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Interview With Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC); Interview With Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR); Cohen Delays Testimony Out of Concern Over Alleged Trump Threats to Family; Pelosi Once Again Says No to Trump State of the Union Address. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 23, 2019 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: If you're just joining us, let me just reset all of this.

The breaking news is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a response moments ago to President Trump saying that she will not sign off on the State of the Union address that the president was set to give next Tuesday until the government reopens.

And here is how the president just responded to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not surprised. It's really a shame what's happening with the Democrats.

They have become radicalized. They don't want to see crime stop, which we can very easily do on the southern border. And it really is a shame what's happening with the Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: This all comes, as we were just discussing this other piece of breaking news this afternoon, the president's former attorney Michael Cohen, his attorney now saying Cohen's planned testimony before Congress next month -- it was set for February 7 -- that that will be delayed out of concerns for Cohen's family.

In a statement, Lanny Davis, their attorney, writes in part -- quote -- "Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Cohen's appearance will be postponed to a later date."

So, let's start at the White House with our correspondent Abby Phillip.

And so let's start with the Pelosi vs. Trump here. We have six days to go until what was supposed to be the president's State of the Union. And he now says in response to the speaker: I'm not surprised. It's a shame. Democrats don't seem to care about crime and violence across the border. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. That's right, Brooke.

He says that he's not surprised. And that's in part because one of the strategies the White House had at the beginning of this day was to force Nancy Pelosi's hand, make her decide, is she's going to allow the president to give his speech in the Capitol next week or is she not?

And I think the White House realized pretty quickly that the ball had to be really left in her court. But now that that speech has been canceled, Brooke, it's a historic event. The president of the United States typically gives a speech in the Capitol, whether it's State of the Union address or a joint address to Congress, at the beginning of the year, pretty much every year.

And that's been an undisturbed tradition in Washington for quite some time. If it in fact does not happen this year, it will be really extraordinary, just like this shutdown has been extraordinary, 33 days and counting.

And I just want to highlight one thing that President Trump added at the end of his comments to Pelosi. He suggested this could be going on for some time. Brooke, there's no sense here that there's any plan to end this shutdown.

We will get some dueling votes in the House and in the Senate tomorrow. Neither are expected to go anywhere. And this gamesmanship over the State of the Union is really a sideshow to the main event, which is that the government shutdown is still ongoing. Neither side are even talking to each other.

And the White House really doesn't have much of an expectation that this will end any time soon. Now, the question is, what will President Trump do next week? That's still open to really deliberation here in the White House. They have been thinking about some plan B strategies, perhaps giving a speech at another venue.

But the sense among the people that we talk to here in the White House is that none of those plan B's are really, really great for them. They don't want to necessarily do a campaign rally, although that's being considered, because they want this speech to be elevated. They want it to be a State of the Union address.

Now we know it officially won't be. The question is what will President Trump do instead?

BALDWIN: Who knows so far? Abby, thank you so much.

And just to highlight Abby's point, the president, again, referring to the shutdown, saying -- quote -- "This will go on for awhile."

CNN political director David Chalian is up live with us now.

And, David, what are you thinking?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, this is the reality show presidency on display here.

But I think Donald Trump has learned a lesson that he probably has been learning for the last few weeks, Brooke, which is that there's a new world order in Washington. And this is not the same Washington he had for the first two years of his presidency.

And Nancy Pelosi is making that known to him. And she's asserting her power as speaker of the House in the opposition party and is not looking in any way whatsoever to budge off her position or get rolled by the president here.

And so he now is going to deal with the repercussions of that. He's not going to get that platform, that huge audience, that ability to capture America's attention to lay out his agenda. Instead, as Abby was just suggesting, we will wait to hear how he does intend to use Tuesday night or how he wants to continue to message why he supports the wall and why he believes it's worth keeping the government shut down to achieve that goal.

But it's not going to be with the trappings afforded to the presidency by the Congress for a traditional State of the Union address, at least not while the government is closed.

BALDWIN: What about -- of the plan B options, as we have been running through them, we played the clip from Congressman Trey Gowdy, saying, essentially, please, Mr. President, don't hold a rally. Don't go -- don't do that.

[15:05:10]

Going to the border, floated it as an option, doing it from the White House, although apparently he wasn't thrilled when he gave that speech a couple weeks ago on the border.

What is, I guess, from a White House perspective like the best worst- case scenario?

CHALIAN: Well, we know that he has been given invitations by some state legislatures and some states that he won in 2016 that are in Republican control.

So unlike the scenario in Washington, a Republican state house speaker can control what happens in that chamber in some states. And, as you noted, yes, he said he wasn't expecting the needle to move with his speech from the Oval Office or his trip to the border, but he continues to make the border situation, as he portrays it, as a humanitarian crisis and a really urgent security needs.

So perhaps he may want to be back down there and reemphasize this. Here's the reality, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: You have seen all the polling over the last several...

BALDWIN: He's losing the P.R. battle. CHALIAN: Right. So, there's nothing he's done in this entire battle

that's well over a month now that's been about successfully winning over a majority of the American people.

I don't even think that's where his messaging is. From the very first day in the Oval Office, when he told Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that he would own the shutdown, that was a play to his supporters. And he hasn't stopped simply just playing to his core support, make sure that's fortified, and start broadening out and trying to convince the American people that he is doing the right thing here.

He has failed at that test right now. And now I think that he is in a position where he is -- that will be that much harder without the platform of the traditional State of the Union address.

BALDWIN: OK, David Chalian, thank you so much.

I have got Dana Bash and Gloria Borger sitting next to me.

And I guess, Dana, to you first. You blinked the last time we were on TV and I was like, well, is the latest volley from Speaker Pelosi essentially her daring him to get to not come or to disinvite? And now here we have it, that challenge accepted.

(CROSSTALK)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she did just that.

Look, David said it perfectly, of course, that she is in a position of power. She is in a position of supreme power, even though she and the Democrats only control one branch, one-half of one branch of government.

But it happens to be, when you're talking about State of the Union, the actual chamber where he delivers it. So she's got that going.

BALDWIN: Kind of a big deal.

BASH: Kind of a big deal.

And then, more importantly, politically, look, I mean, you definitely hear the president and Republicans saying over and over, really trying to stick to the message that they're being taken over by radicals and the left, they don't care about your security.

Those messages, Republicans, particularly those in Trump world, are still connected against will resonate with the independents that he and Republicans lost a couple months ago. But it's really unclear how long that is going to last, when they're saying, OK, maybe that's true, but you got to figure this out and get the government reopened and make a deal.

BALDWIN: Look at the polling, and it's not helping him.

BASH: Right. Right.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It isn't.

And also he may be losing part of his base. I mean, he's having conservatives into the White House today to talk about this. You saw that Ann Coulter, who may have gotten into him into this in the first place, tweeted, when he proposed his most recent so-called compromise, she said, we voted for -- we voted for Donald Trump and we got Jeb Bush.

So they're not happy about even what he has put on the table. His worry now, in meeting with conservatives, is that by putting anything on the table, he's losing them also. So he's kind of stuck.

BASH: Yes.

No, and I do think that we should keep our eye on the executive action ball, because conservatives, my understanding, are...

BALDWIN: Emergency funding.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: ... are pushing him to revisit that, even though he was urged not to do it. They're pushing to revisit.

BALDWIN: OK, ladies, thank you. Thank you for rolling with me through this.

My next guests say, if Congress can't do their jobs and fix this shutdown crisis, then they shouldn't get paid. And the twist is, they're members of Congress.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Republican Ralph Norman of South Carolina.

Gentlemen, welcome.

REP. KURT SCHRADER (D), OREGON: Hi.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Glad to be here, yes.

BALDWIN: So, you all, along with about 100 of your colleagues, are asking for your pay to be withheld. And we will get to that and how you all agree when it comes to your paycheck in just a minute.

But, first, this back and forth between Speaker Pelosi and President Trump, he says the State of the Union is on. She says it's off. And now he's calling Democrats radicalized and says this will -- he will respond later. So this has become an even bigger spectacle.

[15:10:08]

Congressman Schrader, do you approve of Speaker Pelosi's actions?

SCHRADER: Well, Ralph and I are rank-and-file members. That's at a level of engagement way above our pay grade. And we're interested in trying to get this shutdown over with. I

think that's something Republicans and Democrats agree with. We may disagree a little bit about the elements and what's important, but we're hopeful people will sit down and start talking.

But we do agree that you shouldn't get paid in Congress if you're shutting down the government. We don't know any job you get...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Congressman, hang on. I got to jump in, because, listen -- and we -- I promise we will get to that.

But I have to get you on the record commenting on this spectacle. The fact that the president of the United States will not be going and speaking in front of you all next Tuesday night is a significant development.

SCHRADER: Well, I'm not a big fan of the State of the Union stuff anyway. I'm not a pomp and circumstance guy. So, it doesn't really affect me personally.

The president, I'm sure, can make a statement wherever he wants. That's his right, his constitutional privilege. Doesn't have to do it here in the halls of Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: He's not constitutionally obligated to do this?

SCHRADER: No, he is not. He has an opportunity -- not in Congress anyway.

He has an opportunity in the Constitution to make a statement to Congress at a time and place of his choosing. Historically, in recent times, it's been here in the speaker's -- in the House of Representatives chamber.

But it can be anywhere, frankly. And if he and the speaker are squabbling, he has a right to go and have that statement anywhere he wants.

BALDWIN: And how, sir, do you see -- Congressman Norman, how do you see -- do you see your fellow congressman there as the radical left, as the president characterized it? And do you see him as someone who doesn't care about violence and folks who shouldn't be coming into America coming into America, as the president says?

NORMAN: I think what we all agree on is that, as Congressman Schrader says, we don't like the shutdown.

We think -- going into day 34, but as far as -- it could be over pretty quick if we could agree on the wall funding. Now, I do agree with that. I think the president is making the right call.

On the fact of being able not to deliver it in the Capitol, I was telling Kurt it was shocking. I just didn't -- I heard that right before we came on the air. But it's sad that it gets to that point.

I will tell you, the address will go on. It will be at another venue. And so the country will get to hear the address. It just won't be here.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Where would you like it to be, sir? Where would you like it to be?

NORMAN: I will let the president decide that. He can go wherever he wants to go.

If it's not here, he can go to the Senate, if they agree, which I understand they would. But I think he will pick a place that will be suitable and be apropos.

BALDWIN: And to what you two agree on -- and it's appreciated why you two gentlemen don't want to collect this paycheck as members of Congress in solidarity of these federal workers.

But what about the other members of Congress who aren't jumping on board with you all? Just to both of you, what is their reasoning? What have they told you?

NORMAN: Well, that's their right.

I don't condemn anybody. I mean, Kurt are I are from the private sector. We believe, and as well as a lot of others, that if you don't go to work, you don't get paid. You don't get a check.

That's the American way in our minds. So but how -- how and why other people do it, don't do it, that's up to them to decide.

SCHRADER: And there's a lot of people that are not wealthy here, believe it or not, and we have -- we were just talking, a lot of members with younger families, and they maybe have a mortgage back home. They have a mortgage here.

It gets complicated pretty quick. But the idea behind our bill is just to put pressure on all of us, so that we actually have to get down to the table and start negotiating and come up with a deal at the end of the day.

That's what we're trying to do with the constitutional amendment and with the hold Congress accountable bill that we've introduced.

BALDWIN: And, lastly, when you hear the president say this government shutdown will go on for awhile, to that, you say what?

NORMAN: Well, I think he's prepared to.

I think we're at a logger jam. I think we will. It will be until the wall gets funded. And I know that a lot of people don't agree with that, but I think the majority will. But until -- if the wall is not funded, we will be here indefinitely. BALDWIN: Congressman Schrader?

(CROSSTALK)

SCHRADER: Well, I don't know about the wall itself. Some physical barriers may be in play. We have done that obviously before.

Certainly need to talk about the real problem at hand, which is those families at the border, where Ralph and I both visited down that way. The facilities are inadequate. There's not enough judges, not enough lawyers to process these people in a timely manner.

I think there's a deal to be had. We're not there yet. Immigration has been a thorny issue in this country for as long as we have been here, frankly. But I think we can get it done once people decide to get past the talking points, decide to sit down and negotiate.

[15:15:05]

BALDWIN: Appreciate both of you all joining me from both parties standing side by side up on Capitol Hill. We need more of that.

Gentlemen, thank you very much.

NORMAN: Our pleasure.

SCHRADER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

More breaking news, Michael Cohen postponing his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, citing new threats from President Trump to Rudy Giuliani. We have the president's response.

Also, we are following a situation inside a bank there in Sebring, Florida. We're told several people have been shot in what they are calling a hostage situation. Stand by for news on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Let's get back to our breaking story this hour.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former attorney and personal fixer, is postponing his testimony to Congress.

[15:20:01]

In a statement, Cohen's attorney writes in part: "Due to ongoing et threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Cohen's appearance will be postponed to a later date."

Now, Congressman Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, to whom he was set to testify, said, while he understands Cohen's safety concerns -- quote -- "When our committees began discussions with Cohen's attorney, not appearing before Congress was never an option. We will not let the president's tactics prevent Congress from fulfilling our constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities. This will not stop us from getting to the truth."

And moments ago, this was the president's response to this news:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I would say he's been threatened by the truth. He's only been threatened by the truth. And he doesn't want to do that probably for me or other of his clients.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, with me now, Kara Scannell, former federal prosecutor Joseph Moreno, and white-collar defense attorney Sara Azari.

So, Kara, let me just start with you.

If threats are being made to Cohen's family, not just Cohen, but his father-in-law, wife, that's even a bigger deal.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. This is -- if the president is sort of pointing them in the scopes there by saying that this is where potentially there's an issue, we don't know the extent of whether Cohen's family has received specific and direct threats.

I mean, that would be something that federal prosecutors would probably be investigating or the FBI at least to see how serious those threats are.

I mean, the whole issue, though, of Cohen coming before Congress, and as we saw a little bit in that letter yesterday with the Republicans sending a note saying that they were told by Lanny Davis, Cohen's lawyer, that a lot of things will be off-limits, such as the crime scene pleaded guilty to with the Southern District of New York and whatever he spoke to them, the special counsel's office, about, it left a lot to be desired about what Cohen would be talking about.

And you can be sure that Republicans probably would have dug into some of his past, which the reason why people bring up his father-in-law and his wife is that they were both involved in the taxi medallion business, a completely legal business, but there are questions about Michael Cohen as it relates to that, including he pled guilty to five counts of tax fraud and those all relate to his taxi business.

And last summer, when Cohen did plead guilty, friends of his told us, as we reported then, that Cohen pled guilty because he wanted to protect his family and that prosecutors were threatening to go after charges -- to add charges that could have implicated his wife.

So, Cohen has always wanted to protect his family in this, and that's one reason why he didn't cooperate with prosecutors fully, because he was -- he would have had to admit to crimes that he was aware of. And he's definitely trying to protect his family.

Trump has now added this into the broader debate. And it is a real question of, are there threats that are coming in against his family, and if that's something the FBI would then look at, Brooke. BALDWIN: Sure.

And we don't know which threats maybe Lanny Davis is referring to specifically. But there are a couple examples that have all been out in the public ether, tweets from -- certainly tweets about Cohen from the president.

In addition, I was just handed this from -- this was the Trump interview most recently, one of the more recent interviews with FOX -- Sara, this is for you -- where he said: "Did he make a deal?" He being Michael Cohen.

"Did he make a deal to keep his wife, who supposedly -- maybe I'm wrong, but you can check it. Did he make a deal to keep his wife out of trouble?"

And then there was this, guys. Let's roll it from Rudy Giuliani talking to Jake over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He can have ties to organized crime. They can have bank fraud. That's just fine.

When somebody testifies against your client, you go out, and you look at what's wrong with them. Why are they doing it, if they're not telling the truth?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: OK.

GIULIANI: He's not -- he's doing it because he's afraid to testify against his father-in-law, because the repercussions for that will be far worse than the repercussions for lying here...

TAPPER: I think...

GIULIANI: ... because now he gets applauded in New York, where the crazy anti-Trumpers applaud for him.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, Sara and then Joe, might this be examples of witness tampering, witness intimidation?

SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely.

This is classic witness intimidation. Threatening to prosecute a witness' family members or have them investigated for crimes is intimidating the witness, so that they don't testify.

And I think, in that respect, the president and Rudy Giuliani, his P.R. person, have succeeded. Between his tweets and then the interview with Jake Tapper, this message was heard loud and clear by Michael Cohen. It had the effect that they wanted it to have. And I think it's also -- it may be -- maybe I'm reading too much into

this, but it might be a way for -- a clever way for Lanny Davis to get his client out of testifying, because although Michael Cohen wanted to go out to the world and tell the truth about Donald Trump, there were so many limitations placed on his testimony by Mueller that essentially go in with the optics of, I can't really answer this, I can't really answer that.

[15:25:01]

So this could be a way to try to get them out of this situation. But as we know from the statement from the representatives, it's not going to work. He's going to have to testify.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: We expect him to appear.

AZARI: Absolutely.

Nonappearance is a non-option.

BALDWIN: Yes.

Joe, how do you see it?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Brooke, when it comes to the president's history of tweeting about the special counsel and Michael Cohen and all, I have used the word many times inappropriate.

I'm going to retire that word, because I don't think that comes close to capturing where we are.

BALDWIN: What does instead?

(CROSSTALK)

MORENO: It's so grossly improper to mention a person's family members, to mention a person's truthfulness, especially by the president of the United States.

So, look, we can debate about whether Congress should have Michael Cohen testify. But the fact is, Congress has that right. It has that obligation to conduct oversight.

And no one, least of all the president of the United States, has a right to interfere with a witness. So President Trump is going to walk himself into an obstruction case and will have no one to blame but himself.

AZARI: And also, if I may, there's a difference between threat of violence, which we have not reports...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: It's not like he's saying, I'm going to break your bones. AZARI: Correct. We don't have any reports of that kind of explicit a threat.

BALDWIN: No.

AZARI: Vs. I'm going to have your family investigated and prosecuted.

It is enough for witness intimidation. But is it that compelling that Congress would say, oh, we're going to make sure you're safe and your family is safe? And I think they have made it clear that he's going to have to testify.

BALDWIN: OK.

Also, just quickly to button this up, we heard from Manu, who's reporting a senior member on the Oversight Committee saying he expects -- chairman -- that there will be a subpoena. Overwhelming consensus was the phrase I read among panel members that Cohen should be subpoenaed to testify.

Thank you all so much.

We will have more on that news regarding Michael Cohen in a bit.

But, first, what will it take to end the longest shutdown in U.S. history?

Chris Cillizza looks at six possible scenarios on how this could play out.

The shutdown happening amid more breaking news that the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has essentially pulled the plug on President Trump's State of the Union, which was scheduled for next Tuesday.

And we do expect to hear from President Trump again moments from now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)