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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
37-Year-Old Pete Buttigieg Enters 2020 Race, Takes On Top Dems By Calling For New Generation Of Leaders; Coast Guard Commandant Slams Government Shutdown; Shutdown Battle; Age an Issue in Democratic Presidential Race?; Crisis in Venezuela. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired January 23, 2019 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Those are furloughed federal employees being carted out after protesting outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office this afternoon. They were demanding that lawmakers open the government.
Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate will vote on two competing bills to achieve that.
But, as CNN's Manu Raju reports, right now, neither the Republican bill nor the Democratic one looks likely to secure the magic 60 votes.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tension rising on day 33 of the government shutdown, with protesters arrested outside of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office.
And, in private, Speaker Nancy Pelosi making this pitch to her members: "Stick together."
Democrats, she said, must demand the White House reopen the government before any discussions about immigration and border security. The strength, she said, is in their numbers.
REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We're not going to compromise on our values.
RAJU: But frustration among some Democrats mounting.
REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D), MICHIGAN: I think everyone's frustrated that we aren't actually solving this. I think we need to open the government immediately, get in a room, kick out the media, and get something done.
RAJU (on camera): Do you think she's handling this well, the speaker?
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D), VIRGINIA: I think it's a difficult situation. And I think that it's going to take people coming together to be able to stop this.
RAJU (voice-over): Others dodged the question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually have to get to a meeting.
RAJU: All this comes amid polls showing that most voters say Trump's demand to build a wall along the border with Mexico is not worth the shutdown, and as House Democrats pass more bills this week to reopen the government that have been mostly ignored by McConnell.
Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on whether to advance two competing plans, including one to reopen the government until early February without funding for the border wall. But Republicans are rejecting the move.
SEN. THOM TILLIS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Because we saw that movie before. It's fundamentally the C.R. that we voted on and the president rejected. Now we need to see if Pelosi and Senator Schumer really want to start negotiating in good faith.
RAJU: Meanwhile, Senate Democrats tomorrow are expected to block Trump's proposal to reopen the government, which would provide $5.7 billion for his border wall, while making some immigration changes.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The first vote is the president's hostage-taking position codified into an amendment.
RAJU: But McConnell, who has mostly avoided the spotlight in these talks, now aligning himself firmly with Trump.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: It's hard to think of a good reason to oppose this, but my Democratic friends are trying to come up with something, anything, to justify prolonging the stalemate.
RAJU: Now, McConnell has said repeatedly that a deal needs to be worked out between the Democratic leaders and the president. I have been told that there have been no discussions between Nancy Pelosi and the president, between Chuck Schumer and the president since two weeks ago when that meeting occurred that the president stormed out of.
They have not had any discussions at all since then. And, Jake, just moments ago, the House did pass legislation to reopen shuttered federal agencies, but just 10 Republicans defected in support of this Democratic effort, and not anywhere near a veto-proof majority -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.
And let's talk about this with our experts.
Tomorrow, the Senate is going to vote on two specific bills to reopen the government. The first is the deal that aligns with what President Trump pitched that includes funding for the border wall. The other one is the Democratic measure. It reopens closed agencies for just two weeks. It has no wall funding.
We're told that neither has a good chance of reaching that critical 60 votes, but, Tara, as somebody whose family is personally affected by this, is the fact that they're even voting at least -- does it give you any reassurance, any -- any -- no?
TARA SETMAYER, THEBLAZE.COM: No, because it's Kabuki theater.
And plus I know how this works. So maybe for people who they're trying to placate in their base and saying, look, we're trying to do something, those of us who know better know that this is really a futile exercise.
So I don't really know what the answer is. This is the first -- this is historic. We have never -- I have been there. We have had a couple fights. The government might be closed for a couple days or over the weekend, but never where it's gotten to the point where people are going two paychecks without being paid.
And the fact that there are human beings and real families that are affected by this and businesses, and that this morning Poppy Harlow had an amazing interview with the chief economic guy over at the White House.
TAPPER: Kevin Hassett.
SETMAYER: Yes, with this smirk on his face the whole time trying to tell people, oh, I'm not callous. I actually -- we do feel for these folks, but we also may not have any growth this quarter if this continues.
And everything -- there just seems to be a certain amount of rigidity about all of this that I think is unbecoming, which is why 71 percent of the American people are blaming Trump and Republicans for this.
TAPPER: David Urban, take a listen to Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who's the chairman of the Democratic Congress -- Democratic Caucus -- today talking about the two bills that the Senate is going to take up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: It's a good thing that Mitch McConnell has finally exited the witness protection program and has decided to show up and hopefully move the Senate forward at least to having a meaningful debate and discussion, which will take place tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: How do we get out of this?
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, Congressman Jeffries is a very talented politician and be the mayor of New York someday, my prediction. He is a great guy.
But, listen, I don't know. You have to have -- you can't have one hand clapping, right? So you need two parties at this, right? So the speaker needs to come to the table in some form or fashion or have -- delegate somebody to come forward in some fashion.
Maybe the principals don't. Maybe it's not the president. Maybe the speaker puts somebody up and the White House puts somebody up and they sit down and negotiate. You have to -- somebody is going to have to give up a little bit.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What about the Senate?
URBAN: That's what I'm saying. The Senate too.
SIMMONS: It's their job.
SIMMONS: It's Mitch McConnell's job.
URBAN: You need 60 votes.
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think part of the -- we should remember -- I completely agree with you it's Kabuki theater.
But part of the strategy here, right, is to show where the votes are right? And I think part of the message coming out of both of those votes will show there's probably not enough votes for either thing. And hopefully, that starts -- I would hope -- think part of the goal of that is to send the message to at least Trump to say, we don't have the -- even if we have got -- we don't have the votes to pass what you want.
So we have got to put something else on the table. And, again, I think it also shows frankly that members are feeling -- starting to feel the pressure back at home, because from what I understand, some of the senators wanted to be able to show they were voting for something, as you pointed out, because they're feeling the heat at home, because those are their constituents who aren't working.
TAPPER: Tomorrow, I will be watching Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, a blue state, Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, purple state, to see how they vote. My guess will be you're going to see a bunch of Republicans vote for both.
SIMMONS: I'm sure that's probably what will happen.
But it's amazing that Mitch McConnell has been able to hide out for this entire time, because the reality is, the House and the Senate are supposed to pass these bills, send them to the White House. The president vetoes them, I bet you could pull 67 senators together and override that.
SETMAYER: If it keeps going.
TAPPER: Not as of now.
URBAN: Everybody's got to be willing to accept half-a-loaf.
Breaking news now in our world lead, U.S. personnel in Venezuela have been told they have 72 hours to get out of the country, according to Nicolas Maduro, who is now no longer recognized as Venezuela's president.
Today, President Trump officially recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate interim president. It's a huge blow to Maduro, who claimed control after a disputed election. Guaido swore himself in today amid nationwide protests against the Venezuelan government.
Citizens are demanding that Maduro be ousted and their own National Guard is using tear gas against them.
CNN's Stefano Pozzebon joins me now live from Venezuela.
And, Stefano, President Trump announcing that the U.S. is backing Guaido for Venezuela, it seems like a rather strong move by him. Other countries followed after he said that.
STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly, Jake.
The importance of today's event cannot be understated. It's history rolling in front of our eyes. Of course, the United States waged huge influence here in terms of political influence, commercial influence, a lot of oil trade going on between Venezuela and Washington -- and Venezuela and the United States.
And now President Trump throwing his weight and throwing the weight of the United States' diplomacy behind Juan Guaido, that's definitely an historical moment, Jake.
TAPPER: And Guaido has declared himself president. What needs to happen for Maduro to leave? President Trump has said the U.S. is even reserving the right to use military force in Venezuela if need be.
He said that in the past.
What everyone is looking at right now in Caracas is, how will the military react? There are two people who are claimed to be the president of Venezuela at this moment. Traditionally, the military apparatus, the military is the arbiter of any contest here. And everybody is now asking, what will the military say?
Are they going to have a statement today in loyalty towards Maduro or what are they actually doing, Jake?
TAPPER: All right, a very tense time in Venezuela.
Stefano Pozzebon, thank you so much.
Some say age is just a number, but it may not be when it comes to 2020 presidential politics. The growing age gap among Democratic candidates.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our politics lead today, he's barely old enough to run for president, but says that's exactly what this country needs right now.
The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Peter Buttigieg, announced today he's formed an exploratory committee to run for president.
[16:45:00] TAPPER: As the youngest person to enter the race so far. The veteran sets himself up to up to challenge some of the biggest Democratic heavy hitters who are in some cases decades is senior. CNN's Jeff Zeleny picks up the story.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Another day another, ambitious Democrat eyeing the White House.
PETER BUTTIGIEG (D), MAYOR OF SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: This is going to take new ideas and fresh faces.
ZELENY: Today's fresh face is Pete Buttigieg. The 37-year-old Afghanistan veteran and Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. And yes, he's exploring a bid for the presidency.
BUTTIGIEG: Right now our country needs a fresh start.
ZELENY: The Constitution says age 35 is the requirement and your age 37. So you're just making the cut. BUTTIGIEG: Yes. I mean, the Constitution settled the question of
ZELENY: The Constitution may have but now voters will. A growing Democratic field highlights a generational divide in the party. Potential candidates range from Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard at 37 to Bernie Sanders four decades older at 77.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do solemnly swear --
ZELENY: At the time of his election, Donald Trump was the oldest to win a first term as president. His current adversary in the government shutdown is Speaker Nancy Pelosi 78 who's outpaced for younger rivals.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: From me, I don't think age has that much to do with it.
ZELENY: Joe Biden says age should be on the table.
JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Am I still in good shape? Am I -- do I have all my faculties? Am I -- am I energetic? I think it's totally legitimate people ask those questions.
ZELENY: In the 2020 presidential race, Democrats must decide whether to choose a seasoned leader to take on Trump or to make way for a fresh start as America did a decade ago with Barack Obama. To be sure, age can be an asset.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am NOT going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.
ZELENY: While Ronald Reagan drew laughter from Walter Mondale during that famous moment in their 1984 race, these days many younger Democrats are raising blunt questions about how politicians often avoid retirement age. Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is too young to run for president at age 29 but she's energizing her party.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: I do think that that we do need to elect a generation of new people to Congress on both parties.
ZELENY: And some presidential candidates hope that sentiment ---
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: It's time for new leadership. It's time for new energy.
ZELENY: -- gives them a second look in the wide-open race for the White House.
BUTTIGIEG: There is no going back, that there is no again, in the real world and that we can't rewind to 1950 or for that matter to 2010.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY: Now, there is this poll for a new type of generational leadership in the White House but there's also a call for experience governing. But, Jake, Donald Trump rewrote all these rules four years ago. Democrats have one year to start picking their nominee. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much. Let's chat about this. Jamal, you were there today at the Buttigieg event --
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Say it again.
TAPPER: Buttigieg. Did I get it right?
KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SENIOR SPOKESPERSON, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Yes, you did.
TAPPER: Buttigieg. So -- but it is true that when Democrats put up a younger candidate, demonstrably younger, they have a better chance just in terms of the last few elections whether it's Obama or Bill Clinton.
SIMMONS: Or even -- or even Jimmy Carter who I think was 52 years old and he became President of the United States. Democrats have not elected a president older than 52 or 53 since LBJ. We tend to like the younger, we tend to like the new fresh face --
TAPPER: But 37.
SIMMONS: 37 is a little bit young probably even for Democrats. But I think you're going to see a home cast of these -- of these candidates come up who really do have a chance to take on a Donald Trump. And age really won't matter, it'll actually be a plus.
FINNEY: But I think there's something more important than taking on Donald Trump which as you know, Jake, I think is not the right question to be asked and answered in the 2020 selection of the candidate --
TAPPER: Just for the record, I didn't bring it up.
FINNEY: OK. I think it has to be more than that, right? And I think what Pete does -- I mean, people really loved him when he ran for chair of the DNC. And what they liked was that he has fresh ideas and he's engaging and charming and smart. And I think that's what is important about just the diversity that we're going to see in the 2020 Democratic field. There's lots of different ideas, people from very different backgrounds, and I think that's just a great way to push the conversation forward for the party. And the question about who should be the President of the United States in this moment.
TAPPER: Let's talk about one of the older candidates who might run, former Vice President Joe Biden. There's a New York Times story out today about how Biden right before the midterm elections gave a speech in Michigan praised the incumbent Republican Congressman Fred Upton at this event. It was used by the Upton campaign who he was in trouble. He ended up winning. And let me just read this. "The local Democratic party chair pleaded with Mr. Biden to repair what it saw as a damaging error to no avail. On November 6th, Mr. Upton defeated his Democratic challenger by four and a half percentage points.
This is one of the generational divides is that some of these older folk like Biden who have been in this town and understand that you have to work with Republicans etcetera, etcetera have a very different take on -- when it comes to the party allegiance, I guess.
[16:50:15] DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think Joe Biden's a great -- would be a great candidate for the Democrats. I mean, me speaking personally, he's the guy fear most to run against.
FINNEY: He should.
URBAN: I think Joe Biden is the is the -- is the most capable candidate out there in the Democratic side and I look forward to a very robust primary process which he will not make it out of probably.
TAPPER: Why do you think that?
URBAN: I mean, look, I just look at the midterms -- 2018 midterm that we just experienced, and you know, Jamal says very young, very fresh, a lot of different ideas, and I think you saw President Obama say we need new vision, new leadership. I think that's -- I don't speak for the Democrats clearly by a long stretch but from what I can see in the polling and there is results, they want somebody new and fresh and that's they're going to get. You know, first debate in June, it's not so far away.
TARA SETMAYER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: And that's the challenge. So you have all of these people we had a jungle primary within the GOP that unfortunately knocked out some of the better more qualified sane candidates and that's how we ended up with Donald Trump, unfortunately. Democrats are going to run to the same problem. I too think that Joe Biden would be the best person for the Democrats.
TAPPER: Could he win you over as a Republican --
SETMAYER: Yes, I would vote for Joe Biden today without hesitation over Donald Trump. And the fact that he you know, he understands how to govern -- yes, he's a little quirky, yes, he said some things in the past, but you know what all of that is nothing compared to what we are suffering right now with a president who has challenged Democratic norms, institutions, and ideals.
So the problem though is that Democrats, there is going to be this internal struggle when you have that this side that wants the fresh progressive, very left-wing ideas versus someone like Biden who understands how to govern and how to win and has the access to the -- to the money that you need to win and raise it. But how is he going to break through when you have 20-plus people running in a Democratic Party.
TAPPER: It's going to be very competitive.
TAPPER: Dozens and dozens of Democrats. Always ready but not always paid apparently. The Commandant of the Coast Guard is blasting the federal government as American service members are now being forced to go to food pantries. Stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "NATION LEAD" now, the Coast Guard feeling like castaways right now. Its members belong to the only branch of the U.S. military that is working without pay during this shutdown, the longest in American history. The man in charge of the Coast Guard Admiral Karl Schultz took an unprecedented step today calling it unacceptable the Coast Guard families are relying on food pantries to get by as they prepare to miss their second paycheck. As CNN's Alex Marquardt reports, Schultz finds himself in an uncharted territory.
ADM. KARL SCHULTZ, COMMANDANT, U.S. COAST GUARD: Shipmates, thank you for continuing to stay on the watch.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An extraordinary rebuke of the political stalemate forcing the government shutdown.
SCHULTZ: Ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day- to-day life as service members.
MARQUARDT: The video tweeted by the commandant of the Coast Guard now at over one million views. Members of the Coast Guard who are about to miss their second paycheck continue to deploy in the U.S. and around the world. The Coast Guard serves a unique role, part of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense. Acting as both the branch of the military and law enforcement body guarding American shores against illegal immigration and drug smuggling, carrying out daring rescue missions while also going into harm's way in foreign waters like guarding Iraq's oil rigs in the Persian Gulf just miles from Iran's coast.
Alongside over 40,000 uniformed Coast Guard forces, there are an additional 8,000 in the civilian workforce.
THAD ALLEN, FORMER COMMANDANT, U.S. COAST GUARD: The Coast Guard is the maritime equivalent of FAA. So vessel inspections, licensing new mariners, things that are basic safety for the transportation system and commerce of this country are going to slowly be eroded due to lack of resources and personnel. This is going to have far-reaching economic impacts.
MARQUARDT: Lines now growing as Coast Guard members head to food banks instead of grocery stores.
KYLE TURCOTT, COAST GUARD MEMBER: Having this can help. It's -- I'm very grateful for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's worrisome. At least I got food in my family's belly.
MARQUARDT: Coast Guard men are limited from speaking to the media but that hasn't stopped their spouses from expressing their anger.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know how we are going to pay our mortgage. We don't know how we're going to pay our bills.
MARQUARDT: Early into the shutdown, a tip sheet was posted on a Coast Guard support with suggestions for managing your finances during a furlough. They included tutoring, holding a garage sale and turn your hobby into income. Outrage quickly followed and the list was removed. So as the shutdown drags on and frustration grows, the Coast Guard's Commandant closed with a message of solidarity.
SCHULTZ: Continue to stand tall. Your dedication, resilience to this adversity defines the absolute best of our nation.
MARQUARDT: And it's not just livelihoods at risk, it's national security as well. One Coast Guard pilot told CNN that some pilots are starting to cancel flights because they are distracted, stressed, and feeling unsafe. As the pilot told us "flying is unforgiving." You to be 100 percent focused or people dies.
MARQUARDT: And there's a serious consequences, Jake.
TAPPER: And a reminder, this is pain being inflicted on the American people by the American government. Alex Marquardt, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Be sure to tune CNN Monday night for a special live event. I'm going to moderate a town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris of California.
You can see it at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. We actually read them. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.