Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
FBI Agents Not Being Able To Pay Bills Is Humiliating; Supreme Court Let's Transgender Military Ban Take Effect; Trump Criticized For Not Keeping LGBT Campaign Promise; Trump Still Plans on Delivering State of the Union; Government Shutdown Continues; FBI Hurting Due to Shutdown. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired January 22, 2019 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Tweeting, "Without a wall, our country can never have border or national security," adding: "The Dems know this, but want to play political games. Must finally be done correctly. No cave!"
Trump still plans to deliver a State of the Union address at the Capitol next week, the White House says, even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked him to postpone it, citing security concerns during the government shutdown.
HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: She did that without any input from national security. In fact, she even said that Secret Service couldn't protect the speech, which is absolutely ridiculous.
PHILLIP: To make their point, a White House official sending an e- mail on Sunday asking the sergeant at arms to conduct a walk-through for the speech, but that request was rejected.
Officials say Trump speechwriters are still working on his remarks, and they are considering alternative venues, including a campaign- style rally or a speech in the Republican-controlled Senate chamber, which could be complicated by Democrats.
Meantime, both sides are still far apart on stopping the shutdown, with neither the Democrat or Republican votes on plans to end the shutdown expected to succeed this week.
And the text of the president's proposal released last night includes provisions advocates and Democrats are calling poison pills.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What the president proposed is granting what he had already taken away. The DACA recipients had their protections. TSP -- the temporary protected status, TPS, had their protection. The president took it away. And now he is saying, well, I will give this back temporarily, if you give me a wall permanently.
PHILLIP: Including a change that would force Central American children to seek asylum in their home country and those attempting to seek asylum at the border would be sent back to the countries they fled.
PHILLIP: And there are some-late-in-the evening developments happening in the Senate.
We have learned, according to my colleagues on Capitol Hill, that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is going to allow a vote on Thursday on two different plans, one that has President Trump's $5.7 billion for the wall and the rest of the provisions he announced in a speech on Saturday, and the other that is a House-passed Democratic bill that reopens the government for a short period of time until February, but does not fund the wall.
Now, Jake, neither of these proposals is expected to pass. They both would need 60 votes in order to do so. So while this is a small development, it does not signal that we are any closer to ending the shutdown -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Abby Phillip, thanks so much.
Phil, let me start with you.
Is there any chance that Democrats could pick up 13 Republican votes for their provision, their bill to open the government, or Republicans could pick up seven Democrats to open -- to pick up theirs? This is obviously them trying to reach the magic number of 60.
PHILIP BUMP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right.
I mean, at some point, someone's going to have to pick up some votes somewhere, right? I mean, it seems as though what it's coming down to is that Donald Trump is either going to have to sign off on Republicans who are willing to stand with him balking, saying essentially I will sign a bill if you guys join the Democratic effort on this, or if somehow the Democrats lose control of their caucus, which so far the Democrats have shown absolutely no indication that they plan to give the Republicans vote that they want here.
This shutdown was precipitated by Donald Trump suddenly changing his mind, saying I want to make the fight over the wall at this point.
TAPPER: Right. The Senate already had passed a clean bill.
BUMP: Exactly. Exactly, which the House now has repeatedly under Nancy Pelosi passed, as a pretty smart strategic political move.
That said, if Donald Trump were to change his mind tomorrow and say, OK, the heck with it, we will push this fight down the line or I will -- we will come up with something else that serves as a border, then the shutdown could end.
He's shown absolutely no willingness to do so. And it's going to be interesting to see if he can seize upon enough things like this Covington Catholic fight to energize his base to keep them distracted and keep the shutdown going, and maintain the political will that is eroding for his -- for his presidency.
TAPPER: And one of the things that we have been talking about last week on the show and on "STATE OF THE UNION" also is Republicans talking about, well, if the president -- the president could corner Nancy Pelosi if he said border wall money, open the government, but I will give you protection for dreamers, permanent protection for dreamers and permanent protection for DACA recipients.
The president didn't offer permanent. He offered temporary. And then you find out that he has this -- that they slipped in this thing that seems to have come from the mind of Stephen Miller, as you suggest.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, THE HUFFINGTON POST: It dramatically limits legal immigration to the United States.
TAPPER: For people applying for asylum status, yes.
MENENDEZ: Especially from Central America for children. It limits the number of applications. It limits the number of people who would be accepted.
All of this I think it is important to understand, though, is happening against the backdrop of the Supreme Court deciding not to take up the DACA repeal. For the longest time, the president had been saying that he was very confident that the Supreme Court was going to take the case.
He was very confident that they were going to rule in his favor -- quote -- "overwhelmingly," and that once they did that, he would have the leverage he needed in order to do some type of DACA-wall deal.
Well, that has disappeared. Right?
TAPPER: They didn't take up the case.
MENENDEZ: They didn't take up the case, so that is no longer an option, which puts him in a much more difficult place.
TAPPER: What does that mean to the DACA recipients? They have status indefinitely?
MENENDEZ: No, not indefinitely.
The chances are that the court we revisit this and think about taking it up in the fall, which, by the way, means that a decision would come down in spring of 2020. Hello?
But in terms of this piece of legislation, it's not a good-faith effort. It's not even really a starting point, when you put those poison pills in it.
TAPPER: What do you think the president is going to ultimately do next week, assuming Nancy Pelosi doesn't give and let him do his State of the Union in the hall of the House of Representatives?
Do you think he will do it in the Senate? Will he hold a MAGA rally in Alabama? What do you think?
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: If I had to guess, right, if I were a betting woman, I would bet he does a MAGA rally somewhere in the heartland.
TAPPER: For the State of the Union?
HOOVER: I would not put it past the president oft United States, not at all.
He does things differently. He doesn't care about precedent. He wants to be his own person. And you know what? To heck with Congress. They're not working with him anyway.
Both sides are so doubled, burrowed down in this, by the way. I mean, the way through, frankly, is just both sides to go big, right? Go back to your $25 billion for the wall and then go back to full protections for DACA recipients and the TPS people.
HOOVER: That is the January deal.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That's not even big. That's just going back to the deal he could have had before he blew it up in a fit of pique the first time.
Look, if the president does that and reverts to a letter to Congress and goes and gives a speech, the State of the Union into a rally, let's just christen that right now the state of the disunion. It will be unprecedented for the president solely to play to his, simply because he needs the energy from the crowd to deliver a big speech.
My guess is...
AVLON: Look, I will not put anything past him.
But the fact we're 32 days in -- and he wrote a book during the campaign called "Crippled America." He's actively crippling America with the shutdown in month two. He just made a half-step towards recognizing the reality of a Democratic Congress and loaded it up with poison pills that once again the theme seems to be reducing non-white immigration to this nation.
TAPPER: And I have to note, you talked about the president maybe trying to rally conservatives on the Covington Catholic issue and other cultural stories. Your paper spoke with Trump voters in Michigan who are now blaming the president for the shutdown. One question -- quote -- "What the 'expletive' were we thinking?"
Another 2016 Trump voter said -- quote -- "I was doing fine with him up until this government shutdown. It's ridiculous. You're not getting the wall built for $5 billion and Mexico is not paying for it. We all know that too. Meanwhile, it's starting to turn people like me away."
This could ultimately really hurt him.
I mean, if you look at the approval numbers where he was on December 21, his disapproval was like 51.6 percent, and now it's like 55.6 percent in the RealClear average of polls. He's seen a sharp spike in the number of people who say they disapprove of him.
What he has done, however, over the course of his candidacy/presidency is, he has relied upon social issues like Covington Catholic to keep his base enthusiastic about him, while he does things that may not necessarily be totally beneficial to the base, like pass massive tax cuts that primarily help corporations.
I would not be surprised if he is seizing on Covington Catholic in part, there's a variety of reasons why it's very, very squarely in his wheelhouse, but in part to try and reverse that trend.
TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.
President Trump keeps saying the shutdown is about keeping America safe, but now FBI agents are saying it's hampering their ability to hunt for terrorists.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: We're back with our national lead.
President Trump has invoked national security as the reason he has forced the government to shut down. The wall money, he insists, is needed to protect the American people.
But there are also serious national security implications for the shutdown as it enters its second month. Today, the FBI Agents Association said it cannot pay confidential informants and so they're losing valuable information about terrorists.
CNN's Jessica Schneider is live outside FBI headquarters in Washington.
And, Jessica, one of these terror groups they mentioned is one of the president's favorite boogeymen, MS-13. The president repeatedly targets MS-13, a horrible group, in his rallies and tweets.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly.
MS-13 gang violence really has been a prime talking point of the president. But now some agents who are tackling this crime from MS- 13, they say they no longer have the funds to keep these investigations going. Really, it's all documented in this 70-page report that was put forward by the FBI Agents Association.
In it, one of those agents -- they all remain anonymous -- one of them says that they can no longer pay the Spanish-language translator for this MS-13 investigation. Another agent saying that their confidential human sources are pretty much going away because they can't pay them anymore.
And because of that, one agent saying that they have lost several of these sources over the past few months -- or actually have worked for them for the past few months or the past few years trying to penetrate these terrorist groups.
So, Jake, we have talked about how it's affected FBI agents' paychecks, but now they say it is seriously impacting these operations.
TAPPER: That's just astounding.
Also, we heard from some of these agents details, very personal details, about how the shutdown is affecting their families.
And, interestingly, come Friday, if this shutdown isn't resolved, these agents and these staff members, they will be getting a double whammy. So not only will they not get their paycheck on Friday, the second one that they will have missed. But we heard from the FBI Agents Association today that they will also be losing their dental and their vision benefits.
Their medical benefits will stay, but the other two, they will no longer have. The agents are saying how this is taking a toll on them personally, but how that's also affecting them professionally. There's one agent who's detailed in here.
Let me read you what they say, because it's really poignant. This agent saying: "I have always prided myself on being able to pay my bills on time and in full. The fact that I can no longer do that is humiliating and degrading. The crazy thing is that I'm still working as hard as I ever have in my job as an FBI agent. Like many of my fellow agents, I took a sizable pay cut to come serve my country as an FBI special agent."
[16:45:00] SCHNEIDER: These agents are still going to work every day fighting crime but they're not seeing a dime for it. And, Jake, the FBI so far today declining to comment.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right Jessica Schneider outside FBI headquarters in downtown D.C., thanks so much. Alicia let me start with you, because look, President Trump whatever you think about him in terms of his personal qualities, I think it's fair to say he's not the most compassionate president we've ever had. OK, is it fair? OK, so he's not -- so -- but let's just focus on what this shutdown is doing to national security. One of the agencies working on a three- year investigation into MS-13 described some of the problems we're facing right now. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM O'CONNOR, PRESIDENT, FBI AGENTS ASSOCIATION: Since the shutdown, I have not had a Spanish speaker in the division. We have several Spanish-speaking informants. We are only able to communicate using a three-way call with a linguist in another division.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And you know, this is going after MS-13.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, CO-HOST, PBS'S AMANPOUR AND CO.: Right. I mean, this entire thing is predicated on a lie which is we have shut down the government over a wall that's supposed to keep us safe because there is an imaginary threat. I mean, you all know what I know which is drugs are not coming across the southern border. They're coming through legal ports of entry.
TAPPER: Well, they're coming --
MENENDEZ: Important but not to phases where the lack -- the of a wall is the issue. The people who are coming over the border, these asylum seekers, they are non-violent. So you have predicated this entire thing on protecting the safety of the American people when in reality the fact that we have now hit this impasse means that we are less safe.
If I were a less cynical person, I might argue that this is a wonderful crevice for the president on which to say listen, the safety of the American people is the most important priority in my presidency and so what I'm going to say is that it's time for the government to reopen and we'll negotiate immigration separately. I just don't think were there.
TAPPER: Phil, in this report, another agent wrote this. "As a Joint Terrorism Task Force coordinator, the inability to pay confidential human sources has had a detrimental effect on our counterterrorism investigations and operations. We've lost several who have worked for months and years to penetrate groups and target subjects. This is making us less safe. Even if one thinks that we need a wall, even if one thinks a wall in some places could be good, this shutdown is making us right now let's say, the wall wouldn't appear for several years.
PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. I mean -- I mean, it's incontrovertible. But I think it's also important to remember that the one thing that Donald Trump had said repeatedly that was shown repeatedly to be false that he has essentially stopped saying was that we need the wall to stop terrorists, right? I mean, he said for weeks and weeks and weeks that the wall was necessary because there all these terrorists. There were five terrorists a day coming across the border or whatever it was and that was shown to be a misrepresentation of data which involved known and suspected terrorists at all ports of entry including airports and all these various ways in which that wasn't true.
Donald Trump has repeatedly since he made his campaign announcement essentially including at his convention speech as well in which he accepted the nomination highlighted the focus on danger, the threat to the United States, the threat from crime, the threat from terrorism. He was the only one person that could fix this. And to your point, while he tried to make that case for the wall and specifically terrorism and that was shown not to be true, he has at the same time let this slide.
TAPPER: Go ahead.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, it's not just incompetence in governing that we're seeing. in setting up a situation where God forbid if there is a real crisis in the United States, an attack of some kind because we were not fully staffed, that sets its own cascading. We are dangerously -- we're doing something credibly danger in this country as a result of this shutdown. We are compromising the very security that he has predicated the campaign on from his campaign to the presidency.
It is it is astounding we're at this point and people should be outraged not just the federal workers who are in danger of losing another paycheck but folks at home because this is going to come home folks.
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The other group of federal workers that have to do with counter-terrorism -- anti- terrorism measures is the TSA which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, right? And they'll be going on their second paycheck that they're missing and they're critical. It led (INAUDIBLE) in an entity that exists because of 9/11 in order to secure our airports and to secure our airlines.
And I think and I suspect that that's going to be the tipping point when TSA workers stop showing up to work and the airports are crippled and the airlines are crippled, then those Republican governors in blue states especially at Reagan National we're going to start flipping away from Mitch McConnell.
TAPPER: Well, and also we got the Super Bowl coming up. We'll see what the -- what the transportation is like going in and out of Atlanta, right? Everyone, stick around. The Supreme Court giving the green light for President Trump's ban on transgender members of the military to go forward for now. So what happened to that campaign promised that he would protect the LGBT community? Stay with us.
[16:50:00]TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD," the conservative majority on the Supreme Court today ruled that the court would allow to stand the President's ban on transgender individuals joining the military at least for now. You might recall during the 2016 presidential campaign, LGBTQ allies of then-candidate Donald Trump pledged that Trump would be great for their community.
Caitlyn Jenner went so far as to post a video on Facebook showing her walking into a woman's room at Trump Tower. So two years into the Trump presidency with measure after measure suggesting administration hostility to LGBTQ equality, how are those allies explaining today what the President is doing. CNN's Jessica Dean joins me now.
And Jessica, the President even used the term LGBTQ at the Republican convention the first time a nominee ever did that. But I guess actions speak louder than those five letters.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, this was the issue. We wanted to look into with this story today because two years into President Trump's term, it is hard to find evidence that he's good on some really big promises.
[16:55:08] DEAN: Promises made promises kept. Candidate Donald Trump was quick to promise his advocacy for the LGBTQ community.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens. Believe me.
DEAN: A handful of high-profile members of that community tried to assure their peers Trump would be in their corner including the current ambassador to Germany Rick Grinnell who is the President's first ambassador to identify as a gay man and one of his strongest LGBTQ supporters.
Grinnell, a former U.S. spokesman at the United Nations had been appointed by President George W. Bush and worked for former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. In 2016 he voiced unqualified support for candidate Trump tweeting Donald Trump is the best GOP candidate the LGBT community has ever seen.
CAITLYN JENNER, TELEVISION PERSONALITY: Hello my fellow Republican.
DEAN: Reality star Caitlyn Jenner also endorsed Trump telling STAT News "he backed the LGBT community in the controversy about transgender people using public restrooms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Entrepreneur --
DEAN: Tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel who's gay even spoke at the Republican National Convention in support of Trump.
PETER THIEL, CEO, PAYPAL: Tonight, I urge all of my fellow Americans to stand up and vote for Donald Trump.
DEAN: As President Trump ultimately made good on his promises, here's the track record. Today after months of legal debate sparked by presidential tweets in 2017, the Supreme Court will allow the Trump administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military to take effect pending outcomes from lower courts. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 15,000 transgender people are currently serving. It's unclear how many will be affected by today's ruling.
JERRI ANN HENRY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: I know that this ban causes a huge amount of pain both to the military community and to the trans community and I know that we can do better.
DEAN: Jerri Ann Henry is the Executive Director of the Log Cabin Republicans, the largest Republican organization to represent the interests of LGBTQ conservatives. The group did not endorse candidate Trump in the 2016 election. In October, the New York Times reported the administration was considering a proposal to narrowly define sex under Title 9 as being unchangeable and determined by one's genitals at birth, another direct shot at the transgender community, not to mention a denial of the emerging medical consensus.
And in November, the Des Moines Register reported the Trump administration pressured the federally funded National 4-H youth organization to withdraw a new policy that offered protection to LGBTQ members of its group which ultimately led to the firing of its leader in Iowa.
HENRY: It's one thing to carry a flag, it's a whole another thing to actually advocate for policies and enact policies that benefit a community. So I would love to see him take a few steps and work with a group like ours.
DEAN: While Log Cabin Republicans think there's room to advocate and negotiate, more liberal groups like the Human Rights Campaign see a bleaker picture when it comes to the Trump administration and LGBTQ rights and protections.
CHAD GRIFFIN, PRESIDENT, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Donald Trump went to office and looked across the government and day in and day out has asked the question what can we do to undermine protections for LGBTQ people and quite frankly marginalized people all across this country.
TRUMP: I, Donald John Trump --
DEAN: Since President Trump took office, some of his most prominent LGBTQ backers have rescinded their support. In 2017, BuzzFeed reported Peter Thiel had privately called the Trump administration "incompetent." Caitlyn Jenner was more public with her rebuke writing an op-ed in the Washington Post in October that read in part "believing that I can work with Trump and his administration to support our community was a mistake."
DEAN: When it comes to actions they like, the Executive Director of the Log Cabin Republicans said they were happy to see Rick Grinnell become an ambassador. She also point to the administration's decision to keep an Obama era executive order in place that protects LGBTQ employees working for federal contractors from discrimination. That's something that group lobbied the administration to do. Jake?
TAPPER: Still, a lot of disappointment from the President's LGBTQ believers. Jessica Dean, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Be sure to tune in to CNN on Monday night. I'll be moderating a live town hall in Iowa with Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris of California. That's 10:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching.