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CNN RIGHT NOW
Senate Intel Subpoenas Cohen to Testify in February; Roger Stone in Legal Limbo Awaiting Mueller Decision; Wilbur Ross Tone Deaf to Furloughed Workers; More Trump Officials Refusing to Testify before Congress; Aviation Unions Say Airline Safety Deteriorating by the Day; Interview with Michael Huerta, Former FAA Administrator. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired January 24, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters. Underway right now, the Senate slaps Michael Cohen with a subpoena before he goes behind bars.
Moments from now, the Senate will vote on two bills to end the shutdown. But spoiler alert: it won't end the shutdown as millions of Americans continue to suffer.
The dysfunction is accompanied by warnings growing about the real world impact of the shutdown, like the risk to your safety if you're flying.
Plus, suck it up, buttercup. That is the latest tone-deaf message to federal workers forced to quit their jobs, sleep in cars and ration or forego their insulin. The president's daughter-in-law calls it, quote, "a little bit of pain for the future of our country."
But up first, the Senate Intelligence Committee trying to force President Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, to testify before he heads to prison. The committee has subpoenaed Cohen and they want to question him next month.
Just yesterday Cohen said through his lawyer that he was postponing his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, citing threats to his family from President Trump and Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
I have former DOJ prosecutor, Joseph Moreno, with us as well as CNN political correspondent Sara Murray.
It sounds like Michael Cohen will actually testify but this testimony may be behind closed doors.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He may be forced to. The Senate Intelligence Committee has done all of their work behind closed doors. We know it's been more of a bipartisan investigation, certainly much less of a circus than what we've seen at the House when Republicans were leading it. We'll see what happens now that Democrats have control.
But I think the other thing that would be different about this is, it was pretty clear when he was going to go and speak before the public House Oversight Committee, he was going anecdotes.
There was a huge part of what he couldn't share, everything that was under investigation. I have to imagine that the House Senate subcommittee would want to hear something very different from Cohen behind closed doors why he lied.
But they would want to know things pertinent actually to the Russia investigation they're conducting.
KEILAR: And this is the very committee he lied to, right, from court documents as well.
Joe, what do you think about this, that he's been subpoenaed?
JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER DOJ PROSECUTOR: Well, I think ultimately Sara is right. He doesn't have much of a choice. He can say he feels threatened and he'd rather not appear but ultimately he will appear. And the Senate can make certain arrangements in terms of making it behind closed doors, so it's not public, it gets redacted if and when it does get released in part.
But at the end of the day, he's going to have to answer questions. He's not going to be able to hide behind arguments that he feels threatened and ultimately they'll get what they want.
Republicans were criticized at the midterms for basically slow-walking their oversight. I figure that even though Republicans still control the Senate, they control this process now rather than let the Democrats and the House run with this.
KEILAR: You also have reporting about Roger Stone, Sara. What's going on?
MURRAY: I've been looking at Roger Stone for a while now and we're waiting to see what happens with him. It's kind of a piece about what it's like to be Roger Stone, to be essentially under investigation for years on end.
He believes he's been under surveillance since 2016 and there is a constant threat that he's about to be indicted. But his team has never heard anything from Mueller.
For a while, Roger Stone wasn't even making plans on Friday, one of his friends said, because he was worried that could be the day the FBI comes for them. When I talked to him, he said this has been a financially debilitating experience.
He's gotten more creative with his fundraising. He's now selling Roger Stones, actual signed stones; he's selling T-shirts and he employed a social media strategy involving his dogs. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roger Stone did nothing wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roger Stone did nothing wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Whose voice is that?
MURRAY: I don't know exactly whose voice it is. He said this was a collaborative effort with his family and some editing software to keep people interested, raise money for his legal defense fund. He refuses to say how much money is in that fund. But it's very interesting to be Roger Stone going through all of this.
He's seen so many business associates hauled in before Mueller, hauled in before the grand jury. A lot of those people he doesn't even talk to anymore.
KEILAR: He hasn't been hauled in, which is key, Joe.
What's ahead for Roger Stone?
What do the tea leaves say?
MORENO: It seemed from the beginning of this he seemed to occupy such a critical role because he may or may not have some understanding of the connection between the Trump campaign and the release of certain emails that were hacked.
So it's been a big question since the beginning of, what did he know, who was involved and what else did he know about it?
So we've been waiting to see what happens with Roger Stone. Interesting strategy; while most people will just kind of keep a --
MORENO: -- low profile, Roger Stone has taken the opposite tack with all these antics on television, in the media. So when he ultimately has his day, it will be really interesting to see how it goes down.
KEILAR: No one has accused him of being undramatic, we should say, ever.
KEILAR: Sara, Joe, thank you, both of you.
Competing plans both expected to fail. The Senate voting next hour on two proposals to end the government shutdown, now in its 34th day. The plan passed by House Democrats reopens the government through February 8th and provides $12 billion in disaster relief.
The proposal by President Trump and Senate Republicans includes $5.7 billion for his border wall. It also includes some asylum law changes that advocates say are really, really bad for asylum seekers, also more than $12 billion in disaster aid and all seven appropriations bills that Congress has not passed.
CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill for us.
How is this expected to play out?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We expect both of these proposals to go down. We do expect some Republicans to vote for this Democratic plan that includes Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado, who's up for reelection in 2020.
They're expected to vote for that plan to keep the government open or reopen the government up until February but other than a handful of Republicans, we're not expecting mass defections which means it will be short of the 60 votes needed to advance.
On the president's proposal, also expected to fail; at least one Democratic senator said he would vote for it, that's Joe Manchin of West Virginia. But other Democratic senators are not saying that.
One senator to watch, Kyrsten Sinema, the new elected Arizona senator; I just asked her if she would vote for the Trump plan. She would not say. It's still going to fall short of 60 votes which are needed to advance.
The question is, what next, Brianna?
How do they get out of this stalemate?
I'm told there is a group of bipartisan senators, who will discuss any plan to cut an immigration deal and reopen the government. They plan to continue to meet although they're nowhere near a deal. They plan to take to the Senate floor, call on their colleagues to cut a deal later today.
Again, they need to find a way forward and they don't have one yet.
On the House side, Democrats are coming up with their own ideas to come up with $5 billion to meet the president's demand for border security. But they told me today they're not going to include funding for the wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Is there any way you fund a wall in this plan?
REP. BERNIE THOMPSON (D), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: We fund border security.
RAJU: What about the wall?
THOMPSON: At this point there is no money for a wall. There will probably be money in the overall look at fixing some of the existing wall.
RAJU: Do you think there is any chance that the Democrats will offer the president any money for his wall after these proposals?
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: No, never. We will not negotiate (INAUDIBLE) the shutdown. We cannot let a negotiating tactic of a shutdown to ever give the president any advantage (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And that's the view of the House Democrats, never give money for the border wall until the government reopens, then they can talk about it going forward. Of course, Brianna, that is not what the White House wants to hear, so unclear what happens after these votes go down this afternoon -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Manu Raju on the Hill, thank you.
Tomorrow federal workers will receive their second paycheck with zero dollars, not really a paycheck. That means they can't pay bills, groceries, mortgages, car notes, vital medicines. Those realities are not resonating with many members of President Trump's inner circles. In fact, some of their comments seem really tone deaf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say, between Christmas and New Year's.
And then we have a shutdown and so they can't go to work. And so then they have the vacation. But they don't have to use their vacation days. And then they come back and then they get their back pay, then they're -- in some sense, they're better off.
LARA TRUMP, TRUMP 2020 SENIOR ADVISER: It is a little bit of pain but it's going to be for the future of our country and their children and their grandchildren and generations after them will thank them for their sacrifice right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that there are some federal workers who are going to homeless shelters to get food.
WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Well, I know they are and I don't really quite understand why. There's no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: All right. Well, they'll tell you they aren't. CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp and CNN political analyst Ryan Lizza, I want to get your take on this.
What did you think about Lara Trump talking about the hardship that federal workers and contractors are going through as "a little bit of pain," S.E.? S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in the playbook of crisis coms responses, all the other options probably would have been better, right?
CUPP: If you're a multimillionaire daughter-in-law of the president who doesn't need to work, one option is to not do press, is to not do television during a time that's painful for a lot of people.
Another option is to go out and be honest and say, I cannot relate to the pain that a lot of people are feeling. I've been really fortunate. But I have compassion, I have sympathy.
The other thing to do would be to say, you know, very candidly, I understand the pain that's out there and that's why Democrats need to come to the table.
To do none of those and just sort of shrug off the pain is probably worse than doing nothing, worse than saying nothing. It seems like a real unforced error.
I'm not really sure it's one the administration cares that much about, because they keep putting people on TV to sort of drum that defense, that it's not all that bad. So this might be exactly what they're looking for. But I think you're seeing the results of that in those poll numbers that have not been good for the president.
KEILAR: And Wilbur Ross, Ryan, saying he doesn't really understand because people should be able to get loans. That's not how it works unless --
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you're a billionaire, I'm sure it's not too hard for Wilbur Ross to get a loan. We've had previous shutdowns before and so administrations have had to talk about this. What we've never had are government officials, elected officials saying this is great for them.
Usually there is at least there is some acknowledgment that this is painful, that nobody wants this to happen but there are policy implications and that's why this had to happen.
To use the cliche of the moment, it's like taking the hostages and then arguing that it's really better for the hostage once they're released. They'll really thank us later and they're being treated really well. So it's beyond tone deaf. I mean , it's --
CUPP: No, I didn't mean to interrupt you, Ryan, I just wanted to say, the other week I had South Dakota governor Kristi Noem on my show and I asked her about the very real effects of the shutdown in South Dakota, a state that went for Trump, that is one of the states that is the hardest hit. And she said, very interestingly, I have farmers hurt by the shutdown
but they care more about getting their border wall. Now I don't know if that's spin, if that's true but there might be some idea amongst the administration that calling this a sacrifice, that people will be sort of willing to take it on the chin, might have some resonance somewhere.
Again, I don't know if that's true in reality, in practicality, but a number of them seem to be going with this theory, so much so that it seems almost premeditated.
KEILAR: No, it's a good point.
I want to talk about something else, the latest look inside Cliff Sims' book.
He's a former White House aide. It's called "Team of Vipers." So "Vanity Fair" got their hands on this latest excerpt, in which Kellyanne Conway orders Sims to, quote, "use that," meaning her computer, and types something up for me, sort of a PR response. And I-messages start popping up on the screen. She is banning by name Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer.
And though Sims says she is not trashing per se or painting, end quote, an unfavorable light the president himself.
Kellyanne Conway, White House leaker, S.E., what do you think about this description?
CUPP: Well, you have to look back at Kellyanne's resilience in this White House. There is a reason she has survived longer than any aide almost, not named Trump, in this administration. It's been because she's been canny, I think she's probably been very crafty.
She's the first woman to win a presidential campaign. That doesn't just happen by accident. So to reveal that Kellyanne Conway has been maybe playing both sides, the media and Trump, the media and the White House, none of that surprises me.
I think what will be interesting to see is whether Trump himself is bothered by just how cunning and canny she's been to stick around as long as she has.
LIZZA: She's in the White House; Cliff isn't. So --
LIZZA: -- she has to talk to Trump about this and trash him.
I just want to make a defense of leakers in the White House. I know Cliff is calling her a leaker. It sounds pejorative, right, but there is nothing wrong with Kellyanne Conway talking to reporters. In fact, we need White House officials to talk to us.
KEILAR: Yes. LIZZA: The hypocrisy sometimes comes, of course, when she goes out there and attacks other people talking to the press, attacks other leakers, right. But one person's leaker is another person's important source.
KEILAR: Yes, very good point. Ryan Lizza, S.E. Cupp, stand by for me.
Now the Trump administration being called authoritative as more and more cabinet officials refuse to testify before Congress.
Plus, some TSA --
KEILAR: -- officers hitting their breaking point during the shutdown. They're quitting their jobs at least one airport.
Plus a dire new warning about the safety of airline passengers, while air traffic controllers and pilots say flights and security are at serious risk.
KEILAR: House majority leader Steny Hoyer blasted the White House today, he is fuming over this decision by not one but two cabinet secretaries just to not testify before House committees, even though they've been requested to.
He said, quote, "It's what I expect from people who think they are authoritarian leaders of our government and it starts with the president of the United States."
I want to bring back Ryan Lizza to talk about this.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, he's refusing to testify before Congress about the impact of the shutdown. And --
KEILAR: -- Alex Azar, the HHS secretary, is refusing to testify about the impact of the administration's practice of separating families at the border.
Why are they treating these requests from Congress as just suggestions?
LIZZA: It's wild. It's another way in which the Trump administration is defying the basic norms of how the government works. If there's one thing Congress needs to do, it's oversight. A lot of Democrats in the House believe they won back the House because the public wanted more of a check on the Trump administration. And so, you know, now we're going to have this dance, where requests
come in, officials in the executive branch deny them and we'll see if they can step up the pressure to force them to testify.
We have seen this in previous administrations. Remember Eric Holder was held in contempt to Congress for not going before them. But at the end of the day, it's not like they'll go to prison or something, there's not a huge consequence, it's just public pressure that can force them.
KEILAR: Let's talk -- you have a little news on Michael Cohen. He said I'm not actually going to testify. Through his lawyer he said, I'm not going to testify before the House Oversight Committee, citing fears of Donald Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
But then the Senate Intel Committee, which is the committee we know he lied for sure, they subpoenaed him, so they are going to talk to him, presumably behind closed doors.
LIZZA: That will be behind closed doors is my understanding, yes.
KEILAR: But you just talked to Lanny Davis, his lawyer.
What did he tell you?
LIZZA: He said they are expecting to be subpoenaed by one or more House committees.
KEILAR: On the House side?
LIZZA: On the House side. Democrats' Intelligence and Oversight. Now Elijah Cummings, it was disappointed that Michael pulled out of the testimony so they are very likely to subpoena him and sooner rather than later. Once that happens --
KEILAR: A public hearing?
LIZZA: That's right. So the Intel could be behind doors but Oversight would definitely be in public. That would be the presumption. If he's subpoenaed, now there would be a back and forth.
I don't think Michael Cohen is going to simply not respond to them. I think it is likely we are still going to see him testify in public but they'll want to negotiate the parameters of a testimony and they'll want to make some issues off limits.
So I think we're still going to see him testify. He's been working on his public testimony for a long time. This is his moment to rehabilitate himself, this is his moment to show some contrition in the public, all before he goes to prison for lying to Congress and directing those payments.
So I don't think it's off -- despite the fact that he pulled out of his publicly scheduled testimony, I think we're still going to see him.
KEILAR: Wow. All right, Ryan Cillizza, thank you. Very interesting.
And a dire new warning from unions who represent air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants as this shutdown drags on. How safe is it to fly?
And Senator Joni Ernst, publicly confronting painful memories of rape and abuse, publicized in her divorce papers.
KEILAR: Unions representing aviation workers are issuing a dire warning, that air safety is, quote, "deteriorating by the day" as a result of the government shutdown. Sources tell our affiliate in Hawaii that some TSA officers have started turning in their resignations.
It's not clear exactly how many but the TSA says absentee rates are double what they were a year ago. The head of the Air Traffic Controllers Association says the stress is taking its toll.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RINALDI, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: The fatigue in my work environment right now where I'm seeing routine mistakes are actually happening because they're thinking about which credit cards can I consolidate up for zero interest?
Who is giving you a break on your phone bill?
Which company is helping you out so you could skip your mortgage?
These conversations are happening in the work environment because the stress is getting very high.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Michael Huerta is the former FAA administrator.
Sir, thank you for being with us and lending your authority to this conversation.
MICHAEL HUERTA, FORMER FAA ADMINISTRATOR: Thank you, it's my pleasure.
KEILAR: You heard there the head of the Air Traffic Controllers Union saying routine mistakes are happening.
What kinds of things would you worry might slip through the cracks?
HUERTA: Well, there is no one at the FAA that is going to intentionally do anything that is not safe. But like Paul, I am concerned about fatigue and concerned about distraction.
You think about it, being an air traffic controller is one of the toughest jobs we have in our country. It requires a high degree of technical training and controllers are being asked to forego paychecks. They've lost one. They will forego another one in the next few days and it's ridiculous.
They find themselves in a situation where they have to drive for Uber; they perhaps have to wait on tables during their time off. That is wrong. What a controller should be using its time off -- his or her time off for is to rest.