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NEW DAY

Second Longest Shutdown Of U.S. Government Drags On; "New York Times" Columnist Is Arguing That Now Is The Time To Remove President Trump From Office; Government Shutdown Continues over Border Wall Funding; Joe Biden Reportedly Contemplating 2020 Presidential Run; Elizabeth Warren Launches Presidential Campaign in Iowa. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 7, 2019 - 8:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did not make much progress. Democratic negotiators were not there to talk about any agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not believe that holding government workers hostage is the way to determine how best to secure our borders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it goes on much longer, I am going to have to figure out what I'm going to do just to be able to eat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be discussing the president's decision to withdraw in a way that makes sure that ISIS is not able to revive itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anybody knows what the policy is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I applaud the president for reevaluating what he's doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota on John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, January 7th, 8:00 now in the east. The second longest government shutdown in U.S. history is stretching into week three. Another round of talks over the weekend failed to break the impasse. President Trump has now backed away from his demand of a concrete wall. He's now asking Congress for $5.7 billion for a, quote, steel barrier, whatever that means. Some Democrats insist the president reopen the government before they agree to any deal. The president is again threatening to declare a national emergency in order to bypass Congress and build what he has called his wall thing.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So with nothing else working yet to sell the wall thing, the White House is trying something else -- deception. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tried to suggest that thousands of terrorists could be coming over the wall with Mexico. The State Department says that's not true.

Also, new this morning, we are, frankly, trying to determine exactly what the administration's policy is regarding the troop drawdown in Syria. President Trump's own national security adviser says there will be no rapid withdrawal, which counters the president's own vow to immediately bring U.S. troops home.

CAMEROTA: Joining us now are our guests. We have CNN political analysts Josh Green, national correspondent for "Bloomberg Business Week," and Jonathan Martin, national political correspondent for "The New York Times." Great to see you guys.

So let's start with the shutdown and what it is based on. Let's just remind people, Josh -- it was reminded in articles over the weekend, but I think that it bears repeating, that this was a memory device. If Sam Nunberg had given to the then candidate Donald Trump to remember to talk about immigration. You like walls, you build things. Talk about you're going to build a big, beautiful wall. That is how the genesis of this was, OK. And now here we are in week three of the government shutdown.

And so now you hear the White House and secretary of DHS trying to come up with a justification for why it's so important to have this wall, and using -- trying to fearmonger and suggest that 4,000 terrorists are coming in and was just shut down. I think it's worth playing. Let's just play the Sarah Sanders moment and Chris Wallace on FOX, because it just doesn't hold up, their numbers and their argument. Listen to this.

(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, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Wait, wait. I know that statistic. I didn't know if you were going to use it. But I studied up on this. You know where those 4,000 people are captured? Airports.

SANDERS: Not always, but certainly a large --

WALLACE: Airports. The State Department says there hasn't been any terrorists they've found coming across --

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: No, it's not all of the above. It's not all of the above. It's not the southern border, and she was trying to conflate the two, Josh.

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, this is an incredible story. I first told the story in my book on the 2016 campaign that the idea for the wall was not Trump's. It was a mnemonic device devised by campaign staffers who wanted to keep Trump focused on the issue of immigration. Trump, whose attention famously wanders, wasn't talking about it enough. They thought it would connect. Once they came up with the idea of the wall, Trump used it, he liked it, and it became the central focus of his campaign.

The problem now I think is that he's trapped by this idea that he pitched and doesn't have the capacity to build. And so what we've seen and what we saw in that clip from Sanders is this effort to try and gin up the idea that there is some kind of an overwhelming threat or crisis or national emergency at the southern border which there wasn't during the campaign and there isn't now. Instead, I think what you see is Democrats and Republicans at loggerheads because the White House and some Republicans are trying to gin up the idea there's this crisis, and Democrats and even FOX News hosts are saying, no, the problem we have isn't on the land necessarily. This is something ginned up to try and pressure people into passing $5 billion for Trump's border wall, which 17, 18 days into the shutdown still doesn't look like it's going to happen.

BERMAN: Chris Wallace was laughing at Sarah Sanders. He really was.

[08:05:01] CAMEROTA: And it's one FOX News host, let's be clear. I'm sure Shepard feels the same way --

BERMAN: Yes, but the reason he said that about FOX, it's about the facts. It's the facts that are laughing at Sarah.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

BERMAN: Let me just read you the statement from the State Department had a report last year. There's "no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States," period, end. So Jonathan, you take that, and also take this new concession from the president that there's no concrete now going into the wall. This is a steel barrier. I like to call it steel slats. Alisyn is not convinced the president is set on slats. Maybe some other kind of formulation here. But what does it tell you that the president has given on the building materials and they're also trying to grasp at these new arguments?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is really a stand-in for an immigration hardline. It's not about an actual physical wall on the southern border. This is about a president and the party that he had basically taken over who are driven in large part by a more aggressive posture towards immigration and towards slowing immigration, and that that's what their voters want. That's what the 2016 primary was all about. That's in part why President Trump is the president today. And they are responsive to their base.

Now, what's going to be fascinating, John, is to watch in the next few days and weeks the split between the Senate and the House, because you're already see slippage among the Senate GOP. Folks like Cory Gardner in Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine who are on the ballot next year who want to reopen the government. But that's not the posture of a lot of folks in the House GOP. Why is that? Because they come from districts where both border security and hardline on immigration are priorities, and they're responding to that. CAMEROTA: You said it's not about a real wall, and I understand that

it should be from the lawmakers we've talked to about a larger issue. But it sure is about a wall for some people like Matt Drudge and Ann Coulter. They think it's about a real wall. Some of the president's ardent supporters may think it's about a real wall, which is maybe why he's so dug in on a real wall.

MARTIN: Yes, I mean, there's no question about it, that the wall has taken on a life of its own because in the eyes of some of his supporters, that means a hardline on immigration. And they've convinced themselves of that.

And by the way, at the same time, Democrats have convinced themselves that a wall is a stand-in for racial demagoguery, and that they can't be for that. And so that's what's happening here. Look, as you guys know, the Congress for years has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars for fencing, for walls, for all kinds of border security. Of course. It's just the issue is now caught up in the defining and animating politics that drive the two sides -- a hardline on immigration on the right and anti-Trump and anti-bigotry on the left.

BERMAN: Josh, you want one quick last word on that subject?

GREEN: Yes. It's the symbolism of the wall that's become important to both countries. A wall is not necessarily the best border deterrent. Border security is something that Democrats including most of the ones in Congress have supported in the past. The reason we're having this fight is because Trump thinks that the wall is central to his reelection prospects. He tried to back away from it last year. Hardline Republicans didn't let him, and so here we are stuck in a fight over the wall.

BERMAN: So glad you brought up reelection, because that is a good segue to 2020, which I don't want to wait for anymore. It's here.

CAMEROTA: Let's get to it. The clock is ticking.

BERMAN: And Jonathan Martin, by the way, Josh has got new reporting on 2020 also, but I'm going to first to J. Mart, and Joe Biden, Joe Biden is telling people, sort of hinting he's leaning towards run, but it's more nuanced than that in your reporting. Explain.

MARTIN: Yes, look. I think Biden spent the holidays talking to a lot of allies on the phone, talking to some of his advisers. And from our reporting over the weekend, it's clear that Biden would like to run again, that he does not believe that in the current field of likely candidates that in his mind there is somebody that can beat President Trump.

And so because of that, he's inclined to do this. And he's facing real pressure, John, from donors and from some of his supporters to make his intentions here known in the near future, because of what happened four years ago where, obviously, this was sort of extended over a period of time, agonizing for Democrats until he pulled the plug. That said, the Biden people caution, they say this is not final until

Biden himself says it. His family concerns are still central. So this is not a done deal. He has not told his advisers that he is going to run, but from people who did speak directly themselves to Biden that we talked to, he does sound like someone who wants to make what will be his third campaign for president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: And Josh, you have some reporting on Elizabeth Warren. What do we need to know?

[08:10:05] GREEN: I spent the weekend with Warren in Iowa on her inaugural trip as a likely presidential candidate. And I think the fact that Warren got in the race so early is putting pressure on people like Biden and the other contenders to jump in. The 2020 race has started. Warren had five campaign stops over three days, drew huge crowds, got a rapturous reception. So things are under way and off and running.

Right now Warren is the standard bearer for the liberal, populist wing of the country. That message was out there. Biden if he gets in the race I think will probably be the frontrunner, at least initially, but he'll represent a more moderate throwback style Democratic centrism that isn't represented yet but that a lot of voters want to see as part of the conversation on 2020 in who Democrats nominate to take on President Trump.

BERMAN: Jonathan, it's so interesting, the possible Biden entry, and we're talking about Elizabeth Warren, it's such a big field. Normally if you have a big field you don't have someone, at least in my memory, with the stature of a former vice president. That's an odd thing to have in a 20-person field or 25-person field if it grows that big. And i wonder what the dynamics there would be.

MARTIN: It certainly would be -- if you think about '92 or 2004, you did not have someone like a former vice president. The closest thing was Dick Gephardt, but obviously not something like a two-term vice president.

I think it would have real implications, John, even in the early going here of who would or would not run. Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, and a handful of other candidates who are eyeing a campaign I think would take a longer look if they want to run if Biden does get in.

And by the way, according to folks that we talked to, the Biden camp is curious about the intentions of Sherrod Brown, the senator from Ohio. I think part of the reason the Biden folks are getting more serious about this is because they look at Sherrod Brown, a populist from Ohio, as somebody that could steal a march on their coalition. So there's a lot of eyeing warily across the aisle, looking at your would-be rivals, seeing who is and is not going to run. I think it's going to be a big field. It wouldn't surprise me, John, if some folks who have been talking about running actually don't.

CAMEROTA: A lot of pieces on the chess board. Josh, Jonathan, thank you very much. So the national security adviser contradicting President Trump on the

withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. So now what's the plan? Senator Angus King tells us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, HOST, NEW DAY: President Trump says he's considering a new plan to build his border wall. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Joining is Independent Senator Angus King of Maine. He serves on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committee. He's going to talk about this and so much more. Great to have you in studio.

ANGUS KING, U.S. SENATOR, MAINE, INDEPENDENT: Alisyn, a pleasure to be here.

CAMEROTA: Do you see that national emergency as an idle threat? Do you think there's any way President Trump could go around Congress to build his border wall?

KING: At first, I thought it was an idle threat, but then I'm reading all the stories about White House counsel is looking into it and they are looking at all of these obscure laws. I don't think it's an idle threat. I think it's a dangerous threat.

If you go back to 1787, the Federalist papers, the Constitution, this is what they were afraid of.

CAMEROTA: What were the framers afraid of that we're seeing right now?

KING: A monarchal president. They took such care to divide power and to allocate powers between the Congress, the President, the courts and here we are with a President that's trying to end run the constitutional process or at least is thinking about it.

And this is what they didn't want. The President is in a constitutional system where they are co-equal branches of government and if he wants to enact some kind of policy, it's got to be through the Congress. He doesn't seem to get that.

CAMEROTA: I think I read that you said that the White House are acting like hostage takers.

KING: Yes.

CAMEROTA: How so? KING: Well, they are taking the whole country hostage in a sense with

this government shutdown because they can't get a policy through the normal process. It's not supposed to work that way. And the problem, Alisyn, is, it's not about $5 billion or even necessarily about the wall.

It is - is this going to be the pattern for this administration to whatever they want and can't get through the normal process? They're going to say, "Okay, we'll veto the budget. We'll veto the next round of spending bills." That's why I think this is so important. This issue is bigger than simply the wall or the $5 billion.

CAMEROTA: But the Democrats are - do you think the Democrats are somehow misplaying their hand here? The President has waffled so much on what even a wall is. So why don't Democrats say - I mean, look, you were part of a bill, a bipartisan bill where you offered $25 billion for border security and now the Democrats don't want to give him $5 billion?

KING: Well, the problem is, there's no telling where it will stop. And you've got to remember that $25 billion was a full solution to the DACA problem. That was the deal. That was the compromise.

The White House had the wall in their hands, and they couldn't take yes for an answer, even though it involved DACA which was something they said they wanted. That's one of the problems with negotiating with this White House - they keep moving the goal post and you never know from one day to the next who is - who is authorized to make a deal and whether it will stick.

CAMEROTA: So here we are.

KING: Ask Mitch McConnell by the way on that.

CAMEROTA: It does seem like the football has been pulled out from Charlie Brown on that. So, as you know, Senators Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, Democratic senators, have said that they do not think that they should do anything. That the Senate should take up any business until the government is reopened. Do you agree with that tactic?

KING: I'm not sure whether that's fair to the other parts of the government. If we can get things done in the midst of this, it seems to me, we ought to be considering that. But we ought to get this shutdown over with. And one of the problems - let me just say a couple of things.

Nobody in Congress in in favor of open borders. I'm so tired of hearing people say it's either the wall or open borders. That's nonsense. Everybody is for border security. The question is, let's do it in a rational, economic, sensible way. There are places where wall makes sense, but there are a lot of places where it doesn't.

[08:20:06]

KING: It's unbelievably expensive. Let's do something that will be real border security, not symbolic words. CAMEROTA: But then why does Nancy Pelosi - and we just had Luis

Gutierrez on here who is now a CNN contributor. He's left Congress as you know, and they both say that the wall is immoral. How is a wall immoral and a fence isn't?

KING: I have to admit that I don't get that. I don't understand the immoral part. I think it doesn't make sense. I think there are places where it's sort of ridiculous, but I've got to be honest. This is the place where I disagree with the Speaker.

I don't understand the immoral part. I just think it's bad policy and you shouldn't take the government hostage for a policy that you couldn't enact through normal process. One of the problems, Alisyn, we've never seen a plan that I know of. There's never been - here's the wall. Here's --

CAMEROTA: You don't know how many miles. What it's supposed to be made of. What part is going to be open that it's going to be fixing?

KINGS: What it's going to cost? You know, 2,000 miles - what's going to be where? There's never been a plan. And this is sort of like the Syria policy - ready, fire, aim. Let's do a little of the aiming first. Talk about where the wall, "a wall" might be necessary. Where it should be fencing, where it should be drones, where it should be Border Patrol, and then we can have a rational discussion about what do we do? How do we pay for it? That's how this is supposed to work.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about if you understand what's happening in Syria. The President said he wanted U.S. troops to rapidly withdraw. It sounds like John Bolton, his National Security adviser has said now something completely different. You were one of, I believe, five senators -- Lindsey Graham, Joni Ernst, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio ...

KING: It was a pretty odd group.

CAMEROTA: It was a disparate group, right? From all across the aisle that sent a letter to the White House really advising cooler heads to prevail. Maybe they heard you.

KING; Well, I never want to assume that, although, you know, I have immense power, but no. But the letter basically said, "Do what John Bolton just did this weekend. Talk to the allies. Reassure the allies. Don't abandon the Kurds. Let's not pull out on Israel. Let's not hand a victory to Russia and Iran."

It's exactly what the letter said. That's what John Bolton said this weekend. Now, here's the question in the next 24 hours. He's going to Turkey. And will Erdogan buy into this strategy which involves protecting our Kurdish allies who have been with us from the start and have literally taken bullets for us against ISIS from being crushed by the Turks? That's going to be the test. Or is Erdogan going to put in a call to the White House? And all of a sudden we're back where we started.

CAMEROTA: Because in the past, that is what some believe prompted the President's tweet saying - calling for a rapid withdrawal was a conversation with Erdogan, so as you sit here today, Senator, do you have any idea what the plan is in Syria? When U.S. troops will be leaving?

KING; I know what the plan is as of right now, I don't know what the plan is going to be this afternoon.

CAMEROTA: And what is the plan as of right now? The John Bolton plan?

KING: Well, yes, what John Bolton said was, you know, we're going to stay until ISIS is defeated. We are not going to abandon the Kurds.

CAMEROTA: When is that?

KING; Well, that could be months or some longer period of time. It's totally different from what the President said a month ago, and that's, you know, that's one of the problems. And the tragedy is, Alisyn, it appears that this ill-founded, ill-considered policy is what drove Jim Mattis out. And here we are with John Bolton saying what I'm sure Mattis said a month ago and yet, we've lost Mattis. And I've got to tell you, that's a real loss to the country.

CAMEROTA: Senator Angus King, great to have you here in the studio.

KING: Great to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you so much for being here.

KING: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: John?

JOHN BERMAN, HOST, NEW DAY: All right, Alisyn, a "New York Times" columnist is arguing that now is the time to remove President Trump from office. Why he says it's not okay to wait until 2020. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:25:00]

CAMEROTA: This weekend, "New York Times" opinion columnist David Leonhardt made the case in a new op-ed titled "The People Versus Donald J. Trump." He made the case for getting rid of the President.

David Leonhardt joins me now. David, great to have you here. You had such an attention-grabbing headline with this column which was "Donald Trump is demonstrably unfit for office, what are we waiting for?" And the case that you laid out was that the President has used the presidency for personal enrichment, he's violated the campaign finance law. You've concluded that he's obstructed justice, though Robert Mueller has not concluded that yet, and he has subverted democracy in various ways.

And so what's the answer to your question of what are we waiting for? DAVID LEONHARDT, OPINION COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, so I

think the key thing here to remember is what's the goal? I think the goal needs to be removing him from office.

And so I think that's because he presents a danger to the country. I think if you look at the founders, they believed that we should occasionally remove a President from office. So if that's the goal, does impeaching him quickly get us closer to that goal? And I think the answer is no. I actually think it gets us further from that goal.

I think if House Democrats quickly impeached him, Republicans would come together. I think they would focus attention on House Democrats. So to me, what Democrats should do is they should hold hearings and really focus on Trump's behavior and try to slowly peel away some of Trump's Republican support. And not think that's impossible.

Nixon kept Republican support for a very long time until he lost it. And I really think it's possible that could happen in this case.

CAMEROTA: But to what end? I mean, so if they do that, to what end? Then they wait it out until 2020?

LEONHARDT>: No, I think - so to what end? I think - and look, I think Trump is already at 40% approval rating. Republicans just lost the popular vote in the midterms by nine percentage points.

I think there are a lot of Republicans who if his support starts to fall at all, if you see Republicans like Cory Gardner of Colorado, or Susan Collins of Maine who are showing signs of breaking with him on the shutdown. If his approval rating starts to go into the 30s as more Mueller findings come out, as the Democrats hold hearings, I don't think he is going to have this kind of unified Republican support because I think Republicans are going to realize they could lose their office the same way so many House Republicans lost their office.

[08:30:09]