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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Will President Trump Shut Government Down Again?; White House Won't Rule Out Pardon for Roger Stone. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired January 28, 2019 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The president's, son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, was confident that he could find a compromise on the shutdown.
He obviously has not been successful. "The Times" reports -- quote -- "Negotiating a broad immigration deal that would satisfy a president committed to a border wall, as well as Democrats who have cast it as immoral, proved to be more like Mr. Kushner's elusive goal of solving Middle East peace than passing criminal justice overhaul that already had bipartisan support."
Do you think Kushner is a little bit miscast or out of his league on these negotiations?
MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Jared Kushner should probably put his name on a ballot if he wants to write legislation.
I think that that's that's going to be the best bet. But I just have to say this. I think all of the -- all of the leaders, all of the members of Congress, Speaker Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, McConnell, all of them are responsible.
They're the ones that have to get together and get this done. Like I said, too much consolidation. The president is way too involved in legislating. And that creates a big problem.
TAPPER: Karen Finney, another quote from "The New York Times" about Kushner. His pitch to Democratic lawmakers was simple. He told them he was the person who could -- quote -- "land this plane."
KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes.
I think that plane is still circling La Guardia, if I'm not mistaken. As you pointed out -- or as the story pointed out, I mean, that's like his elusive goal to -- on Middle East peace. And obviously we also saw earlier today in an excerpt from Chris Christie's book that he thought, once Flynn was fired, the Russia investigation would go away. So, yes. Answer your question, I think he's incredibly naive. And I think part of -- there are a couple of things that I think have come out of this that I think we have seen for sure, which is, number one, running a business is not the same as running government. And you can't do it the same way, although they're going to keep trying because they seem like they don't -- in the White House at least, they don't know how to learn lessons.
But I think there's another piece that's really important here. And this actually also goes to our 2020 conversation. And that is we're also seeing this is the limit of being a president who only cares about 30 percent -- your core base -- and the Freedom Caucus.
If you're trying to just please a small group, and you're not thinking about how you're going to expand your base, right, then you're going to run into these kinds of problems, because, again, you have other senators, Republican senators, and Democrats obviously, who are accountable to other constituencies than just your core 30 percent.
So I think part of what we saw is the limits of his power. I mean, it's not all about what the FOX News crowd wants.
TAPPER: Right. And let's talk about that for a second, because Trump's former communications -- the president's former communications adviser, Cliff Sims, is releasing a tell-all book about his time in the White House.
Look at this quote he released to "The Atlantic" about what senior adviser Stephen Miller allegedly told him -- quote -- "I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America's soil."
I mean, so these are -- these are the competing initiatives here. You have that kind of way of looking at the United States that: I don't want any refugee to ever touch the United States again, and that -- the president thinks of that as his base, vs. dealmaker.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And that shouldn't be surprising, because we all know what Stephen Miller believes.
He's believed it for a very long time, long before he came into the White House. When he was on Capitol Hill, he was very much an outlier on this. But Stephen Miller is someone who has the president's ear often at the very end. So you could see all of that in this.
The question is, is the president going to change his approach at really what is the halftime of his first year in office? Last week was the beginning of year three. Is he going to continue to listen to Stephen Miller? Seems like he is to me, because absent of a new chief of staff who will sort of keep those views at bay, the president is listening to him.
Now, the question always is, will Jared Kushner sort of overcome all of this? He is spending so much time on Capitol Hill. He's not really tending to the president here. So Stephen Miller is.
(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: I just want to -- we do have some breaking news right now.
We just -- we just learned that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just formally invited President Trump to deliver the State of the Union address at the House chamber, and it would be a week from tomorrow. I believe that's February 5. It would be a week from tomorrow.
It originally was supposed to be tomorrow.
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Just a glimmer, perhaps, of cooperation, and, you know, something good going on in Washington.
I think that what's so interesting also on the flip side of this is, how strongly can some of these Democrats like Kamala Harris make this case that this White House has gotten so far away from the founding ideals of this country, with comments like that about refugees coming to set foot on our soil?
And you heard someone like Kamala Harris do that again and again yesterday, saying America has lost its way, it's lost its values.
And when you talk to some Republican voters who really don't like Trump anymore, a lot of the time it is because of these kinds of issues. And so it's going to be interesting to see whether someone in this field can kind of speak to that, that feeling that the White House is just totally out of touch with what this country is about.
TAPPER: And we're all to a degree the descendants of immigrants, if not refugees.
But, Congresswoman Mia Love, you are a direct descendant. Your parents came from Haiti. When you hear comments like that from Stephen Miller, that he'd be happy if no refugee ever again set foot on the United States -- this is according to Cliff Sims, former communications adviser to President Trump -- what goes through your mind?
LOVE: Well, the first thing that goes through my mind is, gosh, I hope he's not Republican.
But I have to say, I -- this is the type of language I think that gets people in trouble. We have forgotten that America is a country of immigrants. Every single one of us, at some point, our ancestors immigrated to the United States of America.
And so this is -- this is the type of language that I think is really harmful. I do not believe Americans have lost their way. I believe that we're hitching our principles to a person, again, when we have to remember that there are a set of principles, a set of platforms that we have to hold everyone accountable to.
And that also means the president, and it means Congress. And it means that whoever is involved in the policy-making, we have to hold them accountable to those principles.
FINNEY: I would be remiss, Jake, if I didn't...
TAPPER: Go ahead, Karen.
FINNEY: I would be remiss if I didn't point out that not all of us or our ancestors chose to come here, we were brought here.
But point B, I think -- I got to point that out.
TAPPER: Right. Right.
FINNEY: But I think part of what this conversation is about and some of the comments that are now making the news that were said over the weekend is -- and this was one of the big issues in 2016.
We are a diverse country. This is going to be the most diverse electorate we have ever had. And so, to Maeve's point, all of the candidates, certainly on the Democratic side, because I don't think you're going to hear Trump talk about it, the conversation is going to be, how do we talk about prosperity and respect for everyone, regardless of all of -- pick your isms, racism, sexism, and bigotry of all forms?
But we have absolutely got to make -- the person who will, I think, take our hearts and show us that vision will be the person who can say, here's how I'm going to chart a path forward. And it's a vision where everybody can see themselves in some form or fashion.
And, again, I go back to this is part of the problem with the Republican Party. I think it's part of the problem that Trump has right now, is that when your base is shrinking, and you're not doing anything to reach out to other people, when you have a comment like that, frankly, from Stephen Miller, it also says there is no deal to be had with regards to a border wall, because if that's the starting point, then it's hard to know, well, would be acceptable?
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got more to talk about.
The White House also weighing in on the arrest of longtime Trump associate and friend Roger Stone -- what Sarah Sanders just said about the possibility of a pardon for Stone.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Breaking in politics, just moments ago, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders would not rule out a pardon for the president's former -- longtime Trump associate Roger Stone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Has the president ruled out a pardon for Roger Stone?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not aware of that. I haven't had any conversations regarding that matter.
QUESTION: Can you guarantee that the president won't pardon Roger Stone?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to talk about hypotheticals that are just ridiculous and things I haven't talked about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Stone is facing charges in the special counsel's investigation and is yet another Trump associate accused of lying about Russia, from his personal attorney, to his campaign chair, not just during the 2016 campaign, but well after President Trump took office.
As CNN's Jessica Schneider reports, this all, of course, raises a question: Why?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roger Stone flashing his Nixon-esque victory sign outside his Fort Lauderdale home as he headed to Washington.
The self-proclaimed dirty trickster is expected to be inside a D.C. federal court tomorrow to face arraignment on his seven-count indictment on charges of obstruction, false statements and witness tampering, all related to special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
He quoted reporters before leaving for the airport, seeming to flip on his previous statement that he could cooperate with Mueller.
QUESTION: Are you willing to cut a deal with Mueller to avoid the case going to trial?
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I don't answer hypothetical questions. I have no intention of doing so, however.
SCHNEIDER: But this weekend, Stone left that possibility open.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Any chance you will cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, if he asks?
STONE: I would certainly testify honestly. I would also testify honestly about any other matter, including any communications with the president.
SCHNEIDER: Roger Stone has been making the rounds.
STONE: Two FBI agents here holding assault weapons.
I said, "I would like to know what the charges are."
And they said, "We will tell you that in the car."
SCHNEIDER: Stone allegedly lied about directing Jerome Corsi to contact WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to find out about more e-mail dumps.
Corsi told Jake on "STATE OF THE UNION" the information in the indictment is accurate.
JEROME CORSI, FORMER STONE ASSOCIATE: I will be happy to testify, if -- I would suspect to be subpoenaed. And I will let the testimony fall wherever it falls.
[16:45:00] JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Corsi insists he has never met Assange and was just acting on instinct when he predicted the releases from WikiLeaks.
JEROME CORSI, ASSOCIATE OF ROGER STONE: I did just connect the dots and figure it out on my own and I admit that's hard to accept.
SCHNEIDER: Roger Stone fired back.
ROGER STONE, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I have e-mail messages, text messages, and metadata that proves that he would be lying.
SCHNEIDER: Lying exactly the charge Stone and several other former Trump associates are now facing in the Mueller investigation including the President's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, all accused of lying to federal investigators or Congress.
But the unanswered question Mueller's team may be trying to figure out why do they all seem to have lied.
SCHNEIDER: And who else could be lying? That's the question House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that he plans to get to the bottom to -- bottom of and he helped -- plans to help Robert Mueller with. He says that he plans to send some of the transcripts of witnesses that they've interviewed in that committee to Robert Mueller. And Jake, he's saying that possibly will help Robert Mueller with any addition perjury charges. Jake?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Jessica Schneider, thanks so much. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was also asked if she could guarantee that President Trump was not talking to Roger Stone at the time that stone was communicating with WikiLeaks through intermediaries or whatever, and that no one close to the President was informing him what was happening with WikiLeaks. This is Sarah Sanders' response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: What I can tell you is that the President did nothing wrong throughout this process and the charges of the indictment against Mr. Stone have absolutely nothing to do with the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, there have been a lot of charges and there have been some pardons, Joe Arpaio, etcetera, there still has not been any specific charge by the Special Counsel of conspiracy. Nobody in the Trump world has been charged of conspiring with the Russians, but we have all these people lying about it. Why?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's the great question. I mean, they clearly are, you know, have never been had one central story here. And I think we should go back to what Sarah Sanders just said. She was again repeating what she told us last week, no, it's not involving the White House. She's not saying it wasn't involving the campaign though.
And one of the central questions is the President talked to Roger Stone a lot during the presidential campaign. It was a huge frustration to campaign officials because the President likes to use the phone. Candidate Donald Trump liked to be on his phone all the time. So she did not answer that and that's a question we don't know but that is one hanging over this.
But as for the lying, I mean. it's often the cover-up that is as important as anything else. So we'll just see where this goes. But look for Michael Cohen next month to go to the Senate perhaps to give some more answers there, but you know, is this the end? Is this the beginning of the end of this investigation? We just don't know.
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean it just seems so difficult for the White House to have any kind of answer on this at all because you do have this string of lies coming from all of these people sometimes on small matters when they're talking to investigators which just makes you think there has to be something else beneath this. And I think that there's why -- that's why there's so much attention within you know, the American public about this.
And to Jeff's point, I mean, they couldn't get President Trump or then-candidate to stop talking to Roger Stone so, yes, to say that he wasn't talking to him while all this is going on is just very difficult to believe.
TAPPER: And Congresswoman Love, we now have Roger Stone accused by the Special Counsel of lying to Congress. There's Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen who admitted he lied to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project. The President's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn admitted he lied to the Vice President and to the FBI about the fact that he did discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. George Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign aide lied to investigators about his contacts with Russians. Why all the lies? What are they trying to protect?
MIA LOVE (R), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE, UTAH: I think you said something that was really important because as Mueller was going through his case, they still haven't found any evidence of collusion. So I guess the message hasn't gotten to this long line up which is now a longer lineup of people who are lying that the cover-up is often worse than the actual issue.
I think that they have to do everything they can to just cooperate. If they would just cooperate, we would see a little bit more movement and in the report. But I -- it's -- we just have to let Mueller do his job and please just cooperate with him so that this can get done. This is something that is really weighing heavily on the American people, this entire investigation.
[16:50:00] TAPPER: And Karen, today Roger Stone says he has no intention of cutting a deal with Mueller but this weekend he told the ABC he would consider cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any chance you'll cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller if he asks?
STONE: You know, that's a question I would have to -- I have to determine after my attorneys have some discussion. If there's wrongdoing by other people in the campaign that I know about which I know of none, but if there is, I would certainly testify honestly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SENIOR SPOKESMAN, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Yes.
TAPPER: Why the mixed messages? He said he won't cooperate, and now -- even though it's just a day ago he said he perhaps would.
Well, I suppose -- perhaps his lawyer called him after that interview and said hey we got to be careful how we speak about this. I mean, you really do have to watch the doublespeak in all of this. I mean, as you were pointing out, Sarah Sanders leaving some wiggle room. Everybody is kind of leaving themselves some wiggle room and obviously because it's almost to the point where it feels like you know they can't even keep track of their own lies because you know Roger Stone was also out contradicting himself from things that he had said during the campaign as others have done.
So you know, but there's one other piece to this, Jake, that I think is really important. I mean, obviously, we only know what Mueller is letting us see in the indictments that we're seeing. Who knows, he may have absolute proof of collusion, he may have absolute proof that laws were broken and you know it just may be the case that he's not ready to show his hand yet. So I always look at it from that perspective.
But also don't forget that all of these things were happening at the same time we know the DNC was hacked. We now know that you know, Manafort was giving polling data to -- that ultimately got to the Russians. We know that Donald Trump was calling on the Russians to look at Hillary Clinton's e-mail. We know that the Trump Tower meeting was happening. So there are a lot of things that were happening in conjunction with some of the things we're learning out of -- out of Roger Stone.
TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. Up next, new reporting on the push to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, plus, an Air Force veteran, a Vietnam veteran about to be buried with no one around, then word spread on media and on social media and the Texas community responded in an incredible way. Stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: Our "WORLD LEAD" now. We may now be closer than ever to at least the beginning of the end of the longest war in American history. A source familiar with President Trump's thinking tells me that today the plan continues to be a potential withdrawal of up to 50 percent of U.S. forces, that's about 7,000 US troops from Afghanistan though now no final decision has been made.
This comes about a month after President Trump first ordered preparations for a major drawdown of U.S. troops. This plan is exactly that a plan hinging on whatever the U.S. Embassy and Taliban negotiators agree to and of course contingent upon final approval from Afghanistan's president.
But there is a rush of new hope today after news that the United States and the Taliban have agreed in principle to a framework for some sort of peace deal according to a U.S. envoy, and that deal would see the Taliban commit to keeping Afghanistan from being used as a hub for terrorism which is of course how this war started in the first place 17 years ago and counting.
In our "NATIONAL LEAD," paying respects to a hero that they never knew. Just two days ago the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery put out word through traditional and social media urging the public to show up and pay their respects at the funeral of a Vietnam-era veteran who would otherwise be buried alone.
Word spread and as Ed Lavandera now reports, that community made sure Air Force Veteran Joseph Walker got the send-off he deserved.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the only image we have of Joseph Walker. He served in the United States Air Force from 1964 to 1968 during the Vietnam War era. Walker died in November. Not much else is known of his service but what these people did know about Joseph Walker is that no family or friends were going to show up at his burial.
And the call went out across social media to make sure the 72 year old was honored and perfect strangers showed up in force.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a testament to the bond that we share as having served. This just shows you how strong that bond is.
LAVANDERA: An Air Force honor guard escorted the flag-draped coffin to the Veterans Cemetery in Killeen, Texas. The front row usually reserved for family members sat empty but many surrounded the pavilion to pay their respects to a veteran they didn't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's not forget the sacrifices that been made by this awesome veteran. I'm so overwhelmed by this show of love and support for someone they've never met before.
LAVANDERA: With no family to receive the American flag, it was presented to Doug Galt with the Texas Veterans Land Board. He helped spread the word about Walker's service.
DOUGLAS GALT, TEXAS STATE VETERANS CEMETERY: I was blown away of what I saw today. It just a good feeling that came through my body. Is one of them that you know, wow, this is beautiful.
LAVANDERA: In the end, all that mattered was the uniform and the promise that no veteran will be left to pass away alone.
LAVANDERA: And, Jake, what is really sad about all this is that state official who received that flag says this is common since 2015. He says, his state agency has handled and facilitated the funerals of 97 unaccompanied veterans in just the last three years.
TAPPER: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much. Don't miss it tonight. I'll be moderating the live Town Hall right here