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Interview with Sen. Tom Reid (R-NY); Government Shutdown Is Hurting Economy, Security; Michael Cohen Postpones Testimony to House Oversight Committee "Due to Threats"; Ocasio-Cortez Assigned to House Oversight Committee Which Will Investigate Trump Administration; Protests Erupt Outside McConnell's Office Ahead of Dueling Votes on Shutdown. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired January 23, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: And now we're waiting to see the reaction from the Maduro government, Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Indeed. We will be watching for that.
Stefano Pozzebon, thank you very much.
We are in the midst of a historic shutdown, the longest ever. And there's no sign it will end soon as leaders in Washington fight their political battles. Just ask yourself how hard would it be to go without a paycheck and now two paychecks? Then add in that for so many federal workers, you would still have to go to work, still while you have to go to work without getting paid, put gas in your car, pay for child care, buy school lunches for your kids. We've heard so many people across the spectrum and across the country sharing stories of hardship and desperation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALISYN CAMAROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You have a 9-year-old, how is this affecting your family?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we poor now? I don't need my extra milk at lunch, a 55-cent milk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son just works part time. He just finished his associates. I'm relying on him for gas money basically.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would sit at home literally thinking which child, my kids or grandkids, whose life insurance do I need to cash in to stay above water?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We start to decide, are we going to let our mortgage fall behind, our car payments, so that we can feed our children?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When school was ready to start back here in Atlanta, and I don't have to have a snack -- excuse me, it's very upsetting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm worried every day about how much food I have in my house. I would hope that they would stop using the livelihoods of federal employees as a bargaining chip.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, everybody, this is serious and very stressful, especially those that have to go to work and they don't have time to look for jobs.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Rather than go to the hospital and risk the bills from that, you just decided to take that gamble?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband doesn't even know that I was rationing. I just -- it's sick, but the thought of having more debt was scarier than the thought of maybe dying in my sleep.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Add to those story, the long food lines in Washington, as well as Coast Guard members and their families and on-duty FBI agents relying on food donations to survive this shutdown.
New York Congressman Tom Reid is a Republican on the Ways and Means Committee. He's joining us.
Thank you so much for coming back on the program. We really appreciate it.
REP. TOM REID, (R), NEW YORK: Always great to be with you, Brianna.
KEILAR: I am struck as I listen to these federal workers. I have been so encouraged by some of the help they're getting from neighbors, but it's clearly not enough, and I listen to them and you hear it. They're at risk. Some of them are going hungry even as they're forced to work without pay. Isn't it un-American for that to happen?
REID: Obviously. Absolutely. I share with you that concern that you have for those employees. But that's why we have to talk and work out our differences in Washington, D.C. As Democrats and Republicans, we have to talk to each other and right now that's not happening, Brianna.
KEILAR: So you support President Trump's offer to Democrats and includes temporary protection for DREAMers. Why not offer permanent protection for those DACA recipients, who are in the U.S. illegally because they were brought here as children, in exchange for the $5 billion for a permanent wall. Permanent protection for a permanent wall?
REID: Brianna, you are talking the language that I love to hear. If you and I can sit down and have that conversation you and I can hash this out at moments. But to not have a partner, with Nancy Pelosi at --
KEILAR: But the White House isn't offering that.
REID: Well, the president put on a reasonable, compassionate proposal to move the ball forward and we've heard nothing from Nancy Pelosi as to a response. If she put that on the table, I think this thing would break apart and we could get this government open and stand with millions of Americans as well as those children, those DREAMers that supposedly we care so deeply about.
KEILAR: Democrats will argue it's not a serious offer. You are claiming it is.
I want to talk to you about something Axios is reporting, that the White House is actually considering a plan that would give the 700,000 DREAMers a pathway to getting green cards. Could you support that?
REID: I am open to having that conversation and supporting that type of solution here. Look at what you are hearing, Brianna. You are hearing movement from the White House and I do not hear any sincere movement from Nancy Pelosi and the House of Representatives. It's time for Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell to do a deal in the Senate, which I think they're getting close to, and send it to the House and let's vote on it and let's put our cards where our mouths are.
KEILAR: How is that movement from -- truly, the movement that we've seen from the White House has been the president was OK with funding bills that then passed the Senate and them he changed his mind. There has been movement, but it's been all over the map.
REID: Well, there's movement now. As you saw, the president addressed the nation, Brianna, in a way that I thought was compassionate, reasonable and said what is your counter-response from this, and to hear crickets, to hear bickering is something that is so frustrating to me as a member who wants to solve problems here in Washington.
[13:35:09] KEILAR: You think he's compassionate? He doesn't even talk about the people who are getting screwed by this whole thing.
REID: Brianna, he's talking about our American citizens that have lost loved ones as a result of the broken border with the crime and the drug addiction coming through with the heroin and opioid. I see compassion when I see those children, those DACA children that we've been talking about for years, he's open to giving them some peace of mind and we can have a conversation on that part and there is a movement from the president.
KEILAR: I have so much to call you on there, because the DACA consideration in the Senate, actually, it doesn't provide protection and it guts DACA in 10 different ways.
REID: That is not true, Brianna. That is absolutely not true.
REID: That is absolutely not true.
KEILAR: Let me ask you --
KEILAR: No, no, no.
KEILAR: Congressman --
KEILAR: Congressman, no. It makes them re-apply. It makes the very expensive application be $495, almost $1,000. It forces the level of what they have to prove to go higher. I mean, that's just the tip of the iceberg of some of the things in there. You talk about the borders and drugs and the drugs are coming through the legal points of entry. You talked about --
REID: That's why the proposal -- that's why the proposal includes investments there to secure our ports of entry.
KEILAR: He says it's the wall. You know, the CATO Institute takes issue with the crime of illegal immigrants. They completely gutted that claim that you just made.
I want to talk to you about the economy though here because --
REID: So the bottom line, Brianna, is Nancy Pelosi, when she says she agrees that we need border security, you're saying no need for border security? I think the American people know better than that. They know our border needs security and our ports of entry need it. And we have a deal on the table in order to do that. Now is the time for leaders to step forward and let's get it done in the House because we want to get this done.
KEILAR: I am not saying that there shouldn't be more border security. To be clear, I'm not taking a position on that. That's your deal.
REID: And that's exactly where the deal can be struck. And then with these DACA children, we have the door open. Let's then push the door forward as Democrats and Republicans --
KEILAR: Sir, I mean, I just have to --
KEILAR: The door is -- the door is not open there. It's --
REID: It's on the table. I heard the president talk about it when he addressed the nation. (CROSSTALK)
KEILAR: The rhetoric and the plan --
KEILAR: Congressman, you know the rhetoric and the plan are entirely different here.
REID: That's not true. That's just not true.
KEILAR: It is so true. The "Washington post" fact checked, aside from the things that I just named, the monetary fine --
REID: The president put DACA on the table. We've not heard any response from Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in response to that. If they have a better collusion for the DACA children, there are many of us as Republicans that will stand with their children also.
KEILAR: So if you were in the reverse here, and you had a Democratic president who put some sort of say what you would consider amnesty on the table and then complained that you didn't come back with a counteroffer because clearly you wouldn't have thought that was serious from your perspective as a Republican, you know, you think you should take the blame in a situation like that?
REID: I know what I would do. I would go to the table and sit down and work this out. We can scream at each other for a half hour or 45 minutes, but at the end of the day, I wouldn't leave the room. I would stay in the room and solve this problem because the people back home and the folks suffering from these problems are the ones we should be putting first and foremost, not political rhetoric and political positioning that it's all about right now.
KEILAR: I want to talk to you about the economy, because the president's economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, told our Poppy Harlow on CNN today that the shutdown could result in zero growth for the first quarter. And we are learning that the shutdown is also ironically creating security issues for the country, including at the border. So is the fight over the wall really worth this when it's hurting the U.S. economy and the security of the country?
REID: I think border security is worth the fight, and that is where we find ourselves today. It's the reality of the situation. If I was driving the ship, would we have gotten to this position? Probably not, because I would have negotiated it in good faith and avoided everything. But now we are at the point we are. And now is the time for leaders to emerge. And I encourage both the House and the Democratic and Republican leaders in both bodies as well as the White House to stay in the room, work this out, and talk and listen to each other. That's all the American people want us to do. Listen to each other.
KEILAR: So Democrats, one of the arguments they make is that if they budge on letting the president shut down the government, it will encourage him to do it again. Can you honestly say to me that you don't think that if they budge, if they -- can you say to me if they budge that he will not be encouraged to do this again?
[13:40:00] REID: Obviously, I recognize that sensitivity. But that's why we should also be talking about, we have a budget deal that we'll have to do, and we are right around the corner with the debt- ceiling deal. Let's be proactive and not wait until the last minute. That's a D.C. thing that they do, wait until the last minute. True leaders would negotiate this now, before we get to that deadline, so you don't go over the cliff because you run out of time.
KEILAR: Congressman Tom Reid, thank you very much for being on with us. We always appreciate you.
REID: Always good to be here. Yes, I love being with you, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, sir. See you later.
REID: Thank you.
KEILAR: Breaking news, Michael Cohen postponing his testimony before the House Oversight Committee due to threats from the president, among others.
This is from Lanny Davis, Cohen's attorney. Quote, "Mr. Cohen volunteered to testify before the House Oversight Committee on February 7th. Due to ongoing threats to his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani as recently as this weekend as well as Mr. Cohen's continued cooperation with ongoing investigation, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen's appearance will be postponed to a later date. Mr. Cohen wishes to thank Chairman Cummings for allowing him to appear before the House Oversight committee and looks forward to testifying at the appropriate time. This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first."
That is the statement.
Let's go now to Michael Smerconish.
What's your reaction to that?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH": It would have been high on theatrics, Brianna. I don't know if it had transpired as planned or if it would have been substantive. But it would be must-watch television, that's for sure. I am more surprised by the stated rationale. I am more surprised by the threats against the family than I am that this was looked at with displeasure perhaps by the investigators and not just Mueller and also the southern district who continue to look at the administration. So that's really the only surprise to me was the explanation given as to why it would be postponed.
KEILAR: And you would want to know more about that, obviously. But when you look at the issue of the ongoing investigations, this is a real -- this say real issue, right? Where there are a lot of things that Michael Cohen would not be able to talk about and it would be very difficult to navigate that, presumably, but if you were his lawyer how would you have advised him?
SMERCONISH: Well, if I were the United States attorney for the southern district of New York, slightly different answer than you're seeking from me, I would not want him to testify because this is an active investigation. I think if I were Robert Mueller and the special counsel's office, I would probable not want this spectacle to unfold. I wouldn't want Michael Cohen's moment in the sun until after we've put forth our respective reports or report and have had our word on this because, otherwise, I think that it might be something that gives up information as to an area of our inquiry that the public is not yet in the loop on.
KEILAR: Michael, you can stand by for me?
I want to bring in Manu Raju on the Hill.
Manu, are lawmakers reacting to this? What's going on?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This just broke. So we're trying to get to the key lawmakers. But I've been speaking to the Democrats who have been eager to talk to Michael Cohen both in open session and in private session, including Elijah Cummings. I asked him about some of these comments that the president had made about Michael Cohen's father-in-law and Michael Cohen himself ahead of the testimony, and Cummings had strong words just a few days ago, telling me that the president should not be intimidating any witness coming before Congress, suggesting that this essentially is against the law. You can't do that to witnesses who are providing this kind of testimony. And over the weekend, we heard Rudy Giuliani reference Michael Cohen's father-in-law, make accusations that there could be ties to organized crime. All of that really unnerved Democrats here on Capitol Hill worried that they would not be able to speak with Michael Cohen.
And, Brianna, Republicans on the same House Oversight Committee had met with Michael Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, and they said, according to their meeting, that Michael Cohen didn't really want to testify. They said it was Davis who was pushing for Michael Cohen to come forward. And they said that they were told that Cohen would not be able to testify about a range of topics under investigation by the southern district of New York, including the president being implicated in federal crimes involving those hush money payments, as well as the Trump Tower Moscow projects, which appear to be part of the Mueller investigation. They suggested all of that would not be part of the testimony.
Now Democrat Cummings told me yesterday there was still in the scope of the Comey testimony. As of last night, Democrats still expected Cohen to come forward. So his decision to delay his testimony amid concerns about threats to his family after the president's comments and about Giuliani's comments, clearly a surprise here on Capitol Hill. And they have to decide whether they can still get him in either open session or closed session before he heads to jail in March -- Brianna? [13:45:15] KEILAR: Michael, bringing you back in, this is what
President Trump wanted and he'd been railing against Michael Cohen's father-in-law, but this doesn't mean, right, that Congress could Congress hear from him after the Mueller report comes out and that also could be even arguably more damaging when he's more free to speak?
SMERCONISH: It could take place, although let's not overlook that he'll soon lose his liberty.
KEILAR: That's right. He'll soon lose his freedom.
SMERCONISH: So I, frankly, don't know, Brianna, what happens come march or thereafter when Michael Cohen goes away for a while and how accessible he'll be for a Congressional committee from that point on.
KEILAR: That's a good point. I don't know that I have seen a hearing that got over that logistical difficulty before.
I want to ask you about something else while I have you. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of the freshmen, one of the four freshmen who was assigned to the Oversight Committee, which is -- we can already see it, right? It is so actively going to be investigating the Trump administration. What did you think of that? We were going to see her ask questions.
KEILAR: And that would have been our chance to see her in action.
SMERCONISH: Exactly. That was part of the high drama that many were being looking forward to. On any other president's watch, I am not so sure that House Oversight would be so prestigious. It's not exactly Ways and Means. But on this president's watch, given now the investigations that will take place by the Democratic-controlled House of this Republican administration, it's a place where a lot of action is going to unfold. And you know, Brianna, it used to be that you get elected to Congress and you'd be a back bencher, by your time, establish seniority and, over a long time period, you would become a leader. It's different now. Now you are telegenic or controversial or provocative or all of the above. You say things that draw people's interests. You being a fund-raising magnet and from that you derive real political power. That is the path on which she is on.
KEILAR: Michael Smerconish, thank you so much.
I want to bring in Sara Murray to talk about this.
Part of that statement coming from Michael Cohen's counsel, Lanny Davis, was saying there are threats coming from Trump, from the Trump sphere. He's actually concerned about his family. What do you make of all this, Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think there's been a big concern for Michael Cohen from day one. If you look at the whole sentencing process for Michael Cohen, one of the frustrations from the southern district of New York is he didn't confess to all of the crimes that he'd committed because of the concerns of what would happen to his family. He is concerned about the welfare of his family. And in a similar vein, this may be different. And we saw President Trump out there saying members of his family should be investigated. I'm sure that invited a lot more vitriol toward Michael Cohen's way, although he's faced plenty for publicly implicating President Trump about the hush money payments to women. This goes hand in hand, that Michael Cohen's lawyers were starting to believe that his testimony would be unsatisfying, especially to Republicans, if he were to be getting this publicly. He basically said through his lawyer that he would be unable to talk about anything under investigation and that would include the Trump Tower Moscow project and that would include the hush money payments to women. And they have to imagine that Michael Cohen is deciding this with the legal counsel as well as his family and they may have decided no risks associated with this.
KEILAR: How do you think the president is going to see this? I would expect -- I would say it's likely that he might tweet about this. How do you think he'll spin what this means?
MURRAY: Maybe he'll see it as Michael Cohen backing down, if I have to guess what President Trump might tweet next. I'm sure that Trump and everyone else in the White House, his own legal defense team would probably be thrilled not to have to deal with Michael Cohen on Capitol Hill with the throng of media hanging on to his every word. I don't think that that was something that the White House was particularly looking forward to. And it doesn't preclude the fact that Michael Cohen can still talk to these committees behind closed doors. He can still provide some kind of testimony publicly at some point. He said it's postponed in the statement. He doesn't say it's canceled indefinitely. And as we know from Michael Cohen that he usually has many more tricks up his sleeves and we'll see what happens next -- Brianna?
Let's bring in Manu Raju back into this conversation.
You are up there in Capitol Hill and you've been trying to track down some of the key lawmakers there. You just heard the report that we would expect or that the lawyers for Michael Cohen were expecting that his testimony was going to be unsatisfying, even to Democrats who really wanted to hear what he had to say. Indeed, it was going to be. I wonder how you think they are reacting.
[13:50:20] RAJU: They still wanted to hear, according to Elijah Cummings, his personal story, things that he was involved with. The president, over years, a lot of the controversy, the scandals, the crimes, perhaps some of the details. But they believe they could still learn a lot about the what Michael Cohen did for this president that was not fully uncovered by the interviews he's done or through the court filings. But it was still uncertain the extent he could reveal some of the conversations that occurred throughout the Trump Tower. In particular, with the president. Even though the Republicans said it was not going to be satisfying, Democrats said these were ongoing discussions to which they could get him to discuss the matters going forward. But it really does also go to show you that the limits of what the Democrats can do, despite wielding the subpoenas, the gavels. If the witnesses don't want to comply, they don't have much of a recourse. They could send a subpoena, but if they decide to fight or not provide documents or records, they could get into a long local battle before getting someone to provide that testimony. This is one example of that, clearly the reason why he's citing is not he doesn't want to. But because of threats to his family as a result of the president going after his father-in-law, Rudy Giuliani, which is a remarkable statement to say about the sitting president of the United States. But a blow for the Democratic efforts to investigate this president because Michael Cohen was one key witness about everything he's done with the president over the years.
KEILAR: In all your years of covering the Congress, have you seen or heard of what would happen bringing a witness from prison? Is that possible?
RAJU: We tried to ask the chairman about talking to Michael Cohen before going to prison in March. So that's why there was such a concerted push, not just by the House Oversight Committee to bring in the public, but to testify in classified settings before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff this morning made clear on the House side that he wanted Cohen to come forward, if not voluntarily, he was preparing to subpoena Michael Cohen to come forward. We'll see what Cohen does. He could ignore the subpoena knowing he's going to jail. And Congress may never hear from Michael Cohen again.
KEILAR: While I have you, there's protests erupting outside Mitch McConnell's office. They are chanting, "Where is Mitch," and, "Stop the shutdown." There are votes tomorrow on these competing bills we're expecting the both of them are going to fail.
RAJU: They are. They are outside Mitch McConnell's office in the Russell Office Building. He does not spend most of his time there. He spends his time in the capitol. That's where protesters don't have access to. He did go to the floor today making a very clear they support the Trump plan moving forward. But that plan needs 60 votes in order to advance tomorrow. They are not going to get 60 votes. The Democratic plan to reopen the government for three weeks needs Republican support. They are going to lack enough Republican support to go forward. Brianna, the key development, Thom Tillis, who is up in 2020, told me he was not going to support that --
KEILAR: Manu, I'm so sorry to interrupt you, because we're looking at the live video. We are actually seeing protesters outside of Mitch McConnell's office. Yes, this is his office in a Senate office building. He's not there very often, but there's a lot of symbolism. And we're actually seeing people who appear to be restrained and are being led away by police there. So we're going to keep an eye on this.
[13:54:39] We'll take a quick break and be right back.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.
Two weeks before he was set to testify before Congress, the president's former fixer, Michael Cohen, says the whole thing is off. At least for now. The man who was set to tell lawmakers and really the public what life was like as Trump's former attorney, he's now pulling the plug due to concerns about his family's safety.
In a statement we now have from Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen's attorney, they write, "Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, Mr. Cohen's appearance will be postponed to a later date."
[13:59:05] Let's start with what we know. We have Manu Raju and Dana Bash up here with me.