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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Will President Trump Shut Government Down Again?; Kamala Harris Kicks Off Presidential Campaign. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 28, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Manu Raju, thank you so much for -- for grabbing all these great folks up on Capitol Hill, as always.

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

A special edition of "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now, live from Des Moines, Iowa.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The first town hall of the 2020 race is just a few hours away, but THE LEAD starts right now.

Senator Kamala Harris enters the 2020 race with an exclamation point, but will voters see her as the one they want to take the White House from President Trump? Her first major test will be tonight live on CNN from Iowa.

Some Americans went hungry, and the country lost billions that are never coming back. Could the federal government shutdown happen all over again? Why President Trump is saying he might have to shut it all down again.

Plus, paying respects to a hero they never knew -- the moving turnout for a veteran of Vietnam who had no one to give him one final goodbye.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with the politics lead.

We are live from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, for the first major event of the 2020 presidential election. Tonight, I will be moderating a presidential candidate town hall with Democratic senator Kamala Harris of California. She launched her campaign officially in front of thousands in her hometown of Oakland, California, yesterday, declaring, "We are better than this."

The this in that construct being President Trump and his policies and actions, ones she enumerated in detail. It's also no mistake Harris used the word truth about a half-dozen times in 30 seconds. It was a big-time rollout, but tonight we're going to drill down on the issues, as Democratic voters here in this key state begin the process of picking a Democratic nominee to battle President Trump.

The field is already sizable and growing. And another wild card may be about to jump in and change everything. We will have much more in that in a moment.

But, right now, what does Senator Kamala Harris need to say tonight to begin to win over the voters of this first-in-the-nation caucus state?

CNN's Kyung Lah, who is covering the Harris campaign for CNN, picks up our coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, let's do this.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Kamala Harris making her first visit to Iowa as a presidential candidate on the heels of her official campaign launch in California.

HARRIS: I will lead with integrity, and I will speak the truth.

LAH: Truth, a word she said more than 20 times in her speech, as she called on supporters to fight for their vision of America.

HARRIS: People in power are trying to convince us that the villain in our American story is each other. But that is not our story. That is not who we are. That is not our America.

LAH: Harris laid out a populist platform, including Medicare for all, debt-free college, and a middle-class tax cut. While she never said his name, Harris made clear she's ready to take on the president.

HARRIS: When we have foreign powers infecting the White House like malware, let's speak truth about what are clear and present dangers.

LAH: In our hometown of Oakland, Harris packed the plaza and the streets, but even in this crowd, a reminder that the first-in-the- nation caucuses are still a year away.

AJAY BHUTORIA, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: Oh, she has a huge support. And -- but, at the same time, I'm open to wait to other Democratic candidates who will be making their way.

LAH: Beyond that ever-expanding field of Democratic hopefuls, a curve ball from former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, the self-made billionaire who built Starbucks from the ground up tweeting this video, explaining that he's considering an independent run for president.

HOWARD SCHULTZ, CEO, STARBUCKS: Now, the word independent is just a designation on the ballot. If I run for president, I will run as an American under one banner, the American flag.

LAH: The blowback came on social media from Democrats, saying Schultz will dilute Trump's opposition, calling Schultz an existential threat, to this message from the Washington state Democratic Party on a Starbucks cup, "Don't do it, Howard," a message echoed by Democratic presidential candidate who Julian Castro.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a concern that, if he did run, that, essentially, it would provide Donald Trump with his best hope of getting reelected.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Now, Harris' speech yesterday I did speak with some Iowa Democrats.

And one told me that, while certainly it is early, she thought this after listening to Harris' speech, that she is showing the early signs of having the right stuff for the long haul, but she also points this out, that this year it is very different for Iowa.

The voters here are going to want to hear not just an overall vision, but want to specifically vet every single candidate on the issues -- Jake.

[16:05:05]

TAPPER: All right, Kyung Lah, thanks so much.

My experts are here with me in Iowa and also back in Washington, D.C.

Maeve Reston, who is also assigned to cover Senator Harris' presidential run.

There was an interesting part of her announcement speech in which she talked about how she's not perfect. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: I'm not perfect. Lord knows, I'm not perfect, but I will always speak with decency and moral clarity and treat all people with dignity and respect. I will lead with integrity, I will speak the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What was the strategy there about that? Because that was a section that got a lot of attention.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I will say, just being there in the crowd, that that was the moment where she really got the biggest swell of applause, and as you were mentioning, there were thousands and thousands people.

I mean, the crowds went back into the streets. But I think that she knows that she has a very long and complex record and that there are lots of pieces of it that some Democratic progressives are going to stumble over, particularly some of the cases that she handled as a prosecutor, as DA of San Francisco, and also as attorney general.

There are a lot of Democrats who feel that she should have been more of an advocate for criminal justice reform when she was in some of those positions. And so I bet she's going to face a lot of questions on that tonight.

TAPPER: And, Jeff, she's obviously getting hit from the right as well. Those are some hits from the left. She's outlined some progressive positions, Medicare for all, debt-free college, middle- class tax cut.

The head of the Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, wrote -- quote -- "Kamala Harris is totally delusional if she thinks the political will support her far-left agenda of government-run health care, weaker borders and higher taxes."

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's pretty much a welcome to the race from Republicans, a sign they're taking her seriously. And they are.

She's had a very strong rollout over the last seven days or so, the most serious candidate getting in. By that, I mean a really well- thought-out argument for why she should be running.

Now, there's a lot of talk about, is she one of the front-runners? Now, I think without question she is. With that are pros and cons. One of the cons is if you look at the history of the Iowa caucuses, the front-runner seldom wins in the end. It's the long haul here.

But when I talk to a lot of Iowa voters and others in other states, they want two things, one, someone they can believe in and who inspires them, and someone who can defeat President Trump. That is a process. It's not something that is known instantly.

If you think back 12 years ago almost this week, when Barack Obama got into the campaign, Jake, as you remember, you were there as well, no one thought that he could necessarily be the nominee on that day. So this is a long marathon filled with many, many obstacles.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Mia Love, what did you make of it all, successful kickoff for her?

REP. MIA LOVE (R), UTAH: Well, I thought the language that she used was really -- was quite impressive.

It's that inclusive language that I keep telling my colleagues that we really need to use, making people feel like you like them. I -- especially when she said, I'm not perfect.

As we know, everyone is not perfect. And one of the things that I have tried to say is, instead of trying to hitch yourself to a person, Republicans really need to hitch themselves to the platform, to the principles, because people will fail you. They will let you down.

And so one of the things that I think Kamala has opened herself up to was making herself human. And I'm hoping that my colleagues, some of the people, the Republicans, will do the same thing, make themselves accessible, let them know that they're not up here, that they are right where everybody else is, and this is about them.

TAPPER: And, Karen Finney, let me ask you, because a lot of Democrats are very upset. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has announced that he is seriously considering a run for president as an independent. He's obviously very wealthy. He says he would self- fund.

You heard former Secretary Julian Castro's concerns there. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just released a statement saying this -- quote -- "In 2020, the great likelihood is that an independent would just split the anti-Trump vote and end up reelecting the president. That's a risk. I refused to run in 2016, and we can't afford to run it now."

Do you share those concerns, Karen?

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I do, absolutely.

And I think that's why you're hearing -- it was a pretty swift and loud response from a lot of Democrats. The other thing I think , though, it's important to remember, just on a technical level, it is very hard and takes very, very deep pockets to try to run as an independent, because -- I mean people don't realize that the work, the logistical work of the party, the sort of the rank and file of our party, the people who knock on doors and make the phone calls and all the elections in between the presidential years.

There's an infrastructure there. And certainly campaigns build their own infrastructure. But Schultz ,if he does tries to do this, is also going to have to build his own infrastructure. And I think he's going to have -- so, A, that's going to be tough in terms of getting on the ballot and being competitive.

[16:10:05]

But I also think the challenge for him is, then, what are you doing? Why are you running. I mean, there is -- certainly, as the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, there's some core values we share and there some differences.

And I think, on our side, we're all excited because we're going to have kind of a debate over ideas. But with Schultz, I guess he will come in as sort of a, I'm not beholden to anyone because I'm self- funding. I don't think people like the sound of that.

And then, secondly, what does he believe in? What does he stand for? So far, he has tried to, I think, be the pragmatist, to say, well, health care -- universal health care can't happen.

Well, then tell us -- but is it a goal of yours to get there? And that's something I think he's tone-deaf about.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Congresswoman Love, I want to -- yes, I want to go right to you, Congresswoman Love, because I think you're the kind of person that Howard Schultz wants to win over.

LOVE: Right.

TAPPER: You're a Republican who has not always been a fan of how President Trump has legislated and maybe would be concerned that the Democratic -- would be too far to the left?

How did you take Howard Schultz's announcement?

LOVE: well, I think he's got an advantage.

And that advantage is, he doesn't have a record. He can say whatever he wants to, he can make whatever promises he wants to, and you have got Senator Kamala Harris that is going to have to answer to a lot of her policies, a lot of the things that she has said.

As you look at some of the candidates that have already approached, that have already announced, they're actually going back saying, yes, I may have said this, and I have changed my mind. If you look at Senator Gillibrand, for instance, who said I felt this way at one point, and now I feel something different.

So, there's going to be some of that. And he's going to be able to say whatever he wants to.

FINNEY: Howard Schultz does have a business record, though. He does have a record.

LOVE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: There's a political record, and your votes -- those votes will count for something.

TAPPER: Right. It's a fair point.

Everyone, stick around.

New comments just in from the White House, as federal workers face yet another possibility of being furloughed again in less than three weeks, another government shutdown being threatened.

And we will have much more from Drake University here in Iowa, the site for tonight's CNN town hall.

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:20] TAPPER: Today, we saw something that's become a rare event in this White House. The administration actually taking questions from the podium what was once a daily briefing now pretty much a monthly briefing.

This happening as negotiations over border security funding are set to kick off on the Hill on Wednesday, all to hope to prevent a repeat of the completely avoidable government shutdown, one that forced 800,000 federal workers to go without pay.

CNN's Kaitlin Collins joins me now live from the White House.

And, Kaitlin, this briefing today kicked off with a big announcement on sanctions against Venezuela and the Maduro government.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. They came out -- several White House officials alongside the press secretary -- and they announced they are formally sanctioning Venezuela's state-run oil company today with the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calling it a vehicle for embezzlement and corruption.

Now, the national security advisor John Bolton when he was asked about the potential of U.S. security forces getting involved in Venezuela did not rule that option out, saying that President Trump has made clear that right now, he feels that all options are on the table regarding that.

Now, Jake, this was the first press briefing since the government shutdown began and ended and despite the fact the president has said he does not feel hopeful that congressional negotiators are going to find a deal to fund his border wall and come up with a compromise with Democrats, Sarah Sanders told reporters today that the president does not want another government shutdown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): The White House holding its first press briefing of the year.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president doesn't want to go through another shutdown. That's not the goal. The goal is border security.

COLLINS: The Trump White House now holds the record for the longest time without an on-camera briefing since they were first aired during the Clinton administration and with 800,000 federal employees returning to work today, the record for the longest government shutdown in history.

But that return could be short-lived. This group of bipartisan lawmakers has three weeks to find a funding proposal that could clear both chambers of Congress and get the president's signature before the government runs out of money again on February 15th. Trump appearing doubtful a deal will be struck, telling "The Wall Street Journal" he believes there's less than a 50/50 chance.

His chief of staff making clear that bypassing Congress and declaring a national emergency to fund the border wall is a top option.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He's willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border.

COLLINS: And a new estimate from the congressional budget office showing that the shutdown cost the U.S. billions of dollars, including three billion that won't be recovered.

Trump feeling the heat from some of the most prominent members of his base, including Ann Coulter, who said he was the biggest wimp to ever serve as president for conceding to Democrats' demands.

ANN COULTER: The base is what as rebelled here, and they can take me as a stand-in for the base but that's all I am, a member of the base.

COLLINS: Trump telling "The Wall Street Journal", Coulter has become very hostile, maybe I didn't return her phone call or something.

And after a long shutdown with nothing to show for it, it's not just members of the president's base that are frustrated, moderate lawmakers are too.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Shutdowns are never good policy ever. They are never to be used as a means to achieve any kind of goal no matter how important that goal may seem to be. They are ineffective.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, that first meeting with those congressional negotiators starts on Wednesday. What a compromise could look like or whether the president would accept it is still unclear. But Sarah Sanders did just tell reporters that they have not received another invitation for the president to deliver a State of the Union Address yet -- Jake.

[16:20:03] COLLINS: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

My panel is back with me.

And Sarah Sanders was asked about potential legislation to take the threat of a shutdown off the table. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Look, I'm not going get into the hypotheticals of taking that off the table. I haven't seen a piece of legislation for us to even consider at this point that would make that a reality.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Congresswoman Love, let me go to you first. So many Americans cannot afford another shutdown. Can President Trump politically afford another one?

LOVE: Oh gosh. First of all, I think that he really doomed himself on this one. Eight hundred thousand people went without work. You've got GOP members who stood strong with him and they felt like he threw them under the bus. As they are sitting there not voting for any legislation that did not have any border security or border wall funding he went and decided that he was going to reopen again and we're back in the same place in three weeks.

So I think that this is -- it's Groundhog Day and I think it's absolutely ridiculous and this is not how government is supposed to work. I mean, this is just too much power is consolidated in the White House and this is why we are talking about government shutdowns every three weeks now.

TAPPER: And, Karen Finney, one of the things we did see is some polling suggesting that Nancy Pelosi's negative poll ratings went up since the shutdown. So it's not as though only President Trump has suffered, even though the public overwhelmingly held him and Republicans responsible for it.

FINNEY: Right, and look, as we talked about at the end of the week last week, remember that we were starting to see and I think this was confirmed over the weekend GOP senators and members of Congress really starting to feel the heat and starting to crack. So, I don't -- I think Pelosi is very confident and firm in her position and I think very clear that if the president tries to shut this government down again and look think about the optics of that if he were to try to do that after we know we've -- you know, the $11 billion lost, the $3 billion we can't get back, and then to try to shut the government down again. I think you would just have an open revolt.

And secondly, I think you view the other considerations sort of sort of daring them almost to do it, it feels like, because then he puts on the table this idea of declaring a state of emergency which sets a precedent that when we get a Democratic president, the Republicans would really have no, you know, argument to try to stop. So, don't know that that's a precedent we want to set.

LOVE: No -- I have to say no one got anything out of this. I mean, I was hoping we would be able to get some sort of immigration reform, something. But at the end of the day, yes, you're talking about $3 billion that you can't recover, which is half of the wall funding. You're talking about people that are still not -- they don't have any predictability. They're going back to work for three weeks and then they have no idea whether it's going to start all over again.

This is the worst type of governing I think that we've really -- that we've seen. I mean, this is what -- government is supposed to have appropriation bills sent to the president, he's supposed to sign it or veto it. An and we're not seeing any of this.

TAPPER: Absolutely.

Go ahead.

RESTON: You see -- you know, you talk to voters in some of these states and you just -- there's so much anger and so much confusion about why all of that was worth it and you have to think that Donald Trump, if he is watching television which we know he is, is looking at those poll numbers, the huge high numbers of people who now say they would lean against voting for him again in 2020, and seeing these candidates burst onto the scene with so much energy behind them in thinking, wow, got to do something to establish this.

I mean, maybe it puts enough pressure on him to actually negotiate.

TAPPER: Except that I don't see how that happens, and he told "The Wall Street Journal" that he was very skeptical that they were going to actually be able to come up with some sort of compromise.

ZELENY: Which is -- this is how it's supposed to work. I mean, Lamar Alexander said today, a veteran legislator said, look, President Trump and Speaker Pelosi should stay out of it and allow the legislators in this conference committee to do their work. I doubt that will happen. The president, of course, will be weighing in.

That's why he's leaning toward a national emergency. There are -- there have been private assurances given to a lot of the president's base and supporters on the right that he will call for an emergency if this three-week impasse goes on.

I don't think he has the power for a shutdown. Leader McConnell said today again it's not a good idea, I do not expect that to happen. I think Republicans may break from him immediately. So, that's why I think an emergency could be forthcoming. Of course, we'll be challenged in the courts as well.

TAPPER: Can't -- everyone, stick around. We're going to come right back to you but we have to take a quick break.

Can the tone from the White House lead to a deal that both the president and Democrats can accept? We're going to have more from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, ahead of the first CNN 2020 town hall.

More conversation. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:29:39] TAPPER: Welcome back.

We're live in Iowa for tonight's presidential candidate town hall with Senator Kamala Harris of California.

Moments ago, the White House just refused to rule out another partial federal government shutdown on top of the historically long one that just ended.

My panel is back with me.

Congresswoman Mia Love, let me ask you. "The New York Times" reports that the president's son-in-law, White House advisor Jared Kushner, was confident that he could find a compromise on the shutdown. He obviously has not been successful.