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Senate Set to Vote on Trump's Shutdown Deal This Week; New York City Food Bank Distributing Thousands of Meals for Federal Workers; Hundreds of TSA Workers Calling Out Because of Financial Burden; Senator Kamala Harris Announces Presidential Bid; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 21, 2019 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:28] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour now. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Most of the federal workforce is off today for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. But tomorrow 800,000 federal workers will still be off because, of course, the shutdown or required to keep working without getting paid. On Friday they'll almost certainly miss their second round of paychecks.

But for the first time since this ordeal began, and that was 31 days ago, full month, both Houses of Congress planned votes on measures that could end it. Unfortunately, they are very different measures that stand almost no chance in the other chamber. The Senate is taking up the president's offer to ease up on so-called Dreamers, at least for three years, in exchange for border wall money, and the president is calling Nancy Pelosi irrational for opposing it.

In fact many on the right don't like it either. Stay tuned on that issue. This morning we are also watching the growing field of Democratic presidential hopefuls now including the junior senator from California, Kamala Harris. Harris declared this morning on network television and we're going to bring you that in just a moment.

But we begin on Capitol Hill with CNN's Lauren Fox.

So you look at this, you have the Democratically controlled House that's going to pass its own bill this week. You've got the Republican controlled Senate. It's going to pass its own. I mean, it's really just drama, right, because there is no meeting between.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, the president unveiled that proposal on Saturday, $5.7 billion for his border wall in exchange for a temporary extension of DACA for three years and a temporary extension of temporary protected status.

Now that's going nowhere in the House of Representatives where Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring a package of bills this week in the House that would expand border funding by a billion dollars. But it's border security money, not border wall money. And that is a key distinction that Democrats are trying to make. Now meanwhile in the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring a package forward that looks a lot like the president's proposal with a few extra sweeteners for Democrats that would include an extension of the Violence Against Women Act, all intended to put pressure on Democrats to break from their leadership in the Senate and get on with the end of this government shutdown.

But, Jim, in a lot of ways we are exactly where we were a month ago when it comes to the shutdown. The president and Nancy Pelosi have to get in a room and negotiate an end to it. Otherwise there is no end in sight -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox, that's the reality.

Now to the reality for thousands of those federal workers impacted by this shutdown. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich joins us now live from a food bank in New York City. That's right. A food bank. We're talking about thousands -- tens of thousands of federal workers on this holiday, Vanessa, who need to go to a food bank just to feed themselves and their family. Tell us what you're hearing.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. We're just getting underway here at the food bank for New York City. They are expecting hundreds of volunteers to turn out today to pack meals for federal workers. The food bank will then be distributing to a thousand emergency network partners in the five boroughs. And they're targeting certain areas like Staten Island where there's a big Coast Guard base. As we know the Coast Guard is not being paid during this government shutdown.

I want to bring in the CEO, Margaret Purvis, of the Food Bank for New York City.

Margaret, tell me about the impact that you're seeing with federal workers. Are they coming asking for food?

MARGARET PURVIS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, FOOD BANK FOR NEW YORK CITY: We are absolutely seeing an increase across the city of federal workers. But today our volunteers are actually helping us serve two population. The 18,000 federal employees as well as the 1.8 million New Yorkers who rely on SNAP and will not will not receive food in February.

YURKEVICH: How long do you think that you can keep up with this need and this increased demand?

PURVIS: Well, we're monitoring the situation day by day. Food banks cannot be interchangeable for government. We can't do it. However, we are going into the same stance that we typically use for natural disasters.

YURKEVICH: Wow. And so you're looking at a plan that you usually reserve for hurricanes, earthquake?

PURVIS: Absolutely. This time the maps won't be based on disaster zones by flood levels. It will be based on utilization of SNAP. There's some neighborhoods where four out of five people rely on SNAP. And those are the places we must go very deeply to make sure that those people have food.

YURKEVICH: Thank you, Margaret.

And, Jim, you know, we're hearing this across the country from food banks that are running into these same issues. They are particularly worried about that SNAP program, that food stamp program that people rely on. It's funded only through February. So if they don't get that money for March, food banks like this one are going to be coming up across a great demand that, Jim, they simply cannot meet.

[10:05:07] SCIUTTO: Food banks for working Americans. I mean, it's just incredible.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, the TSA says that the number of unscheduled absences was 8 percent nationally. That's up from 5 percent a year ago due in part to the financial strain of the shutdown.

CNN's Rene Marsh joins us now from Reagan Airport.

And, Rene, I wonder, the key question I imagine for many of our viewers, myself as well, is safety. Is this impacting safety?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jim, it depends on who you're talking to. So the agency, TSA, as you know, is a security agency so they're careful about how much they are willing to reveal. But they say that security has not been compromised at airports. But in talking to a lot of TSA employees, ever since this shutdown began, I can tell you that is their number one concern that they are essentially doing more with less. More with less because we are seeing as this shutdown continues to drag out, we are seeing more and more of these callouts.

TSA officers who are simply telling the agency they cannot afford to come into work. You mentioned that statistic, that was from Saturday, 8 percent callout rate nationwide for the agency compared to some 5 percent the year before. But we just got some numbers from yesterday and yesterday was the highest callout rate we have seen since the shutdown began. Ten percent nationwide callouts at the TSA check points at these airports.

You know, we have seen airports shutting down check points. BWI Airport in Baltimore was forced to shut down a check point because of short staffing. But we've seen that with other major airports as well -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Numbers don't lie. And I know TSA has claimed at times that those sick outs aren't actually happening.

CNN, I understand, has reporting on an internal memo sent by the TSA. TSA leadership very concerned about how folks are talking about this. So what are they telling their officials to say about the shutdown?

MARSH: Right. So we got ahold of an internal e-mail sent from headquarters to airports and TSA leadership at airports essentially saying do not give out the data for how many of your TSA screeners and staff and officers are calling out sick. They essentially say, you know, keep that information strictly going to headquarters. Do not release it to the media. They told them you can engage with the media, tell them how the shutdown is impacting the personal lives of your employees but stay away from giving out those statistics.

We reached out to TSA to get a sense as to why these talking points were sent out. Of course it's not unusual for an agency to put out talking points. But they say that, you know, this is a security issue. But it also is just a window, Jim, into how the agency is trying to control the messaging as the shutdown continues.

SCIUTTO: Rene Marsh, great reporting, thanks very much.

Joining me now are Matt Lewis, senior columnist for the "Daily Beast" and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. She's with the "New York Times."

So, Matt, we got a strong economy, a country with a hundred -- many hundreds of billion-dollar budget here. And yet federal workers, and I'm sure you know some, and I'm sure you know some, they're going to go to food banks. Is this a working strategy for this president?

MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, look, I mean, we can go back and second guess a lot of things Donald Trump. Maybe he should have started with infrastructure and he'd be up in the polls. But he has made a decision to be about winning over his base. And that -- part of that is building this border wall. And so that's where he has decided.

With that as the premise, I don't see anything changing his mind. I don't think he is going to cave or walk away from this without getting something, some way to declare a victory. And I even think there is a chance that we could begin to see the soft bigotry of low expectations of Donald Trump. People don't expect Donald Trump to be an adult. They might expect Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to just, OK, give the baby his bottle, give him the $5 billion or come to some deal.

SCIUTTO: It doesn't seem like it.

LEWIS: It hasn't happened yet. That's for sure. But we -- who knows how long this is going to play out.

SCIUTTO: Julie, this latest proposal which we should say is a GOP proposal. It's not like it was developed behind closed doors between Republican and Democratic senators, designed it seems to bring some moderate Democrats, you know, basically to split Democratic unity. Is there any evidence in your reporting that that's happening.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's no evidence that that's happening. I mean, it's interesting because I think if they had tried this tact before the government shutdown in December when they were getting toward the deadline and everyone was trying to appear to be reasonable and appear to be negotiating and the president had said he was proud to shut it down, if they had tried to put this forward -- remember DACA is something that Democrats have consistently said they wanted. They want to protect these TPS, temporary protected status holders who are at risk of losing that status.

If they had put this forth before the government had shutdown I think they might have had a chance of really peeling off some of those moderate Democrats who did not want to see a shutdown, who want to be seen as solving this problem before it happens.

[10:10:01] Now that it's shutdown and we're a month into this narrative where the president has said he is digging in, this is about the wall, this is about him being proud to have this fight, I don't see enough Democrats willing to say OK, we're going to hold off on reopening the government until we can engage in this very complicated negotiation that they haven't been able to do under any other circumstances, and get this deal, because the bottom line is they are going to be presented with bills that reopen the government right away. And there aren't contingent on some sort of complicated deal.


HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: And so I think that that's the real sticking point here.

SCIUTTO: The numbers have been pretty clearly blaming the president and Republicans for the shutdown. Across the board. I think we have the numbers here. But it's about, you know, 50 percent, 60 percent, or at least mid 50s blame the president and Republicans and below 30s, maybe even the 20s blame Democrats.

But I wonder if that math, if you're right, Matt, here that the president is all about that base. He doesn't care if it's a majority. He's about that 35 percent, 40 percent. If he feels he is pleasing them and Democrats feel that they are pleasing the large majority of Americans, there is no -- there's nothing that breaks that then.

LEWIS: Right. Both sides have incentives to keep this going. I mean, Democrats feel like they are on the right side of public opinion. Donald Trump feels like he is on the right side of his base. And that's what matters to him. And so --

SCIUTTO: Whether it's a majority or not.

LEWIS: Yes. I don't see how this ends. Now the one group of people who may feel the pressure eventually are Republicans who are not Donald Trump. Right? Republican congressmen. The problem with that is we are still a year and nine months or whatever away from the next election. Remember Republicans shut down the government in 2013. Ted Cruz basically shut down the government. And it was so far out Republicans weren't punished at all by that. I think they lost a gubernatorial election in Virginia arguably because of it. But there is so much time that I think it's implausible to say that public opinion today is going to hurt Republican electoral chances tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: Short memories. Although here is a possibility because even the White House, Julie, concedes that the economic effect of the shutdown is double what they initially estimated. And you already have some other economic pressures going on here, slowing China trade, rocky trade -- trade talks with China. Could that be the linchpin here if it starts to show up in economic numbers?

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, I actually think that that's one of the major reasons that we saw the president come out and make this speech on Saturday. I think they are desperate to change this narrative and desperate to figure out a way out of this given that this is now no longer just a political fight but as you point a very substantive problem which, putting aside the polls, putting aside who blames who and who is in what political camp, if the economy is bad, that is bad for the president, that's bad for Republicans. And there's no arguing your way out of that. People feel that.


HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: So if it's as bad as now the White House economic advisers think that it could get, that's going to be a problem for Donald Trump no matter who people actually blame. So, I mean, I think that there is more motivation on the White House's side because of this to solve the problem. But they haven't found the strategy yet.

SCIUTTO: I mean, Jesus, people in food banks in Washington, D.C. I've seen food lines on Pennsylvania Avenue. It's incredible.

Matt, though, there are political dangers for Democrats here. They were elected a lot in swing districts to get things done. And there have been some Democratic lawmakers including on our air who have been saying to their leadership guys, you know, this is not a good look for us, either.

LEWIS: Right. No, it's not. And think of the -- just watching all those playoff games last night. You've got to be watching the clock. Democrats have a clock. That clock is running out. It's hard for them to enact an agenda. And there is a very limited amount of time in which they actually might be able to pass legislation and do anything when they're embroiled in this government shutdown.

So, I mean, look, I think there are a couple of ways potentially out of this. One is for Donald Trump to declare that state of emergency.


LEWIS: Which would open the government up, I think, but also open a can of worms that we don't want go now. The other option is some sort of compromise where you impanel a blue ribbon, an expert committee that may decide we do need more border fencing but not everywhere.


LEWIS: Will they come to their senses and compromise? I think there has to be pressure on both sides.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Of those two, blue ribbon committee breaking through. I would love to see it but I can't imagine breaking through.

Matt and Julie, thanks very much.

A new contender has entered the 2020 race for the White House. It's getting crowded. Senator Kamala Harris says that she is running for president. Why making her announcement today is very important.

And she's not the only one with the message to voters on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Several other potential presidential candidates are fanning out across the country today.

Plus could there soon be another vacancy in the president's cabinet. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said to be considering a run for the Senate. We're going to discuss the implications for the president and his administration.



[10:19:04] SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I am running for president of the United States. And --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's very nice.


HARRIS: And I'm very excited about it.


SCIUTTO: There you have it. Not long time ago this morning, Senator Kamala Harris, another Democrat, jumping into the 2020 race in what is sure to be a very, very crowded field. And on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, even those who have not yet made official announcements, if they are, seem to be taking some steps.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker are in the crucial primary state of South Carolina this morning, no accident there. Appearing at an NAACP rally at the state capitol.

Joining me now to talk about all of what's ahead for 2020, CNN senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten and CNN political commentator Karen Finney.

Thanks very much to both of you taking time out of your holiday here.

Harry Enten, you're looking at the numbers. Tell us about Kamala Harris as a contender for 2020. How strong?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Very strong. I mean, look, this is going to be a field that everyone is running in. But if there is one person that I were to pick out who has the best shot of winning within the Democratic field at this point, it is Senator Harris.

[10:20:05] She hits on a number of different parts of the Democratic Party. African-American, progressive prosecutor, woman candidate, and just someone who's going to be able to raise a lot of money being from California. She is going to make a strong case to be the Democratic nominee in 2020. And one other thing I will point out is there's not just going to be one woman candidate this year. There's not just going to be one African-American candidate this year.

The people that we're seeing running are actually representative of the Democratic Party. And that I think is one of the first times we can actually say that, it's not just a party where you're going to see white men running for the presidency.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, look at that list there. You see great diversity.

Karen, the -- one of the criticisms, I mean, internal criticism for Democrats post 2016 was, was it too much about identity politics and not enough about how I'm going to help particularly middle income workers in the middle states of this country? I mean, are you hearing that -- who are you hearing that from in this field so far?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think what people are understanding is a couple of things, right? Number one, winning is going to be about putting together a coalition of voters as Harry was just talking about. This is the most diverse field we've ever had and the most diverse electorate we've ever had. And if you look at what happened in 2016 and 2018 how people one was they put together, you know, coalitions of voters. So that's going to be critical.

The second thing, though, is it's not just about beating Trump. Right? A lot of the candidates, few people saying that's their number one thing. But to your point, what they understand is you've got to make an argument to be able to have your own vision and capture the imagination and the attention and the excitement of more than that, right? Of more than just what beating Trump looks like. And part of that means connecting with voters and addressing what was more than economic anxiety. It was racial anxiety.


FINNEY: It was sexism.

SCIUTTO: Cultural anxiety.

FINNEY: Right. It was fear of change. And so -- and it was more than just -- and that was really what was driving the economic anxiety and nobody really spoke to that better than unfortunately Donald Trump.


FINNEY: So that is a piece of what people are understanding they're going to have to do.

SCIUTTO: So when you look at that, Harry Enten, someone like Kamala or other candidates in this race here, I mean, are you seeing folks who have the coalition to win the Democratic nomination and -- in 2020 and beat Donald Trump? Are you seeing more of the focus on the coalition to win that nomination rather than the general election?

ENTEN: I mean, most of the discussion right now is about winning the nomination because if you don't win the nomination you're not going to be the next president of the United States.

SCIUTTO: True, but part of the conversation is definitely is this someone who can unseat Trump, which is of course a focus of the Democratic Party. ENTEN: Sure. I mean, look, if you ask voters in polls they will say

they want someone who can beat Donald Trump, the president of the United States, and who is strongest in a primary isn't necessarily will be strong as in a general election, right? I mean, someone like an Amy Klobuchar who won in Minnesota, her last Senate race, by over 20 points, and who could connect with voters in the Midwest, may not be the same candidate who can best connect with primary voters. I mean, Minnesota is not a very diverse state and Klobuchar has a fairly moderate record.


ENTER: So I think there's going to be that balancing act that a lot of these candidates are going to have to make. And, you know, I think someone like Senator Harris saying for the people that's a very populist progressive type of a message that I think she is going to try and create this sort of bridge between the primary electorate and the general election electorate.

SCIUTTO: Karen. Karen.

FINNEY: And I think what Kamala is doing is also creating a movement. Right? It has that Obama feel. She announced on ABC this morning. However, she is going home to Oakland, her hometown, and it's all about join us, be a part of us and other -- which is a little bit different than what we've seen some of the other candidates do which is, you know, making the cursory, going to New Hampshire, going to Iowa.

So I think actually there is something -- you know, trying to do something a little bit different right now and break out of the field to sort of stand out a little bit, not maybe by just cracking open a beer on New Year's Eve but really making it about voters is a really wise idea.

SCIUTTO: Harry, one thing that also characterizes this field is you have some folks at least thinking about it, Howard Schultz among them, a CEO, because there's been a lot of talk about how, you know, Trump was an unconventional candidate. What is the potential for the success of an unconventional Democratic candidate?

ENTEN: I mean, I guess it's what the definition of unconventional is, right? I mean, if we're talking business --

SCIUTTO: Well, nonpolitician, right?

ENTEN: Sure. I mean, if --

SCIUTTO: I mean, you know, a CEO for instance.

ENTEN: If you're talking businessmen, I just don't think there is room for that in the Democratic Party at this particular point at least this Democratic electorate heading into 2020. Indeed if you will look at Schultz, you'll look at Bloomberg or Steyer who's announced that he is not running, and you look at where their favorable ratings were in Iowa and nationally, they are quite low. And one of the most interesting little numbers that I saw was Andrew

Yang who pretty much never gets a lot of discussion nationally but has been running for president for a long time. He's a businessman. And when you ask Iowa voters who they like and who they dislike, his favorable rating was the lowest despite I don't think very many people knowing who he was and the reason why it was was before they introduced his name in the poll, they said he was a businessman.

[10:25:04] Democrats do not want a businessman at this particular time.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. That's very -- you know, has Donald Trump spoiled the -- you know, spoiled that forever at least at this cycle.

Harry Enten, Karen Finney, thanks very much to both of you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: This week 800,000 federal employees will go without another paycheck if Congress does not reopen the government. Democrats just rejected the president's latest offer. What's next?