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Today: Trump Heads to Capitol Hill to Meet with Senate GOP; Kim Jong-un Departs Beijing after Surprise Visit, Meetings; FDA Employees Think Shutdown could be Deadly; Critical Meetings Today as Shutdown Enters Day 19. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired January 9, 2019 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: If it is - again, if it's agreeable bill - agreeable appropriations, I'll reopen as much government as we can. But Democrats are going to have to come to the table and compromise you know. We are too. It's not going to be just our way or the highway you know.
I think there's people that probably don't want to go attach DACA to something like this. We're going to need to do that. But this is like a super easy issue to solve. And this is what just frustrates me out here, is we can all solve this. It's like an 80 percent agreement when we're done. It's just nobody wants to give anybody a win or anything else. We've got to get past that or we're going to continue in this stupid shutdown idiocy cycle for the rest of our time out here and that's got to stop.
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MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So that frustration being voiced on both sides of the aisle.
Now in the House there's going to be a vote today on a bill to reopen the Treasury Department and the IRS. It's part of a Democratic effort to pressure Republicans to support opening up individual federal agencies even if the border wall is not resolved.
Kinsinger, I asked if he'd support that. He said he's going to look at that first before deciding. So that will be a key test to see how many Republicans break with the president ultimately and if other Republicans in the Senate side pressure the Republican leader Mitch McConnell to change course right now. McConnell saying he will not do that, calling these House votes partisan shell votes. Jim and Poppy?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Manu Raju - that doesn't happen in the Senate chamber, does it?
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Stupid shutdown idiocy cycle. That's my like phrase of the day. Thanks Manu.
SCIUTTO: Well, on the president's speech. The president is saying he did not want to give that speech to -
SCIUTTO: -- nation last night or take his trip tomorrow to the southern border.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House with details. I have to admit I was a little surprised by this, because of course the president could have said no, he could have refused to do so. So what's the thinking here? What's the claim?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Jim. Well, over the weekend there was a sense among some of the senior White House officials here that they needed to do more to seize the presidential bully pulpit to really try and drive the conversation and allow the president to make his case about why a border wall was so necessary. And that's what led to this decision this week to deliver the speech from the Oval Office last night and for this border visit tomorrow. But -- our understanding is that the president made clear during a lunch yesterday with TV anchors and White House officials that he was really not quite on board with this strategy and that he was only reluctantly going forward with this.
According to "The New York Times" he told those officials that he didn't believe it would do much to really change anything, to change the status quo over this ongoing stalemate. What we do know is that the president was considering declaring a national emergency, but he ultimately decided not to do so in that speech last night, but the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders this morning making clear that that's very much still on the table.
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SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. I'm concerned about the fact that we have a crisis at the border 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.
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DIAMOND: As to the question of whether this has done anything, the president's speech last night, to change the narrative this morning, as you heard Manu, saying not many minds changed on Capitol Hill and we'll have to see whether the needle was moved with the public. There was certainly nothing new or revelatory in the president's speech last night. So again, it seems like we're back where we started yesterday which is with the White House acknowledging that there is a stalemate over this shutdown and still considering this possibility of declaring a national emergency to end it. Jim and Poppy?
HARLOW: OK. Jeremy Diamond thank you for the reporting from the White House this morning.
Ahead for us, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un departing China after a surprise visit to President Xi Jinping. We're on the meeting between the two world leaders, next.
[10:38:22] SCIUTTO: North Korea's Leader Kim Jong-un departed Beijing earlier this morning. Kim held meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping after making the surprise visit to China on Tuesday. This comes as North Korea on Washington are working to hammer out details of a potential second summit between Kim and Trump.
CNN's Steven Jiang joins us now from Beijing. Do we know if they were getting on the same page before a possible Trump/Kim meeting? Was that the function of these talks with the Chinese president?
STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, Jim, in typical North Korean and Chinese fashion, both governments have said very little about Mr. Kim's latest trip to China. In fact, state media has not released a single photo or single video of Mr. Kim meeting Xi Jinping. Now the Chinese media has had one fact that Mr. Kim actually celebrated his 35th birthday here during the trip. So when they do release footage, we may see a birthday cake involved.
But as you said, the focus so far has been on the timing because it comes ahead of this huge - you know highly anticipated second summit between Mr. Kim and Donald Trump. After these two men met in Singapore last year, the process of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula has become stalled with North Korea and the U.S. blaming each other for the lack of progress. So the fact that Mr. Kim chose to come to China at this juncture is perceived by many as him sending a very strong signal to Donald Trump that North Korea does not have to rely on the U.S. for its economic development and diplomatic relations, it could still count on China, its traditional communist ally next door to provide it with an economic and political lifeline. So basically, he's trying to increase his leverage ahead of this potential second meeting with Donald Trump.
[10:40:04] Now coincidentally, of course, this visit also came when U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators were in town holding talks. So many have argued Mr. Xi probably wouldn't mind the timing either because this serves as a reminder to Donald Trump that China still holds cards in its sleeve, including North Korea. Jim and Poppy?
SCIUTTO: You could imagine them you know sort of dangling that, right? Saying, hey, we could make progress on this North Korea nuclear thing -
SCIUTTO: -- if you soften some of your positions on the trade talks.
HARLOW: Absolutely. It's a key card he'll be holding. Steven Jiang thanks for the reporting from Beijing for us tonight. Thanks.
The president takes his border wall push prime time, but did Americans hear his message? We will talk next with the White House Strategic Communications Director Mercedes Schlapp.
[10:45:14] HARLOW: All right. Just in to CNN. For the third day in row, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not on the bench for oral argument. She is 85 years old and is still recovering from surgery last month to remove two cancerous nodes from her lung. She will still be able to vote in these cases by reviewing the transcripts of the oral arguments. Also, there's the audio of them. Today is the last day of oral arguments for the Supreme Court scheduled for this week and it's notable, right, as we've talked about because she has never before after two bouts of cancer missed a day on the bench.
SCIUTTO: No question. Also, the effects of the shutdown. Do you think it matters? Employees with the Food and Drug Administration are worried that the shutdown could be, quote, "deadly." About 41 percent of FDA workers are currently furloughed, which leaves the agency severely understaffed when it comes to the things it does everyday -- analysis of drugs, pharmaceutical surveillance, the immediate threat to health and safety becoming a real concern.
SCIUTTO: CNN business correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich is with us for more. So when I was reading your reporting when it broke, I was stunned. This is an actual FDA worker telling you this is life and death, what if there's an outbreak, we are not adequately staffed.
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: not just one, but four employees that have spoken to me saying that when there is a government shutdown, it's life or death. These are the people that are working in the labs. They're testing our food. They're testing our drugs. They're testing our pharmaceuticals. And when they're not there, who's doing it?
So these employees are really concerned, especially about an outbreak. If you guys remember the E. coli outbreak with the romaine lettuce last year, the government was able to respond because they had a full staff. Right now, there's only 40 percent of people working in the FDA. How are they going to respond to it?
They're also really concerned about being able to attract new candidates to the FDA. They're concerned that the newer people that are working there are going to get fed up. They're going to get really concerned and not wanting to apply for new jobs there.
We spoke to the FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb. We asked him about this. We brought these concerns saying that employees were calling this life or death. And he said, you know what, it is not business as usual at the FDA. But he did say if there is an outbreak, he would bring employees back in. But of course, you guys know, they're not going to be paid. So I think he's a little bit in between a rock and a hard place there.
SCIUTTO: These jobs matter.
HARLOW: So much.
SCIUTTO: TSA inspectors at airports. We heard that earlier in the hour, FDA as well.
Vanessa thanks very much. We're going to stay on top of that story.
Coming up next, we're going to speak to the White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp. Please stay with us.
[10:52:19] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. In the next hour we could hear from President Trump once again, this from the Oval Office where last night he made his pitch to the nation for support of his border wall.
Joining us now is Mercedes Schlapp. She is the White House Director of Strategic Communications. Mercedes thanks for taking the time this morning.
MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Good morning. Thank you for having me.
SCIUTTO: So first question, the president told television anchors yesterday before his speech that, in his words, it's not going to change a damn thing and that the visit to the wall tomorrow or to the border rather tomorrow, he calls really pointless. I wonder then why he requested the nation's time yesterday, time for the networks to make this pitch to call this a crisis.
SCHLAPP: Well, the president believes it was important to directly talk to the American people about why we have a humanitarian crisis and a national security crisis at the border. And so it was his opportunity to present the facts of being able to talk about the increase in drugs, the increase of criminals crossing the border, how overwhelmed our border patrol agents feel right now because of the fact that we've seen a surge of illegal crossings in the last several months.
So I think this was an opportunity again for the president to talk to the American people and say, look, I'm willing to work with the Democrats, I want to find a compromise here, but we have to make sure that we secure the border. And interestingly enough, the Democrats in these private meetings themselves have said we want to secure the border, but have yet to really provide a definition of what that looks like.
SCIUTTO: I want to get to what a compromise would look like in the president's view. But first on the issue of this being a crisis, as you know, Republicans have controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House until a couple of weeks ago. Why didn't the president declare it a crisis then when he had more ability to get the money he wants? Why is it a crisis now?
SCHLAPP: The president has been talking about the crisis on the border since he was first elected. I think what's been a huge mistake for the Democrats have been the fact that they're calling this a manufactured crisis. I don't know Jim. Let me ask you. Do you think this is a manufactured crisis?
SCIUTTO: Well, listen, let's look at the facts. For instance, let's show up border crossings and how in fact they've declined since 2000. They're a fraction of where they were in 2000 or even 2005, 2006. There's a small increase from 2017 to 2018. But those figures --
SCHLAPP: Well, do you know why, Jim?
SCIUTTO: America's at home would hard to say -- find it hard to say that it is a growing rather than shrinking problem at the border.
SCHLAPP: Well, that's interesting that you said that, because when you look at the 2000 numbers, it was 1.6 million coming through the border. But our border patrol agents had the authority to catch them, detain them and remove them.
[10:55:00] Now the way the process works is that our border patrol agents catch them, yet they are literally released into the interior. They don't have the authority to detain them. We don't have the detention space to detain them. These legal proceedings take longer than what DHS and our officials need to do to be able to detain them or if not they're released into the border. That means we need these legal loopholes fixed. But we have to -
SCIUTTO: Listen -
SCHLAPP: -- we've seen over - let me - Jim -
SCIUTTO: You cite a real point - no, no, I'm just saying you cite a point there that -
SCHLAPP: Jim, let me finish -
SCIUTTO: -- strikes me as a way for a compromise. That's the point I was saying.
SCHLAPP: That's absolutely right.
SCIUTTO: That is the issue.
SCHLAPP: And this is what we're asking for. We actually came up with a proposal that includes element that the Democrats agree with. They agree with adding humanitarian assistance so we can help those with medical support at the border. They agree with counter narcotics technology. This would actually help stop weapons and narcotics from coming through the border. These are the resources that our border patrol agents have asked for. And so, we are at the table. We are ready to negotiate. We need the Democrats to come on board.
SCIUTTO: So let me ask you that because you get a - what is a key point here. That is that asylum seekers come to the border often with their families and they know and partly because the process is overwhelmed, none of the judges to adjudicate these cases. They know, as you said, that while they're awaiting adjudication they are often released into the country, so fair point there.
But as you know, there was a bipartisan -- there have been a number of bipartisan proposals to address that and other issues here. And as you know, part of the exchange that Democrats and many Republicans appeared open to would be money for the wall -- more money for the wall in exchange perhaps for a deal on DACA. Let me ask you on DACA because Republicans have raised the tune, Newt Gingrich among them. Would the president be willing to exchange protection for Dreamers for more money for the wall?
SCHLAPP: We have been open for discussion, open for negotiations for the Democrats. However, the Democrats themselves have walled themselves out of this literally. They have been stuck on saying, what's a concrete wall. We can't accept a concrete wall. So then when the President Trump said, Nancy, let's not do - we're not doing the concrete wall. Let's work on steel barriers because we're listening to what our border patrol agents want. They are saying steel barriers work.
We've known that these barriers work because of the fact that you look at Uma, you look at Calisto. You see this illegal border crossing numbers decrease. And that is why we think that it's not just about the physical barrier component. This is about including, making sure we have more detention space to be able to process -
SCIUTTO: Right. Those points are -
SCHLAPP: these asylum claims. Remember, the asylum claims have increased substantially. And you made it - you said it yourself, Jim. There is a backlog, there's 800,000. And you know how many people show up back at the court? Only 2 percent --
SCIUTTO: And I don't mean to interrupt.
SCHLAPP: -- so that's going to fix. Let's do it together.
SCIUTTO: It's just because we're coming to the top of the hour. And I did a fact check yesterday that included noting that those figures have been up, to your point. But there are other points, as you know, leading up to this speech that the president made that just don't stand up to the facts. For instance, last night, he said that the wall - he's repeated this -- will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.
As you know, first of all, the new -- the revised NAFTA deal has not been ratified by Congress, so it hasn't been - it hasn't been passed. But also, that's not the promise that Trump made and has continued to make because the fact is that at the end of the day taxpayers are going to pay for this wall. Why does he continue to mislead on that issue?
SCHLAPP: Well, let me tell you because when you look at the trade deal, the trade deals are going to bring more jobs back to America. It's freeing more business back to America. And it's also going to keep our wages up. So this trade deal in effect does help pay for this border security. Let me tell you something.
SCIUTTO: That doesn't pay for it.
SCHLAPP: It's $5 billion.
SCIUTTO: Taxpayers pay for it.
SCHLAPP: Yes. And you know what else taxpayers are paying for? The financial burden of this illegal immigration. We want an orderly legal immigration process. We can't continue to ignore what's happening on the border. You all have covered the caravan. You all have covered the deaths of the children for example coming through the border. We need to stop this. This is an opportunity for our nation to come together to rise up above politics and come up with a solution. And I hope and I pray that we can get there, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Well, if you're saying comprise is on the table that is news.
The final question if I could ask you just because news is happening fast as it always does. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is going to be leaving his post voluntarily. The president of course has criticized not just him but also the Russia probe repeatedly. Will the president do anything to stand in the way of the release of the Mueller report when his investigation is completed?
SCHLAPP: Look, I'm not going to get into personnel announcements here. I can tell you, I've worked personally with Rod on this immigration issue. He's been incredibly helpful when it comes to providing more judges at the border and trying to find solutions. He has a great relationship with the current nominee Bill Barr. So again, I'd let that be an announcement for Rod to make if that's what he decides to do in the future. But again, he's been a very helpful ally, especially on the issue of immigration.
SCIUTTO: Mercedes Schlapp, White House Director of Strategic Communications, thanks very much for joining us today.
SCHLAPP: Thank you Jim.
HARLOW: It's newsy. She said, yes when you asked if taxpayers will pay for the wall. She said yes, taxpayers. SCIUTTO: She did. But she also raised again compromise which the president said yesterday.