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Pelosi Rejects Trump's Offer of DACA Protections in Exchange for Wall Funds; Sources: Joe Biden Likely to Launch Presidential Run; Democrats Announce Presidential Run on Stephen Colbert's Show; John Kerry on "THE AXE FILES": Trump's Actions on World Stage Do Not Help U.S.; Trump Announces Proposal; Trump Changes Wall Terms; Interview With Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); Interview With Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D- TX); Trump Offers Protections. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired January 19, 2019 - 17:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: -- this afternoon to end the partial government shutdown now in its 29th day. From the diplomatic reception room of the White House, the president painted a dark picture of the situation at the border, calling it a humanitarian crisis, talking about coyotes and drug cartels, while using misleading statistics.

He, then, unveiled his plan. And he made what sounded like a possible concession on his wall. The big beautiful concrete wall he talked about over and over again while running for president. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The plan includes $5.7 billion for a strategic deployment of physical barriers or a wall. This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea. These are steel barriers in high-priority locations.


CABRERA: CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us live in Washington. Ryan, the president calls this a common-sense compromise that both parties should embrace. His words. But Democrats began rejecting it even before he spoke. Nancy Pelosi calling this a nonstarter.

Did Trump say anything in his speech to change their minds?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't seem like it, Ana, at least not at first blush. Democrats roundly rejecting this idea from President Trump.

But what this appears to be is an effort by Republicans to put the ball back in the Democrats court. This is what the president offered today. He said, in exchange for providing me funding for humanitarian aid, for drug detection, for border agents and for judges, I will give you three years of extended protection for the DREAMERS. That was formerly known as the Bridge Act when it was initially proposed as a compromise solution by Lindsey Graham and Dick Durban. And he also will provide protection for immigrants covered by the Temporary Protected Status allowed to stay in the United States.

Now, even though the president views this as a good-faith offering and many of his Republicans are parroting that claim, Democrats view this already as dead on arrival. And for two important reasons, Ana.

The first being that they did not involve -- the White House did not involve Democrats at all in this conversation. This was, essentially, negotiated in a White House echo chamber, between Jared Kushner, Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, and Vice President Mike Pence. And Nancy Pelosi was not involved in these negotiations, neither was Chuck Schumer. And, furthermore, neither was Dick Durbin, who was the Illinois Democrat who initially came up with the idea of the Bridge Act.

And this is what Durban said in a statement earlier today. He said, first, President Trump and Senator Majority Leader McConnell must open the government today. Second, I cannot support the proposed offer as reported. And I do not believe it can pass the Senate. Third, I am ready to sit down at any time after the government is open and work to resolve all the outstanding issues.

And that is the broader point right there, Ana. The Republicans and Democrats are still not reading from the same sheet of music here. President Trump continues to want to tie the negotiations over reopening the government to some sort of immigration solution. Border wall, border security, whatever you want to call it.

Democrats do not want to have that conversation in conjunction with the government shutdown. They want to open the government first and have that conversation later. That is not where the president is.

So, even though it may seem at first blush that there's a level of progress here, because there is something new on the table, we, essentially, are still at square one, because this is not a conversation that Democrats are interested in having right now.

CABRERA: We will see because I'm going to talk to a Democrat right now. Ryan Nobles, thank you. I want to bring in Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California. Congresswoman, thanks for being with us.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls this offer a nonstarter. Does she speak for you?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, she does. You can't negotiate by keeping the government hostage. We need to reopen the government, and then we can sit down and try and reach an agreement. There's been no sitdown yet. This is just negotiations by T.V. spotlights.

CABRERA: Now, it does sound like Trump is conceding on the definition of his border wall. He's asking for $5.7 billion for physical barriers. He says, this wall will not be a wall from sea to sea. He also wants improved drug protection technology at the border. He wants to invest more money in more people who can help secure the border and more people who can also help process immigration cases.

In the past, your party has supported this type of thing and has supported some fencing in areas where it might make sense. Why is this offer such a nonstarter?

LOFGREN: Well, that's right. But we're not going to negotiate with the government shutdown. We need to open the government, and then we'll sit down and talk.

The idea, frankly, that he would offer a temporary protection from deportation of the DREAMERS, they already have that temporary protection from the courts. So, you know, that's really not much.

[17:05:00] He created the chaos, with the Temporary Protected Status by ignoring his professionals in the State Department who said it isn't safe in Honduras or Sudan. He just ignored that. And so, to say that he's going to extract ransom to solve the chaos, that he himself created, is pretty rich.

But, you know, the point is, we need to reopen the government, sit down -


LOFGREN: -- and we'll come up with solutions that work for the country.

CABRERA: OK. But if he reopens the government and agrees to do that first. Did what you hear sound like something you could agree to?

LOFGREN: Well, I don't know what he means. I've seen a piece of paper that, supposedly, was from the administration. There so-called humanitarian aid is actually prisons for families. If that's what the proposal is, I'm not for it.

So, we need to have a discussion about what's being proposed and what we can agree on. If we work in good faith, I'm sure we can come up with solutions for the American people. We have supported rebuilding the ports of entry, because the technology just isn't there. There may be some areas, along the border, where additional fencing is warranted. We could take a look at that. We have supported additional immigration judges.

So, there's plenty of room to talk, but we can't do that with a government shutdown.

CABRERA: You know, in 2013, let me read something you said about the government shutdown then, when it was, sort of, a reverse scenario. You wrote, what Republicans are doing now is not legitimate governing nor is it responsible. This brinksmanship is reckless and will hurt working families, seniors, small businesses, veterans and our economy. Again, that was back when we had a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled House. So, now we're seeing the reverse.

How is what Democrats doing different than what you were railing against in 2013? LOFGREN: The point is, you can't hold the government hostage for --

to get your way on a policy dispute. I think there's broad consensus in the country. Different people have tried it at different times. I remember I was a freshman when Newt Gingrich tried it. And finally had to say, this is not the way to proceed.

We can have a discussion about solving our policy differences, but not with the government hostage. He needs to open the government. He can do it. We've passed the funding bills that the Senate has already passed. Let's get off the dime, do that, and get together to reach conclusions that are in the best interests of the American people.

CABRERA: I think Americans would say, yes, please do that. Reopen the government. Let's get this moving. We have Coast Guard pilots cancelling flights because of stress. There are concerns over the effectiveness of the TSA with all the sickouts and the ongoing financial burden those employees are facing.

Is this stand-off now putting national security at risk? And at what point do Democrats say it's just not worth it?

LOFGREN: The president has the responsibility for this. He said that himself. The idea that he's doing this to make the country safe is ridiculous. He is asking border patrol agents to work without pay. They've furloughed the people in the Department of Homeland Security whose mission is to keep us safe. The Coast Guard that interdicts the drug runners is working without pay. The air traffic controllers are working without pay.

This is unacceptable. He needs to open the government. We need to get back to the table or, actually, just begin at the table and reach a conclusion on the disagreement on border security.

We are for border security. We have a lot of good ideas that we are willing to put on the table, some of which may overlap with the president's ideas. But you can't do it holding the government hostage.

CABRERA: So, let me ask you about the Democrats ideas, because I understand House Democrats are getting ready to pass spending bills this week with border security proposals. What more can you tell us about that?

LOFGREN: Well, I'll - I - we'll have them out next week. But one of the proposals is something that we have been urging for a long time. And, frankly, President Obama also didn't do what we wished which is to increase the number of immigration judges dramatically.

We need to have a dramatic infrastructure upgrades at the ports of entry. Almost all the drugs that are coming over the land borders come through the ports of entry. They come on great big trucks. And we don't have the latest technology to detect those drugs or, for that matter, other material that could do us harm.

We also believe that the Coast Guard needs to be better funded. As I've been down to the border and down in South America, where they can identify the boats that have drugs on them. You can see it on the map real time.

[17:10:04] And, yet, they only have enough Coast Guard to interdict 20 percent of what they've identified as the drug importing boats. It's ridiculous. We should upgrade that and make sure that that no longer is the case. You don't get there by not paying the Coast Guard.

So, we're a long way from where we should be. And we're not going to get to where we need to be for our country with the president coming up with deals that -- only his deals that he's never discussed with anyone in the Democratic Party.

CABRERA: Well, some of what you just said was part of what he said as well. You guys sounded similar. At least portions of his speech sounded similar to what I just heard from you.

Congressman Zoe Laughlin, I'd like to continue the conversation with you, as we continue to follow where this conversation goes. Thank you for being here and offering -

LOFGREN: Any time.

CABRERA: -- your thoughts in responding to the president's remarks today.

I want to go now to the southern U.S. border in McAllen, Texas. That's where CNN's Kaylee Hartung is. And, Kaylee, I know you are right in the exact place the president is referring to, when he says drugs are flooding across the border and people are trafficked like cargo.

Tell me play -- let me play you just a couple of the claims the president just made about an hour ago. And I want your reaction.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thousands of children are being exploited by ruthless coyotes and vicious cartels and gangs. One in three women is sexually assaulted on the dangerous journey north. In fact, many loving mothers give their young daughters birth control pills for the long journey up to the United States. Heroin, alone, kills 300 Americans a week, 90 percent of which comes across our southern border.


CABRERA: Kaylee Hartung, bring us the facts.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, I am here in McAllen, Texas, where about 40 miles of the 15th Congressional district runs along that border with Mexico.

I want to bring in Congressman Gonzalez who can give better perspective than I can. Congressman, when you hear the horrific imagery from the president, today, that rhetoric, how do you and your constituents compare his version of what's happening down here with your reality here? REP. VINCENTE GONZALEZ (D), TEXAS: Well, it's just factually wrong.

If you look at the FBI statistics, McAllen is safest - the seventh safest city in America. El Paso is the safest large city in America. We have zero murders the year of 2018. We're one of the safest communities in the state and the country. So, it's just factually wrong, statistically wrong. So, you know, it used to be offensive. Now, we kind of just laugh at it.

KAYLEE: You base your perspective on the president's remarks not just on what we just heard from him. You were at the White House on Wednesday meeting with him. What did you take away from that ability to speak one on one with him about the way he perceives the border and the plan he has here?

GONZALEZ: Right. Well, I do believe it was a constructive meeting. Because any time you can meet with the president and give him your idea and try to move the ball forward and opening the government back up, I think it's a good -- well time spent.

We have 800,000 federal workers who are not employed, who are not getting paid. I have 10,000 of them here in my district. Many of them are Trump supporters. We have our border patrol that's going through a difficult time. Our U.S. Attornys Office, federal law enforcement, USDA, they're all being impacted by Donald Trump's shutdown.

And I think that this type of policy is what lost them 40 seats in the United States Congress and will probably lose Senate seats in the next election and certainly the presidency.

HARTUNG: Today, not the first time we've heard President Trump refer to this humanitarian and national security crisis on the border. He was just here a week and a half ago. You say that wasn't a genuine visit. What did you mean by that? And what do you wish he would've done differently with the time he was here?

GONZALEZ: That's right. He met with -- he didn't meet with any local officials. He didn't meet with sheriffs. He didn't meet with the chief of police. He didn't meet with county judges who have the real experience on the border. They've been here for generations. In fact, they sent me a photo. I was in Washington and we had votes that day of his roundtable. I didn't recognize a single person.

So, it was, certainly, you know, a staged meeting for him to take photos and send to the American people and send to his, you know, 35 million folks who follow him regularly.

HARTUNG: This deal that he announced today was said to be dead on arrival. Nancy Pelosi had already given it the thumbs down before it was announced, essentially.


KAYLEE: What it will take to get past this impasse that we're at?

GONZALEZ: Well, I'm hoping we can -- I was hoping we could get the government open for 30 days and keep negotiating on border security. But we can't be doing this with a government that's closed. We need to do this under normal conditions with everybody working as we always have, as Congress is supposed to work, as the government is supposed to work.

And the president needs to know he is no longer in the majority in Congress. He needs to negotiate. And he needs to give and take. And I don't think he understands that. And I think he's having a really difficult time adjusting to the Congress that we have and the 116th as the 115th. We're in a completely different environment. We were and they are now.

[17:15:08] HARTUNG: You mentioned how safe the city of McAllen is. You mentioned -

GONZALEZ: Very safe.

HARTUNG: -- El Paso as well. How do you characterize life here? What do people, who have never been here before, need to understand about the reality you see on the border?

GONZALEZ: Well, I can tell you that I take walks around my neighborhood late at night. It's something I won't do in Washington, D.C. As I said, it's one of the safest cities in America. It's -- we have zero murders in 2018. We have great law enforcement.

And our border is a different issue. He talks about a wall. That doesn't stop 75 percent of the migration that's coming across, because they're asylum seekers. They actually go to areas where there is a wall already and go up to a camera and wave at them so agents come and pick them up and they can apply for asylum.

I think we should have cutting edge technology on our border. We should have more immigration judges to process those asylum claims faster. It shouldn't take two years or one year the way it does now. If you don't qualify and you have to be deported, we send you home in a family unit in a humane way. The way America has always been.

HARTUNG: What do you understand about the dynamic of the people who are trying to come here for asylum, as the president characterizes, you know, rapists and murders and criminals?


HARTUNG: Who do you see coming into -


HARTUNG: -- this town across the border?

GONZALEZ: Most of them are impoverished folks from three central American countries. The president likes to say we have a crisis on the border. We don't have a crisis on the border. We have a crisis in three Central American countries, in El Salvador, in Honduras and in Guatemala. And that's because of failed American policy that we've ignored for decades now. I think we should be going into those countries and investing to bring security on the ground and economic opportunity to incentivize people to want to stay home and find jobs. As you know, ever since NAFTA and business with Mexico has done really well, Mexican nationals are going home at a higher rate than they are coming to the United States. And that -- it's not necessarily because of security, but there's economic opportunity. Something we don't have in these three Central American countries.

I also believe policy that would expedite asylum hearings and send people home who don't qualify, that policy alone would stop a lot of the migration. I'm against open borders. I'm against open borders. I'm against this -- these groups that are coming across through Mexico.

I think we need to engage the government of Mexico to secure their southern border. We should have asylum hearings in Mexico's southern border and be able to filter everything there. We need to have creative solutions to an issue that we're dealing with now.

But he likes -- the president says that we're at an all-time high in border crossings. Completely false. We're at a 500 percent low from the year 2000 to now. So, I'm shocked that he can say this and gets no pushback -- factual pushback from his own party.

HARTUNG: Well, no one denies immigration reform is needed.


HARTUNG: And, Congressman, it doesn't sound like a deal will be reached today among you all.

GONZALEZ: Not today.

HARTUNG: Thank you so much, sir -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Kaylee Hartung for us there. Thank you.

Is the president's proposal last hour a game changer or not? S.E. Cupp is going to be here live, along with Keith Boykin when we come back. Don't go anywhere.



CABRERA: You heard from the president this afternoon, making his compromise proposal to end the government shutdown. President Trump now offering to extend temporary DACA protections in exchange for more than $5.5 billion for a border barrier. He says the response from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a firm no. Pelosi rejecting Trump's offer at least 30 minutes before the president even made his pitch to the American public.

So, after all the hoopla today, we're right back to where we started, day 29 of the government shutdown. Unfortunately, no end in sight. Joining us now, former Clinton White House aide, Keith Boykin, Democratic Strategist; and CNN's own S.E. Cupp, Political Commentator and host of "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED" airing tonight at the top of the hour, 6:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

So, Keith, should this have been a game changer? Did it sound like a game changer to you?

KEITH BOYKIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I heard nothing new in what Trump said tonight, or today, that what he said a few days ago when he gave his Oval Office address. What he's been saying all along. He mentioned all these fear-mongering threats who were coming over in hoards who were attacking America.

He never mentioned the 800,000 federal workers who are not being paid. That's the crisis we have right now. And it's a crisis that he created, because he said that he was going to shut down the government for something that Mexico was going to pay for, that Republicans had two years to take care of. They never did. And now, here we are in this situation again, because Trump continues to create a crisis and then try to throw some sort of a life raft or a life preserver to get you out of the crisis that he created.

CABRERA: S.E., what's your reaction to what we heard from the president?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's a none deal deal. It's a nonstarter. He knows very well, because Nancy Pelosi has said, she's not going to negotiate while the government is shutdown. And she's not going to consider a wall. Now, unless she wants to let her entire constituency down and change her mind on those two things, I think she's been pretty firm on that.

I think what happened was Trump had a pretty bad week, bad economic numbers, some bad optics, some very bad polls. And it looks like he's not doing anything to get us out of this. And so, he made a, sort of, very nominal offer, knowing full well that Democrats were going to reject it. But in his mind, and maybe in the White House's interpretation, it looks like he has come back to the table.

Now, that might have some effect, and it might now be Pelosi and Democrats turn to come back to the table. We'll have to see how this shakes out. But I think that was the calculous here. I don't think this was intended to be an actual conversation starter.

CABRERA: But let me put back up the graphic that we had there on the side. And if we could just put that full, guys, because I want our viewers to see it. I mean, we tried to, you know, sort through some of the misinformation that was at the top of the president's statement. And really boil down to what is he offering? What is he suggesting?

[17:25:03] And this is some of what we heard. I mean, essentially, he wants to invest $800 million in humanitarian assistance. He wants $800 million for drug detection at ports of entry. He talked about more border agents, more immigration judges. And he did have his $5.7 billion for a physical barrier, but also saying that's not going to be from sea to shining sea. It's not going to be the full 2,000 miles of the southern border. He is willing to extend protections for the DREAMERS three years. And he's going to give immigrants, covered by Temporary Protected Status, he's going to give something to them, allowing them to stay here in the U.S.

I mean, if you look, though, at that list, guys -- I see you both shaking your head. You don't think Democrats want all of these things as well?

BOYKIN: There's nothing new in this. One year ago today, on January 19, 2018, Donald Trump had a similar proposal given to him by Chuck Schumer. They were going to give him border wall funding.


BOYKIN: And he was going to give DREAMER protections with a pathway to citizenship.

CABRERA: With a pathway to citizenship which is -

BOYKIN: Correct. Exactly.

CABRERA: -- different than what he's suggesting here.

BOYKIN: Right. And he had that proposal. He agreed to it. And then, at the last minute, he rejected it. He's not a good faith negotiator. He changes his mind from day to day. So, it's hard to be consistent with somebody who's doing this.

And the DACA thing doesn't do anything to help, by the way. Because the court, the 9th Circuit, has already give - has already - has already decided that his DACA revocation is not active. They've already enjoined that on a national level. So, that has - that's not even on the table any more.

CABRERA: Not to mention the president is the one who created the crisis for DACA recipients.


CABRERA: In terms of, like, revoking your status -

CUPP: Well, only the latest one.

CABRERA: -- and making the --

CUPP: Only the latest one.

CABRERA: -- their status questioned.

CUPP: But to be fair, that point - that point's fair. That's tied up in the courts. There's just not a whole lot either side can really do about DACA right now, while it's tied up in the courts.

But the other thing he has to consider is, Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter is not into this. Ann Coulter has already come out to say, if you're going to give even temporary protection to DREAMERS --

CABRERA: So, you don't think that this is even really what the president's willing to agree to?

CUPP: Well, she says - she's responded to this and she said, what's the point of a wall? So, he's going to have that to contend with, too. And as we know, from experience, he tends to listen to that side of the argument more than, sort of, the moderate Republican wing. The Mitch McConnells. The people actually looking to try and get a deal forward. He tends to give the Ann Coulters and the Sean Hannitys and the Rush Limbaughs more of his ear. So, they'll just keep pushing him back in the other direction.

BOYKIN: Well, because we had a deal, just last month, to keep the government open. And then, Trump got pressure and pushed back from Rush Limbaugh an Ann Coulter, as S.E. mentioned.

CUPP: Yes. That's what changed, yes.

BOYKIN: And then, suddenly, we don't have a deal anymore and the government is shut down. Because of two people on his right decided to hold him accountable for a promise he should never had made in the first place.

CUPP: But he did.

BOYKIN: Look, the Democrats have voted nine times to reopen the government. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to take up any of those measures, any of those bills that have been passed by the House of Representatives. He and Donald Trump are responsible for those 800,000 people who are not working, or who are working who are not being paid. Federal government employees.

This is an abomination. The president of the United States needs to do something about it. And giving these speeches that don't answer anything is not the solution. He needs to get in a room and talk to people or call someone on the telephone. Not give a speech.

CABRERA: You know, our understanding is that the Democrats are going to pass another one of these spending bills this week. But this time, they're going to include some money for border security, $1 billion for border security investment in the ports of entry, in terms of additional technology there, additional immigration judges as well. So, some of what we heard the president talk about today as well.

I mean, is that a smart move, S.E., for them to pass that? I mean, optically, then can the president say, well, you guys just want open borders; you're not for border security at all?

CUPP: Well, two things. It's playing a little loose with border security to say half of that money, $500 million, will be for immigration judges. That's a very broad definition of border security. But, to your point, of course. I mean, Donald Trump doesn't have to say something true to say something. He'll continue to say Democrats are not for border security, regardless of what Democrats offer. And it doesn't really matter to his base. That's what they want to hear. That's what they'll believe. And as long as he is perceived by his base as standing up for America first, that's the only real play that, I think, matters to him.

CABRERA: Was it a mistake for Nancy Pelosi to put out her rejection response even before the president made his statement today?

BOYKIN: No, because he said exactly what he said before. If Trump really wanted to make Nancy Pelosi look bad, he should have said something different from what he's been saying for the past two weeks. He's offered nothing new. Not one single thing that would move the Democratic Party or give - and, besides, first of all, let me point out, this is not a Democratic problem. This is the Republican problem. Republicans can - Republicans can bring the government back today.

[17:30:02] CABRERA: You keep saying that, but the Democrats are in control of the House.

BOYKIN: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has that - yes, but the Democrats have voted nine times to reopen the government. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to take up any of those votes because Trump won't allow him to do it. Trump and Mitch McConnell are in cahoots in keeping the government shutdown.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Can I ask you, S.E., the fact that Mitch McConnell wouldn't do that. He does have power if he could get everybody on board to veto the president and reopen the government even if --

BOYKIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: -- he's saying he won't pass anything. Technically, Congress could do this without the president.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED": Technically, but I don't know what world we're living in when we think the Senate majority leader is going to override the president. That's not the reality, unfortunately or not, that's not the reality. Mitch McConnell has been very clear. It's not going to take up anything that he doesn't think will get the president's signature. OK, that's where we are.

CABRERA: So that's where we begin.


CABRERA: S.E. Cupp, Keith Boykin, good to have you with us as always.


CABRERA: Make sure you catch S.E.'s show in less than an hour from now at 6:00 eastern on CNN.

The last time the Democrats won the White House, it was 2012. The man who engineered President Obama's successful re-election campaign will join me next to talk about what the Democrats need to do to win in 2020.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[17:35:54] CABRERA: Today, women in cities all across America are taking part in the third annual women's march. The first marches in 2017 took place the day after President Trump's inauguration to protest comments he made about women during the campaign and to support women's rights. This year's march is smaller, although thousands have turned out, including several presidential candidates. Democratic hopeful, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told a crowd in Des Moines, Iowa, this afternoon that the 2017 National Women's March was the most inspiring moment of her life.

Meanwhile, sources tell CNN the face of the old guard, Joe Biden, is getting closer to deciding whether to make a 2020 run. Conversations with more than two dozen aids, donors and supporters point to a consensus that Biden is likely to launch a bid. One ally say's Biden's thinking is centered around one thought, there needs to be a new president.

Jim Messina joins us now. He was President Obama's campaign manager in 2012 and previously served at his White House deputy chief of staff for operations. He is CEO of the Messina Group.

Jim, good to have you with us.

Do you think Biden is the only one that can beat Trump?

JIM MESSINA, CEO, MESSINA GROUP & FORMER 2012 CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR BARACK OBAMA: No, I don't. We have the largest field we've seen in modern presidential history. I've met with over 30 candidates that are considering a bid. I think you'll see more than 15 file and run. I think that breadth of field is really healthy and will allow us to come out with a nominee who is battle tested.

CABRERA: Do you have a top three who you think are the strongest?

MESSINA: I think today -- as you know, I'm the -- I hate public polling. I think I'll throw that away here, what I think -- Democrats win presidential elections, and we have a compelling economic vision for where we want to take this country. In 2016, Donald Trump won a very close election because swing voters viewed him as better on the economy. We have to seize the reigns on the economic argument. The problem is Donald Trump himself. The easiest thing to do in a Democratic primary is wail away on Donald Trump's behavior and who he is, and that will score you political points. It doesn't answer the question on where you want to take the country. I think a big primary like this is going to allow new voices to be seen out there and have that compelling vision. The party will be much stronger. People forget in 2008 that Barack Obama had to campaign in all 50 states before he finally beat Hillary Clinton. And we came out of that primary absolutely ready to beat John McCain. CABRERA: The door does appear to be wide open for Democrats

interested in running for the White House. This can pose some complications, right? You have the old guard versus the new faces in the party. Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Is early splintering in the party dangerous here?

MESSINA: I don't think so. If you look at Chuck Schumer's job in the Senate, he has five or 10 members of his caucus who are considering and probably will run for president. I think there's a really robust discussion going on. I personally think that's a very healthy discussion. We shouldn't shy away from it, and I think we'll be stronger off if we have it, but again we need to stay focused on, how do we make people's lives better, I follow about 1,000 voters in the midwestern states online every week who voted for Barack Obama and Donald Trump. And what they say every single week is, show me who is going to fight for me and my family, and make the economy better. That's what Democrats have got to stay laser focused on. You talked about Joe Biden, that's always been his strength. And if he runs, I think he'll run on that kind of platform. And I think you're seeing a lot of other people, new voices, to your point, who aren't nationally known figures, who have real shots at winning this nomination.

CABRERA: You talk about where is the identity of the Democratic Party, where is it headed, where is the polls? Some are calling the race to get into the race, the Colbert Primary because people are announcing on his show. I want you to listen to the latest.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: Do you have anything you would like to announce?



COLBERT: And what would that be, madam?

GILLIBRAND: I'm filing an exploratory committee for president of the United States tonight.


GILLIBRAND: I'm going to run for president of the United States because, as a young mom, I'm going to fight for other people's kids as hard as I would fight for my own, which is why I believe that health care should be a right and not a privilege.


CABRERA: The path to the White House has involved late-night comedy pit stops for decades, Jim. Does this reveal anything about where candidates feel the base is?

MESSINA: Look, I think what it reveals is, you need to work harder to get your message out than you did in the old days. You're seeing a bunch of different ways. Beto O'Rourke is doing this interesting medium post as he goes around the country trying to find out what he wants to do. I thought Gillibrand's announcement on Colbert was really smart. You know, the former secretary of housing, Julian Castro, announced online in a Facebook post. That was kind of different. I don't think it matters what the medium is here. I think what really matters is what the message. And in all of those clips you showed and the kind of clips I've seen recently, I haven't seen people talking about the economy in a way that I think they're going to need to in November of 2020 to beat Donald Trump.

CABRERA: You mentioned you thought Gillibrand's announcement was smart, doing it on Colbert. When I think, who is the primary target audience for a show like Colbert, it leads me to wonder if these candidates risk going too far left to make them marketable. If they want to have a chance of beating Trump is this the best strategy by pedaling to the resistance voters?

MESSINA: That's the voter in the Democratic primary, right? As a wiseman named Barack Obama said to me, you have to win the primary before you win the general. Especially in a primary this big, you have to focus on Democratic voters. You have to have a message that works with swing voters. There's this, in my opinion, stupid debate going on in my party about whether you excite the base or you reach out to swing voters. Carter, Clinton and Obama reached out to swing voters and were able to do both of those things. In 2016, Hillary wasn't able to do the swing voter thing. They have to be able to excite their base, which Donald Trump is going to do for his base, and talk to these swing voters who narrowly defeated our candidate in 2016.

CABRERA: Jim Messina, good to have your insight. Thank you so much for being here.

MESSINA: My pleasure.

CABRERA: It's a new CNN original series. Style is a window to where we've been. It tells a story. The CNN original series, "AMERICAN STYLE," continues into the 1980s, tomorrow night at 9:00 only on CNN.


[17:47:17] CABRERA: You don't hear any sound right now, because this is the silent and somber return of four Americans to United States soil. Two men, two women, two of them active-duty military, they died in Syria on Wednesday in a suicide bombing. President Trump attending their return today at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

We know the names of those two men and two women who were killed. Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, a 35-year-old Navy chief petty officer from Upstate New York. She was a cancer survivor. Married and a mom of two young boys, according to "Stars and Stripes." Her commanding officers call her a rock star with infectious determination and tenacity.

Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer, 37-years-old, married with four kids. He did six overseas combat tours since joining 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 operation support specialist. He was from St. Louis.

And the civilian interpreter from East Point, Georgia, Ghadir Taher. She was born in Syria, moved to the United States as a little girl, and was a naturalized American citizen. She was just 27 years old.


[17:52:58] CABRERA: President Trump often boasts about his amazing skills as a deal maker, but not everyone is impressed with his talents. Former Secretary of State John Kerry says the president's actions on the world stage do not help the U.S.

Kerry sat down to talk about it with our David Axelrod.


JOHN KERRY, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: And this president is not negotiating. He doesn't negotiate. This is a man who claims to be the world's greatest negotiator. What does he negotiate? He pulled out of TPP. Did he fix it? Did he do something for workers? Did he make it better? No, he just pulled out. Ceded power in Asia. Pulls out of Paris. Gets absolutely nothing on climate change accord. Gets absolutely nothing for pulling out of Paris. Pulls out of Iran. He pulls out of Afghanistan. Pulls the rug out from under his own negotiator who is about to sit down and negotiate with the Taliban. Pulls out of Syria without leveraging out of the Syria agreement something for the Kurds, something with respect to Russia and Iran in order to have an agreement as to the future of Syria and Iraq and the region. None of these things take place. This is -- this is the pullout/walkaway presidency and it is not enhancing the interests of the United States of America.


CABRERA: The big quote there, "the pullout/walkaway presidency."

I asked, David Axelrod about what was behind those strong words and a little bit more about what Kerry had to say.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE AXE FILES": John Kerry traveled 1.3 million miles as secretary of state in service of many of those agreements that the president is now withdrawn from. But he also continues to be in touch with leaders around the world and he's confronted constantly with questions about what the strategy is here and there aren't really obvious answers. He was very animated, very interesting. Had a lot of observations not just about this, not just about this, but the Russia probe and other stories that we are talking about every day now. So he was -- it was a great conversation. [17:55:04] CABRERA: Anything else you want to entice us with in

order to get us to watch your show in terms of what we can expect to hear from Kerry?

AXELROD: One of the things he spoke about -- John Kerry's biography is well-known and his service in Vietnam, Silver-Star winner, Bronze Star-winner, are well known. It's interesting to hear his cut on the president's relationship with the military and his suggestion that he knows better than the generals. And he took real umbrage because of his own experience and the fact that the president, of course, famously didn't serve.

CABRERA: David Axelrod, thank you so much for offering your insight.


CABRERA: Don't miss David's full interview with the former Secretary of State John Kerry coming up on "THE AXE FILES" tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. I'll see you back here at 8:00 Eastern.

My colleague, S.E. Cupp, continues our coverage of today's news right after a quick break.