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Trump Makes Primetime Address; Trump Asks for $5.7 Billion; Pelosi and Schumer Deliver Response. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired January 8, 2019 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:00] ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With him as well. And, Kate, we have spoken with both parties here in Florida and they tell me that they're going to be zeroing in on this new group of freshly new voters ahead of 2020.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: No kidding.
Rosa, thank you so much. We really appreciate it.
And thanks so much for joining me, everybody. INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts right now.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.
And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing this important day with us.
Primetime from the Oval Office. The president makes a risky national address to press his case, the U.S.-Mexico border is in crisis and that the government shutdown is necessary to force Congress to give him his border wall.
Plus, the credibility question. Can the president sway public opinion and key players in Congress when so much of what he and his team say about immigration and the security threat is simply not true.
And Senator Kamala Harris wants you to read her new book and see the Democrat who can win in 2020.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: You say, whenever you're faced with a hard decision, you think, what would mommy think?
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: That's true. And that is what we always called her, mommy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what would she think about all this?
HARRIS: I think she would say, what is going on down there? It is a hot mess.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Kamala has to fix it?
HARRIS: And -- and -- well, yes. I mean I was raised that when you see a problem you don't complain about it, you go and you do something about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Back to that in a moment.
But we begin the hour with a scheduled prime time spectacle and a test of the president's salesmanship. The president will make the case tonight that his southern border wall is necessary and worth the great cost and great pain of a government shutdown. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer will then give the Democratic response.
The president's speech preludes a big visit to the border on Thursday. The White House is making a risky bet this week that with bigger venues and a bigger audience, the president can sway public support for the border wall his way. That is a very hard sell and evidence says the president's words will do little to change minds. Nearly six in 10 Americans oppose the wall. That number remarkably static since September 2016. Even as the president has, misleadingly most of the time, warned of migrant caravans filled with criminals and terrorists overwhelming the border.
The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, promising a lot of news tonight. That based on his reading of an early draft of the president's speech. The important questions, what can the president say that he hasn't already? And, will he say anything to alter the narrative.
This morning, the vice president did some advanced marketing for the speech, put the onus on the Democrats to solve the shutdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know that we could resolve this in a matter of hours if the Democrats will come to the table and start negotiating in good faith.
And we're going to continue to carry that case forward until the Democrats in Congress come to the table and start negotiating.
The Democrats need to come to the table and start negotiating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Consistency from the vice president, but that's not the biggest issue.
With me this day to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip, Jonathan Martin with "The New York Times," Karoun Demirjian with "The Washington Post," and Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast."
This is a big deal for any president. The Oval Office, primetime. Here's my question. Is there any reason to believe a president can now get more from the Democrats than he ever asked for in the two years his party ran the Congress. He lost an election and now he's demanding more and saying it's your fault.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's a really great point. I mean I think the president is basically saying that he's going to take the hardest possible route to get the thing that he's campaigned on in 2016 and has failed to get for the last two years, or this might all just be about putting up a fight for the sake of the people who are watching, which are his base and his conservative allies out there in conservative media. Is point tonight to convince the American people, or is it to convince his supporters that he's fighting hard for this thing that was the central premise of his 2016 campaign?
It is not likely that Democrats will give him a huge, huge win, both symbolically and practically, on this wall. And even though the White House does claim that they believe that the president's case will improve the sort of polling for the wall, there's no reason to believe that that is true because it's been two and a half years. If the president hasn't been able to convince the public up until this point, it's hard to see that an address tonight will do the trick.
And, beyond that, what I'm going to be looking for is, is the White House going to be factual about this? Are they going to be factual? Are they going to bend the facts in order to make some kind of case? And I think that remains to be seen. Everything we've seen in the last several days has been that the facts that they've put out there are misleading at best. And I think in an address like this, it matters quite a bit.
KING: Misleading at best is a good point. The president and his team have lied repeatedly about the threat about the president saying the wall's being built. The wall's -- no, it's not.
[12:05:06] So the question is, even if he's perfect tonight, from a fact check perspective, can he change minds at this point on this issue that has been a staple, to his credit, helped him win the Republican nomination, he believes helped him win the presidency. The question is, at this point, nearly two years in, big venues, big bully pulpit, can he bend the arc?
JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": But, yes, it's been -- it's two years in. It's also three months after an election where voters resoundingly rejected the president's narrative on immigration in a lot of key places. That's why he's fighting with the Democratic House right now because the picture that he pained of the bleak immigration system over and over again at all of those rallies, it didn't -- it didn't get him anything. In fact, it probably helped a lot of Republicans in these marginal districts lose.
So we've already sort of seen results of this messaging. And it wasn't successful.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You asked if he could change minds. I think the answer is no. The president basically has two options. He can either --
KING: If no, why? Forgive me for interrupting. But if you can't -- if you can't, why? Because this is a giant risk. He could lose members of his own party.
The question here is, can he gain, or does he dangerously, at the beginning of the second half of his term, lose? Because if he loses Republicans, and they say, let's vote with the Democrats to re-open the government, then he's in serious trouble.
DEMIRJIAN: I think he can change -- well, look, I don't think he can change people's minds over whether the wall is a good idea for the border or not in certain places. We've been debating this for over a decade. I think people are pretty well -- well firmly put in their places in terms of what side of the debate they're on.
But what he can possibly change is the perception of how much he's going to push this. I mean he could come out and say something that makes him look like the magnanimous problem solver that really cares about the wall still, but is going to use some other means of getting that done and just needs to resolve this shutdown. And in that way he could make people like him more.
Or he could come out and say, I'm going to push this and it's going to go for months and months and months and wear the other side out. And, in that case, people will be more scared of him.
But in terms of changing basic opinions about, is the wall a good idea or not, no. He has to work it from some other angle, which may be a win for him, but it's not going to actually change minds on the wall.
KING: But do we need to be contrarians in this age of Trump, in the sense that, again, logic tells you, they just got spanked in the election.
JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes.
KING: The Democrats have taken over the House. Nancy Pelosi, in her first days, weeks and months as speaker is not in the mood to give Donald Trump his border wall.
KING: And so the president, what do I ask for, but what does he ask for, more. He asked for more than he ever asked the Republicans. He wants $5.7 billion for a steel barrier, $800 million for humanitarian needs. $800 million, just shy of that, for additional detention beds, which the Democrats don't want, $571 million for additional law enforcement personnel. So he loses an election.
KING: Normal logic says you have to retreat and ask for less.
MARTIN: Right. KING: He asks for more.
MARTIN: Yes, it's a great example of just how detached this presidency is from the sort of conventional and recent history of American presidents, where, to your point, John, the White House does if not retreat, at least, you know, come to the table to compromise after they lose an election. That's what we saw certainly in 1994, certainly in 2006 and 2010, and that's not happening this time around.
And I think it's a very simple reason why. The country's far more polarized now, and this president cares chiefly about the views of his base that are expressed by a handful of conservative talk news hosts. And that's what drives him.
Look, I think the best -- the best comparison to this, a very different era, but George H.W. Bush runs on no new taxes in 1988 (INAUDIBLE). And then he goes back on his promise, right? Gets a primary from the right and loses the re-election. The last president to lose his re-election.
I think that example is what's driving this. They are focused on not losing their base. And I think they view a betrayal on the border wall in the same way that a lot of folks on the right did taxes in the early '90s.
KING: And so then, what, if that's the case today, where was that calculus for two years when he agreed, when Republicans kept saying in every budget fight, let's kick that one down the road. No, Mr. President, we disagree with you.
KING: Not just the Democrats, enough Republicans disagreed with him when they're in the majority. Let's kick it down the road, kick it down the road, kick it down the road, kick it down the road. Lose an election. Then it's the end all be all.
To your point about the base --
KING: The problem is, his base is maybe 35 percent of the American people.
KING: That means two-thirds of the American people are not with him.
MARTIN: I know.
KING: And this is the vice president this morning talking to Jonathan Karl, doing something, following the lead of his boss, saying something that's not true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people aren't as concerned about the political debate as they are concerned about what's really happening at the border. And that's what the president's been focusing on.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: My question is, is his credibility (INAUDIBLE).
PENCE: Well, come on.
KARL: The White House said nearly 4,000 terrorists come into our country. That's not true.
PENCE: Jon, you know -- Jon -- Jon, nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists were apprehended attempting to come into the United States through various means in the last year.
KARL: Overwhelmingly at airports, not at the border.
PENCE: Yes, but 3,000 special interest individuals, people with suspicious backgrounds that may suggest terrorist connections, were apprehended at our southern border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[12:10:07] KING: A couple of things from that.
The American people aren't as concerned about the political debate as they are concerned about what's really happening at the border. In other words, if we convince them there's a crisis, we can lie about it. Do we just need to convince them it's a crisis, and then they don't care about the facts.
CNN's Pam Brown did some great reporting about this. He keeps talking about 4,000, then he moved it to 3,000. According to a senior Trump administration official familiar with Customs and Border Protections, 12 of those encountered at the southern border between October 2017 and 2018, 12 suspected terrorists, not 3,000.
DEMIRJIAN: A little bit of a difference there.
PHILLIP: They're having trouble with the numbers. They're having trouble with the numbers and --
KING: But they don't need these -- I mean the president won the election. George W. Bush lost the popular vote, got his tax cut.
KING: You know, the president won the election on this. If he would just be consistent on it, he could have something by now. Maybe not everything he wanted to, but --
MARTIN: Well, that's a great point.
KUCINICH: But, well -- MARTIN: They had an opportunity last year to get some kind of a deal for more money for border security, but that this president, who is nothing if he's not industrious, could have framed as the wall. And, in exchange, you were going to then give legal status to some number to be negotiated of kids who were brought into the country illegally. They had the chance to declare victory. The problem is, there are a handful of hardliners in his ear who didn't even want that. And so that leaves us to this point now where you don't even have the chance to declare victory in a way that you could have last year.
KING: And so the vice president, listen, there's something to be said for repetition and consistency about trying to convince the American people, you're not paying enough attention, there's a problem, in his words, a crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What is a real humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border. Address this crisis once and for all.
Address the border crisis.
Genuine humanitarian and security crisis.
We have a crisis.
Crisis on the southern border.
A crisis on the southern border.
A crisis at our southern border.
It's a crisis at our southern border.
And it is a real crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Here's my question, again, two years in. Again, the president, he won an election based on this. He has every reason -- the American people broadly want better border security. It's a big, easy test issue. It's the wall where he gets off the racks and then the misleading stuff.
If this is such a crisis, and this Republican president wants to make it the defining issue of the beginning heading into his re-election campaign, the second effort is to -- where's the Republican governor of Texas today? Where's the Republican governor of Arizona today? Where's Congressman Will Hurd today, just re-elected in a very close race, a Republican along the border.
KING: They disagree with the president. Crickets.
MARTIN: Right. No, that's a really good point.
PHILLIP: And that -- it's been that way for the entire time, frankly. I mean the problem for President Trump is that people on the border say they want border security, but the idea of a physical wall being the sort of centerpiece of a border security strategy doesn't make a lot of sense. And it also isn't even borne out by the administration's own facts and figures, that when you talk about suspected terrorists being apprehended, they're being apprehended at airports. When you talk about heroin being interdicted at the border, they're -- it's being interdicted at ports of entry.
So there's a problem with the -- there is a problem, but the solution that they are putting forward, that the president talks about repeatedly, it doesn't match up. And that's why you're seeing this effort to rebrand it as a crisis without a whole lot of substance behind it. That's a page out of President Trump's book. But I think once that gets a lot more scrutiny, they're going to have a harder time.
KUCINICH: Well, and because they're trying to build this case for a national emergency. And if you don't have a crisis, what's the emergency? So -- and that is going to be challenged in court. We can almost -- if he does decide to do that tonight in the speech and --
KING: And say I can build the wall using Pentagon money --
KING: Because it's a national emergency.
KUCINICH: Right. And --
MARTIN: One irony here --
KUCINICH: But you can -- but you can already see that being challenged in the court.
KING: Then if he loses -- then if he loses in court he'll blame the Democrats or whoever sued him in court, which will continue the conversation in just a moment.
UP next, Democrats' plan a counterattack to whatever the president says tonight.
[12:18:00] KING: Welcome back.
Democrats pushing for the final word on the shutdown. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will deliver a joint Democratic response after the president's primetime address tonight. They say they need equal airtime to counter-argue what they call the president's history of, quote, malice and misinformation. In the meantime, they're taking every chance they can to remind Americans the shutdown hurts you, and the Democrats insist they're doing everything they can to end it. CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us live on Capitol Hill.
Phil, do Democrats see any progress in peeling off Republicans? Do they think the president speaking will hurt their cause or maybe help it?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So the definitely think they see progress. And I think while it hasn't been a wave of Republicans, they feel like they have seen cracks, at least in the unity, enough so to keep pressing forward with their strategy. And their strategy is pretty simple. Over here in the House, where there's now Speaker Pelosi, they are going to keep passing individual appropriations bills and bills that they believe resonate most with the people. This week they're going to pass the Financial Services Bill. That's the IRS, that's tax refunds. They're going to pass the Department of Agriculture Bill. That's SNAP, that's food stamps, which could run out of money in February. And they're just going to methodically go through those.
And the reason why is, take a look at the votes they had last week. you had five in seven House Republicans start to peel off. Over in the Senate, you have three, four and five Republicans start to say, look, we're not totally sure this is a great idea. What Democrats are basically counting on right now is the evacuation of information on the White House strategy the Republicans are dealing with on Capitol Hill Democrats are trying to fill with legislative action. And they believe, as they continue to ramp up the pressure, more and more Republicans will start to peel off. And their view here is that there can be kind of an internal revolt in the Republican side of things, in both the House and Senate, that can force the change on the leadership.
Now, the wildcard here, obviously, is the president. And if the White House doesn't want to change course, it's pretty unlikely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will at any point. But Democrats feel like they are going to keep this pressure on, keep ramping up. When people ask, what concessions are Democrats willing to make right now as these talks kind of languish, the answer is, none. They've put what they're going to do on the table and they're just going to continue on that process in the days ahead, John.
KING: In the days ahead. Fun and fascinating to watch.
[12:20:01] Phil Mattingly on The Hill, appreciate it.
Let's come back into the room.
So we were waiting until a little more than an hour ago, I guess it was, to learn who will -- the Democrats first demanded time. They said, wait a minute, if the president's going to get time, we want equal time. And then it's the leaders. Is that the smart decision, to put your leaders forward, or is that more of a risky decision and not put a fresh face? I was just asking during the break, who could it be? You've got a newly elected female governor of New Mexico, a border state. Democrats could have gone there. Why Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer? DEMIRJIAN: Well, in a way it kind of takes the negotiation that's been happening behind closed doors and it puts it out in the open in a way. And they have both been saying, we can't negotiate with anybody else but that person at the top, the president versus the top Democrats. So we're going to be seeing that.
The one potential liability of this, of course, is that they're both going to be very much on message and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are not the greatest at freelancing or being able to respond in quick time to anything, you know, the president may say that may actually need a sort of a gut response. So it may be fairly -- I don't know how great it's going to be in terms of the -- reaching the public to convince them. But, again, like we were saying before, how much mind changing are you doing versus how much are you just kind of stating your case and trying to, you know, brace the public for what's -- what's about to transpire?
KING: Right. And to reinforce -- forgive me for interrupting -- to reinforce. You heard the vice president in the last block, crisis, crisis, crisis, crisis, crisis. Listen to some Democrats. They're saying, no, Mr. President, there may be a border problem, but there's not a crisis. We could negotiate this out. Instead, you decided to shut down the government and you're hurting people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D), NEW JERSEY: We have to make sure that we're paying our TSA agents. We've been hearing about the crisis of people calling in sick. We've got to make sure that we get the government open again and that we're paying our federal employees.
REP. DEB HAALAND (D), NEW MEXICO: I don't think he understands what it's like to be on food stamps. I do. I hope that he will understand and have some compassion for the people who are hurting right now.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: I hope to hear tonight from the president some empathy for the hundreds of thousands of American families who work for the federal government, who will be impacted by this shutdown.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That is one of the questions tonight, who wins the messaging war. So far Democrats believe they have been winning the messaging war about the shutdown. They blame the president. They say he keeps asking for something that his own party even said no. now the president again, though using the Oval Office, then going to the border, he's escalating it. Do the Democrats have reason to believe they're still on the right side?
KUCINICH: I mean talking -- so listening to Steny Hoyer, who is the majority leader, outline their response today, they're throwing Mitch McConnell's words right back at him about shutdowns, saying that they're a failed policy. He must have said that four or five times. And I don't see them deviating from that because, again, it -- what you're seeing on the news right now, even, you know, not just here in Washington, but in, you know, different states, are people who can't pay their bills. TSA lines that are, you know, out the door in some airports. These are -- this is really starting to affect people outside of the beltway. And that's what's coming back at them.
KING: To that point, I want you to listen here. This is Christine Vitel. She's a TSA employee. And to your point, the Democrats say, Mr. President, we can figure this out at the negotiating table. Stop hurting people. This helps the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE VITEL, TSA EMPLOYEE WORKING WITHOUT PAY: I am a single mom. My son just graduated his first two years of college. He's going back. I'm not getting paid. I just bought a house. I'm not going to be able to pay my mortgage. So, yes, this is affecting me personally. Other people are married. They do have another income. I do not.
REPORTER: How long do you think that your colleagues will keep coming into work of this is a prolonged shutdown?
VITEL: We'll see on Friday. That's my answer, Friday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It's -- a lot of people, not just the president -- the president, you mentioned in the last bloc, going into 2020, he wants to get back to his border wall promise. There are a lot of other Republicans who just went through a pretty tough midterm election year, are stories like that going to get them to crack is my question?
MARTIN: Go ahead.
PHILLIP: I mean I -- I think for the Democrats, this is the easier part of the equation for tonight. It is going to be very straightforward to put these stories out there, to make it very apparent the pain and the hurt that's being caused by this shutdown.
The question is, to what extent do they stick with the message, which is that, we are not negotiating at all. We want you to reopen the government. Or, do they say, Mr. President, here's what we are willing to do and what -- and what we think is important to secure the -- to secure the border, border security? And your fight for the wall is continuing to hurt people. Are they going to put something else out there on the table? Do the American people want them, perhaps, to put something on the table, to sort of up the pressure on President Trump?
I think we actually don't know where the American people stand on this. This is not -- we don't have like an instapoll (ph) right now on the shutdown. And I think there is a question about whether the no negotiation at all, just reopen the government, or maybe even adding more pressure to President Trump to take a real compromise and move forward is the way to go. I'm -- I actually don't think they're going to put something else on the table, but that remains an open question about how to end this shutdown.
KING: And we see that. Pelosi and Schumer will be the visual tonight. It's a different answer if you're in a liberal House district somewhere in America --
[12:25:02] KING: Or for a Democratic senator who might have to run statewide in a more purple place come 2020. A different question on the immigration debate. We'll watch it play out. It will be fascinating.
Up next for us, though, is today's media blitz about something other than selling a book? Is Kamala Harris maybe trying to sell herself?
[12:30:00] KING: Welcome back.
A media tour certainly fitting of a 2020 presidential announcement. NPR, "Good Morning America," "The View," that's Senator Kamala Harris' schedule just today