Return to Transcripts main page


Trump, Democrats Disagree on Border Wall/Government Shutdown Meeting; TSA Worker Goes Without Pay, Struggles to Make Ends Meet; As Trump Considers National Emergency to Fund Wall, Unpaid Federal Workers Experience Emergency; Rep. Chip Jones: Fund Wall to Prevent Illegal Immigrant Crimes; Trump: Trip to Border Won't Change Anything. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 10, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't have temper tantrums, I really don't.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: He sort of slammed the table.

TRUMP: I didn't slam the table. I should have.

SCHUMER: He just got up and said, we have nothing to discuss, and he just walked out.

TRUMP: I very calmly said, if you're not going to give us strong borders, bye-bye, and I left.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president, unpresidential, surprise, surprise. I think the meeting was a setup, so he could walk out.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I do think they agreed on the "bye-bye" part, Michael Smerconish, as I bring you in to talk about this. You're a CNN political commentator and the host of CNN's "SMERCONISH" and "THE MICHAEL SMERCONISH" program on Sirius X.M..

It's hard to say your last name that many times quickly, I'll tell you.

You're hearing this bickering. It sounds kind of ridiculous when they're talking about what happened in this meeting. The president did use the word "compromise" today, but do you think he really would compromise here?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH": Well, I think what makes this so difficult to compromise is it's theoretically a budget impasse. When there's a budget impasse, there's a negotiation, and you meet somewhere close to the middle, and both sides usually get to leave and proclaim victory. But, Brianna, in this case, it's a fight over the wall, and in the end, it's either going to be built or it won't be built. So someone really will be the victor. And I think that's what's making a resolution so difficult.

KEILAR: The president spoke just not too long ago before he took off to head to the border from the White House South Lawn, and he said this about Mexico paying for the wall.


TRUMP: When during the campaign, I would say Mexico is going to pay for it, obviously, I never said this, and I never meant they're going to write out a check.


KEILAR: That's not what he said though. So what's your reaction to the fact -- I mean, unless he meant a money order, but he said Mexico would pay for this. It's pretty clear what he said. This is exactly against that.

SMERCONISH: There's no doubt. On the campaign trail and via Twitter, ever since, the implication has been that they would be directly paying for it. I don't know whether people took him seriously in that regard, but there's no doubt that he said something then that he's not saying now.

Look, from my perspective, what I see, I see Democrats who are opposing this wall or whatever he's calling it largely because it's so associated with him. And I see Republicans who are for it because Democrats are against it. I have to believe, Brianna, that some part of a wall is necessary. But not all of it. They're treating this in such simplistic terms without a full explanation of where exactly is it needed? And why is it needed? I thought the other night he should have done a Ross Perot-like presentation with charts and diagrams and satellite images and explain exactly where he things we're vulnerable and why. He's really never made that case. He's not moved beyond sound bytes. And frankly, for their part, I don't think the Democratic response has been all that convincing as to why at least some portion of our border wouldn't be enhanced in his security with the erection of more building, slat, whatever it might be.

KEILAR: If we look, say, at Republicans on the border in Texas, they have so much of the border, they don't want this. They are not a fan of this largely, whether it's state officials or federal officials, like members of Congress. How does he make that case that this is effective if you have members of his own party who do not want this?

SMERCONISH: Well, I think one of the issues as to why they don't want it is because they don't to want to surrender their property. There are some eminent domain issues here that the president has brushed aside so far that really might bog down this entire process, even if he uses some emergency power to try to get it done. Imagine if you are a property owner in a border area that doesn't have a security issue -- and I get tired of portraying it as if it's all monolithic, that all the folks on that border see it the same way or face the same security considerations, because they don't -- but you would be worried about the surrender of your property and what the hell it's going to look like, right?

KEILAR: Sure, and that's what we're seeing, right? There's a lot of people on the border and that's exactly their concern, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Exactly right.


SMERCONISH: I don't know. Somebody will have to give, but we're going to know who wins this one. That's my point.

KEILAR: Michael Smerconish, thank you so much.

You can catch Michael's show at 9:00 a.m. Eastern this Saturday.

Coming up, protests interrupting. You're seeing live pictures here, 20 days into the government shutdown. As we see Senator Blumenthal take the mic. But no deal in sight. We're going to hear from one TSA worker going without pay and struggling to make ends meet.

[13:35:13] And more on our breaking news. The special counsel team questioning a veteran pollster in the Russian probe. We'll have more on his connection to the Trump campaign, next.


[13:39:56] KEILAR: A critical warning from nearly three dozen aviation groups. "This partial shutdown," it says, "has already inflicted real damage to our nation's aviation system and the impacts will only worsen over time."

That's actually part of the three-page letter that was sent to President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, imploring them to reopen the government.

Christine Vitel is a TSA agent at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and she is working without pay.

Christine, thank you for being on with us.


KEILAR: How has the shutdown impacted you personally as you work and are not getting paid?

VITEL: We just, of course, found out a couple days ago we are not getting our paycheck. And yesterday when I was at work, my son texted me a picture. I got a five-day notice from -- I have a house, I bought a house, but I rent the land. My community sent me a five-day notice to pay on my lot rent. I gave them the permanent Homeland Security letter the we received, and they said they would work with me. When I spoke to them yesterday, the receptionist, Melissa, stated that I needed to pay my rent, and if I don't pay my rent in five days, she'll have to see what the manager wants to do, and that could be court procedures. I told him, I'm not refusing to pay my rent, it's going to be late because I'm not getting a paycheck.

KEILAR: Christine, when you're at work, when you're at O'Hare, do you see any effect or are you starting to see an effect on operations there with TSA workers?



VITEL: No. The officers that are coming into work, myself included, we're all doing our job. We are there for a mission, and that's not going to persuade -- whatever, the news, whatever is happening, we're still doing our job 100 percent.

KEILAR: What happens, Christine, if the shutdown extends through another pay period for you?

VITEL: For me? I don't know. I don't know. I have at least -- up to this paycheck, you know -- I could last a couple more weeks. My son does work part-time. He just finished his associate's, so he's working part-time. His job doesn't offer full-time. I'll be begging him for at least gas money, basically, and then I have to go with the flow for everything else.

KEILAR: President Trump has said federal workers who are going without pay want a wall. Do you want a wall?

VITEL: No, I do not. It doesn't make sense to me. The shutdown was supposed to be for our budget, not for a wall. I disagree with everything that he has stated about that.

KEILAR: You know, the president actually watches CNN quite a bit, so do members of Congress do as well. You have a chance here to talk directly to him, directly to them. What do you want them to know from your perspective?

VITEL: From everything that I've read and I see, people, you know, making comments, they say they're paying our paycheck, but I pay taxes, too. And you know what, we are here to protect everybody that lives here. You know, cut us some slack. Give us our pay. We are working. Now we're being told we might not get a paycheck. That's just unethical. Bottom line, just open up the government. Give us our pay.

KEILAR: Christine, thank you very much for joining us. Christine Vitel.

VITEL: No problem. Thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, the president landing in Texas for his visit to the southern border after threatening to declare a national emergency to get his border wall. We'll have more on the stalled negotiations with Congress.

And our breaking news this hour, Robert Mueller's team interviewing a Trump campaign pollster. How he could fit into the larger Russia probe, next.


[13:48:18] KEILAR: President Trump has said he'll still be considering declaring a national emergency in an effort to get his wall. But for federal workers not getting paid, it's already an emergency. There are families across the country who are at risk of having their heat cut off now in the dead of winter. They're facing the fear of being evicted from their homes.

We have freshman Texas Republican Congressman Chip Roy joining us now.

Congressman, thank you for being on this afternoon.

REP. CHIP ROY, (R), TEXAS: Good afternoon, Brianna. Thanks for having me on.

KEILAR: Your state of Texas has more than 140,000 federal workers. You have said, quote, "We shouldn't have people unpaid providing the necessary services for our government."

Why do you support attaching their pay, attaching the operations of the government, to this issue of the border wall?

ROY: Well, look, I don't think we should be holding federal employees hostage because Democrats refuse to do their job to secure the border. Right now, today, in Texas, we know there's going to be a young girl who will be captured by a cartel --


KEILAR: But are they refusing to do their jobs if they pass something that Senate Republicans passed?

ROY: Here's what important. What's important is that little girl today who will get sold in the sex trade because the government of the United States is refusing to do its sovereign duty to defend its border. Right now, we have a family in San Antonio, the Vargas family, suffering because Jared Vargas was murdered by an illegal immigrant last summer who had been captured and released, captured and released. In the state of Texas, since 20011, there have been 186,000 illegal immigrants who have been charged for crimes for over 4,000 crimes committed. We have a crisis on the border. We have Fentanyl coming over our border. And a fence is the basic thing necessary to stem the tide of people coming over here illegally. So the president is right to highlight this issue and to work hard to try to secure our border for the people of the United States and for the immigrants who seek to come here.

[13:50:06] KEILAR: Congressman, I see your point. If the Cato Institute, a Libertarian-leaning think tank --

ROY: Sure.

KEILAR: -- didn't say you shouldn't -= look, my full sympathy is with people dealing with these crimes and the impact on the families. One points the Cato Institute made is that immigrants don't -- they commit crimes at a lesser degree than people who are not immigrants, than Americans. And also when it comes to Fentanyl, I see your point, except that that Fentanyl isn't coming across the border, it is coming -- it is coming across the border but through ports of entry. Most of it, the vast majority of it is coming through points of entry. It's not being crept across the border as you and other Republicans seem to indicate that it is, so what do you say to those facts?

ROY: Well, I'm glad you raise that point, because what you do when you secure the border between the points of entry, is you focus the attention of our law enforcement personnel and our great Border Patrol agents on the people coming through the points of entry to ensure


ROY: -- that we stop Fentanyl, to ensure we stop drugs and opioids coming across, too. Last year --


KEILAR: That's already where it's coming through.

ROY: What you do, if you focus your resources between the points of entry, you're able to make sure we do a better job stopping it there. And, by the way, we don't know full well where it's coming through. There's a lot of different data on that. But here's the key. We know right now


KEILAR: This is -- I'm citing, just to be clear, I'm citing federal data from the DEA.

ROY: Outside data from DPS in the state of Texas, where we know precisely the number of criminals existing in the United States in Texas, who are harming Texas citizens like the Vargas families, the 7,000 girls put into human traffic trade just last year alone, and those are the numbers we know of, and it's a devastating reality of what the cartels are doing. Go talk to the border agent who is down there by himself, has no radio signal has no -- he'll tell you the cartels have operational control of the border. He'll tell you he doesn't have the ability to communicate, that the cane is too thick to operate, and he can't even see the river to do his job or navigate along the Rio Grande in order to stop -- the 72-mile sector in Laredo, by the way, has two miles of navigable roads. The time is now to end this crisis, to secure our border, like any sovereign nation throughout history has done. And by doing that, we will get control of the illegal drugs coming across that are killing American and make it to where immigrants can come here safely, which is what we all want. We want people to come here securely and safely, according to the rule of law, rather than being pawns in these illegal organizations and these cartels that are using them as human chattel, which is just devastating. And it's a humanitarian crisis that needs to end.

KEILAR: I appreciate that you feel very strongly about the border wall, that this is an issue here. But we've been hearing from a lot of federal workers, we've been hearing from contract workers, they're never going to get back pay.

I want to ask something that I have asked others. Are you going to not accept pay so you can stand in solidarity with the people that Congress are forcing to go unpaid?

ROY: I'm glad you asked that question. I and other colleagues were communicating to the officials here in the administrative office that we'll suspend our pay while others are waiting to get paid as well.

But here's the thing that's important. The Democrats are the ones that are obstructing the ability to fund what we need to do to have our government running and to secure a border. The wall has been authorized multiple times over the last 20 years. Chuck Schumer has voted for it. Nancy Pelosi has voted for it. Democrats are hiding behind this because they simply want to have a political fight rather than doing their basic job to secure the United States. This is a solvable problem. It's $5 billion in a year in which we'll have a trillion-dollar deficit. That is pocket change. They ought to just secure the border now and this whole problem goes away.

KEILAR: That assertion about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, I'm just going to say, it's not apples to apples.

But I want to ask you about this trip to the border, this trip that the president is taking to your state. He is there. He admitted earlier this week, though, that this trip was just a publicity stunt, that he really did not want to do this, that he didn't think it was going to change anything. Do you agree with him?

ROY: Well, I think that it's important to have publicity at the border. I also think it's important to go down and talk to the people who are seeing firsthand what's happening. I've taken multiple trips to the border. Met with Border Patrol. Gone down with DHS as many as 15 years ago with colleagues, when I was in the Senate Judiciary Committee as a lawyer for John Cornyn, when I was Ted Cruz's chief of staff. It's very important to go down and see what's happening. Go down to the Rio Grande. Go sit there and look at the garbage and the remnant clothes. Go see ranches where there are rape trees, which Tom Colburn talked about a decade ago in the floor of the Senate because of what's happening to little girls because we turn our head and we pat ourselves on the back as a country in the false name of compassion that open borders is somehow good for immigrants. It's not. I'm glad the president is at the border to see firsthand what's going on.

[13:55:04] KEILAR: Why raise that specter when the statistics on crime really do not favor the Republican argument here?

ROY: I disagree wholeheartedly. What we're seeing right now is devastating consequences to little girls, to women, to children --


KEILAR: How do you disagree with a fact when it comes to crime that it is reduced, and this is according to Cato? This is no enemy of Republicans. This is combing through different data and coming to a conclusion, and the conclusion is that undocumented immigrants, immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes?

ROY: Looking at those numbers doesn't change the fact that there are over 400,000 illegal immigrants in Texas that we know of, and the data I talked about from DPS about 186,000 illegal immigrants, who have been prosecuted for over 400,000 crimes, those are real numbers. By the way, not one of those numbers is going to bring Jared Vargas back. Not one of those numbers is going to let Lored (ph) Vargas be able to peak to his son again. And not one of those numbers is going to do anything for the little girl that's being sold today in the awful human traffic trade or they're abused and mistreated because we just want to talk about numbers and pretend there isn't a problem. It's a real problem and we need to fix it.

KEILAR: It's a real problem with nonimmigrants. So why not focus as much attention on Texans who are not immigrants who are committing are killing people and raping people?

ROY: I'm glad you asked that. I was a former federal prosecutor and I was very happy to put bad guys behind bars and that's what we should do.

KEILAR: All right. Congressman Chip Roy, thanks for being with us.

ROY: Thanks, Brianna. Really appreciate it.

KEILAR: We appreciate it as well.

Coming up, breaking news. CNN is learning that Robert Mueller's team has questioned a Trump campaign pollster after this news that Paul Manafort shared information with a Russian.


[14:00:02] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me today.