Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Crucial Meetings on The Hill; Trump on Speech and Border Visit; TSA Warns of Security Impact; Pompeo Visits Iraq; Woman in Coma Gives Birth. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 9, 2019 - 09:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:31:35] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This morning the president takes his border wall push to Capitol Hill. This as the shutdown enters day 19. Just over three hours from now, he will meet with Senate Republicans to shore up support. After that it is round three of talks with congressional leaders.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A crucial day of meetings after the president made his primetime pitch last night.

Let's get right to CNN's Manu Raju. He is on Capitol Hill with the latest.

So you heard -- I'm sure you heard the Democrats whip in the House, James Clyburn, who said on "NEW DAY" this morning that he says a deal is close with Republicans. Are you hearing that?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, not at all. In fact, people view it as completely opposite. Things are dug in on both sides and the speech last night did very little to change the dynamic here on Capitol Hill where the Democrat leaders are not willing to go anywhere near the president's request for $5.7 billion for the border wall.

And the Democrats in the House are starting to take action to reopen individual agencies of this government not tied to this border fight today. The House was going to pass a bill to reopen the Treasury Department, along with the IRS, in an effort to try to pressure Senate Republicans to move forward on that as well. But right now the majority leader in the Senate is opposed to that. He says we're not going to move forward on any legislation that does not have President Trump's support.

However, a number of Republicans on the Senate side are expressing growing concerns about this shutdown, believing that in the long run if this continues to go -- play out, that this could have significant ramifications in their states and that is one real risk for this president. So in light of all that, this president coming up to Capitol Hill today to meet and lunch with Republican senators, lay out exactly why he's taken the position he is and hope that Republicans do not start to defect, because that is the one big risk that he faces if there are a growing numbers of Republican senators, Democrats -- Republican senators that could change the dynamics here on Capitol Hill.

Now, later today, also the president going to meet with top Democratic and Republican leader of the House and Senate in the Situation Room, but we've seen these meetings happen time and again, both sides come out, it seems they're further away from a deal and certainly not closer to a deal. It's uncertain if anything's going to change at this point. But both sides, at this moment, believe that this could still go on for some time.

Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we have -- HARLOW: Wow.

SCIUTTO: In fact, we have the six senators, we could throw that up on screen, the ones who expressed discomfort, you could say.

HARLOW: Oh, yes. Republicans, right?

SCIUTTO: Republicans. These are the six Republicans with continuing the shutdown. The question is, does that get to critical math -- mass that changes the dynamics?

Manu Raju, thanks very much.

HARLOW: It's a good point.

So, at the same time we're learning that the president really didn't want to give that speech, that primetime address last night, or, frankly, take this upcoming trip to the southern border.

Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns at the White House with more.

SCIUTTO: Yes, Joe, you know, it's interesting because the president can do whatever he wants to do so it was interesting to hear him yesterday --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Say that his hand was forced to give that speech and to go to the border on Thursday.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Right. That was first reported by "The New York Times." It is our understanding that the president was reluctant to give the speech. Also he doesn't want to go down to Texas, down to the border, as he is scheduled to do on Thursday, nonetheless was talked into it by aides who said he needed to do something.

I think the other thing we have to go back and talk about a little bit more is what Manu Raju was just talking about, and that is the question of diminishing support on Capitol Hill. Another piece of this puzzle, diminishing support for this shutdown.

[09:35:12] Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, was out here just a little while ago and I did ask her if she was concerned about that. And listen to her answer here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I'm concerned about the fact that we have a crisis at the boarder that we need to solve and we need Democrats to step up, do their jobs and work with us to get it done.

QUESTION: Sarah, why didn't the president declare a national emergency in his speech?

SANDERS: Something that we're still looking at. Something that's certainly still on the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Right. So there you go. The question of the end game. And, as some have suggested, the end game could be the president going ahead and despite what sounds liked advice from some of the people over here at the White House, moving forward with declaring a national emergency. Sarah Sanders indicating that is still on the table. Of course, politically, that might help the president just a bit at least to be able to say he did everything he could to try to get the money for the wall even if all of it ended up in court and even if they did not get the result they were seeking.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

JOHNS: So at least one possibility of an end game there. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: Yes, there's the headlines, the end game is all about the politics.

Joe Johns, thanks very much.

This just in to CNN.

A warning from one of the big three credit ratings agencies. Fitch Ratings says that the U.S. potentially risks losing its AAA credit rating if the government shutdown continues long enough. It's an issue that's popped up before when there are these protracted shutdowns.

HARLOW: Yes. It's a big deal because then it costs more for us to borrow. It hurts the economy. The head of global ratings -- of global sovereign ratings, James McCormack, at Fitch, says, quote, if this shutdown continues to March 1st and the debt ceiling becomes a problem, several months later we may need to start thinking about a policy framework.

He went on to warn about the government's inability to pass a budget and whether that is consistent with the AAA rating that the U.S. currently holds. A big question.

A TSA official now confirming reports that the government shutdown is impacting airport security. What are they telling employees who are working without a paycheck? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:32] SCIUTTO: Happening now on Capitol Hill, Bill Barr, the president's nominee to be attorney general, meeting with Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. This in advance of a hearing next week, his confirmation hearing. And, of course, that's before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Just moments ago we saw him sitting next the outgoing chairman of that committee, Chuck Grassley.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Congratulations on your --

BILL BARR, NOMINEE FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you, sir.

GRASSLEY: The president nominating you. And I know that you know exactly what the job entails because you were there several years under H.W. Bush.

BARR: Right.

GRASSLEY: And do you realize that you were confirmed by the United States Senate on a voice vote? That doesn't happen very often today.

BARR: Not today.

GRASSLEY: Yes.

And so I look forward to his nomination and I feel that his experience as attorney general in a previous administration ought to make his nomination very easy this time. I would think it would. And I look forward to questioning him and seeing how he turns out. But I look very favorable on him at this point and I would want to make sure that his -- that we -- he wouldn't -- let me say it this way. This is a person that would not have had to come back into public service. But I compliment him for wanting to do that and to serve the people of the United States again.

I'm not going to take any questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, everybody.

GRASSLEY: And he surely isn't going to take any question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, press.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, guys, let's go. Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, guys, take your cameras, let's go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: There you go. Certainly an important meeting for the president's nominee there, although, you might say, it's really the Democrats he has to get on his side as well --

HARLOW: There you go.

SCIUTTO: But Republicans do have a majority and that would be enough if they all line up behind him.

HARLOW: It would.

SCIUTTO: We have other news.

A TSA official confirming reports that the government shutdown is impacting security operations at at least one California airport. An exclusive, internal e-mail, obtained by CNN, shows that official saying that increased absences as a result of the shutdown have, quote, adversely impacted security operations. That's key.

HARLOW: It's a really big deal and a scary thought. This as the internal e-mail that we just told you about also warns of disciplinary action for employees who are, you know, calling out a lot and missing their shirts.

Our aviation and government regulations correspondent Rene Marsh broke this news, has been following it. She's live from Reagan National Airport this morning.

This is a really big deal and an internal e-mail coming from someone very high up within TSA.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, his assessment is that these excessive callouts is actually impacting, as you said, the security operations at this southern California airport, specifically Palm Springs International Airport. Now, this official is in charge of security operations there at that airport and, you know, things obviously got so bad that he sent out this e-mail that was dated on Monday. And I'm quoting from it now. It says, quote, due to excessive unscheduled absences recently experienced at Palm Springs International, it has adversely impacted security operations. If you have unscheduled absences, he goes on to say, there could be disciplinary action if you call out sick.

[09:45:05] So, in other words, the callouts have gotten to the point where TSA management at this particular airport thought it was necessary to send out this e-mail warning that if you call out sick, you may face disciplinary action.

This is significant because it exposes, for the first time, an acknowledgement from, again, a high-ranking TSA official that this partial government shutdown is having some impact on some aviation security operations, at least this one airport.

We did speak to TSA about this and they point out this is a small airport that needs all hands on deck. They say they have not seen any major issues as it relates to the operations there, but they are continuing to monitor it.

Back to you guys. SCIUTTO: Rene, just to be clear, they're calling out sick because they're not getting paid as a result of the shutdown, right?

MARSH: Yes, pretty much. I mean the e-mail clearly states that the sickouts are going up only recently.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Yes.

MARSH: And what's been happening recently? The government shutdown.

SCIUTTO: Right. Not getting paychecks.

Rene Marsh, thanks very much.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a surprise stop in Baghdad. What is he saying to allies in the wake of President Trump's decision to pull troops out of Syria? That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:50:45] SCIUTTO: This morning, soon after the president, Secretary of Defense Mike -- or State, rather, Mike Pompeo making a surprise, unannounced visit to Iraq, part of his Middle East tour, to ease allies in the wake of President Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

HARLOW: With us now, our colleague, Arwa Damon. She joins us live in Istanbul, Turkey.

Of course Turkey, Erdogan, a big part of all of this. What is the goal for Pompeo and how much smoothing over, frankly, does he have to do?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He has a phenomenal amount of smoothing over to do, not just in Iraq, but in just about every single Arab capital that he's going to be visiting.

Look, the Turks are livid at the United States at this stage following Bolton's comment that the Turks need to guarantee that they will basically be protecting America's allies on the ground in Syria, the YPG, that Turkey views as being a terrorist organization, after President Trump tweeted out that they would be withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria immediately. You had this massive up stir throughout the entire region with countries, especially ones like Iraq wondering, well, if it's happening in Syria, is Iraq going to be next?

And Iraq knows very well, it has lived through repeated cycles of history following premature U.S. troop withdrawals. They most certainly do not want to see that happening again. And you can just imagine that Pompeo had his hands full trying to reassure Iraqi leaders that that would not necessarily be the case. But when it comes to this administration, who can actually know?

Now, we don't know a lot about the details of what was discussed. What has been released is pretty generic, very broad strokes. But we did hear from the Iraqi president who said that he has welcomed all of the U.S.' support up until this point, but that people must remember that Iraq, yes, to a certain degree, has lost territory, but it has yet to actually be defeated.

But, of course, what is going to be key in all of this, and what is most likely in the back of all of these leaders' minds that Pompeo is meeting with, is, how much can they rely on what he is actually saying, on what he is actually promising, on what he is actually telling them America's strategy is going to be given how many mixed messages are actually coming out of this White House.

SCIUTTO: Yes, contradictory messages, in fact.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Arwa, thank you for the important reporting for us today from Istanbul.

Ahead for us, the man who's been overseeing the Mueller Russia probe on his way out in a matter of weeks. More on Rod Rosenstein's departure, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:57:26] HARLOW: Wait until you hear this story. Incredibly disturbing details out of an Arizona health care facility. Phoenix Police are collecting DNA from all male staff members after a woman who's been in a coma for more than a decade gave birth.

SCIUTTO: Lord. An attorney for the family says that they are, quote, outraged, traumatized and in shock by the abuse and neglect of their daughter at Hacienda Health Care. Of course they would be.

CNN national correspondent Sara Sidner is following this story.

Sara, what are you learning?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, we talked to some legal analysts about this particular case. And if indeed this woman was in a vegetative state, it means she could not have consented. In other words, she had to have been raped. And then she ended up becoming pregnant and having a baby.

Now, as we understand it from the family, the baby was born, the baby is alive and healthy and is a baby boy and the family says that child will be taken care of in a loving family.

But there are so many questions that remain in this case. There are plenty of families here, one of which we spoke to, who is concerned about what is going on inside this facility with the other patients who are there. No one yet knows who is the individual who did this. Was it a visitor? Was it a stranger? Was it someone that is working inside the facility? What we do now know from Hacienda Health Care is that the board of

directors is stunned, that the CEO has resigned, and they say that police have obtained search warrants and those search warrants are to gather DNA from the male workers inside of this facility. So we know that there is a police investigation going on now. But there are so many questions that people have that they simply do not have answers to at this time.

What we've been told, this woman is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and that she is 29 years old. And that she was here. The question is whether or not they even noticed that she was pregnant before she ended up having the baby. There -- another question there that we do not have answered. But the families who have patients that are inside that are being cared for 24 hours a day, they are extremely concerned about the safety of those patients.

SCIUTTO: My goodness, you would be.

HARLOW: Of course.

SCIUTTO: You would be.

HARLOW: Of course they are.

Sara, thank you for that reporting. Please update us as you learn more.

SCIUTTO: Top of the hour this Wednesday morning. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. We're glad you're with us.

[09:59:59] At any minute we do expect Democratic leaders of the House to step before the cameras and talk about any progress, if any exists, toward ending this partial government shutdown that is now in its 19th day.