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Trump: "I'll Almost Definitely Declare a National Emergency"; Kushner Meets with Republicans as Schumer Demands McConnell Take Up Bills to Reopen Government; Options for Trump to Declare National Emergency; Pelosi Doesn't Say What Democrats Will Due if National Emergency Declared; Trump Denies Knowledge of Manafort Sharing Internal Polling Dana with Russians; House Democrats Call on Mnuchin to Explain Russian Sanctions Relief. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: But whatever you make of that, that is exactly what the president said. That's new threat from the president ongoing around Congress, declaring a national emergency to get the money that he wants for the border wall. But what will Democrats do in return? We do not know. The only thing we do know at this hour is that Washington is no closer to a deal than they were yesterday. And then they were already miles apart. Maybe they are getting further apart.

The only other thing that we know is that President Trump is headed to the southern border in Texas as we speak to make his case for the border wall.

Here is more of what the president said just before he left the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. I haven't done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn't work out, probably, I will do it. I would almost say definitely.


BOLDUAN: The partial government shutdown is also now bordering on making history as the longest ever. Today, is day 20. Tomorrow, it also really hits home for the 800,000 federal workers who aren't getting paid because tomorrow is when they miss their first full paycheck.

Let's start at the White House. CNN's Abby Phillip is there for us.

Abby, he talked a lot about this national emergency before he left. Beyond words, what are you hearing from the White House and what he will actually do?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we haven't heard much detail from the White House about what the president believes he can do given a current law, and what they are willing to do, which might be different things here. What we saw this morning from President Trump was someone who seems very agitated, irritated by the state of negotiations with Democrats. He talked a lot about his powers that he believes he still has to do this. But he said it is contingent on what happens in the room with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer after talks yesterday broke down. Listen.


TRUMP: But if we don't make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency and just fund it through the various mechanisms. By the way, there's more than one mechanism. There are various mechanisms.


PHILLIP: So what we have been talking about up until this point was the idea that the president would declare a national emergency which would allow him to use money from the Pentagon's budget unaffiliated with any particular task or contract at the moment to fund the border wall. The president seems to be saying that there are other tools in his arsenal that he might be able to use to do this. What those tools are, we don't know.

Of course, we have been hearing from White House officials that they feel like they are still in the negotiation process. They haven't gotten to the point yet where the president has made a final decision on this. At any moment, it seems the talks can break down. The vice president is expected to be on the Hill today. Yesterday afternoon, even after the Situation Room meeting with the president, Jared Kushner was on the Hill meeting with Republicans and moderates. So there are still things happening. The problem is there's still no deal. And the president wants to keep this possibility of doing it all on his own in the hopper. It still remains out there as an option available to him.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what happens. Any moment, even from Air Force One, as he's on his way over, let us see.


BOLDUAN: Abby, it's great to see you. Thank you so much.

Moments ago, also happening, the top Senate Democrat demanded that to Republican Mitch McConnell take up the House bills that are being passed to reopen the government. Listen here.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Leader McConnell is hiding behind President Trump, saying he won't bring to the floor a bill to reopen the government unless the president says OK.

Even if President Trump doesn't support this legislation, his intransigence can hurt America. We need to move forward. And Leader McConnell should allow the vote to happen.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill.

Sunlen, I don't think you have to listen too much more to Chuck Schumer to realize it seems that there's zero hope of a deal very soon. What are you hearing? Is there something different happening behind the scenes?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Behind the scenes, as you know from your days on Capitol Hill, Kate, what is important is the fact that you have a small group of Republican moderate Senators meeting. They pitched ideas to Jared Kushner to broaden out a deal potentially to get the border wall funding and entice Democrats with some immigration priorities. They are meeting with Mitch McConnell about the ideas. We'll see if that goes anywhere. As of now, it does not have a chance at the state of play right now.

But you did see right now in the Senate floor they continue to, Democrats, try to demand Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on those individual appropriation packages that the House passed and that they continue to pass this week. You saw a little bit of the theatrics play out, which is really all you need to know about the state of how things are on the Hill right now. We saw Mitch McConnell there with many Democrats sitting in their desks. He said these are pointless showboats, the last thing we need to do up here to address this problem. He referenced that the president has said he will veto these votes.

As of now, no path forward. Even though there are some meetings going on, nothing that folks believe will get them out of this mess.

[11:05:40] BOLDUAN: Sunlen, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

It is a depressing job to have to cover Congress right now.

Joining me now, someone that knows that well, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and CNN senior political reporter, Nia Malika Henderson.

Let's try to bring happiness.

On the emergency declaration, Dana, one of the options that is getting more and more talk, I would say more than a theory, more of the offramp or the way this is going to be headed. The president declares a national emergency to get the funding, knowing that it is going to be challenged in court, at the same time, agreeing to open the government back up and, in doing so, can say, I tried my best to get my border wall.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I didn't give in. And I didn't give in to the Democrats. That's just on the politics of this. You are exactly right. I tried my best. I didn't give an inch. I kept my campaign promise to not give an inch and not compromise.


BOLDUAN: What does it then mean?

BASH: It allows the Democrats on pure politics to say the same thing, allows Nancy Pelosi to say I didn't give an inch. He is running rush out on the constitution by taking Congress's power of the purse out. On the actual process through which he could declare a national emergency, one option is just declaring the national emergency which could get struck down in courts.

Another, I was talking to somebody who worked in the White House counsel's office said there are a couple of other options where you could use executive emergency powers that he has like something called the Stafford Act.


BASH: But the problem is that takes money from FEMA. That takes money that does exists that is supposed to go to --


BOLDUAN: It has to take money from something, right?

BASH: It is supposed to go for hurricanes and other actual natural disasters as opposed to emergencies. It also could be something that he could be safer to do when it comes to the legal grounds.

BOLDUAN: On legal grounds. He's be on safer legal grounds.

BASH: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Still, if he goes this route, it is taking money from something. That's the way it goes. And what the political fallout is from that, they are weighing that and we'll see it play out.

I wonder, in response, if this is the path no matter what bucket of money, Nia, that the president would go for, if he declares a national emergency, I wonder how the Democrats would respond because if he would declare the national emergency, don't Democrats have to agree to reopen the government?

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. It is unclear how that happens. There are bills that go forward on a path that don't include this wall money because the president is going to get money from somewhere else, either the Pentagon or some other FEMA funds, as Dana was talking about, certainly not Mexico as he promised he would do. That is sort of the unclear part. If whatever has happened out of the Congress so far, the House bills that passed and the one in the Senate before this new Congress, is that just the path for it.

This is an extraordinary moment we are in for this president to be considering this, going around a Congress that as you said has the power of the purse. The precedent that this sets is quite extraordinary. Particularly when you talk about for a Republican president. We just had years and years of Republicans really hammering the former President Obama for what they saw as executive overreach and ignoring congressional laws and congressional authority. For them, at this point -- I think you would likely see from Republicans essentially saying this is within the president's authority. This is what he can do as president. For them to be so willingly complicit in their own kind of neutering will be something extraordinary if this happens. Something that the president has telegraphed for many days now. His aides certainly have. It doesn't look like this will be something that happens. It is not clear what the court challenge would mean. Who would have standing? Would a judge see someone as having standing? Is this something a court would broadly interpret in the president's purview?

[11:09:58] BOLDUAN: So many questions.


BOLDUAN: The turn of phrase you used, is fabulous. I really appreciate it.

One thing that we hear from the president today, Dana, is that he is open to compromise.

Let me play you what the president said about compromise.


TRUMP: Either we are going to win or make a compromise. I'm OK to making a compromise. Compromise is in my vocabulary very strongly. So we are either going to have a win, make a compromise, because I think a compromise is a win for everybody.


BOLDUAN: Compromise, compromise, compromise. The more you say it, the closer you are to getting to it. No. Is there a case to be made, Dana, that if they are at a complete stalemate, that a broader deal, go big or go home, a broader might be the way to go? Getting some money for a border wall, get a DACA deal. Do you think there's any chance of that?

BASH: Anything is possible. It seems unlikely at this point that that could happen. That sort of deal was on the table last year and it got torpedoed. It certainly was a deal that was a whole lot better. It was $25 billion for the wall, not for the whole thing, not $5 billion for an installment. But it did come with a cost to the very Republican base that he was trying to placate and keep his promises to, which is allowing legal status, even citizenship to DREAMers. His base went ballistic and he pulled back. So what makes it different now, unclear whether he learned a lesson, or feels that now he could kind of face that head on if he keeps the promise for the wall, especially after this has been front and center in the news. It really -- we don't know the answer to that. What is clear is that the political imperative here isn't just for and about Donald Trump. It's for and about the new Democratic speaker showing that she's not going to back down. Look, the Republicans do have a point that there's a very different rank and file that she has to deal with that are fighters and they are progressive.

BOLDUAN: I absolutely hear you.

To that point, Nia, Democrats are not giving an inch at all. Just look at the read outs coming from the meeting yesterday at the White House. Is it a complete loss for them? Would it be a complete loss if they would give a little?

HENDERSON: I think the loss would be in setting up a precedent that says an American president can shut down the government because of something he wants and the Congress won't give him and that he ends up winning. This is essentially what he is doing. This is his whole idea to shut down the government. He was in agreement that the government could keep going and then the government got in his ear and he reversed course. I was at an event where Kamala Harris was talking in her book. This is the main point she made, right, setting this precedent that an American president can hold government workers hostage and the economies in some of these states that rely on government workers spending money that they earn, that is a precedent that I think the Democrats are very wary of setting and what it would mean for future presidents.

BOLDUAN: There's also such a contradiction that I haven't seen in a long time at play, Dana, which is federal workers are feeling the impact. We are hearing these stories. Federal workers are hurting. Stories are coming out. It is going to get worse starting tomorrow if it is not already being felt. At the same time, it seems that both sides couldn't be more dug in. They don't see a political advantage to un-dig.


BOLDUAN: I don't understand how that contradiction can be reality right now.

BASH: It's terrible. It's really terrible. Kate, remember when we covered Congress, we would stand in hallways and wait to see the white smoke or whatever would happen, because we were standing in the hallways knowing at some point there would be a deal on whatever it was that was dividing the two sides.

BOLDUAN: Chiefs of staff would come out and say --

BASH: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: -- we stayed up all night and got together.

BASH: No sleep. The thing is that with pick your issue, Medicare or prescription drugs or whatever it is, or like the financial crisis, for example, there was general agreement on what the problem was. There's not general agreement on what the problem is.

BOLDUAN: Good point.

BASH: The Democrats don't believe that the wall is necessary. They don't believe the numbers coming from the president's Homeland Security Department saying there's a crisis. So they don't --


BOLDUAN: They are not starting in the same place.

BASH: They don't. The dangers for Democrats is, if the president continues to do what he did today, which is telegraph the notion that Democrats don't care about your security, Democrats don't care about crime, and Democrats don't counter that with an equally powerful message, it could be a problem for them.

[11:15:08] BOLDUAN: In the end --


BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Nia. I'm sorry.

HENDERSON: I think the danger for the president is presenting this wall as a cure-all because this is how he is presenting it, this idea that a wall will stop what is going on at the border. He says what's going on at the border is all these criminals are coming from Central America. The truth is these are asylum seekers. They're basically family groups. That is unlikely to stop because of a wall. We also know it is probably going to be sometime before you can put up a wall. We don't know where it will be. I think that is the danger. If the immigration problem and asylum problem in Central America doesn't stop, I think that is going to be a bit of a problem for this president because he is really seeing himself as this kind of person who can cure it all, and the border being the most fundamental part of this problem. I think all of the data suggests it really isn't something that would solve what is going on and has its roots in Central American governments and instability and crime there.

BOLDUAN: To both of your points of, how are Democrats -- what are they going to say about it. We are hearing from Nancy Pelosi. She's holding her weekly press conference right now. She was just asked about declaring a national emergency to get this funding. I want to play for you what she said.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If and when the president does that you'll find out how we will react. I meant not going to that place now. I think the president will have problems on his own side of the aisle for exploiting the situation the way that enhances his power. But not to go there. Let's see what he does. Right now, there's a path. Open up government. Let's have this discussion on where we can agree on the best ways to protect our borders, to secure our borders, to do so in a way that honors our values. And the president is going to the border now. He is saying maybe the trip isn't necessarily. He goes and comes.

Let me close by saying this. Clearly, there's a disparity of shared values here in terms of respecting the dignity and worth of everyone, being concerned about every death that happens because we live in an imperfect world. That's very sad. But it is not a justification for having more children dying in custody or being separated from their families. We aren't going into that decision, taking babies out of the arms of their parents. As a mother of five and grandmother of nine, I find that appalling. They find it normal.

We talk about what he might do tomorrow or today at the border. I think he is going to have to answer to his own party on that much power. I'm not going down that path until we see what it is he is willing to do. It is unfortunate because there's an opportunity cost here of this money. He keeps increasing the amount of money, increasing the amount of beds, increasing the obstacles to finding the solution. I don't think he really wants a solution. I think he loves the distraction that this is from his other problems. And that's most unfortunate. It's a luxury our country can't afford under any circumstance. He shuts down the government and takes pride in it and says months or years. That is not the action of a responsible president of the United States. So let's see what he decides to do.

Let me just close as a Californian by saying how shocking it is that this president would say he is going to withhold funding to meet the disaster needs of people in California. Most of those fires, except maybe part of what happened in earlier in Santa Rosa, most of those fires took place in rural California. The votes he did get in California were in rural California. So we're saying to him, if you think you're punishing our state, you're punishing your own voters. And besides which, unless you have a different definition of what a disaster is, you have no right to withhold those funds. I look to my Republican colleagues from California to stop looking the other way. They know people died. Communities were wiped out. And they are just cavalier about it because of the president of the United States.

Thank you.


[11:20:09] BOLDUAN: Nancy Pelosi right there.

Fascinating, Dana, I think, in what we heard on a couple of fronts one being, she is not going to telegraph what Democrats will do. She says let's see what the president does with regard to the emergency declaration and then we'll let you know.

BASH: It was interesting. It was also was very smart politics, because either they don't have a plan or more likely than not, knowing Nancy Pelosi, they do have a plan. They don't want to show their cards.

Just what we are talking about right before she came on about the Democrats' messaging, you and I were struck by how she went out of her way to say the Democrats don't care about security. It's not at those they don't care that a cop was killed by an undocumented immigrant and so on and so forth. It's not an accident. They need to keep up with the president on that messaging, because the president's campaign manager tweeted out last night that their data shows, and this is what he is clearly showing to the president, that the vast majority of people who aren't Republicans, when asked not about the wall but about illegal immigration and securing the border, they are all for it. If the president can continue to turn that messaging, they are hoping it can broaden the support beyond the base.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Dana. It is great having you here.


BOLDUAN: Nia, thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, a top Democratic says it is one of the biggest developments yet in the Mueller probe. Paul Manafort sharing internal polling data with a Russian operative, a man linked to Russian intelligence. President Trump claims he didn't know anything about it.


[11:26:06] BOLDUAN: President Trump today responding for the first time to the bombshell revelation that former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, shared internal polling data with an operative with ties to Russian intelligence. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you know that Paul Manafort was sharing polling data from your campaign with the Russian government?

TRUMP: No, I didn't know about it, nothing about it.


BOLDUAN: There you have it.

CNN political correspondent, Sara Murray, is joining me now with more.

Sara, what are you learning now about this tangled web involving Manafort while he was working with the campaign?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think one of the big questions about Paul Manafort and this polling data was, why was he sharing this information with his Russian associates to begin with and who knew of it? Obviously, Trump says he had no knowledge of it. We are learning that apparently Paul Manafort meant for this polling data to go to two pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs, people he had done business with in the past and people who owed him millions of dollars. Manafort expected to get this payment in 2016. We asked Manafort's spokesman if this was a quid pro quo, the polling data in exchange for money he was owed, and the spokesman insisted that was not the case. It still begs the question, why did he want this information to get in the hands of these Ukrainian oligarchs? Was this to further some other kind of Russian effort going on? Democrats questioned whether this was information the Russians wanted because they wanted it to use it to direct their troll farm efforts. We don't have all the pieces of this puzzle yet, Kate. This could be

the kind of thing that we see Mueller reveal in perhaps more indictments that could be coming or the kind of thing that he could lay out more clearly.

I think the other big question is, how much of this is the American public ever going to see. When President Trump was asked this morning whether here was committed to making this report public, he really dodged that question. We see no inclination from the White House that they're interested in having these details put out there -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: It's worth pointing out, again, and I'm not the first person to say this, internal polling data is not just something you hand out to friends. That's not how it works when it comes to a presidential campaign, so that's why this is so interesting. Your question is so important, which is, why would he? What is the reason you think? Paul Manafort, likely, maybe possibly has the answer.

Great to see you, Sara. Thank you so much.

Wait. For all of you, there's more. By more, I mean, more Russian oligarchs and prominent Putin allies that Manafort is linked to. One is one Oleg Deripaska, the Russian billionaire that has very close ties to Vladimir Putin. Companies that he's aligned with are among dozens that have been slapped with sanctions for Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Today, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is heading to the Hill to brief lawmakers on why the administration is planning to lift the sanctions on the companies linked to this Russian oligarch.

CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on the Hill following all of this.

Manu, what answers are Democrats expecting to get here from Mnuchin?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not entirely clear, Kate, because they are not clear why the Treasury Department took the action late last year to lift sanctions against those three companies linked to Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch, close ally of Vladimir Putin, former business partner of Paul Manafort. They want to get answers. A sign of early indication of how significant it is to have Democrats in charge. They would have made the request last year and the Trump administration would have ignored that that request. Now that they're in charge, they can't necessarily ignore what the Democrats now are asking for.

This also is important because, in the Senate side, Democrats took steps to begin this process to go after the sanctions relief, essentially within 30 days. It is a 30-day review period. In that period, the Senate could move and take action to vote to gut this effort to ease the sanctions. If it passes the Senate and the House, then it would land on the president's desk and put him in an awkward spot.