Return to Transcripts main page
CNN RIGHT NOW
Shutdown Stalemate; Unscheduled TSA Absences; Harris Announces Run; Trump Answered Mueller's Questions; Christie Comments on Trump Staff. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired January 21, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": So the tension only builds the longer they're here and this coming week they're not supposed to be here. They're supposed to be on recess.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: We shall see what happens. Hopefully somebody finds the circuit breaker.
Thanks for joining us today. See you back here this time tomorrow.
Brianna Keilar starts right now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
Underway right now, shutdown stalemate. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are set to miss another paycheck on Friday as the political posturing in D.C. grinds on.
And now growing concerns about air safety and security as TSA absences jump.
All in. Kamala Harris says she is running for president as she rallies supporters in a fight for what she calls American values.
Rush to judgment. The video shedding new light on a confrontation between teenagers and a Native American elder.
And grounded, stranded and stuck on the runway in freezing temperatures for more than 14 hours. Passengers relive the flight from hell.
Up first, Democrats refuse to budge, the president is sticking with the wall, and 800,000 federal workers are days away from missing yet another paycheck. This is where we stand on day 31 of the partial government shutdown.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats say, reopen the government first, then negotiate border security. Pelosi calling President Trump's offer over the weekend a non-starter.
And here's what's in it, $5.7 billion for his border wall in exchange for three years of protection for DACA recipients and immigrants whose temporary status is expiring. It also includes money for drug detection technology and humanitarian assistance, as well as more border agents and immigration judges.
CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill.
So, Phil, the president's effort here to drive a wedge between some of the Democrats really doesn't seem to be working. Is that going to continue to be the case?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It looks that way, at least based on initial reactions we've heard over the course of the last 48 hours since the president's proposal was announced. And the objections are really two-fold. You mentioned one of them, the fact that Democrats have made clear from the beginning that the bottom line for them is the government needs to be reopened before negotiations can start on border security. Happy to have the negotiations, but reopen the government first.
And that's a broader strategic play and a broader strategic position in their minds, which is they can't incentivize the president, who they believe led to this shutdown. Obviously the Senate had passed something to keep the government open until February 8th. The president reversed course on that. Democrats don't want him to think that this is a tool that he can use again in the further in further deadlines.
The other is the policy itself. You mentioned there is a temporary reprieve for DACA recipients, but it's just recipients. It's not the entire DACA eligible population. A temporary reprieve for those with temporary protective status. Democrats have said, look, the deal that we would consider, or the deal that might be more amenable to them, would be a pathway to citizenship, a broader deal for any type of trade for some of the president's immigration priorities. This is not that. And so it's both a strategic and a policy objection right now, one that makes clear that at least at this point there's still no clear path forward.
KEILAR: All right, Phil Mattingly, thank you so much, on Capitol Hill for us.
And with no end to the shutdown in sight, one thing is clear, people and industries are suffering. Federal employees working without pay is really just the start here. The last food stamp payments were just mailed out. Federal assistance for low income housing is about to expire, and safety is being compromised in many areas like travel.
CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh is at Reagan-Washington National Airport.
So, Rene, tell us how bad the situation is getting for TSA workers and for airports.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: It's getting pretty bad, Brianna. The latest numbers from TSA today is that 10 percent nationally. That is their callout number. That is more than three times what they had the same day last year. So we have seen the stats just continue to grow. You know, as this
shutdown drags on, the number of people, TSA employees, who are essential to airport security, the number of these individuals calling out continues to go up.
So how is the agency dealing with it? Well, this weekend we saw a perfect example of how they're dealing with it the best way that they can. In Baltimore, BWI Airport, they were forced to shut down a checkpoint because of excessive callouts. We saw a similar move in Miami a weekend ago. Houston's airport had to shut down a checkpoint because they just didn't have enough TSA staff on hand to man the checkpoint. And similar situation in Atlanta, the world's busiest airport.
So that is the real indication that travelers are going to start seeing when they're traveling. The agency says the good thing is that they've been able to maintain the wait times. But the truth of the matter is, there are some airports where there are long lines, and the long lines are attributed to the lack of TSA staffing.
[13:05:04] And the big issue here is that these individuals say they just can no longer afford to come to work. You know, this is a situation where it is very real to their bottom line. They haven't received a check since December, and we're talking about missing a second check here. People are choosing between putting gas in their car to commute to work to work to not get a paycheck, or save that gas for an emergency, or in some cases some just don't have the money to travel in to work.
So, as this drags on, we clearly will see these numbers continue to climb. We don't think it's going to get better for the agency. And, of course, the number one concern, Brianna, is, how does this impact security? The agency says it hasn't, but people who work within TSA say this is their biggest fear, they're doing more with less.
KEILAR: Yes. And is that safe a bigger question. We know you're following it. Rene Marsh, thank you.
Now, in just a few minutes, Senator Kamala Harris is set to speak. And she made it official today, she is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The future of our country depends on you and millions others lifting our voices to fight for our American values. That's why I'm running for president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, Senator Harris is going to have to make the case that she is really the one to take on President Trump and win.
And Jeff Zeleny is here with me to discuss all of that. So, she has this campaign video and she's making the case about
American values. And it seems like she's taking on Trump. But we have seen different candidates or potential candidates make that choice, are they going to go up against Trump or focus on their own message?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is such a central question. I think in her view here, she is trying to introduce herself first. So you saw that video that she was releasing. It didn't mention Donald Trump by name at all, but, boy, that was the subtext to all of it. But she is trying to introduce herself as a record-breaking -- a groundbreaking candidate. She's the first African-American woman in the field. Potentially one in five women in the Democratic field here, so she's trying to distinguish herself by her time as a prosecutor. Her tag line, her slogan, for the people, and that is how she introduced herself at every time she would stand up as a prosecutor in California.
Of course, though, she has taken her bite of the apple today. She's giving a press conference shortly here in Washington, as you said. But how she sort of stands out in the field is the open question at this point, but she certainly is getting a lot of attention commanding this today on this MLK Day.
KEILAR: Five women in this Democratic -- potentially in this Democratic field.
KEILAR: And it's -- it's going to be huge. I mean it's just going to be such a big field. It's going to be very diverse. And they're all going to have to grapple with this question of, how do I make myself stand out?
ZELENY: No question. It's a very crowded lane. It reminds me of the -- of the 2004 presidential campaign. So many candidates. But I think how they deal with President Trump is one way to stand out. And we heard just a short time ago in Columbia, South Carolina, how Bernie Sanders is going to deal with Donald Trump. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Today we talked about justice, and today we talk about racism. And I must tell you, it gives me no pleasure to tell you that we now have a president of the United States who is a racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So taking on that directly there. Senator Sanders has still not said if he's going to run or not, but certainly is looking to see. And many questions if he has a second act or not. But he's going directly after the president in that regard.
But, Brianna, this is the very early stages, but, boy, a month or so from now the field will probably have most of the candidates already in. Big question marks, of course, Joe Biden, Beto O'Rourke and others. But even now with this many people in the field, we don't know exactly all their pathway, but they're trying to find their own lanes.
KEILAR: It's a crowded freeway.
ZELENY: No doubt.
KEILAR: It's going to be so interesting, though.
Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.
ZELENY: You're welcome.
KEILAR: And CNN is going to hose a town hall with Senator Kamala Harris from Des Moines, Iowa, next Monday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. So make sure to catch that.
Up ahead, the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, forced to walk back comments that president was talking about building a Trump Tower in Moscow through his entire election campaign.
And, was it a rush to judgement? A new video emerging in a story that has gone viral involving teenagers in Make America Great Again hats, as well as a Native American elder.
[13:13:57] KEILAR: There are new revelations now on business talks between Donald Trump and Russia. The president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, telling "The New York Times" that talks about building a Trump Tower in Moscow stopped when Donald Trump was elected president. So that's November of 2016. Much later than the president has ever admitted in public. And here's what Giuliani told our Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "STATE OF THE UNION": In his written answers, President Trump's written answers to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's questions, what did President Trump have to say about the Trump Moscow project?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: He acknowledged that they had conversation about it through 2015, 2016 --
TAPPER: Through November 2016?
GIULIANI: And he answered --
TAPPER: Through November 2016:
GIULIANI: He answered --
TAPPER: Right, that's what you said before?
GIULIANI: He answered those questions -- he answered those questions fully and I think to the satisfaction of the special counsel. So I'm not -- I'm not at all concerned about that. He gave a full and complete answer to it. I can't share the whole thing with you, but I can share the conclusion, which is, he had conversations with Michael Cohen, but it was Michael Cohen driving the project.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Well, this means that the Trump camp was in touch about a massive development project in Moscow while the president was questioning the existence of NATO, while he was encouraging Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails, and while he was advocating for an end to financial sanctions against Russia.
[13:15:10] Our Kara Scannell here with us now on this story of, what are we hearing from Rudy Giuliani now? There always seems to be a first thing that he says, a second thing, sometimes a third thing.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, the latest thing is that Rudy Giuliani just told our Pamela Brown some new information, which is walking back the statements he made just yesterday about what Donald Trump knew about the meeting and his conversations with Michael Cohen. So what Rudy Giuliani is now telling Pamela Brown is that Trump has no recollection of discussing or that these negotiations continued through the election. But there are no records for him to verify the timeline of this.
Rudy Giuliani is also telling Pam that when Michael Cohen said that the negotiations for this project ended in January of 2016, Trump believed him. And then when Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in November saying that actually these conversations continued into June, you know, he thought that was possible, too, the president said, according to Giuliani, because he didn't have records for this.
And now we also have that Giuliani is saying that -- right there we look at this timeline here. So Michael Cohen initially said it was January. Then he pled guilty saying it was June. Rudy Giuliani left open the possibility that this continued up through the election.
And Giuliani also told Jake Tapper yesterday that it was possible that Trump spoke with Michael Cohen in advance of his testimony. Now Rudy Giuliani is telling Pamela that he checked his notes and that, in fact, Donald Trump did not talk to Cohen about his congressional testimony, that conversations were just held between Cohen's lawyers and other lawyers involved in this discussion. So we're seeing Giuliani walk back pretty significant aspects of this, saying that Trump doesn't actually have knowledge that -- or any recollection that these discussions continued to the election, but left open the possibility that they had.
All right, Kara Scannell, thank you so much.
So what are the legal and political implications of the latest timeline for discussions on the Trump Tower Moscow project? We have Karoun Demirjian covering our political front here, and Joseph Moreno covering our legal front.
OK, so it's tricky sometimes to wade through all of the different versions that we hear from Rudy Giuliani on things of important, but let's try.
So he says that Trump was involved in the Trump Tower Moscow project for the entirety of his campaign. Now, he's tried to kind of back- pedal from that and just say that he's leaving open the possibility of this.
But let's just talk about what that would mean. That would mean that he was, as "The New York Times" so clearly spells out, wooing Russia on this massive development project that would benefit him financially a lot, right, as he's making statements, calling on sanctions -- Obama era sanctions to be lifted off of Russia, he's calling on Moscow to find Hillary Clinton's e-mails, and as he's criticizing NATO, which is totally Kremlin line. So let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (July 11, 2015): I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin. OK? And I mean where we have the strength. I don't think you'd need the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well.
TRUMP (May 18, 2016): NATO is obsolete. It's over 67 years or it's over 60 years old. It is many countries, doesn't cover terrorism, OK? It covers the Soviet Union, which is no longer in existence. And NATO has to either be rejiggered, re-changed, you know, changed.
TRUMP (July 28, 2016): Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
TRUMP (AUGUST 2, 2016): They say Putin likes Trump, and he said nice things about me. He called me a genius. He said we're going to win. That's good. That's not bad, that's good.
If we could get along with Russia, wouldn't that be a good thing instead of a bad thing?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: You know, Karoun, when you heard those things at the time, they were kind of nuts to hear. But now hearing them with the context of knowing that he very possibly or was in negotiations with Russia about a big development project is a very different thing.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's an extremely different thing. I mean, first of all, there's always been questions about whether the president was pursuing his bottom line in these statements about Russia, and it's a question of ratcheting up the level of bad this potentially is. When he's doing that potentially before he's really a candidate, OK. When he's one of 17 candidates, protestor problematic. When he's the actual party nominee, extremely problematic. I mean he was receiving security briefings at one point, too.
And then you have to question, you know, is the president saying that he's going to be, you know, doing all of these things because he actually believes in the policy or because he thinks that it's actually throwing out a gesture to people that he thinks will pay into this project that he's pursuing for a longer term goal. And that for -- I mean you campaign on what you're going to do as president. That's a scary thing when you're talking about somebody who is then moving into the Oval Office, because even if those specific discussions stop, does that actually stop the speculation or the concern about what he's then doing with the powers of the presidency.
[13:20:08] You've heard him talk just in the last few days about, you know, do reports about the president seriously considering withdrawing from NATO and things that will affect generations of security alliances of global positioning that could be out the window. And these are all raising more serious questions as to why is this really the reason to butter up the Russians for a personal project?
KEILAR: Look at this through a legal lens for us, Joe, because you're a former DOJ and national security prosecutor. When you see him talking about these things that are so pro-Russia, and he has business with Russia, how does that impact the legal side of what he's facing?
JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROSECUTOR: Well, Brianna, this is why this story just refuses to die because they're this ever growing mountain of circumstantial evidence to show that, you know, there is -- there were connections here that might support some of the most serious legal allegations that have been floated out there. So, you know, in a vacuum, we could say, you know what, let's just be quiet and wait for Special Counsel Mueller to finish his work because we're not worried. But when we learn about these things and we know that not only were there legal reasons but business reasons for President Trump to possibly want to ingratiate himself with Russia, that's concerning. And if that's why it's hard to just ignore that and say, well, let's wait to see what happened because we keep learning things every day.
KEILAR: And Michael Cohen, Joe, who is running point on this Moscow project, this Trump Tower project there, what he has lied about on this has been of such issue. At first he said the president was only really in the loop on this January 2016 when all the primary contests were getting going. Then it turns out actually it was as late as June, which is what he told prosecutors. Now you have Giuliani pushing that all the way to the election. But you can see how Michael Cohen, if he was looking out for Trump, would have wanted to shield this from public knowledge, right?
MORENO: Well, sure. I mean it's hard enough when you have presidents in the business world and you're mixing finances with politics. And we haven't really had to grapple with this in modern history. I mean we've had presidents from the business world, the military world, career politicians, but they've always divested themselves.
Here, President Trump has not divested himself. Not only that, you have potential dealings with a hostile foreign nation and one in where he's being looked at for possible collusion with, you know, with the campaign. So when you kind of add those things together, I have no doubt President Trump is very aggravated that this story won't die, but, again, he keeps giving us reasons to talk about and to keep it alive and to scrutinize it. KEILAR: Taking a turn here, Karoun, I want to ask you about Chris Christie's book.
He -- it's pretty interesting. I mean this is a juicy read. Quote, far too often he's found himself saddled with the riff-raff. That's what he says about Trump.
KEILAR: He says he needed to surround himself with high quality people. But then he goes on to describe the former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, a Russia lackey and future federal felon, Scott Pruitt, the EPA chief, since departed, greedy, inexperienced, Tom Price, former HHS secretary, since departed, high-flying, AG Jeff Sessions, since departed, not ready for prime time, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a stranger.
What do you think about this assessment?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, there's kind of like a back -- I mean, first of all, I think there's clearly a lot of turnover in the Trump administration. I think clearly, as we've seen --
KEILAR: I noticed that as I was reading this, right?
DEMIRJIAN: Right. I think also as we've seen, even raising the Giuliani example, who's causing as many messes as he's trying to clean up. Every time he tries to clean one up, he starts another one. I mean they should have been able to get through this weekend much, much more cleanly than they have because of him.
So is it the president or is it everybody around him? I think we know at the outset Trump had difficulty getting the mainstream Republicans to bolster his campaign. They went to Rubio. They went to Jeb Bush and they wanted to stay away from the president because he was making incendiary statements like the ones that you just listed a few minutes ago about Russia. And now with all these questions around that, too, which we didn't even know at the time that people keep their distance. So Trump took who he had and yet now he's got this reputation for not really sticking by his people. And so that kind of is just a self- perpetuating problem. Nobody wants to step up.
So is Christie right? Again, in a vacuum, to take Joe's line, yes, he's right, but this is not the vacuum. I think the GOP has been splintered around the idea of working in the Trump presidency. They're dealing with it. They're trying to promote it as much as they can because it behooves the GOP to be successful and have somebody in the White House, but that doesn't mean that the heart of the party actually agrees with him on most of these things.
KEILAR: Karoun, thank you so much.
Joe, really appreciate it.
And up next, I'll be asking Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley to weigh in on those revelations about the president's Moscow project, and if it's time that Democrats come up with a viable counter offer to end the government shutdown.
[13:24:37] Plus, the teenager seen staring down a Native American elder in a now viral video has his say on what went down, and it's a very different story.
KEILAR: Rudy Giuliani is refuting reports that the president instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. But President Trump's personal attorney does admit that the president may have talked with Cohen in detail about that testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: As far as I know, President Trump did not have discussions with him, certainly had no discussions with him in which he told him or counseled him to lie. If he had any discussions with him, they'd be about the version of the events that Michael Cohen gave then, which they all believed was true.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "STATE OF THE UNION": But you just acknowledged that it's possible that President Trump talked to Michael Cohen about his testimony.
GIULIANI: Which would be perfectly normal. Which the president believed was true.
[13:30:05] TAPPER: So it's possible -- so it's possible that that happened, that President Trump talked to Michael Cohen about his testimony?
GIULIANI: I don't know if it happened or didn't happen.