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More Details on Escape of Kidnapped Teen; Trump Not Declaring National Emergency, Says If He Did He Could Lose in Court; Michael Cohen's Testimony Could Lead the Way for Other Key Witnesses, Including Stormy Daniels. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 11, 2019 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: My guests will be Democratic Senator Mark Warner, head of -- or rather, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Republican Senator Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. That all starts at 9 a.m. and noon Eastern Sunday. Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you on Sunday morning.

[17:00:20] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Borderline. After suggesting he was poised to push the national emergency button to get his border wall built, President Trump now says he's not there yet. Is he afraid of losing a court battle?

Zero dollars. Eight hundred thousand federal workers get a string of zeroes on their paychecks, and many are now wondering how they'll make ends meet. Congress adjourns for the weekend without acting to end what will soon be the longest ever government shutdown.

High-stakes testimony. Congress gets ready for public testimony by President Trump's ex-lawyer, Michael Cohen. Will he reveal more secrets than he did in court, and will that just be a prelude to a series of blockbuster hearings?

And meeting his match. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to have President Trump's number, checking every move he makes in the border wall battle. In the showdown over the shutdown, has the president met his match?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news: President Trump says he's willing and able but not quite ready to declare a national emergency to get his border wall, calling on Congress to fund his pet project. But Congress has adjourned for the weekend, guaranteeing that this government shutdown will become the longest ever.

For 800,000 federal workers, today was pay day, but they got stiffed. Their checks were a series of zeros. Democrats are determined not to pay for the wall, and the president admits he's concerned that if he acts unilaterally, he'll be sued and lose, potentially, in federal court. I'll speak with Congressman Mike Quigley of the Intelligence

Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by with full coverage.

But first, let's go to Wisconsin right now. There's a news conference going on. There's new information coming in on that kidnapped teen who has now been freed.

SHERIFF CHRIS FITZGERALD, BARROW COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: -- to protect the integrity of the case. At this time, nothing in this case shows the suspect knew anyone at the Closs home or at any time had contact with anyone in the Closs family.

The suspect had specific intentions to kidnap Jayme and went to great lengths to prepare to take her. The suspect did work at the Jennie-O turkey plant over three years ago for less than two days and does not appear to have any contact -- did not have any contact with Jayme's parents, who also worked at the turkey plant.

We also know now that the suspect was not at home when Jayme escaped. While I don't know how she escaped at this time, we believe that the suspect was out looking for her when law enforcement made contact with him.

On Monday, January 14 -- so Monday this coming week -- at 3:30 p.m., the suspect will make his initial appearance in Barron County Circuit Court to be formally charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping.

I know all of you are searching for the answer of why any of this happened. Believe me, so are we. Not knowing will plague us for some time but, again, our goal is to continue to do what is right for Jayme and seek justice and seek that justice is served.

At this time, I can take some questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff, do we know how he knew about Jayme? Was there a social media connection? Was there some obsession? There must have been at some point, a connection between Jayme and the suspect, Mr. Patterson.

FITZGERALD: What I can tell you is we don't believe there was a social media connection, and we are determining how he became aware of Jayme. We do not -- I do not have that answer in complete form yet to release.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, what was the distance between the suspect's home and where Jayme approached the dog walker?

FITZGERALD: That I did not -- was not able to --


FITZGERALD: It wasn't very far. She was on foot, and it wasn't very far. No. I couldn't guess that. But it was not a long distance, I was told. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the suspect's home? What kind of

conditions was she kept in?

FITZGERALD: I don't know the answer to that. I just know it was a home in a rural setting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any evidence that she had been assaulted?

FITZGERALD: We're not releasing any evidence about Jayme's condition at this time, except she's talking and she communicated with our team up there. And she is released from the hospital. I think those are all great things to talk about and to remove the -- and to move forward with this recovery purpose.

[17:05:07] I mean, Jayme is the hero in this case. There's no question about it. And she's the one that helped us break the case, along with everybody else that worked on it: from law enforcement to all the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, can you tell us more about the investigation? What are you searching for? What are you searching right now? Are you retracing the steps both of them took in the last 88 days.

FITZGERALD: Yes. They are all things we are doing. We're currently serving a search warrant at the house in Gordon. We'll be there for several more hours. DCI and the FBI will be there. They're looking at every room in that house, any piece of evidence that could be used in this case. But they plan on being there for several more hours looking at everything in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there property in Barron that you're also serving a search warrant?

FITZGERALD: We are not serving any search warrants in -- in Barron County.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, do you know if there were other people in the house at any point when Jayme was in there, other than the suspect?

FITZGERALD: I do not know the answer to that question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These last three months, did did -- was she aware that people had been looking for her intensely?

FITZGERALD: I do not know the answer to that question, either. I haven't talked to the investigators that -- they just gave us a small briefing on Jayme. They didn't give us any --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did the suspect restrain her in the home?

FITZGERALD: Do not know the answer to that question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, how are you getting this information that he targeted her? Is this all coming from Patterson?

FITZGERALD: This is all coming from our investigative team. So --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry to interrupt. Just to be clear, though, the suspect was not home when she left.

FITZGERALD: When she escaped the home yesterday, he was not at the home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But at some point, he would have returned. And you say he went back out looking for her?

FITZGERALD: Well, we -- when we had contact with him, he appeared to be out looking for her. Again, I can't comment, that we haven't -- I haven't confirmed that answer to that question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So when you made the arrest, he was not in the house?

FITZGERALD: That was correct. He was in his vehicle driving around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did she know her parents had died?

FITZGERALD: I don't know the answer to that question. She was in the home when -- when the incident took place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there any indications that he was stalking her? That he maybe made contact with her, that she was aware that somebody was on the radar there?

FITZGERALD: We don't have any information that he had made any contact with anyone in the family at any time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about the whereabouts during the day -- a pattern for the last three weeks (ph)?

FITZGERALD: All I know is he was not employed, so he didn't go to a job. And other than that, that's all I know about his travel. And I know he was not at home when she escaped. And I don't know where he was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it concern you that someone doesn't have, you know, a record or history and all of a sudden happens (ph), sort of violent incident? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

FITZGERALD: I'm not into the criminology of that, of somebody's mind. But you know, yes. This case, from day one, has concerned me. The volatility of this crime, to shoot two people and kidnap a 13-year-old girl. Was -- is very concerning. And so, you know, we want to get the answers that you guys all want that we want to give to Jayme and we want to give to the court so that we can get a conviction.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What has his demeanor been since he's been caught? Has he been remorseful at all? FITZGERALD: Patterson has been in our jail without incident, in a cell. By himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, are investigators on your team looking at Patterson -- I know he had no criminal record. I mean, family history issues that -- possible --

FITZGERALD: Yes. We did get a -- we did get a tip on a sibling that had some criminal record. And our DCI and FBI teams are looking into that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there's a record that seems similar? That --

FITZGERALD: I didn't look at his record. That was -- just came in on our tip line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, can you give any more to the escape itself? "Escape" the word implies there was a lock, some type of restraint. How did she get out?

FITZGERALD: I don't know the answer to that. That's the answer that, again, I'm not looking to put pressure on Jayme or her family. We want to reunite her. And some of that information can wait until the court hearing on Monday, when more will be released in the criminal complaint, because that will be a very detailed thing.

But again, we want to let Jayme settle in. We want to take care of her. We've got the suspect, the only suspect we're looking for. We're not looking for any other suspects at this time. We have him in custody. We are reuniting Jayme. That has been the goal of this department and this team behind me and all of the law enforcement officers out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, do you say the primary reason, though, he went to that home was to kidnap her? Was that his main reason for going there that night?

FITZGERALD: That is the main reason for going to that residence, we believe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us any more about the 911 call that came from the home that night? Were you able to glean anything that you could share with us, to give us some insight as to what happened?

FITZGERALD: No. We briefly talked about that today. That 911 call is very inaudible. And even knowing some more facts, we still can't get any information off that 911 call.

[17:10:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think other people helped him or bought groceries or would come to the home for any reason?

FITZGERALD: That's what our team is asking that question. Neighborhood canvasses, family members. All of those aspects are being looked at now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was Patterson a lifelong resident of the Gordon area?

FITZGERALD: Yes, he went to high school up in that area. I don't know the exact high school name, but he did go to high school in that area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Sheriff, who owned the house that Patterson had Jayme in?

FITZGERALD: That I do not know. I meant to look that up, but I apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The homeowners --

FITZGERALD: I don't know that he owned that residence. But I'm not 100 percent sure on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have his parents contacted you at all?

FITZGERALD: No one has contacted our office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff, do you have any more information about how he hid this from friends or family?

FITZGERALD: No. That is the key question, that -- why and how he hid this for 88 days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there any running water, electricity in this cabin where they were staying?

FITZGERALD: I believe so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, was this -- was this a home or was it like a cabin?

FITZGERALD: They described it to me as a home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know what's going to happen about Jayme now? Long-term care for her and her family?

FITZGERALD: We are working with the Human Services Department on what placement efforts will be taken for Jayme. But right now, she has been placed with her aunt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us where his home is in location to where the 911 call was placed after the dog walker found her? Was it three homes down, four homes down?

FITZGERALD: I never saw a map on that, so I can't comment on that. Sorry.


FITZGERALD: No, I can't comment on what he said during his arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was he cooperative?

FITZGERALD: He is -- you know, I can't comment on that. They don't want me to comment on his -- on his part of the case, for the conviction. We're not going to comment on him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, do you have any reason to believe that he was stalking her?

FITZGERALD: I don't know the answer to that. I know Jayme was the target. So how he was doing that is the question that we will use for our -- the court process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Besides his employment at Jennie-O for a couple days, do he have any connections with the town of Barron?

FITZGERALD: That's what we're looking for right now. We believe he might have worked somewhere else, but we're trying to confirm that also right now, to see if he worked somewhere else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, why that night did he go to her home?

FITZGERALD: That's a very good question. I don't know the answer to that.

So one more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, did you specify that that shotgun was found in his -- in this cabin or residence?

FITZGERALD: It was found -- I don't know exactly where the shotgun was found, but there was -- there was a gun recovered. In fact, there was more than one gun recovered. But they believe -- a shotgun was used the night of the incident. They found a gun which they believed to be similar.

And again, until we get some forensic database -- but they did recover more than one gun at the scene. But they believe a shotgun was recovered similar to the style used at the Closs home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Last two questions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any way that the public could help the case moving forward? Is there anything that -- are you looking for more clues? And also, are there ways that the public can help with Jayme's recovery? Any benefit accounts that are set up?

FITZGERALD: I know of no benefit accounts for Jayme. There -- we didn't take care of any of that from that. As far as any other clues, you know, if anybody knew anything about the suspect, obviously, we'd like to know about that. But at this time, we've received -- we've not run into any road blocks from family, friends, anybody that I'm aware of that's hindered this investigation. Our teams are still up there. Again, we have probably 30, 40 plus people still on the scene.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, now that you have this information, now that you have Jayme, are things starting to click together in your investigation? Things that you were looking at, now are making sense?

FITZGERALD: Not quite yet. Because our teams haven't been back to brief us in person. A lot of this is being done by phone. Not a very good cell reception up there. We're work -- they have to leave the scene to make some cell phone receptions. And so we're getting bits and pieces from our different team leaders here, you know, our different administrators.

So again, thank you. Again, Monday would be a key court hearing.

Oh, there is a tip line set up for recovery and help. If you're struggling with this, your kids are struggling with this, it's 211. So you can set up 211. We'll post that information on our Facebook page, along with information from this press conference.

So thank you guys for coming. We don't plan on any more press briefings. We will -- if we'll need to be -- the criminal complaint will be printed on Monday and available after court on Monday. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. You've been listening to a news conference on the rescue of kidnapped teenager Jayme Closs, who had been missing since her parents were found brutally murdered last October. She escaped yesterday, was found by a good Samaritan, wandering a street about an hour or so from her home.

The sheriff just said they believe the suspect, 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, was targeting her when he entered her parents' home. Authorities just said Patterson wasn't home when the girl escaped yesterday and was looking for her when deputies found him.

[17:15:10] We're going to have more on this gripping story in Wisconsin coming up later. But there is other breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Trump now says he's willing and able but not quite ready to declare a national emergency to get his border wall. Meantime, Congress has adjourned for the weekend, guaranteeing that this government shutdown will become the longest ever in American history.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the president has been flexing his executive power muscles, but the question remains: will he act?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That remains the question, Wolf. And President Trump says for now he's not declaring a national emergency so he can build his wall on the border.

One thing that might be holding the president back, he conceded today in front of reporters a national emergency declaration would likely be challenged in the courts.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- part of what we just finished.

ACOSTA (voice-over): After hinting for days that he may declare a national emergency to force the government to construct his border wall, President Trump admitted there may be cracks in that plan. A wall of opposition could be looming, Mr. Trump said, in the courts.

TRUMP: If they can't do it, if at some point they just can't do -- this is a 15-minute meeting. If they can't do it, I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right to do it.

I'll be sued. It will be brought to the Ninth Circuit and then, hopefully, we'll win in the Supreme Court.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump's hesitation comes as he now presides over what's about to become the nation's longest government shutdown, with 800,000 workers impacted, many going without paychecks this weekend.

TRUMP: They are incredible people, the federal employees that we're talking about. But many of them agree with what I'm saying and what the people in this room who are experts are saying. They don't want to see people killed because we can't do a simple border structure.

ACOSTA: Democrats are accusing the president of putting his quest for a wall over the needs of federal employees.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Today is the first day federal employees are getting pay stubs with a big zero on them, even though, as their pay stubs say zero, they 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?

ACOSTA: The president is continuing to hype the situation down on the border.

TRUMP: A lot of people don't like the word "invasion." We have a country that's being invaded by criminals and by drugs.

ACOSTA: He tweeted, "The Steel Barrier, or Wall, should have been built by previous administrations long ago. They never got it done. I will. Without it, our country cannot be safe. Criminals, Gangs, Human Traffickers, Drugs and so much other big trouble can easily pour in. It can be stopped cold."

But during his trip down to the border, one law enforcement official told him migrants are already digging tunnels under areas where walls exist.

MELISSA LUCIO, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: This is just a couple of miles from here, from where we're standing. This is a tunnel. This is the second tunnel that, recently, that we have located. This is an area that we actually have walls. ACOSTA: The president is being cleared on by fellow Republicans to

take matters into his own hands, with Lindsey Graham releasing a statement saying, "Mr. President, declare a national emergency now. Build a wall now."

But when President Obama used an executive action to shield immigrants from deportation, he was blasted by Graham and other GOP leaders.

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. I will try to defund the effort for him to go it alone. We will challenge him in court.

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

ACOSTA: Despite a government shutdown that's now hurting American families and potentially damaging the economy, the president was joking Democrats can give him his wall but call it something else.

TRUMP: They could name it whatever they can -- name it "Peaches." I don't care what they name it. But we need money for that barrier.


ACOSTA: The president didn't said just how long he's willing to let this government shutdown grind on or what exactly will prompt him to declare a national emergency down on the border.

For now, the president appears ready to let this shutdown continue until he finally gets his way. The president said, as you heard just a few moments ago, the Democrats can call his wall "Peaches," but at this point lawmakers are treating it more like a lemon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim. Thank you. Jim Acosta at the White House.

With Congress now adjourned for the weekend, the government shutdown is about to become the longest ever, but with no end in sight, even Republicans are divided over whether the president should act unilaterally.

Let's go to or congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty.

[17:20:00] Sunlen, is Congress bracing for the president to declare a national emergency?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Wolf, because the feeling up here on Capitol Hill is this is just a matter of when, not if President Trump at this point declares a national emergency. Because this is still a total stalemate up here on Capitol Hill. And there's certainly no deal at this point on the horizon. This is essentially what Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator, is now starting to argue. He met with President Trump over at the White House today, and he left that meeting again, in this newfound position, saying that President Trump needs to declare national emergency and go ahead and make the moves to build his wall.

But not all Republicans here on Capitol Hill are feeling that same way. There is a sense of some concern brewing among members of the president's own party, including from Senator Lisa Murkowski. Today she said she's not in support of President Trump taking this route. And she told me it's not only a fact that it might be something of a long and likely prolonged legal battle but because of the precedent she fears it would set.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I hope he does not take that route. There is -- there is legitimate debate about the legality of that.

We as Republicans complained mightily in the eight years of the Obama administration about what we declared as executive overreach. But because we would now -- it would be a Republican president, who is -- who is going around the Congress, is it now somehow OK?


SERFATY: And Murkowski was just very -- one of the very few senators up here on Capitol Hill today. House and Senate, they both adjourned late -- earlier this afternoon, and lawmakers are now headed back to their home districts, where they'll remain throughout the weekend and into next week, on Monday.

The optics of that not sitting well with many senators, especially Lisa Murkowski. She was kind of critical of her colleague today. She said all of them skedaddled to the airport very quickly after they were done, as this shutdown continues to wage on. And certainly as many federal workers are very -- now feeling that very real pain. And she says that's certainly going to be concerning, especially as it hits this record tomorrow as the longest shut-down in history -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty, thanks very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: And as you just heard, the president says he's not quite ready to go around Congress, declare a national emergency in order to find some money for his border wall. But he's not ruling it out.

Do you believe that Congress would be able to block the president if he were to go through with this national emergency declaration? QUIGLEY: You know, it's hard to tell how these courts will act where

they come through the circuits up to the Supreme Court. I'm very concerned that one of the targets for money is emergency disaster relief.

So in other words, the president of the United States would be taking away money from people who have survived fires and hurricanes, real victims, for a perceived threat on the southern border. He would be creating victims a second time.

So it's extraordinary how to tell how a very unpredictable president is going to act on this matter. I'd like to think they'll give it another shot. We've done two weeks of putting bills that senators on both parties voted for nearly unanimously just before the holidays. We'll try it again next week. Reasonable minds can agree.

Remember, the government is funded by 12 bills. Five have passed. Six of the remaining seven have nothing to do with this wall. Let's pass those through the end of the fiscal year. Pass a measure for homeland security until March. Put our workers back to their vital task and have them getting paid again. And then we can resume real consideration of whatever the president is talking about.

BLITZER: You believe, Congressman, that Democrats will accept anything other than, from your perspective, total capitulation on the part of the president when it comes to his border wall?

QUIGLEY: I think we had that deal. Again, a bicameral, bipartisan deal. And in 2018 we funded the government that way that included well over a billion dollars for border security.

That money is being held over. Only about 6 percent has been -- has been spent.

I traveled to the border in October. No one was talking to me about walls. They were talking about sensors, cameras, drones, in other words, high-tech ways to keep our border secure.

We're open to talking about that, because Democrats want to secure borders, as well. They just don't want to waste $5 billion on a boondoggle that simply won't accomplish the task when that money can be spent on a lot of other things.

There's not a member there who doesn't have some issue that they care about so deeply. But none but the president said, "If I don't get my way, I'm not going to support this at all. I'll take my ball and go home."

[17:25:06] Somebody has to act like the adult in the room. I believe we already have.

BLITZER: Well, do you think it's time for the Democrats to come up with some compromised proposal that will at least provide some funding, some money for the president's wall or fence or barrier or whatever he wants to call it?

QUIGLEY: Again, when we're talking about a wall, we're talking about something that can be defeated rather easily: underneath or other the top with a ladder. Maybe holding back --

BLITZER: What about a steel barrier?

QUIGLEY: I think the tech answer works far better. At some point in time, if we're going to spend all of this money, we have to rely on the experts. And they're talking about thermo-imaging cameras. They're talking about additional roads along the border so they can increase apprehension. They're talking about boats on the Rio Grande. These are real solutions.

You can't play the president's game. He had a horrible quarter, right? The Mueller investigation, the midterms, a volatile market. This is a grand distraction. How much can we afford to play the president's game?

If the goal is border security, we can be on the same page. But border security as a wall makes no sense whatsoever. It's a very dangerous way, because it takes vital resources from other things that keep America safe.

BLITZER: While I have you, Congressman, let me get your thoughts on the other trouble, the legal trouble swirling around President Trump right now. His former attorney, as you know, Michael Cohen, now is set to testify before the House Oversight Committee on February 7 in open session. How much trouble could this be for president?

QUIGLEY: It's interesting. Mr. Cohen ties the president's personal legal, economic and political worlds together. He once described deciding to work with Mr. Trump as choosing darkness over light.

The American public is going to be able to watch, I hope, Mr. Cohen come out of the darkness and explain to them what the real President Trump is like. And I believe and I hope that, to continue that understanding, that Mr. Cohen would be willing to come back to my Intelligence Committee and help us understand the communications with Russians and the financial flow through the Trump administration and campaign of campaign dollars and finance dollars.

BLITZER: I know your committee chairman, the Intelligence Committee chairman, the new one, Adam Schiff, he wants Cohen to come and testify behind closed doors. We'll see what happens on that front.

Congressman Quigley, thanks so much for joining us.

QUIGLEY: Glad to be here. Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, already facing a prison term, President Trump's ex- fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen, as you know, he's getting ready to testify publicly before Congress. Will he reveal more details that potentially could implicate the president in a crime?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:32:18] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, is now set to testify before Congress. That hearing has the potential to become a block buster with others likely to follow. Our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is working the story for us. Evan, could Cohen reveal even more details that potentially implicate the president in a crime?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. I think that's one of the things that certainly the Trump lawyers are preparing for. They, you know, going back to August when Michael Cohen first stood up in court and pointed the finger at the president, I think was the day they realized that Michael Cohen was coming after the president and that if the Democrats took over the house, that this day would come, and I think that's what everybody has been preparing for. I think we obviously expect that Michael Cohen is going to implicate the president in campaign finance violations. And lord knows what else he's got on his mind to reveal at this hearing.

BLITZER: Does Cohen's testimony an open session before the House Oversight Committee potentially open the door to other witnesses and other key witnesses coming before Congress, Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, for example?

PEREZ: Absolutely. I think you can expect that the Democrats are going to start with Michael Cohen, but they're not going to stop there and I think you're going to see perhaps even Michael -- David Pecker, the Chairman of AMI --


PEREZ: Yes, right. Exactly. AMI and National Inquirer. Obviously, he knows a great deal about these payments that were made for these women. And I think you can expect other people; people from the Trump organization could probably be brought before congress to testify. Just today, the Trump organization has hired a former White House ethics lawyer to help prepare for just that possibility. I think this is just the beginning of these types of hearings.

BLITZER: As we say, elections have consequences. The Democrats --

PEREZ: This is a big one.

BLITZER: The majority in the House of Representatives. They've won 40 seats. They have a decisive majority and these are the consequences of that.

PEREZ: Exactly.

BLITZER: Evan, thanks very much for that update. Coming up, more on the breaking news. President Trump demands Congress to come back into session and approve money for a border wall.


[17:39:03] BLITZER: Breaking news this afternoon over at the White House, President Trump said, at least for now, he's holding off on declaring a national emergency to get money to build a border wall. The president predicted he's be sued for doing that, might lose in federal court and could eventually wind up before the Supreme Court. Let's get our legal and our political experts to talk about this. And Gloria, let's first talk about funding for this wall. Back in 2016, at a Republican presidential debate, I asked the president about Mexico paying for the wall. We had this exchange.


BLITZER: If you don't get an actual check from the Mexican government for 8, or 10, or $12 billion, whatever it will cost, how are you going to make them pay for the wall?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will, and the wall just got 10 feet taller, believe me. It's got 10 feet taller.


BLITZER: Well, here we are right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Here we are. Well, it's that trade agreement. The trade agreement is going to pay for it, of course. And the president will say, well, I never said that. And then, oops, he actually did say that. Look, the American public understands that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall. The question is whether the American public now because of the shutdown, will understand how much they may have to pay for the wall and where that money will come from. I mean, could it -- should it come from the military? Should it come from civil construction projects that are already underway? Should it come from hurricane relief? I mean, these are the questions now that need to be answered because we all understand that Mexico is not paying for the wall.


BORGER: Yes, dear?


TOOBIN: He keeps saying that Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

BORGER: Yes, he does.

TOOBIN: What makes you think America doesn't believe him? I mean, it's a lie; he keeps lying. But what makes you think that he's not -- that people don't believe him?

BORGER: Because there are -- there are actually, there are actually polls and I don't think there's been one recently. But there are polls that show that voter believe that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall. And that the wall, as you know, is largely unpopular. The question is, and as you know, maybe the base -- Donald Trump's hard- core supporters don't really care. Even if they believe Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter they want the wall, but... BLITZER: You know, you hear the president -- he said yesterday, he said it today: if he declares a national emergency, he'll be sued. It could before some lower or federal courts. He says it'll go before the Ninth Circuit, out in California -- he'll probably lose there. And eventually, it'll wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. You're an expert on the U.S. Supreme Court, what plight happen?

TOOBIN: I think Trump will win. I think at the end of the day, if you look at the 1976 act about emergency powers, and you know, the general discretion that the Supreme Court, especially now a more conservative Supreme Court pays to the executive branch, I think he'll win. I am perfectly capable of being wrong. It happens all of the time in terms of these predictions. But I do think that, you know, given the make-up of the court and given that law, he could well win. I think it would mean a very substantial reordering of separation of powers in this country. If there's one thing that's been true since the 18th century, is that Congress has the power of the purse. But you know, things change; and the Supreme Court allows things to change and might happen here too.

BLITZER: As you know, Mark, the House passed legislation that would re-open immediately almost the entire government a little bit, would remain in dispute for a month or so while they tried to negotiate a final deal on a wall and border security. But the Senate is not even considering what the House has passed. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, he's left town; they're not even coming back until Monday. And the criticism of Mitch McConnell is he's showing no leadership completely deferring to the president.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And what Republicans and the U.S. Senate, many of them will say is that he is showing leadership and he's not putting them out on a limb where they could be out there against the president on something that they don't want to be. Here's the thing about McConnell and for everyone out there that's wondering about him, he doesn't care. He is not going to be pressured. He has been around for a very long time. The pressure point for him is when there's enough Senate Republicans who pull him aside and said, listen, you have got to step in. This could not go on any longer. And you have to wonder after this weekend where people will really start to feel the effects of the shutdown? And I don't mean people not getting a check, because that in itself is unbelievable, I'm talking about people at airports, I'm talking about people who are going to see their government services start next week to not actually be operational. That itself is going to be a problem.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting. If you listen to what Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham for that matter, are saying now about the president, as the authority to declare a national emergency, go around Congress, get the wall built. It's very different than what they said back in 2014 in going after then President Obama when he was taking executive action on immigration. Listen.


[17:44:10] 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. I will try to defund the effort for him to go it alone. We will challenge him in court.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Imposing his will unilaterally may seem temping. 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.


BLITZER: A bit of a double standard?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Republicans have also said little when the president has used executive action with other immigration moves, such as his travel ban on Muslim majority countries as well as rescinding DACA. But you have heard some pushback from Republicans over the prospect of declaring a national emergency; there's people like Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president, who said the president should do so. But other Republicans in Congress are pushing back even some of the president's conservative allies on Fox News saying, that it sets a dangerous precedent.

And that similarly, a future Democratic president could in the pursuit of a policy goal, declare a national emergency, let's say on climate change and crack down on coal-fired power plants. Now, most scientists would say climate change is an actual emergency but that's a separate conversation. The bottom line they're trying to say is they don't want the president to circumvent Congress; there would rather there be some sort of agreement on Capitol Hill. What that looks like with both sides still digging in, that's unclear.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, Michael Cohen testifying before the House Oversight Committee on February 7th, is it possible -- you have done a lot of reporting on this -- he might actually provide more new information before Congress than he did when he appeared in court.

BORGER: Well, we -- one thing we know for sure from the reporting that Pamela Brown and I have done is that he's not really going to be expected to answer questions about Russia. The Democrats are very cognizant of not getting in the way of Mueller investigation. And our sources tell us, so is Michael Cohen. But that wouldn't prevent him from answering questions say, about the Trump organization and the children's involvement in the Trump organization and there are lots of areas that can be mind if they make them relevant. And we also know, and Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju reporting from the Hill, that, you know, the Republicans are not just going to sit back here and do nothing. I mean, they're going to attack Michael Cohen and ask the questions that they want. So, it could be dicey for him.

BLITZER: It could be very dicey indeed. A lot of people will be watching that public hearing in February 7th.

BORGER: Yes, I think so.

BLITZER: Coming up, President Trump demands a vote on his border wall, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says no. Has the president finally met his match?


[17:50:36] BLITZER: Our breaking news this afternoon over at the White House, President Trump said he's holding off on declaring a national emergency and demanding that Congress vote on money for his border wall. But the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, refusing to budge, demanding that the president reopen the government. CNN's Brian Todd has more on this confrontation. Brian, the president isn't used to people refusing to back down to him.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is not, Wolf. And those who know him say, the president is especially thrown off if a powerful woman challenges him. And until now, Mr. Trump has really never dealt at length with a woman as powerful and politically savvy as Nancy Pelosi.


TODD: It was a moment that confounded a president who takes joy in knocking others off balance. In the White House situation room, Donald Trump pressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on whether she would sign off on his border wall in exchange for reopening the government. But instead of backing down, as so many of Trump opponents have done in the past, Pelosi firmly said no. That's when Trump stormed out.

TRUMP: Bye-bye. And I left.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: And he just walked out. Again, we saw a temper tantrum.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR: He doesn't have another note to play. If he can't bully you, he's not quite sure how to get what he wants and that's the conundrum that he faces. I think it's evident to who has paid attention that Donald Trump has met his match in Speaker Pelosi.

TODD: It's a dynamic captured at a critical moment in the oval office with the government shutdown looming in December. Trump tried to throw Pelosi off kilter by suggesting she was weak. But she wasn't having it.

TRUMP: You know, Nancy is in a situation where it's not easy for her to talk right now and I understand that.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Mr. President, please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: That was really a key confrontation. Their first face to face meeting since Democrats had won the house. And maybe, it has a tone that has set what's happened since then.

TODD: Veteran political watchers say, the shutdown showdown has pitted the impulsive, sometimes reckless president who acts on his gut against a savvy political operator in her second term as speaker. And so far, many observers believe Pelosi is winning. Asked if she thinks she's Donald Trump's equal, Pelosi told the New York Times: "The constitution does." Biographers who know the president best say, it's a bitter irony for Trump that the person who's frustrating him so profoundly at this moment, is a woman.

D'ANTONIO: This president doesn't respect women. He hasn't encountered one with this level of power ever before in his life. And I think he's really confused about it. This is maybe the moment that he can't bluff his way out of and I think it's really messing with his mind.

TODD: In the past, women who've taken on Trump like Rosie O'Donnell have become the subject of his vicious insults.

TRUMP: Rosie O'Donnell is disgusting. I mean, both inside and out. You take a look at her. She's a slob.

TODD: Then, there are the disparaging slurs and nicknames he's directed at female critics, like Senator Elizabeth Warren.

TRUMP: I've got more Indian blood in me than Pocahontas.

TODD: Calling Stormy Daniels horse face. But so far, no nickname for Pelosi. Analyst say, with her, Trump could be altering the pattern he's shown with strong women.

PAGE: I think that President Trump does respect Nancy Pelosi and respects her power and is going to respect her more when he finds out what she's like to negotiate with.


TODD: And tonight, analyst, neither President Trump nor Nancy Pelosi can really afford to lose this epic battle. If Mr. Trump loses, he alienates his base over what could be the main reason they voted for him -- that border wall. He's weakened running for re-election. If Pelosi loses, she loses the confidence and support of that fractious group of Democrats in Congress and she risks ceding some of their power to go after Trump with investigations. Wolf.

BLITZER: And conversely, Brian, both President Trump and Nancy Pelosi can really boost themselves politically if they win.

TODD: Wolf, they both have potentially enormous wins at play here. President Trump's base will get really fired off if he best Pelosi and gets his wall funding and he could make gains with other Republicans. Pelosi, if she wins -- well, she gives Democrats even more momentum heading into the 2020 election cycle and momentum to hold those hearings and investigate Trump.

[17:55:00] BLITZER: Brian Todd, good report. Thank you. Coming up, more on the breaking news. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers missed their first pay checks today as the government shutdown is about to set a record.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:59:52] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. No easy way out. President Trump says he's not ready to declare a national emergency at the border just yet, despite his threats. Why is he hesitating to pull the trigger on his most extreme option for funding his wall and potentially ending the government shutdown?