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McConnell Sets Votes for Thursday; Support for Wall and Shutdown; Pelosi's Edge over Trump on Shutdown Talks; Trump Sends Pelosi Letter. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 23, 2019 - 12:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It just compounds the tragedy here, hearing that.


BOLDUAN: Martin, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: We'll continue to follow this for all of you.

Thank you so much for joining me today, guys. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Stick with the plan, and stick together. That is Speaker Nancy Pelosi's message to House Democrats today, day 33 of the partial government shutdown. Democrats demand the president re-open the government before any negotiations over border wall funding.

Plus, the State of the Union is uncertain. House Democrats say no primetime platform for the president if the government is still shut down. The White House says the president will speak Tuesday night. Location and format, TBD.

And count Pete Buttigieg in and count him as number nine. Today's entry into the crowded Democratic race for president is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, an Afghanistan veteran, a Rhodes scholar and just 37 years old.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), LAUNCHED PRESIDENTIAL EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE: I belong to a generation that is stepping forward right now. We're the generation that lived through school shootings, that served in the wars after 9/11 and we're the generation that stands to be the first to make less than our parents unless we do something different.


KING: We begin the hour, though, with movement on Capitol Hill, but no real hope that movement will actually lead to a solution, this on day 33 of the partial government shutdown. Some pictures here of federal employees protesting in the Hart Senate Office Building this hour. Those folks dreading, no doubt, the second missed paycheck come Friday. Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on two opposing bills, one from President Trump and the Senate Republicans, the other from Democrats. Neither bill expected to pass.

Nevertheless, the president showing optimism in his party's plan this morning, tweeting, great unity in the Republican Party. Wants to, once and for all, put an end to unstoppable crime and drugs. Border security and wall. No doubt. He then tweeted what you might expect to become a new Trump catch phrase, build a wall and crime will fall.

Democrats showing just as much resolve. Senator Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor just moments ago saying the Democrat plan, in his view, asks so little.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: The president's proposal demands a wall and radical legal immigration changes in exchange for opening up the government. The second vote demands nothing in exchange for opening up the government. So the first vote, unless you do it my way, I'm keeping the government shut down. That's the Trump amendment. Our amendment, open up the government and then let's talk. The first vote is completely partisan. The first vote is the president's hostage taking position codified into an amendment.


KING: CNN's Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill.

Manu, are these show votes or important votes even though we don't expect either plan to pass?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't expect either to pass. The question is, what happens after they likely fail? The president's proposal has no chance of passing. That has virtually no Democratic support, maybe one, maybe two Democrats will support it, certainly not enough to get 60 votes to overcome a Democratic-led filibuster. And Republicans plan to block or at least believe that they have enough votes to prevent the Democratic plan, the one that passed the House, to re-open the government up until early February, they believe that will -- they will be able to prevent that from moving forward. Mitch McConnell told me last night, he said, quote, of course, he was going to oppose that plan from proceeding. Thirteen Republicans would need to defect to overcome that moving forward.

The question is what happens afterwards. Nancy Pelosi had a closed- door meeting with her Democratic colleagues this morning, told her members, stick together. Stick to the plan. The plan being push the White House to re-open the government first, then let's talk afterwards. She urged her members not to freelance because doing so ultimately could undermine the Democratic negotiating position. They believe that they are in a firmer ground and ultimately the White House and Republicans will cave. But, again, we have not seen that happen yet.

And, John, also, we have not seen talks occur over the last two weeks. I am told that Nancy Pelosi and the president have not had any conversations since that January 9th meeting in which the president stormed out of the White House during that very contentious session. And, of course, we are hearing from people the way to resolve this is for the Democrats and the White House to come to a deal. But they're not even talking right now. And these votes tomorrow are likely to fail. The question is, what happens afterwards?


KING: It is the 23rd of January. Have not spoken since January 9th.

Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, that's a bleak outlook. Appreciate the live reporting.

With me here in studio to share their reporting and their insight, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Michael Bender with "The Wall Street Journal," Tamara Keith with NPR, and Karoun Demirjian with "The Washington Post."

That in and of itself, we're talking about these votes tomorrow, which could bring something. They're show votes? The Republicans will vote for the president's plan, the Democrats will vote for their plan. The question is, after that, do you get something, and might that something include the speaker and the president deciding, even though we disagree, maybe we should talk?

[12:05:08] MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, maybe at the very least this week we're seeing at least some movement here. There is going to be a vote related to the shutdown in the Senate for the first time since, you know, this happened -- started a month ago. But, you know, inside the White House, I think that they are -- they are trying to project -- the polls have shown that everyone is blaming Trump on this, as he wanted -- as he -- as he said -- you know, urged people to at the start of it. But at -- inside the White House they're trying to at least project an image of winning. They're trying to rally their troops. And what they're talking about inside the White House is that they can hold out as long as possible and trying to put the pressure on Pelosi and to try to again splinter off Democrats, which they've had no luck doing so far.

But I think what this is a little bit is, is trying to leverage Trump's unpredictability. You know, this idea of, Trump is capable of going even longer. It's sort of the same tactic they used in some foreign policy, trade negotiations with China and Mexico and Canada. But where this goes, I -- you know, it's still an open question and one -- KING: And help -- somebody else at the table help in the sense that -- I know you're -- in the middle of this you have to keep a strong, public face. So they keep saying they're winning.


KING: With the House Freedom Caucus, they're maybe winning. With their anti-immigration hardliner, they may be winning. There's this place called America. And he's the president.


KING: He's the president.

If you look at the new CBS poll this morning, is the border wall worth the government shutdown or not? Yes worth it, 28 percent. No, not worth it, 71 percent. Among Republicans, yes, worth it, 56 percent. No, not worth it, 43 percent. Forty-three percent of his own party says -- and a lot of those people support the border wall. They just don't think you should screw 800,000 people for a second pay period without getting a paycheck. So how is -- I'm not saying the Democrats don't have a responsibility here, too, but how is the president winning?

KEITH: Well, and typically the president in polls has like 85 percent support among Republicans. And to have 40-some percent of Republicans saying, ooh, this strategy isn't really possibly working for us, it isn't worth it, because what the president said when he said he would own this shutdown is, it's worth it for the wall. Now at least some part of his base is saying it's not worth it for the wall.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": What you have to wonder is if and when that gets reflected in the congressional GOP, because Trump may have the privilege of saying I'm not going to budge, I'm, you know, spontaneous, you can't predict me. I could, you know, sit around forever. It doesn't matter how many FBI employees and TSA employees start screaming about actual other points of national security that are in danger that aren't the wall.

But eventually does this trickle up to affect senators so much that they say, I can't do this anymore. I'm not going to do it anymore. And I think that's the question.

KING: And, to that point, the vote on Thursday will be interesting.


KING: How many -- how many Republicans cross over on the Democratic (INAUDIBLE)? There won't be enough, but how many?

DEMIRJIAN: Or how many will say after that vote is over, OK, we got the -- we stuck with the party on this one. We released the tension. We've done it. But now we're not doing that again.

KING: Right. And, again, I just, you know, said how does the president define this as winning when the numbers say, no, sir, the American people that broadly don't agree with you. The Democrats do have a responsibility. The question is, when does the speaker or the president pick up the phone and talk to each other?

And we've seen some, just a few, some, you know, some Democrats -- a lot of Democrats saying we don't want to keep the government shut down. Only a very few saying, you know, maybe we should give the president a little bit here, a little bit there.

Listen to Sherrod Brown this morning, a Democrat, senator of Ohio, he's a -- he may run for president, saying, yes, sure, some Democrats want to get the government open. What?


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: I think -- I think Democrats are open -- open to any ideas that -- that don't just encourage, entice the president to do it again. I -- I don't know how you put strings on a -- on a bill saying the president can't keep acting like a jerk.


KING: Colorful language --


KING: Colorful language, but that is the Democratic point that if we give in before the government -- if we negotiate anything on the border wall before the government's reopened, then what's to stop the president on the next policy fight and the fight after that from saying, you know, I'm taking my --

HENDERSON: Yes. And that's the language you hear more and more. He said it in more of a more memorable, folksy sort of way. But Pelosi and other folks on The Hill, this idea that over and over again he could use this tactic. He could use government workers and a government shutdown as a tactic for more border security, right, or border wall. If he only gets -- if he gets 5 billion, he's going to need some more money to build additional parts of that wall, so would he do it again and again?

You know, I think the big question is these Republicans. At some point, do they start to hear -- they're clearly already hearing from their constituents, because this isn't just 800,000. It's sort of the businesses that relying on those people having money to spend at those businesses. So they are certainly hearing it. But I think this test vote on Tuesday, do even the people we think would cross the line, people like a Collins, people like a Murkowski, people like a Corey Gardner, do they cross the line at all or do they hold the line with the Republicans at this point?

And then there are obviously some Democrats. We heard from I think a Democrat in Minnesota basically saying, give the president the wall at this point.

[12:10:03] KING: Collin Peterson, conservative Democrat, yes. HENDERSON: Will there be any more. But it seems unlikely. The Democrats are really dug in on this. And the thing is, this was -- this is what President Trump wanted. He's called for a shutdown over and over again. He finally got it this go round.

KING: It's what he said at the beginning.


KING: He said he would be proud to do it.

HENDERSON: He said he'd be proud to do it, yes.

KING: Does he -- does he -- does he want it is an interesting question.


KING: To be fair to the president, our Bill Weir went out to Iowa. If you talk to Trump voters out there, especially farmers who have been hard-hit by the trade war, now they can't get word -- they can't get data from the Agriculture Department about, you know, future crop planning, still a lot of Trump voters say, ah, but we're going to hang in for now.


DAVE WALTON, CORN AND SOYBEAN FARMER: You know, I think there's some growing uneasiness.

We're sort of in the middle of the game, so you can't really predict the outcome of the game in the middle.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But you can second guess the coaching if you're down --

WALTON: Oh, yes.

WEIR: By 50 points at halftime, right?

WALTON: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. Yes, we're down by a few touchdown, if you want to put it that way.

But he campaigned on a lot of the things he's doing right now and he's doing it.


KING: There's that, you know, there's that faith in, OK, there's a long -- I don't like the short term, I don't like today, I didn't like yesterday, I'm not going to like tomorrow, but give the president a chance. That's the -- those are the people he hopes stick with him.

BENDER: And that's what the bill -- that's what his proposal does. It sort of raises the question that Sherrod Brown is answering. Here's a solution for our border wall. Here's a solution to get the government reopened. But we're going to kick the can on DACA. We're going to kick the can on TPS. And we're going to have this fight again in the next few weeks.

HENDERSON: And some of that stuff angered part of his base, right?

KING: Right.

HENDERSON: The DACA and TPS stuff. You had Ann Coulter basically coming out and saying, this guy's Jeb Bush. We wanted Donald Trump.

KING: And he put on the table more -- on one trusted -- the Democrats just don't trust him to do it. He keeps saying they will have a broader immigration conversation. They just don't trust him to do it, which is why they don't want temporary anything. They want permanent. We'll see.

Again, welcome to the week. We're going to have a little fun. Let's watch these votes tomorrow and what happens after -- I think to your point, what happens after these votes.

Up next for us, a new poll gives Nancy Pelosi higher marks for her negotiating stills. This as federal workers, even service members, turn to local charities for help during this painful shutdown.


ADMIRAL KARL L. SCHULTZ, COMMANDANT OF THE U.S. COAST GUARD: We're five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse in your non-pay. You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden.

I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men ask women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day to day life as service members.



[12:16:23] KING: The president gets more of the blame when Americans are asked, who's responsible or more responsible for the government shutdown. But when you look at the partisan breakdown in those surveys, whether the question is what do you think of the border wall or who is the better negotiator, then the polarization here in Washington perhaps becomes more understandable.

Take a look. A new CBS poll finds 47 percent of Americans say Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doing a better job at shutdown negotiations, 35 percent say President Trump is handling negotiations, or lack thereof would be better. But 74 percent of Republicans say the president is doing a better job, 79 percent of Democrats say Pelosi gets higher marks. Independents give Pelosi the edge.

Let's go inside the numbers with the hosts of "The Pollsters" podcast, Democrat Margie Omero and Republican Kristen Soltis Anderson. So the president gets the bulk of the blame, but then everybody goes

off into their partisan corner. So is there any incentive, when you look at these numbers and other numbers that have come out in the last couple of weeks, is there any incentive, any warning sign is probably the better way to put it, for either side to blink? Let's start.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CO-HOST, "THE POLLSTERS" PODCAST: I think this is one of the worst polls to come out so far for Republicans and for President Trump thus far in the shutdown. His job approval has slid about a half a point to a point each week, which isn't the direction you want it to go, but it hasn't presented a political crisis yet. I would argue that having fewer than three out of four Republicans saying you're doing better at the shutdown, those numbers among Republican, even though they look good, they should be in the 80s, 90s. That really, to me, represents that Trump's headed in the wrong direction and that there's further for him to go, that only 35 percent in at poll think that he's doing the better job means there's some folks that currently approve of him a little bit, or maybe they're Republicans, but they don't think either side's doing a very good job. His numbers could go even lower.

KING: And so when Nancy Pelosi tells Democrats, as she did this morning, stick with the plan. We'd all like the government open, but stick with the plan. Is she in that safe of a position or do you see any worries for the Democrats?

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER, PBS RESEARCH: I think the challenge here is looking at the percentage of folks who feel personally affected or feel that they're -- that this is a serious problem. Those numbers seem to be getting worse. You have more people who feel that they're affected. It depends on how different polls ask it in different ways, but it's about a fifth. Those numbers are not as partisan in this poll as they have been in previous polls. So that's a bipartisan worry that this is a really serious challenge. And there -- you know, it really challenges what Trump has said about himself. I can fix it. I'm going to keep people safe. I'm going to do things differently. I can make the best deals. And that's not what voters are seeing when they look at what's happening with the shutdown.

KING: Right. And so if you look at the numbers, if we lived in a normal Washington, and if we had a traditional president, you would look at these numbers, to your point, it's not going well for the president right now.

What do you want Trump to do now -- this is among all Americans in the CBS poll -- agree to a budget without a wall, open the government, 66 percent. Two-thirds of Americans say, Mr. President, give in. You know, 31 percent say refuse the budget if a wall is not (INAUDIBLE). Now, but, again, among Republicans -- and this is where I think you see some danger, agree to a budget without a wall, open the government, 30 percent. Refuse the budget, stick to your gun essentially Mr. President, 65 percent. So two-thirds of Republicans say stick to your guns, but that 30 percent to you is a warning sign.

ANDERSON: Well, and I think the president, his strategy is to hang on to that 65 percent because he believes that's as much as he's going to get. I think he has realized he's not going to win over Democrats, almost no matter what he does, and that he'd be in real, big political trouble if all of a sudden his bottom falls out, if his base feels that they're no longer with him. If he gives in, re-opens the government, are his numbers going to go back up with independents and Democrats? Maybe, maybe not, but they might really drop with Republicans. And so he's gotten himself into a bit of a lose-lose situation here.

KING: Do democrats have to give him something on the wall?

[12:20:01] OMERO: I mean here's the thing about these questions, is it about the wall -- do you prefer the wall or the budget? It really isn't about that. So is it appropriate to shut down the entire government as a way to solve policy disputes? And -- or is it just a political tactic that people feel, you know, there are real consequences and it's just partisan politics and it really hurts real Americans. And I think voters are seeing this as the latter, as something that is just not an appropriate way to have a policy dispute -- and -- disagreement. It's -- rather than about any specific policy. We need the government to be open and do all kinds of things, health care reform, government reform, ethics, all these other issues. And so that's why folks across the aisle are looking at this and saying, this is just not the right path.

KING: And we're focusing on the here and now, which is this government shutdown, which is this fight over the border wall.

We're also in the early days of the 2020 campaign. A ninth Democrat gets in today. A lot of Democrats are getting in. And the president, you know, we assume the president's going to be the Republican nominee. If you're the president, you mentioned this going -- earlier. The is his approval -- a poll of polls. A CBS poll has his approval rating going down. CNN combined the most recent polls. Thirty-seven percent approve, 57 percent disapprove. He's heading down. He just lost an election. The Democrats take the House. Then, in your early months of the new year, your numbers are going down. If you're a president trying to ramp up for re-election, what do you do about that?

ANDERSON: Well, his numbers have dropped before and they have rebounded. They rebounded when the economy got better. They rebounded actually after the tax reform bill passed early last year, in part because it seemed like, OK, the economy is going well, things are moving in Washington, even though the tax reform bill was only of meddling popularity, his numbers have improved before. So it's not to say they couldn't again.

And, bear in mind, the last time the government shut down, Republicans took a beating in the polls that evaporated the very next month. So it's possible he could recover from this. We've got a long time until next November.

KING: Next November.

One last thing. This is a Pew number. So you look at gen-z and millennials and you stack these numbers up. You see them on the screen right now, approval of Trump's performance among younger voters, Trump's in the tank. You think government should do more to solve problems? Those numbers look strong. Is there a cliff, a demographic cliff for the Republican Party if they don't find a way to change these numbers among younger Americans?

ANDERSON: Yes. And now they're not only just fighting a war with one generation, now there are two generations, millennials and gen-z who both hold positions, not just that President Trump's not doing a very good job, but on the kind of ideological core question, what should the role of government be in society, that you have seven in 10 saying government should be doing more, that is the real trouble for Republicans. It's not just about Trump.

KING: Are they solid numbers or can they change?

OMERO: You know certainly numbers can be fluid, right? Numbers can change. We don't see any indication that the president is going to do things differently than he's done. Are -- you asked before, are there things the president can do to change it? Sure there are. But has he shown an inclination to do them? You know, that's a different answer. I mean we'd be in a lot of trouble, I think, on our side if Republicans listened to Kristen on millennials, the new gen-z work (ph), we have a new chance to listen to Kristen on gen-z, but I think there's a lot of dangerous lines for Republicans for sure.

KING: Margie, Kristen, thanks for coming in.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

OMERO: Thanks.

KING: And up next, there's a new 2020 candidate with a tricky last name.


QUESTION: The best way to pronounce your last name?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), LAUNCHED PRESIDENTIAL EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE: Buttigieg. But around South Bend they just call me Mayor Pete, and that's fine with me.


[12:27:57] KING: Some breaking news now in the State of the Union stare down. There's a big sub plot of the partial government shutdown. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says the president should not come to Congress as scheduled next Tuesday to give his State of the Union Address as long as the government is still partially closed. The president has just responded with a letter to the speaker.

Let's get to CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's live at the White House.

Kaitlan, what does the president say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, he's essentially daring Nancy Pelosi to formally un-invite him from delivering the State of the Union on January 29th. In that letter that she sent a few weeks ago, she told the president she believed he should postpone it, but she didn't say that she was uninviting him after inviting him to come on January 29th. And now we've got this letter from the president that is written in a tone that's almost dripping with sarcasm where he says, thank you for your kind address, but then he says that he knows that in her response she said there were security concerns because of the government shutdown about staffing the State of the Union because, of course, it includes not only the president and the vice president, but several cabinet members as well. And in this letter the president says essentially that those concerns from Nancy Pelosi are unfounded.

He says, even prior to asking, I was contacted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service to explain that there would be absolutely no problem regarding security for this event. He said, they've since confirmed this publicly. And then, John, he goes on to say, but because there are no security concerns regarding the State of the Union, I will be honoring your invitation in fulfilling my constitutional duty to deliver important information to the people in the Congress of the United States of America regarding our state of the union.

And then right there at the end, he says that, it would be very sad for our country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly on location.

Now, John, we've been going back and forth with the White House and Democrats over the last several days regarding what's going to happen with the State of the Union because the White House said they were moving ahead with plans to hold it there, even there -- even though earlier this week they asked the sergeant in arms if they could do a walk through, and that is a request that was denied because they asked to do it on Monday, which was a federal holiday.

[12:29:56] But as far as the Democrats are concerned, what our Hill colleagues have said in their reporting is that Pelosi essentially told members of her caucus this morning not to invite their families to Washington next week, which implied that there would be no State of the Union Address