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Bills to Reopen Government Fail to Pass; Commerce Secretary Expresses Confusion Over Why Furloughed Federal Workers Need Food Pantries; Dire Warnings From FBI, TSA, Air Traffic Controllers & More as Shutdown Hits Day 34. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 24, 2019 - 16:00   ET



JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And I bet the Department of Justice is currently very busy ignoring that. So, I don't think anything is happening there.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Jennifer Rodgers, good to see you. Thank you very much.

And thank you so much for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let them eat Trump Steak.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Dead on arrival. Plans to end the government shutdown meet their ends in the Senate today, as the people who make sure planes don't crash warn the situation is deteriorating by the day.

Ordered to talk. The Senate panel subpoenas President Trump's former fixer a day after Michael Cohen said he would not testify publicly because of alleged threats from the president.

Plus, President Trump and Vladimir Putin clashing over a political crisis in the U.S.' backyard. Will President Trump stand firm for change in Venezuela?

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin breaking news in the politics lead.

Moments ago, the Senate holding two votes on two different ways out of this stalemate, one with border wall money, one without. Both failed.

Yet the bill without funding for the wall garnered two more votes overall, with six Republican senators breaking from President Trump. And as the federal government continues to inflict this pain on its own citizens, all because of President Trump's demand for a border wall, the message from the Trump administration and Trump reelection campaign has not really recently seemed to be one of sympathy for the furloughed workers.

It's been this:


QUESTION: There are some federal workers who are going to homeless shelters to get food.


And I don't really quite understand why, because, as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake, say, of borrowing from a bank or a credit union, are, in effect, federally guaranteed.

So, the 30 days of pay that some people will be out is no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it.

LARA TRUMP, DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: This is so much bigger than any one person. It is a little bit of pain, but it's going to be for the future of our country.


TAPPER: Go get a loan. Just a little bit of pain.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and senior adviser to the Trump campaign Lara Trump are now trying to clarify that they are, indeed, sympathetic to the plight of the 800,000 unpaid federal workers, not to mention federal contractors who won't see back pay, and all of those who depend upon all of them for their own businesses, cab drivers, lunch truck workers, and on and on.

Still, to many of those suffering, those comments assuredly today sounded a bit Marie Antoinette-esque, particularly given that tomorrow will mark the second pay stub that will read 0.00, a full month of no pay.

CNN's Abby Phillip starts off our coverage from the White House.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Accusations of tone-deafness today, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wonders out loud why furloughed federal workers are relying on food banks to make ends meet.

ROSS: I know they are. And I don't really quite understand why, because, as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake, say, of borrowing from a bank or a credit union, are, in effect, federally guaranteed.

So, the 30 days of pay that some people will be out is no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it.

PHILLIP: Ross, who is estimated to be worth $700 million, seemingly out of touch with workers who will soon have missed two paychecks. But after several hours of scrutiny on social media and cable TV, Ross

tried to clean it up.

ROSS: All I was trying to do is make sure that they're aware that there are possible other things that could help somewhat mitigate their problems.

PHILLIP: His comments coming after this from the president's daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump talking about the impacted federal workers.

TRUMP: It's not fair to you, and we all get that. But this is so much bigger than any one person. It is a little bit of pain, but it's going to be for the future of our country.

PHILLIP: Democrats pounced on the seemingly tone-deaf comments.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Many of these federal employees live paycheck to paycheck. Secretary Ross, they just can't call their stockbroker and ask them to sell some of their shares. They need that paycheck.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't know, is this the "Let them eat cake" kind of attitude?

PHILLIP: Meantime, in a late-night tweet, Trump backing down from his latest conflict with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeting that he would not seek to deliver the State of the Union address at another location after Pelosi pulled her invitation to do the address in the House chamber, citing the shutdown.

White House aides brainstormed alternative venues for the speech for days, but none appeal to the president. Pelosi taking note of Trump's uncharacteristic retreat.


PELOSI: Thank you for recognizing that it's inappropriate to have a State of the Union address.


PHILLIP: Now that both Senate proposals have failed on the Senate floor, there are signs that talks may be resuming.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate, just walked into Mitch McConnell's office on the Hill to talk about the path forward.

And we are learning that White House aides are considering convening yet another meeting of what they're calling the Gang of 8 here, the leaders on both sides in the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, to come back to the White House.

That might be there their first meeting in over two weeks since President Trump had that infamous Situation Room meeting that he stormed out of -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, it's incredible. They haven't even spoken, the Democratic leaders, with the president in more than two weeks.

Abby Phillip, thank you so much.

I want to play another part that's not getting as much attention from that Wilbur Ross interview on CNBC. This is about the 800,000 federal employees who have not been paid. As a tomorrow, it will be a full month of not being paid. Take a listen.


ROSS: Put it in perspective. You're talking about 800,000 workers.

And while I feel sorry for the individuals that have hardship cases, 800,000 workers, if they never got their pay, which is not the case, they will eventually get it, but if they never got it, you're talking about a third of a percent on our GDP.

So it's not like it's a gigantic number overall.


TAPPER: So, you're a Republican pollster. You provide message points and talking advice.



TAPPER: No, I'm not holding you responsible. I'm saying, is that not the exact opposite of what you would want?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Yes, yes. That's about the exact opposite, because, look, where do I even start?

First of all, talking about this in terms of GDP is the wrong approach, because just, I believe, yesterday, with Kevin Hassett, one of the president's chief economic advisers, say we might actually have zero percent GDP growth because of the shutdown.

So, that's number one. Number two, 800,000 workers not getting paid for a month, there's polling out yesterday where people asked, how many paychecks could you miss before it would get bad for you and you couldn't pay for your bills? And for over half of America, the answer is two or more paychecks, that that is when things get really bad. And that is what is about to happen.

This is not just about GDP, although that story is going to be ugly on its own. This is absolutely not the way to talk about what this shutdown is about.

TAPPER: In fact, let me just put up that poll that you just referred to. It's from FOX News. And it shows that 54 percent of the American people say that they

can't miss any one or two paychecks. And that's where these 800,000 workers are.

Chuck Schumer seized on the comments of Wilbur Ross, not surprisingly. Take a listen, David.


SCHUMER: Those comments are appalling and reveal the administration's callous indifference toward the federal workers it is treating as pawns.

Secretary Ross' comments are the 21st century equivalent of let them eat cake.


TAPPER: The president has been pretty good about staying on his message, which this is about national security, this is about national security. He hasn't really expressed sympathy for the workers, but he has stayed on the message.

I have to believe you're not a big fan of Wilbur Ross' comments.


DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's insensitive and just not -- and he went back out and tried to clean it up.

Look, everyone around this table has worked for people or been in situations where their boss has gone out and said something they need to back. You need to walk that back.

Look, what's being overlooked, I think, though, is a vote that took place in the House yesterday, on a rule, right? If you're the minority, there's not many ways you can bring things up. But the Republicans put forth a bill under a rule where the government wouldn't reopen, but all the federal workers would receive their paycheck for January.

And it was defeated. But it did get about -- I think it got 10 or 12 Democratic votes. The Democrats have had an opportunity. If they were really, really sincere about their concern for these 800,000 workers, they could have said listen, we will vote to give these folks their paycheck and we will continue to negotiate. Right?

If they were really concerned, that would have gotten some play. I see that picked up nowhere in the news that story got picked up, that 10 Democrats, a little -- some folks fell off. There's a vote last week. I think six folks voted with Republicans, six Democrats.

I think about another six joined with them this time. And so there's going to be some maneuvering someplace along here. Everyone is looking for an exit ramp. Nobody wants to see people continue to suffer. And so maybe that's a way forward. SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me say why -- let me

tell you why it didn't get any play, because Democrats at this point in House have voted nine, 10 times actually to actually just reopen the government and make sure...


URBAN: But that's a nonstarter, Symone.


SANDERS: I don't understand why it's a nonstarter, though, because Republicans before Christmas voted on the same bill.


TAPPER: In the Senate.


SANDERS: Pardon me, yes, Republicans in the Senate.

And so when the House brought up the same bill, the only reason -- if we just all want to be honest, the only reason Republicans are not going along with these bills that they previously -- at least in the Senate -- voted for is because Donald Trump has signaled he won't sign them.



SANDERS: But Congress, guess what, it's written, there's a failsafe for this.

If the president won't sign something and if everyone believes the government should be open, then pass something that's veto-proof.


URBAN: That's not reality.


TAPPER: The Democratic bill in the Senate got two more votes than the Republican bill, and six Republicans broke and voted with the Democrats on that.

How does this end, do you think? You have been through shutdowns, but not any this long.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, how it typically ends is that we vote -- or Democrats and Republicans vote on a clean C.R. and they agree to negotiate about other issues.

I think that's what Democrats have been proposing for some time. It seems like,if you look at the vote today, that there are a number of Republicans, especially ones who are vulnerable in 2020, who are open to that.

Let's just get the government open and then let's have a discussion.


URBAN: You may have to explain to America what a clean C.R. is.


TAPPER: A government funding bill without any border...


URBAN: Just flat-lines it.

PSAKI: A government funding bill that would allow the government to open, but it wouldn't have a lot of issues on both sides.


PSAKI: And so my bet is that's what we end up with.

This is ultimately up to President Trump. But if you look at all the polling that's come out over the past 24 hours about this, his argument on national security is not working; 60 percent of the public blames him and they are angrier about the shutdown than they are concerned about national security. So, there's a political calculation for him as well.

TAPPER: David, let me just ask you, because the polling is horrible for the president. And it keeps getting worse.

The American people, whether you think that it's fair or not, they're holding President Trump responsible.

URBAN: Sure. Well, he did say I'm responsible for the shutdown.



TAPPER: Right. That's one reason why. And they're holding him responsible. And his approval is sinking, even with his own supporters.

URBAN: Yes, look, I think it's a bad look for everybody when the government doesn't work. Right?

People in America send people to Washington to work. Right? This government should function. That's what you're sent here to do, sent here to negotiate, legislators are to legislate. Executive branch is to lead.

And that's all missing right now. It's a bad look for everybody. The government needs to reopen. The president needs to come to the middle, the speaker needs to move to the middle, and need to figure this out.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

A TSA worker with two little girls and an ill father for whom he's caring is about to miss his second paycheck. How is he supposed to focus on doing that important job with that hanging over his head -- and he's hardly the only one feeling the pain -- while trying to keep you safe in that airplane?

Stay with us.


[16:16:24] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The national lead now. The federal employees say the shutdown is putting your safety and that of your family at risk. Union representatives of air trafficker controllers say some workers are stretched thin and stressed out, finding it difficult to focus on landing planes because they are distracted by fears about how they're going to, say, feed their children.

As CNN's Alex Marquardt reports, the shutdown prompted by President Trump in the name of national security, is making us all less safe.


ALEX NAFFA, TSA OFFICER: Not getting paid is a serious problem that really needs to end and I really hope it does soon.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alex Naffa is a TSA officer in Houston, a dad to two little girls, who is also taking care of his own ailing father and about to miss his second paycheck in a row.

NAFFA: No money for the mortgage, for the cars, for the insurance, for the bills that we have. It's been very tough on all of us.

MARQUARDT: Now the threat to American flyers is also growing. Air traffic controllers, who are also going without pay, issuing a warning.

We cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.

PAUL RINALDI, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: I'm starting to see routine mistakes in clearances being made because controllers are distracted.

MARQUARDT: As federal workers suffer, the impact is being felt within the agencies and departments they work for, particularly when it comes to national security.

THOMAS O'CONNOR, PRESIDENT, FBI AGENTS ASSOCIATION: For special agents, financial security is national security. MARQUARDT: A report from the FBI Agents Association said that

operations, including fighting terrorism and developing critical sources, are being affected with dramatic potential consequences.

O'CONNOR: The failure to fund the FBI is making it more difficult for us to do our jobs, to protect the people of our country from criminals and terrorists.

MARQUARDT: Another group tasked with protecting the country, Coast Guard, also not being funded. A Coast Guard pilot telling CNN that flights are being canceled because pilots are stressed and feeling unsafe, saying flying is unforgiving. You have to be 100 percent focused or people die.

And with the Coast Guard's parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security also without funding, five former homeland security secretaries, including the president's former chief of staff, John Kelly, who was leading the west wing when the shutdown started, sent the president and Congress a letter, asking that they fund the critical mission of DHS.

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I fear that the damage is already do already done to our security will be months if not years as a result.


MARQUARDT: Jake, we touched on the Coast Guard there. And adding to their pain, a spokesman tells me with the shutdown, the families of any Coast Guard member who dies in the line of duty today or retired member who dies today would not receive their loved one's benefits as long as the shutdown lasts -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alex Marquardt, thanks so much.

Let's continue the conversation with my experts.

Jen Psaki, let me ask you this.

Here's a really interesting poll number, a new CBS News poll finds 71 percent of Americans say building a border wall is not worth shutting down the government. That's not a surprise. But this part is: 52 percent say they want Democrats to agree to a budget with wall funding and reopening the government. They just want the government open.

They say President Trump, put together -- you know, sign something without the wall. Democrats sign something with the wall. Just open the government.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's the sentiment across the country. There's no question. And I think there's been a limited amount of tolerance across the country. We were just talking about how it's because it's just starting to impact people's everyday lives.

You have 800,000 workers. It's starting to impact airport. It's going to start to impact, you know, business and that's when people really feel it.

[16:20:05] So, I certainly think that's reflecting it.

I will say that the majority of people still don't want the bill to have a wall.

TAPPER: Right.

PSAKI: The Senate and House have passed bills that doesn't have funding for a wall and Trump hasn't signed it. And there's one hold up right there --

TAPPER: Of course.

PSAKI: -- in that whole category.

TAPPER: But, Symone, 52 percent of the American people in this poll, CBS News, saying Democrats pass a bill with wall funding to open the government, I want you to do it. Twenty-four percent of Democrats, one out of four Democrats went along with that.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But Jen is talking about the real sentiment people are feeling across this country.

One of my good friends is a federal prosecutor here in D.C. and she's -- I was talking to her the other day, she said it's both sides. I said it's not both sides. She said, OK, fine, it isn't both sides, but at this point, I just need the government open. She said, I have two children. I cannot afford to keep my babysitter.

But the reality for Democrats on the Hill is if you capitulate and cave to President Trump's -- he is essentially --

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There it is, America. Here it is. Here it is.

SANDERS: It's what it is, literally holding the lives of 800,000-plus people in limbo over his border wall, he now has a leverage every single time he does not get what he wants.

URBAN: So don't give an inch. Don't give an inch.

SANDERS: I mean, unfortunately, this is what Democrats are up against, when you cave to the president.

URBAN: It's not caving. It's called negotiating.

SANDERS: This is not a negotiation. We don't give you that (INAUDIBLE)

TAPPER: But, David, you know this is not normally how things are appropriated. This is not normally how policy got done.

URBAN: It's not -- for a decade now the appropriations process hasn't gone as normal, right? This is not Schoolhouse Rock of a bill on Capitol Hill, right? TAPPER: This is even more abnormal than normal.

URBAN: It's been completely abnormal. Listen, they should have two- year budget cycles. They should do lots of things. Appropriations bills linger. There have been CRs and omnibuses and minibuses, right?

SANDERS: That's not what's happening here.


URBAN: Listen, we are where we are, right? And its' going to require two parties to come together and the speaker to come to the table.

TAPPER: So, there was a letter to President Trump from a bunch of former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, calling on him to open the Department of Homeland Security, to fund the critical mission of DHS. Among the people signing that letter, former DHS secretary, former Trump White House chief of staff John Kelly.

He actually was in charge -- he was White House chief of staff at least at the White House 34 days ago when it passed.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: Yes. There are an awful lot of people who want the government open and they range from being really Republican to being really Democratic. The poll you just mentioned where you have a majority of people saying, look, just give him the wall. Just open the government or give him the wall. You have 43 percent of people in that trade-off still said, don't give him the wall. Keep the government closed.

But they asked the other version of the question, what should Trump do? They said, should he reopen the government without wall funding or should he hold the line? And on that question, only 31 percent of people say President Trump should hold the line.

That's why you're beginning to see that today in the Senate, more Republicans giving way than Democrats giving way because the coalition of those who say don't give an inch is bigger on the Democratic side than the Republican side these days.

URBAN: Right, sure.

TAPPER: We've also heard people, from David Gergen to John Kelly in this letter expressing concern about what this is going to means about talented people staying in the federal government which you don't really do for the money.


TAPPER: John Kelly writing that letter as the shutdown drags on, the Department of Homeland Security also risks talented people leaving their posts to pursue employment in the private sector.

URBAN: Look, I don't know about that. I'm not so concerned about people leaving. I really have an opinion on that. To Kristen's point, Democrats have way more risk here than the Republicans, right? So, the folks this past election 2018, it's a huge wave of really, really progressive, let's put it that way, liberal progressive, if you will, AOC and others who get elected to Congress and Democrats and the speaker fear those folks.

PSAKI: David, no.


TAPPER: Hold on.

URBAN: Come on.

PSAKI: That's just an inaccurate. You're an expert on Trump. You're not expert on the Democrats. I would say Nancy Pelosi --

URBAN: That's not true.

PSAKI: -- has never been more powerful than she is today. It has unified the Democrats. You have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, you have more moderate Democrats all unified in this belief that there shouldn't be funding in this. They're happy to discuss, if you said to me that Democrats -- she's in a difficult place, some for different version of border security, that's true. And if they have that discussion, that will be a harder discussion for Democrats. But right now --

URBAN: The speaker cannot be seen as giving an inch. You just heard Symone.


PSAKI: Let me finish. As it relates to opening the government, this has been a unifying effort by Trump to unify the Democrats. That's where they sit now.

SANDERS: There's an argument to be made. The president invited the freshmen members of congress, who won in Trump districts to the White House and they all declined the invitation. So that lets you know where --


URBAN: Right, that lets you know they're not willing to negotiate. Exactly my point.

TAPPER: Quick break now.

Coming up, subpoenaed. President Trump's ex-lawyer just ordered to testify before the Senate. Will Michael Cohen actually show up before he has to go to prison?


[16:29:33] TAPPER: Welcome back.

Michael Cohen slapped with a subpoena by the Senate Intelligence Committee today, demanding he testify in February before reporting to prison. This comes as Cohen's legal adviser Lanny Davis is calling on Congress to act after what he claims are clear, intimidating threats from President Trump and Rudy Giuliani toward his client.


LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S LEGAL ADVISER: 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, so is a federal criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani for witness tampering.