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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Makes Trip to Border, Says He Will "Almost Definitely" Declare National Emergency. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 10, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[16:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Politicians in Washington are saying, oh, they don't know the first thing about -- they've never been here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President making the case for his wall on the border, after suggesting he may declare a national emergency to build it.

TRUMP: I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency.

COLLINS: After storming out of negotiations with Democrats the day before, the president telling reporters today he will bypass Congress if they can't make a deal.

TRUMP: 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.

COLLINS: The president's third meeting with Democratic leaders ended in anger after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to fund his signature campaign promise. Trump claiming today that negotiating with China is easier than talking to Democrats.

TRUMP: And I find China, frankly, in many ways to be far more honorable than crying Chuck and Nancy. I really do. I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.

COLLINS: The president pushing back on Senator Chuck Schumer's claims that he raised his voice and pounded his fists.

TRUMP: I don't have temper tantrums, I really don't. But it plays to his narrative. But it's a lie.

I very calmly walked out of the room. I didn't smash the table. I should have, but I didn't smash the table.

COLLINS: But as the president played coy about whether he will declare a national emergency, sources telling CNN the White House legal team has started preparing the legal justification for doing so, including advising aides to ramp up calling it a crisis, suggesting the more times they say it, the more times they can cite it in a legal defense.

TRUMP: This is a crisis.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a crisis.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have a crisis.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: He sees this as a security and humanitarian crisis at the border.

COLLINS: Vice President Mike Pence back on the Hill today meeting with lawmakers, even as some members of the president's own party voiced skepticism about Trump about using his emergency powers.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: The emergency declaration is something, obviously, that has been kicked around, contemplated but I think, frankly, I'm not crazy about going down that path.

COLLINS: But some Republicans believe he's already made up his mind.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: After listening to the president yesterday, listening to him this morning and listening to Speaker Pelosi, I think he's going to invoke the National Emergencies Act.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, declaring a national emergency is still not a sure thing here at the White House, but sources tell us that the White House likes having that card in their pocket because they believe it serves as a negotiating tool with Democrats but they are getting worried about how long this shutdown is lasting because even White House officials who feel they've been able to effectively message this shutdown so far are worried about what's going to happen, starting tomorrow when those first federal workers aren't going to get those paychecks and on Saturday when this will become the longest continuous shutdown in U.S. history -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much.

Let's talk about this. I happen to agree with Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana. He says he's pretty sure President Trump is going to invoke the National Emergencies Act. I think that's probably true. He has said everything other than I'm doing it right this minute.

Do you think he gets any pushback from Republicans in Congress?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Some but not enough. I think it will be facile. Look, I agree with Senator Kennedy, that he's going to move in that direction, because there's been such a lack of clarity in whatever strategy coming out of the White House on this is so short sighted. But that lack of clarity almost guarantees that we're not going to have a negotiated solution on this.

So, if I were to guess how this plays out, the president will declare a national emergency. He will start shifting funds and then he will declare victory, of course, and then he will allow the government to reopen and we'll move on to a legal fight. And for the next three months, we'll be right back here again, fighting about this all over again.

That's -- there doesn't seem to be any real off-ramp here when it comes to a negotiated settlement.

TAPPER: Do you agree? Is that what where you think we're going? Because there will be a legal fight.

MADDEN: Absolutely.

TAPPER: The House of Representatives under the National Security Act can vote against what the president does. Then it goes to the Senate and the Senate will have to decide what it wants to do. It will be interesting to see if all 53 Senate Republicans stick with the president on this. They might not.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I don't see how the president has another option left, right? So, he has painted himself into this corner. He's got to do something.

He does this. It goes to court. He can fight about it, wash his hands and say it didn't work.

The interesting thing to me, though, is that, you know, there's a lot of conversation about both sides being dug in. The problem here is that the Democrats already came over to the Republican side more. They passed Republican bills.

This idea that the Democrats are appealing to their base by holding firm, they're not appealing to -- Democrats to their base, they're trying to put IRS agents and TSA agents back to work. There's nobody in the streets arguing for more law enforcement than the Democratic base. They moved to Republican positions to try to get that done for the sake of moving this argument and the president is the one who hasn't moved.

[16:35:00] JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think I'm -- the Republicans should be standing in front of Trump and preventing him from doing this, because this sets a crazy precedent. What it is basically doing, a big legal fight for sure if he does this. But it's saying the president of the United States, if he doesn't like how an appropriation process works and his pet project isn't funded, he can just move money around from another agency.

Republicans are not in control in forever. A Democrat will be in the White House at some point in the future. And this is setting a precedent --

MADDEN: Well, they'll argue that Obama set a precedent with using whatever emergency powers he had to do, very similar things.

PSAKI: Different. This is --

MADDEN: It won't be perfectly -- TAPPER: You mean with the Dreamers?

MADDEN: Whatever. They'll spit out -- that will be the argument.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: -- of President Obama using --

PSAKI: This is an authority that historically is used kind of by the military. When they have an enemy combatant and a need to create a structure, right? Now, this is taking money that is Congress' responsibility to appropriate and letting the president use it for a pet project. So they may argue that but I think this is a hugely dangerous precedent.

SIMMONS: These are customs, norms and traditions. And what we've seen is that Donald Trump gets no kind of care for customs, norms and traditions.

TAPPER: It does seem, though, that there are -- I mean, the Republican National Committee sent out a video that pointed out in a number of interviews members of the Democrats in the House and Senate have expressed a willingness to allocate funding for some sort of border wall or fence or barrier.

Here's just a couple of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we have a partial wall, if we have fencing, if we have technology use to keep our border safe, all of that is fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some fencing is useless. Barriers are useful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly you need barriers and we support barrier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, the question from Republicans is, so what is the problem? Why won't they allocate money to fund something that President Trump wants that's called a fence, a barrier, or whatever?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: This has been I think the most perplexing strategic choice that the president has made is that the idea of we want money for border security is the sort of thing that gets 70 plus percent support in a poll. It's quite popular and, frankly, polling that I've seen shows prior to the last couple of weeks when you ask Republicans, what do you think President Trump means when he talks about the wall, that's what he thought he meant. We just want to make sure that our borders are secure.

But the president has spent the last few weeks and, no, no, wall means wall, which is meant he has backed himself into the position of defending not the thing that's popular with 70-plus percent of Americans, but maybe 30 plus, around 30 percent of Americans.

It may be he's being true to what he really wants, that he really wants a wall, wall all the way across. Even his advisers at the time have sort of wobbled on that. No, you can't do it all the way across. It is just baffling.

TAPPER: A wall wall.

MADDEN: That lack of clarity makes many -- even his strongest allies on Capitol Hill worry about getting to a negotiated settlement.

TAPPER: So, some Republicans and Democrats push back and say wall is a medieval solution to this problem with technology, sensors. President Trump seized on that yesterday and again today about this idea that medieval is a criticism.

So, here is a little bit of President Trump at the border today, talking about the criticism that a wall is medieval.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They say a wall is medieval. So is a wheel. A wheel is older than a wall. And I looked and every single car out there, even the really expensive ones that the Secret Services uses -- believe me, they are expensive -- I said do they all have wheels? Yes. I thought it was medieval.

The wheel is older than the wall. Do you know that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Actually it's not true. Walls are older than wheels. But regardless of that --

SIMMONS: Do you think they even have message meetings at the White House? I'm not sure what happens when they stand around a table and try to --

PSAKI: They may. The fact is, it doesn't matter because President Trump is determining the messaging. That's why it's nearly impossible to do any of the communications or press jobs there.

I will say you've seen Democrats actually shift their messaging in the last couple of days because Donald Trump and others who are supporting him have sort of said Democrats are weak. They don't want border security because it's popular. So, they made this more about the government shutdown. They've done that on purpose, because when Speaker Pelosi said it's immoral, that was something that a lot of Democrats you showed were worried about. Many of them have voted for it. Many don't want to look like they're weak on border security.

So, there has been a shift. So, instead of talking about the wall and the wheel and whatever that crazy thing just was, if he kept hitting on border security, he would be boxing people in, in a more effective way. TAPPER: Do you agree? I know you don't think that the messaging

machine and the White House is operating as well as they could be, but do you agree that they have scored some hits against the Democrats by going after for being weak on border security?

ANDERSON: Well, I think that rather than calling the wall medieval or using the message that it is mean, you know, people have been saying that Donald Trump's policies are mean and that doesn't make his supporters not like them.

[16:40:08] Instead, the argument should be, I think, from Democrats that the wall would not be effective. What the president wants to achieve is border security that a lot of folks who come to the country illegally, they're not coming across the southern border. They're coming across the northern border or through airports, and what we really need for border security is what we, as Democrats, come out and say we want.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

Did you think the changing time lines and contradictory statements of the Trump administration on their Syria withdrawal policy lacked a certain, I don't know, coherence? Well, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to clear it all up today. See if you can make sense of what he had to say. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with the "POLITICS LEAD" and pressure building on lawmakers to end the government shutdown. Today in Washington D.C. furloughed workers marched with supporters to the White House. In Atlanta, off-duty TSA workers protested outside Airport terminals. Crowds of IRS employees and their supporters rallied outside an IRS service center in Kentucky.

In every protest, the same demand, end the shutdown and stop punishing federal workers. And yet as of now, there is no apparent end in sight. CNN's Phil Mattingly has more from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Why are you rejecting it at the expense of the health safety and well-being of the American people to take an oath to the Constitution or an oath to Donald Trump?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Today on Capitol Hill, partisan frustration boiling over as both parties and the president seemed further away from a deal to reopen the government than ever.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans have a responsibility not simply to wait for the president but to intervene.

MATTINGLY: Senate Democrats taking to the Senate floor to call for legislation to end the 20 days shutdown, a futile effort immediately rejected and called out by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The last thing we need to do right now to trade pointless, absolutely pointless show votes back and forth across the aisle. The political stunts are not going to get us anywhere.

MATTINGLY: Republicans for the moment standing firmly behind president Donald Trump and his position that a border wall must be funded in any deal. Democrats still furious about a White House meeting the President simply just walked out of one day ago.

PELOSI: Not only was the President unpresidential surprise, surprise yesterday and his -- and his behavior, I think the meeting was a setup so he could walk out, but --

MATTINGLY: The war between congressional leaders taking place is a working group of senior Senate Republicans continued to meet behind the scenes to try and hash out an off-ramp. One that would include temporary protections for DREAMers brought to this country by their parents and humanitarian aid in exchange for wall money.

MCCONNELL: Wall plus something else.

MATTINGLY: An effort senior White House adviser Jared Kushner attempted to bolster with a visit to a Wednesday night meeting with the group. But the group's work seen as a Hail Mary pass amidst deeply divided parties on an issue immigration defined more by distrust and broken deals than any success. So much so that one senior Democratic aide, when asked about its prospects, texted CNN simply, LOL.

Leaving the dynamics for a deal just one day away from 800,000 federal workers missing a paycheck completely unchanged according to McConnell.

MCCONNELL: To all four congressional leaders must sign off and the President must endorse it and say he'll sign it. That's how you make a law.

MATTINGLY: Leaving Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer with three parting words on the Senate floor, at least for the moment won't be addressed.

SCHUMER: Open the government.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And, Jake, those Republican talks, they have completely fallen apart. Senator Lindsey Graham who was leading the talk saying a short while ago I have never been more depressed about moving forward than right now. The reality is it's a stalemate now and likely to be a stalemate for days ahead, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill, thank you. Now to our "WORLD LEAD" and the nation's top diplomat trying to clear up confusion about the United States Syria policy today by falsely stating that the mixed messages come from -- coming from the Trump administration are invention of the media. They are not.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo currently on a tour of the Middle East insisting that there is no contradiction between his words and what the President has said despite the administration's ever-changing timelines for troop withdrawal plans. 30 days, then 120 days, now whenever specific conditions are met. CNN's Michelle Kosinski reports from the State Department.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: In the daily evolution of what exactly the U.S.'s plan is in Syria, today Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Cairo said he wanted to be clear.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: There's no contradiction whatsoever. This is a story made up by the media. President Trump's decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that. And so it is it is possible to hold in your head the thought that we could withdraw our forces, our uniformed forces from Syria and continue America's crushing campaign.

KOSINSKI: Speaking from a country that has imprisoned tens of thousands of political prisoners and journalists, Pompeo blasted the American for what he called making up the confusion over different things, different members of this administration has said at different times over the last few weeks.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're all coming back and they're coming back now. We won.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: We're going to be discussing the President's decision to withdraw but to do so from northeast Syria in a way that makes sure that Isis is defeated.

[16:50:02] TRUMP: I never said we're doing it that quickly.

KOSINSKI: Which even administration officials privately acknowledged and various U.S. allies have expressed confusion about publicly. From a 30-day withdrawal to a four-month withdrawal process to one now contingent upon a number of political variables. Then in a speech, Pompeo shed little light on how long 2,000 U.S. Troops are going to stay in Syria and whether this fast or slow withdrawal sounding like something of both in the same breath.

POMPEO: America will not retreat until the terror fight is over. President Trump has made the decision to bring our troops home from Syria, but this isn't a change of mission. We remain committed to the complete dismantling of Isis, the Isis threat. For our part, air strikes in the region will continue as targets arise.

KOSINSKI: And administration official acknowledges to CNN that this will be a long process for logistical reasons and because diplomacy will take time.

ROBERT JORDAN, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Secretary Pompeo was probably doing the right thing by trying to shore up the complete uncertainty that has been inflicted on the Saudis, on the Israelis and our allies in the Middle East to say nothing of the Kurds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI: Another standout line from Pompeo speech today, he said when America retreats chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends' resentment builds. When we partner with enemies they advance. But those are all things that this administration has been harshly criticized for doing, for stepping away from international institutions and agreements, for angering the U.S.'s closest friends and for becoming chummy with certain dictators. Jake?

TAPPER: Michelle Kosinski at the State Department thanks so much. Why was the National Enquirer spending so much time and energy and money looking into the private life of Donald Trump's rival, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "MONEY LEAD," President Trump commented on the divorce in tabloid reports about Amazon CEO and world's richest man Jeff Bezos. A man who the President has slammed time and time again ever since he Bezos bought The Washington Post.

Now the billionaire 137 times over finds himself the target of the National Enquirer which has developed a reputation for going after President Trump's enemies. Is its latest scoop part of that? CNN's Jason Carroll reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The supermarket tabloid that used to do a lot of dirty work for President Trump has a new target, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person who became a frequent twitter target of President Trump after he purchased the Washington Post. For its current cover story that hit newsstands today, the tabloid seemingly spared no expenses to expose what they say is Bezos' extramarital affair with Lauren Sanchez, a former Los Angeles T.V. anchor.

The tabloid claims it tracked him across five states and 40,000 miles. According to the Enquirer, Bezos' lawyer told the publication it was widely known that he and his wife had been long separated. Hours before the story broke, Bezos announced on Twitter that he and his wife, MacKenzie, were divorcing.

TRUMP: I wish him luck. It's going to be a beauty.

CARROLL: The world's richest person may be newsworthy, but the tabloid generally seems to focus on glamorous celebrities and powerful politicians, not the Forbes list. The tabloid insisted it was just good journalism and nothing more. The National Enquirer has been doggedly investigating this story for four months and the extraordinary details and evidence uncovered by our team and presented to Mr. Bezos' representatives for comment earlier this week underscores the kind of investigative reporting that the publication has long been known for. Media insiders wondered about the Donald Trump connection.

TRUMP: I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he bought the Washington Post to have political influence. He owns Amazon, he wants political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it.

CARROLL: Bezos has not been shy where he stands when it comes to Trump.

JEFF BEZOS, CEO, AMAZON: It is a mistake for any elected official in my opinion. I don't think this is a very out there opinion to attack media and journalists.

CARROLL: The Enquirer has been known for its previous cozy relationship with the campaign of then presidential candidate Donald Trump. American Media, the Enquirer's parent company under its CEO David Pecker admitted in court documents it worked with the Trump campaign to pay former Playmate Karen McDougal $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump.

The tabloid then killed the story. Trump has repeatedly denied he had the affair. Pecker, along with AMI's Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard worked with Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen to deal with negative stories about Trump. Both received immunity in federal prosecutor's probe into Cohen last year. Howard was one of the authors credited on the Bezos report.

A source of knowledge with the Enquirer's newsgathering says neither the President nor anyone within the administration had knowledge the tabloid was pursuing the Bezos story. Another source said it's fanciful to suggest enquirer pursued this because Bezos is a perceived enemy. It was pursued because he's the world's richest man and a newsworthy subject.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROL: And, Jake, we reached out to both Bezos and Sanchez for comment about the Enquirer report. Neither responded to our request. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Jason Carroll, thank you so much. You can follow me on Twitter or @THELEADCNN.