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Democrat Committees to Issue Subpoena to Interpreter from Trump/Putin Helsinki Meeting; Trump Takes Extraordinary Measures to Hide Records of Putin Meetings; FBI Debated Whether Trump Followed Russia's Direction; Trump Rejects Proposal to Temporarily Open Government; Polls Show Most Americans Blame Trump for Shutdown; U.S. Farmers Hurt by Trade War & Shutdown. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 14, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] REP. ELIOT ENGEL, (D-NY), CHAIR, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: We're going to try to get to the bottom of this.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Regardless if the subpoenas would come from Intel or Foreign Affairs, as that will get worked out on kind of where jurisdiction lies, do you think House investigators have the legal authority to ask for these notes from Helsinki or any other meeting between the president and Vladimir Putin?

ENGEL: I think we do. You talk in the Foreign Affairs Committee, you talk about foreign affairs, and what could be more of foreign affairs than the leader of the United States meeting with the leader of another country.

What really is disturbing about all this, forget about subpoenas, yes, no, whatever, is the fact that we all know that the Russians interfered in our 2016 election. We know they interfered to try to help Donald Trump win. And since that time, there have been meetings between Putin and Trump and we don't know what went on. It's so many months past, and we don't know what went on. You just scratch your head and say, what is it? Why is it that the president of the United States seems to go against our allies like the U.K. or Germany or France, and cozy up to Putin? It makes no sense whatsoever. Yes, you want to try to improve relations with your adversaries. No one is saying you shouldn't do that. The question is, why is everything so secretive. Why --

BOLDUAN: What was your reaction to the "Washington Post" reporting that, after the Hamburg face-to-face in 2017 between Trump and Putin, that Trump seized, he took the notes from the interpreter and told the interpreter not to discuss anything that was in the meeting with even his top advisers in administration?

ENGEL: It's disturbing, of course. If it's true, it's disturbing. We want to get to the bottom of it. We want to find out what's true and what's not true. It just doesn't past the smell test. There's something there that isn't right. It's our obligation. We are a co- equal branch of government. It's important to say that. In our Constitution, the legislative branch, which is Congress, is Article I. We're listed before the executive is listed. So investigating and acting as a co-government and not behold to the executive is what we're supposed to do. Checks and balances.

BOLDUAN: When it comes to Hamburg, at least, Rex Tillerson, then secretary of state, was in that meeting. Are you interested in inviting him or subpoenaing him to get information? He would be the other person in the room?

ENGEL: We are casting a wide net. We haven't made any decisions. Congress is just -- the new Congress has started. We've had this terrible shutdown. And all of the committee members have not yet been appointed to all the committees. We're behind a little bit. There was President Bush's funeral. So everything is behind. Nothing has been definitely put down on how we're going to do it. We are going to do it. We're going to work together because we shouldn't be at cross purposes.

BOLDUAN: I've seen both Republican and Democratic staffers of previous administrations, previous presidents, who say that an interpreter and their notes, that could and very likely would try to assert executive privilege over it. How do you argue that it is not covered by executive privilege?

ENGEL: Well, you know, all things are on the table. I would like, in a perfect world, not to have to look at what an interpreter wrote. I would prefer not to do that. We have to see. We have to see what we can find out. If I had a choice, I would rather not do that with the interpreter. We may have no choice. We'll have to see down the road what happens. We want to get to the truth.

BOLDUAN: Needless to say, the administration -- if the president seized these records in Hamburg -- they're not denying that right now. They've been asked about that all morning. They're not denying the president took the records from the interpreter, which I think I could make the leap to say the president doesn't want to hand them over to Congress. That is likely going to require a subpoena. Would you promise that if they don't hand them over that, in some way, shape, or form, that's coming down the line?

ENGEL: I wouldn't make promises in terms of what we're going to do. The promise I would make is we're going to look at this thoroughly by the best means possible. It's very important. Our elections -- you go back to the 2016 elections -- were definitely tampered with by the Russians and by Putin to the benefit of President Trump. The question really is, who knew what and when and was it done? We haven't really found that out. Was it collusion with the Trump people? There's a lot about Putin that we don't know about and we intend to find out about.

BOLDUAN: And, Chairman, it led people to a very strange question being asked to the president. The president had to answer today to reporting, the "New York Times," that law enforcement had begun an investigation after James Comey was fired, began an investigation into whether the president of the United States was working on behalf of the Russians after the Comey firing. He said today, when asked about it, that he never worked for Russia. Do you believe him?

[11:35:16] ENGEL: Well, it's unthinkable an American president would work for Russia. So I hope -- I'd like to believe him. We're going to try to find out.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Chairman, thank you for coming in.

ENGEL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: A big job ahead of you. We'll follow it closely.

ENGEL: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, President Trump rejects a new Republican proposal to reopen the government for a short period of time to try to negotiate, as a new CNN poll shows that most Americans right now are blaming the president for the shutdown. That's next.


[11:40:22] Welcome to day 24 of your government shutdown. It's now the longest in American history and getting longer while the ripple effects get wider. So how close are the president and Congress to ending this historic impasse? Is this going to come down to him declaring a national emergency? Here is the president on those questions today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRSIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not looking to call a national emergency. This is so simple we shouldn't have to. Now, I have the absolute legal right to call it. But I'm not looking to do that. I don't know if we're close to a deal. This should be the easiest deal we've ever seen. We're talking about border security. Who can be against it?


BOLDUAN: So in short, they are in exactly the same place. There's no end in sight. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Joining me right now is CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, and CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston, is here.

Jeremy, I want to start with you.

You have new reporting of the president's thinking on this. He believes he's winning the P.R. battle over the shutdown. What have you learned?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Kate. The president seems to be digging in on this issue of a government shutdown and specifically on his demand for a border wall. According to a source familiar with his conversations over the past 24 hours, the president has said that he believes he is winning this public relations battle with the Democrats. Believing that he can ultimately pressure Democrats into supporting his call for border wall funding. And you may ask, where is this coming from. There's been a slew of

polls over the weekend showing that a majority of Americans are blaming the president and not Democrats for this shutdown.


DIAMOND: But the president is grabbing onto one particular piece of polling data in the ABC News/"Washington Post" poll that indicates that support for the border wall has grown from 34 percent to 42 percent. But that's over the last year, Kate. And that's just one piece of evidence that the president is pointing to. He's long believed, since the beginning of this fight, that this was something worth having. He believes he can win on the merits of border security and this call for a barrier at the U.S./Mexico border. Again, the other polling that we have from CNN and the "Washington Post" and various outlets, indicate most Americans, still today at least, are blaming the president and not Democrats for the shutdown.

BOLDUAN: Mark, exhibit 475, they believe the polls when they like them and don't like them when they don't like them. Is this why it seems, Mark, that the president is -- I don't know. I'm probably reading too far into it. Today, he seemed to be moving an inch away from declaring an emergency declaration or saying something like that leaving the White House.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he said that with the idea that he very well could do so. He also noted that he has the absolute legal right to call a state of emergency if he chooses to do so. That's obviously up for discussion because a lot of people don't think he could. If he did, it would go to courts and what have you. I think what President Trump is trying to do is bide time. Right now, strategically, he has put himself into a corner. He doesn't have any way out of trying to get the government back open unless it looks like he's caving to Democrats. At some point, you have to wonder is it worth doing that? Is it worth taking a hit right now, President Trump, in order to try to fight another day? Right now, he doesn't seem like he's willing to do so. In fact, we could come to this situation, Kate, where he does call a national emergency.

BOLDUAN: I keep returning to bide time, for what? It's not like it gets better as this thing happens. This thing does not age well like a fine wine.

Jeremy, let me play quickly the suggestion that came up from Lindsey Graham yesterday on the Sunday morning show, Donald Trump's sometime ally, on what could be a way out.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Before he pulls the plug on the legislative option, and I think we're almost there, I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug, see if we can get a deal. If we can't at the end of three weeks, all bets are off. See if he can do it by himself through the emergency powers.


BOLDUAN: The president rejected that this morning. Is this where this is headed? How much pressure -- the pressure continues to mount not only on president and Democrats but especially Republicans in the Senate to figure a way out of this.

DIAMOND: It's interesting because, last week, it seemed like the president was inching toward one of these off ramps. He was talking about the possibility of declaring a national emergency. Lindsey Graham and other allies of the president were in his ear suggesting this move, to temporarily reopen the government or to perhaps use other alternative sources of funding, and now the president this morning is rejecting those possible off-ramps and digging in his heels to try to win out this public relations battle with Democrats. Because that's ultimately what it's going to come down to. Are most Americans blaming the president or Democrats? So far, the president appears to be losing that battle if you look at most of the polls coming out this week. The president is holding fast to this idea that, at the end of the day, he can win that battle and he has the winning argument with border security and this wall. That remains to be seen -- Kate?

[11:45:32] BOLDUAN: All right. Great to see you guys. I really appreciate it.

Thank thanks, Jeremy.

Thanks, Mark.

PRESTON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, federal workers aren't the only ones feeling impact of government shutdown. Next, I'll talk to a fourth-generation farmer who says he is also paying a big price right now.


[11:50:13] BOLDUAN: Any moment now, President Trump is expected to touch down in New Orleans. He'll be speaking there at the American Farm Bureau's annual convention.

The speech comes at a turbulent time for farmers across the country. For one, the trade war with China is putting the squeeze on crop prices across country. And, two, the double whammy, the government shutdown is now delaying relief payment that President Trump promised to help farmers during this trade standoff.

One of those farmers feeling that double hit right now is John Boyd Jr. His family has been farming in Virginia for generations. He joins me now.

Mr. Boyd, thank you for coming in.

JOHN BOYD JR, FARMER: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: I appreciate it. You're a soybean farmer. China is a huge market for soybeans. You've said you're already hurting because of the trade war. What has the shutdown meant for you personally?

BOYD: Basically, the shutdown has it right now where we can't get our subsidy check from the United States Department of Agriculture. It's put a halt to our soybean harvest. It's put a halt to planting our winter wheat. And it all stems from the president's tariffs, right up to right now. Where, in 2012, I was selling a bushel of soybeans for $16 a bushel. Today, I'm selling soybeans for about $8 a bushel. That's a reduction in half. It all stems from the decisions of this president to play footsie with China. It's had a snowball effect. Now the government is closed and we desperately need a subsidy check. People need to understand it's not a whole lot, it's $1.65 a bushel for every bushel I'm going to harvest. I'm look for roughly $15,000. But that's a lot of money for my farming operation. And this president hasn't shown the leadership to bring this country together, both racially, and he hasn't shown the leadership to bring our country together politically. And that's something that's really hurting our country right now and hurting my personal family, my personal farming operation.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Boyd, it is very clear you're not happy with the president's decisions on multiple fronts.

BOYD: Yes.

BOLDUAN: I do wonder, when it comes to this shutdown, what is your message right now to the president and to lawmakers as they are not fighting over -- they're not fighting over crop prices. They're not fighting over farm subsidies. They're fighting over a wall at the border.

BOYD: And quite frankly, we don't need a wall. And the president needs to be mindful that the same people he's trying to keep out of this country are the same people that clean his hotel rooms, that work in his resorts, that manicure his golf courses and things. He should be mindful and treat everybody in this country with dignity and respect. These persons want to come to this country only for a better way of life. They're looking for a better life for their children and families. Yes, they should come to this country through the laws already on the books, I definitely agree with that. But the way the president is going about this and the way he talks about these persons is really horrific. Again, these are the people that work in his companies. These are people that have paid in his hotels for years, swept his floors, and kept his properties up. Treat everybody with dignity and respect is my message to the president. And open up this government, and open it up right now, put federal employees back to work, and put my farming operation back to work. That's my message to the president.

BOLDUAN: When it comes to -- I mean, they're talking about -- Trump at one point was saying this could drag on over a year. What would that mean? How much longer can you hang on? What are your options if they don't open the government up? BOYD: Well, that's -- that's the issue for me personally right now.

It's a struggle. And we've struggled to obtain loans and subsidies from the United States Department of Agriculture for decades. And I applied for the soybean payment. I am a soybean producer. I was qualified, eligible. And I haven't got my payment. And it appears to me for small-scale farmers in this country, payments always come slow, and for the large-scale producers, payments come quickly. As a matter of fact, I should be receiving already my second check from the government and I haven't even gotten the first one. And I've reached out as president of the National Black Farmers Association. I've reached out to Secretary of Agriculture Perdue and requested a sit- down meeting and that request has went on deaf ears. I visited with every Ag secretary in this country since the Carter administration. And this administration has turned a deaf ear to African-American farmers and small-scale farmers alike in this country.

BOLDUAN: When did you put in that request?

BOYD: Well, basically -- that I would like to meet and talk with Secretary Perdue?


[11:54:56] BOYD: And ask him, what is he going to do to get crop prices up for family farmers. What is he going to do to expedite payment to family farmers like myself, who are hurting right now? He's out speaking to the American Farm Bureau. And I know those farmers are going to support the president.

BOLDUAN: And you --

BOYD: Most of them are Republicans --


BOLDUAN: And you put in that request and you have not heard back to meet with him?

BOYD: I've not heard back. I have not heard back. Basically, what we've been hearing from the Ag secretary is he's too busy. And if he's too busy to meet with the constituents that he needs to be representing, then he shouldn't be Ag secretary. That's my message to Secretary Perdue. We would like to have an audience with him, a sit- down meeting with the secretary.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Boyd, thank you for coming in. We'll follow up and see if that will maybe happen.

BOYD: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll also see what happens if the shutdown continues. I appreciate it.

We'll be right back.