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McConnell Promises Trump Vote On Trump's Plan This Week; Sanders Calls President Trump "A Racist"; Giuliani: "Impossible" Trump And Cohen Talked About Congressional Testimony; Government Shutdown Enters Day 31 With No End In Sight. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 21, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:01] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Phil Mattingly keep us posted if anything changes from the Hill. And here we are and as we start the conversation I just want to remind people, Mitch McConnell promised the President he would bring his plan to a vote. Mitch McConnell promised he would do that only if the President went out publicly first and described the plan because many conservatives don't like it. But, bringing a plan to the floor that is unlikely to pass is very different from what the majority leader said just last week.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The only way out of this impasse is a bipartisan agreement and as the Democratic leader and I have both stated here on the floor, only at all corners bipartisan agreement will receive a vote here in the Senate.


KING: Never mind. Why?

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: They have to start doing something. This process of just sitting in their corner and doing nothing is clearly not working. That is certain.

KING: It's like a get out of their corner --

KANE: They've got it.

KING: -- and essentially do nothing.

KANE: Yes, I mean, even if these are failed votes, just show Trump where the votes are. Sometimes the President just has to see there is not enough votes here. There's 52 votes for this, so they're eight short. He -- they have to start doing something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I think at the State --

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: I think that's the key, is that he feels the need to demonstrate to the President who doesn't necessarily understand or at least believe that this plan is going to fall short. The President really thinks like you put that in there, my people will support it, we'll get some more. Maybe he's not -- he doesn't know the numbers exactly.

But, you know, this is not a bipartisan agreement. This is a one- party agreement and that's why we think it will fall short. We don't know for sure until it gets there and so that's the way of I think they've done this in the past. Demonstrating to the President, look, I know this is what you want to do. You're going to have to go back to the drawing board when you see that it can't.

KING: Is there a risk in the demonstration and that what if he gave them truth serum, most Republicans would like a solution to the DREAMER problem. Most Republicans would like a solution to the temporary status problem. Most Republicans would support against work of program and yes they also want border security and many of them want a wall. Not enough of them for the President, but many of them want a wall.

But, Mitch McConnell is going to bring to a floor a bill that a slice of the conservative base calls amnesty. He's going to ask Republicans to vote, yes, for what a slice of the Republicans considers amnesty. That bill has no chance of making it to the President's desk.

So, normally Mitch McConnell, would not make his members -- including himself, he's on the ballot in 2020, cast that vote.

Roger Wicker, the Republican Senator of Mississippi says this in the "Washington Post", "Having gone this far, I'm sticking with the President on this and willing to let his strategy play out". He doesn't say, the President's right. This is right strategy. This is great. He essentially says, I stepped into this box, i'm stuck in this box so let's see where we go?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Literally no one knows what is going on here or how to get out of this. I mean, that's the truth about this problem is that Mitch McConnell is letting people vote on this bill that a lot of the President's base believes his amnesty. And partly because there's no other option available to them.

I mean, I think barring the President simply dropping his demands altogether. It does not seem that they are getting any closer to an agreement. I mean, talking to administration aides over the last several days, they understand that this is going nowhere. They're just throwing -- it's like throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks. They know that the likelihood that it's going to stick is not really there and in some ways it almost seems as if like this three years for DACA-TPS things is literally the bare minimum that they would like to offer Democrats in order to get to some kind of deal.

KING: Then let's flip it. It's the bare minimum, it's not enough for Democrats. Anyone at the White House who can count knew that coming in.


KING: Number one, will the President go farther and how far is he willing to go to negotiation. But number two, is there no burden on the Democrats to at least counter it? The President did make a concession. You don't have to want the wall, you don't have to agree with the President's proposal, but he made a proposal.

He at least stepped forward and said, let's try this. And he does propose three years of protection for 700,000 of the DACA recipients, three years of protection for about 300,000 more immigrants that are temporary status that could expire.

So the President is doing something that lit up his hard line immigration base, is there no burden on the Democrats to respond, or do they think they're in such a good position they can just say no?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF,THE DAILY BEAST: So, I think there is also acknowledgment from Mike Pence this weekend that there would be debate on the Senate floor about this and there was a slight willingness to see what is presented change or at least the fund (ph) of the vice president is always different with the President.

But, to your point we're not seeing it yet in terms of Democrats being at fault, but let's be honest here, no one looks good right now. Neither party looks good when people aren't getting paid.

KING: And so-- we'll shall see is this -- it's going to be interesting to watch these two -- the argument now is, the key now is can one party -- can the Democrats keep their high ground which they believe they have in the polls or will the votes in the President's proposal begin to shift public debate? We're going to watch that play out this week and I'm sorry for those of you waiting to get back to work. Don't look for it to happen in the days ahead.

As we go to break on this Martin Luther King Holiday, some thoughts about his legacy from Republican Senator Tim Scott of South California. He writes, "Today, we stand on the shoulders of great men like Dr. King in our pursuit for more civil and fair America. And America where one's race, gender or zip code does not dictate their opportunity".

Well written words. We'll be right back.


[12:39:34] KING: On our political radar today, in Georgia, the former Democratic nominee for Governor Stacey Abrams back in the spotlight. She's kicking off a thank you tour to her voters to thank her voters today after narrowly loosing her historic bid for governor. Now an office to Republican Brian Kemp, Abrams reappearance comes amid speculation over her next move. Whether to rematch with Kemp or maybe running for Senate in 2020? Abrams telling the "Washington Post" she's, "interested in everything".

The British Prime Minister Theresa May searching for way to break the Brexit deadlock. The U.K. is set to leave the E.U. at the end of mark for parliament has yet to agree on the terms of that departure.

[12:40:08] May's deal, her plan will shutdown by a historic margin just last week. She's hoping more conversations will lead to a breakthrough. Just moments ago, the prime minister reiterating why she thinks there's no support for a revote by the British people.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I fear a second referendum with such a difficult President that could have significant implications for how we handle referendums in this country. I also believe that there has not yet been enough recognition of the way that second referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.


KING: And this just in you want to listen, a new and varnished campaign thrill moment from Bernie Sanders. Just moment ago in South Carolina, the independent senator at an NAACP event honoring Martin Luther King Jr., said this.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Today we talk 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.


KING: Some Democrats skirt it and say, I don't like what he has said. He's certainly had said things that are racially tinged or racially baited. Bernie Sanders very clearly, he's a racist.

PHILLIP: I think Democrats have pretty much decided that this is where they want to be on this question. The idea is skirting around how to talk about the things that Trump does that they believe are racist is in the past for Democrats. And I think that's what you're seeing now.

In some ways in 2016, they were still figuring it out. They were not sure what to say about Trump or how to characterize it. I remember the Clinton campaign really laboring over this question for a long time trying to decide how they were going to talk about things that they wanted to say were racist but were worried about alienating the middle part of the country.

Now, I think that that argument is over. The question is what happens further down the road? I think a lot -- you heard from a lot of Republicans and there's some disagreement about this. Republicans think that if you label a lot of Trump supporters racist, it's going to be a problem for you in the midterms.

I think the fact that Democrats have crossed that bridge tells you that they are less worried about that now than they were in 2016 and they're going a slightly different path to the Presidential nomination than perhaps just going straight down the middle and trying to kind of keep both sides happy on this.

KING: Yes, early in 2020, but the rhetoric raw from the get-go in the long year plus ahead.

Up next for us, Rudy Giuliani creates more head scratching, yes, head scratching on the Sunday shows.


[12:47:01] KING: The President's lead lawyer again creating more questions with his answers. Rudy Giuliani appearing on a pair of Sunday talk shows yesterday for what should have been t-ball, a ready made public relations win following a Friday night gift from the Russia's Special Counsel.

Robert Mueller's office took the rare step of issuing a statement debunking a BuzzFeed report that said the Special Counsel had witnesses and documents showing the President instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Instead of just trashing BuzzFeed and thanking Mueller, Giuliani created a slurry, saying it's possible the President did talk with Cohen before he testified to Congress.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: 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 believe was true.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: 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.

TAPPER: So it's possible that that happened, that the President Trump talked to Michael Cohen about --

GIULIANI: I don't know if it happened or didn't happen. And it might be attorney-client privilege if it happened where I can't acknowledge it.


KING: Remind me never to hire that man as my attorney.

What is he --we laugh about this sometimes. He has gone out and told people in advance whether it's wise or unwise as a political legal strategy, oh, yes, the President did get authorize that money for the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. Oh, yes, the President did talk about the Trump Tower project with Michael Cohen well past January 2016 into the election campaign.

So he goes out there on purpose, what was that? This should've been an easy weekend media public relations victory for team Trump in the context of this story. KANE: But Saturday night that "SNL" weekend update guys were making fun of BuzzFeed. They were making fun and poking fun at that story. This was a time where they really, like you said, they just had a t- ball setup. They should've knocked it out of the park.

But instead he has now taken what was the issue of the subordinate perjury or not, and turned it into the Republican Presidential nominee was trying to negotiate with Russia up until Election Day. That's an amazing story line.

KING: But let's listen to more of that, because again, Donald Trump is a candidate for president. He says, "I'm a candidate for president now. And the business people are my kids are running the business, I'm not involved in this anymore." Listen.


GIULIANI: The conversations lasted throughout parts of 2016. The President is not sure exactly when they ended. It's our understanding that they went on throughout 2016. Not a lot of them, but there were conversations. Can't be sure of the exact dates but the President can remember having conversations with him about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throughout 2016?

GIULIAN: Yes, probably up to -- could be up to as far as October, November or it just cover until the election. So any time during that period they could've talked about it. But the President's recollection of it is that the thing had petered out quite


[12:50:09] KING: That's Rudy Giuliani yesterday. He just spoke to our Pamela Brown. He says, "The President has no recollection of discussions about Trump tower, how far they went though in 2016". He can't recall. No way of determining the exact date because when he had it -- because there's no record of it.

Why should you be out there muddying the waters on something that is critically important to the integrity of the President? The credibility of the President? And said I stopped do it (ph). And the "New York Times" put this into this proper context. "The new timetable means Mr. Trump was seeking a deal at the time he was calling for an end to economic sanctions against Russia impose by the Obama administration. He was seeking a deal when he gave interviews questioning the legitimacy of NATO, a favorite talking point of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And he was seeking a deal when in July 2016, he called on Russia to release hacked Democratic e-mails that Mr. Putin's government was rumored at the time to have stolen."

KUCINICH: So perhaps, Rudy Giuliani as he said before, he's trying to get out ahead of something, trying to inoculate President from this. If in fact, Bob Mueller does have something, some manner of communication that does prove that the President was discussing these things. That's the only way this makes sense because otherwise why would -- what would be the purpose? How would this help? BALL: Well, I think there's two potential objectives in muddying the waters like this, right?

One is, Rudy himself may not be certain because you don't -- the President himself may not know, may not, may in fact do not recall, may not have been able to tell his own lawyer in a consistent way. We've seen some of Trump's lawyers or former lawyers in the past go out there, proclaim something to be true that their client told them only to be embarrassed later when the story changes or when other evidence emerges and it turns out that what they went out there to say on behalf of the President is contravened by the latest version of the story.

So, he's trying, it seems to me to insulate himself against more things coming out that could invalidate something that he states clearly as fact and then other thing is obviously moving the goalposts. For those who want to defend the President, for those who want to believe his side of the story, to change what would constitute something bad and make it seem normal, like he's saying this is all perfectly normal. Well that's a debatable statement, to say the least.

KING: Debating Rudy Giuliani's statements after he's on a Sunday show he's perfectly normal, has become perfectly normal.

KING: Up next, political drama right a passage here in D.C., but is the shutdown made everything and everyone maybe a little worse?



[12:57:07] TRUMP: I don't know if we're closer to a deal. This should be the easiest deal that I've ever seen. We're talking about border security. Who could be against it?

REP. NANYCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: The date of the State of the Union is not a sacred date. It's not constitutionally required. It's not the President's birthday. It's not anything.

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: It's the longest in history. It's the dumbest in history.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MINORITY LEADER: There is no room for white supremacy. That's why I took a strong action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you view this as retaliation for your letter about the State of the Union?

PELOSI: Don't say that, I would hope not. I don't think the President would be that petty, do you?


KING: Just a few samples there. Name-calling, a public disinvitation, talks of a censure (ph), downgraded flights. Washington lawmakers shows snippet submit there last week engaging in a series of staged events and political theater, yes, while 800,000 federal workers went without pay. And while the economic impact of the shutdown spread.

Typical partisan gamesmanship or is this different? Our panelist Paul Kane, printed this way in the "Washington Post". "The tension is only going to grow in the coming days. No serious negotiations have taken place since Trump walked out of a bipartisan congressional leaders after Pelosi said she had no intention of funding a border wall. It can't get any worse, right?"

I assume the answer to your question there is, yes it can?

KANE: A few key rules of life, number one, never ask a question unless you really want to know the answer. It can get a lot worse.

These guys on the House floor on Thursday afternoon, what was supposed to be just a routine bill -- routine vote to try to reopen government. Like, they nearly came to blows. They were so angry because Republicans forgot that they had to ask for a recorded vote. They're new in the minority. They haven't been there in eight years.

All of a sudden they're just yelling at one another, pointing fingers. Somebody yells, go back to Puerto Rico, I mean, we were on the verge of fisticuffs on the House floor.

KING: That's raw. And look, there's a legitimate policy divide over the border wall.

KANE: Yes.

KING: President once said, most Republicans want it, most Democrats say no.

There's the personal establishing your position, if you will, between the new Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

KANE: Yes.

KING: And the Republican President who's never had anybody in Congress and leadership say no to him. How much if it is what you just mentioned though. If you look at the new Congress, Republicans are now in the minority. There's only 55 of the 199 Republicans, only 55 of them remember what it's like to be in the minority and it's horrible, especially if you know the power of the majority.

KANE: Oh, yes, they have never dealt with this. They go to worse rooms. When you're in the minority, you have to go meet all the way over in the Capitol visitors' center which is just like a half mile further walk than the normal meeting room. Everything is different and they are -- they want to show how tough they are, too. They've got new leaders and 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.

KING: 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.