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AT THIS HOUR

Ex-DHS Heads Says Solving National Security Damage Could Take Years; Pelosi Speaks as Senate Gets Ready to Vote on Shutdown Bills; Senate Intel Committee Subpoenas Cohen To Testify in Mid-February. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 24, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:00:00] JEH JOHNSON, FORMER DHS SECRETARY: I fear that the damage already done to our security will be months if not years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, the Department of Homeland Security has responded, saying that, "The department is fully capable of carrying out our mission of securing the country during lapse of government funding, that some 90 percent of employees continue doing their jobs during the shutdown" -- Jim and Poppy?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Alex, it is important and a stark warning.

Thank you very much.

Thanks to all of you for being with us today. We'll see you back here tomorrow. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Thirty-four days into this thing, otherwise known as the longest government shutdown in history, and the Senate is voting today on two bills that are likely to fail. But in a jarring statement of how bad things have gotten, you might view that two bills being voted on and fail as progress. It's the first time since the shutdown began that the Senate is voting to end the shutdown.

Overnight, we did learn that the State of the Union address that got caught up in all of this is now officially off.

Importantly, as we are into the second month of the shutdown, the real threats are mounting as a result. Don't take my word for it. I want to show you a letter from five former Homeland Security secretaries, including John Kelly, who was the president's chief of staff. They write this, "DHS employees who protect the traveling public, investigate in counterterrorism, and protect critical infrastructure should not have to rely on the charitable generosity of others for assistance in feeding their families and paying their bills while they steadfastly focus on the mission at hand". "This is unconscionable," says John Kelly.

Wait, there's more. Air traffic controllers, pilots, flight attendants, all of them, sounding the alarm warning, quote, "serious safety concerns," and warning that the entire system will break if the shutdown doesn't end and end soon.

Here is the president of Air Traffic Controllers Association. Listen to this.

PAUL RINALDI, PRESIDENT, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: In my work environment, where I am seeing routine mistakes are happening because they are thinking about which credit cards can I consolidate for zero percent interest? Who is giving you a break on your phone bill or which company is helping you out so you can skip your mortgage? These conversations are happening in the work environment because the stress is getting very high.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So you have that.

Let's go to Capitol Hill. House speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking right now.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good morning. Good morning. It's been a long morning. Started last night. Thank you all for being here.

As you know last night, the president accepted the fact that the State of the Union should be at a time when government is not shutdown. I'm glad we could get that off the table because I know it was a source of many questions. Should we rent the equipment for the State of the Union? Should we have our families come in? It is so unimportant in the lives of the American people in terms of especially those who are victims of the shutdown, hostages to the president's applause line in a campaign speech. Thank goodness we have put that matter to rest and we can get on to the subject at hand, open up government so we can negotiate how best to protect our borders.

Democrats have always been strong about honoring our oath of office to protect and defend the American people, protecting our borders, securing our borders is an important part of that. Today, the Senate has an opportunity to pass legislation that is very simple. It's about billions of dollars in disaster assistance and just keeping government open until February 8 so we can have a discussion while people are being paid. Tomorrow marks the second paycheck that our federal workers will miss.

We have asked the Republicans to take yes for an answer over and over again. And the legislation that we passed this week we have a little more than half a billion dollars for the ports of entry that we have been told by authorities that 90 percent of drugs come through the ports of entry. We know those seeking amnesty are encouraged to come in through the ports of entry, and most of them do. That is a place where we can secure our borders for the purpose of security but also immigration, trade, travel, tourism and the rest. So in that legislation we have over half a billion dollars to build the infrastructure to secure and enhance and perhaps even increase the number of ports of entry. That is not in the Homeland Security bill because it falls under the Treasury Department bill that we passed on the floor this week. We have over half a billion dollars for additional immigration judges. This is to address the back log of processing immigration cases. And then those seeking asylum. The asylum is a humanitarian effort. The evangelicals have testified in our hearings that how U.S. refugee program, how we deal with asylum seekers, is the crown jewel of American humanitarianism. That is being undermined. These ports of entry, increasing them, will be helpful. But Asylum seekers can cross wherever they can. That is under international law.

[11:06:12] OK, third, these were in the president's proposal the other day. This is not different. We have been advocating this for a while. The president adopted these things in a statement the other day and yet the Republicans refuse to support a Homeland Security bill that includes that. It's not the actual Homeland Security bill. It's for a bill to open government which contain some port of entry language.

Today, the Senate will vote on a bipartisan bill to open government and contains the proposal they supported. Yet, now they won't. There's no excuse for Senate Republicans not to pass this legislation. We have asked them over and over again to take yes for an answer. We are firm in our support for how we secure our borders. Let's have that discussion after we open up government and let us get to work.

You've heard the letters from the former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security saying this harmful, open up government. You've heard from the FBI Agents Association because of the shutdown that they had no funds to pay for confidential sources or to pay for investigation and prosecution of cases, including child exploitation, cyber warfare or M.S.13 terrorism cases. You have heard from the air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants that we have a growing concern for safety and security. We cannot calculate the level of risk currently at play or predict the point at which the system will break.

I heard the president of the association of the flight attendants, air traffic controllers last night say that in one place 40 percent of the people, there's only 52 percent of the workforce there of 100 percent that they should have. And of that 52 percent of a workforce there of 100 percent that they should have. And of that 52 percent, 40 percent are eligible for retirement. This is not something about re-upping when you see how casually this administration streets the important work that air traffic controllers do for us.

And then the commandant of the Coast Guard said, "I find it unacceptable that the Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through the day and day life as servicemembers." That is the commandant of the Coast Guard. He's saying that he finds it unacceptable. That should be a call to action for the administration to open up government. Instead what do they have? They have Wilbur Ross saying he doesn't understand why when he was asked about people going to food lines and pantries, he doesn't understand why they have to do that. This is character building for you. It will all end up very well as long as you don't get your paychecks. I don't quite understand why as hundreds of thousands of men and women are about to miss a second paycheck tomorrow.

I met with the mayors yesterday. In addition to speaking to them, I heard from them about all the stories and what it means in their communities in terms of the individual families, but also the impact on the economies of their communities.

[11:10:08] We wanted to work together to get back to work to lower the cost of health care for all Americans, to increase the paychecks by building infrastructure, which the president says he wants to do, and to move on with our H.R. 1 to bring dignity and reduce the role of special-interest money in politics. We are working on these initiatives and hope that we can open government so that we can fully concentrate in this way.

In that case, we urge the president once again, thank you for recognizing that it is inappropriate to have a State of the Union address for people working hard, very hard, to protect all of us in that room and not getting paid for it.

Any questions?

Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How hard are you pushing for another face-to- face meeting with the president and how do you work this out if you don't sit down?

PELOSI: We have met. The last time we met, it was a photo op for the president to leave the room. They know full well that we are here in order to have any conversations.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It has been more than a week now since you have spoken face-to-face.

PELOSI: It's the president of the United States. We meet with him anytime he wants to meet. I never discouraged anybody from meeting with the president.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On this shutdown, so you sent your initial letter on the government shutdown and you said we will not have a speech until we have a resolution. The government was shut down. Did something change between when you sent the initial letter?

PELOSI: I really appreciate your question. That was the first day of the session of Congress. That same day, we passed the legislation that was passed overwhelmingly by the Republicans in the Senate. We are saying we are giving you back just exactly what you gave us. Take yes for an answer. They didn't. Now 10 times House Democrats have passed legislation to open up government. In between then and now, I said to the president we should find a mutually agreeable date when government is open to do this. What has changed is that the Senate has refused to take yes for an answer. And maybe today that will do it. Because what we passed this week was -- you give me an opportunity to say this. We first sent them what they did, pure and simple, Senate Republican leadership legislation. They said no. They said no. Why would they say no when they passed it 92 to six, in some cases 100, unanimously in committee, and sometimes with the vote of Mitch McConnell, as an appropriator? Republicans on this side said, why would we just pass something the Senate did when we negotiated these bills and we have conferences on them? So we said, OK, this week, we'll bring up the bill as conferenced House and Senate. Still they said no. We gave them what they asked for and still not enough Democrats -- Republicans voted for it. We had the votes to pass it in the House. That is another thing that the Senate could take up.

Today is simple. It's about $12 billion for disaster assistance, plus two weeks of open up government. Who can say no to that? For two weeks, we can have this debate.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You didn't think the government would be shut down?

PELOSI: No, I did not. Especially since we were giving back what they gave us. I guess I had better hopes for the concern that the Republicans in the Senate might have for the concerns of working people in our country.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: House Democrats are negotiating behind the scenes a counteroffer?

PELOSI: That's not true. That's not true.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you considering something like that?

PELOSI: No. We are doing what we had been doing all along. We had been working on our congressional responsibility to write bills, appropriation bills to keep government open. Many of those bills have come to the floor again and again just this week. The Homeland Security bill was not finished. Hopefully, it will be finished soon and out of that you will see our commitment to border security.

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: It's not in negotiation behind the scenes or anything like that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it not the case that you are here on a $5.7 billion bill that would not include money for the wall but would include money for border security? [11:15:01] PELOSI: Within our $49 billion Homeland Security bill,

there will be some provisions. You heard about $1.5 billion that I just said here that are not within that bill. They are in Treasury Department and Justice Department. I don't know what they call it anymore. When I was the ranking Democrat, it was called foreign ops, but that foreign ops is the State Department bill. So that's $1.5 billion. But separate from that is the Homeland Security bill. Within that, we will have some of our proposals for what comes next.

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaker, why not commensurate this weekend?

PELOSI: Many will be here this weekend. Some will be home listening to the stories and commiserating with those who have lost their jobs. As you probably know, while people think that the Washington area as the place where most federal employees are, they are in fact all over the country, in my district, as well. Some will be here this afternoon. We'll have some -- after the Senate acts, hoping they'll accept $12 billion for disaster assistance and two weeks to open up government, end the shutdown, so that we can negotiate. If that doesn't happen, we will be telling the stories of these families. Some will be here. Some won't be here. But all of them are on notice to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why not be in session?

PELOSI: If we have some vote that we can take, we will be in session. That is not a closed case. I'm still optimistic. I'm still optimistic in the goodness of the Republicans in the Senate that they will care enough about these people, that they will say, OK, we will give two weeks so that we can negotiate an evidence-based, cost- effective, value-respecting way to protect the American people with border security. That doesn't seem like a big ask, especially since we still need to pass the disaster assistance. That is a simple ask. Senators, I don't think we can speak to them in that way. My hope is that the Senators will pass a bill that addresses the concerns of the disaster assistance $12 billion. We need to pass that legislation, A, and, B, two weeks, February 8, short period of time, open up government. Let the negotiations continue or begin at a certain stage so that we can honor the work that these people are doing, deflect those on the Republican side who want to shrink government. This is one way to engineer that. Be respectful of how we are protected in our civil aviation and the security that the FBI provides for us in so many ways --

BOLDUAN: Right there, we have been listening to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her weekly press conference. We are getting a lot of information from her on the state of play. In summary, it looks like things are still going nowhere.

Let me bring in CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for the "Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich, and CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston. Mark, checking on this if you heard something differently. What I

heard from Nancy Pelosi is she is happy is that State of the Union is off the table. Second, she says Democrats are not negotiating behind the scenes. Third, she shows no signs that she is going to be moving off her position. And clearly, President Trump was watching this live because he just tweeted about Nancy and said, his term, Nancy, quote, "We will not cave."

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We are nowhere near resolution. That is the bottom line. At this point in time, we might as well be at the beginning of all of this. President Trump --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It feels exactly like that, Mark. It feels like we are at the beginning again.

PRESTON: We are. A couple of things are at play. Nobody wants to give in and wants to be the loser, so to speak. If you are House Democrats, politically, they are in a position where they don't have to give. That is why you saw Nancy Pelosi stand firm. The question is, will we start to see the president give a little bit? And by not doing a State of the Union or an alternative State of the Union somewhere on Tuesday night, you have to wonder, is he moving in the direction of compromise. Had he held that State of the Union, Kate? Could you imagine what it would have shown for the State of the Union, the division, the anger? It would have been quite a spectacle on Tuesday night.

BOLDUAN: No kidding.

Jackie, can we dispel the myth that we hear all the time, which is you have Donald Trump regularly tweeting, "I'm here. I'm at the White House. I'm ready to talk. Where are you Democrats?" And Nancy Pelosi saying today Democrats will meet with the president whenever he would like.

[11:20:14] JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. The fact is that they are not there yet. They're just not. Everyone is where they should be in terms of -- even if they weren't, they can get there. So there's also telephones, and all sorts of ways that they can communicate at this point. They are not there yet. They are still politically posturing. All these workers are going to miss their paychecks tomorrow. I think the conventional wisdom is that anything that is going to become law is going to have to start in the Senate. Whatever can get 60 votes will be the thing that ends up ending the shutdown. We are just not there yet.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Even if we are not there yet --

KUCINICH: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- does that mean -- that sometimes, we know with Congress, Jackie, that you have to prove what you can't do before you can loosen up what can be done. Even if when we are talking about measures that will be procedural votes that will happen today, they are likely to fail.

KUCINICH: Right.

BOLDUAN: Is there any view from your sources on the Hill that that could shake something loose?

KUNICICH: I think that is the optimism that is seeping through the cracks that perhaps this shows, in black and white, where they are at this point. There will be some Senators that cross the aisle on both sides of this. You just had Senator Manchin say he will vote for both proposals. I think there are a couple Republicans and Democrats that are going to do that.

That said, Kate, what that ends up being at the end of the day, I have absolutely no idea. I don't think the White House does either because frankly they have been really bad about reaching out across the aisle to Democrats that might actually agree with them. The negotiations here, it's been very J.V.

BOLDUAN: J.V. We need some varsity. We need it fast. I'm serious.

KUCINICH: Right.

BOLDUAN: Mark, there are a couple of things I want to get through with you guys. Nancy Pelosi talks about a couple of them. They're really headlines in terms of the state of play and the risks, warnings that people are talking about the shutdown. This letter, Mark, from former Homeland Security secretaries is brutal. They call it unconscionable that DHS employees need to rely on charity to get by now. The importance of the letter is not just that. The letter is signed by John Kelly, who was the president's chief of staff when the shutdown started. You cannot make this stuff up.

PRESTON: You can't make this stuff up. But you can make it up because we are in the Trump presidency. You would expect the insanity like this to happen. It does say something, Kate. It does say something to have his chief of staff, who is at the beginning of this, now saying this has got to end. It has got to end for very obvious reasons. It is outrageous that the government is shut down because there's a fight over whether Democrats will give funding for a wall that is needed or not need along the southern border. I do think -- and one thing Nancy Pelosi did say -- and you had to go through her Q&A a little bit there -- is that the transportation industry, that is when people will really start to feel this. You are at your airports and have long lines, that's when people will start to feel this.

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: Or tax season right around the corner. When people aren't getting tax returns, there's a lot of people to feel that.

BOLDUAN: Guys, as you were talking I'm getting breaking news in I want to get to. Breaking news, the president's former attorney, Michael Cohen, he is

now facing a subpoena. He is now being subpoenaed to testify on Capitol Hill.

Let's get to Kara Scannell. She has more details. This thing is quite important.

Kara, what have you got?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Kate. So sources close to Michael Cohen tells my colleagues, Gloria Borger and Pamela Brown, that Michael Cohen received a subpoena today from the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify in mid-February. The source close to Cohen tells Pam and Gloria that he has some of the same concerns he had for the reasons why he postponed his hearing with the House Oversight Committee, the threat he says he received from the president and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani. It's not clear, the source says, how Cohen will respond to the subpoena. We know the Senate Intelligence Committee has conducted a lot of their hearings behind closed doors in private. We are not clear at this point whether the terms of this subpoena would be for testimony in closed session or public session. Our new information is that the Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Michael Cohen for testimony in mid-February. Cohen reports to prison in early March to serve out his three-year prison term -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: We want to make sure we have more background. This is a fascinating time because this comes out, Kara, because this comes on the heels of Michael Cohen declining to testify before the House Oversight Committee because he says because of threats that he, his family, his in-laws were getting from President Trump and from President Trump's attorney. It's fascinating that this comes right on the heels of that.

[11:25:18] SCANNELL: That's right. It follows, just yesterday, Michael Cohen said that he was not going to show up in February when he is supposed to be at the House Oversight Committee saying because of the threats he received from the president. The president tweeting and in interviews, bringing up Michael Cohen's father-in-law and his wife. Cohen viewed that as threats to him. It was witness intimidation is how he saw it. So he postponed that testimony. The Democrats on the Oversight Committee and on House Intelligence said that it was never not an option for Michael Cohen to come in and testify. And the question was looming whether either of those committees would subpoena him. We are seeing today, just on the heels of Michael Cohen's postponement yesterday, that the Senate Intel Committee has subpoenaed him for his testimony in mid-February -- Kate?

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

Joining me now, Elie Honig, CNN legal analyst, former prosecutor, and former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent, now a CNN commentator.

Thanks, guys, so much for being here. Elie, just we have a lot to talk about with Michael Cohen. Your reaction that Cohen is being subpoenaed. Kara points out a lot of what the Senate Intelligence Committee does behind closed doors. It's not clear that this is going to be done for a public hearing in any way. More details to come. What do you think of this?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it is a strategic counter punch to what we saw yesterday, to Michael Cohen hearing threats to the president and Rudy Giuliani, and announcing, I'm not going to be voluntarily testifying. There's an easy way and a hard way. The easy way is he will come in voluntarily under agreed-upon conditions. He backed out of that yesterday. We can talk about why and whether he was threatened out of that. So now the only recourse -- and I realize this is coming from the Senate -- is a subpoena, which compels him, which means he really has no choice but to appear and answer questions now. So I think this was the Senate's way of making sure before he goes to prison in early March we get him out there and get him on record.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, what do you make of this? The House Oversight, he is declining to appear. There has been talk about a subpoena for a long time if he wasn't going to come voluntarily. And then Senate Intel putting this out. What do you think?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What I think, in the aftermath of the "BuzzFeed" story, which was of course disputed, maybe denied by the special counsel, I think the Democrats are just dying to ask Michael Cohen publicly, did the president direct you or ask you or order you to lie the last time you spoke to us here in the Congress. They weren't asked that question. Of course, Republicans on the committee are also itching to ask him some questions. To say, Mr. Cohen, you lied to us the last time you were here. Why should we expect you to tell the truth this time? You will hear this for hours. I think that is really the politics of this. Of course, this man will testify. Of course, the president, through his tweets about the father-in-law and the wife, those are certainly threatening and one could argue witness intimidation. This guy is going to appear, particularly after the "BuzzFeed" story.

BOLDUAN: Elie, what is your take on -- this comes from -- we heard this earlier today from Michael Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, saying that, in his view, the threats that they perceive coming from Donald Trump and from Rudy Giuliani, he says this amounts to witness tampering. I think we have a sound byte. Let me play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANNY DAVIS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: The House of Representatives now has an obligation, a resolution of censure, when the president of the United States indisputably intimidates and obstructs justice to prevent a witness from testifying, is an order and so is a criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani for witness tampering, calling out a man's father-in-law and wife in order to intimidate the witness is not fair game.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Is this witness tampering?

HONIG: It could well be. Let me give background. It is very common, in real-life criminal trials, for defense lawyers to make aggressive statements about cooperators. The defense lawyer stood up in the courtroom and said, we're going to destroy this person, we're going to show he's a liar --

(CROSSTALK)

HONIG: Yes. We're going to destroy him as a fraud. The jury is going to hate him. That happens all the time. But I think it is understood, you are talking about what is going to happen inside the courtroom. Where I think the president and Rudy Giuliani crossed the line is the threats seem to be, we are going to damage this person and his family outside of the court. We will open up an investigation of the father-in-law. To me, that crosses sort of an unspoken line. Legally speaking, the bar for tampering the witness is quite low. It is any effort to influence, delay or postpone the testimony. I think the statements that Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump made, particularly getting the family involved, cross the line from your accepted hard- ball tactics to potential obstruction.

[12:00:01] BOLDUAN: In the immediate aftermath, Congressman, when Michael Cohen said he wasn't going to testify this week, it was Democrats --