives.

KEILAR: All right, Susan, thanks so much for explaining that. Susan Hennessey.

And now to an idea Republicans have pounced on as an example of the radical left agenda, but is it catching on among Democrats? Freshman Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposes taxing the ultra-wealthy as high as 70 percent on some of their earnings to pay for a climate change program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REO. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: But once you get to like the tippy tops on your 10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. that doesn't mean all 10 million dollars are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that has you climb up this ladder, you should be contributing more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, potential 2020 presidential candidate Julian Castro says the idea is not so far-fetched and something that he could endorse. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, "ABC THIS WEEK": Can you support a tax increase like that, once you hit $10 million, 60 to 70 percent?

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HOUSING SECRETARY: Oh, I can support folks at the top paying their fair share.

KEILAR: All right, let's bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

And I'm not saying, David Gregory, that 70 percent is not a high tax rate, to be clear, but we just need to explain exactly what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is talking about because she's not saying that this would be 70 percent of a multi-millionaire's entire income. Explain this to us.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm a little unclear about exactly how this would kick in and what she means. But what is clear is that she represents a part of the Democratic Party that's willing to go far beyond where Democrats have gone in recent decades on progressive taxation to really soak the rich with the idea that that's ultimately going to help the economy.

[13:10:14] There's a constituency for that. She's got a voice in the party that's getting a lot of attention. But I think it's out of sync with a lot of Americans.

KEILAR: Are you saying then that even if -- and I wonder what you think about this, Gloria, too -- even if she's not -- even if she's saying the first $10 million, you're not paying 70 percent on, but it kicks up to that at 10 million, are you saying that that's irrelevant then, that the point is just raising the specter of 70 percent, even at a certain cap?

GREGORY: Well, yes. I mean you could -- it would probably become more relevant to more people. Like you heard the congressman say, oh, well, you know, I could -- I could go for that. But as a general matter that -- if that could be the starting point, that that would be the end of it. I'm sure a lot of people who are opposed to higher taxes on the wealthy would have a real problem with that.

BORGER: You know, I just don't know why Democrats are getting into specifics about this right now.

GREGORY: Right.

KEILAR: Because it's pointless?

BORGER: Because it -- because it's going to look like same old, same old Democrats soak (ph) the rich.

GREGORY: Right.

BORGER: You used the -- you used the phrase. It gives the Republicans a talking point. We understand where she's coming from. Maybe we understand where Castro is coming from. But at this point, it's not their strongest argument for their -- for their party. And what it does is it open up the divisions within the Democratic Party.

GREGORY: Right. But it does inspire a lot of Democrats who say we should go back to a time where a lot of times they felt whether this was health care or even tax policy where they felt mainstream centrist Democrats, even more liberal Democrats --

BORGER: Right.

GREGORY: Like President Obama didn't go far enough with regard to taxation. And where -- if you look at this at soaking the rich or making the rich pay their fair share, you still have to get into a debate about what is effective tax policy for what they're after. But this is a more extreme form of income redistribution that some liberals in the country, especially elected officials, would like to advance.

BORGER: Well, and if you want to talk about middle class tax cuts, talk about middle class tax cuts.

GREGORY: Right.

BORGER: Which is what Donald Trump was talking about, but it didn't happen, remember?

KEILAR: Yes.

BORGER: So I, you know, I --

KEILAR: Tax cuts for the wealthy.

BORGER: I think there's going to be a real healthy debate within the Democratic Party about this, but it does give the Republicans a real opening.

KEILAR: All right, let's take a look at 2020. A specific name here.

BORGER: Speaking. Yes.

KEILAR: Joe Biden. OK, so he is expected to decide within the coming month about whether he's going to run. And according to "The New York Times," this is really interesting, supporters say that Biden sees himself as the best hope to defeat President Trump. Is he, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, first of all, there's no doubt he's the frontrunner, which is why he's got to make a decision pretty soon.

I've been talking to some people in Biden world, and they say to me they wouldn't be surprised if he ran and they wouldn't be surprised if he didn't run.

GREGORY: Right.

BORGER: He is telling people, I'm the one to defeat Donald Trump. I know how to do it. But, again, a lot of people in the party, the progressive wings, say, you're just forgetting about all the other people who have joined the Democratic Party, who have given it its energy, and you're not our guy, and he understands that.

GREGORY: Well, right. And also people I talked to in Biden world, you know, he's taken a really close look at, can he win? He doesn't want to embarrass himself in any way from any direction here.

BORGER: Exactly.

KEILAR: Right.

GREGORY: But he is taking a lot of time, and he does come in as the frontrunner because the party is so split. But, boy, you look at all of his strengths, and there are many, I think to go through -- you know, working class voters and all the rest. But you look at the conversations we're having about tax policy and the emergence of an enthusiastic base on the left, looking for minorities, looking for women, you know, the '90s crime bill that was an overhang for Hillary Clinton would be certainly bad for him. He was head of the Judiciary Committee at the time. He's also run for president numerous times and not done very well in the primaries. Something that I think, you know, the Mandarins (ph) in the Democratic Party are still going to look at.

KEILAR: All right, so this is just in to CNN, because we're learned the president wants a prime time address tomorrow amid this shutdown as he is planning a trip to the border on Thursday.

David, what do you -- what do you think this could be about? Is he going to get this?

GREGORY: I don't know. I don't know that he will. I don't know what the basis will be to do that, other than to, you know, raise awareness that he's already raised a lot of around his view of border security, what he calls a national emergency without any real basis. And if he wants to make a push toward fulfilling a campaign promise, it's certainly valid for him to do that as president when he campaigned hard on this. But in the middle of a shutdown to insert this as the idea it's a national emergency that requires asking for time.

You know, it's not unprecedented. We got into this -- Gloria and I were talking about this -- during the height of the Iraq War, President Bush started to ask for time to offer an update on the progress of the war. And there was a lot of pushback from the networks where they're all -- we talk about broadcast networks and now we really talk about the cable networks being the center of the action in terms of the news world. Whether they're going to grant that time, I don't know.

KEILAR: Because, Gloria, we just --

BORGER: Or will they have --

KEILAR: We just spelled out how what he's saying actually does not hold water.

GREGORY: Right.

BORGER: Right.

KEILAR: His push for the wall. With -- so that's what the networks are going to be looking at. OK, are we giving him time to say something that, you know, if this is what he's going to say, it's untrue.

[13:15:10] BORGER: Or is he going to call for a national emergency --

GREGORY: Right.

BORGER: Which -- and we just -- you were just stalking to Susan Hennessey about this -- is it a national emergency? And, of course, if the networks were to give him time, and that's by no means guaranteed --

GREGORY: Right.

BORGER: What do you do about Nancy Pelosi? I mean she's got to be able -- she's got to be able to talk as well. So it's curious to me because he is going to the border on Thursday. He does want to make his case. Does he want to call for a national emergency? What will the Democrats say about that? And will the networks say this is legitimate or this is not legitimate.

GREGORY: And you have to prove your basis for what is a national emergency. He's not announcing sending troops to war. He's not announcing that kind of action. I don't know that Nancy Pelosi would have to be given time. But I also think --

BORGER: I think she asks.

GREGORY: This is such an old -- yes. Well, but it's such an old notion, the idea that you're going to ask the broadcast networks for time. You know, in the news world, it's the cable networks that matter most. The broadcast networks are disinclined to give that kind of time unless it's a really big deal because they're in the middle of their primetime entertainment programs.

BORGER: Right.

KEILAR: We have so much more to talk about with you guys, so stick around for me. We have a stunning moment. The president's national security adviser completely contradicting him on pulling troops out of Syria. Hear why this withdrawal could take years.

Plus, I'm going to speak live with one federal contract who is not working and get her reaction to the president telling her and others to, quote, make adjustments.

And actor Kevin Spacey appearing in court on charges of sexual assault after his bizarre Christmas Eve video. Let's see what happened.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:21:05] KEILAR: President Trump blasting reports that National Security Adviser John Bolton is contradicting his plans to withdraw from Syria. This is what he tweeted today. He said, the failing "New York Times" has normally written a very inaccurate story on my intentions on Syria. No different from my original statements. We will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary.

Now, incidentally, that article was really just quoting from Bolton's public, on the record remarks in Israel. He said the troop withdrawal was conditional on the defeat of ISIS. The president has said that ISIS is defeated, we should say. And Bolton also said it's conditional on a guarantee from Turkey that it will not strike Kurdish forces who are allied with the U.S. fighting ISIS.

I want to bring back David Gregory and Gloria Borger to talk about this.

This is -- the president's tweet where he's describing what he said is like night and day from what he was initially talking about.

BORGER: Right.

KEILAR: We know that. But who's speaking, Gloria, for the U.S.?

BORGER: Well, that's a really good question.

KEILAR: Is it Bolton? Is it the president?

BORGER: That's a really good question. The president is saying they're on the same page, which is not true. Not true.

KEILAR: They certainly were not. Are they now?

BORGER: No. well, originally, the president talked about 30 days' withdrawal. That's what got Mattis so crazy, not that he wasn't -- he wasn't consulted, but he didn't agree with the policy. Brett McGurk quit over that. Their negotiator, he quit over that. Bolton, after talking with Netanyahu, has to dial this back and the president is now saying, you're not dialing it back. So where is the consistency here? What are our allies supposed to think? The president at al Assad Air Base on November 26th said very specifically that you could not have more than six months. He said, I was asked about more than six months, could we have more than six months? I said, nope, you don't have any more time. You've got enough time.

Now, Bolton is saying, not so fast.

GREGORY: What's interesting, too, is that John Bolton, as national security adviser, Mike Pompeo, as secretary of state, were replacements, right, of people who were not in sync enough with the president. So when they speak, they should be listened to. And what's striking is you have now this -- very clear the president said, they're in a rush to get out. Then he said, oh, no, no rush. Now no fixed state. And now there's conditions because what are they concerned about is that the Kurds would be attacked by the Turks and Bolton is now on that (ph).

So the Israelis are very worried about that. We know the Israeli government is in sync with this White House. And so they've heard those concerns. So I think it's very interesting that the president kind of utters a direction that he'd like to go. And he -- there's no way there's any wiggle room with Bolton and Pompeo based on everything we know. So they are softening this policy that Mattis left over. Very interesting.

There's so -- there's no filter anymore -- well, I'm sorry, anymore. There's no filter in the White House, especially to a national security now because there's no guardrail. So the president talks, speaks, announces, and now, very tellingly, Bolton is trying to -- it's -- I think a lot of people view this as very good news for our policy.

BORGER: Well --

KEILAR: David and Gloria, unfortunately -- I know we could talk for hours on this.

BORGER: Yes.

KEILAR: It's so important, too. Thank you so much to both of you.

GREGORY: Thanks.

KEILAR: President Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency to build the wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for, but now hundreds of thousands of government workers are wondering, will they see their next paycheck? I'm going to talk to one contract worker, next.

Plus, just two weeks after appearing as Frank Underwood in a Christmas Eve video alluding to his legal troubles, actor Kevin Spacey appearing in court on sexual assault charges. We'll see what happened.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:29:14] KEILAR: As the government shutdown heads into day 17, there are almost 800,000 workers who are not getting paid and some who are not at work, well, they may actually get back pay. But there are thousands upon thousands of others, like my next guest, who will see nothing of the work that they have lost. Julie Burr is nice enough to join us today. She is a contract worker

for the Department of Transportation in Kansas City, Missouri.

You're also a single mom. You still have a high school age soon who's in the house. Something for you to seriously consider when you're looking at your budget and trying to rearrange things, Julie. But, first off, just tell us, what do you do for the Department of Transportation?

JULIE BURR, GOVERNMENT CONTRACT WORKER AFFECTED BY SHUTDOWN: I'm an administrative assistant in the admin pool there at one of the offices of the regional office in the Department of Transportation here in Kansas City.

[13:30:02] KEILAR: OK. So -- and you're a contract worker, so you're not a federal employee who is on furlough.