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Father of Closs Kidnapper Has Letter for Jayme's Family; Trump's EPA Nominee: "Climate Change An "8 or 9" on 1-10 Scale; New Congress Being Tested on Issues at Home & Aboard; U.S. Coast Guard Not Being Paid During Shutdown. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 16, 2019 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[14:30:00] JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When he left, I asked if he got the note. He wouldn't respond but had a half smile and just sort of a nod on his head and he left.

CNN was able to talk with a neighbor of the defendant's mother. She tells CNN that his mother is devastated and cannot wrap her mind around what happened.

As you know, in that complaint, prosecutors said that the defendant told them he was going to leave no DNA at the scene so no one would ever find out what he did and that he would kill anyone who got in his way.

Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Jean, thank you, in Barron Wisconsin.

Meantime, it was a climate clash on Capitol Hill today as President Trump's EPA nominee, Andrew Wheeler, faced off against Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Even amid several protest interruptions there, the former Republican aide and coal industry lobbyist touted what he called the progress the EPA has made under President Trump. You can hear the interruptions.

But it was what Wheeler said about climate change that is concerning to some.

CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, is with me in Washington, D.C.

What did he say today?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Brooke, first of all, let's talk about climate change more broadly in the Trump administration. Donald Trump knows he's been. A very, very skeptical figure as it relates to climate change. He pulled us out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, the one nation to do so. He's also -- and I think we have his tweet. This is the one I go back to when people talk about climate change. We have his tweet before he was president. But Donald Trump on climate change. This is November 2012, but nonetheless, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive."

Lots of scientists, including those who work for the Trump administration, would disagree.

Let's play a clip from a back and forth with Wheeler during his confirmation hearings today. Can we play that?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW WHEELER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S NOMINEE FOR EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I believe climate change is real. And I believe that man has an impact on it. But --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT: The president said climate change is a hoax. Do you agree with him?

WHEELER: I have not used the hoax word myself.

SANDERS: I see.

WHEELER: I would not call it the greatest crisis. No, sir. I consider it a huge issue that has to be addressed globally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CILLIZZA: There's two things there. One, it is noteworthy that Andrew Wheeler's view is not directly in line with Donald Trump's view. He said he does not agree it's a hoax. But it is important to know that Andrew Wheeler says I don't view it as the greatest crisis facing the country. Scott Pruitt, who was someone who really was picked in some ways because his views on climate, at least, were close to where Donald Trump was and against what the broad scientific community would say.

And again, just very quickly, on Andrew Wheeler, he's the deputy of the EPA, former coal lobbyist. You'll remember Jim Inhofe bringing a snowball to the Senate floor and saying, if I made this snowball and it's so cold out, how can the climate possibly be changing. So certain mixed messages here.

Wheeler acknowledges that climate change is not a hoax, which amazingly is news in 2019, though it shouldn't be because every scientist worth their degrees say it is. But he also says it's not the biggest crisis facing the country.

So again, this hearing doesn't get as much attention as William Barr on Tuesday, but the impact that Andrew Wheeler has and what his views are and how he carries those out and carries out the views of Donald Trump --

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: -- could have a huge, huge impact. BALDWIN: Yes.

Chris Cillizza, thank you so much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

[14:34:05] BALDWIN: We have some more news just coming in. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging the president to move his State of the Union address because of the government shutdown. The House Republican leader is calling Nancy Pelosi's behavior unbecoming. Unbecoming. Standby.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Just two weeks into the new legislative year, the 116th Congress is being tested here and abroad. The longest shutdown in U.S. history, a public condemnation of one of their most controversial members following racist remarks, and today, this deadly attack on Syria. An attack that killed U.S. servicemembers. An attack that ISIS is claiming responsibility for just weeks after President Trump claimed they were defeated, badly defeated.

Joining me now to walk through all of this is Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks, of New York. He's a senior member of the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Congressman Meeks, welcome back, sir.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS, (D), NEW YORK: Good to be with you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: First off, as a member of Foreign Affairs, what do you know that you can share about what's happened in Syria? Do you know yet how many American lives were lost?

MEEKS: I don't know how many American lives were lost. This is a tragic incident that took place. But again, it just shows how you cannot be a president that just works on spur of the moment, I know more than anybody, I know more than the general, I don't have any consultation with anyone, I'm going to do what I want to do. And it is grave ramifications for any president when you have to make certain decisions. And certainly you should be consulting the generals and others, your diplomats, to try to figure this out. And it just seems to me that the president as he's done before saying ISIS has been defeated, way defeated. You can't fly by your seat of your pants and not have knowledge about what's going on.

(CROSSTALK)

[14:40:02] BALDWIN: So, Congressman, would you be in favor of keeping a military presence in Syria?

MEEKS: What I'd be in favor of is I think I need to talk. I don't have all of the information that the president should have. I would first confer with all of my generals and all of my diplomats in the State Department and then make that kind of learned decision. It seems clear here that the president did not do that. I think from the information that I have I would not just come out and make an announcement we're pulling people out immediately. Because I know of the complications in the area, whether talking about with the Kurds, who have been our allies, talking about the Turks, talking about ISIS and they're remaining there, it's a complicated situation. I know a decision could not be made in a manner in which the president made it.

BALDWIN: We learned today he was warned when he was in Iraq over the Christmas holidays. He was warned about the presence of ISIS.

Let me ask you about Russia. Your committee was discussing whether or not to subpoena that interpreter. What's the decision, Congressman?

MEEKS: Well, we are organizing the committee. I think it's a very important piece of information that we need given the allegations that we have talked about. We're going to follow and I hope that Mr. Mueller is doing all of that. But we're going to look at from our viewpoint of oversight as to what has taken place. I know that Chairman Engel is looking at the possibility of subpoenaing --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Let me jump in. Looking at the possibility, is there something that's holding you guys up? What's the main issue that's holding things up?

MEEKS: The main issue is the committee is going to be fully organized. We don't have everyone or had our first organizational meeting yet. The chair wants to get everybody together to make that determination.

BALDWIN: The president also reportedly told allies he wants to withdraw from NATO. Do you have a sense that this was perhaps one of the topics in one of these secret chats that the president had with Vladimir Putin?

MEEKS: It sure seems that way, knowing the president's position had been before. Some of his public statements in regard to NATO, he surely has not been a person who was supportive. I'm the former ranking member on Europe. I can recall traveling to Europe a number of times meeting with NATO allies when the president said negative things about NATO. So it doesn't surprise me that he would have this kind of conversation with the person that would benefit the most from us withdrawing from NATO and that's Vladimir Putin and Russia. Here's a guy I believe if you talk to him three or four years before running for president, he probably didn't know what NATO is. But now he has devalued NATO and the E.U. to such a degree it's plausible to me that he would have had this back-door conversation with Vladimir Putin about withdrawing from NATO.

BALDWIN: On Congressman Steve King, you voted for the resolution yesterday that condemns his words. You have taken it a step further and called for Congress to censure him. This morning, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, called his comments abhorrent. Here she was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Steve King's comments were abhorrent. And the Republican leadership, unlike Democrats, have actually taken action when their members have said outrageous and inappropriate things. I hope Democratic leadership will follow the very strong and rightful leadership that the Republicans have done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That is some direct shade on your party, Congressman. Do you want to respond?

MEEKS: That's just ridiculous. That's just ridiculous. Here's a president that watches television all the time, looks at the news ,and yesterday he said he didn't know what was going on. That's like what he said when he didn't know what David Duke was. He was hesitant in making statements because he doesn't want to disturb that part of the support that comes from the racist mentality and has the same believes and believe the same thing that Steve King said. That's what he's had in his campaign and said about Charlottesville. So it's a weak argument. So the appropriate thing was passing the bill we passed yesterday. It was right. I compliment the Republican Party by stripping his committees. But I do think we need to have a cent sure on the floor of the House because we can't allow the House of the people, individuals who have those believes. It has no place in the United States Congress.

BALDWIN: Why is this all just happening now? This isn't news that he has ever made racist remarks. Your colleagues on the other side of the aisle are now doing the right thing. But what took them so long?

[14:45:09] MEEKS: That's a good question because I agree with you.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Why do you think? Why do you think?

MEEKS: Because they are feeling, as a result of the election, that the American people is going in another direction. The American people, we have made so much progress in our nation. They don't want to go back to some of those ugly days.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Haven't we always been against racism? Why was it these remarks?

MEEKS: Unfortunately, in the United States of American, we have not all been against racism. And this president has brought it back where it seems to be that it's OK. We have had individuals who were marching in Charlottesville who did not even feel threatened enough to cover their faces anymore. So racism is still alive and well in the United States of America. And we have a president that seems to help unleash and get people feeling they can come out of the closet with that kind of racism.

BALDWIN: Resolution of disapproval for now. Do you think he should resign? Last question.

MEEKS: I think I agree with Mitt Romney and others. There was a big headline in the Iowa newspapers where they say, for the sake of Iowa, Steve King should resign. So I think for the benefit of the American people and progress we've made, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: OK.

MEEKS: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks, from New York, thank you very much, sir.

MEEKS: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, amid this government shutdown over border security, this week, active-duty members of the Coast Guard are missing their first paychecks. I'll ask my next guest, the wife of a 13-year servicemember, about the impact this is having on her and her family.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:51:18] BALDWIN: The irony here is astounding. A government shutdown over border security is putting a strain on the people who enforce U.S. immigration laws. Border Patrol agents. TSA screeners. They are not getting paid. Immigration judges canceling cases.

And members of the U.S. Coast Guard, one of the first lines of defense for illegal industry or drug smuggling by sea, they are not getting paid. That's 40,000 active-duty members. This marks the first time U.S. servicemembers have not been paid during a government shutdown.

My next guest is married to a Coast Guard petty officer who has gotten big, fat goose eggs in his paycheck. She's Meghan Wood. She's also the secretary of the North Bay Coast Guard Spouse's Club.

Meghan, thank you for being with us. We're grateful for your husband's service to his country.

MEGHAN WOOD, SPOUSE OF COAST GUARD PETTY OFFICER & SECRETARY, NORTH BAY COAST GUARD SPOUSE'S CLUB: Thank you for your support and thank you for having me on today.

BALDWIN: Your husband serves his country. At moment, this country isn't serving him. He's not getting paid. You tell me, day-to-day with you and your kids, including your 4-month-old, how is this affecting you guys?

WOOD: So day-to-day, we rely on that paycheck. We have bills to pay, car payments, luckily we live in Coast Guard housing that's provided for us, but cell phone bills, preschool. We don't want them to suffer. And because we are not receiving a paycheck, they possibly could be. BALDWIN: With the Coast Guard, you're constantly being asked to move

every two, three, four years. You have been in California, Ohio, Louisiana, back to California. I imagine, Meghan, that that doesn't make it easy for you trying to find work. If you want to help out.

WOOD: Right, so absolutely. I had my first two children in Louisiana away from our families. Luckily, we had the community rally around us during each of our births of our children, and the community of spouses that we have met during each tour where et we lived has been incredible. They rally around us. Work has been very hard to find. Not many businesses want to hire women who just work for four years. So most of us are stay-at-home moms who are single-income families.

BALDWIN: What kind of message do you feel like this is sending that the U.S. isn't paying those to protect us? Isn't paying active members of the Coast Guard?

WOOD: For us, there's actively 42,000 members that go to workday in and day out that are not getting paid. They continue to be very proud of their jobs. They continue to be a part of the service. I, for one, am proud as his wife. We always will be. It's was hard to wake up yesterday and realize there was no money in the account to pay for the bills that need to be paid.

BALDWIN: Tell me about the food bank you set up for military families.

WOOD: The food bank came across on a Facebook page in our community. Someone posted saying, is someone helping our government families out. We got with our board and said, our community wants to help us, what can we do. We set up a donation drive. They showed up and let us know how much they cared for us. We've had donations come in for the last week and continue to come in today, tomorrow. We're still taking donations. We've set up our distribution for Coast Guard families this Saturday, from 9:00 to 12:00, where they can come, shop, take what they need. The San Francisco food bank is partnering with us as well. The Humane Society is coming and offering free pet food for all our family members and setting up a local farmers market for them as well.

[14:55:31] Is there a Web site or address you can shout out so people can help out or jump in?

WOOD: Absolutely. If you go to the Facebook page of our Coast Guard Spouses, we can direct you or if you want to reach out to me on Facebook, Meghan Wood, I'm more than welcome to answer any questions, messages, and let them know the address where they can send donations to.

BALDWIN: Wonderful. I'll help connect on Twitter.

Meghan, thank you so much.

(CROSSTALK)

WOOD: Thank you for having me. Thank you. BALDWIN: Here's hoping your husband gets that paycheck for you and your family.

Just in, quote, "Act like a speaker." Those words from House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, blasting Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she asked President Trump to reschedule his State of the Union speech. Standby for news on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)