Return to Transcripts main page


Longest Shutdown in History; Trump Threatens Turkey; Trump Never Worked for Russia; Two More Democratic 2020 Contenders; Trump Answers Questions While Leaving for New Orleans. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 14, 2019 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, yes, they can try to punish a congressman from Iowa for essentially believing (INAUDIBLE) the same thing that the president does, and we just have to, I guess, smile and go along with what he says.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: That's a pretty stark statement there, but a lot of truth to it.

Errol, if I can, just on the shutdown here because, let's be frank, the president is digging in. And, in many ways, the polls show that he is taking the lion's share of the blame for this shutdown. That said, there are many who are frustrated even inside this Democratic Party because Poppy and I have heard from Democratic lawmakers who say, wait a second, we've got to find a way out of this, too.


SCIUTTO: I wonder, Errol Louis, if you're concerned about dangers for Nancy Pelosi's leadership, for the Democratic Party, that came in with an ambitious agenda getting hijacked by this here and maybe overplaying their political hand?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we should say up front that the political problems that a Nancy Pelosi or any of the other Democratic leadership face are nothing compared to the real world problems of all of the meat inspectors --


LOUIS: The Food and Drug Administrators --


LOUIS: All of the people who are sitting here out of work.

But, no, I don't -- I don't think -- I think Democracy is going to work the way it's supposed to work, which is that the level of heat that's going to come from those 800,000 workers and the general public, who are sick of long lines and of concourses at the airport being shut down and all the other dangers and problems that are starting to arise and starting to be reported, I think it's going to put pressure on everybody, starting with everybody who's up for re- election in 2020. You'll notice that there are about a half dozen Republican senators who are starting to feel the heat. You've got Joni Ernst and you've got Cory Gardner and you've got others who are saying, like, wait a minute, I've got to face the voters in a couple of years and I can't be seen to have been so irresponsible. And I think that's true for Democrats and Republicans alike.

HARLOW: Errol Louis, Matt Lewis, thanks, gentlemen. Good to have you.

SCIUTTO: Thanks, guys.

LOUIS: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: After the president threatened a NATO ally on Twitter -- you may have missed that -- this weekend, Turkey not only hits back at the threat, they hit back at the way it was delivered. Next, what this back and forth means for the Middle East region, for Europe and for the NATO alliance.


[09:36:31] SCIUTTO: Turkey is now pushing back, angrily you might say, against President Trump, as well as his favorite platform, for delivering messages. The country's foreign minister said not only is Turkey unafraid of the president's threats, that they don't think allies should go back and forth via Twitter. This is happening after President Trump threatened Turkey in a tweet warning the U.S. would, quote, devastate Turkey economically if they take action against Kurdish fighters who have been fighting alongside the U.S., against ISIS.

Let's talk about this with Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He is a CNN military analyst, former army commanding general for Europe, the Seventh Army. Also commanded troops in Iraq.

General, thanks. Always good to have you on.


SCIUTTO: So Turkey is a NATO ally. Is a NATO ally still a NATO ally when the president threatens to devastate them economically? It's quite unprecedented, isn't it?

HERTLING: It is more than unprecedented. It's flat out dangerous, Jim. This gets to the undisciplined messaging which is occurring across the administration. Again, you had the national security adviser, Mr. Bolton, saying some things last week that perturbed Turkey, to put it mildly. There is disconnects with not only Turkey as a NATO ally, but several other NATO allies, specifically France and Germany, considering our pullout. Israel is concerned and has seen a back and forth in terms of what the official line, party line, of the administration is.

So this just all contributes to a strategy that seems not to be very unified and that is dependent on one individual in a -- in a very unique method of messaging the strategies of the United States. SCIUTTO: It is striking that the president has reserved his strongest,

most explosive rhetoric for allies, such as Turkey, but also, as you mentioned, he's gone after France and Germany, not only for financial issues in NATO, but other issues. In his language -- direct language and criticism that the president has not used regarding Russia as Russia has proceeded to increase its aggressive in Europe, Crimea, Ukraine, Syria.

How important is that when you target your allies as a U.S. president with that kind of public criticism but not whatever U.S. intel official will describe as America's greatest national security threat, Russia, along with China?

HERTLING: Well, it -- first all of, shows that advisers are not contributing. Or let me rephrase that. They may be contributing, but their advice is not being taken. And these are subject matter experts in the arena. There are things called red teams which determine what will another nation do if we do this. And what are the branches and sequels of those actions? That certainly isn't occurring because it's -- as we said before, it's not only upsetting our allies, but it seems to be contributing to the great glee of our foes, specifically in places like Syria, where Russia has a vested interest in establishing military bases in the Mediterranean and having another ally that will further disrupt our NATO alliances and the actions of the United States.

So all of these things contribute to a world view, if you will, of what should the president and his administration be doing and how should the messaging be synchronized and coordinated.

[09:40:02] SCIUTTO: Let's -- speaking of synchronize and coordinated, we have the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, traveling around the Middle East. Still out there, although he's returning early now, claiming that U.S. policy in the Middle East has never been clearer, even in the midst of this back and forth on the Syria troop withdrawal. You spend a lot of time in that region. Is anybody buying that?

HERTLING: No one is buying it. The secretary is giving speeches. I certainly couldn't say this when I still wore the uniform because I would have to support the civilian authorities. But truthfully, Jim, now that I'm retired, what I can say is, knowing our friends and alliances and partners in the Middle East, no one is buying the message.

Now, certainly, past administrations have not done things appropriately to really bring together our allies and partners. But in this case, it seems the secretary is going around just slamming previous administrations. And while he may be saying some things that resonate with audiences, it has to do with, here's what he want to do, there doesn't seem to be any means or ways associated with that. Either actions coming from the government, military, diplomatic, informational or economic, or just flat out published strategies of, here's what we're trying to accomplish and here's what we're doing next.


HERTLING: Truthfully, watching Secretary Pompeo, I don't know what their objective is, both Pompeo and Bolton, on these trips to the Middle East. It just seems to be a series of speeches attempting to calm the Middle Eastern partners. But it seems to be doing quite the opposite.

SCIUTTO: Sometimes undermined by the president's public messages.


SCIUTTO: General Mark Hertling, thanks very much.

HERTLING: Thank you, Jim.

HARLOW: Yes, important analysis for sure.

Also this morning, an important headline out of China. New evidence that China's economy is taking a hit from the U.S. trade war. A big one. And U.S. tariffs on those $200 billion in Chinese goods is a big reason why. China's exports just suffered their biggest decline in two years. Now there are hopes that talks between the U.S. and China could bring the trade war to an end despite the bad numbers for China last month. They still managed to maintain a record trade gap with the U.S. for a second year in a row selling far more in products to the U.S. than they buy from the U.S. to the tune of more than $300 billion.

Meantime, the man police say murdered a Wisconsin couple and kidnapped their 13-year-old girl, well, he will make his first court appearance today. We're following the new details on this investigation, ahead.


[09:46:54] HARLOW: All right, welcome back. Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto is in Washington.

And we do have some news out of D.C.

Let's go to Abby Phillip at the White House.

Look, the president, walking across the South Lawn, heading to New Orleans, talking to reports. A big headline here on the reporting about Russia over the weekend. What did the president say?


The president was asked once again for the second time in the last several days if he ever worked for Russia. And unlike this weekend when he said -- he didn't answer the question directly, the president said today, I never worked for Russia. So that is the big headline out of what he had to say. And, as you can imagine, he had a lot more to say about the FBI and about his usual suspects who he says are perpetrating a hoax against him. But he did deny categorically that he ever worked for Russia.

And this has come up because of a slew of stories, but one in particular, indicating that there were -- that there were attempts on the president's part to conceal the details of his meetings with Vladimir Putin over the last two years. And CNN has also reported that the FBI had some concerns about whether or not -- why the president was acting the way that he was toward Vladimir Putin. And I think you'll hear a lot more from President Trump in just a couple of minutes, so I'll let that tape play out. But that's that big headline this morning from what he had to say on the lawn.

HARLOW: We're getting those comments in, Abby, from the president. We'll play them for people in full here in just a moment. Thank you for bringing us that important headline.

Meantime, as we wait for the president, more Democrats throwing their hats in the ring for 2020. Hawaii Congressman Tulsi Gabbard and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro now join that growing field already. Senator Elizabeth Warren has launched an exploratory committee. At least 25 Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden, reportedly considering a presidential bid.

Karen Finney is with us. She is now a CNN political commentator. Of course you know her name and her face as she worked for -- as a senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid. She was also an adviser to Georgia candidate for the gubernatorial race there, Stacey Abrams.

Good to have you here.


HARLOW: Welcome. Welcome.

FINNEY: Thank you. Thank you.

HARLOW: Look, you tweeted yesterday about the 2020 field --


HARLOW: Calling it the most diverse and most diverse electorate saying we can't be afraid to call out racism and sexism. The president directly attacked former Vice President Joe Biden.


HARLOW: We're going to hear from the president in just a minute, so you're going to have to hold that thought.

But I do want to ask you if he sees Biden as a threat.

FINNEY: I think he does. I mean, you know, usually when the president attacks you, it means that he sees you as a threat or gives you a pet name as he did during the 2016 cycle. So I think it's pretty safe to assume he sees all of them as a threat potentially.

HARLOW: All right, let's hold that thought. We'll get back to this conversation. But here we have the president as he heads to New Orleans answering reporter questions. Here he is. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Beautiful. I's

beautiful. It's too bad they took the snow off the ground. It's too bad. It was more beautiful last night.

QUESTION: How long do you plan to meet with them (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: I'll be going to New Orleans right now. I'm going to be speaking in front of our great farmers. I look forward to that. I did it last year. And I look forward to it. So we'll be back a little bit later.

[09:50:01] I believe, I don't know if the weather changes things, but the Clemson championship team, the national championship team, will be coming tonight. It will be exciting. A very great team. An unbelievable team. They'll be coming tonight. And I think we're going to serve McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King with some pizza. I really mean it. It will be interesting. And I would think that's their favorite food.

So we'll see what happens. But they're coming tonight, the national champions, subject to the weather.


TRUMP: So I've been here all weekend. A lot of the Democrats were in Puerto Rico celebrating something. I don't know, maybe they're celebrating the shutdown. We have a very big crisis, a humanitarian crisis, on the border. Everybody knows it. They know it. And many of them are saying we agree with you. Many of them are calling and many of them are breaking.

The Republicans are rock solid. We've got to take care of our border. Many of the people -- they're all going to get their money. Many of the people that aren't being paid right now are in total agreement with us. You saw the border patrol agents. You saw what was happening. They're in total agreement with us. So we'll see how it all goes.

I will tell you this, we have a priority. It's the safety of our nation. The southern border has been horrible for decades and it's now because of the success of our country, it's now at a level that we cannot put up with. The Democrats have to do something. We need their votes, otherwise we can't solve it without their votes. They now control the House. Let's see if they can lead. I don't know that they can lead, but we're going to soon find out.

QUESTION: Mr. President --


TRUMP: What did you say?


TRUMP: Well, that was a suggestion that Lindsey made, but I did -- I did reject it, yes. I'm not interested.


TRUMP: I want to get it solved. I don't want to just delay it. I want to get it solved.



TRUMP: I just don't know anything about it. I read it this morning. It's a lot of fake news. That was a very good meeting. It was actually a very successful meeting. And I have those meetings with everything (ph). I just know nothing about it.

It was a very, very successful meeting. We talked about Israel. We talked about the pipeline that Germany is paying Russia a lot of money. I don't think it's appropriate. We talked about that. We talked about many subjects. But I have those meetings one-on-one with all leaders, including the president of China, including the prime minister of Japan, Abe, we have those meetings all the time, no big deal.

QUESTION: Mr. President -- Mr. President --



TRUMP: I never worked for Russia. And you know that answer better than anybody. I never worked for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even ask that question because it's a whole big fat hoax. It's just a hoax.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what about (INAUDIBLE).



TRUMP: I don't -- I haven't been following it. I really haven't been following it.


QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) close on a deal. Do you (INAUDIBLE) close on a deal?

TRUMP: A deal with what?

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) ending the shutdown.

TRUMP: I don't know if we're close to a deal. This should be the easiest deal that I've ever seen. We're talking about border security. Who can be against it? We're talking about drugs pouring in, human traffickers tying up women, putting tape in their mouth and pouring into our country. We can't have that. We can't have that. We have drugs, we have criminals, we have gangs and the Democrats

don't want to do anything about it. They say, oh, it's immoral. But it wasn't immoral three years ago, five years ago, six years ago, and ten years ago when they all raised their hands to approve a wall. All of a sudden it's immoral. It's immoral because, one reason, because they know they're going to lose in the 2020 election. That's the only reason to them it's immoral.


QUESTION: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has called for (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: Who did?

QUESTION: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez.

TRUMP: Who cares. Geez.

QUESTION: What was your take on last week's talks with China about trade?

TRUMP: We're doing very well with China. They're having a hard time with their economy because of the tariffs. We're doing very well with our economy. We're at records. Our unemployment numbers just hit a record, another record. We're doing extremely well as a country. We're doing better than any country right now anywhere in world.

China wants to negotiate. I have a great relationship with President Xi because it's good to have relationships with Russia and China and Japan and India, and I have relationships with almost everybody. And that's a good thing, not a bad thing.

[09:55:02] I think that we are going to be able to do a deal with China. We -- I can tell you, we are getting things that before I became president you would have had no chance at getting. They would have laughed at your president's face.


QUESTION: Mr. President, are you (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: The people that started that investigation are McCabe, who's a proven liar and was fired from the FBI. Are Lisa Page, who was forced to leave the FBI, and her lover, Peter Strzok, who we got their text messages and what they said in those text messages was shocking when you talk about bias. And also Comey. And I guess they started because I fired Comey, which was great thing I did for our country.

So the people doing that investigation were people that have been caught that are known scoundrels. They're in -- I guess you could say they're dirty cops. And I'll tell you what, it is so unfair what's happened to the FBI in terms of the men and women working in the rank and file of the FBI. I know many of them. These are great people. And they are so embarrassed by their leadership. You've never seen -- I have never seen a turnaround in a bureau or agency like I have with the FBI. They are so embarrassed. I think 12 people now have been terminated. And others, if you look at what's happening, others are going to go, what happened at the FBI.

So when you say, should I have confidence in the FBI or intelligence agencies, when I see Ohr and I see all of these people, when I see Lisa and her lover and their notes and their texts get captured, and you see what they said about me, having nothing to do with the investigation, let me tell you something, when people see that, you have an angry country because the whole thing is a hoax. It's a big hoax. And it's very bad for our country.

So what happened with the FBI, I have done a great service for our country when I fired James Comey, because he was a bad cop and he was a dirty cop and he lied. He really lied.


TRUMP: And all you have to do -- wait a minute. And all you have to do is take a look at the crooked Hillary Clinton investigation where they brought her under -- July 4th weekend. July 4th. They didn't swear her in. They didn't do any tapes. They didn't do anything. They let her go. And she usually said -- mostly said, I don't know. She didn't know anything.

Just like James Comey a week ago. He was interviewed by Congress and, you know, unfortunately, people didn't see it because the Republicans with Paul Ryan, unfortunately, they didn't put him out there. But what he said was either he's a bad liar or he's grossly incompetent. Unfortunately, people didn't see it. But you can read the transcript.


TRUMP: What?


TRUMP: You know how I feel. OK. We'll see you in -- what?


TRUMP: 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 because this is too simple. The Democrats should say we want border security. We have to build a wall otherwise you can't have border security and we should get on with our lives. The Democrats are stopping us and they're stopping a lot of great people from getting paid. All they have to do is say, we want border security. That automatically means a wall or a barrier.

Thank you. I'll see you in New Orleans.

SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

President Trump there just now delivering quite a series of statements to reporters outside the White House. Just to highlight a few.

One, he summarily rejected a proposal floated by Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator, a frequent ally of the president --


SCIUTTO: To reopen government for three weeks and then declare a national emergency to allow time for negotiation during that time period.

He also just said there, as he was about to leave, that he has an absolute legal right, in his words, to declare a national emergency for the border wall, although he says he is not looking to call it right now.

The other thing, Poppy, I think to highlight here, the president did something he didn't do over the weekend, he denied explicitly that he was working for Russia.


SCIUTTO: Went further to say that the reporter who asked the question should be ashamed of even asking that question.

HARLOW: Which they shouldn't.

Let's bring in our experts.

And, David Chalian, let me go to you first, our political director.

Look, the president said, I never worked for Russia. You know that better than anyone. It's a hoax. And then he tried to shame the reporter for asking it.

[10:00:02] But there are so many reasons, David Chalian, why it is a very important and legitimate question this morning given the reporting over the weekend from