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Warning: "Growing Concern" for Safety of Airlines; Pelosi Plays Hardball Blocking SOTU over Shutdown; Dems Representative Calls Trump "Grand Wizard," Says Trump Not Racist; Source: Trump Considering Executive Actions to Build Wall. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 23, 2019 - 21:00   ET


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the President has said many times since publicly, call it what you want to call it. But let's secure our border.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I never called it a wall. Why did you call it a wall? Who is calling it a wall? You're calling a wall. I didn't say it was a wall? Did I ever say a wall? I didn't say a wall. I don't think I ever said a wall.

With that, time to say bye. Or so long. Or see you later. Call it whatever you want. Just keep talking. If you don't want to address the actually topic at hand, and by that I mean handed over to Chris Cuomo, in other words, "CUOMO PRIME TIME" start now. But I didn't say that.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Very well done, Anderson. That did write itself.

I am Chris Cuomo. And welcome to PRIME TIME.

The President was disparate to sell you on a fake crisis. Now, he's created a real one. Tonight, I new warming from five Former Homeland Security Chiefs, including John Kelly, remember him? All telling the President and Congress, the nation cannot be kept safe if the shutdown continues.

The warning gets worse. The head of the Air Traffic Control Association says, he can't even calculate the level of risk for travelers right now. And then instead of making a deal today, the President issued a dare to the Speaker of the House saying cancel the State of the Union Address. And she did.

So now what? We're going to talk to the chairman of the House Democratic caucus. And Michael Cohen, the President's former personal lawyer has just backed out of testifying before Congress citing threats from President Trump. Was that the President's intention all along? What do you say, let's get after it.

All right, tomorrow is supposed to be a big day. It's the first action in the Senate since the President shut down the government over 33 days ago because of the wall. There are going to be vote on two competing proposals. Now, neither is expected to pass. And if so or if not, that could mean big trouble.

Unions for air traffic controllers, pilots, flight attendants just put out a warning saying, "They can't even calculate the level at risk for the traveling public if this shutdown doesn't end."

And President Trump's own former Chief of Staff John Kelly just joined with four other former DHS secretaries saying it's critical for national security that the Homeland Security Department be funded. Now, not to mention the damage this is doing to our economy. The President's own chief economist predicts the shutdown could wipe out all the growth that we have seen in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House is still playing hardball. Nancy Pelosi is blocking the President from appearing before Congress in the House to deliver the State of the Union on Tuesday. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The State of the Union speech has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn't want to hear the truth. She doesn't want the American public to hear what's going on. And she's afraid of the truth. I think that's a great blotch on the incredible country that we all love. It's always good to be part of history, but this is a very negative part of history.


CUOMO: Oh, it's a negative part of history all right. This is the longest shutdown in history. And while you can debate the tactic, that Pelosi is using, the truth is that she's saying end the shutdown and then you can come and talk for as long as you want.

Now, a source inside a meeting at the White House says the President did not signal how he will proceed if the dueling bills fail tomorrow, which is what's expected. But he's not planning on caving any time soon. That's the word. So is there any way out of this mess? Let's ask the Chairman of the House Democrat Caucus, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, good to have you on PRIME TIME.

HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D) NEW YORK: Good evening, Chris. Good to be with you.

CUOMO: All right, first question. Do you agree with the tactic of Nancy Pelosi, no State of the Union, at least not in the House to a joint session of Congress until you end the shutdown?

JEFFRIES: There's uniform support within the House Democratic Caucus for the position that Speaker Pelosi has taken, which is very simple. Open up the government and then we can return to some degree of normalcy, which will allow the President to deliver the State of the Union Address.

But given the fact that you have coast guard, folks who are working without pay, you have border patrol agents working without pay, TSA agents working without pay, the FBI working without pay, air traffic controllers working without pay, more than 800,000 Americans in total either furloughed or working without pay, the economy increasingly being damaged adversely. Now is not the time for the President to trot himself up to Capitol Hill and act like everything is normal when Americans are suffering as a result of the reckless Trump shutdown.

CUOMO: All right, so let's flip the scenario for a second. And what can you say to guarantee the President that you guys would make a deal that includes substantial funding for physical barriers along the border. I'm not going to play the word game about it. But the President created that, I don't perpetuate it. But he believes his only leverage, Hakeem as if he keeps the government shutdown.

[21:05:11] JEFFRIES: Well, the one thing that's clear that the American people overwhelmingly agree with our position, which is that a shutdown is not a legitimate negotiating tactic when there's a public policy dispute between two separate and coequal branches of government, the Congress and White House.

Donald Trump recklessly said that he would shutdown the government, would be proud to shutdown the government, would own to shut down, not blame Democrats and of course he's blaming everyone but himself. Our position has been pretty simple. Let's reopen the government and then we can have a mature discussion about border security and how to go about fixing a broken immigration system in a bipartisan way.

And we are committed to that, tomorrow will take another step, it will be the 11th time that House Democrats have voted, joined by several Republicans to reopen the government and tomorrow's case to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current funding levels based on the amount allocated last year through February 28th, which will give us about a month to try to see if we can come to a bipartisan agreement about how to move forward. That seems to me to be a responsible position, Chris.

CUOMO: So we hear that the White House has been doing research into how long and how much and how much pain happens at the shutdown stays through March. Are Democrats willing to let the government shutdown for that long?

JEFFRIES: Well, we're searching for responsible partners and one of the developments that has occurred this week is that Mitch McConnell's finally exited the Witness Protection Program and at least showing signs of life and allowing bills to hit the floor of the Senate for a vote tomorrow.

I'm still cautiously optimistic that there may be an opportunity for the continuing resolution that will be presented tomorrow to find some bipartisan support, if not get to 60 votes.

CUOMO: Why isn't just kicking the can down the road?

JEFFRIES: Well, I'm not sure that is kicking the can down the road because as the President and the White House have themselves signaled, it will be very difficult for them to take this reckless approach down the road once the government is reopened.

Now anything is possible with this President because he masters in chaos, crisis and confusion. But I think having got through a shutdown, we're overwhelmingly the American people have said this is an irresponsible approach and as you know, Chris, increasingly he's losing support amongst evangelicals. He's losing support amongst non- college educated white voters. He's losing support amongst the Reagan Democrats in Michigan and other parts of the country that helped to contribute to his Electoral College victory. It seems to us, that it would be very difficult for him to take this approach once we get the government back open.

CUOMO: All right, let me talk to you about you. You're a leader now with the Democrats. You like a colorful turn of phrase. You have had one that's been chasing you around. I want to get to the bottom of it. Let me play some sound for people.


JEFFRIES: We have a hater in the White House. The birther in chief, the grand wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Wolf Blitzer in the past has asked me whether I believe the President is a racist and I have consistently said no. I did use a colorful phrase, but of course I don't believe that the President is a card carrying member of the KKK.


CUOMO: What were you going for by calling him the grand wizard?

JEFFRIES: Let me again stipulate to the fact that I do not believe that Donald Trump is a card carrying member of the KKK. However, he does have a long and inappropriate and ambitious history of racially inflammatory behavior.

CUOMO: Right.

JEFFRIES: In the 1970s he presided over the Trump Organization that was sued by the Nixon Justice Department for racial discrimination against thousands of black and Latino housing applicants. In the 1980s he led the Lynch mob that went after the Central Park Five, black and Latino, young men, wrongfully accused and wrongfully convicted, wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they did not commit for five years. Donald Trump perpetrated the racist lie that Barack Obama was not born in the United States of America to delegitimize the first black president in the United States of America and then became President. And in the aftermath of Charlottesville which was a race riot led by Neo-Nazis as well as white supremacists indicated that there were fine people on both sides on and on and on, the east whole country comment directed at --

CUOMO: Hakeem, I get the list. I have the list in real-time.

JEFFRIES: The question really --

CUOMO: I'm not chasing after you to get you to say, I'm sorry I said it. I know that's what been going on the media, I don't watch it here and elsewhere, I'm not doing that. I'm saying given what you just laid out, why don't you own it and say, yes, I said it. I don't think it's a card carrying member of the KKK but when you look like me and have my experience and you know my constituents, you know why I say it. And I'm not backing off it. Why back off at all?

[21:10:10] JEFFRIES: Well, I think I have been very clear that I have no regrets about making the analogy that I made because I think that we need to be able to have a candid discussion about race at least on Martin Luther King Day and sometimes that discussion will be uncomfortable. But I also understand that many people throughout this country are of the view that we should give the President the benefit of the doubt, any President including this one and I do believe in redemption.

And so I'm going to call it like I see it as relates to cataloging the parade of horribles that I partially lay out. But by the same period of time, I've also work closely with the administration at least as it relates to the First Step Act and trying to bring about historic criminal justice --

CUOMO: So, can President Trump's administration pass the First Step Act and him still be a bigot in your opinion?

JEFFRIES: Well, I don't want to comment to whether he's a bigot or not, but all I'll simply do is lay out some of the behavior that we've seen, which is clearly irresponsible. And we have to be able to grapple with that. It's painful for people in the American community --


JEFFRIES: -- communities of color and people of good will, Americans of every race to have to deal with the President that at times appears to pedal and fan the flames of hatred, as well as xenophobia --


JEFFRIES: -- including in connection with this issue that we're having right now related to the shutdown. That's a very painful thing for a lot of communities. By the same token I believed in the magic of America and the ability of people to come together, and diversity being our greatest straight, which is why we just want to, as House Democrats to get beyond the shutdown fight that we're in so we can focus on the types of things like protecting people with preexisting conditions or real bipartisan infrastructure, cleaning up the mess in Washington. And we're hopeful that we will find partners on the other side of the aisle, including with the administration.

CUOMO: Hakeem Jeffries, appreciate you catching us up on the state of play and explaining what you said and why, always appreciated on Prime Time. Thank you, sir.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. So what's the reality with the shutdown? Tired, overworked staff, no pay, the employees who are tasked with keeping us safe when we fly, the man overseeing them says the system is in danger. This is not hype. This is reality. It's not just about numbers. It's about reality. We're going to talk to him, next, and hear why he said he needed to come on and speak to you.


[21:15:37] CUOMO: The President has been rhyming about the wall. He tried this one instead of his. To get my wall, I will watch any of you fall. Because that's what we're seeing. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are sucking up no pay and no hope. Tonight union reps for air traffic controllers warn it's about real danger, not just the money. Paul Rinaldi is the President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. I know this is an urgent matter for you. Welcome to Prime Time. My time is your time. What do you want people to know?

PAUL RINALDI, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: Thanks for having me on, Chris. Listen, you know, 33 days without your whole safety team at work introduces risk into our safety system. We're talking about our quality assurance, we're talking about our training people, we're talking about our tactical support, we're talking about people that will fix the equipment as it has gone down, which it has in 33 days. And now it has gone from fix on fail to fix when we open the government. This inserts risk into a system that we shouldn't be inserting risk. We should be pulling it out of the system.

CUOMO: All right, so let's deal on some pushback. You know, look we know it sucks working without pay. But it will be all paid back to you so it's OK. Is it just about money? Is it about being short staffed? How do you quantify the problem?

RINALDI: So listen, it's about everything. Air traffic controllers can only work 10 hours a day, six days a week because it is a high stress occupation.

CUOMO: They work 10 hours a day, six days a week? That's the regular schedule, one day off?

RINALDI: That's the maximum they can work.

CUOMO: OK, that's the maximum.

RINALDI: Right. And we are so short staffed and many of our busy facilities across the country that's what they are working. Now you take it where they are not having their extra people there to do training, to do support, to do quality assurance.

CUOMO: Why don't they have them?

RINALDI: Because they are deemed nonessential. Our reporting systems that are in place but over 10 years now that have built this remarkable safety system is not being processed properly. We have a concern that if this continues on another pay period, another month, we have heard months, we have heard years, this is a deep concern.

Now take in place of what we have with our staffing crisis. We're at a 30-year low of fully certified controllers. And let's just take New York. New York, the busiest air space in the world. Our one facility, our radar room, it's called N90, the TRACON, they are at 52 percent of their staffing of fully certified controllers of which, of that 52 percent 40 are eligible to retire.

Chris, if they it retire because they are sick of coming to work and not getting a paycheck and they want to go drive over or left or wait tables so they can put food on the table, while they wait for this government to open up, we won't be able to run the volume of traffic we do in New York, which will be cascading delays throughout the entire system. This is a deep concern. And the government needs to open now. The votes tomorrow are very important. We need, just give us the February 8th. We're not being greedy, open it up, get these people back to work. Get them paid.

CUOMO: What do you say to the o politicians who say we can't? That's the leverage, we'll never get the wall if we lose the leverage?

RINALDI: Listen, our national air space system is an economic engine for this country. $1.5 trillion in gross domestic product yearly, 11 million well-paying jobs and, you know, it moves packages and people from all over the world. We cannot allow this to be reduced to 50 percent. It's going to affect everybody from Wall Street to Main Street. And we're starting to see it. Here in Washington, D.C., your taxi drivers, the coffee shops, the sandwich shops, they are going a month now with not the income they are expecting to have because of the shutdown. It's absurd.

CUOMO: Have you ever seen anything like it?

RINALDI: I have not. And, you know, we jointly put that letter together because not to put fear into anybody, but just to say we are concerned.

CUOMO: Right --

RINALDI: Risk is getting into the system. We cannot quantify it yet. But if I have controllers, and I have so many said heartbreaking stories I'm getting, that they can't choose to come to work because they can't put more money on their credit card for gas because they want to save it for food, for family because they don't know how long this is going to last.

[21:20:10] CUOMO: When can you start making a determination that it's not safe to fly? That we have to reduce traffic. We have to reduced.

RINALDI: So first thing we're going to do is slow the traffic. If we don't have controllers to open up these sectors we will see less volume of airplanes. So Air Traffic Controllers will do everything in the world to maintain that high safety level. But when you look at our equipment it's not being fixed.

CUOMO: Right.

RINALDI: I mean equipment that we're relying on to make sure the airplanes line up on the right surface they are supposed to land on, as opposed to a taxi way, or different runway that's occupied by an airplane. This is critical equipment that has stopped being deployed and is not being fixed. Equipment like being able to relay to the pilot that the weather, you know, dangerous weather is ahead. Radars have gone down they're not being brought back up.

That's how we get our weather information from those radar systems. This is a deep concern. And it can't go on for months and the biggest toll I have right now is the human toll. The fatigue in my work environment right now, where I'm seeing routine mistakes are actually happening because they are thinking about which credit cards can I consolidate up for zero interest. Who is giving you a break on your phone bill? Which company is helping you out so you could so you could skip your mortgage? These conversations are happening in the work environment because the stress is getting very high.

CUOMO: It's desperation's real people have to worry about their families no matter how important the job is. All right listen, Mr. Rinaldi, this time is your time. As the situation increases and you want people to know what the urgency is. We're trying to bring these stories. Frankly, none of them are on the scale of what you're dealing with. So we will be in touch. And you let me know what people need to know.

RINALDI: Thank you for the opportunity, Chris. I'll come on any time. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, Paul Rinaldi.

All right, so how does this end? If it's really just about the wall, and it's not about making a deal without the wall, what can the President do? We're hearing he's looking into executive action, not declaring a national emergency, but some other hurricane statute to help get the border wall built if they can't reach a deal. Can you do that? What's the legality? What's the practicality? It's the starting for the debate, next.


[21:25:48] CUOMO: What you just heard the head of the Air Traffic Controllers Association tell you that he can't guarantee how long the skies will be safe if this shutdown continues. Is that worth a wall? That's a starting point for our great debate. Paul Begala, and Steve Cortes. Steve, hearing that guy, Rinaldi, did that kind of give you a different perspective on the urgency of ending this?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there is an urgency to end it up. Absolutely, I think -- and I agree by the way. I think aviation both TSA and the Traffic Controllers --

CUOMO: That was scary, what he was saying?

CORTES: -- are probably the flash point. And that's why --

CUOMO: Fifty-two percent and that fix some radar?

CORTES: Right. And listen, that's why I think it's time. Speaker Pelosi has shown us with her pettiness at not honoring the ritual -- the important ritual of our democracy that we have done for a century, the State of the Union. She's shown us once again that she's not willing to negotiate in good faith. So, given that I think the President has no alternative but to give the State of the Union somewhere else, far away from Washington, from the (inaudible) bureaucrats of the Beltway. Give it in the heartland and it's time for him to declare a national --

CUOMO: You've been given the President those rhymes, Steve?

CORTES: -- it's time for him to declare a national emergency. He has to.

CUOMO: Well, but here is the thing --

CORTES: I hate that he has to use executive power but he has to do it. We have a crisis at the border. And the only way to solve that crisis in the boarder is to give law enforcement the tools they need, one of which is a wall --

CUOMO: All right.

CORTES: -- that they are desperately asking for.

CUOMO: You're laying all out there, Steve. Let me get Paul in.


CUOMO: All right. Take on that as you will. There was a lot there.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, President Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress, do you know when that was? February 28th. There's nothing magical about him doing January 28th. He could do it in February 28. He should not do it. It's merely wrong to take those secret service agents, for example, there are 6,000 people on secret service, 5,000 of them not being paid.

You don't want one of those people for one minute to be worried as Paul Rinaldi, was talking about our Air Traffic Air Controllers, about anything other than protecting the life of our President and the other protectees, who they are sworn to protect. There's are very good reasons to put this thing off. And frankly, once again, Nancy Pelosi has shown that she knows what the heck she's doing.

The frustrating thing here, Chris, is that just a few weeks ago, Donald Trump agreed to a bill that the Senate passed every single Republican voted for it, that funds the government and then we can go debate a wall, or a barrier, or fence, in the regular order. Then what changed? Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh started attacking him and the guy just folded like a cheap suit. It's just embarrassing. There's something about this guy. Hillary Clinton, Ann Coulter, and Nancy Pelosi, he just folds when women take him on, which I find very interesting.

CUOMO: All right. Well, the women problem aside, Steve, the idea of -- here's the problem. I get the idea of the President saying my only leverage is the shutdown. The problem is he's making pain a currency. And if the Democrats reward that, we see how that's gone in the past. If you declare a national emergency, you're setting a president that somebody will use against you. You know the McConnell warning. You'll regret this day, Steve that the President who is a Democrat says, oh you don't want to give me this. I'm declaring it a national emergency. It's B.S. as the wall was.

CORTES: Right.

CUOMO: Do you want that?

CORTES: Right. Now listen, I agree. I'm a federalist and a constitutionalist and don't like that kind of executive power. I didn't like it when President Obama did it --

CUOMO: But you just said contrary.

CORTES: However, having said that -- yes, but hold on, I was going to say however, I think its necessary now. And by the way who cares what I think. Listen to the people on the ground guarding the front door of America. People like Sheriff Napier of Pima County, Arizona, who tell us when he was asked, is there a crisis? He told "The New York Times" there's been a crisis at the border for three decades. The entire time he assumed --

CUOMO: Numbers are down.

CORTES: -- the people of Arizona.

No, the numbers are not down in terms of -- for instance, minors coming, in terms of family units coming. There's chaos at the border. And again, that's not my opinion. That's the opinion of the sheriffs on the ground. It's the opinion of Customs and Border Protection.

CUOMO: Wall doesn't --


CORTES: It's also the sad reality, not just an opinion, it's the sad reality of angel families all over America who have to live with the very real world consequences of terrible crimes.

CUOMO: You're worried about crime and murder. There are a hundred places to start before a border wall to make us safer. Paul Begala, get in here.

[21:30:04] BEGALA: If there has been a crisis for 33 years, then two of those years that crisis was going on with the Republicans controlling the House, Republicans controlling the Senate and Republicans controlling the White House. If Mr. Trump was that certain about it on the merits, he would have passed it in his first two years when he had his party in complete control of the Federal Government. It's a political ploy to satisfy his base and to rev up that minority that 35 percent of Americans who just love him, as he goes into the Mueller crisis. That's the real crisis here. And it's dropping every day. It's a terrible strategy. I mean, he's an awful strategist. And again, Nancy Pelosi just running rings around him. But that what's going on here, Chris. It's all about politics. Democrats had already offered him $25 million for his stupid wall back in May.

CORTES: I agree to Bob.

BEGALA: By the time -- excuse me, Chris -- Steve, by the time they drove down there, he flaked on it because the right wingers tout him. This is guy, he's just playing politics.

CUOMO: Steve?

CORTES: I agree it's about politics. And the politics are that Nancy Pelosi and Dems hate Donald Trump so much that they will --

CUOMO: They hate the idea of a wall as a panacea for a complex set of problems many of which the wall --

CORTES: No one every said it's the panacea.

CUOMO: He does.

CORTES: Chris, now you're creating a straw man.

CUOMO: If you build the wall time will fall.

CORTES: No, we've never seen as a panacea. It will fall. That doesn't mean crime will be eliminated, it will fall. And, look, here's the thing about illegal alien crime. You're right, we have a lot of crime in the United States. There's ways we can and should address that. But illegal alien crime is 100 percent preventable in every single case. We just had over the weekend the arrest of an illegal alien who killed an elderly 90-year old couple in Nevada. I mean, this is very real world pain that these people have to deal with. One of the tools to fight that kind of illegality and that kind of pain is a border wall. That's what law enforcement tells us they need.

CUOMO: You apply that rational to know other type of crime prevention in this country. The idea that something is 100 percent -- you know what's a 100 percent preventable? Poverty. You know what's 100 percent preventable? Hunger in the richest country in the world. No urgency like that on those issues though.


CUOMO: You get people jobs.

CORTES: How's poverty a 100 percent preventable, are you're going to say socialism?

CUOMO: You create programs and bring the economy up the way you said you were going to.

CORTES: Because take a look at Venezuela.

CUOMO: Venezuela? That's a great strategy they got going there, right? You starve these countries, then you create environments on the ground where they can blow up. And then you stand back and watch them burn. What are we going to do there now? What are we going to do in the triangle if he cuts aid to them? Come on, Steve.

CORTES: Look, blaming the United States for the problems of Central America. It's not just logical and it's not fair.

CUOMO: I'm not doing that. Don't spin me on my own show. I'm saying cutting funding will make it worse. We have to drop this here. This debate is going to continue, unfortunately. Steve, thank you for joining. Paul Begala, as always.

CORTES: Thank you.

CUOMO: Unfortunately it is going to keep going, right? It doesn't look like this is going to end any time soon so we have to keep talking about the machinations and see where there can be space for progress.

All right. Huge turn. There's not a lot happening in D.C., right? There's no movement yet on the government shutdown. Now you have Michael Cohen saying I can't testify on Capitol Hill. My family isn't safe. We're going to talk to a congresswoman who also happens to be a former federal prosecutor, because she believe the legitimacy of the threats. The Democrats on the committee seem to, next.


[21:37:04] CUOMO: Nothing can be scarier than the truth sometimes and you just heard the head of the Air Traffic Controllers right here on CUOMO PRIME TIME say I can't even calculate the level of risk. And if this keeps going on, it may not be safe to fly. My next guest is a former navy helicopter pilot and a new Democratic Representative from New Jersey. Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill joins me now. Congratulations. Good to have you on the show.

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, thank you so much for having me on the show. I watched your guest, Paul, talking about the problems with air traffic control, and I was just up in the district and we have some of the New York air control area and our traffic controllers are just as worried as he is.

CUOMO: I have to tell you, it's got the crew here shaken up. I mean, we hadn't heard anything like that 52 percent capacity. They're not getting their radar fixed. I mean, you know, as a congresswoman, but also as somebody who understands the air traffic game as a pilot, what does that mean to you?

SHERRILL: Well, you know, it's really scary. As a pilot knowing how much you depend on air traffic controllers, knowing how much you depend and understanding the weather that you're going to be facing as you're flying, that's critically important. Also as somebody who's operated in high stress environments like our air traffic controllers do.

When I was in the Navy, to have this added stress on our controllers not knowing when their next paycheck is coming, worrying about their family, worrying about how they're going to take care of that. And then you add in the layer of all of our air traffic controllers, I think we heard about 20 percent of them are eligible for retirement. And if they start retiring now, how that's going to create problems. And, you know, I even heard, when I was in the district of the ongoing problems that the programs that they are trying to do and how we are being set back right now because they're not able to work on these programs for the future.

CUOMO: All right, so that takes us to the shutdown. We watched your race. A big win, turning red to blue, you get in here now and you hit with the status quo. Are you on board with the Democrats' strategy to this point about standing firm until the government is reopened?

SHERRILL: Well, I do completely agree with the idea. We first got to get government open. As I mentioned, I was back in the district hearing the stories from people there about how much this is harming them and how much it's harming their families. We've seen today the Coast Guard commandant talking --


SHERRILL: -- to his men and women to see that and the suffering that many of our public servants are going through. To hear again and again about how this is harming our economy, our families, our public service, we've got to get the government open. It's what we owe people in this country. I think it's the job of Congress. And that's what I came down here to do.

So, I'm very happy with that. But I do think we're hearing that there is money that people want to spend on border security on both sides of the aisle. We're hearing it from leadership in the Democratic side.

CUOMO: You're not against physical barriers being built and putting money in there for it?

SHERRILL: No. We already have physical barriers on our border. And if we need more physical barriers, they can assess that.

[21:40:02] CUOMO: They say they need more. The DHS, CDP say they need more.

SHERRILL: I have heard that. I also though would like to discuss how we're spending our border security money in some of our largest ports of entry. So in my state we have some of the largest ports of entry --


SHERRILL: -- in this country. And I think that's a critical area for border spending. If we're talking about infrastructure projects, I certainly would like to be talking about what we're spending on the gateway tunnel, because that's a critical infrastructure project in my area as well.

CUOMO: All right, another issue for you. Michael Cohen says I want to testify. I'm coming forward to testify, can't testify. President is intimidating me, I'm worried about the safety of my family. He's referring to comments like this. Play this.


TRUMP: Did he make a deal to keep his wife out of trouble?

He should give information maybe on his father-in-law because that's the one that people want to look at.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is his father-in-law's name?

TRUMP: I don't know, but you'll find out.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So it's OK to go after the father-in-law?

RUDY GIULIANI, LAYWER OF DONALD TRUMP: Of course, it is. If the father-in-law is a criminal, he may have ties to something called organized crime.


CUOMO: Do you agree with Michael Cohen's reasonable fear that he is being intimidated by the President and his council?

SHERRILL: Well certainly in watching those clips, my old office would have been concerned for our witness and what is started looking into whether our witness was being tampered with. I think there is some evidence there that that you could make that case. So I think that bares further investigation.

CUOMO: Him saying I can't testify. It's too scary. The members of the committees that want to talk to him seemed fairly even on it. That yes, we get it. We don't like it, we don't like these tactics, but we don't to want to reward the tactic either. What was that mean, they going to subpoena somebody who says his afraid for his family?

SHERRILL: Well, I think it means that they're going to have to figure out a way to keep Mr. Cohen and his family safe while at the same time getting his testimony. And I know they're working with law enforcement agencies now on that very project. I think what we'd all really like to see here is Mueller's investigation. And I think we're all hoping that that is going to be coming out because we know he's had many investigations with Mr. Cohen. We know that Mr. Cohen was cooperating with Mueller and his investigation. I think that could help us understand what is going on here and further areas that we might need to look into.

CUOMO: And we do know the little we do know is that the Mueller probe is considering public statements made by the President and those around him as part of the matrix of obstruction of justice.

SHERRILL: Certainly. CUOMO: So these will be looked at that way as well. Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, you have so many to former prosecutor, former navy pilot, thank you for putting all those hats on for us tonight Congresswoman as well obviously. Thank you.

SHERRILL: Well, thanks so much for having me.

CUOMO: I have you back soon. All right, so another big turn. For all the division in Washington, D.C., there is something that both left and right seem to agree on. And it's a controversy. And an outrage. And we see both sides demanding similar action. What is it? The boycott bowl in the big easy. What's that about? I'm bringing in an expert, next.


[21:46:43] CUOMO: Oh boy, when your watching the game this weekend, did you see this? Keep playing, I have to be honest. I've never seen anything like this before. This no call on this pass interference play. The NFC championship between the Saints and the Rams. It was a close game. But I have to tell you, you don't have to be a football fan or former player to know that guy doesn't just target him with his helmet and just blow through the guy with a catchable pass, that game very easily could have gone the other way.

The Saints wind up losing in overtime. And now furious Saints fans are suing the NFL. Some of its tongue and cheek. Some of it isn't the mental anguish that they're claiming surely isn't. Emotional trauma, loss of enjoyment of life. It's even inspiring bipartisan ship in D.C. Look at this, Louisiana Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond is calling for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to answer for what happened here on Capitol Hill. Republican Steve Scalise agreeing with the cause.

Let's bring in our residence ain't (ph) expert D. Lemon. Oh he's waving me away. Who that?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is so -- packing the show interference. Chris, I was so mad. The Saints were robbed. Were the Saints robbed?

CUOMO: Biased.

LEMON: The Saints were robbed. Everyone says this -- wait a minute. The Saints were robbed.

CUOMO: I'm sorry. We'll stop it. Keep going.

LEMON: Listen, they were robbed.

CUOMO: I've never seen anything like it.

LEMON: It's my hometown team. It was -- we were sitting that side -- at that -- I couldn't go home and watch it. Was it the game before though, do we have picture of me at the game before?

CUOMO: Enough of the pictures at you the game. Let's talk about the players.

LEMON: OK, so that's me, look I was so excited, Chris, they let me on the field. And I got a picture with Ms. Benson, there she is.

CUOMO: Oh, that's cool.

LEMON: Yes, the owner. So I love the Saints. They were robbed.

CUOMO: Is that your nephew?

LEMON: I was going to say something real happened. I was going to say something that was really bad, that would have got me in trouble. But I can't.

CUOMO: So what do you make of D.C.? Do you see unity in tragedy?

LEMON: I see if it brings people together, yes. I mean as well say that, yes.

CUOMO: Take progress where you find it. Might as well be something good that comes out of this, but that's a terrible play.

LEMON: That's the whole reason though, I mean -- to be quite honest with you, I don't know stats, I don't know scores. If you and I are hanging out, I'll turn to you and say, Chris what's that guy's name again.

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: Oh shut up. So what's that guy's name again?

CUOMO: I don't need to call for it, that's why.

LEMON: But it is something seriously that brings people together. You sit there, you root for the team, you cheer, whatever you have a couple cocktails or wings.

CUOMO: Sure.

LEMON: Whatever you want to do. Or -- yes. What you say?

CUOMO: Both.

LEMON: Both.

CUOMO: Why you're saying cocktails. So --


CUOMO: -- here's the beauty of it. Some things are just wrong, Don.

LEMON: That's wrong.

CUOMO: And when you see them, you know it. And you strip away all these stupid agendas. There's even Rams fans have to know that that was a wrong play. LEMON: You know they had to move the ref out of the hotel downtown.

CUOMO: Yes, I mean -- no, that's always taken it too far.

LEMON: So poise.

CUOMO: When we see people turn to violence.

LEMON: Word, why did I say that word?

CUOMO: It was targeting with his head, right? He rammed right I will show the play again, he ram right into him with his head. They're supposed to stop those plays. He never looked back at the quarterback which is suppose to do, clearly he had decided this guy's going to catch this ball. I have to go for broke. And he was betting on a flag, and he shouldn't gotten it. He didn't even turn around and say, no flag, no flag.

[21:50:13] LEMON: But you know what, Chris?

CUOMO: What?

LEMON: They can do, they can do a do-over. There's recourse. No, seriously. They actually could.

CUOMO: They're not going to do a do-over.

LEMON: They're not going to do it, I don't think they --

CUOMO: But they may make it so that you can review plays even when there isn't a flag thrown and something like that. I don't know how they'll figure it out. But there certainly a method. Anyway, I wanted to try and get something positive out of it and mess with you a little, which is always a bonus.

LEMON: Yes. Boy, I'm going to get you so good. I can't wait for it.

CUOMO: Don't be like that.

LEMON: I can't wait -- hey, listen, you think -- people think they understand this whole shutdown thing, like why -- how we got here. They really don't. The more I start quizzing people and I ask them what they know, they don't really know about it. What we're going to do is we're going to break it down for you.

Tom Foreman is going to do it. He's going to the virtual room to break it down for people in a simplistic way about exactly where we are, how we got here, and what can get this out of it.

CUOMO: Beautiful. Good for you, D. Lemon. I'll see you in a second.

LEMON: See you both sides, Cuomo.

CUOMO: All right, I see he's (INAUDIBLE).

All right, so something has happened here. We got another indication of where the President's head is, another echo of it once again from his own family. His daughter-in-law is taking heat for her comments on the shutdown, deservedly so. You know me, I don't like to involve family in politics. But we're seeing something that is an echo of a reality. The argument is next.


[21:55:23] CUOMO: So when told that people were starving, that there was not even bread, Marie Antoinette allegedly said, let them eat cake. I say allegedly because there's reason to believe the wife of France's King Louis XIV did not say those words that are blamed for starting revolution that would cost her, her head. It was just a sentiment ascribed to the Royals. A symbol of the disconnect of the ruling from those feeling the pain. That was fake. But we are dealing with the same dynamic right now with this shutdown, and it is painfully real.


LARA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: It's not fair to you, and we all get that. But this is so much bigger than any one person. It is a little bit of pain, but it's going to be for the future of our country.


CUOMO: That's Donald Trump's daughter-in-law. A little bit of pain? That's the disconnect of the has and the have nots. Our air traffic controllers are saying they can't assure flight safety. People who depend on every paycheck are two checks short. And for many, that money means health as much as wealth. Cory Millen Beck, "Time" reports he reports he works for the U.S. Geological Survey. His baby girl had to have open-heart surgery among other procedures.

The bills are rolling in. He says he's now putting off doctors appointments. He says his hair is falling out from the stress. Mallory Lorge, she works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. She's diabetic, rationing her insulin, going to bed, hoping she wakes up OK in the morning. This is Yvette Hicks, she's a security officer at the National Air and Space Museum. She says her kids can't get proper asthma treatment because she can't pay for it.

This is not about one Trump. It's about what the family seems to represent. Don Jr. put out a message that you can enjoy a day at the zoo because walls work. The family is not the problem, they're just echoes of the President. Remember, he said this about the shutdown.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you relate to the pain of federal workers who can't pay their bills?

TRUMP: I can relate. And I'm sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustment. They always do. And they'll make adjustment. People understand exactly what's going on. But many of those people that won't be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I'm doing.


CUOMO: Wrong. Most do not agree with what you are doing. Most agree the shutdown needs to end. Here are the polls, 37 percent, that's all they say is building a wall necessary to secure, 37 percent. What does that tell you? 63 percent go the other way. 28 percent say that, sure, a wall for a shutdown, great thing. 28 percent.

Now, are the numbers higher with just Republicans? Yes, much higher. But the President represents all of the people, including those who are hurting. He always says he's the President for everyone. His policies just rarely show it. And this is the most painful example of that to date. A wall that he made up, that Mexico would never pay for, that solves none of the problems that the President exaggerates in selling you this fugazi crisis. And then he thinks if he comes up with a catchy rhyme, you'll buy it. Build a wall, and crime will fall.

Apparently his gift for wit is second only to his sense of empathy. How about, if you'd gotten Mexico to pay, everything would be OK? Or if you stop lying, your poll numbers won't have you crying.

Bottom line, the shutdown is supposedly OK because we have a border crisis that demands a wall. That has never been true. The truth is POTUS doesn't have to invent crises anymore. He's made a real one, a shutdown he promised you on national TV, the longest we've ever had. People are suffering over something that only matters at the end of the day to Trump.

Keeping a promise that started as a sales gimmick, and now he's willing to hurt so many just to say he delivered on that promise. If this doesn't end soon, a comparison to Marie Antoinette may be the best he can get. It rhymes, so it must be true.

Thanks for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now.

LEMON: You know it was a mnemonic device just to keep him on message because they were, as reported, they were concern that he would veer and stray off message. So they came up with the build a wall thing because it was easy for him to say. And then, you know, now he's stuck with it.

CUOMO: Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone, the bright lights of the Trump campaign.

[22:00:00] LEMON: One of those guys was on TV tonight still defending birtherism. I think it was Corsi. It's like, oh, my gosh. Is this -- who are these people?

CUOMO: They play to advantage.

LEMON: Who are -- no.

CUOMO: Fear cells (ph).

LEMON: That's -- no, no, no.