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Shutdown Talks Devolve Into Bickering Between Trump and Pelosi; Sen. Merkley: Memo Proves DHS Secretary Lied About Family Separation Policy, Request FBI Perjury Investigation; Trump Seems To Equate Prayer Rugs And Terrorism In Tweet Pushing For Border Wall; Secretary Pompeo Defends Bringing His Wife On Trip During Shutdown. Aired 4:30- 5p ET

Aired January 18, 2019 - 16:30   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shutdown negotiations now devolving from petty bickering to unfounded accusations between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

[16:30:06] Pelosi today accusing the White House without any proof of leaking lawmakers plans to travel to Afghanistan on a commercial flight after Trump yanked authorization for a government plane forcing them to cancel.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We weren't going to go because we had a report from Afghanistan that the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous because it's just a signal to the bad actors that we're coming.

PHILLIP: A White House aide firing back, calling claims of a leak a flat-out lie. Trump, who sources say has been frustrated that Democrats have the upper hand during the shutdown, calling Pelosi's trip to a war zone "an excursion", tweeting, why would Nancy Pelosi leave the country with other Democrats on a seven-day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid?

While one White House official called Trump's move to cancel policies trip retaliation against the speakers to postpone the State of the Union Address, Pelosi is leaving it open to interpretation.

REPORTER: Do you this is retaliation for your letter about the State of the Union?

PELOSI: I would hope not. I don't think the president would do that petty, do you?

PHILLIP: Trump's campaign taking advantage of the food fight asking supporters to donate money to send bricks for the border wall to Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer's office.

The president also tweeting without evidence that prayer rugs have been found at the border and resurrecting his claim that yet another caravan of Central American migrants is heading to the U.S. southern border. As this drama unfolds, the shutdown continues with negotiations pushed to the backburner.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: I think the mistake is that nobody's talking.


PHILLIP: Meanwhile, here at the White House, President Trump held an almost two-hour meeting in the oval office with the top negotiator for North Korea, Kim Yong Chul, who was here to talk with the president about a second meeting between President Trump and the North Korean leaders at the White House now says is likely to happen toward the end of February at an undisclosed location. So, it seems there is some negotiation happening here in Washington, just not with Democrats about ending the shutdown -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Abby Phillip at the White House, thanks so much.

And Ryan Lizza joins our team.

And Ryan you know as well as I do from being in this city for decades, that these trips to war zones are kept under such tight wraps, you don't even know about them until possibly even after the person is back in the United States.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's jarring just as journalists the rules that they have to abide by if you want accompany an official on one of these trips, right? A lot of these journalists go on these White House trips have to promise not to report on it, there's this cloud of security. And reporters in this town, it's just -- it's hammered into their heads, right? When you go on these trips, security is the most important thing and we sacrifice some information to the public because of that.

And so, to have the leader of the country not understand that or know that or abide by just the basics of the security protocols is, you know, I guess it's sort of predictable at this point. But it is jarring.

TAPPER: It's stunning I have to say. I've been to Afghanistan in Iraq and the idea that anybody leaking that and no one leaking that to the public, journalists is going to do that, and I can't imagine when you announce to the world -- oh, there's going to be a congressional delegation we want them to fly commercially which the president did in his letter, or then you know administration officials tell reporters, you really are putting people at risk.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: Well, he's not wrong for saying, hey, Democrats you should stay in Washington and we should be trying to open the government.


(CROSSTALK) ANDERSON: -- Nancy Pelosi was asked, do you think it was petty what the president did, she actually said no, and I kind of like laughed out loud, because I like, yes, absolutely. She was giving him -- I mean, she was -- I don't know that she really believes it wasn't petty, but I thought this is all petty, all of this. The canceling of the State of the Union, the canceling their flights, these people are being children, instead of trying to get together and open the government.

TAPPER: Symone?

SYMONE SANDERS, FORMER NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, BERNIE 2016: Let me just say the idea that we are going to both sides this thing until Donald Trump's presidency is over I just cannot stomach. This is not a both side situation. The president shut the government down because he upended a deal that was already on the table that the Senate had passed. Mitch McConnell is now refusing to put that bill back on the floor because Donald Trump won't agree to sign the bill. That is why the government is still shut down.

Democrats have been in good faith trying to open the government. The House has voted nine times on a bill to reopen the government. Nancy Pelosi cancelled the State of the Union because, one, folks are not getting paid, and I know Donald Trump is used to let his contractors work without getting paid, but not on Nancy Pelosi's watch. But also too, we should not continue on as though things are business as usual in this town because they are not.

[16:35:01] And three, Donald Trump has left the country since the shutdown, he went to Iraq. A congressional delegation less than -- pardon me, Donald Trump into Afghanistan, I think a congressional delegation went to Iraq or is it the other way around?

TAPPER: Other way around, yes.

SANDERS: To me, what the president has left the country --

TAPPER: And a Republican delegation.

SANDERS: And a Republican delegation has left the country. So, the hypocrisy of the president who canceled the trip because he can't get the State of the Union which he could give if the government was open, I just can't anymore. It's not a both sides situation.

TAPPER: The acting director of the Office of Management and Budget released a memo officially banning all CODELS, all congressional delegations from using any taxpayer funds during the shutdown.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: That's -- you've seen the administration take a number of steps to do what they believe is in their power, although it's sometimes it's not legally defensible as to kind of broaden the impact with the shutdown or scale back the end back of the shutdown. But I think although what all does have what happened this week aside, the most important point to remember that I think the prospects of resolving this government shutdown got worse. TAPPER: Yes.

KIM: I mean, he got -- you know, we already missed -- the federal workers already missed their paychecks last week. They'll be on the verge of missing another paycheck this coming Friday or not tomorrow, but this coming Friday if there's no resolution.

And, look, the Senate is not going to vote on anything unless there's a -- unless there's a deal. The House has kind of exhausted all its options by putting forward all the bills that they think that they can pass but that the Senate can't pass. And the canceling the State of the Union, the flight issue, that just underscores just how little discussions are being had right now. The only bipartisan actual discussions are to sign on to a letter in the Senate that the president has already kind of quashed at this point.

TAPPER: And Seung Min raises an important point which is that there are lots of people who are legitimately hurting, 800,000 federal workers, countless federal contractors, and all the people who depend upon them.


TAPPER: And this is the federal government inflicting pain on its own citizens.

LIZZA: And look, I think the one person who is missing from this scenario is the leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, right? He's the person who in previous government shutdowns has sort of had the key to unlock them, and I don't know what his strategy is here.

You know, in previous shutdowns, you had Republicans who had to sort of use a shutdown as a release valve, right? Like the Freedom Caucus in the House or other sort of people on the on the far end of the Republican Party who were pushing a shutdown, you have Republican leadership say, all right, we're going to have to -- we're going to have to do a shutdown we'll show them that it's suicidal and then we can draw them back in.

This time, it's so unusual because we have the president's --

TAPPER: The president.

LIZZA: -- who is interested in the shutdown pushed it. So, at what point are -- is Mitch McConnell going to go to the president and say, all right, it's gone on long enough, this is not the wisest strategy for Republicans, it's hurting the country, it's hurting the economy, which is the key to your re-election, let's strike a deal.

ANDERSON: The reality is going to be that conversation happens when enough political pain is being felt by folks in the Senate. So I think I said this on this show two or three weeks ago that there's a lot of pain being felt as a result of the shutdown but it's not political pain for Republicans yet in enough of an amount to make anyone move. Same for Democrats. Neither of them are feeling enough political pain to move. Now, this weekend, there may be a slew of media polls coming out. The president's job approval is tick down ever so slightly every week that the shutdown is going on.


ANDERSON: But it hasn't tanked yet. It hasn't tanked in the way Republican numbers tanked in the 2013 shutdown. It's going to take uglier polls, uglier numbers before Republicans get scared enough.

TAPPER: And, Symone, take a look at this week's cover of "The New Yorker". It's a picture of a Trump building a wall around himself. Trump's re-election campaign has also been fundraising off the shutdown. Today, they launched a website where people can donate money to send not real bricks, faux bricks to Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi.

SANDERS: You know, it's concerning to me that Donald Trump and his campaign advisers, if you will, and even allies in the White House think this is a game. They think this is a game because of reality is -- in one breath, Donald Trump tells us, Mexico has paid for the wall and they're going to pay for it through this trade deal, which is not true. But if you believe that, then why is the government still shutdown because you won't get $5 billion for your wall?

None of this makes sense, and I do believe that the political pressure -- I agree, I do believe the political pressure for Republicans will begin to be so immense, like I'm really wondering how long it's going to take before Republican members of the Senate in mass break with the president, how far they willing to go out on a limb for a man that will that would never go out on a limb for you? That's the question I think that they're being faced with right now, because Democrats won't be caving, because guess what? Democrats they shut down the government, not this time.

TAPPER: Seung Min, take a look at this. It's a President George W. Bush, he posted a picture of himself delivering pizzas to his Secret Service agents who are not being paid.

He wrote: Laura Bush and I are grateful to our Secret Service personnel and the thousands of federal employees who are working hard for our country without a paycheck. We thank our fellow citizens who are supporting them. It's time for leaders on both sides to put politics aside come together and end the shutdown.

We don't hear from him often when it comes to anything in politics.

[16:40:01] KIM: Yes, exactly and I think he's making the point that, look, there are so many of the 800,000 of federal employees who were not going -- that means so many of them are working right now with no paycheck coming to their pocket. The TSA agents, the coast guard personnel. There are efforts in the Senate to at least try to pay those employees who are -- have been considered essential and are working right now.

But I think at the end of the day, what people want to do is -- what Democrats want to do is reopen the government, Republicans are still insisting on border security. And into Symone's point, I mean, we're -- we have about half a dozen Senate Republicans who are willing to open the government right now without any wall funding, and that's a very small minority of the caucus.

TAPPER: It's a small number, and they're not forcing it. They're just willing to do it.

KIM: Exactly.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around, because we haven't even talked about the claim by President Trump that Muslim migrants are dropping their prayer rugs at the U.S. border with Mexico and the even more outrageous insinuation that that's why we need a border wall.

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Today's "NATIONAL LEAD." Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley is calling on the FBI to launch a perjury investigation in the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen saying that a draft Department of Homeland Security memo proves that she lied to Congress about the agency's policy on separating migrant families at the border.

That memo dated December 2017 details in part "policy options to respond to the border surge." Number two on this list "separate family units announced that DHS is considering separating family units." Now, we reported this policy last spring, the administration called it a lie. In June, Secretary Nielsen tweeted we do not have a policy of separating families at the border, period. Let's talk about this.

And Ryan the memo does show that they were discussing a policy of separating families at the border but it was policy options, it wasn't -- but does it prove she was lying?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know if she perjured herself but she definitely wasn't telling the full truth right. Look, this policy you know, we could finally getting the full backstory this pause. This is a policy that was kicking around in think tanks and among people who were very restrictionist when comes to immigration, had a lot of sympathy among people like Stephen Miller, top White House adviser, and was clearly implemented at some point in some way.

So this is -- you know, it's not like people are making it up that they wanted to separate people, to deter people from coming from Central -- from Central America.

TAPPER: And Symone, DHS responded to the draft memo saying "we were predicting and trying to prevent the exact humanitarian and security crisis we were now confronted now. It would be malpractice to not seriously examine every single Avenue to gain operational control of the border. I mean, they -- SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That statement said a lot,

Jake, but not really. OK. That statement said a lot but not really. I think she lied. I think she knows she lied because from the White House press podium a couple days later, the talked about the policy that they did actually have of separating children. So it's not clear here -- look, the policy is bad. There's still kids right now in cages at the border. Their families still being separated, there are a number of children that are not accounted for. There is a humanitarian crisis at the border, a crisis that the Trump administration created because they don't want to process asylum seekers and our immigration policy is still broken.

TAPPER: You used to work at the fact-check desk at the Washington Post, yes or no?


TAPPER: You never did. OK. But you're familiar --

KIM: But yes, yes.

TAPPER: You're familiar with their work. So I mean, I guess the idea is that Nielsen says that that's not the policy and she's -- the hair she's splitting is the policy is full prosecution of everyone, and then that requires the same family separation and the argument would be that having this forced policy this was -- they were discussing it but they weren't necessarily doing it.

KIM: Yes. And I mean, that's a lot of hair-splitting here to be fair because what the -- what the administration announced earlier this year was a zero tolerance policy where you send every border crosser to the Justice Department for being prosecuted. And then-Attorney General's Jeff Sessions said at the time that this will lead to children being separated from their parents and basically saying don't bring your country illegally if that's the case. But that is the policy that they had so the secretary is clearly splitting hairs here and it does show that was under consideration as early as back in December 17, 2017.

TAPPER: 2017, I want to ask you about the prayer ranch. President today President Trump seemed to equate the Muslim religion with terrorism. He tweeted, "Border rancher. We found prayer rugs out here. It's unreal, Washington Examiner. People coming across the southern border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise." So, first of all, I'd like to see the evidence. I don't doubt necessarily that people from all over the world are coming illegally across the border but I find it interesting the idea that you would bring aboard a prayer rug and then just leave it in the middle of the desert. But beyond that, he's clearly insinuating Muslims are terrorists.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm much more concerned about things like fentanyl coming across the border than people coming to the U.S. to pray. And I think it's ridiculous. I think this is the sort of thing where let's let's go back to one of the first policies the administration implemented. The ban on travel from Muslim majority countries which was argued this is not a Muslim ban. This is not a Muslim ban. And legally they had to make that argument in order for it to pass legal muster.

But it's tweets like this that really undercut the President's credibility to say no this isn't about discriminating against a particular religion, it's about security. This is -- people praying is a problem? I think this was a ridiculous tweet and it's appalling.

TAPPER: Yes. To equate a particular religion with a threat to the United States is horrific and ignorant. In our "MONEY LEAD" right now. Consumer sentiment just hit the lowest level since President Trump took office down nearly eight percent since December. According to a University of Michigan survey the government shutdown, tariffs, and market instability are among the key issues to blame. These factors are also making buyers worried for the future with half of all consumers believing they will have a negative impact on Trump's ability to focus on economic growth.

[16:50:23] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo back in D.C. after a long Middle East trip that raised some eyebrows and made some State Department staffers angry for something his wife did. What was it? Stay with us.


TAPPER: Our "WORLD LEAD" now. The White House today banning congressional delegations from traveling on taxpayer-funded aircraft during the shutdown but just days ago also during the shutdown, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was not only traveling abroad using taxpayer-funded aircraft, he brought his wife along. And as Michelle Kosinski reports, Susan Pompeo's presence on the trip alarm some State Department employees because she required her own staffing and security at the same time that diplomats were being furloughed or forced to work without pay.


[16:55:35] MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled through the Middle East eight countries reassuring allies about the U.S.'s role. But it's the role of someone else who went on that trip, Pompeo's wife Susan during the government shutdown that has raised questions among many State Department diplomats.

According to one senior official, this is B.S. You don't bring more people that need staffing, transportation, etcetera, when embassy employees are working without being paid. The State Department says most diplomats abroad have not been paid during the shutdown though many had to come to work any way to handle this trip, for some requiring very long hours.

One source familiar with the planning tells CNN I have been outraged. Eyebrows were raised from the start. Why was this necessary? This wasn't a matter of national security. Pompeo describe the trip as a working one for his wife as well. MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: She meets with the

medical officers, she'll tour housing, she will write up her thoughts and comments after that. I wish I had time to do each of those things myself which is a force multiplier.

KOSINSKI: Susan Pompeo had a State Department employee dedicated to tending to her schedule. At each location, she had her own state official and security to travel with her to meetings. She also required that staffing and security to shop at a local market which sources say made her late for the next flight keeping the Secretary and his team waiting on the plane at least a half hour, plus a crowd of officials waiting at the next stop.

Another issue raised as what kind of notes and recommendations exactly Susan Pompeo will prepare as the Secretary said she would.

BRETT BRUEN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL MANAGEMENT, WHITE HOUSE: She takes his wife and gives her responsibilities, gives her support, and taking that away from those same men and women during the shutdown, during the time when they are particularly suffering. It sends a terrible message about a double standard. One set of rules applies to me, another set of rules applies to the working men and women at this department.

KOSINSKI: And well it's not that common for Secretary's spouses to join them on these trips, it has happened.

JOHN KIRBY, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, STATE DEPARTMENT: It's important that when they do that they have an itinerary that is justified for the trip, that they are having engagements of their own, that they are providing meaningful context.

KOSINSKI: Normally it wouldn't draw anger or even much notice necessarily. But this is a government shutdown. People were called in and worked for free.


KOSINSKI: So for days, the State Department has not responded to our request for more detail. At the beginning of the trip though, they said that Susan Pompeo's travel met all the requirements of the State Department and would be reimbursed where appropriate. Might also remember though, that she also drew some scrutiny when her husband was Director of the CIA because of the amount of time she spent there. She traveled with him then too and she used office space at the agency. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much. Finally today we now know the names of three of the four Americans killed in that suicide bombing attack in Syria on Wednesday. The largest loss of American life in Syria since the counter ISIS campaign began in 2014. Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent was a 35 year old Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician from upstate New York. She was a cancer survivor, a wife and mother to two young boys according to Stars and Stripes, a rock star with infectious determination and tenacity according to her commanding officers. Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer was a 37 year old married, father of four, who had done six overseas combat tours since he joined the Army in 2005. He was from Boynton Beach, Florida. And 42-year- old Scott Wirtz was a Navy SEAL before joining the Defense Intelligence Agency as an Operations Support Specialist. The St. Louis native was a patriot according to his supervisors.

The fourth American kill, the civilian contractor has not yet been identified publicly. Three other Americans were wounded in the attack. Our deepest condolences to all their families and friends. You can join me Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION." My guests potential 2020 Democratic contenders Democrat Senator Kirsten Gilllibrand, Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. That's Sunday at 9:00 a.m. at noon here on CNN.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. We actually read them. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Have a great weekend. I will see you Sunday morning.