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Interview with Sen. Tom Reed (R-NY); No Response to Delay State of Union; Americans Killed in Syria Attack; Federal Workers Struggle to Pay Bills. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 17, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:21] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: It is day 27 of the government shutdown and 800,000 federal workers still not getting paid, many struggling, understandably, to make ends meet. The impact felt coast to coast. Short-term loans now offered in California. Food stamp benefits sent out early in Ohio. And in North Carolina, one school has reduced its lunch menu to conserve food. All this as TSA protests and long security lines continue at airports around the country.


FABRIZIO SASSO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SACRAMENTO CENTRAL LABOR COUNCIL: These families are struggling. It's hurting our communities. They're having a -- they're having a hard time keeping -- paying their bills and putting food on the table and it's about time that government does something about it.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that says it all, it's about time government does something about it.

Let me bring in someone who can do something about it. Joining me now, Republican Congressman Tom Reed of New York. He met with the president yesterday on this.

Thanks for being here. We appreciate it.

REP. TOM REED (R), NEW YORK: Thank you so much, Poppy. Good to be with you.

HARLOW: And let me -- let me just remind our viewers, you're not someone who just votes down party lines. It was not long ago, a few weeks ago, that you broke with your Republican colleagues. You voted with Democrats on a rules package. The first member to do so and cross the aisle since 2001.

REED: It's true.

HARLOW: So, you talked to the president yesterday. Where is he willing to compromise? REED: Well, I will tell you, Poppy -- and we were also joined by a

handful of Democrat members who came with us. And kudos to them for leading on the issue and being willing to meet with the president to have a conversation. That's how bad and childish the leadership here in Washington, D.C., has become. They won't even sit down and talk. It is time to work out our differences and get this resolved.


REED: Not only for those government employees but also to fix a problem at the border that's been there for decades.

[09:35:03] HARLOW: So where is the president willing to compromise? What did he tell you?

REED: You know, I was very impressed with where the president was willing to say, let's talk, let's figure out, where is the deal that can be struck here? He is, obviously, very much committed to border security. And I think if we can give the parameters of what that means from a Democratic point of view and actually start those conversations, we can resolve this in short order. It's time to negotiate this.

HARLOW: All right. So I read that as you saying -- I read that as you saying, he didn't throw a number out there, he didn't say, all right, I'm willing to budge from this $5.7 billion number.

Look, you read "The New York Times" this morning I'm sure. You know, second line of Maggie Haberman's front page reporting is that the president privately is really worried, that he said to his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, quote, we're getting crushed.

And if you look at, you know, the Democrats here and you look at, for example, Dick Durbin, who's joining us next hour, the headline on his Senate page right now is, President Trump is holding 250,000 veterans' paychecks hostage for his border wall.

The polling, you know, shows that more Americans blame the president right now for the shutdown than blame Democrats. Are you worried about the optics for your party as this continues?

REED: You know who I'm fundamentally worried about are those America people, both those that are suffering from a broker border but also the employee --

HARLOW: For sure. That goes without saying.

REED: But also, rightfully so, Poppy, where I think this -- the fingers that are going to get pointed are going to be at Congress itself. Congress has to act.

HARLOW: So you're not worried -- so are you worried about how Republicans in Congress look then?

REED: I'm worried about how the institution of Congress is being laughed at -- HARLOW: OK.

REED: And looked at as a childish institution that is not dealing with this by talking to each other. That has to end.

HARLOW: Salaries. Let's talk about some of your fellow members of Congress who are saying no thank you to their paycheck during the shutdown. You called that a PR stunt, frankly. Those are the words you used to my colleague Brianna Keilar a week or so ago.

REED: I did.

HARLOW: Why is it a PR stunt?

REED: Here --

HARLOW: And what are you doing with your salary, your paycheck, during the shutdown as long as this continues?

REED: Well, let's be clear, you know, those paychecks are going to go to members of Congress even -- you can't stop that. Even a letter to the Treasury won't stop that. So this is all about, what are you going to do? You know, we have historically given our paychecks during government shutdowns to charity. We're going to continue to do that going forward. But I do this because it's the right thing to do, not because the cameras are on. And that's what I -- I asked both -- both my --

HARLOW: So your whole paycheck will go -- your whole paycheck, as many as it takes, are going to go to charity until the government re-opens?

REED: What we have done is given that money to charity and we'll continue to do that.


REED: But these members who are doing this with this withholding paychecks on both sides of the aisle, you should ask the question, are you going to actually get a check on the 1st?

HARLOW: Let me ask you about the Russia probe and a really significant statement that the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, made last night to our colleague Chris Cuomo. Here it is.


RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.


GIULIANI: I have no idea -- I have not. I said the president of the United States.

CUOMO: You --


HARLOW: OK, he did. Point of fact here, he did say there was no collusion among campaign members. The president has tweeted at least 13 times directly saying no one on his campaign colluded with the Russians.

Rudy Giuliani just moved the goal posts in a really significant way. And I wonder, congressman, does it concern you to hear that?

REED: You know, the -- on this issue, the investigation that Mueller -- we need to see the evidence. Let's get to the end of it. Why do we have to keep speculating and answering hypothetical questions? Mueller's been at this for years. It's time to show the evidence.

HARLOW: Well, I hear that. I hear that. Mueller should, you know -- when he finishes, the American people should see it for sure. But I'm asking you, are you concerned that no longer is the president's attorney saying definitively no one on the Trump campaign team colluded with Russia? He's saying now that's a possibility.

REED: That is -- well, and that's why the investigation, and as I've always said, let the evidence lead this investigation to its conclusion. Speculating, having commentary in the press as to what is actually there, that just leads to that frenzy that can occur. What we need to do is focus on the evidence and then hold accountable each and every individual that the evidence shows needs to be held accountable.

HARLOW: Very importantly, before we go, your fellow Republican congressman, Steve King of Iowa, he was reprimanded, slapped on the wrist, but he was not censured by the House. A, should he be censured, yes or no?

REED: He has been disciplined. And I think the discipline, whatever that level of discipline is for his commentary, as I voted for the discipline on that issue, you know, white nationalism and supremacy is something we should all, Democrats and Republicans, repel and make sure we send the message it's not acceptable.

HARLOW: Should he be censured?

REED: You know, that's up to the powers to be. And I will tell you his accountability is to him and his electorate. And censure is part of those disciplinary actions.

HARLOW: You're one of those powers that be, but, OK.

Should he resign?

REED: You know, that's up to him and his constituents. And, at the end of the day, what we can do is what we've done, is say that that commentary is not appropriate and should be condemned, and rightfully so.

[09:40:05] HARLOW: Would you resign if you said that?

REED: I'm not going to be in a position to make that type of commentary because I reject it. And so, therefore, I'm not concerned about that in any way.

HARLOW: Congressman Tom Reed, we appreciate your time on a lot of issues. Thank you.

REED: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Our Manu Raju caught up with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, just moments ago, just one day after she sent a letter to President Trump asking him to move the date of the State of the Union citing security concerns resulting from the ongoing shutdown.

Manu, what did the speaker say and has she heard from the White House? Are there any talks going on with the White House?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, 24 hours after she sent that letter to the White House, still no response from the president or any of his emissaries about whether or not he would agree to delay the State of the Union. I asked the speaker that directly. Here's what she said.


RAJU: Madam Speaker, any response from the White House yet on the State of the Union?



RAJU: So now the question is, what's next? The White House has not signaled what its intentions are. Some of his allies here on Capitol Hill, Republican allies, want him to come here anyways on that day to deliver a speech. How he would actually be able to do that procedurally, though, a lot of questions going forward because the House would have to actually move -- adopt a resolution to allow that to happen.

But Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, told me yesterday the president should still come up here and still deliver that address on January 29th. You're hearing some other Republicans saying, well, why don't we do it in the Senate chamber instead because Republicans control that chamber. But, of course, that runs into other procedural complications. In that chamber you've got to do everything by unanimous consent.

So questions about what this -- what will happen next and what the White House will do. But no response yet to the House speaker's request yesterday.

Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: And if you can't figure that out, I can't imagine they're going to be able to figure out the shutdown anytime soon.

Manu Raju, thanks very much. We are learning new details about the four Americans who were killed in an explosion just yesterday in Syria. ISIS is claiming responsibility for it. We have some updates. Stay with us.


[09:46:29] HARLOW: All right, welcome back.

Two U.S. officials now -- this is just crossing and it's important -- they now say that ISIS is behind the explosion that killed four Americans. The suicide bombing in Manbij, Syria. U.S. Central Command says the Americans killed include two service members, one DOD civilian and a contractor. Three other service members were injured.

SCIUTTO: Four weeks to the day before the attack the president tweeted, he claimed that ISIS was defeated. Now we know ISIS was able to carry out this deadly attack. Meanwhile, the White House says it is not reversing the president's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria.

CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is following this from northern Syria.

Clarissa, we understand that you were in Manbij a couple of days before this attack. What is the situation there now? ISIS still very capable of carrying out deadly violence.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim and Poppy, I think it's important to remind our viewers of the fact that Manbij is nowhere near the front lines in the battle with -- against ISIS. It's about a seven-hour drive away. This is territory that was liberated from ISIS back in September of 2016.

Daily life has resumed there. They -- when we went, we found streets were full of people, bustling. We actually drove past the restaurant where (INAUDIBLE) a place we were shooting footage in the old suk (ph) just a couple hundred yards away. But even based on the small amount of time we were there, it's fair to say it was clear that there were tensions simmering beneath the surface.

This is an Arab town under the control of Kurdish-led security forces. We came across a funeral that was taking place for two local security officers who had been killed by an IED attack the day before. So, clearly, even in so-called liberated territory, the veneer of security is very thin.

The question really becomes, what exactly were U.S. forces doing in this area? Why would they be sitting in a restaurant in (INAUDIBLE) area in a town where tensions do exist? There is a U.S. base just on the outskirts of the town. We saw that with the U.S. flag flying. And there's a significant U.S. troop presence there. But certainly a little unusual for U.S. forces to be sitting in a restaurant in a crowded area like that.

HARLOW: Clarissa Ward, thank you for your reporting, you and the entire team there, going back after the attack. We so appreciate it. Ahead for us, imagine this, you're serving your country in the military, you're putting your life on the line every day, and yet the government says, you know, and it's just not paying you. You have to work, you're not getting paid and you're putting your life on the line. That is the situation for the country's Coast Guard men and women. Up next, how a California community is trying to help.


[09:53:42] SCIUTTO: President Trump has signed into a law, a law ensuring that federal workers will get back pay once the government shutdown ends. But that does not help families who must pay their mortgages, their car notes, various other bills right now. You know it. We've all got to do this.

This week, thousands of Coast Guard members did not receive paychecks marking the first time that a military organization has not been paid during a government shutdown. And with no end in sight, nobody knows when these people will see their paycheck.

With me now is the vice president of the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club, Nicole Lauer. Her husband serves in the Coast Guard. You yourself a Navy veteran.

Nicole, thanks for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, first, just for folks at home, how hard is it to make ends meet in this environment when you're not getting paid?

LAUER: You know, I think the difficult part is that you don't know when it's going to end. So what money you may have had in savings, especially living in the Bay area, it's such an expensive area that you know that money's not going to last.

So then it comes down to calling, you know, your loan companies for your cars and stuff and figuring out which one's able to work with you and which one isn't. That -- you know, that's a situation that no military family should ever be in.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Fair -- fair point.

I wonder if you and your husband, your family, feel let down by the government, by the president?

[09:55:00] LAUER: I think forgotten is the word that I want to use. You just feel forgotten, you know? The Coast Guard is -- it's an armed services branch. And, you know, while the DOD remains funded, the Coast Guard doesn't. But their mission doesn't stop. They have to continue to go to work every day. And, you know, just to not have the talks there of funded the Coast Guard, it's -- it hurts.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I get it. Listen, I don't want to put you in the midst of the politics here. I just want to ask you straight up, though, in your view, is the idea of a border wall, is the debate over the border wall worth you and your colleagues, your husband's colleagues in the U.S. Coast Guard, to not get paychecks?

LAUER: You know, I saw this online yesterday and I think it's the best way to describe it. The Coast Huard is the wall. They are the ones out there actively, you know, protecting the borders and stopping the drugs from coming in. They are the wall and they're not funded right now. So how -- you know, how are we having this debate over a wall when we're not funding the people who are protecting, you know, the border?

SCIUTTO: That's -- I haven't heard it described that way. It's a smart way to describe it.

What would your message be? The president, we know lawmakers on The Hill of both parties watch this broadcast at times at least. You have a moment here. What would be your message to them?

LAUER: You know, and I understand that the Coast Guard falls under Homeland Security, but we still have Coast Guard members deployed overseas. We have members who are gone months at a time. And to put this stress on their family's shoulders when the military life is always stressful as it is, you know, that that's just a stress that doesn't need to be there for our families. They don't need to be worrying about how they're going to put food on the tables and how they're going to pay their bills when their loved one's gone. They need to be worried about taking care of their family and staying close as a unit. When you're worrying about finances, it brings so much unnecessary, you know, feelings into -- into a time where you should be spending together and enjoying each other's company.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. I was going to say, it's hard enough without facing this challenge.

Finally, we know a lot of organizations around the country have stepped up in various ways to help people who are not getting paid, including members of the Coast Guard. In your community, is that kind of thing happening?

LAUER: Absolutely. So Alameda has just been arms open to us. So we started a food bank about two weeks ago collecting items in the anticipation of this paycheck being missed. And just the response that we have gotten from our community was so overwhelming. So we did one food bank this past Sunday and we had 186 people signed in, which was over 640 people touched. So we have them write their household size when they sign in. And then yesterday we had over 300 people sign in. So that's over 900 people touched. So in the course of three, you know, three days, we touched over 1,100 Coast Guard families here. You know, that -- those numbers are just amazing and it truly goes to show how bad people need these groceries.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, that's America at its best, right, when people step up like that. Nicole Lauer, we wish you and your family the best of luck. We had a

picture of them up earlier. It's a beautiful family. You're very lucky. We wish you the best of luck.

HARLOW: Thanks.

LAUER: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Wow, that says -- that says a lot.

SCIUTTO: It does.

HARLOW: The Coast Guard is the wall.

SCIUTTO: Is the wall.


SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

HARLOW: No collusion. President Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani have uttered that phrase countless times. Now the goalposts have been moved in a major way. The significance of it, next.