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Workers Not Paid; Diverting Funds to Build Wall; Statement on Ginsburg from Court; Mueller Report Made Public; Senate Adjourns Till Monday. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 11, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: For her speakership given to the point, she just squashed the opposition party.

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": Sure. I mean this isn't necessarily the way she wanted to begin her reign either.

KING: Yes. Right. No. It's a fascinating -- it's a great read. You should pick it up if you haven't seen it already.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live in CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, a payday minus the pay part. Federal workers now seeing zero on their paychecks as the shutdown gets ready to break an unfortunate record.

Plus, they were against it before they were for it. Why Republicans are now pushing the president is expand his powers.

New racist remarks from a Republican congressmen. The question is, what will his party do about it?

And a stunning turn. A teenage girl found alive after her parents were found dead inside their home and she disappeared for months.

But first, by the end of today, the government shutdown will be the longest in American history. Eight hundred thousand people are going unpaid today. A lot of them still on the job but without getting paid. Border Patrol officers, air traffic controls, secret service agents. But the impact of this shutdown is so much bigger. By one analysis, there are over 4 million people who work as government contractors, people who work for companies hired by the government. And while it's not clear how many of those are impacted by the shutdown, that's millions less likely to get back pay or work at all. We're talking janitors, security guards, cafeteria workers.

And then you have the businesses that make their money serving federal employees, federal contractors and catering to visitors to national parks, restaurants, coffee shots, hotel workers, cab and Uber drivers. Also not included in that number, the family members of those workers, their kids. That is millions and millions of people, and they depend on this money to feed their families, pay their rent, their car payment, their kids' college tuition, life insurance. They need it to buy their medicine.

And as these real-life consequences escalate because of self-inflicted problems by lawmakers, would you believe that the United States Senate isn't scheduling votes on funding measures that have passed the House as Republican leadership there is waiting for the president. That means that while federal workers are working without pay, they are the ones really bearing the cost of this shutdown.

The partial government shutdown is not only taking its toll on federal workers financially, it's also physically and mentally exhausting. Many people are working longer hours to cover shift absences, and that means they're spending time -- more time away from their families. Then to add insult to injury, there's a chance that they won't even be compensated.

Sandy Parr works at a federal prison facility. She is a leader for her local union.

Sandy, thanks so much for being with us and telling us your story.

SANDY PARR, LOCAL UNION LEADER: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: So your facility is understaffed. The hours, as you know personally, are long. How are people coping with this shutdown?

PARR: I think they're very worried and frustrated. We were already critically low-staffed in our medical department before this shutdown, and we have nurses and officers that are having to pull doubles, 16- hour shifts, to cover the safety of the institution.

KEILAR: I mean those are incredibly long hours. And you -- specifically you're married with two children. How is the shutdown impacting your family?

PARR: Well, it's frustrating and it's hard. We have to decide what we're going to do on a day-to-day basis and what bills we will pay and what we won't. In the past, the shutdowns have been no longer than 13 days for me. I've been with the government 20 years. So I've only been through the one. So we didn't really feel the impact.

This time it feels like -- it's already been longer and we're not sure how much longer it's going to take. So we don't know where our mortgage is going to come from next month. And we start to decide, are we going to let our mortgage fall behind, our car payments so that we can feed our children and put our medicines on the table for them.

KEILAR: And, I mean, even if you pay your mortgage, the fact that you missed it, if your lender is not sympathetic, you take a hit to your credit, right?

PARR: Yes. Not only do we take a hit to our credit, but as federal employees we have -- we're required to pay our bills on time. It's called just debts. And after this, once we get behind on our bills, we could be disciplined for it.

KEILAR: I mean, I can't even -- I can't even express the ridiculous irony of that.

Going forward here, what are the options for you, for people you work with? Do you think that people will start quitting over this shutdown?

PARR: Definitely. I've had already a few nurses tell me that they're single moms and they can't go without a check. So if this goes much longer, they will be quitting and -- which will leave us even shorter staffed at the institution and requiring us to work longer hours.

[13:05:06] KEILAR: Because you're already short-staffed, as you mentioned.

I'm not sure if you're aware, but there's two federal employees -- or two unions representing federal employees that are suing the Trump administration over the shutdown, and they're claiming that it's illegal for agencies to force people, like you, to work without pay. Do you think that makes a difference? Do you think that's important that they're doing that?

PARR: I do. I fully support the -- what we call shutdown lawsuits. The first one was filed in 2013 and now there's another one filed on behalf of us with (INAUDIBLE) in connection with another attorney. And it is -- we do feel it's illegal for them not to pay us while we're working. It's already a very dangerous thing that we have to do, especially in my line of work. I work with inmates. So the shutdown -- I call it the shutdown lawsuit, it's to bring a light to the public and to Congress and the Senate to say, listen, you need to pay your employees. No other company would be allowed to do this.

KEILAR: Well, Sandy, we know that it's -- we know it's been really tough for some people to speak out, so we really appreciate you talking to us here on CNN.

Sandy Parr, thank you.

PARR: Thank you.

KEILAR: The president says that he could still declare a national emergency. He says he has the absolute right to do it. And one place that the White House is considering getting that money is from people already devastated by natural disasters. Billions of dollars that were promised to help rebuild communities in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. And while some Republicans are encouraging that idea, others are saying, no.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I think the president should not do it. I think, as a member of Congress, I ought to be very selfish about the constitutional powers that we have to appropriate money. I think it might be a bad precedent.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: So, CNN political director, David Chalian, with us.

I asked you this question, why are we not closer to a resolution? Because there are all kinds of people, like Sandy, like two sisters who are both furloughed right now, not getting paid, who we're going to have on later in the show, who are dealing with this. They're hearing all of these personal stories. These are not trumped up. These are people who can't pay their bills.


Why -- the answer is, because both sides -- but I will say especially the president here -- feels that he is immune at the moment, or his objective is immune, to all of these images and stories you're talking about. And I don't know how long that lasts, Brianna, because we do know he is susceptible to sort of what is playing out on television screens in front of him.

But, remember, a month ago, when this started, when he said, I would own the shutdown, I said to you, he's not trying to win America on this shutdown. He is just trying to keep his base as enthused as possible to rally around his core key campaign promise that he will go to the mat for any reason and fight for it. And the whole reason is, he needs that base to not have a single crack in it as he's about to head into a really tumultuous time in his presidency.

KEILAR: All right, let's have a flashback to 2014 when the shoe was on the other foot, President Obama, a Democrat, was the president, and this is what Republicans were saying about the shutdown.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is wrong, it's irresponsible and will do damage to our efforts to fix a broken immigration system. This is a tremendous presidential overreach. We'll try to defund the effort for him to go it alone. We will challenge him in court.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Imposing his will unilaterally may seem tempting, it may serve him politically in the short term, but he knows it will make an already broken system even more broken. And he knows this is not how democracy is supposed to work.


KEILAR: All right, to be clear, this was Republicans reacting to an executive order on immigration, the president going around Congress on this.

CHALIAN: Exactly.

KEILAR: And now you have some Republicans who are saying, you're going to need to go forward with this -- with an emergency order here.

CHALIAN: Some Republicans like Lindsey Graham, the Republican you just showed there --

KEILAR: Correct.

CHALIAN: Who, when it was Barack Obama in the Oval Office, proposing to take executive action on immigration issues thought it was completely out of bounds and extended way beyond what executive action -- and now is saying, no, no, no, this is actually the path the president should possibly take here, declare a national emergency. I'm not suggesting the actions themselves are apples to apples, but it is executive action, as you said, to go around Congress. When it was the president of the opposition party, not OK from Lindsey Graham. Now it's the president of his own party, totally OK, do that. It -- the hypocrisy is just clear.

KEILAR: Yes. We have it right there.

All right, David Chalian, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: You're welcome.

KEILAR: A confrontation looming between Robert Mueller and the president's team as the special counsel is looking into some of the president's public statements.

[13:10:01] Plus, Republican Congressman Steve King taking fire from his own party for more racist remarks. So what is Congress going to do about it?

Plus, more on our breaking news. The Supreme Court releasing a statement amid speculation about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's health. Hear what this statement says.


KEILAR: We are following some breaking news about the health of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. CNN's Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic is going to join us, along with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is with us on the phone.

So, Sanjay, it's interesting because we had heard before in a statement that she was doing fine after having surgery to remove growths, but this is the court coming out and trying to reiterate that, saying that there is no evidence of cancer.

[13:15:11] What is your take on this medically?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes. I think that's exactly right, Brianna. If you looked at the original statement, the statement did make mention of the fact that there was no evidence of disease elsewhere besides these two nodules in her lungs, which -- and there was no evidence of disease elsewhere in her body. And that says a couple of things.

First of all, they were making the point that they, in fact, got -- I think that they were able to remove whatever the abnormalities were in the lung, and also sort of giving the -- giving the information that this did not appear to be cancer that had spread from elsewhere in the body.

I think, as you mentioned earlier, Brianna, she's had a history of colon cancer and pancreatic cancer, so that's always the question, did this come from somewhere else or is this from the lung itself? If it's from the lung itself, and they removed it all, then she should have -- that's a very favorable thing, and they're making note that she doesn't require any other treatment, either.

So I think it is sort of reiterating this point, and this is also now reflective of what is called post-surgical evaluation. She has the operation. Some time passes. They probably got some additional scans and are comfortable saying now that there's no evidence of disease.

And also, Brianna, it's worth pointing out, and maybe this is obvious, but, you know, if there was something particularly concerning, especially given, you know, that she's 85 years old and had this operation, the doctors probably would have brought her back into the hospital. They haven't done that.

It's also worth mentioning, they did the operation in the first place, which means that they make an evaluation that they felt that she could tolerate the operation well. So typically it takes, you know, several weeks to recover from this operation and she's still very much within that window.

KEILAR: So I want to bring in our Supreme Court reporter, Joan Biskupic.

This -- why was this important for the court to do this? Because, I mean, with so many people who had looked at her past issues, and I will say there's always this skepticism when it comes to public figures' health status, and because she had had colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer, there seem to be some skeptics about just how serious this was and what she was dealing with. And also because she -- I mean she missed work, which is so unusual for her.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, it was, because in 1999 and 2009, when she had her prior cancer episodes, she was able to come back. Even during chemotherapy and radiation, she was able to do it. And I think she set up that expectation for herself, or at least the court did, by not saying that she would miss.

And when she missed this week, and it was expected she would miss next week, I think that raised some anxiety there. And just what we've heard from medical experts, that it takes some time to recover from this.

And so I think the message today is both that she needs more time, but, on the up side, in a post-surgical evaluation, no more of the disease was found. So I think it was very important to sort of put out both messages, that she will not be there next week, and that's important, and I'm sure a disappointment in some ways to her and to lots of people who are watching her, but at the same time she's gotten, at least in regards to the lung cancer surgery, a bit of a good piece of news here, that there's nothing remaining.


BISKUPIC: You know, there's so much attention on the court right now because it's so tightly divided, and if she were to find reason to step down, it would give President Trump a third appointment in just three years. And that's why there's all this attention to it.

Also, you know, she set up -- she has been regarded as such a strong hero. And you and I, I think, have talked about how, for mere mortals undergoing this kind of surgery, it would take several weeks.

KEILAR: To recover, yes.

BISKUPIC: But I think because of what she had done before and what she had maybe wanted to do this time, there's just been much more attention on it, even though nothing seems to be out of the ordinary for this very serious kind of surgery.

KEILAR: And she is how many years old?

BISKUPIC: She's going to be 86 on March 15th. OK.

KEILAR: All right. Let's give her -- we'll give her a moment.


KEILAR: I mean that is -- it's extraordinary, right? It's extraordinary. And the -- you don't just bounce back. No one just bounces back, but especially as you get a little older it's very important to have your time to recover for sure.

BISKUPIC: I think that's exactly right. And by taking time to recover, it sort of -- it might ensure a better prognosis going forward in many ways.

KEILAR: Exactly. Yes.


KEILAR: All right, Joan Biskupic, thank you so much.


KEILAR: Thank you to Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And a programing note that CNN is going to air the film "RBG" tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern on CNN. It's very interesting.

[13:20:00] President Trump's public comments during the Russia investigation are under scrutiny by special counsel investigators. Sources telling CNN that Robert Mueller's team is focusing on whether conflicting public statements by the president amount to obstruction of justice.

Among the incidents under investigation is the president's role in crafting a misleading statement aboard Air Force One about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Also, the president trying to persuade then White House Council Don McGahn to discredit articles, saying he threatened to quit. The threat was in response to the president pressuring him to fire Robert Mueller. McGahn refused to say that those stories were false.

And the president said publicly that he would not fire Mueller and had not thought about it. Well, other witnesses have told investigators that that is not true.

And there are signs that Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is nearing its end and could wrap up in the coming weeks, so will we get to see his report? The president won't say. And the White House has hired 17 new lawyers as it preps an executive privilege argument to keep a lot of Mueller's finding secret. The stage is set for a legal fight now between President Trump and Congress.

We have Senator Chris van Hollen. He is a Democrat from Maryland. He's joining us live from Capitol Hill.

Sir, thanks for being with us.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Brianna, good to be with you.

KEILAR: Why is making this report public even an issue for the president, do you think?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, because he's afraid that it will expose information that will either show him liable of colluding with the Russians or obstruction of justice. Obviously we don't know what's in the Mueller report. We don't know if those are the findings. But the fact that the president wants to deep-six it and keep it from the American people is troubling because I think there's great public interest in what's in the report. I think it's important to our democracy and the truth. And obviously the president doesn't want people to know about what's in this report. That's obviously the signal they're sending.

KEILAR: We here at CNN are reporting that the special counsel is looking at President Trump's public statements for possible obstruction of justice in those statements. What does that say to you?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, it indicates that there could have been an orchestrated effort by the president and members of his team to mislead the public and, therefore, obstruct justice. And that can include comments that are not public, private comments, but it also could include public comments.

You mentioned some of the possibilities. The president could also signal to potential witnesses that he might be pardoning them if they don't cooperate and obstruct justice. So it's very possible that the public statements the president has made were part of a concerted effort to obstruct justice.

But I think the key issue, Brianna, is that it's important that the public be able to see this report. And I can assure you that the new majority in the House of Representatives will insist on seeing the report. Obviously there may be some confidential provisions regarding grand jury testimony or classified information. But on the whole, the president -- excuse me, the public is entitled to see what's in this report.

KEILAR: I want to turn to the shutdown now. We've just learned that the Senate is officially adjourned until Monday despite the fact that federal workers, contract workers, they are not being paid -- well, the federal workers starting today. Contract workers have been out of a paycheck for some time now.

I should point out, you are obviously talking to us from The Hill. But Mitch McConnell sending senators home with this adjourning. You are from a neighboring county to D.C., so we should also mention that. This is sort of home for you.


KEILAR: Why aren't more lawmakers actively working toward opening the government?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, that's a very good question. And I was on the Senate floor, Brianna, earlier today bringing reports from a meeting that Senator Cardin and I had earlier today in Maryland where we were gathered with 17 federal employees, and today is the first day that federal employees are getting these pay stubs with a big zero on them, even though, as their pay stubs say zero, their bills keep coming in. And we have the same question on the Senate floor, why don't we do what's in our power to reopen the government.

And the Senate has no excuse because we have two bills that the House of Representatives passed on their first day, they made it their first order of business, and we could vote on those to reopen the government. And, by the way, both those bills are bills that had bipartisan support in the Senate in weeks past. And so it's getting increasingly hard for Senator McConnell and Republicans to justify refusing to vote on bills that they previously supported just because they want to provide cover for President Trump.

[13:25:01] KEILAR: And they are waiting, right? Mitch McConnell got burned by the president, that's also important to point out, as he seems to just be kind of waiting to see what the president does here.

Talking about your state and where you're from, there's a disproportionate number of federal workers and federal contractors who are in that area because you are there right outside D.C. I know -- I know, as you mentioned, you just met with some of them. I wonder, because we've heard the president say that he is concerned about them, even though he thinks they're Democrats. He has said that. What do you think the calculus is as he is choosing people who support the wall over federal workers where he seems to think that there isn't really any overlap here?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, you're right, because the great irony here, Brianna, is folks who are part of our border patrol, customs and border protection folks, those are federal employees. And, in fact, while he says folks at, you know, Customs and Border Protection are happy to work without pay until the wall is built, the reality is that that organization, the representatives just filed a lawsuit in the last couple of days saying it was totally outrageous that they were having to work without pay. And that's true for the federal employees who are working every day without pay, as well as those who are being locked out of work and want to come to work.

And in Maryland, yes, we have lots of federal employees, and their main message is that they want to come back to do their work and their duty on behalf of the American public. You probably saw that FDA is going to suspend food safety inspections. I mean that puts the health of every American at risk.

We had one Maryland mom who had to set up a website GoFundMe to try to make the next monthly installment on her son's college tuition payments.

So this is growing. A federal contractor in Maryland, a small one, just laid off 173 people in the last two days.

So the consequences, the harm of this is growing every day around the country. I would point out that 80 percent of federal employees live outside the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. TSA folks and many others throughout the country, as well as small businesses. So this harm is spreading rapidly, and it's really hurting the country, and we need to end it and we have it in our power here in the Senate to vote on bills that already had strong support.

We're a separate branch of government. We should do our constitutional duty under Article 1 of the Constitution. We shouldn't be contracting out our votes to the president of the United States.

KEILAR: All right, Senator van Hollen, thank you so much for being with us on this Friday.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Twenty-one days into this shutdown now.

A teenager goes missing for nearly three months after her parents were murdered inside the family's home. And now she has been found alive. Hear what police say the suspect did.