Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Concedes, Won't Deliver Speech Until After Shutdown Ends; Interview with Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD); Michael Cohen Postpones Testimony Citing Threats Against His Family; Paul Manafort Denies He Lied to Investigators; Gunman Kills Five People in Florida Bank. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 24, 2019 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Sanjay. Good to see you.


HARLOW: All right. And all of this leading up to, again, just a remarkable film, the award-winning CNN original film, "THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS." It premieres this Sunday night, 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

All right. Top of the hour. 10:00 a.m. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. It has taken now 34 days but finally just a few hours from now the Senate plans to vote on measures that would end the partial government shutdown after which we all know, if we didn't before, exactly what won't pass. So maybe lawmakers can work on things that might. Might. That's the question.

HARLOW: Wouldn't that be refreshing?


HARLOW: The biggest difference between these two competing bills, it will both get a vote on the floor today, both of which are certain to fail, is funding for the president's border wall. One has it, one doesn't. And while the president still shows no signs of giving any ground on his standoff with the Democrats he's also not giving his State of the Union speech as the shutdown continues. And that's a big sort of retreat for the president who was just as of yesterday looking at maybe a rally or doing this on the border.

It was made clear in a late-night concession the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who had promptly rejected his decision to address Congress next Tuesday night as scheduled, the president now says he'll give a, quote, "great speech" in, quote, "the near future." And so we turn to our Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.

How near is near? Right? What does the president mean?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, if you have the answer to that question, please call. Go to Vegas. Play a --

HARLOW: I'm asking you.

MATTINGLY: Play a role in the lottery. Look, I think the interesting element here is there's recognition kind of on all sides, at least on Capitol Hill, that the State of the Union back and forth was both a side show and not super productive, although it was kind of a stare down that underscored the two kind of key powerful players in this entire thing. My colleague Manu Raju just caught up with one of those power players, Nancy Pelosi. Here's her view on what transpired.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: Then we have that on the table because it was about the least important thing we have to talk about. What we have to talk about is opening up government, to recognize the pain and unfairness of this shutdown to America's working families.


MATTINGLY: Now obviously, guys, the speaker was smack in the middle of this back and forth. But that kind of idea or concept, it reflects what most Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill were thinking over the course of the last week. It is the least important part of this entire shutdown, of this entire impasse.

Here's what we're going to see today. As you noted, there will be two votes. One will be on the president's proposal that he released on Saturday. $5.7 billion for a wall. The tradeoff they hoped would bring Democrats on board, temporary protections for DACA recipients, temporary protections for those with temporary protected status, but also some significant changes on asylum laws for Central American immigrants, children especially, that have made it completely impalatable for Democrats.

At this point in time, there's a very real possibility none of the 47 Democrats in the Senate join Republicans and vote for that. There's 60 vote threshold that's going to fall short. On the Democratic side, it's a clean bill to just keep government funded until February 8th. We know a handful of Republicans, three, maybe four, are considering moving over and voting for that. But that's well short of the 13 they need on that.

The big question, as you guys outlined is, will the failure of these bills kind of spark talks or negotiations or some type of future deal? Right now everybody is really in wait and see mode. A lot of people are in wait and hope mode. But there is no answers yet. And as somebody I just talked to who's involved in this told me there is no plan B yet. We'll just have to wait and see, guys.

HARLOW: Unreal. 34 days in, no plan B.

Phil, go find out what near means and come back to us.


HARLOW: We are -- and it really is no laughing matter but it's just so ridiculous.

We're joined now by our chief political correspondent Dana Bash. In the flesh. Thanks for being here.


HARLOW: Nice and tan from a few days off.


HARLOW: So the president really gave in.

BASH: Yes.

HARLOW: I mean, this is a huge walk away.

BASH: He did.


BASH: Look, something has to give. And it is completely out of character and worth taking a step back, taking a breath and noting it as we are this morning that this is not Donald Trump's M.O. to do that. But he is hurting politically. He just is. He is hurting politically with his own poll numbers. He is hurting with regard to how people see him more specifically in how he is dealing with the shutdown. And much more importantly, the economy is hurting.


HARLOW: Your interview with Kevin Hassett yesterday was the prime example of policy-wise why this is very bad for the president, him saying that there could be zero percent growth if the shutdown continues in the first quarter.

The economy is literally the calling card for President Trump. Full stop.

HARLOW: Right.

BASH: So if that gets messed up, it's over for him going into 2020. And just quickly on the other side, on the Democratic side, even though they are winning politically right now, I am told by senior Democrats that there is a growing number of rank-and-file who are saying we have to be for something, guys.


[10:05:01] BASH: The Republican message is working in some of these districts.,


BASH: Saying that we're not for border security.

SCIUTTO: That was not -- and we've had Democratic lawmakers say exactly that to us on air.

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: That that's not how they were swept into office in the midterms.

BASH: Exactly.


SCIUTTO: But let me ask you this. So the president yielded to Pelosi on the State of the Union. That's one thing. Is he going to yield on the wall?

BASH: I mean, maybe. I think what is going to be really important to see later today after these showboats that are going to go on in the Senate floor, and they are showboats. They are something we've seen so many times in standoffs like this where people just have to get it out of their system, get on the record with their constituents, with their bases that this is where they actually stand.

SCIUTTO: Yes. How many repeal Obamacare votes were there.


BASH: Exactly. Exactly.


BASH: And then they can maybe get to work. House Democrats, James Clyburn, who's the number three in the House, has been talking publicly even this morning with Alisyn Camerota about the fact that they have a package that they are going to be talking about publicly, maybe as soon as today, we'll see, where they are going to offer something new. Not the border wall, but more money, more specifics on border security. Will that be what the president wants? No. But it will at least create an opening that will allow the president and Democrats to get back to the table which is no small thing since they haven't been talking at all.

HARLOW: That's true. That's true.

SCIUTTO: Dana Bash, thank you. Always great to have you in person.

BASH: Thank you. You too.

SCIUTTO: Let's discuss this now with Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

Senator, thanks very much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So on the shutdown, you had a rare show of unity from former Homeland Security secretaries, five of them, including the president's chief of staff. He was chief of staff for this president when this shutdown began. John Kelly saying end this shutdown now because it is threatening national security. What is your response to that?

ROUNDS: Nobody wins in a shutdown. We shouldn't have had it in the first place. Question is, how do we get out of it? You have two leaders, Speaker Pelosi and the president that both have to have some way out. We'll have these votes today. I don't think either one of them is going to pass. But it's taken us 30 days to get to this point. It never should have taken this long to get to this stage.

But at that point then I think cooler heads can start to prevail. And I think we'll find something in the middle. Neither -- nothing in the middle has yet come up that either side can agree to. The president did --

SCIUTTO: But let me ask you this.

ROUNDS: Yes. Go ahead.

SCIUTTO: Because the Democratic proposal is simply to reopen the government for two weeks while negotiations continue so that these 800,000 people including Coast Guard sailors can get paid and not have to go to food banks to feed their family. Why not like your Republican colleague Cory Gardner vote for that bill to reopen the government just for a short period of time while those negotiations go on?

ROUNDS: Because at this point if the president does not agree it would take two-thirds vote in the Senate and in the House. Most of us don't think that we've got two-thirds of a vote to do that because it would take a presidential veto in.

SCIUTTO: Would you vote for it?

ROUNDS: Not if all it does is delay it.

SCIUTTO: Would you vote for it --

ROUNDS: Not if it all we do is delay this until such time as we work through our way through the process, have a presidential veto and then have to override it or at least look at an override on it. We're better off to find a solution before that and one which is palatable to all sides.

SCIUTTO: But aren't you then enabling --

ROUNDS: I think it will be --


SCIUTTO: Sorry. Aren't you then enabling the president here to in effect hold these workers hostage for political reasons? Because it seems like the dynamic here is he does not want to yield on the wall because he feels he would be punished by his base. It's quite a price to pay, is it not, to see DHS employees, Coast Guard employees, IRS employees, you name it, having to go to food banks to feed their families? ROUNDS: You can say the same thing about our colleagues on the other

side of the aisle because what the president is saying is make a deal for -- with us on securing that border. We'll redefine, we'll make modifications. Speaker Pelosi to this point has said nothing for you. I will not come off dead center. That is just the same thing as you're suggesting with the president except the president did modify his original proposal.

Nobody seems to understand that this is going to take modifications on both parts. And I think we're getting close to that point today. The question is, is there are a plan B? I think there may be. I think there's several options out there that both sides might be able to say, we don't like it but it's better than continuing this absurd shutdown.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you this because Wilbur Ross, the Commerce secretary, made some comments this morning about those federal workers who aren't getting paid. Have a listen because I want to get your reaction.


WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Well, first of all, the banks and the credit union should be making credit available to them. When you think about it, these are basically government guaranteed loans because the government has committed these folks will get their back pay once this whole thing gets settled down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are reports that there are some federal workers who are going to homeless shelters to get food.

[10:10:03] ROSS: Well, I know they are. And I don't really quite understand why because, as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake, say, borrowing from a bank or credit union, are in effect federally guaranteed. So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there is no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it.


SCIUTTO: And you have the Commerce secretary there who of course happens to be a billionaire saying he doesn't understand why these people have to go to food banks. Does he not understand the predicament these people are in?

ROUNDS: I think what he is suggesting is an alternative but it's not one that's palatable to a whole lot of people and it does suggest that maybe we're not understanding how serious this is, not just to federal government workers, but to contractors and also to the people that they offer services to. It's not like these individuals, these 800,000 individuals and contractors aren't providing services to the rest of the American public.

Ag workers in South Dakota, farmer who need to be able to get in and get plans made for the coming year, individuals who need loans approved through different federal agencies including the Department of Ag, all of those are feeling the impact of this.

Look at our Coast Guard. We have guys that are going on a five-month deployment out of South Dakota right now on Coast Guard, they don't know what they can do to feed their families. We provided a specific alternative which right now our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have said no deal on Coast Guard until we make a deal on everybody.

So there is a lot of blame to go around here for a lot of pain and suffering that is absolutely unnecessary. And I think in the future Congress should hold itself accountable by simply saying, if we don't get all of our work done, come hell or high water by September 30th, we don't get paid either. And that means we don't get any back pay.


ROUNDS: We put it in. I'm one of the co-sponsors on the bill. But some people say well, why is Congress getting paid when the rest of the government, as a lot of other federal employees are not.


ROUNDS: And the reason is because Congress cannot alter its own pay without an intervening election in between. So our best bet is let's fix it in the future.

SCIUTTO: But before we go, I want to ask you a question on another topic on Russia. You voted in favor of lifting sanctions on a Kremlin ally, Oleg Deripaska. Why, I wonder, did you, particularly when he had a role in the interference in the 2016 election?

ROUNDS: The original limitations that were put on the businesses that he is actively involved with was designed to change his behavior. We had actually Secretary Steve Mnuchin in, secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin in. We heard briefs from both the chairman of the Intelligence Committee and the Banking Committee who's both said look, we've looked at this thing. They have honored what we demanded of them in terms of the limitations that we put on them to begin with. They have complied with our law. We don't like it.

SCIUTTO: But those limitations --

ROUNDS: We wish we had another alternative. But we don't --


SCIUTTO: Those limitations are not --

ROUNDS: Then we're not following our own law.

SCIUTTO: To be fair, those limitations are not as severe as the secretary described them. According to the "New York Times," documents show that Deripaska and his allies, they will keep majority ownership of these companies. How is that a fair punishment for an ally of the Russian president who helped Russia interfere in the U.S. presidential election? ROUNDS: The information that was received just this week was not

information that most of us had seen when we made our decision last time. We're going to take another look at it. But I will also tell you that in this particular case the idea was not to destroy the company but to impact the individuals responsible for the illicit activities.


ROUNDS: But the other side of this is that if we would have destroyed the company, the remnants would have either been nationalized by Mr. Putin, making him stronger, or it would have been bought by one of their competitors, a Chinese competitor who would have loved to have taken over those for pennies on the dollar. So we found ourselves in a very precarious position of do you ignore the recommendations of both the Treasury secretary and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee as well as the chairman of the banking committee who have looked at it?


ROUNDS: Or do you -- you know, in this particular case, we didn't want to send a message to the rest of the world that even though it says in law and in our rules that they have complied, do you turn around and simply say we're just going to change our mind right now and our rules and our laws are going to take, you know, second place to our own opinion.

SCIUTTO: Right. To be clear, I did hear you right there saying you're going to take -- you and your colleagues are going to take another look at this and you might consider --

ROUNDS: Yes --

SCIUTTO: -- putting these sanctions back on.

ROUNDS: Well, I think we're going to take a second look at whether or not the information, the new information that's been provided was provided to the --


ROUNDS: To the folks who are providing us with the advice.


ROUNDS: And whether or not that would change their opinion on whether or not we should proceed.

SCIUTTO: OK. Senator Mike Rounds, thanks so much for taking the time this morning and the hard questions.

ROUNDS: You bet.

HARLOW: That's really significant. I mean, it sounds like he's saying had we known -- if what the "New York Times" is reporting is accurate.

SCIUTTO: True. He's saying --

[10:15:05] HARLOW: Had we known that maybe we would not have lifted it.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It would be significant if the Senate is going to take another look at these few sanctions.

HARLOW: For sure.

SCIUTTO: We're going to keep on that story.

HARLOW: All right. Also ahead for us, Michael Cohen postpones his testimony in front of Congress citing threats against his family from the president. Now his lawyer is accusing Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, of witness tampering.

Plus a 21-year-old man is in custody after a shooting at a bank in Florida leaves five people dead. Police will give an update on that this morning.

SCIUTTO: And families of federal workers are taking a hit, a hard hit in this shutdown. And in Alaska this impasse is taking a particularly large toll on an entire town there.


[10:20:03] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. So Michael Cohen, a significant move. He's postponed his testimony before the House.

SCIUTTO: Significant. President Trump's former fixer and lawyer says that he and his loved ones are facing threats from the president himself. Now Cohen's lawyer is calling on Congress to act.


LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S LAWYER: The House of Representatives now has an obligation, a resolution of censure when the president of the United States indisputably intimidates and obstructs justice from prevent a witness from testifying is in order, so is a federal 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.


SCIUTTO: CNN reporter Kara Scannell joins us now.

So, Kara, what are Democrats saying about his change of heart? Will they force his hand here?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it sounds like they will. I mean, after Cohen sort of abruptly said he was going to postpone his testimony, we heard as a joint statement from the House Oversight and House Intel Committee chairmen saying that they understood Michael Cohen's concerns and that the president shouldn't take any action to intimidate witnesses or obstruct Congress's investigation and oversight capabilities. But they also said that never -- that appearing was never not an option.

We caught up with the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, and he doesn't mince his words. Let's take a listen.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: And I promise you that we will hear from Mr. Cohen. Now we will make those determinations soon and we will let you know how we plan to proceed. But we will get the testimony as sure as night becomes day and day becomes night.


SCANNELL: So now the question is, will they subpoena Michael Cohen for testimony? We caught up with several members of Democrats on these committees. And according to one of them, they said the overwhelming consensus was that they would subpoena Michael Cohen. Now he reports to prison on March 6th. They could do it beforehand or it's possible they call him back to do it at a later date -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Kara Scannell.


SCIUTTO: Always on top of it. Thanks very much.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, he has to appear in court tomorrow. Manafort requested permission to skip the hearing. The judge said otherwise.

HARLOW: Right. This as Manafort's lawyers are disputing allegations that he lied to the special counsel.

Let's go to our correspondent Sara Murray with more. Why is it that the judge denied Manafort's request to not be present at the hearing?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, the judge basically said Manafort has missed too many hearings in courts. And he hasn't been seen in court since October. And the judge said this is too important of a hearing. We're going to be discussing these allegations the prosecution has made saying that Manafort violated his plea agreement because he lied according to prosecutors to investigators when he was supposed to be cooperating in interviews as well as in testimony before the grand jury.

And remember, prosecutors say he lied about a number of things including his contact with administration officials as well as his contacts with one of his associates Konstantin Kilimnik, who prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence. '

Now Manafort's team is not agreeing to prosecutors' claims that he lied. In their filing that came out they say, "When placed in proper context much of the evidence presented by the Office of Special Counsel merely demonstrates a lack of consistency in Mr. Manafort's recollection of certain facts and events."

So clearly the judge believes this is going to be a very serious hearing on Friday morning. She wants Paul Manafort to be there in person. She did give him one concession, though. He asked if he could wear a suit in court instead of that prison jumpsuit, and the judge agreed. So Manafort will be suited up when we see him in court tomorrow.

HARLOW: There you go. We'll wait for it.

Sara, thanks for the update.

Up next, we will speak with a Republican lawmaker in the House who says not only is the border crisis a., quote, "myth," the wall is a bad idea and by the way, his district, the biggest one on the border.


[10:28:31] SCIUTTO: A live update now in just moments on that shooting that happened inside of SunTrust Bank in Sebring, Florida, yesterday. Five people are dead after a gunman barricaded himself inside the bank and began shooting.

HARLOW: So what we know now, the suspect, 21-year-old Zephen Xavier who made his first court appearance earlier this morning and he is charged with five counts of felony capital murder.

Our correspondent Nick Valencia is in Sebring, Florida, with more.

Gosh, it's horrible. Five people dead. Are there any answers this morning in terms of a motive?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just an absolute tragedy, Poppy. And so far police have yet to officially release a motive. Though we are awaiting for an 11:00 a.m. Eastern press conference where perhaps we will learn more details about this alleged gunman.

And as you noted, Poppy, what police are accusing him of doing is walking into this SunTrust Bank yesterday afternoon, and opening fire. And then he actually called 911 dispatch on himself to report the shooting. He was barricaded inside that bank for a number of hours before the SWAT team was able to go in, take him into custody and perhaps one of the most disturbing details from the shooting is what the suspect was wearing at the time of the shooting.

He was wearing a shirt written across the front saying "Death to the Wicked," an image of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on the front of the shirt, a long gun on the back of his shirt. We don't know really too much about this alleged gunman. He had moved to the Florida area within the last year. Up until very recently he was working as a trainee, as a correctional officer trainee at a facility nearby before resigning from that post on January 9th. And it was yesterday that we were able to get in touch with the

father. The father, he was clearly distraught. He was either just finished crying or he was in the middle of crying when we talked to him.