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Trump Visits Southern Border After Shutdown Talks Falls Apart; Interview with Senator John Kennedy; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2019 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- the meeting went yesterday, are you now going to decide to declare a national emergency? Now you're holding (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. The lawyers have so advised me. I'm not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to, I will. I have no doubt about it, I will. I have the absolute right to declare. This was passed by Congress so when you say, was it passed by congress, it was.

Other presidents have used it, some fairly often. 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.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it a true national emergency?

TRUMP: This is a national emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If it's a true national emergency, why haven't you declared a national emergency already?

TRUMP: Because I would like to do the deal through Congress, and because it makes sense to do it through Congress. But the easy route for me would have been to call a national emergency to do it. And I will tell you, this is a tremendous crisis at the border. Look at President Obama's statements from the past, numerous statements where he calls it a crisis.

This is a crisis. You have human trafficking. You have drugs. You have criminals coming in. You have gangs. MS-13. We're taking them out by the thousand and bringing them back.

This is a crisis. And they don't come in at the checkpoint which they do, also, but they go in between the checkpoints where you don't have any barriers.


TRUMP: Go ahead, you haven't --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said it's a national emergency, if this doesn't work out, you're going to -- you will do it or are you still thinking about it?

TRUMP: If we don't make a deal, I mean, I would say 100 percent. But I don't want to say 100 percent because maybe something else comes up. 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. And by the way, there is more than one mechanism. There's various mechanisms. And the lawyers tell me 100 percent.

It would be nice if we can make a deal, but dealing with these people is ridiculous. I don't know if they know how to make a deal. It's -- we need -- and I'll tell you what, a lot of Democrats, I would look at these numbers, a lot of Democrats agree, we need national security and the only way you have it, the only way you have it is you to have a strong border. And the only way you have a strong border is you need a wall or you need some kind of a steel -- go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There are pictures this morning --

TRUMP: You need a steel barrier. And if you don't have a steel barrier or a concrete wall, forget it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There are pictures this morning showing steel barrier wall, you can see right through. What good is a steel wall if they can see through it?

TRUMP: Well, that's a wall that was designed by previous administrations. There is nothing that can't be penetrated, but you fix it. But it's a very difficult thing to do, but that's a wall. And they have other walls. We have many walls under consideration. Even concrete. There's acids that can go through concrete but what you do is you fix it. It very much limits. It's very, very hard -- the wall that we're doing is very, very hard to penetrate.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, you walked out on the Democrats. Are you going to bring them back? How can you get a deal if you're not talking?

TRUMP: Well, the news incorrectly reported because I said well, if we go back and everything is peach-dory, and you say we'll talk over 30 days, at the end of 30 days are you going to give us great border security which includes a wall or a steel barrier? She said no. I didn't raise pound on tables, I didn't raise my voice. That was a lie. What you should do is give them Pinocchios because if you ask Mike Pence and you ask Kevin McCarthy, you ask anybody in the room, they will say -- because I know if I do that, you're going to report it. But you guys reported it anyway because you're fake news, but let me

just tell you something, I very calmly said, if you're not going to give us strong borders, bye-bye, and I left. I didn't rant. I didn't rave like you reported. Like -- I mean, some of the newspapers, then Schumer always has this standard line, he had a temper tantrum. I don't have temper tantrums. I really don't. But it plays to his narrative. But it's a lie.

[10:05:01] I very calmly walked out of the room. I didn't smash the table. I should have, but I didn't smash the table. That's the story. So all of that narrative -- wait. All of that narrative is a lie.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But my question is, how can you get a deal if you're not talking? You walked out --

TRUMP: But we'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to bring them back?

TRUMP: Let me tell you. I think there's far more pressure on them because the people of our country want security. We want to be a secure country. We don't want drugs pouring in. Most of our drugs come in through the southern border. And they don't come in through the portals. They come in in between the portals where you have no barrier.


TRUMP: Say it?


TRUMP: Well, you know who has more human pain? The parents of people who had children killed by an illegal immigrant that should have never been in the country. You know who has more human pain? The husband who lost the wife or the wife who lost a husband to an illegal immigrant that came in five or six times that shouldn't be here. That the human pain. And the people that will be paid but maybe a little bit later, those people, many of them are on my side. They want to see border security.


TRUMP: And by the way, NBC may be -- NBC may be the most dishonest reporters of all times.



TRUMP: I have no idea what they're doing. Go ahead, next question. What? I can't hear you.


TRUMP: We have plenty of funds if there is a national emergency. There is a lot of funds.



TRUMP: If we declare a national emergency, we have a tremendous amount of funds, tremendous. If we want to do that, if we want to go that route. Again, there is no reason why we can't come to a deal. But you have another side that doesn't care about border security. The Democrats which I have been saying all along, they don't give a damn about crime. They don't care about crime. They don't care about gang members coming in and stabbing people and cutting people up.

They don't care about crime. And if they are not going to care about crime, then I agree, they shouldn't do anything at the border, but I care about crime and I care about drugs. We are spending a fortune on trying to stop drugs and they pour in through the border. But I see it more now than ever before. The Democrats don't care about the border and they don't care about crime.


TRUMP: Say it, say it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The emergency on the border, this crisis, when did it begin?

TRUMP: It began a long time, ask President Obama. Obama used to call it a crisis at the border, too. I think he said it in 2014. Look. Look. You can all play cute. And I say 80 percent of you are possibly in coordination with the opposition party. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. All you have to do is look at the borders. Rent a helicopter, except you don't want to know the truth. And watch.

And by the way, here is the story. There is another major caravan forming right now in Honduras. And so far we are trying to break it up. But so far, it's bigger than anything we've seen. And a drone isn't going to stop it. And a censor isn't going to stop it. But you know what's going to stop it in its tracks? A nice powerful wall.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the buck stops with you over this (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: The buck stops with everybody. They could solve this problem in literally 15 minutes. We could be back. We could have border security. They could stop this problem in 15 minutes if they wanted to. I really believe now that they don't want to. I really believe that. I really believe that they don't care about crime. I really believe this.

The Democrats don't care about crime. They have been taken over by a group of young people who frankly in some cases -- I've been watching. I actually think they're crazy. But they've been taken over by a group that's so far left, I really don't think they care about crime. And you know, sadly, they're viewing this as the beginning of the 2020 presidential race, and that's OK with me. But they have been taken over by a group of people that don't care about gangs.

[10:10:06] They don't care about human trafficking and drugs. They don't care about anything. I'll tell you why. They have gone crazy.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, you --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How much longer this shutdown going to last?

TRUMP: We have to get a win or I'll have to go national security. One or the other. Either we're going to win -- either we're going to win or make a compromise. I'm OK to making a compromise. Compromise is in my vocabulary very strongly. So we're either going to have a win, make a compromise because I think a compromise is a win for everybody or I will declare a national emergency.



TRUMP: Very, very --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about the courts?

TRUMP: This is a thing that the lawyers tell me is 100 percent. You just have to read the language.


TRUMP: Just read the language.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, the special counsel's final report, do you want that be made public?

TRUMP: We'll have to see. There's been no collusion whatsoever. We'll have to see.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know that Paul Manafort was sharing polling data from your campaign to the Russians?

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


TRUMP: And wait --


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, do you have any reaction to the news that Jeff Bezos' divorces and his affair?

TRUMP: Well, I wish him luck.


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


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The president there really remarkable moments, some outrageous claims, some of them easily proven false and some remarkable statements. Let's start with one that is easily proven false. The president denied that he ever said that Mexico will pay for the wall.


SCIUTTO: We could call up 47,000 times the president said that. But also remarkable, it struck me, is him saying that China, in his words, and repeated this, far more honorable than Chuck and Nancy, Democratic leaders. China, a hostile foreign power that is seeking to undermine the U.S. at every turn. It's a remarkable thing for a U.S. president to say. A president who of course said similar friendly things about Russia.

HARLOW: I think that struck me the most out of all of it. I mean, and let me quote the president, "I find China frankly in many ways to be far more honorable than Crying Chuck and Nancy. I think that China is much easier to deal with than the opposition party."

China. Given all of the intellectual property abuse and stealing of U.S. trade secrets. Not to mention the human rights abuses against a million Muslim leaders in China.

SCIUTTO: Another authoritarian leader that the president has praised. The president has praised.

HARLOW: But easier to deal with than your counterparts.

SCIUTTO: Remarkable.

HARLOW: In the U.S. government.

SCIUTTO: We got quite a team here to respond to that. Dana Bash, Kaitlan Collins, James Schultz, former Trump lawyer, and Molly Ball of "TIME."

Dana, you're close to us so we're going to start with you.


SCIUTTO: What stood out to you from the president's comments there?

BASH: So much. I mean, you guys just laid out some of the biggies. Just the notion of saying that the elected leaders of Congress are less honorable in terms of negotiating than China.

SCIUTTO: Yes. BASH: The country that steals our intellectual property, that has

people in jail for trying to speak out. I mean, I'm talking to a person who lived there for a long time. You can probably list all of the egregious things that they do more than I.

I mean, come on. You know, you can make your point and stand on what you think is your political high ground without going there.


BASH: I mean, that just undermines the arguments that he's making.

SCIUTTO: It's a place that he's been willing to go repeatedly.

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Accept Vladimir Putin's word over the word of the U.S. intelligence community. Call Kim Jong-un a brutal dictator who murders his opponents as well, talk about a love affair with him.

BASH: And we can talk about this fact that he said I never -- he said during the campaign I would say Mexico is going to pay for it, obviously, I never said this. We can talk about that in a second because that's just quite wrong.

HARLOW: It's a lie. Untrue.

BASH: It's just a lie. It's just a lie. But bigger picture. What he was trying to do there particularly when he said Democrats don't care about crime, they have been taken over by a group so far to the left. That is messaging that his political team really believes can work because they're moving away from the wall. They are talking more broadly about crime and security.

His campaign manager tweeted out some data from their campaign last night which argues that more than 70 percent of independents and Democrats believe that there is a problem at the border. So that is probably true. And if you talk to any Democrat they will say yes, we need to secure the border. So what Trump is doing is trying to conflate border security with the wall which is the thing that Democrats are saying --

HARLOW: Kaitlan Collins, it strikes me that we know from what the president said to reporters this week at that lunch that he didn't even want to take this trip, that he thought it was pointless. So walk us through the goal that the president just had in that last, you know, 16 plus minutes there when he also said something else that is just factually inaccurate.

[10:15:10] It's actually just a lie when he said that this wall would be paid for every three to four months. And that USMCA, the trade deal, would pay for it. That is not true and the president knows it.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And that's something that's very sensitive for the president because he knows that repeatedly on the campaign trail he promised not only to build a wall made of concrete but also to have Mexico pay for that wall.

As Jim noted, he said a dozen if not hundreds of times throughout the campaign trail. And even once he was in office and there he tried to say essentially that someone had said to the president said Mexico would write a check to the United States to pay for that wall even though throughout the campaign they floated a myriad of ways that they said Mexico would pay for the wall including a one-time saying that there would be a one-time payment of several million dollars to pay for the wall which is obviously not happening and Mexico has refused to multiple times.

Now the president has taken the turn of saying that that recently renegotiated trade deal with Canada and Mexico is going to pay for the wall. And he touched on a criticism that he's faced in response to saying that which is that that deal has not even been passed by Congress yet so it hasn't been ratified. But it's not just that, that trade deal doesn't have any provisions in it that states Mexico is going to pay for the wall. And of course, that trade deal is not going to be putting money directly into the U.S. Treasury.


COLLINS: So a slew of problems with that. The USMCA is not going to be pay for the wall. But I thought it was really interesting what the president did say about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, comparing them to the Chinese leader. Because of course the president where he said repeatedly he didn't want to have to declare a national emergency. He'd prefer to make a deal. The one person he's going to have to make a deal with is Nancy Pelosi.

It's going to come down to the two of them. So it doesn't seem to bode well for those negotiations that are going to happen over the next few days if he's comparing Nancy Pelosi to the leader of China.

Now the president also said he didn't want to declare a national emergency but that he's been advised by his lawyers, one of whom is traveling with him today, the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, that he is fully in his right to do so if he wants to saying that there is tremendous amount of funds. I'm assuming he is alluding to Pentagon funds to build the wall if it comes down to it.


COLLINS: Of course as you both know that's not been the problem surrounding the consternation around if the president does declare a national emergency, something that not only Democrats but Republicans have rebuked as well as whether or not it's constitutionally sound for the president to do so.



SCIUTTO: James Schultz, I want to give you a chance to respond here. Former Trump White House lawyer. A lot of things that I would like to ask you about. I do want to ask you about that first one here. You know what China is doing and attempting to do in this country, in the military realm, in the cyber realm. What it does to its own people. It's not an elected government. Let's mention that, as well.

As an American, do you think it's fair for a U.S. president to say that China is more -- the authoritarian government of China is more honorable than elected leaders, Democratic leaders in the Senate and the House?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Certainly could have been said a whole lot better. And --


SCIUTTO: No, but not a lot of better. You can't say that phrase better. The question is, do you --

SCHULTZ: He could have used other things. He could have used other ways to say it is my point. Right? And the important thing here is that he's got to get to the point where if he is going to use the inflammatory statements like that, all that is going to do is probably drive a further wedge between him and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. It's not the right way to go about doing it.

But at the same time, I think the one thing he did focus on. He said there are three options, one, he's going to get a win. That means he gets the $5 billion. Two, he is going to compromise. And he said he's willing to compromise. And I think that's something we need to focus on. And then three, as a last resort, that he would use the emergency powers of the presidency to begin construction of some type of barrier.

HARLOW: Hey, Jim, you worked with the president in the White House. You know him certainly better than we do. Do you think he meant it when he said that Xi Jinping and the Chinese regime, with all of its human rights abuses, stealing of our intellectual property, et cetera, it's actually -- does he actually like dealing with them more than Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi? Do you think he meant it?

SCHULTZ: I think it's inflammatory rhetoric because he is frustrated with the negotiating process thus far. We saw when he walked out yesterday he's clearly frustrated by the way these negotiations are going. But he needs to stand his ground because look, this is a problem that's been a serious problem for this country for more than a decade. I remember when I sat in the U.S. attorney's office, you know, back in 2005 in Philadelphia when we were handling immigration cases for folks on the border because they were completely overwhelmed by those cases.

This is something that's been a problem since the Clinton administration, going into the Bush administration, the Obama administration. And folks have refused to deal with it. So now he is using this government shutdown to finally get the federal government to start dealing with immigration, border security and immigration generally. And that's what they should be talking about, more broad immigration reform and border security. [10:20:02] SCIUTTO: Molly Ball, the president on national emergency,

he said, I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. He happens to be -- his White House counsel, with him, the secretary of the Army, it's the military where those funds would come from if he can't get it from Congress.

Is that -- in your reporting, is that what you're hearing the president is going now? Likely to go.

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you hear a sense of desperation from the Republican side because they don't see a lot of ways out of this trap that Trump has sort of painted himself into. And so the emergency declaration at this point looks like the likeliest way for him to wriggle out of this mess. But it certainly is not a slam dunk, as he says, that it would be legal. There would certainly be challenges to it. I'm not a lawyer, but it would be controversial from a legal standpoint.

And legal experts say he is only making it worse for himself by openly saying that he would declare a state of emergency because he couldn't get a deal from Congress. That is not the kind of exigent circumstances that constitute an emergency in the way that it's supposed to be used.

I would go back just for a second to the China thing. I think it's clear that he's talking about China as a negotiator. Not talking about the regime writ large being honorable, but I almost think that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer would take that as a compliment. That he's saying they are such tough negotiators, they are harder for him to get anything out of than the Chinese who he does feel he is having productive trade negotiations with.

SCIUTTO: Listen, everybody, please stand by because joining us now, we have Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Senator Kennedy, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: You bet. Good morning.

SCIUTTO: Listen, I don't want to, you know, spend your entire day here responding to everything that the president said, but the president just did speak on what is the key issue here which is the shutdown of the government over border security. And I just want to ask you about that point he made claiming that China, a hostile foreign power, in many ways, an authoritarian regime, negotiating with them, that they are more honorable than your colleagues in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, you worked with him for a long time. Nancy Pelosi.

Is that an acceptable thing for the U.S. president to say?

KENNEDY: Here is how I took what the president said. I think he is frustrated. My guess is that Speaker Pelosi is frustrated, too. I think it'd be fair to say that he's made more progress negotiating with President Xi of China than he has negotiating with Speaker Pelosi.

SCIUTTO: But he said China is more honorable.

HARLOW: Honorable.

SCIUTTO: I mean, and remember, it's not the first time he's praised an authoritarian foreign power. He accepted Vladimir Putin's word over the U.S. intelligence community on Russian interference. He has talked about Kim Jong-un in glowing terms. And you know how brutal a leader he is.


SCIUTTO: Is that the kind of thing you want to hear coming from a president's mouth?

KENNEDY: I don't think the president is talking about the personalities. I think he is talking about the negotiations. And the negotiations are not going well. I can give you my point of view.

SCIUTTO: Please.

KENNEDY: I spent an hour with the president yesterday with my colleagues. I don't think any fair minded person believes that it's possible to seal a 1900-mile border just with border agents and technology. I don't know any fair-minded person who thinks that we can seal the border without some sort of wall or barrier. Indeed, we have 600 miles now.

Mrs. Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi, who is negotiating for the Democrats I think understands that in her heart, but the problem I think we have is that Mrs. Pelosi's hatred for President Trump is greater than her desire to have border security. The president has indicated any number of times that he is willing to negotiate the amount of moneys involved, but that it is unrealistic to expect us to seal the border without using a barrier. And I happen to think he is right.

I would just point out hate is a very underestimated emotion. I don't know who said that, but someone did. And I think Mrs. Pelosi is allowing her distaste for the president to interfere with resolving this shutdown.

HARLOW: Well, I think the president's distaste for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Senator, was just very clear. He's called them less honorable than Xi Jinping and the Chinese regime.

Look, you heard the president many times during the campaign say that Mexico would pay for the wall, right?


HARLOW: OK. So he just said this morning quote, "I never said this." That's not true, he did. And in fact, the White House conceded this to us just yesterday. Here's Mercedes Schlapp.


[10:25:12] MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: You look at the trade deal. The trade deals are going to bring more jobs back to America. It's bringing 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: It doesn't pay for it.

SCHLAPP: It's $5 billion.

SCIUTTO: Taxpayers pay for it.



HARLOW: She said yes, taxpayers pay for it. Do you think, Senator, that the president has misled the American people on who will actually pay for this?

KENNEDY: No. And I don't think that's relevant to the discussion.

HARLOW: Of course, it's relevant.

KENNEDY: I think --

HARLOW: Respectfully, Senator, of course it's relevant to the discussion. Either you tell the American people the truth about more than $5 billion or you don't. Has he misled the American people or has he been honest with them?

KENNEDY: Poppy, I understand your point. I just don't agree with it. I just don't think it's relevant to this discussion. The only real relevant issue to this, if you strip away the politics and the personalities and dislike for each other, is, can you seal a 1900-mile border without using in part a wall or a physical barrier? I don't care what you call it. You don't have to use the word wall. You can call it a Lang Doodle (PH) for all I care. But I think experience shows both in the United States and Israel, in Saudi Arabia, in Bulgaria, in Malaysia, in India, those countries all use physical barriers, that if you do have --


HARLOW: But, Senator -- here's what hangs in the balance is the people, right? The nearly a million Americans who tomorrow won't get a paycheck. Here is one of them, just listen to him, he's an air traffic controller.


MARC SCHNEIDER, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: It's terrifying. I don't have a plan B. I have my savings account. And then after that, I have no idea what we're going to do.


HARLOW: So does any of this help him?

KENNEDY: No. And I don't want government to be shutdown. I don't know a single one of my colleagues that want government to be shut down. But I do want border security. And I do think that it is not a principle stand -- well, let me put it a different way.

Speaker Pelosi is a very talented person and she is very smart. And I think she knows in her heart that it is impossible to seal a 1900-mile border without using some physical barriers. And I think she is allowing her distaste for the president to interfere with her good judgment. That's my opinion. I know you don't agree with it.

I think what we're headed -- can I just make one other point? I think where we are headed here after listening to the president yesterday and just listening to him this morning and listening to Speaker Pelosi, I think he is going to invoke the National Emergencies Act.

SCIUTTO: Well, do you think believe that that is the right thing to do, to in effect bypass Congress? And are you concerned about the precedent that sets? Because you can imagine future presidents saying, listen, if I can't get money for whatever my legislative priority of the day is, I'm going to call it an emergency and take funds from elsewhere? Doesn't that precedent --- as a sitting United States senator, does that concern you?

KENNEDY: Well, of course. And it's not my preferred choice, Jim. You make a very salient point. But we don't want government to be shut down. And I see no indication that Speaker Pelosi is ever going to concede that a physical barrier is necessary to seal a 1900-mile border. And I don't think the president is -- I think he is tired of fooling around on the border security issue. If there are logger heads and you want to open up government -- let me put it this way.

If the president does invoke the National Emergencies Act, I know some -- it's not my preferred choice, some of my colleagues think it won't end the Western civilization. I don't. And I have done enough research on it to know with the caveat, I'm not recommending it, it will be challenged in court, but the president's position will not be frivolous. I think he has a pretty good legal argument.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, you may be right because you're certainly seeing both sides dig in here.


SCIUTTO: Listen, we always appreciate having you on, Senator Kennedy. Thanks very much for joining us this morning.

KENNEDY: Thanks, guys.

HARLOW: Thank you.

KENNEDY: Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: Well, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaking right now on the Senate floor, set to demand to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up House bills to reopen the government. We're going to continue watching this.

HARLOW: Also, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a major speech in Cairo where he calls the U.S. a force for good in the Middle East. Did he give any clarity, though, on the shifting strategy in Syria? That's next.