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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

U.S. Backs Venezuelan Opposition Leader Guaido As President; Russia Backs Maduro, Continuing To Supply His Government With Cash; Interview With Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Sanders: Trump Will Consider Deal with "Down Payment On Wall". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 24, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 in order, so is a federal criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani for witness tampering.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:30:12] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Witness tampering, of course, is a very strong charge. Lanny Davis, Symone, today said that Cohen would honor the subpoena from Congress, the question is whether it's going to be public or private. Do you think that the things that -- the comments that the president has made about looking to put Michael Cohen's father in law, do you think that amounts to witness tampering?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's intimidation. I think the House of Representatives should do an investigation and I think this is just more fodder for Robert Mueller, just adding to the pile of things he might need to look into.

But I do think it amounts to intimidation. This is the president of the United States actively speaking out, forcefully against him, throwing out a salacious rumors about what someone who has clearly come out to testify against him, about something that his family member is doing. So, I think it is absolutely an attempt to intimidate Michael Cohen and have him not testify. But I don't know if the House of Representatives will take their cues from Lanny Davis on what they should be doing to the president.

TAPPER: Take a listen, David, to -- I'm sure you would advise the president not to tweet things like that. You've been saying things like that for two years. But I want you to listen to what he said on Fox News last month and get your take on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did he make a deal to keep his father-in-law out? Did he make a deal to keep his wife who supposedly -- maybe I'm wrong but you can check it. Did he make a deal to keep his wife out of trouble?

Now, how many people -- when they say, listen, if you embarrass the president of the United States, we'll give you a deal? Your father- in-law, your wife, we'll cut you a deal. That's all it is. It's a terrible system we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I think we can probably all agree it's inappropriate for him to say. Does that count as intimidation?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I mean, the president -- law enforcement knows what law enforcement knows already about Michael Cohen's father, brother, sister, mother. The SDNY has been -- if you look at the search warrants that were executed, they were looking specifically for those types of items dealing with taxi cab medallions that he entered into with his father-in-law and his wife. So, they're well aware, SDNY and prosecutors and investigators know all this stuff already.

This is throwing a little dart in the air, to look over here. Look at these things, right? Changing the media narrative. That's what the president is doing. I don't think it's intimidation.

TAPPER: Do you -- take a listen to Senator Richard Blumenthal who's a former federal prosecutor and Connecticut attorney general. He's on the Judiciary Committee -- commenting on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Clearly, there's a violation here of 18 United States code 15.12 which protects against intimidation of witnesses. He would be prosecuted but for his being president. And I believe that a sitting president can be indicted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: David is the only attorney at the table but --

URBAN: I was a bond lawyer. Always caveat.

TAPPER: A bond lawyer, still the only one with a JD.

But what is your impression? Do you -- does it seem to you as a civilian like intimidation?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: Well, it seems like he's trying to bring down the guy who is trying to bring him down, that he's trying to sort of muddy the waters and make it seem like, oh, all of these people coming after me are dirty. You can't trust any of them. That's been a sort of consistent message coming from the president.

And he is trying to fight that battle because I believe that he thinks that legally he will not be -- Mueller is not going to come for him personally. So, most of what he needs to do is win the political battle. You win that by trying to tear down the people who are on the other side.

TAPPER: I've heard a lot of people and a few Democrats speculating that Democrats have too much invested in this, that whatever Mueller comes forward with, it's going to stink but it probably won't bring down president Trump and might not even touch President Trump.

Do you think that Democrats and we -- of course, caveat, we have no idea. But do you think the Democrats are too invested in this investigation, too invested in what Robert Mueller ultimately produces?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think we have all, Democrats, all Democrats and many others, have put this bulls' eye on when the Mueller investigation is concluded, when the report comes out.

And sure, there's a risk. If there is nothing in that report which every day that passes seems less and less likely. We don't know. Only Robert Mueller knows. It's going to be tough after that. Democrats are going to have to kind of re-jigger their strategy.

Now, I will say that two years ago after the 2016 election, there was a fear within the party that we had no future, that there was kind of nobody who could lead and no leadership. And now we have all these candidates coming out. We could legitimately run and defeat Donald Trump, I'm confident, with all the people who are out there. It's just a different strategy than running against a president that has a very problematic --

URBAN: Look, I think Democrats are just waiting to see what the report says before rejiggering any strategy.

PSAKI: Of course, that's the point.

TAPPER: We have breaking news just in.

There seems to be some movement on the shutdown stalemate from the White House this minute.

CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House for us right now.

Abby, what do you know?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jake, there is some movement. Perhaps the first movement we've had in a couple of weeks now. A new statement from Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, saying this, I'll just read it to you.

Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Schumer are meeting now to see whether or not they can work out of the deadlock.

[16:35:03] As was made clear to Senator Lindsey Graham, the three-week C.R. would only work if there is a large down payment on the wall.

So, two things here. One is that the White House is signaling that President Trump is willing to consider a short-term bill to reopen the government, to fund the government for a short period of time if it comes along with a payment -- a down payment on the wall. How much that dollar figure is is still unknown, but that is a change from his position, which was $5.7 billion for the wall. That's what he has been demanding since December.

Now, the second part about this is that Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer are talking. They just completed that meeting. As Chuck Schumer was walking out of the meeting, he kept repeating, we're talking. We're talking.

So, this is, for the first time really, a sense that the two sides are back at some kind of negotiation table. We're talking about a short term extension of funding. The real question is, what is the down payment on the wall mean and are Democrats willing to accept that, Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Abby Phillip at the White House with that breaking news, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this.

Symone Sanders, what -- I mean, would Democrats give $100,000 for this, $1 million for the wall?

SANDERS: Donald Trump is saying what he has been saying, he will not reopen the government without money for his wall. Just because now he's saying, OK, I'll take a three-week C.R. with money for my wall, instead of taking C.R. that will fund the government for -- that will fund these agencies for whatever the time was in the C.R. He already included.

So, again, I think -- I caution folks to -- just because Donald Trump came out with just a little -- some additional language sprinkled on top of what he has been saying, Leader Pelosi has been clear -- Speaker Pelosi, pardon me, has been clear. Open the government and we will negotiate.

But until you open the government, we can't give you money for your wall. We can give you money for border security. But again, Donald Trump literally said we can do a three-week C.R. if you give me down payment on the wall. That's what he's been saying. Except now, we just don't know how much it is.

TAPPER: He did cave on the whole State of the Union issue. I guess it was today, that Nancy Pelosi said -- he dared Nancy Pelosi to un- invite him. She uninvited him.

He said -- you know, there's all these questions. Is he going to show up anyway, give a speech anyway? He ultimately said, OK, I'll go along with it. Do you see in this something different than what Symone sees?

URBAN: Listen, I mean, he said a down payment, right? So, down payment, you know, you get -- I think this is an exit -- sounds like the beginning of an exit ramp that everyone could claim victory. Democrats don't have to give him the full amount. TAPPER: I have to interrupt you. The White House just issued that

same statement except they added the word "large" before down payment.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Like I said.

URBAN: There you go. So, they're not going to take Symone's hundred thousand bucks. So, what's the number, right?

TAPPER: Symone wasn't offering that. I was.

URBAN: So, Jen pointed out here during the break, you know, correctly, it allows the State of the Union to go forward. Everybody gets something out of this, right? Seems like a beginning. You let Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer do it, not Nancy Pelosi, right? So --

PSAKI: Look, I think that the reason that Nancy Pelosi did what she did or a big reason that she did what she did on the State of the Union is because she knew that this is a vulnerability for Donald Trump. That's the sign of a good negotiator. Go where it pained and they may respond.

So, if this allows him to give the State of the Union, I think it depends on what a large amount is.

TAPPER: Yes.

PSAKI: There are also ways, sorry, that Democrats have tricked Trump in the past and authorized without appropriating things or said we can discuss X amount for a wall. All of those are possibilities. Some of it is semantics.

Trump wants to have the ability to climb his way out of this. So, I think the question is publicly, is there a way to climb his way out of this without the Democrats giving too much?

ANDERSON: A couple of weeks ago on this show, I said here is the spoiler alert. Here is how this ends. Something gets passed with some kind of money that Nancy Pelosi will say this is not wall money and Trump will kind of go, well, it's wall money or down payment on a wall.

PSAKI: Right.

ANDERSON: And whether it actually goes to build those steel slats on the border or not, both sides will claim victory and that is the way forward. I am now even more confident in that prediction.

SANDERS: More border security money. Democrats have been clear that we will fund border security.

TAPPER: A wall by any other name is still a wall.

Scary standoff in Venezuela that's now pitting President Trump against Russian President Vladimir Putin. And caught in the middle, dozens of U.S. diplomats ordered to leave. Should they go?

I'll ask Senator Marco Rubio of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who's met Trump about this, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:43:53] TAPPER: In our world lead today, international leaders are taking sides with Russian President Putin joining Syria and China and backing Venezuela's autocratic president, Nicolas Maduro -- with the Russian government telling the U.S. to mind its own business.

Maduro's refusal to leave office is setting up a potentially dangerous dynamic with the United States, Canada and a half dozen Latin American countries on the other side, officially recognizing this man, Juan Guaido, as the interim president, after the Venezuelan legislature recognized him as such. Guaido ho swore himself in yesterday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is refusing to pull U.S. diplomats from Venezuela, because the order to do so came from Maduro, a man the U.S. now sees as illegitimate, at least in terms of his presidency.

And CNN's Michelle Kosinski joins me now from the State Department. Michelle, now Maduro is pulling diplomats, Venezuelan diplomats from the U.S.?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and he just now reiterated that U.S. diplomats must leave Venezuela. He is not saying what will happen if they don't. And at the same time, he says he's pulling all Venezuelan diplomats from the U.S. And already, their embassy here is dark with a sign on the door and multiple phone lines disconnected.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: In a Venezuela now deeper in crisis, Nicolas Maduro, the president the U.S. no longer views as president has ordered all American diplomats to pack up and get out in the next 48 hours. But today, a senior State Department official telling CNN that might not happen at all saying, there are no plans to close the embassy. We are closely monitoring the situation.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: Our personnel are still there. they've been invited to stay by the legitimate government and consistent with their safety, that's our intention. But we're working really around the clock here to do what we can to strengthen the new government.

KOSINSKI: The Venezuelan military today announcing it still backs Maduro but the U.S. backs opposition leader Juan Guaido, the self- declared interim president who swore himself in on Wednesday after weeks of turmoil following what many have called a corrupt election in which Maduro claimed victory.

On the streets, thousands have been demonstrating in support of Guido. At least ten have been killed, more than a hundred arrested according to local reports.

IVAN LOPEZ, VENEZUELAN PROTESTER: We have to throw the dictator away. So we need freedom.

KOSINSKI: Also recognizing Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela now dozens of nations around the world. Secretary of State Pompeo today urging, even more, to make that same choice for democracy right now.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: The regime a former President Nicolas Maduro is illegitimate. His regime is morally bankrupt. It is profoundly corrupt. It is undemocratic to the core.

KOSINSKI: But standing firmly behind Maduro, leaders of U.S. ally Turkey as well as Syria, China, and Russia which today delivered its own stern warning to the United States. The Deputy Foreign Minister saying it's already "pouring gas on a fire in an exclusive interview with CNN.

SERGEY RYABKOV, DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIA: The resort to military power would be catastrophic. It would be a huge -- another huge blow to the international system.

KOSINSKI: Yet just last month, Russia sent nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela for training exercises and as a show of support for Maduro. Russia has been supplying the regime with military equipment bailing it out with cash, building a partner in the Americas in exchange for oil and influence, adding yet another layer to Venezuela's precarious struggle for power.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI: And of course everybody is watching what about the safety of those U.S. diplomats in Caracas. Well, now, the State Department is taking pains to stress their safety saying we're prepared to do the things we need to do to make sure we keep our people safe with a full range of government resources ready, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Alright Michelle Kosinski at the State Department, thank you. Joining me now is Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. So Maduro ordered all U.S. diplomats to get out of Venezuela within 72 hours. Secretary of State Pompeo said Maduro doesn't have the authority to do that. Guaido is the is the president, the interim president they're recognizing.

Considering that the military is for the most part backing Maduro as of right now, are American diplomats safe?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, there's two different -- there's a difference between the military generals, the guys that show up at the press conferences with a nice uniforms and the stars and stripes on them. Those guys are going to back Maduro because he's the reason why each of them is stealing money in different ways from some criminal enterprise. But the rank-and-file members are just as hungry as the population. Their family members are in those marches. That's two different things. As far as our diplomats are concerned, look, no matter where they are

in the world, it could be with a friendly country. We never are going to allow our men and women in the Foreign Service to be in danger. I would say that if Maduro or the people around them harm any of them, there will be severe consequences and I'll leave it at that.

But at the same -- I think what the Secretary of State's position is that he doesn't have the authority to ask them to leave or even to cut off diplomatic relations because our relations are with the government of Venezuela and today the legitimate government of Venezuela is the government of President Guaido and that is who we're going to be interacting with.

In fact, he sent a letter to the Secretary of State earlier today requesting humanitarian assistance. The Secretary of State has now approved $20 million of immediate humanitarian assistance and they're working through the logistics of how to position that in a way so that it reaches the Venezuelan people inside of Venezuela.

TAPPER: Well, sir, you just made an allusion to what President Trump has alluded to before which is the idea of the possibility of the use by the U.S. of military force to ensure Maduro is ousted and for stability in Venezuela. I want you to take a listen to what President Trump said when he was asked about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some administration officials told reporters on a conference call that all options are on the table. Are you considering a military option for Venezuela?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not considering anything but all options are on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that mean you're considering --

TRUMP: Which is all options always, all options are on the thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: All options on the table. Would you theoretically support using U.S. military force to oust Maduro?

RUBIO: Well, I'll say this to you. The United States always retains the right tact in our national security. And if a national security threat emerges to the United States or to a key ally, we most certainly would have the right to pursue that. But our focus is large has always been from the very beginning about working through the democratic institutions and restoring democracy.

Our ideal outcome here is a peaceful transition where Maduro and his cronies who are -- I mean the only reason why he's in power is because there are people with heavy weaponry and guns that are still sort of protect them. And he thinks he can command them to go out and do whatever they want and he's got Cuban agents on the ground and the Cuban intelligences directly. That's why he's in power. We want to see the legitimate government be in power and recognize

fully and have all the organisms of government. That's the outcome we want. We wanted it to be peaceful. Maduro still has a chance to avoid all of that. So I'm not going to comment about what options are available. That's the White House's decision. I'm telling you, they've made it pretty clear that depending on what it is we're reacting to all options are on the table.

But our focus right now has been primarily and solely on the legitimacy of the Guaido presidency and working through him to deliver humanitarian assistance first and foremost to people who are starving and dying of easily preventable illnesses and diseases because of the lack of access to medicine and medical equipment.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the government shutdown. A new CBS News poll reveals that 71 percent of the American people think building a border wall is not worth shutting down the government over, 28 percent say it is. Seeing those numbers, seeing the increasing number of federal workers depending on food banks, the people in your state I'm sure who are -- who are worried about not getting their second paycheck, a whole month without pay, is it time for Republicans or the White House to rethink the approach about just basic funding of the government?

RUBIO: We'll be interesting if that poll was asked differently. Is it -- is it fighting against a wall worth shutting down a government because that's actually what's happening. Here's the bottom line in all this. Everybody here says they're for border security and this plan that the President's proposed, you don't have to agree with it, and people have to agree with it, but it's not all for a wall. About 40 percent of that money is four things unrelated to a wall.

So here's my point, he's made an offer, if you don't like his offer you make the counteroffer. But right now the position Speaker Pelosi has taken is now I do not like your offer, we're not even going to negotiate with you and you're never going to get a wall. She flush -- flat out said, you're never going to get a wall. Walls are immoral. It is impossible to do a deal up here unless both sides get something in a compromise and it is literally impossible to pass something here unless the president is willing to sign it and they can pass both chambers.

That will only happen through compromise which can only happen if people are talking and right now the only people that aren't talking are the people that most need to be talking. The President who has made his offer and it's a reasonable one in my view and the Speaker who has basically said she won't even talk about any of this. So you know, we got a big problem. But I hate shutdowns. They're stupid.

TAPPER: The Senate already voted. I don't need to tell you. You already voted to fund the government without this border wall funding. The House Democrats have passed that but now Republicans in the Senate are refusing to vote for something that you already voted for because President Trump wanted this border wall money. You have had skin in the game on comprehensive immigration reform which had much more in border wall funding than this would be. Isn't this the kind of issue that requires the normal legislative

process and not what Democrats are calling hostage-taking of the government funding?

RUBIO: Well, I think it's unfortunate we've wound up in this place. You know, when we -- when we vote around that bill, the President in the White House were indicating they were open-minded about it. The next day you know, they said something very different. We're not going to pass a bill that he won't sign because you know, he had campaigned on this issue and he deserves. But let's get people talking again. That's the only way this ends.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. Thank you so much for your time, sir. I appreciate it as always.

RUBIO: Thank you.

TAPPER: It's an unbelievable true story. CNN films looks at three young men raised by three different families who turned out to be identical triplets. But it's after they were reunited that things got really interesting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Right now, reporters are gathered at the White House where President Trump is speaking. This comes after Trump's plan to get out of the shutdown failed in the Senate as did the democratic proposal failed in the Senate. The White House now says that they are considering a temporary plan to reopen the government for three weeks but only if it comes with a "large down payment on the border wall. We're going to continue to watch this breaking story.

Be sure to tune in to CNN Monday night for a special event in Iowa. I'm going to moderate a live town hall with Democratic Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris of California. It will be on at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific on Monday. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER --

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