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Coast Guard Admiral Calls Out Shutdown as Ship Deploys Today; Democrats Reject Trump's Deal on Dreamers to End Shutdown; Interview With Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX); Trump Slams Democrats After They Reject Immigration Offer. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 21, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:30] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Monday morning to you. It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy has the day off.

The House and Senate are out today for the holiday which means there is no chance that the partial government shutdown will end before tomorrow. And that means that hundreds of thousands of federal workers who've been off the job now for 31 days, a full month, are forced to keep working without getting paid will miss a second paycheck this Friday.

The president is calling those workers, quote, "great patriots." And he's calling Nancy Pelosi irrational for rejecting the plan he offered over the weekend to end the immigration stalemate, though many on the right don't like it either.

In the meantime, the president might not have any public events on MLK Day, but it is a busy day for Dems eyeing 2020. Just this morning, freshman Democratic Senator Kamala Harris declared her presidential run is on.

Joining me now, CNN's Kyung Lah with the latest. This announcement expected?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Expected. We've seen that she's been quietly and, you know, not so quietly trying to build the structure. So the announcement not necessarily exactly a surprise, but it made it official putting a real heavyweight in on the race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: My entire career has been focused on keeping people safe. It is probably one of the things that motivates me more than anything else. And when I look at this moment in time, I know that the American people deserve to have somebody who's going to fight for them, who's going to see them, who will hear them, who will care about them. Who will be concerned about their experience. And put them in front of self-interests.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LAH: And this announcement came just before social media posting it to video where she talked about if you want the Kamala Harris doctrine that she's bringing together this wide coalition in order to fight the Trump agenda.

SCIUTTO: OK.

LAH: And putting together her principles and trying to build that coalition.

SCIUTTO: And that's a modern campaign announcement, of course with the big social media push.

So Maeve Reston bringing -- Maeve Reston, CNN political reporter, describe her coalition or the one she imagines she has to get herself this nomination.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, as we saw throughout the book tour, Kamala Harris has really strong appeal particularly to women after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings last year. And also to millennials and particularly millennials of color who were a real problem for Hillary Clinton. She did not have enough of them. Did not do enough to bring them into her campaign. So Kamala's advisers see a real path for her here.

Maybe a decent start in New Hampshire and Iowa, but then a huge push in South Carolina where they hope that she can consolidate the African-American vote which makes up 61 percent of the Democratic electorate there, and then move on into these states in the southeast that also have a huge share of African-Americans. If she is able to consolidate that kind of a coalition along with white progressives, as she did in San Francisco, in states like Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, all those states early in the calendar, she could have a pretty good shot.

SCIUTTO: So that's for the Democratic nomination. The key, it seems, when Democrats discuss someone who could beat Donald Trump, is appealing to people in the middle part of the country. Particularly white working class voters that made the difference in the last election to the Democrats' detriment here. What is Kamala Harris' approach to that? What's her message?

LAH: What you see the senator talking about and you're going to see this rollout, and I think we're both already starting to see it, is this notion of her being a prosecutor. That she has been on the inside trying to work for justice reform.

SCIUTTO: Tough on crime.

LAH: Well, that's --

RESTON: Smart --

LAH: Smart on crime. Yes, that's been her motto.

SCIUTTO: Although she has gotten criticism from some in the progressive wing saying that she was not progressive.

LAH: Right. It's going to have to be a dance because in order to win the progressives, especially the black vote, she's got to address this issue. We spoke to a number of voters, black voters, women of color, all saying she's got to talk about this. She's got to take care of this. Bring everybody into the fold because progressives are -- you know, certainly repelled by that notion.

SCIUTTO: Right.

LAH: So they -- then she has to move into the middle and be able to talk to people in the middle to say I've been a prosecutor. I can work for everyone.

SCIUTTO: Right.

RESTON: She's also talking about tax credits and tax cuts for the middle class. Feeling -- you know, trying to reach out to them by saying that the Trump economy has left a lot of people behind. She's basing her headquarters in Baltimore with an outpost also in Oakland.

[09:05:03] So really will be able to shine a spotlight on some of those income disparities that we've seen. And they really feel that that will be a way in which she can connect with middle class voters, you know, her own upbringing and her understanding of, you know, the time it takes to save up for a home. All of those kinds of average person concerns.

SCIUTTO: So fourth woman to enter the race here. A question, though, because a lot of the internal Democratic Party criticism after the loss in 2016 was that we as a party, they will say, need a message beyond identity politics. Right? Need something that goes beyond whatever your gender, race, et cetera, but a candidate who can, like you say, appeal to working class voters, et cetera, as someone who is going to make a positive difference in their life. And I'm sure Senator Harris is aware of what. What's her plan for that?

LAH: What you're hearing from people on the ground in Iowa is that they're going to have to talk about policy. That's why you're seeing the senator in her rollout today talk about these middle class tax cuts, about some of these kitchen table issues. If she can't get through on those policy issues, Democrats in Iowa feel that they won't make it through. So that is the initial thought that it's not going to just be about personality.

SCIUTTO: Right.

RESTON: And of course, this is where Hillary Clinton really fell apart is that so many voters that we talked to in 2016 felt that she just did not have a strong enough economic message to those voters. And, you know, Kamala Harris is going to really try to take it to Donald Trump, arguing that all of his policies have mainly helped the upper 1 percent.

SCIUTTO: Right. And that was a lesson you saw in the midterm elections. The Democratic candidates, they really did their best to run on policy.

LAH: For sure, yes.

SCIUTTO: Here's how I'm going to make a difference of course which poses problems with the shutdown now because they (INAUDIBLE) his agenda.

RESTON: Right.

SCIUTTO: Maeve Reston, Kyung Lah, thanks very much. Certainly a story we're going to continue to follow.

Meantime, we've got our eyes on two other potential 2020 candidates. It's already a long list. Michael Bloomberg and Joe Biden. The pair appearing at an MLK breakfast in D.C. right now as we speak. You see those pictures just moments ago, the vice president there on the right, the former New York mayor on the left.

Arlette Saenz is there with more.

Arlette, are you expect any announcements here or more just dipping of toes in the water?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we certainly have some 2020 power players here in the room. It's unclear whether they're going to offer us any clues as to their 2020 thinking. But in a short while, we'll be hearing from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as well as former Vice President Joe Biden.

We're at the National Action Network's MLK breakfast also hosted by Reverend Al Sharpton. You saw both Biden and Bloomberg working the room, taking selfies and shaking hands with folks before this breakfast started. And this all comes as it's really a big day for 2020 and those potential candidates and already declared candidates who are really fanning out across the country today to celebrate Martin Luther King's legacy.

Later today you'll have Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She's going to be up in New York actually with the Reverend Al Sharpton for an event there. You have Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders down in South Carolina. So a lot of people focusing in on MLK Day today as they're trying to tout Reverend King's legacy.

SCIUTTO: So for the vice -- the former Vice President Joe Biden, this is a big week for him. Tell us what's going on.

SAENZ: Well, this is the first time that we're going to see the former Vice President Joe Biden out in public in well over a month. He's really been keeping a low profile as he's heading into those final stages of his 2020 decision-making process. And pretty soon, later this week down in Texas, he will be holding another event as well as down in Florida. As of right now, he's still undecided.

A friend of his said who spoke to him recently said that it seemed to him he was more likely to announce a candidacy than not. We'll see if he offers us any clues today here in D.C. SCIUTTO: Arlette Saenz, thanks very much.

Now to Capitol Hill where for the first time since the shutdown began a month ago, the Senate will soon have something to vote on. Just not the same thing the House is voting on.

CNN's Lauren Fox is there. So, Lauren, looks like you're going to have competing votes in the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratically controlled House that don't really move the two sides any closer to resolution.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. That is just a sign of what a standoff we have here on Capitol Hill. Majority leader Mitch McConnell in the Republican-controlled Senate will bring the president's proposal to the floor of the Senate for a vote. That proposal of course includes $5.7 billion for border wall, as well as an extension of temporary protected status and a protection for DACA recipients.

But, of course, Democrats already saying that that bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. What to watch for there, just a couple of moderate Democrats who may break with their leadership to vote for that proposal. It's unlikely that it would get the 60 votes it needs to go to the House. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi over in the House of Representatives will bring a package of -- pieces of legislation, excuse me, that will include a billion dollars more in border security, but not wall funding.

[09:10:05] And that is a key distinction here. Democrats trying to make the case in the House that they will give the president more border -- excuse me, give the president more in terms of border security but not in terms of that border wall. And of course, Democrats' refrain has been this whole time, Trump, if you want to reopen the government, do it now then we'll talk to you about border security -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Lauren, just a quick question there. When the president and Republicans talk about temporary protection for Dreamers, I believe that's for three years, what would then happen to them afterwards? If it's temporary, what does that mean in actuality?

FOX: Well, that is one of the key concerns for Democrats. You know, Chuck Schumer called it just more hostage-taking because at the end of the day, President Trump was the one who got rid of that protection for DACA recipients so I think a lot of Democrats have that question. It's only three years. What happens next? And I think that's why you're seeing so many Democrats saying that they want a more permanent solution to the DACA issue, not one that the president can just take away if he's re-elected.

SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox on the Hill, thanks very much.

To the White House now where the president's new attempt to lure Democrats to the table could be explained in a snippet of reporting from "The Washington Post." Quoting now, "The president is very much aware he's losing the public opinion war on this one. One senior administration official, a member of Trump's administration, said he looks at the numbers, this official.

CNN's Joe Johns joins me now.

Joe, we've seen the poll numbers here consistently showing the large majority of Americans blame the president and the GOP for the shutdown. So tell us about the numbers in the president's offer. And I'm particularly interested on what temporary protection would mean because if I'm a Dreamer, obviously, I want to know that I've got that protection for the rest of my life, not just for three years.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. Yes, absolutely. And let's just head on then run through the numbers. Important to say this proposal by the president was rejected by Democrats, even before he gave the speech. But it could be construed as a small step. Especially if Democrats make some type of a substantive counteroffer.

So here's the first graphic. $5.7 billion for border wall. That is not new but what's new is the way the president is characterizing it. He's now talking about not a concrete structure from sea to shining sea but essentially steel fencing in high priority legislations.

Now here is what he has thrown in as what you could characterize as a sweetener. That would be three years of protection for 700,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

And then, Jim, what you were talking about there at the top. Three years of temporary protected status for 300,000 immigrants whose status is now facing expiration. Very important to talk about the background on that. The president essentially took away temporary protected status for many of these groups and a judge has moved in to block that. So that's what the rest of that graphic says there.

So this is still a work in progress. Democrats, of course, are rejecting so much of the president's proposal simply because they say he is the person who essentially took away a lot of these protections for some of these individuals. And now he is throwing some of these back in, essentially to try to solve a crisis that they say the president protected -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: But just the basic question here, Joe. At the end of those three years, what would happen to those Dreamers? Is the idea to allow time for more negotiation for a more permanent solution?

JOHNS: Right. In a perfect world, the idea is that the legislature, the Senate and the House, will get together and come up with a more permanent solution for these individuals. But as you know, it's the kind of thing that so far they haven't been able to come up with a solution on Capitol Hill.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Bipartisan solution, endangered species in Washington.

Joe Johns, thanks very much.

So what? Rudy Giuliani says that it would be, quote, "perfectly normal" if the president spoke to Michael Cohen about his congressional testimony.

Plus, a viral video has sparked fierce backlash against a group of high schoolers. But a new video shows a different side of the encounter between the teens and a Native American man and the hour leading up to it. We're going to have more on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00] SCIUTTO: Today, a U.S. Coast Guard ship departs for a multi-month deployment. But in a video posted by Admiral Karl Schultz, he reminds us these guardsmen are leaving behind families on day 31 of this shutdown. Here is Vice Admiral Linda Fagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDA FAGAN, COMMANDER, COAST GUARD PACIFIC AREA: I know it is hard for these crews to be leaving behind their dependents and spouses. It's a thousand times or more so when everyone is wondering when their next paycheck will be and how they can support the family that they are leaving behind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Out to sea, out to deployment without a paycheck. Joining me now, Republican Congressman Jodey Arrington of Texas. Congressman, thanks for taking the time on this holiday morning.

REP. JODEY ARRINGTON (R), TEXAS: You bet, Jim, greetings from the largest cotton patch in the world.

(LAUGHTER)

SCIUTTO: Well, it's good to have you. You're aware of the Democrats' position on this in response to the president's offer over the weekend. And their position is that the president created this problem, the president removed protection from Dreamers and that offering them temporary protection now as a concession.

In their view is not a concession at all. In your view, is temporary protections for Dreamers whose protections the president removed himself, is that a compromise?

ARRINGTON: Absolutely it is. I think if you ask the DACA folks if having the peace of mind and not being -- not always looking over their shoulder for fear of being deported because that is the law of the land.

[09:20:00] The president would have to grant an extension, save and accept the court stay that has occurred recently. So I think it's a big deal for DACA folks, and it gives the runway for us to negotiate and work out a broader, more comprehensive immigration reform plan.

So I think it's the latest in the president's efforts repeatedly to work with the Democrats, to find common ground, to find a compromise solution so that we can get the government back on, these workers back online and move the country forward. And most importantly, Jim, secure the border and protect our citizens.

SCIUTTO: Let me just push back on a couple of things there. I mean, if you're a Dreamer here, three years doesn't exactly -- I mean, it takes -- it takes your eyes off, you know, your shoulder for three years. But would you support offering permanent protection for Dreamers?

Because that's in actuality what the Dreamers are seeking and what your Democratic colleagues are. Would you support that as a way forward to actually reach a compromise?

ARRINGTON: Well, what I want to make sure happens first and foremost is that our citizens in this country get the security that they deserve and should expect from their government. That is the first priority. And then I think we can look at negotiating on a number of components to immigration reform.

And it's not just DACA. By the way, a big part of this influx of illegal immigration has to do with magnets that draw people here, and loopholes like our asylum policies. So this is a multi-faceted and very complex issue, as I know you understand.

But I would -- but I would say that the president has been operating in good faith. And I think this latest proposal, with an --

SCIUTTO: All right --

ARRINGTON: Extension -- a three-year extension is meaningful and the Democrats have to move in good faith towards him --

SCIUTTO: Well --

ARRINGTON: Or they're going to lose the support from the American people because they want reasonableness, and they understand the government has to compromise.

SCIUTTO: How is it good faith if the president supported before the holidays legislation to reopen the government and the Republican Senate -- Republican-controlled Senate did, and then the president reversed on an agreement he previously supported. How is that good- faith negotiations?

ARRINGTON: Listen, the president has asked repeatedly Speaker Pelosi and the Democrat leadership if he were to do this, that and the other that they are asking for, would they give him the proposal and mainly that fundamental component of physical barriers.

And she just rejects it out of hand. I mean, listen, it's an irrational position, and I think your viewers understand this. It's irrational to say walls are immoral when, in fact, Democrats have voted for it. When in fact, walls work and we have the facts in El Paso and Tucson where we've deployed physical barriers, and I think it's disingenuous that people live behind physical barriers and are protected by them and then to claim that they're immoral?

I think people see that as not just unreasonable, but irrational. So we need to see the Democrats move on this, Jim. They need to move on this latest proposal. And at a minimum, provide a counterproposal so that we can keep the dialogue and get resolutions as quickly as possible --

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, because as you know, your Texas colleague, a Republican Will Hurd, whose district is on the border. It's got several hundred miles to the border. I was in his office just last week, and they showed me the map -- he does not support the wall.

He says there are better ways to go about security. He supports the Secure Fence Act, doubling down on technology on the border. As you know, the drugs actually come across at ports of entry and we've spoken to members of Customs and Border Patrol and they say what they really need is more manpower and womanpower at those ports of entry to find the drugs as they come across.

You're saying it's just the Democrats, but the fact is you've got a Texas Republican colleague who says, you know, the wall is really -- really should not be our focus here. Are you worried that the president is kind of tying this all to the wall because he made a political promise here and has not focused on the solutions that actually get the safety you're looking for?

ARRINGTON: I have tremendous respect for my friend Will Hurd, but let me say this. Walls are not the only solution, physical barriers are not the only solution, but they are a fundamental component of security in any scenario.

And they work, they've been proven to work. So it is -- it is boots on the ground. It is technology. It is the judicial infrastructure to expedite deportation hearing. It's all of the above. It's turning off magnets, it's closing loopholes. But physical barriers are part of it, and to just reject that out of hand is too obviously purely political.

[09:25:00] And all of us, Jim, all of us have to put our country's interest before politics. And we all have to deal with the various factions of our party who won't be happy with certainly with every component. We've got to find a way to find common ground --

SCIUTTO: Right --

ARRINGTON: Compromise and move the country forward.

SCIUTTO: Final question for you because --

ARRINGTON: Yes --

SCIUTTO: I hear you. There are -- listen, it's Washington. There are politics on both sides, and clearly Nancy Pelosi has taken a position and said, we're going to dig our heel in and not give a dollar on the border wall.

But the fact is, the president was going to move forward, he got criticism from the far right media and reversed on the support for the budget deal prior to the holidays. And he is keeping government shut, right? I mean, what's your response to your Democratic colleague's argument, OK, let's reopen the government and then let's work on a comprehensive deal here.

Why not open the government first and not hold folks like those coast guard sailors who are going out to sea now and not getting paid?

ARRINGTON: Listen, even "The Washington Post" has implored the Democrats to not wait until the government --

SCIUTTO: I know, but I'm asking you, I'm asking you --

ARRINGTON: Yes, well --

SCIUTTO: Why not open the government --

ARRINGTON: Sure --

SCIUTTO: Why not both parties open the government and then negotiate?

ARRINGTON: This is a straight down the middle objective sort of commentary on this. If I'm looking at negotiations, and I see one side is completely recalcitrant, completely obstinate and irrational, and they're not willing to give, and they even claim ridiculously that walls are immoral and that that dug in, I have to say I put -- I lay the blame of a shutdown on that side of the negotiating --

SCIUTTO: Well --

ARRINGTON: Equation.

SCIUTTO: Well, the majority of Americans as you know in the polls do not, and the president himself said he would own the shutdown prior. So I'm just curious if you're concerned about paying a political price for this. I mean, you can make that argument, but the majority of Americans aren't buying that argument.

ARRINGTON: I think if the American people see that this president and the Republicans are in good faith trying to work with the Democrats, they'll give us the grace to continue to do what we're doing. And I think that -- you know, politics aside, the first priority and the most important job of the government is to protect its citizens.

So if there's any time that I would be in favor of this sort of extreme measure of a government shutdown, it is for the sake of my communities in west Texas. And the law enforcement folks that I met with on Saturday that say the drugs and the crime is wreaking havoc on our communities.

It's real. It's growing. And they don't have the resources to deal with it. So, yes, I think we should -- we should talk more about that, Jim, than on these others. They're real. The other ones, the cost, the disruption, all that's real --

SCIUTTO: It's big --

ARRINGTON: But the lives that are being affected by not having border security, that's more important to me.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Jodey Arrington, thanks for joining us this morning.

ARRINGTON: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, Rudy Giuliani now says, so what, if the president spoke to Michael Cohen before his congressional testimony. He said if it happened, it would be, quote, "perfectly normal". Would it really be, though?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)