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Pelosi's Office Says Trump Endangered CODEL, Troops in Afghanistan; Pelosi/Trump Battle Intensifies Amid Shutdown Stalemate; Former Trump Org. V.P. Talks How White House Will Respond to Flurry of Bad News Reports on Trump; Trump Meets with North Korean Nuclear Negotiator. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired January 18, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:32:18] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the state of the disunion and day 28 of the shutdown. Today, the speaker of the House leveled a pretty big accusation against the White House. This comes one day after President Trump blocked a congressional delegation from going on a trip to Afghanistan, which requires a military plane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We had the prerogative to travel commercially, and we made plans to do that until the administration then leaked that we were traveling commercially. And that endangers -- 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So the White House has denied this. And a short time, later the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo officially banning all congressional delegation from using taxpayer-funded aircraft.
We should add one thing. In the midst of all of this, the first lady took a government plane to Mar-a-Lago last night. At the same time, many people said she is not involved with negotiations about the shutdown. That is an important distinction.
We have, Nadeam Elshami. He's the former chief of staff to Nancy Pelosi with us.
Thanks for being here, Nadeam.
NADEAM ELSHAMI, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Thanks for having me.
KEILAR: She -- you take her at her word when she says they were going to go commercially, which you can do. You can fly commercially into Kabul.
ELSHAMI: Much more dangerous.
KEILAR: Very dangerous, especially if you're someone of prominence like Nancy Pelosi. The White House is saying, wait, wait, that's not true, that doesn't work certainly with what they feel has been a win so far. But you're close to her, you're close to her folks still with her. Tell us about this.
ELSHAMI: Look, I mean, this is a dangerous trip. It takes weeks, if not months, of planning.
KEILAR: But she was going to go commercially is what you're saying?
ELSHAMI: Yes. That's what they're saying, that she was going to go commercially. And when the president decided to say, look, I'm cancelling all this, and then more talk, and according to some of her people on Twitter, they were telling Hill reporters she was going to be going commercially. Look, the president has gone too far with this, and it's unfortunate. He's using the military -- the military -- to score political points. When is it going to stop?
KEILAR: How can she be so sure she has the upper hand here?
ELSHAMI: It's not about the upper hand on this issue. What's important is --
KEILAR: It is, if she wants to prevent there from being wall funding and she wants to reopen the government. She's trying to score a win politically, even if it's about those things that she considers important and that a lot of Americans who want to be working and get paid when they're not.
[13:35:07] ELSHAMI: There's no disagreement that we open up the government. Democrats want to open the government. However, you have to have a willing president to negotiate with. The president wants $5 billion and that's it. That's a non-starter for Democrats and a non- starter for the speaker.
KEILAR: It's a non-starter for Republicans to not have it. So how is she sure she's in the right place when she's insisting on her position?
ELSHAMI: House Democrats won the majority, let's start with that. I don't think the president has come to that realization at this time. The second thing is the Senate majority leader -- I keep going back to this -- 29 days ago passed a continuing resolution to fund the government. He wasn't asking for $5 billion, and somehow, from the bill going from the Senate to the House.
KEILAR: He changed his mind. He completely changed his mind, the president did. He moved the goalpost there.
KEILAR: One of his latest moves is meeting with some Democrats who are part of this bipartisan Problem Solvers conference.
KEILAR: He's obviously trying to drive a wedge.
KEILAR: What if he is successful? What's the speaker going to do?
ELSHAMI: Look, I don't think he's going to be successful. The speaker has been --
KEILAR: So one has already said they're open to supporting a physical barrier on the border, one of those Democrats.
ELSHAMI: Let's talk about border security. This is what we want to talk about, right? The president wants a wall. He wants a 60-foot wall made out of concrete, no, he wants it made out of steel, or whatever it is. But if you want to talk about a comprehensive strategy for border security, let's do that.
KEILAR: Then why aren't Democrats doing that? Even if it's laying out a policy that might tinker on the edges of the current status quo border policy, there are not a lot of details coming from Democrats. And I think there are some Democrats, especially moderate ones, who are frustrated that that's not a discussion they can own.
ELSHAMI: There was a $1.3 billion in the Homeland Security bill for border security that would have been given to the president.
KEILAR: But money is not a policy. Just money is not a policy.
ELSHAMI: But it also included money for ports of entry and included some technology as well, perhaps some drones. And Democrats have talked generally about what they would like to see in the border security bill, right? But reopen the government. Why are you holding 800,000 workers, federal workers, hostage? along with their families, slowly destroying the economy because you want the wall?
KEILAR: Should they talk specifically about offering an alternative to Americans, the Democrats?
ELSHAMI: I think they'll be making that decision, certainly, but they are starting to look at things they could put forward or message a little bit more, and I'm sure that they will. However, this is, again, a complicated issue that will take a little bit of time. And you have to have a willing partner. The White House doesn't seem to want a serious discussion. The president just wants his wall and that's it.
KEILAR: Nadeam Elshami, thank you very much.
ELSHAMI: Hey, thanks.
KEILAR: Great to have you. We appreciate it.
ELSHAMI: Thank you so much. Thank you.
KEILAR: Next, the perspective of a once-trusted confidence and colleague to the never-ending Russian questions. How is President Trump under pressure? Stay with me.
[13:42:53] KEILAR: A flurry of headlines that looked like bad news from President Trump, from that "BuzzFeed" story that he directed Michael Cohen to lie, something we haven't corroborated here at CNN, to the ongoing government shutdown, to the Mueller probe. Just in general, we are all watching to see what comes out of the White House.
Barbara Res has worked for Donald Trump as an engineer on Trump construction projects. She was well respected in the Trump Organization.
And there's a lot going on, Barbara, right now, as you're tracking this as well. Difficult headlines for the president. In your experience, just knowing how he reacts to things, how do you think he views these headlines?
BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT & FORMER CONSTRUCTION ENGINEER, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Typically and historically, he always rolled with the punches. There was always good news and bad news, and he was able to, you know, keep up his morale. A very positive- thinking-kind of person. In other words, never accentuates the negative in terms of his press. He used to say, "All press is good press." Now I don't see that. I see him going into a corner, I see him scratching back like a cornered animal. I think he's afraid.
KEILAR: In this "BuzzFeed" story, they talk about internal company e- mails, texts that led them to the conclusion that President Trump had, indeed, directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, which is under oath, by the way. We know the president tweets, Barbara. He isn't really known for e-mails and texts. Does that sound right to you?
RES: It might not just be he that is doing the e mailing and texting. There are other people who work for him, assistants and things like that. He does dictate letters, I know that, so he probably dictates e-mails. He either does it himself or he dictates it, but I'm sure he communicates that way, absolutely.
KEILAR: Nancy Pelosi told the president that he should reschedule his State of the Union for after the shutdown, after the shutdown being over, or that he should deliver it in writing. And then very clearly in retaliation he cancels the military aircraft that she and other Democrats were going to use for the trip to a war zone in Afghanistan and to NATO headquarters in Brussels. I'm assuming you were not surprised when you saw that happen.
[13:45:07] RES: No, I wasn't surprised. And what's kind of funny about it is he likes to hit back. You shoot him with a water pistol and he'll shoot you back with a Magnum or something. He likes to hit back ten times harder than he's been hit, or more, and he's got nothing to hit her back with. This is silly. It looks ridiculous.
KEILAR: That's what I was going to say to you, because, to me, forcing someone to reschedule the State of the Union is a much bigger deal than cancelling a plane, even though I want to be clear this is a very important trip. But she is threatening his use of the bully pulpit, his avenue to talk to Americans.
RES: Absolutely. And he was counting on that. He was going to come forward and he was going to make his case. You know, the State of the Union, everybody is there. He goes through, he makes the walk-through and glad-hands everybody, and he plants his own people in the audience, and the camera keeps shooting to them. This is very slanted toward the president, no matter what he's going to say. It's a tremendous opportunity that he's missed out on or will presumably miss out on because Pelosi took that step. I mean, she --
KEILAR: What do you make of the relationship, Barbara, between Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump, the way they relate to each other?
RES: I think that Pelosi knows what she's dealing with and she's reacting exactly the way she should be. Trump, on the other hand, I think is shell-shocked. I think he didn't expect -- he underestimated her to begin with. And I think he wanted her to be the speaker because she's a woman, and I think he thought viscerally that he could just control because of that. And I think he's very surprised at what he's seeing and doesn't know what to make of it.
KEILAR: All right, Barbara, thank you for the perspective. Barbara Res, former executive V.P. for the Trump Organization.
We should also mention you are author of "All Alone on the 68th Floor: How One Woman Changed the Face of Construction."
Thank you for being with us.
RES: Thank you.
KEILAR: Yes, thank you.
And now Washington is rolling out the welcome mat for North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator. He comes bearing a letter from Kim Jong-Un for the president. And we'll have details next.
[13:51:47] KEILAR: A short time ago, President Trump welcomed North Korea's top envoy, Kim Yong-Chol, to discuss negotiations on Pyongyang's pledge to denuclearize and he was expected to deliver a letter from North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Un. Earlier, Kim met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Neither official would comment on any possible locations for a second summit. We have CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John
Kirby, with us here now. He served as a spokesman for both the Pentagon and the State Department during the Obama administration.
You look at this going on and you have a favorable view of what this could mean?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I don't want to be Pollyannaish, Brianna, but I think this is a positive sign. This guy, Kim Yong-Chol, he has Kim Jong-Un's ear, and he has more importantly his trust. And he is the one that came over is a positive sign. It shows that they're very serious about trying to get a summit going and to keep the discussions going. Now whether or not they're serious about really denuclearizing and what that means and closing the gap between the two sides, that's another story, and we'll have to see what they have to say at the end of today's meeting.
KEILAR: The frustrations of many American in the diplomatic sphere is that, you look at North Korea, they're not taking the actions to show that they want to move in what the U.S. would consider the right direction. They're moving ahead with their program.
KIRBY: Right. We all expected that they would. That is their bargaining chip. Why would they give that up before the negotiations ever really started? What we're looking for and what I hope we see as a result of this, or maybe even a lead-up to the summit, is a set of more confidence-building measures. There's already been some. We cut back on our exercises. They haven't done any missile or nuclear tests now in over a year. It can be done. You just have to find a set of mutual confidence-building measures that you can roll out roughly simultaneously to help keep the progress going. This is going to be a long, long-term effort.
KEILAR: His arrival, really an extraordinary trip, coming the same day as a U.S. missile defense review warned North Koreans -- warned that North Korea remains an extraordinary threat. So in some ways, they're sending these positive messages, but what's this message?
KIRBY: That's a very clear message that we're taking the task of missile defense seriously and the threat they pose. I don't know if the timing was specifically set for this. It certainly is conspicuous. But it was an important message for the Defense Department to send, not just to the North Koreans but to the Russians and the Chinese. We didn't get a lot of time to go through that review. If you do read it, it's sobering stuff but it's important stuff. I'm glad to see the Pentagon did that review. It was long overdue. And the fact that they're adapting now to new technologies and trying to get ahead of the missile threat that are out there from other states, not just rogue state, but big nation states, I think that's really important. And I commend them for that.
KEILAR: John Kirby, thank you so much for being with us.
KIRBY: You bet.
[13:54:37] KEILAR: Straight ahead, we'll have more on that bombshell "BuzzFeed" report that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Tower Project.
KEILAR: Right now, in Washington, huge crowds are taking part in the world's largest anti-abortion event. We have some live pictures of the March for Life. This is being held along the mall, marching on Constitution Avenue after a rally. Participants are seen holding signs such as "Choose love," "Choose life." Conservative, Ben Shapiro, was the featured speaker for this event. But movements ago, President Trump actually addressed the crowd in a video message. And Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise in-person appearance alongside his wife, Karen, telling the crowd that this is the generation that will restore right to life in America. Pence will speak at a March for Life dinner tonight in Washington as well.